Welcome to College Hill Arsenal
Calisher & Terry Manufactured Adams Revolver - Very Rare

Calisher & Terry Manufactured Adams Revolver - Very Rare

  • Product Code: FHG-2027-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

This is a very scarce example of the Beaumont-Adams M1854 double action revolver manufactured by Calisher & Terry of London. While Adams revolvers in and of themselves are not particularly scarce, those produced by this firm are quite rare, with researchers believing that less than two hundred were manufactured by this company.

The high quality, solid frame Adams patent 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 design for a very strong revolver, where the frame and barrel were machined from a single forging. Adams additionally patented a self-cocking lockwork, which today would be referred to as "double action only". This mechanism cocked the spurless hammer, rotated the cylinder and released the hammer, all as the result of a single pull of the trigger. While this allowed for rapid firing of the gun, the long, heavy trigger pull inhibited accurate shooting. The solid frame and barrel and the "self-cocking" lockwork were incorporated into Adams' Model 1851 series of 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. In order to thumb-cock the action, a spur was added to Adams' previously spurless hammer. 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 revolver, and an improved cylinder arbor retaining mechanism as well. The resultant combination of design improvements was manufactured as the M1854 revolver, known to most as the Beaumont-Adams revolver. From the beginning of the production of the Beaumont-Adams revolvers, a second serial number was added to the frames with a "B" prefix to track the royalties due to Lt. Beaumont. This number would continue to appear on Adams patent revolvers through the middle of 1862, when Beaumont's patent protection expired. The new 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 and Isaac Hollis & Sons. These makers can be identified by the use of a suffix after the serial number, a "B" in the case of Brazier and a "Y" in the case of Hollis & Sons. Adams also allocated specific serial number blocks to his licensees, making the use of serial numbers for the purposes of dating Adams revolvers quite difficult. These serial number blocks also suggest huge production quantities of Adams revolvers, when in fact some of the licensees only produced a few hundred guns, even though they were allocated a block of as many as 10,000 numbers. Adams himself used an "R" suffix for the guns that he produced, and very often, when Adams revolver serial numbers are discussed, it is assumed that the guns bear Robert Adams "R" suffix. Adams revolvers were also licensed for production in America (by the Massachusetts Arms Company), as well as in Belgium, and some of the Germanic states. William Tranter also employed Adams solid frame in the production of his own line of self-cocking revolvers. 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 from approximately 1857-1859.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many Adams patent revolvers were imported for use during the American Civil War. Prior to the war various American firearms retailers were known to have imported and sold Adams patent revolvers. Known pre-Civil War retailer marked examples include Francis Tomes & Sons of New York City and Joseph Griffith of Louisville, KY. During the 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 war. Virginia and Georgia are reported to have made pre-war purchases of these revolvers as well. While there is no confirmation that the Confederate central government 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. One of the more interesting documents within the McRae Papers is a four-page letter from Colin McRae to an unknown recipient from Paris, dated December 3, 1863, which makes some interesting requests. McCrae's letter says in part:

“I ask you to make the following inquiries which I think you can do through Messrs. Quilter…To whit:
250 Tons best saltpeter.
100 Tons Lead.
20,000 Enfield Rifles such as are used in the British Army, with bayonet + implements complete + packed in Lead lines cases. (What is meant by implements, is moulds, nipple keys + extra nipples.)
5,000 Carbines, Terry's Patent, + the best description of that arm that is made.
5,000 Slings for same.
500,000 Cartridges for do, best quality.
10,000 Pistols. Adams' Patent, the best description of that arm that is made.
1,000,000 Cartridges for same.
Belts, Holsters and pouches for the pistols complete. The pistols + carbines to be packed in lead lined cases”
Mr. Quilter probably knows Mr. Adams, the pistol manufacturer, if so, he can put an offer with him direct."

The letter goes on, but from the above quoted contents the following is clear. Mr. William Quilter, who was a London accountant intimately involved with S. Isaac, Campbell & Company, was to make inquiries in order to obtain the usual Pattern 1853 Enfields that the Confederacy had already been purchasing, but also to obtain some 5,000 Calisher & Terry breech loading carbines and 10,000 Adams revolvers. A handful of Terry's patent carbines are known with Confederate provenance, which suggests that at the very least a small shipment of those guns did arrive; possibly as samples for the larger order. The potential implications of the Adams revolver order will be discussed further shortly.

A number of Confederate identified and presented Adams revolvers exist in public and private collections, including #40537R 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,XXXR range are attributed to Confederate naval use aboard the CSS Shenandoah. Most Confederate war time purchases are believed to have fallen within the 33,000R to 42,000R 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 was sold to Confederate speculators, resulting in pistols that were several years old 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 VA and 5th GA cavalry on the CS side. It is generally assumed that the majority of these guns were 54-bore (.442 caliber) Beaumont Adams M-1854 pattern revolvers.

This M1854 Beaumont Adams Revolver is in about EXCELLENT condition. The gun is a 54 bore (.442 caliber) revolver with a 5-shot cylinder and a 5 15/16" octagonal barrel. The obverse frame is engraved in a single line, below the cylinder: ADAMS' PATENT. No 100104C . The cylinder is engraved with the matching serial number 100104. The importance of this serial number cannot be overstated. First, the number has a "C" suffix, indicating that the gun was produced by Calisher & Terry. Second, the serial number is in the serial number block allocated to that firm by Adams; the 100,000 range. Lastly, the fact that the gun bears only one serial number (and does not have a "B prefix" number to track the Beaumont patent royalties,) indicates that the gun was manufactured after mid-1862, when the Beaumont patent had expired and the second "Beaumont number" was no longer in use. This suggests that Mr. Quilter did make entreaties to Mr. Adams to obtain 10,000 revolvers for Confederate purchase, and Mr. Adams was unable to produce that many guns without using sub-contractors. To that end, I believe that he allocated a range of serial numbers to Calisher & Terry, who were also going to produce their breechloading carbines for the same potential contract and asked them to help manufacture the needed revolvers. As researchers believe that less than 200 M1854 Adams revolvers were produced by Calisher & Terry, this suggests that the contract never materialized or was aborted, with only a handful of revolvers delivered, much like the handful of Terry carbines. While we have noted that it is fairly difficult to date Adams revolvers based on their serial numbers, the above analysis indicates that that Calisher & Terry M1854 Adams revolver in question was not produced prior to mid-1862, and in all likelihood was manufactured in early 1864, as a direct result of McRae's letter. As with most Adams revolvers that were imported to the South during the Civil War, or were destined to be so imported, the gun has a blank topstrap with no retailer markings. The only other external markings are the expected London commercial proof marks between the cylinder chambers and the pair of London proofs on the upper left angled flat of the barrel. The matching assembly number 102 is present on the interior of the triggerguard and on the reverse of the Kerr's patent loading lever. The same matching assembly number is also present on the face of the cylinder.

The octagonal barrel is 5 15/16" in length and is rifled with three lands and grooves of equal width. On Adams and L.A.C. produced M1854 revolvers, the grooves are roughly twice the width of the lands. The bore rates about EXCELLENT and is bright and shiny with no notable pitting. As previously noted, the gun is in about EXCELLENT overall condition and retains nearly all of its original finish. The barrel retains about 90%+ of the original bright polished blue, and the frame retains about the same amount of original finish. The cylinder may retain slightly more of its original blued finish as well. The finish loss is primarily from handling and rubbing along the high points and sharp edges, as well as some minor scuffing and light scratches that are the usual result of handling and storage. Most of the areas where the finish has worn or faded have developed a mostly smooth plum-brown patina. There are some very minor scattered patches light surface oxidation and some flecks of freckled brown oxidation present along some of the contact edges of the action, especially around the front and rear of the cylinder. The barrel and frame are mostly smooth and essentially free of any pitting, with only some very small, scattered patches of lightly oxidized surface peppering and pinpricking present, mostly in the areas mentioned above where the flash of the caustic percussion caps and hot gases from the cylinder gap have caused some minor surface erosion. The cylinder shows some very light pinpricking scattered in the percussion cone (nipple) recesses on its rear. All of the original cones are all present and in very fine, crisp and completely usable condition with no noticeable wear or battering. The gun retains its original Kerr's patent loading lever. The lever is unmarked on the obverse and bears only the assembly number 102 on its reverse. The lever retains about 70%+ of its original blued finish as well, with the largest area of loss being at the contact point with the plunger where the finish has been worn off. The lever is fully functional, operating smoothly and locking securely into place when not in use. The lever's plunger retains about 50%+ of its color casehardened finish, which has dulled with age, but still shows visible mottling. The action of the revolver works perfectly in both single and double action modes and is mechanically excellent. The cylinder times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should in both modes of operation. The hammer is finished in the white and still retains much of its original bright steel finish, with some flecks of light surface oxidation present. The iron trigger guard retains about 20% flaked, faded and dulled blue, the result of handling and use, with the exposed surfaces having a pleasant, smooth, plum-brown patina. The iron butt cap retains a similar amount of original blue and shows a similar plum-brown patina. The original M1854 patent sliding safety is present on the right side of the frame and functions exactly as it should. It retains much of its original fire blued finish with some fading, dulling and loss. The original M1854 cylinder arbor retaining wing nut is in place on the right side of the frame and functions correctly as well. This delicate piece is often broken or missing, so it is nice to find it in complete, functional condition. The checkered one-piece walnut grip is in EXCELLENT condition as well, showing only the usual expected light wear, with some very minor flattening to the tips of the checkering. The grip also shows a few very lightly scattered handling dings and mars. The grip is solid with no chips, cracks or repairs noted. Overall, the condition of the revolver is indicative of a gun that probably saw little use and has always been well cared for.

Overall this is a really wonderful example of a M1854 Beaumont-Adams Patent Revolver from one of the rarest makers to produce these guns. The fact that Calisher & Terry produced so few, and at a time that coincides with a Confederate attempt to acquire both Beaumont-Adams revolvers and Calisher & Terry carbines during the latter part of the war, suggests that this gun was produced in hopes of filling a contract that either never materialized or was simply cancelled due to lack of funding. This would be a wonderful addition to any advanced collection of high condition secondary Civil War revolvers, and to enhance that a copy of the McRae letter detailing the order of Adams revolvers and Calisher & Terry carbines is included with this gun for display and historical context.


Write a review

Please login or register to review

Tags: Calisher, Terry, Manufactured, Adams, Revolver, Very, Rare