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. The first products were gun barrels, then gun furniture and then finally complete flintlock rifles were added to the product line. In 1845, Remington acquired a contract for 5,000 US Model 1841 “Mississippi” Rifles that had originally been granted to John Griffiths of Cincinnati, which he had defaulted on. The Ordnance Department was so pleased with the product delivered by Eliphalet’s company that he was granted two additional contracts for Model 1841s, eventually delivering some 20,000 of the rifles to the US government over the course of a decade. Remington apparently saw the influx of government contract money as steady stream of income that would allow him to expand his business, and he soon sought additional US contracts. The same year as the Mississippi Rifle contract, he acquired a contract to deliver 1,000 Jenks Naval Carbines, with the newly devised Maynard Patent tape priming lock. Remington purchased the necessary machinery from the Ames Company of Chicopee, MA, who had delivered the first production variation of the carbines and rifles, and who no longer needed the equipment. However, it was clear that the technological evolution of firearms was heading toward repeating arms, and to that end the company began to pursue the development of a percussion revolver.
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 profile of all the large-frame Remington handguns through the 1880s.
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 pattern revolver production ended in 1862, some 15,000 of the “Navy” sized handguns had been produced, while only about 2,000 of the larger “Army” revolvers were manufactured. The subsequent model was the William Elliott “improved” Model 1861 pattern Remington revolvers, also known to collectors as the “Old Model” Remingtons, started to replace the Beals models by the middle of 1862.
The Beals Navy Revolver was Remington’s first large frame, martial handgun to make it into production, with the Beals Army following fairly quickly on its heels. While an experimental Beals “Army” had been produced earlier, which was really just a scaled-up version of the Beals pocket model, it was only produced as a prototype and it is believed that less than ten were manufactured.
The Beals Army, like the Navy, was a single action, 6-shot percussion revolver. The .44 caliber “Army” had an 8” octagonal barrel that was screwed into the solid frame. While most references list the barrel length as 8” exactly, most extant examples vary by as much as 1/8”, typically on the shorter side. The guns were blued throughout, with brass triggerguards and a color casehardened hammer. The guns 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 models 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 (aka “Old Model”) 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. The initial success of the 1,600 Beals Navy revolvers contracted for in 1861 lead to an Ordnance Department contract on June 13 of 1862 for 5,000 additional “Navy” caliber revolvers to Remington. The contract also called for the delivery of 20,000 of the .44 caliber “Army” sized revolvers. These were to be the newly improved Remington-Elliott “Old Model” 1861 revolvers, but researchers believe that between 750 and 850 of the guns delivered under this contract were actually older Beals Model Army revolvers. The government had also acquired some 850 Beals Army revolvers on the open market, in the same way they had purchased Beals Navy revolvers. All of these open market purchases took place between August of 1861 and March of 1862. These open market purchases were not marked or inspected in any way. The first deliveries of Remington Army revolvers under the June 13, 1862 contract took place in July of 1862 and included 750 revolvers, while no Navy sized revolvers were delivered until August. This suggests that those initial 750 guns were the older Beals model Army revolvers already complete and on hand, which were subsequently inspected and delivered in only a few weeks’ time. The next two deliveries of Remington Army revolvers were in August and September of 1862, with only 500 guns being delivered in each month. This significantly lower delivery rate suggests the new Model 1861 revolvers that were just starting to come off the assembly line. In October of 1862 Remington managed to deliver 1,550 Army revolvers and in all delivered a total of 4,902 Army sized revolvers during 1862, with 750-850 being Beals pattern guns and the balance being the Remington-Elliott “Old Model” 1861 Army revolvers.
In all, the US government would acquire a total of 115,557 .44 caliber “Army” sized Remington revolvers under Ordnance Department contracts during the American Civil War. Of these, only 850 of would be Beals Army revolvers, slightly less than 5,000 would be “Old Model” 1861 revolvers, and the balance of the guns (nearly 110,000) would be the New Model Army or M1863. That means that the US government contracts acquired the New Model Army at a rate 129 times greater than Beals Army revolvers, and that Beals Army revolvers represent less than 1% of all Remington Army revolvers purchased under contract! That makes a martially marked Remington-Beals Army Revolver one of the hardest of the primary US Civil War contract revolvers to located and added to a collection of Civil War revolvers.
The scarce Remington-Beals Army Revolver offered here is in about FINE condition. The top of the 7 7/8” octagonal barrel is clearly marked in two lines with the standard Beals markings:
BEALS’ PATENT. SEPT. 14, 1858
MANUFACTURED BY REMINGTONS’ ILION. N.Y.
The serial number 1173 is present under the barrel, on the left side of the frame, under the grip and written in pencil inside both of the grips. The rear face of the cylinder bears only the number 3 and the inspection Q. The gun is sub-inspected throughout, with the letters C and P on the reverse of the frame at the barrel junction and on the rear portion of the barrel, with a single C on the triggerguard and loading lever. Interestingly the grips, which are numbered to the gun, do not have the expected cartouches and sub-inspection marks that are usually encountered on contract arms. The revolver also shows traces of silver plating on the triggerguard, which was a feature reserved for their commercial revovlers, rather than government contract arms. The revolver retains all of the expected “Beals” pattern features, including the concealed barrel threads in the frame, the Beals style loading lever catch, the solid loading lever that must be lowered to remove the arbor pin (no Elliott’s improvement), the high spur hammer and the German silver cone front sight. The only non-Beals feature is the presence of machined safety notches at the rear of the cylinder. As the cylinder does not bear the usual Beals serial number and inspection marks, but is simply marked with a “3” on the rear and with the a “Q” sub-inspection, it is my belief that the gun may have had the cylinder replaced by Remington, with a single number mating to the gun, and incorporating the newly adopted Old Model or M1861 safety notches at the rear of the cylinder. This theory is supported by the fact that Remington apparently had issues with machining cylinders with chambers that would correctly align with the barrel and the problem continued through the production of the “Old Model” 1861 Elliott Revolvers and even the “New Model” 1863 revolvers. While today we would refer to this misalignment between the barrel and cylinder chambers as a “timing” or “indexing” problem, the period correspondence referred to this problem as the revolver being “out of range.”
Some of the anomalies of the revolver, like the barrel that is 1/8” short of standard length, the lack of inspection cartouches on the grips, the presence of the silver on the triggerguard and the replaced cylinder may be explained in part by a letter from the principle sub-inspector for the Ordnance Department at Remington, C.G. Curtis. His letter to Major Thornton of the Ordnance Department, dated July 3rd, 1862 reads in part:
“Mr. Remington spoke to me this morning and desired to know if I had heard from Major Thornton in relation to a change in the inspection of pistols. He stated that he had been in Washington and had seen General Ripley. That the General said that the department was much in want of pistols and that he, Mr. Remington, thought I would (that is the sub-inspector, Mr. Curtis) receive orders not to give the pistols the regular inspection, becasue they were so much in want of them that they could not wait to go through an inspection.”
An accompanying letter to Major Thornton, dated the same day, from R.E. Bennett the foreman of the Remington pistol department about the handguns being delivered further illustrates some of the features found on this gun. That letter reads in part:
“…about 500 are short barrels, and out of range, and other difficulties, which unfit them for rigid inspection although they are serviceable pistols and shoot all right….the pistols were none of them made for Government use exclusively but were made for trade sales, consequently they are not altogether interchangeable. Nearly all of them were assembled before we expected to deliver the pistols on contract. Nearly all of them are varnished stocks, and plated guard and the wok on them was all finished before the contract was made.”
The revolver remains in about FINE condition but retains much of the original blued finish, about 60%+ overall. The majority of the finish remains intact on the barrel, probably about 70%+ with the cylinder retaining a strong amount that is in excess of 50%. The frame retains the least finish, somewhere between 10% and 20%. Most of the finish loss appears to be from flaking and wear. The loading lever retains much of its vibrant blue and the hammer retains about 80% of its vibrant color casehardening. The areas where the blue has worn or faded, most noticeably on the frame and backstrap, have a medium pewter gray patina with lightly scattered darker surface oxidation. The metal is almost entirely smooth with some scattered minor impact marks and some minute flecks surface oxidation here and there. The most obvious areas of firing wear are some light erosion on the frame, forward of the cylinder chambers, on the leading edge of the cylinder and some similar oxidized etching along the edges of the top strap. The triggerguard of the revolver retains some strong traces of silver plating that was only used on the civilian guns, indicating that is likely one of the guns being described in the above letters. The revolver is mechanically EXCELLENT, with a crisp action that times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The bore of the revolver is in about FINE condition. It is nearly all mirror bright with fine rifling and with some lightly scattered surface oxidation, some lightly scattered pinpricking and a couple of tiny areas of light pitting here and there. The grips are in VERY GOOD condition. As noted, they are pencil numbered to the gun, but are not cartouched. Based upon the letters quote above it seem possible that the guns originally made for civilian sale but that were delivered as part of the contract did not always undergo a totally complete inspection. The grips show scattered bumps, dings and mars, as well as some high edge wear along the lower edge. The right grip does have an old repaired grain crack that runs the length of the grip near the backstrap. This is almost invisible from the exterior but is visible from the interior. The condition of the grips is commensurate with the wear and use on the rest of the revolver, with the repaired grain crack being the only real condition issue.
Overall, this is a fine, crisp and well-marked example of a very scarce martially inspected Remington-Beals Army Revolver. These are relatively rare guns, with only about 2,000 of these early .44 caliber Remington Beals revolvers produced. Only about 850 were acquired under US Ordnance Department contract and inspected in any way. It is worth noting that Flayderman’s notes that due to the rush to deliver these earliest Remington Army revolvers, that some variance in inspection marks is sometimes found on these guns. This may explain the lack of cartouches on the grips. Finding a martially marked example in this kind of crisp condition with this much finish is extremely difficult, as these guns were delivered to the Ordnance Department during the summer of 1862 and saw heavy use during the course of the war. Don’t miss your chance to add this rare, US inspected Remington-Beals Army Revolver to your collection, as it is a very solid piece that displays wonderfully for a very fair price, considering their scarcity and condition.