Exceptional Remington New Model Navy Factory Cartridge Conversion Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2411-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
In 1857, the firm of E. Remington & Sons of introduced their first percussion revolver. Since the founding of the firm in 1816 by Eliphalet Remington, the company had concentrated on the production of gun parts and then long arms. In 1856, with the addition of Remington’s three sons to the business, the firm officially became E. Remington & Sons. The following year, their first revolver was ready for sale, the Remington-Beals Pocket revolver. This was the invention of Remington employee Fordyce Beals. Beals had been instrumental in the production of the Jenks carbine contract, and had actually been acquired from Ames, as had the machinery, as part of the negotiated arrangement between Remington and Ames. Beals’ design was a compact, single action, .31 caliber revolver that bore a resemblance to the “Walking Beam” revolver then in production by Whitney. This should come as no surprise as the Whitney revolver was based upon Beals’ 1854 patent which evaded Colt’s protection of his pistol’s mechanism. In 1856, Beals patented the features that were salient to his new Remington revolver, and in 1858 patented the cylinder pin and loading lever system that would define the silhouette of all the large-frame Remington handguns for some three decades; through the Model 1875 which would remain in the product line through 1889.
Beals’ 1858 patent (#21,478) was granted on September 14th of that year and covered the winged cylinder arbor pin that secured the cylinder to the frame, which was retained by the loading lever located under the barrel and could be withdrawn from the frame only when the lever was lowered. Thus, began the evolution of the second most used US marital revolver of the American Civil War. The first guns were produced in .36 caliber and production started to roll off the assembly line during late 1860 or early 1861. The .36 caliber “Navy” revolver was followed by a .44 caliber “Army” variant soon thereafter. By the time Beals-Navy production ended in 1862, some 15,000 of the handguns had been produced, while only about 2,000 of the larger “Army” revolvers were manufactured, before the William Elliott “improved” Model 1861 pattern Remington revolvers (also known to collectors as the “Old Model”) superseded the Beals model.
The Beals Navy Revolver was Remington’s first large frame, martial handgun to make it into production. The earlier Beals “Army”, a scaled-up version of the pocket model, was only produced as a prototype and it is believed that less than 10 were manufactured. The Beals Navy was a single action, 6-shot revolver with a nominally 7 ½” octagonal barrel that was screwed into the solid frame. While most references list the barrel length as 7 ½” some of the earlier examples measure closer to 7 3/8” in length. The guns were blued throughout, with brass triggerguards and a color casehardened hammer. The gun had two-piece smooth walnut grips, secured by a screw that passed through German silver escutcheons and a cone shaped German silver front sight was dovetailed into the top of the barrel near the muzzle. There were a number of differences between the Beals model and the later production “Old Model” 1861 and “New Model” 1863 revolvers. The most obvious differences were the “high spur” hammer and the fact that frame concealed the barrel threads at the rear of the barrel. Shortly after the “Old Model” 1861 went into production, these features were eliminated. A relief cut in the frame revealing the threads at the barrel’s end was added to reduce the possibility of lock up due to fowling and a lower spur hammer was adopted eventually to reduce the potential for breakage. The system of retaining the cylinder arbor pin via the loading lever evolved as well. While the Beals revolver required the lever to be lowered to withdraw the pin, the Model 1861 included a relief cut in the top of the lever that allowed the pin to be pulled forward with the lever in its upright and locked position. This was considered an improvement and the feature was patented by Remington employee William Elliott, who would be responsible for a number of successful Remington firearms designs. This “improvement” proved to be a failure in the field, as the arbor pin could slide forward in the relief cut under recoil. When this happened, the cylinder often locked up, making the revolver useless. An eventual “fix” was developed for this potentially fatal flaw. A filister head screw was added to the inside of the loading lever that acted as a stop against the cylinder pin. This meant that the lever again had to be lowered to remove the pin, essentially returning the design to the original Beals concept.
The Beals models did not have safety notches on the rear of the cylinder that would allow the hammer to be safely dropped and locked between cylinder chambers. This feature was added to the Model 1861 and 1863 revolvers. Other minor evolutions occurred as well, including making the loading lever slightly larger and more robust. As the Beals was the first of the large frame martial Remington revolvers it underwent some changes and improvements during its production.
The US government had been relatively pleased with the original Beals Navy design and had obtained some 11,249 of the 15,000 Beals Navy revolvers produced. The purchases had been a combination of direct contract with Remington combined with open market purchases of some 7,250 revolvers that would not pass through a government inspection process. In June of 1862, the Ordnance Department let a contract for 5,000 additional “Navy” caliber revolvers to Remington. The guns delivered under this contract appear to be a combination of late Remington Beals Navy revolvers and the new Model 1861 Elliott revolvers. The serial numbering of the Model 1861 revolvers continued from the Beals Navy revolvers, with the numbers mixing somewhat randomly at the end of Beals production and the beginning of Model 1861 production. This can probably be attributed to the using up of older parts on hand, thus the existence of “transitional” Remington Navy revolvers. Between August and December of 1862, a total of 5,001 .36 Remington Revolvers were delivered under this contract. Due to reports of issues in the field with the new Elliott Model 1861 revolvers, modifications and improvements occurred during the production of the “Old Model” Navy revolvers, which eventually morphed into the “New Model” or Model 1863 revolvers. Interestingly after finally getting the Remington Navy design to its pinnacle, no additional .36 caliber revolvers would be purchased from Remington by the Ordnance Department after the final December 1862 deliveries. Instead, the US military decided to concentrate on the acquisition of .44 caliber percussion revolvers and a large number of the New Model 1863 Army revolvers would be acquired between 1863 and 1865. In fact, roughly 80,000 of the New Model Army revolvers were purchased during the last two years of the war, while Remington would only produce about 22,000 New Model Navy percussion revolvers from the time of their introduction until the summer of 1871 when percussion production of that model came to a halt. In all some 148,000 “Army” sized Remington revolvers of all variants were produced with only about 48,000 of the “Navy” sized guns produced during the same period.
With the end of the Civil War, the US military found itself in possession of hundreds of thousands of percussion revolvers that it no longer needed, and almost immediately started the process of selling off nearly all of the “secondary” percussion revolvers, those not produced by Colt or Remington. The Ordnance Department also realized that the day of the percussion revolver was over, and that metallic cartridges had made percussion arms obsolete. The success of the Spencer Rifles and Carbines, as well as the Henry Rifle had proven the reliability of metallic cartridges, but a patent controlled by Smith & Wesson had prevented military caliber metallic cartridge revolvers from being developed. Smith & Wesson held the rights to Rollin White’s patent on the bored through cylinder, a concept that was the very heart of metallic cartridge revolver design. Smith & Wesson aggressively defended the patent, and it was their legal efforts that had prevented companies like Allen & Wheelock and Merwin & Bray (Moore’s Patent Revolvers) from marketing cartridge revolver designs that had the potential to be quite successful. At the end of the Civil War, the US Ordnance Department started looking for ways to modernize and alter their stock of percussion revolvers to cartridge. They also started looking for a new cartridge revolver design, but the Rollin White patent effectively tied the hands of the major handgun contractors Colt and Remington. Colt attempted to circumvent the patent with their front-loading Thuer conversion of Colt percussion revolvers, but Remington took the path of least resistance; in 1868, they agreed to pay a royalty to Smith & Wesson for the right to use the Rollin White patent. Remington would continue to pay this royalty until the expiration of White’s patent protection in April of the following year. During that time, Remington would produce 4,574 cartridge revolvers with bored through cylinders, getting a jump on Colt in the cartridge revolver market.
Remington would go on produce three primary variations of their New Model Army Revolver, altered to metallic cartridge. These were also their earliest alteration revolvers, as the desire to receive US military contracts encouraged the firm to concentrate on the production of .44 caliber guns rather than .36-.38 caliber guns. The first two variations of the Army alteration were rimfire revolvers, a 5-shot .46 caliber gun and then a 6-shot .44 caliber gun. The final version would be a 6-shot .44 centerfire cartridge, based upon the Martin patent, which Remington brought to market circa 1870 and remained in production through the introduction of the Model 1875 Army Revolver, Remington’s cartridge revolver developed to compete with Colt’s Model 1873 Single Action Army. However, a much smaller number of the Remington New Model Navy revolvers were either altered to cartridge or actually produced in percussion.
The production of cartridge altered Remington New Model Navy Revolvers started between the summer of 1871 and early 1873 and appears to have started around serial number 36,000. These alterations continued through about serial number 42,000 and after that the guns were produced as cartridge revolvers and were not alterations. Production of the guns continued through about serial number 48,000 when production of the New Model Navy revolvers ended. The cartridge guns were chambered for the .38 rimfire cartridge and retained the original percussion bore that was nominally .357”, which is why modern “38 caliber” cartridges still use .357” bullets. The guns had their percussion cylinders machined to remove the percussion portion at the rear, leaving the cylinder ratchet in place and creating bored through chambers. New safety notches were machined in the upper rear of the cylinder where the nose of the modified rimfire hammer could rest. A new recoil plate was added to the rear of the frame and a loading gate was added as well. Finally, an ejector rod was added on the right side of the gun, with a sleeve added to the frame that secured an L-shaped rod that was tensioned with a spring and had a checkered tab at the operating end. The rod was secured against the bottom of the barrel when not in use with the web of the loading lever machined to retain the ejector rod. The altered guns retained their original serial numbers but had an additional set of alteration assembly numbers added under the barrel, on the edge of the left grip frame under the grips and sometimes in the grips themselves.
The Remington New Model Navy Cartridge Conversion revolver offered here is in about VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition overall. The gun is one of the last Remington factory alterations from percussion to .38 Rim Fire before the guns began to be made as cartridge revolvers at about #42,000, rather than being conversions of previously manufactured percussion guns. The revolver is serial number 41493 and is 100% complete, correct, and original in every way. It retains the factory modified Remington cartridge cylinder, the Remington added ejector rod system and the Remington added recoil shield and back plate with loading gate. The gun retains nearly all of its original factory blued finish and is in really wonderful condition. As noted, the gun is serial number 41493 and is additionally marked with the conversion mating number 840. Matching serial numbers and mating numbers are located on the grip frame under the left grip, and under the barrel where it is hidden by the loading lever. Both the grip panels are additionally stamped with the mating number 840. As is relatively common on Remington revolvers, the cylinder is not numbered. The top strap is clearly marked in three lines:
PATENTED SEPT 14, 1858
E. REMINGTON & SONS ILION NEW YORK. U.S.A
As the gun is a civilian gun that was never part of a military order or delivery it does not have any military or inspection markings and the grips are varnished walnut rather than the typical oil finish of military revolver grips.
As noted, the gun retains the large majority of its original bright factory blued finish, with the barrel retaining 95%+, the cylinder retaining about 90% of its finish and the frame about 80%+. The barrel shows some minor silvering and loss along the sharp edges of the octagonal barrel with some minor thinning. The cylinder shows slightly more thinning and high edge wear than the barrel, along with a turn ring that runs through the cylinder stop slots. The frame shows the most thinning and edge wear and nearly all of the blue has worn from the backstrap, leaving the metal there with a smooth plum patina. The hammer retains about 90%+ of its vivid and mottled case coloring and the brass triggerguard has a lovely golden patina. The metal of the gun is smooth and free of pitting, but does show some tiny, scattered impact marks on the lower angled flat of the left side of the barrel and on the cylinder. There is also some freckled pinpricking at the muzzle. There is also a small forging flaw in the frame behind the recoil shield on the left side of the revolver. All the markings remain clear and crisp. The bore of the revolver is in VERY FINE condition and is mostly bright, with excellent rifling present. The bore shows some scattered light oxidation along its length with a little bit of pinpricking here and there. The action of the revolver is mechanically excellent, and the gun times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The original Remington factory added cartridge ejector system is in place and functions as it should. The grips are in VERY FINE condition. They retain most of their original factory varnish and remain quite crisp. The finish loss is primarily along the sharp edge and contact points and the grips are solid, complete, and free of any breaks, cracks, or repairs. The grips show some lightly scattered minor handling marks, but as noted are extremely crisp.
Overall, this is a really exceptional condition example of a rare Remington New Model Navy Cartridge Conversion Revolver. The gun is 100% complete and correct, remains extremely crisp, is mechanically functional and has a lovely bore. The New Model Navy revolver is relatively scare in and of itself, as Remington produced about 3 of the “Army” size revolvers for every “Navy” they manufactured. The cartridge altered Navy revolvers are rather rare and seldom appear in such a wonderful state of preservation. These cartridge alteration revolvers were the real guns the average western cowboy would have carried, as they were actually affordable to such men. Colt and Smith & Wesson revolvers were much too expensive for the average cowpuncher to afford. For any serious collector of guns of the Old West, these cartridge conversion revolvers provide a fertile field of study and numerous variations to collect, and this would be a great gun for such a collection. For an advanced Remington collector this would be a fantastic addition to their collection. No matter your area of specialization, I am quite convinced you will be extremely pleased with this gun in terms of rarity and condition, and you will be very proud to display it.