Remington "Old Model" 1861 Navy Revolver - Very Fine
- Product Code: FHG-2144-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. 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 14thof 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. No additional .36 caliber revolvers would be purchased from Remington by the Ordnance Department after the final December 1862 deliveries, but a huge number of the New Model 1863 Army revolvers would be acquired between 1863 and 1865.
Offered here is a VERY FINEcondition example of a Remington Elliott “Old Model” 1861 Navy Revolver. The gun is a fairly late production 1861 Navy that incorporates the design modification of the filister head screw to retain the cylinder arbor pin in the top of the loading lever. The revolver is serial numbered 18298 and the number is present on the frame under the left grip, under the barrel (concealed by the loading lever) and written weakly in pencil inside both of the grips. As is typical of many Remington revolvers, the cylinder is not serial numbered. It does, however, show the later production safety notches that would be expected of a gun with the modified loading lever. The original Beals pattern hammer with the tall spur is in place on the revolver, showing that older parts were being used up, even though a new, lower spur hammer had been officially adopted.
The 7 5/16” octagonal barrel of the revolver is roll marked in two lines on the top flat:
PATENTED DEC. 17 1861
MANUFACTURED BY REMINGTONS’ ILION, NY
The first line refers to Elliott’s patent for the loading lever that allowed the cylinder pin to be removed without lowering the lever, an improvement that was really a fatal flaw! The second line is rolled with a worn Remington address die and is somewhat weak. Many examples of M1861 Navy revolvers show this weak address mark. The revolver is martially sub-inspected throughout with the letter B on the reverse of the barrel and frame as well as the side of the cylinder, an R on the bottom of the brass triggerguard and a pair of small C marks on the bottom of the grip panels. Despite the thorough sub-inspection of all the parts, no final acceptance cartouche is present on the grips. It is entirely possible that the revolver simply missed the final inspection process, as the need for small arms was absolutely critical during the second half of 1862 and it is possible that the inspection process was sometimes truncated to deliver arms in a timelier fashion.
As noted, the revolver remains in VERY FINE condition and has a large amount of original finish. The revolver is crisp throughout with sharp edges and clear markings, although the lower line of the barrel address is a little weak as noted above due to a worn die. The gun retains about 40% of its original blued finish overall, with the cylinder retaining the most finish and the frame and barrel showing the most loss. The frame and barrel appear to have lost most of their finish due to flaking, with the additional loss along the high edges and contact point due to handling and use. The metal where the finish has flaked and worn has a mostly smooth light plum patina with bluish and brown undertones. The metal is almost entirely smooth with only some very lightly scattered flecks of surface oxidation here and there and some miniscule areas of minor pinpricking. The hammer retains about 50%+ vivid color casehardening with most of the loss and fading along the edges and contact points. The brass triggerguard has a mellow, medium golden patina that is quite attractive.
The bore of the revolver is in VERY FINE condition as well. It is mirror bright and retains extremely crisp rifling throughout. The revolver remains in mechanically excellent condition and functions correctly in every way. The revolver times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The loading lever functions smoothly and locks into place securely. The cones (nipples) all appear to be original and although they show some light wear but remain fairly crisp and fully functional. The original German silver cone front sight is in place on the top of the barrel near the muzzle and remains fully height and is not worn down. The front sight is slightly loose in the dovetail but remains intact and completely original. The two-piece smooth, oil finished, walnut grips remain in VERY FINE condition as well. They are solid and are free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. The grips are extremely crisp and show only some light wear and minor scattered bumps and dings. On their interiors, both grips are weakly pencil numbered to the gun. There is a cross-checked pattern lightly scratched into the bottom of the grips and grip frame. It is hard to know when this was done or why, but the patterning is typical of some 19thcentury personalization found on Civil War period firearms.
Overall this is an extremely nice example of a later production and delivery, Remington Elliot 1861 “Old Model” Navy Revolver. The gun retains lots of finish and is very crisp throughout. The gun is fully sub-inspected but interestingly shows no cartouche. The gun has the later production loading lever modification with the added screw and would be typical of the last of the .36 caliber Remington revolvers delivered to the government. For a gun that was delivered no later than December of 1862, it remains in wonderful condition and would be a fantastic addition to any collection of Civil War period martial revolvers, particularly a collection that centers on Remington revolvers.