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3rd Model Tranter 54-Bore Revolver by Henry Beckwith

3rd Model Tranter 54-Bore Revolver by Henry Beckwith

  • Product Code: FHG-JM117-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $2,495.00

William Tranter was born in 1816 and died in 1890, and during his working life he was one of the most prominent Gun, Rifle & Pistol Makers in the Birmingham (England) gun trade. He went into business for himself circa 1840, after completing his apprenticeship with Hollis Brothers & Co, which he had begun in 1830. Tranter continued in the trade until 1885, just five years before his death. After his decade of work learning the gun trade at Hollis Bros & Co (later Hollis & Sheath), in 1840 Tranter bought the established gun making business of Robert Dugard at 29 ½ Whitehall Street. Over the next decade he worked for himself and in joint ventures with his old employers John & Isaac Hollis as well as with Isaac Sheath. By 1850 he had located his primary business at 50 Loveday Street, where he was listed as having “shops, sheds, steam machinery, yard & premises”. Tranter secured his first British patent related to firearms in October of 1849 when he registered a “pepperbox mechanism and lever catch for pistol locks”. In January of 1853 he registered British Patent Number 212 (1853) for a pair of “self-cocking” pistol mechanisms and a safety mechanism. In December of the same year, he registered designs for a double-action revolver mechanism, lubricated bullets and wadding, and a breech loading mechanism, all of which were covered by Patent Number 2921 (1853). In August of 1856 he registered the designs for a “double trigger revolver mechanism”, along with several other designs, all of which were covered by British Patent Number 1913 (1856). Tranter continued patenting firearm designs as late as 1887, after he had actually left active work in the gun trade. 


Tranter’s most successful series of arms were his “self-cocking” revolvers, which were initially introduced in 1853. The earliest revolvers utilized Robert Adams’ patent for a solid, one-piece frame and barrel that were machined from a single forging. Tranter’s initial production run of revolvers included both M1851 Patent Adams style lock works, and Tranter's own patented lock works. The original “Tranter” type revolvers, known to collectors as 1st Model Tranters had no provision for a fixed loading lever. The lever swiveled on a stud that projected from the left side of the frame but had no provision to retain the lever when it was mounted on the revolver. The lever was intended to be stored in a case or carried in the pocket. Most of these guns were manufactured on Adams Patent frames and have Adams Patent serial numbers (really patent tracking numbers to pay royalties to Adams) and these numbers are followed by a Y-suffix. 


The 2nd Model Tranters also had a pin on the frame that allowed the attachment of a removable loading lever, but the pin had a small projection that allowed the lever to remain attached to the gun unless a notch in the lever was aligned with the stud projection to remove it. The later example of these guns, manufactured after about 1856, have Tranter Patent serial numbers and end with a T-suffix. These guns not only include Tranter Patent lock works, but also a newly improved version of the Adams solid frame, which was patented by Tranter in 1856. At this point Tranter revolvers rarely appear in the Adams assigned serial number range. The 3rd Model Tranters had a more permanently attached loading lever, which was secured by a screw. The 3rd Models appear to have all been produced in the T suffix Tranter serial number range. All of these first three models were based on his “double-trigger” system (initially referred to as his “hesitating mechanism” on the early production guns), which utilized a second “trigger” under the trigger guard to rotate the cylinder and cock the hammer. The trigger inside the triggerguard was used to trip the sear and release the hammer. The 4th Model Tranterrevolvers (which were introduced in 1856 and are all in the Tranter T-suffix series) used a single trigger and had what would today be called a conventional “double action” lock work. 


All of these revolver patterns were produced in a variety of calibers, with 54-Bore (.442) “Holster Size” and 120-Bore (.338) “Pocket Size” revolvers being the most commonly encountered calibers and frame sizes, and the mid-sized 80-Bore (.387) “Belt Size” being less often encountered. Some of the guns were also produced in the exceptionally large and powerful 36 and 38 bore sizes, which were larger versions of the holster size guns, and were about .50 caliber! Barrel lengths varied as well, with the larger caliber arms typically having longer barrels. All of the guns were 5-shot percussion revolvers, and typically featured checkered one-piece walnut grips, although smooth wooden grips and other grip materials are known to have been used on a special-order basis. The Tranter patent revolver was the primary competitor with the Adams and Beaumont-Adams patent revolvers in England and was also exported widely. Pre-Civil War Tranter revolvers are known with US retailer marks, indicating that his designs were at least somewhat successful in the United States. The majority of the retailer marked guns are from the south, with the largest majority of them being marked by New Orleans retailers. Based upon extant examples, the firm of Hyde & Goodrich (later Thomas, Griswold & Co) appears to have been the primary importer of Tranter Patent revolvers into the southern United States. Most of these retailer-marked guns were sold cased with accessories, although some guns were certainly sold without the expensive casings and accouterments. During the course of the Civil War, it appears that the importation of Tranter revolvers was somewhat limited, at least in terms of Confederate central government purchases. However, period advertisements in the south and extant examples with southern provenance make it clear that the guns were imported by blockade-runners as speculative items for sale in the south. Such famous Confederates as General John Hunt Morgan (3rd Model #3758T), General J.E.B. Stuart (4th Model #8673T), General John Magruder (5th Model – unknown number – see Albaugh) and Colonel Dabney H. Maury (3rd Model #7993T), who served on the staff of General Earl Van Dorn, all owned documented Tranter revolvers.  The famous “Pratt Roll”, which lists the revolvers in the possession of Lt. Julian Pratt’s squad of troopers in Company H of the 18th Virginia Cavalry, lists two Tranter revolvers, with the serial numbers 15,465 and 15,476. The squad roll is from July of 1864. This indicates that Tranter revolvers in the mid 15,XXX serial number range were in use by southern forces, and in the field by that time. Other Tranter revolvers with southern provenance include guns which are retailer marked by T.W. Radcliffe of Columbia, SC. Additionally, a March 10, 1863 advertisement in the Richmond Times Dispatch for H. E. Nichols of Columbia, SC read in part: 


“Fine English Revolvers. Just received from England, six Tranter’s fine revolving pistols, 80 and 120 bore. Price $220 each.”


 All of this evidence indicates that at least some of the Tranter revolvers produced during (as well as prior to) the Civil War, saw Confederate use. At least one Tranter that I previously owned was most likely imported by Schuyler, Hartley & Graham of New York. The gun was an engraved, nickel-plated 4th Model 54-Bore revolver with relief-carved ivory grips. The gun was serial number 13619T. 


Dating Tranter revolvers based upon their serial numbers is somewhat problematic, as frames were sometime produced in advance and the guns completed at a later date. What we do know is that the “T” serial number suffix came into use around serial number 2200, sometime between 1854 and 1856. We also know that Tranter produced revolvers using Adams patent serial numbers and a “Y” suffix from about 1853 through about 1856. These guns appear in several serial number ranges, as assigned by Adams, including the 2X,XXX range. From extant examples of Tranter’s with specific dates associated with them, it appears that those Tranter revolvers with serial numbers under about 20,000 (and possibly some of the early guns in the 20,XXX range) with T suffixes were produced prior to the end of 1865. All “Y” suffix guns predate the Civil War by at least four or five years.


The 3rd Model Tranter Revolver offered here is in VERY GOOD+ condition. The top strap of the revolver is engraved with the name of the London retail Henry Beckwith. The topstrap reads in a single line: 




Henry Beckwith was born in 1805 and was the son of London gunmaker William Andrew Beckwith. Henry took over the family gun manufacturing and retailing business in 1841 and remained in business until 1868. The 58 Skinner Street address had been one of his father’s business locations, and appears to have been the retail outlet, while Henry appears to have conducted his manufacturing at 13 Fieldgate Street during the same time frame. Beckwith has a Confederate association, as a small number Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle muskets bearing his mark were purchased by the State of Georgia during the Civil War. It is quite possible that in addition to the rifle muskets, that Beckwith sold Tranter revolvers to Confederate purchasers as well. 


As would be expected on a London retailed gun, it has London commercial proof marks on the barrel and in between the chambers on the cylinder. The gun is lightly scroll engraved with a shell and floral motif, on the frame, the edges of the top strap, the muzzle, the backstrap, grip strap and butt cap. This style of engraving is typical of Tranter revolvers. 


As noted above the gun remains in VERY GOOD+ condition and retains about 25%+ original bright blued finish overall, mixed with a plum brown patina. The majority of the finish loss and wear is along the 6” octagonal, and the front portion of the frame. This can best be described as holster wear. The most significant areas of bright blue remain on the rear portion of the frame. The cylinder, which was likely case hardened originally, has faded to a plum brown color. Case coloring typically fades very quickly when heated, and any casehardened finish on a cylinder usually disappears after moderate use and firing. The original cones (nipples) are present in the cylinder and are good condition. The loading lever and trigger were finished “in the white”, or rather were left unfinished. This is quite typical on Tranter revolvers. The trigger and loading lever now have a smooth, mottled brown age patina. The metal of the gun is mostly crisp throughout with very nice edges. The metal is mostly smooth overall, with some scattered areas of minor freckled surface oxidation and some scattered areas of minor peppering and pinpricking. The cylinder shows slightly more surface oxidation than the frame and barrel, with some small patches of more moderate surface roughness as well. The bore of the pistol is a mixture of bright and dark patches, with strong rifling along its entire length. There is some light to moderate pitting along the length of the bore, mostly in the grooves, with a couple of larger pits closer to the muzzle. All of the noted wear and minor surface oxidation is simply the result of actual use and firing of the pistol. The gun retains its original dovetailed barleycorn “bead on post” front sight near the muzzle and the original loading lever is present and works perfectly. The action of the gun is in excellent mechanical condition and functions exactly as it should. Even the fragile, frame mounted hammer block safety is present and works exactly as it should, automatically engaging when the hammer is lowered and disengaging as the lower trigger is pulled to cock the pistol. The original checkered walnut grip is in FINE condition without any breaks, cracks or repairs noted. The grip does show some minor bumps and dings from carry and use. The checkering also shows some scattered light wear and minor flattening along the sharp contact points. All of this is simply indication of real field use, but the grips show no signs of abuse.


Overall, this is a really nice looking, 100% complete, correct, and original 3rd Model Tranter Revolver. The gun shows real use, but no abuse, and is marked by a London gun maker and retailer with a known Confederate association. For any collector of Civil War era martial revolvers, an Adams and a Tranter are essential items for the collection. This Tranter shows all the signs of actual service, is not a minty cased gun that saw no use and has a strong Confederate association because of the Beckwith mark. This gun has it all and would a great addition to you Civil War revolver collection.


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Tags: 3rd, Model, Tranter, 54-Bore, Revolver, by, Henry, Beckwith