Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 16 Jun 2014 18:34

[Note: I was almost finished this rather long-winded "dissertation" when L.Braden posted his much more succinct response! :wink: ]

I equate the descriptions of the revolvers in the above-quoted passage - which in turn are apparently quoted directly from the government orders/contracts - to what we generally refer to as the "Beaumont-Adams" .... If I understand your observations correctly, do I take it correctly that these were in fact what you refer to as "earliest Adams-type revolvers ... adapted to double-action" rather than the "specific fixed design from about 1860/62"?

Here is another quote from Chamberlain and Taylerson (following, but one paragraph removed from, the quote above) which may shed further light on the issue .... or may make things even "fuzzier" -
Strictly, these first double-action British service revolvers (as they came to be) were Robert Adams' self-cocking design of 1851, improved by Lieutenant F.B.E. Beaumont as shown in Figure 1.2 and promoted by the firm of Deane, Adams & Deane. Modern collectors call such weapons "Beaumont-Adams," but the British Ordnance called them "Dean's" or "Dean & Adams" or even "Deane's" revolvers, and we shall follow their practice, so that an "Adams" service revolver in these pages will be a breech-loading weapon designed by John Adams.

This passage alludes to a very important factor to be kept in mind in considering the service revolvers of the day - i.e. that the early Robert Adams percussion military service revolvers - rendered double-action/single-action by incorporation of "Beaumont's improvement" - were in fact a different design than the later John Adams-designed breech-loading (i.e. cartridge) service revolvers - namely, the Mark II and Mark III Adams. Further confusion arises from the fact that the very first British cartridge service revolver (now generally referred to as the "Mark I Adams") was actually the "Dean & Adams' Revolver Pistol Converted to Breech-Loader by Mr. J. Adams" (as it is described in the List of Changes) - i.e. the Robert Adams-designed percussion pistol, incorporating Beaumont's improvement, converted into a metallic cartridge breech-loader by John Adams!

When you say that the "shape of the 1850's Adams is quite different to the shape of the 1860's Adams", do you refer primarily to the frame protrusion of the Robert Adams service revolvers, through which the cylinder axis pin passes, with the rather pronounced rounded or bulbous looking lower profile, which is absent from the Mark II and III Adams cartridge revolvers? If so, I believe the factor stated above is the explanation.

With respect to patent dates, by the way, my references indicate that Beaumont's initial patent application for his improvement was filed 20 February 1855, but did not specify any specific revolver design. His later "Complete Specifications" filed on 19 July 1855 made it clear that it was the Robert Adams revolver (incorporating improvements specified in Adams' own patent application of 15 December 1854) that was contemplated. In accordance with established practice, Beaumont's patent (374/1855) dates from the date of his initial filing on 20 February 1855. (Ref: "The Revolver, 1818-1865", Taylerson, Andrews and Frith)

In any event, my understanding -possibly erroneous - is that the progression of "Adams" military service revolvers (i.e. not revolvers manufactured for commercial sale) goes like this -

- Beaumont-Adams percussion revolvers (i.e. referred to in my first quote from Chamberlain & Taylerson as "Revolvers, Dean & Adams improved on Beaumont's principle" and "Pistols, revolving, Dean & Adams' patent, with Lieutenant Beaumont's improvement") - In other words, it is my understanding from Chamberlain & Taylerson that all Robert Adams percussion revolvers contracted for by the War Department from August of 1855 would be considered "Beaumont-Adams" revolvers. These are the only two images (with captions) of such Adams percussion revolvers in Chamberlain and Taylerson's volume, and it is my understanding that all of the Robert Adams percussion revolvers (with Beaumont's improvement) contracted for by the War Department looked like this -

Image

Image

It is my further understanding that the War Department had refused to consider adoption of Robert Adams' original 1851 design because it was "self-cocking" only (i.e. double-action only) and lacked a thumb -cocking (single-action) capability .... Thus, Colt's single-action-only revolver was acquired first .... and Adams design was not accepted until it incorporated Beaumont's improvement, which permitted thumb-cocking.

- "Mark I Adams" cartridge revolver (described in the List of Changes as "Dean & Adams' Revolver Revolver Pistol Converted to Breech-Loader by Mr. J. Adams" - i.e. Robert Adams' percussion design converted to metallic cartridge by John Adams) -
Image

Mark II Adams cartridge revolver (John Adams design) -
Image

Mark III Adams cartridge revolver (John Adams design)-
Image
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 16 Jun 2014 18:50

L. Braden wrote:Fuzzy indeed! The Wikipedia article on the BA is ridiculously contradictory, in one place saying that it was adopted in 1856 and in another 1862. 19th-century sources are far less contradictory, varying between 1855 and 1856.

Indeed, arguably either year (i.e. 1855 or 1856) could be considered correct. The first contract - for 300 'Revolvers, Dean & Adams improved on Beaumont's principle" - was dated 15 August 1855, and the second - for 2,000 "Pistols, revolving, Dean & Adams' patent, with Lieutenant Beaumont's improvement" - was dated 3 January 1856. Even if some or all of the first 300 revolvers were delivered before the end of 1855, it seems doubtful that any would have been issued prior to 1856 .....
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby L. Braden » 16 Jun 2014 19:18

Exactly! Especially when you consider the usual bureaucratic delays, even in wartime.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Matt Easton » 16 Jun 2014 22:56

Thanks for the input gentlemen, I'll have a proper look tomorrow morning. In the meantime, here is a picture of my 'Beaumont-Adams' (or whatever we decide to call it :) ), above my Webley-Bentley variant:
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 16 Jun 2014 23:18

Lovely-looking piece .... I'd definitely call it a Beaumont-Adams!

As an aside, Robert and John Adams were brothers ....
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby trooper » 17 Jun 2014 05:32

Frogsmile wrote:
As regards the Colt 45 the over riding requirement of pistols purchased by officers is that they could be used with standard British issue pistol ammunition. I am not positive, but I am unaware of any colts made in the large calibre used by the British prior to the adoption of .38 before WW2.


As you can see from the attached Colt's were made for the British during WW1. Smith and Wesson made a similar pistol for us at the same time. Trooper
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby GrantRCanada » 17 Jun 2014 07:16

Colt produced handguns in "British" chamberings long before WWI .... notable examples being:

The Model 1873 ("Single Action Army"; "Peacemaker") revolver was being shipped to the Company's London Agency in various such chamberings almost from the outset, starting with one hundred chambered for .450 Boxer shipped 5 January 1874. A .450 Eley marking was introduced by November of that year, and Colt continued to ship revolvers marked both ways. This model was also produced in.380 Eley, .455 Eley, and .476 Eley. Perhaps needless to say, most such revolvers were marketed in Britain. (Ref. "Colt Peacemaker British Model", Keith Cochran, 1989, ISBN 0-936259-11-6)

The Model 1878 Double Action revolver was marketed in .450, .455 and .476, with the first such shipment to the London Agency taking place 9 May 1878 - being serial number 2 of that model, chambered in .450. Records indicate total shipments of this model to the London Agency in "British" chamberings as follows - .450 - 2,390 revolvers; .455 - 1,732 revolvers; .476 - 2.458 revolvers. (Ref. "Colt's Double Action Revolver, Model of 1878", Don Wilkerson, 1998, ISBN 0-9617876-4-3)

Colt began producing its Model 1898 "New Service" revolver chambered in .455 as early as 1899 and, as trooper has pointed out, it was one of Britain's "substitute standard" service revolvers during WWI - beginning in 1915 the War Department contracted for 100,000 revolvers of this model - as well as 40,000 Smith & Wesson "Hand Ejector" revolvers - both chambered in .455. (Ref. "Revolvers of the British Services, 1854-1954", Chamberlain and Taylerson, 1989, ISBN 0-919316-92-1)

Last, but not least, in 1915 the War Department also contracted for 11,000 Colt Government Model semi-automatic pistols chambered in .455 Auto. This design is commonly referred to as the "Model 1911" but, strictly speaking, that designation originally referred only to the pistols of this model produced under contract for the U.S. Army. The pistols produced for Britain had a special serial number range of W10001 through W21000 - the "W" apparently referring to the War Department. (Ref. "Colt: An American Legend", R.L. Wilson, 1985, ISBN 0-89659-953-1)
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Matt Easton » 17 Jun 2014 08:15

Going back to my statement about the differing shapes of Adams revolvers in the 50's and 60's, I suppose these can be mostly put down to the different accessories added to them - for example the rammer, different types of safety catch, different release for the cylinder rod etc - as well as the different bores and cylinder depths. These must be datable - I wonder if there is a publication which maps the dates of these developments?

As a demonstration, here is the 1851 pattern, presumably from the early 1850's:
Image

The grips generally have a different angle and slightly different shape, and I'd say that they are generally more slender in the frame, including the top strap.

In contrast, here is a later an Adams with the Beaumont double-action, but which I would say is still earlier than mine - see the smaller section in front of the cylinder, I presume with no rammer attached, and earlier type of safety placed in front of the cyclinder, instead of the integral type behind the cyclinder on mine:

Earlier version? Perhaps 1856-59ish -
Image

Lastly, here is what I would say is the 1860's form.
Example dated to 1862 by the plaque on the handle, almost identical to mine - note the integral safety catch behind the cylinder and the swivel release catch for the cylinder rod in front of the cylinder:
Image

Thoughts?
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby airborne7395 » 11 Apr 2015 14:25

Greetings! I have a Beaumont Adams but it needs a loading lever. Anyone know where I can get parts for this? It is an 1854 model.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby airborne7395 » 05 May 2015 02:48

Greetings to all! Today I picked up a shooter Webley Mk I, sn 984. My research has only shown that the large N on the backstrap designates a navy issue. The side is marked Webley Mark I Patents in a circle stamp, much different than my RIC. Any insights from you all would be appreciated. Also, I have found nipples and a hammer for my Beaumont, but no loading lever. If anyone has a lead on one, I would appreciate it. Cheers!
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby airborne7395 » 11 May 2015 01:49

I have decided to tighten up my collection and have a Webley Mk I for sale or will trade for a Beaumont Adams, either percussion or one converted for cartridges. It is serial number 984 with the N on the strap but no crows foot.
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Re: Handguns: the first General Issue Service Revolvers

Postby Matt Easton » 18 Nov 2016 09:20

Just to update this thread slightly - many of my questions above regarding the form of the Adams/Beaumont-Adams have been answered by an excellent article in Classic Arms & Militaria magazine earlier this year, which also charts the serial numbers by date.

The short story is that the 1851 shape of Adams was updated with a new frame shape (less vertical grip being the most notable difference) in around 1854 (though due to old shape frames still being in stock, they continued making both frame shapes alongside each other for about a year or so) and from 1855 the Beaumont hammer spur and mechanism was added - though again, these were made alongside spurless hammer models for about a year. By around 1857 it seems that all of them were being made in the new frame shape and with spurs to the hammers, and from a similar date the Kerr patent rammer was usually being added as standard (though not always).

Thus the fully formed Beaumont-Adams of typical shape and features seems to have been common from about 1857/58.

The slightly later Deane-Harding uses a different mechanism and has a Colt-style rammer, but they gained a poor reputation for reliability.

There are many variations in the 1850s Adams and Beaumont-Adams revolvers, including different cylinder depths, different forms of rammer before the Kerr type became common and I even own one where the cylinder revolves in the opposite direction to normal. The most common calibres were 38, 54, 80 and 120 bore (the latter two being more usually for civilian use). However other calibres are to be found, including 56 bore for example.
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