Adams-Beaumont M1854 Dragoon .50 Revolver - Rare
- Product Code: FHG-1988-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is one of the rarest and least often encountered variations of the M1854 Beaumont-Adams percussion revolvers, the .50 caliber Dragoon, a true “hand cannon” of its time. The massive revolver is 13 ““ in length and weighs in at a hefty lbs. 10oz, just shy of 3 pounds. Robert Adams and his licensees manufactured these revolvers under Adams’ solid frame patent. In 1851 Adams was granted a patent for significant improvements to revolvers by patenting a unique design with the barrel and frame forged as a single piece of steel. This made the pistol incredibly strong and was a much stronger method of producing a handgun than any of the other revolver system then commonly in use, particularly those used by Colt which used a wedge to attach the barrel to the frame and had no top strap to reinforce the frame. Adams also received patents in 1851 for a spring-loaded, frame mounted safety device, and a spring based cylinder arbor latch. In 1854, he received additional patents for a frame mounted sliding safety device and screw based method of cylinder arbor pin retention. The fine quality Adams solid frame revolvers were as important to the history and development of the revolving handgun as were the developments and designs of Sam Colt. Adams additionally patented a self-cocking lockwork, which today would be referred to as “double action only”. This mechanism cocked the hammer, rotated the cylinder and released the hammer, all as the result of a single pull of the trigger. While this allowed for rapid fire, the long, heavy trigger pull inhibited accurate firing. These designs were incorporated into Adams M1851 self-cocking revolvers. In 1854 Lt. Frederick Beaumont developed an improvement for Adams’ lockwork, which produced what would be called a traditional “double action” revolver today. The new lockwork allowed the revolver to operate in the fashion of Adams’ original design, but also added the facility to cock the revolver manually and fire it with a lighter “single action” trigger pull. This refinement allowed for more accurate shooting. In 1854 Adams also patented refinements to his original frame design by adding a sliding frame mounted safety on the right side of the frame and an improved cylinder arbor retaining mechanism as well. The resultant combination of design improvements was manufactured as the M1854 revolver, known to most collectors as the Beaumont-Adams revolver. The revolvers were produced directly by Adams as part of his partnership with the London based Deane, Adams & Deane, as well under license by Birmingham makers like Joseph Brazier, Isaac Hollis & Sons. William Tranter also employed Adams’ solid frame in the production of his revolvers. Upon the dissolution of the Deane, Adams & Deane firm, Adams went to work for the London Armoury Company (circa 1857-1858), and his revolvers were produced there as well. Even after Adams left the London Armoury Company to reestablish his own firm, London Armoury continued to produce Adams patent revolvers at least until the early 1860s, well into the period when they were manufacturing Kerr patent revolver. Over the years it has been the 54-Bore (.443 caliber) Adams revolvers that have had the most association with the American Civil War, and little evidence has been available regarding the importation of the 38-Bore (.50 caliber) “Dragoon” sized revolvers. However, recent scholarship has uncovered that at least a handful of the .50 Adams revolvers were purchased and imported by the Confederacy and at least one dug example indicates that some of these pistols made it into the field. According to documents in the National Archives, eight cased Adams 38-Bore “Dragoon” revolvers were included in the cargo of the ill-fated blockade runner Elizabeth. The Elizabeth was owned by John Fraser & Co of Charleston, SC, and was captured on May 29, 1862 while trying to enter the that port. Listed in the cargo manifest was a case of revolvers, marked A within a rhomboid, and the case contained “eight Deane, Adams & Deane 8 inch revolvers, in cases complete”. The barrel length clearly indicates that these were the large bore, .50 revolvers and not the more common 54-bore guns. The pre-war barrel markings suggest that these guns were purchased from existing inventory in English gun shops, likely by arms speculators, rather than the Confederate central government purchasing agents. Further indication that these large bore revolvers saw use during the war is a dug example with a 7 ““ barrel that was recovered near Brandy Station by a relic hunter in the 1960s. This dug example, with its history and provenance, sold a few years ago from an Internet Civil War relic web site. Additionally, a small number of .50 M1854 Beaumont-Adams revolvers are known, in private collections, with the names of Confederate General Officers as well as some Army of Northern Virginia staff officers engraved on the rights side of the pistol near the barrel to frame junction. One such example of an identified and engraved .50 caliber Beaumont-Adams was auctioned at James D. Julia’s in March of 2014. That example was named to B. F. Ficklin. Lt. Colonel Benjamin Franklin Ficklin served as a staff & field officer during the war, initially with the 45th Virginia Infantry. He appears to have spent most of his service on detached duty in and around Richmond and had at least some involvement with the procurement of ordnance. It is believed by researchers that Ficklin was at least partially responsible for the acquisition of the .50 caliber Beaumont-Adams Dragoon revolvers that saw use with the officer corps of the Confederacy, primarily with the ANV. Ficklin’s gun was serial number 36,025R / B20,276. Another example is known that is named to General G.C. Wharton, who commanded a brigade composed of the 45th VA and 56th VA at Fort Donelson. Obviously, the connection between Wharton and Ficklin is clear, as they served in the same brigade. Thus, the period documentation, and at least one field recovered example indicates that the Confederacy did purchase at least a few of these massive revolvers and some of them did see use in the field.
This Beaumont-Adams M1854 38-Bore Dragoon Revolver is in VERY GOOD condition overall. The revolver is engraved ADAMS’ PATENT No 27,896 R. The serial number is engraved on both the right side of the frame, below the cylinder and on the cylinder itself, where it is engraved in two lines. 27,896 / R. The revolver is also engraved on the frame with the Beaumont royalty tracking number B 12,233, directly above the serial number. The top strap and barrel are engraved with the retailer name and address: DEANE & SON No 30 KING WILLIAM STT LONDON BRIDGE.. While Adams patent revolvers are nearly impossible to date by serial number, the way you can those by Colt or Smith & Wesson guns, we can narrow the time frame for this revolver to circa 1858-1859 for production. The revolver has the post-1854 Adams improved safety and arbor pin retention systems, as well as Beaumont’s lock improvements. The revolver has a fairly high Beaumont patent tracking number of 12,233. This means that this was the 12,233th Adams revolver to be produced with Beaumont’s lock work. The lack of Adams’ name on the topstrap indicates it was produced after Adams left his partnership with the Deane’s circa 1858, but the serial number is not high enough to suggest 1860-61 production. As the gun does not have any London Armoury Company markings, it has to be assumed that the Deane & Son made the gun as well as retailed it, as some L.A.C. marked guns are known with Deane, and other retailer, marks.
The revolver is in fine condition mechanically and functions correctly in all respects. Both the single and double action mechanism work as they should and the timing, indexing and lock up of the revolver remain solid. The gun retains 15%+ of its original bright blue throughout. The finish loss appears to be a combination of loss from carry and use, as well as from flaking. The areas where the blue has flaked or worn shows a mostly plum-brown patina that blends well with the remaining finish. The 6 7/8” long octagonal barrel retains sharp edges and good lines, although some scattered impact marks are present in the metal, likely from field service and some rough handling. The barrel is clearly marked with a pair of London commercial proof marks. The 5-shot cylinder is blued, which is the more common finish for the Beaumont-Adams revolver cylinders. It retains traces of finish with a matching plum-brown patina as found on the balance of the revolver. The serial number on the cylinder and the proof marks between the chambers are a little light due both to wear and likely an old cleaning, as well as some light erosion from flash pitting. The cones (nipples) are all are present at the rear of the cylinder, and all appear to be original to the period of use. Three appear to be original English cones and two appear to be period replacements that have certainly seen use in the gun. Some of the cones show some battering from dry firing, but all appear to be in functional condition. The cone recesses and chambers show significant erosion and caustic wear from firing and use. Most of the metal surfaces of the frame and barrel are fairly smooth with lightly scattered surface oxidation and some light pitting present on the frame and barrel of the revolver. There are areas of more obvious light to moderate pitting on the cylinder top strap and just forward of the cylinder, where the caustic gases could harm the metal. Interestingly, the gun does not have the usual Adams style light foliate scroll engraving on the frame, and other areas, and is simply plain metal. The bore is in VERY GOOD condition and is partially bright, with very good rifling. The bore shows some scattered light pitting along its length, along with some patches of more moderate pitting and some areas of darker oxidation as well. The standard Kerr’s patent loading lever is present on the left side of the revolver. It functions smoothly and correct. It is assembly numbered 3181 on its reverse. The triggerguard and rear face of the cylinder are assembly numbered 3181 as well. All of the marks are a little light due to service, wear and in the case of the cylinder some flash erosion. The Adams 1854 patent sliding safety is present on the right side of the frame, and works exactly as it should. These safeties are often broken or missing, but this one is complete and functional. The Adams 1854 patent improved arbor pin retention thumbscrew is present and remains fully functional. This is not common, as this is a small part that is often missing or broken as well. The original dovetail mounted front sight is present and in wonderful condition as well. The one-piece checkered walnut grip is in very nice shape and rates about VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition. The grip matches the condition of the revolver perfectly. The grip is solid and complete with no breaks or repairs. The only condition issues worth noting are a tiny chip missing on the upper right side of the grip, where it meets the frame and a ding at the lower rear near the grip cap. Otherwise, the grip retains fairly crisp and sharp checkering, and shows only the usual handling marks, bumps and dings that would be expected from carry and use.
Overall the gun has a great visual presence and displays very nicely. This is a very nice, and rather scarce, large-caliber Adams that would be a very nice addition to any collection of Civil War era or English percussion revolvers. The large majority of Adams percussion revolver production was either the standard military sized 54-bore (.44 caliber) guns or the smaller pocket sized 120-bore pistols (about .33 caliber). The mid-sized 80-bore pistol (about .38 caliber) were made in much smaller numbers, and the and Dragoon sized 38-bore (.50 caliber) pistols were made in even smaller quantities. It is in very good, solid condition, showing significant real-world use, and is in a caliber that is rarely found available on the collector market today. This is the exact pattern of revolver that has been identified to a number of important Confederate officers, and would be a wonderful example of the Adams “Dragoon” revolvers that some of them acquired. This is a very scarce gun that is rarely found for sale, especially with any finish remaining. It would surely make a wonderful centerpiece to any advanced Civil War import percussion revolver collection. I have had the privilege to sell two other examples of these scarce revolver over the last decade, but this is the most reasonably priced example I have had the opportunity to offer for sale.SOLD