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 automatic 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 patent 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 revolver, 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 that revealed 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 VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition. The top of the 8” octagonal barrel is marked in two lines with the standard Beals markings:
BEALS’ PATENT. SEPT. 14, 1858
MANUFACTURED BY REMINGTONS’ ILION. N.Y.
As is typical of Beals barrel addresses on the .44 caliber revolvers, the bottom line of the marking is rather weak, with only the beginning of the word “Manufactured” and the “N.Y.” marking being crisp and clear. The serial number 166 is present under the barrel, on the left side of the frame, under the grip and written lightly in pencil inside both of the grips, although it is almost illegible on the wood. It is not present on the rear of the cylinder, but not all Beals Army revolvers are observed with numbered cylinders. This makes the revolver a very early production example. The gun is a pure “civilian” gun without any sub-inspection marks or Ordnance Department inspection cartouches. Of course, this does not rule out acquisition by the Ordnance Department, as roughly as many Beals Army revolvers were purchased by the US military on the open market as were acquired as part of a contract. This means that of the roughly 2,000 Beals Army revolvers produced, between 1,600 and 1,700 of them were acquired by the US military in some fashion.
The revolver retains all of the expected “Beals” pattern features with the exception of one. The revolver has the expected 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 (without Elliott’s improvement), a cylinder with no safety notches on the rear and a German silver cone front sight. Only the hammer, a later production “low spur” hammer is technically incorrect. As the long hammer spurs of the Beals Army revolvers were prone to breakage, I would argue that this is a period of use replacement, due to breakage. The hammer matches the balance of the revolver perfectly, and certainly seems to have been with the gun since the period of use.
The revolver remains in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition and retains some nice original blue, particularly on the barrel and cylinder. The barrel retains about 50%-60% of its original blue, which is thinning and fading, with the protected areas under the barrel that were covered by the loading lever retaining some nice vibrant blue. The cylinder retains about 20%-30% of its original blue, again showing thinning and fading. The frame retains only some traces of blue, in protected areas around the recoil shield. Overall the gun retains about 25%-30% of its original finish. Otherwise, the gun has a medium brownish-gray patina with some scattered areas of lightly oxidized darker brown tones. The metal shows some very lightly scattered surface oxidation and age discoloration, with some areas of minor pinpricking and some tiny flecks of light pitting here and there. The most obvious areas are some light erosion on the frame, forward of the cylinder chambers, on the leading edge of the cylinder, some similar oxidized etching along the edges of the top strap and some light pitting at the muzzle. Otherwise, the metal remains mostly smooth and fairly crisp. 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 VERY GOOD condition. It is partly bright with strong rifling and shows some scattered light to moderate oxidation, as well as light pitting along most of its length with some patches of more moderate pitting here and there. The bore might be improved even more with some vigorous cleaning, as some of what appears to be surface oxidation may be old dirt and debris. The German silver cone front sight is worn and dinged, not uncommon with these guns. It is not immediately obvious if the front sight is simply the original one with some wear and battering or a later, high quality replacement. The grips are in VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition as well. As noted, they are weakly numbered to the gun. The grips are solid and complete and are free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. As would be expected, the grips show some moderate wear as well as some scattered bumps, dings and mars. Despite the use, the grips show no excessive wear or real damage and the condition of the grips are commensurate with the wear and obvious use found on the rest of the revolver.
Overall, this is a very nice example of a very scarce Remington-Beals Army Revolver. These are relatively rare guns, with only about 2,000 of these of the early .44 caliber Remington Beals revolvers being produced. As nearly all of these guns ended up being used by the US military, the gun almost certainly saw Civil War military use. As less than half of those guns would receive military inspections, unmarked guns are slightly more common, but no Beals Army is common, particularly with any original finish. Don’t miss your chance to add this rare, Remington-Beals Army Revolver to your collection. It is a very solid piece that displays wonderfully for a very fair price, considering their scarcity and rarity in Civil War handgun collections and the amount of original blue still on the gun.