Beaumont-Adams Revolver - Cased with Brazier Lever & Wilkinson Retailed
- Product Code: FHG-1742-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a very attractive example of a cased English Beaumont-Adams M-1854 double action revolver, retailed by the famous London firm of Wilkinson & Son. These fine quality solid frame revolvers were as important to the history and development of the revolving handgun as were the developments and designs of Samuel Colt. Robert Adams received his patent for a solid frame, one-piece revolver design in 1851. The patent covered his novel concept for a very strong revolver, where the frame and barrel were machined from a single steel forging. Unlike practically every other current revolver design, where the barrel and frame were separate components, joined by wedges, screws or some other mechanical system. 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 M-1851 self-cocking revolver. 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 (double action), 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. Interestingly the development still required the trigger to rotate and index the cylinder on most versions, unlike Colt’s design, which rotated the cylinder simultaneously with the cocking of the hammer. 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 M-1854 revolver, known to most as the Beaumont-Adams revolver. The revolvers were produced directly by Adams as part of his partnership with the London based Deane, Adams & Deane (circa 1853-1855), as well under license by gunmakers like Joseph Brazier and Isaac Hollis & Sons. Birmingham gunmaker William Tranter also employed Adams’ solid frame in the production of his revolvers, but utilized lock works of his own design. Upon the dissolution of the Deane, Adams & Deane firm, Adams went to work for the London Armoury Company, and his revolvers were produced there as well; both while he worked there from 1857-1858 and well into the production of the London Armoury made Kerr revolvers, circa 1860. Upon leaving the London Armoury Company, Adams went back to work producing his own revolvers, many of which were retailed by other London and Birmingham gun dealers, and were often marked with the retailer’s name on the top strap. While most of the Beaumont-Adams revolvers were produced with loading levers designed by Adams, John Rigby, or those patented by James Kerr (especially the guns manufactured by the London Armoury Company), a few were manufactured with a rather complex loading lever designed by Joseph Brazier. Joseph Brazier was a very successful gun, rifle & pistol maker in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. He was most famous for producing extremely high quality gunlocks, and many of the top target rifle manufacturers utilize Brazier locks in their rifles. Brazier established his business in 1827, and in 1849, the firm became Joseph Brazier & Sons. That firm remained in business under varying versions of the Brazier name until 1987. The greater part of the firm’s 19th century manufacturing took place at their works known as “The Ashes’ on Great Brickklin Street, from 1834-1880. In 1855 Brazier received British patent #760 for a loading lever for percussion revolvers. Brazier applied this lever to the Adams revolvers that he manufactured under license, and also offered them for sale to other gun makers who wanted to include the loading lever on the pistols they made or sold. All of his levers were numbered, and to the best of my knowledge, the highest number encountered is around 900. Thus these loading levers are relatively rarely encountered on Adams revolvers. Many of the Beaumont-Adams revolvers encountered today are double “serial numbered”, with one “serial number” actually being the number that tracked the royalty payments due to Adams on his solid frame patent. These numbers are typically marked with a suffix letter that indicates the manufacturer using the patent (for example “T” for Tranter, “B” for Brazier and “X” for Hollis & Sons). Those pistols produced by Adams himself are usually suffixed with an “R” or with no letter at all. The second number has a “B” prefix to track the royalty payments due to Beaumont on his lock work patent. However, after the expiration of both patents, the guns are normally marked with only a single serial number and without any prefix or suffix letter. The Beaumont patent expired in early 1862, so these single serial number guns were most likely assembly after the expiration of his patent. As Adams allocated serial number ranges to licensees who had the right to manufacture guns on his solid frame principle, it can be quite difficult to date Adams revolvers by serial number, especially prior to the expiration of the Beaumont patent. According to English revolver authors & researchers W.H.J. Chamberlain and A.W.F. Taylerson, Brazier was allocated some numbers in the 30,000B range prior to 1854, with the “B” suffix, while Adams himself produced revolvers in the same serial number range with an “R” suffix. They note that Hollis & Sheath never had their own range, but used their “X” suffix to distinguish their work, and that Adams often relied upon frames manufactured by William Tranter to manufacture his own revolvers! All of this clearly muddles the serial number picture for Adams handguns from about 1854-1860. From extant examples, however, it does appear that sometime in the mid-30,000 range serial numbers do become somewhat more consistent, and some inferences regarding dates of manufacture, attributed use, etc. can be drawn from the serial numbers of extant examples.
The Beaumont-Adams revolvers, in their .54-Bore configuration (about .442 caliber), were one of the best combat revolvers of the mid-19th century and as such a number of them were imported for use during the American Civil War. However the lack of records makes it is difficult to ascertain exactly how many Adams patent revolvers were imported for use during the American Civil War. At least 1,075 were purchased directly by the US government. It is known that some military outfitters like Schuyler, Hartley & Graham purchased quantities of these revolvers for private sale to officers and those volunteer groups who looked to their state and local government (rather than the US government) to purchase arms. Some of the Schuyler, Hartley & Graham guns (about 300) are reported to have been purchased by the state of Alabama prior to the start of the war. Virginia and Georgia are reported to have made pre-war purchases of these revolvers as well. While the Confederate central government never directly contracted to purchase Adams patent revolvers (they concentrated on purchasing Kerr’s Patent revolvers from the London Armoury Company), Confederate speculators and individual states did purchase these fine English revolvers in some quantity. In fact a large number of Adams revolvers, manufactured by the London Armoury Company, are believed to have been in the L.A.C. in inventories at the outbreak of the war. It seems quite probable that when Major Anderson and Commander Bulloch initiated their relationship with Archibald Hamilton (of Sinclair, Hamilton & Co, and the managing director of the London Armoury Company) that they arranged for a substantial number of these revolvers to be delivered to various Confederate states and to the Confederate Navy. A number of Confederate identified and presented Beaumont Adams revolvers exist in public and private collections, including #40537 in the Museum of the Confederacy. This revolver is cased with an engraved presentation plaque from Robert Adams to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. Two other Adams revolvers in the low 41,XXX range are attributed to Confederate naval use aboard the CSS Shenandoah. Most Confederate war time purchases are believed to have fallen within the 33,000 to 42,000 serial number range, although it is quite likely that guns produced prior to that range (and imported to America) were used, and in some cases old stock, sitting on the shelves of London and Birmingham retailers, was sold to Confederate speculators. This resulted in some pistols that were several years old, but were actually “new, old stock” passing through the blockade. Civil War regiments that are known to have carried or been issued Adams Patent revolvers include the 8th PA and 2nd MI cavalry on the US side and the 1st, 5th & 18th VA and 5th GA cavalry on the CS side. Two Beaumont-Adams are specifically listed by serial number on the Pratt List, a list of the revolvers (by make & serial) in the possession of the cavalry squad of Lt. G. Julian Pratt, who served in Company H of the 18th VA Cavalry. The guns are #36604, carried by trooper James Tharp and #36609 carried by George Conrad. The squad roll is from July of 1864, and lists not only Adams, but also Kerr, Webley and Bentley revolvers. This primary source document is often used as a time point to determine when certain English revolver serial numbers can be determined to have been in field service for the Confederacy. The list is often used as an indication that Kerr’s in the 9XXX range were in service at that point in time. In the case of the Adams revolvers, it shows they were in field service, but the serial numbers are from guns produced much earlier than 1864. A Confederate identified Beaumont-Adams; serial number 36853 is in a private collection, with a New Orleans retailers mark on the topstrap. Realistically, this places any Beaumont-Adams under that number as having been produced prior to the fall of New Orleans in April of 1862. It is generally assumed that the majority of the Adams pattern revolvers in Confederate service were 54-Bore bore (about .442 caliber), but a handful of 38-Bore (.50 caliber) of the earlier M-1851 pattern have Confederate provenance as well.
This M-1854 Beaumont Adams Revolver is a FINE condition example that is complete with its original retailer casing and accessories. The revolver is a 54 bore (.442 caliber) handgun with a 5-shot cylinder and the serial number 24085, with no suffix, suggesting that Robert Adams produced the gun. While it is difficult to date Adams revolvers from their serial numbers the way you can with Colt revolvers, it is safe to assume that this revolver was probably produced circa 1858. The gun also bears the B-prefix serial number B . 8529, a reference to Beaumont’s lockwork patent. The “B” numbers appear about mid-1855 and run through the expiration of the Beaumont patent royalty agreement with Adams circa 1862. The “B number” on this gun indicates that this was the 8,529th pistol to be produced with the Beaumont patented lockwork improvements. The top of the frame is crisply engraved:
WILKINSON & SON 27 PALL MALL LONDON.
The obverse frame is engraved in two lines below the cylinder: B . 8529 / ADAMS’ PATENT . No. 24,085. Today Wilkinson & Son is better known as the Wilkinson Sword Group, and is best remembered for their swords and high quality edged products. The average American, however, probably knows the company as a maker of razor blades! Even thought they are best known for making swords and other sharp things, the firm can trace its roots to renowned London gunmaker Henry Nock, and for most of the 19th and early 20th century, guns were a big part of their business. Nock had first established himself in the gun making trade in 1772. James Wilkinson was Nock’s son-in-law, and was the manager of Nock’s business, which became Nock & Wilkinson in 1785. Wilkinson continued to run the business as James Wilkinson, after Nock’s death in 1804. In 1818 James’ son John would join the business, creating Wilkinson & Son. In 1829 the business moved to their famous Pall Mall address in London, where they would remain through 1888. In 1848 James passed the business on to his son Henry Wilkinson. In 1861 Henry died and the business passed to manager John Latham, and much like the passing of Nock’s business to Wilkinson, the Wilkinson business was now owned by a person whose name was not that of the company. It was during the mid-19th century that Latham changed the general direction of the business from firearms production to the production of swords and edged weapons, although they continued to retail firearms of all types well into the 20th century. In 1888, Latham’s son established the Wilkinson Sword Company, LTD, which was reorganized as Wilkinson Sword LTD in 1909. Wilkinson started to serial number firearms and blades during the 1850s, and maintained fastidious records regarding the sales of these arms. Today, many Wilkinson retailed arms can be researched by serial number, and a “factory letter”, much like the Colt factory letter, can usually be obtained on Wilkinson retailed arms. A research letter regarding specific Wilkinson retailed arms can be order through Richard Milner LTD in the United Kingdom. Research order forms can be obtained through his web site, which can be reach by clicking: www.armsresearch.co.uk. While most Adams revolver cylinders bear the primary serial number of the revolver, this one is unmarked, and does not appear to have ever been serial numbered. The rear face of the cylinder is stamped with an assembly number that appears to be the last two numbers of the serial number. The cylinder has the expected London commercial proof marks between the chambers, a (CROWN) / V and a (CROWN) / GP. The barrel has a single London commercial view mark, a (CROWN) / V on the upper left angled flat, but interestingly there is not the expected (CROWN) / GP. The revolver features some light foliate style scroll engraving around the rear and lower portions of the frame, on the barrel at the frame juncture and on the bottom of the triggerguard, butt cap and gripstrap. While it is not uncommon for Adams revolvers to show a small amount of engraving, this is significantly more than standard and certainly indicates that this was a higher-grade gun than the standard production revolvers. The octagonal barrel is 5 7/8” in length and is rifled with three wide grooves, roughly twice the width of the lands. The bore rates about VERY GOOD and is mostly bright along its length, but shows light to moderate pitting in the grooves along its entire length. As previously noted, the gun is in about FINE overall condition, and retains much of its original finish. The barrel retains about 80%+ of the original bright polished blue, with the largest single area of loss being near the frame, behind the loading lever. The balance of the finish loss on the barrel is along the high edges and contact points. The frame retains about 60%+ of its original finish, with some fading and thinning from handling and use. The cylinder retains none of its original case hardened finish, which is not uncommon. The case hardened cylinders typically “silvered out” if the revolvers were fired much, as the heat generated in firing the revolver quickly dulled the finish. The cylinder has a medium pewter patina, typical of an Adams cylinder that has seen real use and service. The barrel and frame are almost entirely smooth and are free of any real pitting, with only some small areas of lightly scattered oxidized surface freckling and pinpricking present. The cylinder shows even, light pinpricking over all of its surfaces. The cylinder retains all of its original cones and most are in fine and crisp condition, but one is chipped, probably form someone dry firing the revolver. The gun retains its original and very scarce Brazier’s patent loading lever, which is in the white, just like every Brazier lever that I have ever seen, including the one on a really minty Beaumont-Adams that I sold back in 2010. The lever is marked on the obverse JOSPEH BRAZIER’s PATENT No445. The number “445” is a patent tracking number for the payment of patent royalties. The Brazier loading levers were the most complicated of the levers used on Adams revolvers and probably provided the most torque when loading a chamber, but lacked the simplicity and robustness of the Kerr designed levers. The lever reminds me somewhat of the over complicated LeMat loading lever, which was a chronic problem for that revolver design, and why so many LeMats found today are missing their lever or have a reproduction one in place on the gun. This Brazier loading lever functions correctly and locks securely into place on the left side of the barrel. The hammer appears to have been left in the white and the trigger retains some strong traces of its original fire blue, much of which has faded to a mottled silvery color. The iron trigger guard and butt cap both retain traces of their original blue, with the balance of their metal having a smooth, untouched brown patina. The gun retains its original M-1854 patent sliding safety on the obverse frame, behind the cylinder, which functions smoothly and correctly. The improved Adams patent arbor pin retention spring mechanism is in place on the right side of the frame, forward of the cylinder and functions exactly as it should. The checkered one-piece walnut grip is in FINE condition, showing only the most minor wear, due to handling. The grip is solid with no chips, cracks or repairs noted. Overall, the condition of the revolver is indicative of a gun that probably some real use and a reasonable amount of actual firing during its life, but was always well cared for.
The pistol is contained in its original English retailers mahogany case, which retains the original retailers label, as well as a number of pistol accessories. The top of the paper label reads:
Wilkinson & Son
Gun & Sword Manufacturers
TO HER MAJESTY
AND THE HONble EAST INDIA COMPANY,
No 27 Pall Mall
ARMY ACCOUTREMENTS, & c
The label is text is a combination fonts, including flowing script, Gothic, and block letters with serifs. The case appears to retain its original dark green baize lining, which shows wear and use. The interior dividers show and lining show the expected mars, rubs and wear from 150+ years of pistol storage and transportation. The case is in about VERY GOOD+ to NEAR FINE condition and shows real world wear and tear but no abuse or significant damage. The hinges appear to be the original “bible” hinges and they keep the case lid at an upright, 90-degree angle when open. The top of the case shows some minor cracking along both the front and rear edges of the lid, with possible old glue repairs to stabilize these areas. The original lock is in place, but the original key is missing. The original round brass nameplate is in place on the lid, but has not been inscribed. The case contains a number of accessories appropriate to the use and display of the pistol. These include a VERY FINE condition dual cavity Adams mould, which casts a pair conical ball. The mould is clearly marked with a 54 on its side (indicating 54-bore) but is not marked with an “Adams’ patent mark. The mould has a lovely, untouched bronze patina on the exterior and a lightly toned brass color on the inside, complete with perfect mould cavities. The iron sprue cutter functions perfectly and retains about 50%+ of its original bright fire blued finish. The case also contains an appropriately sized, James Dixon & Sons marked English copper bag flask with an adjustable spout which can throw charges of 4/8, 5/8, or 6/8 a dram of powder. The copper flask retains much of its original lacquer and shows only a few minor bumps and dings from handling. The brass charging cap and spout have a lovely, untouched patina and the charging spring retains about 60%+ of its original bright fire blued finish. The charger functions as it should and retains strong spring tension. An original rosewood combination cleaning rod and rammer of the period is included as well. The rod includes a brass ball puller and a pair of screw on heads. One that can be used as a cleaning jag and the other to set a bullet in the cylinder, were the loading lever to become lost or inoperative. The rod is 8 3/8” in overall length and the shaft is exactly the right length to push a cleaning patch through the barrel of the pistol or draw a squib load from the barrel. A period jappaned tin of percussion caps is include with the pistol casing as well, and the tin bears the embossed legend on its top: ELEY in an arc, over LONDON. Due to shipping restrictions the caps themselves cannot be shipped with the pistol, but the tin will be included for display purposes. An original Ebony handled cone wrench (nipple wrench) is included with the set as well, and it fits the cones (nipples) of the revolver perfectly. The ebony handle shows some scuffing and mars, but displays well with the set. An original pewter oiler is included as well. It is unmarked and in FINE, complete condition. A small number of original conical lead bullets are included in one of the compartments, and match the mould cavities perfectly, so I have to assume they were cast from it. Both of the original compartment covers are in place, complete with their original bone pulls.
Overall this is a really wonderful Adams patent revolver, in a FINE state of preservation. The gun displays wonderfully in its original and correct retailer marked casing, along a very nice compliment of accessories and the original paper retailer label within the case. The fact that this revolver was retailed by the famous firm of Wilkinson & Son, and can likely be researched in their factory daybooks is even more desirable. When you add the fact that this revolver is also equipped with the scarce and desirable Brazier patent loading lever, you end of with an extremely scarce and desirable set that would be an important addition to any collection of Adams revolvers. These guns were as important to the development of revolvers in England and on the European continent as the Colt revolvers were in America, and were some of the first truly successful double action style service revolvers. These guns saw service on both sides during the American Civil War, and a Beaumont-Adams revolver is a must have in any Civil War revolver collection. The amount of use that shows on this fine gun suggests that it may have been one of the many cased Adams revolvers that were imported speculatively for use in the south during the war. For any collector who demands quality, condition, rarity and desirability, this cased set has it all in spades. It is a lovely cased Adams with lots of original accessories, with the rare Brazier’s patent loading lever, a great Wilkinson retailer inscription the topstrap and a wonderful original Wilkinson retailers label in the case “ what more could you ask for in a wonderful Adams percussion revolver”SOLD