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Cased 54-Bore Beaumont-Adams Revolver Retailed by EM Reilly

Cased 54-Bore Beaumont-Adams Revolver Retailed by EM Reilly

  • Product Code: FHG-2116
  • Availability: In Stock
  • $4,400.00

This is a very attractive example of a cased English Beaumont-Adams M1854 double action holster revolver, retailed by the famous London firm of E.M. Reilly. 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-cockinglockwork, 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 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 M1854 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. Most of the Beaumont-Adams revolvers were produced with loading levers designed by Adams, Joseph Rigby, or those patented by James Kerr (especially the guns manufactured by the London Armoury Company), but a few were manufactured with a rather complex loading lever designed by Joseph Brazier. 


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 assembled after the expiration of his patent. As Adams allocated specific 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. The smallest production run was of Adams Patent revolvers made by Calisher & Terry of London, who were allocated the 100,000 serial number range, with a “C” suffix. Less than 200 of these revolvers are believed to have been manufactured. 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-19thcentury and as such a number of them were imported for use during the American Civil War. Those produced in 120-bore (about .33 caliber) were popular personal protection weapons during the period and the mid-sized 80-bore guns (about .38 caliber) were popular for both personal and military use. Despite the popularity of the revolvers, 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 contractedto 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 8thPA and 2ndMI cavalry on the US side and the 1st, 5th & 18thVA and 5thGA 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 18thVA 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 M1851 pattern have Confederate provenance as well.


This M1854 Beaumont Adams Revolver is a FINE condition example that is complete with its original retailer casing and some original retailer marked accessories. The revolver is a 54-Bore  (.442 caliber) handgun with a 5-shot cylinder and the serial number 40208, without a suffix or a secondary Beaumont serial number. More than likely Robert Adams produced the gun, sometime between mid 1862 and early 1863, after the expiration of the Beaumont patent.  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 during this time frame. The facts this theory is based upon are 1) the lack of a Beaumont serial number, which was dropped in early 1862, and 2) the fact that the Stonewall Jackson gun, which is only 329 numbers above this one, had to be produced by spring of 1863 in order to have been delivered to Jackson prior to his death in May 1863.


The topstrap of the frame is crisply engraved in a single line:




The obverse frame is engraved in a single line below the cylinder:


ADAMS’ PATENT . No. 40,208


The firm of Edward Michael Reilly was established in London in 1848. Reilly had begun working under the tutelage of his father JC Reilly, who was a well-established gunmaker, in 1841. His first location was at 502 New Oxford Street, and Reilly initially made his name as a maker of air guns. In 1861, the firm was renamed Edward M. Reilly & Co. The firm remained in business under Reilly’s son and grandson through 1917, under the name EM Reilly & Co LTD, when it was absorbed by Charles Riggs & Company. 


The cylinder of the revolver is engraved with the matching serial number E.M. REILLY & Co. 502. NEW OXFORD STREET, LONDON. The rear face of the cylinder is stamped with an assembly number 144 and this same assembly number is found on the reverse of the loading lever and inside the triggerguard. The cylinder has the expected London commercial proof marks between the chambers, a (CROWN) / Vand a (CROWN) / GP. The barrel also has the usual London commercial view mark, a (CROWN) / V and proof mark, a (CROWN) / GP, on the upper left angled flat. The octagonal barrel is 5 ¾” in length and is rifled with five lands and grooves of roughly equal width. The bore rates about VERY GOOD+ and is mostly bright along its length but shows some light pitting scattered in the grooves along its entire length. As previously noted, the gun is in about FINE overall condition and retains the majority of its original finish. The barrel retains about 75%+ of the original bright polished blue, with the largest area of loss being some scuffing on the right flat near the muzzle and a small patch of wear under the loading lever. The balance of the finish loss on the barrel is along the high edges and contact points with some lightly scattered finish scratches and apparent holster wear. The frame retains a similar amount of its original finish as well, with some fading and thinning from handling and use, as well as some scattered minor surface scratches and scrapes. The cylinder about 30% of its original deeply blued finish, with most of the loss from thinning, fading and rotational wear. 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 on its face, and some light to moderate oxidation in the cone recesses and the adjoining areas at the rear edges of the cylinder. The cylinder retains all of its original cones and most are in very good and fully useable condition. The original Kerr style loading lever is in place on the left side of barrel and functions smoothly and correctly. The iron triggerguard and butt cap both retain minute traces of their original blue, with the balance of their metal having a smooth, mottled plum brown patina. This same plum brown color is found on the balance of the metal where the blue had thinned or worn and in the case of the cylinder has blended very evenly with the remaining finish. The gun retains its original M1854 patent sliding safety on the obverse frame, behind the cylinder, which functions smoothly and correctly. The improved Adams patent arbor pin retention screw 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 as well, showing only some 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 saw some moderate carry and use but was always well cared for.


The pistol is contained in its original English retailer oak case, which retains the original retailers label, as well as a number of pistol accessories. The top of the paper label reads:




The label’s text includes the usual combination of 19thcentury fonts, and heralds the numerous items available from Reilly, including large stock or double guns, double and single rifles,  breechloaders, Adams’, Colt’s Other Patent Revolvers, Pistols of every Description, Air Guns & Air Canes & c. & c. The very last line, which is quite small also notes that they sell used guns reading Second Hand Guns & Pistols By All The Best Makers. The case appears to retain its original dark maroon baize lining, which shows wear and use. The interior dividers and lining show the expected mars, rubs and wear from 150+ years of pistol storage and transportation. The case is in about VERY GOOD 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 case shows some minor cracking along the edges of the lid, and on the face of the case. The original round brass nameplate is in place on the lid but has not been inscribed, although it has some indecipherable scratched letters on it. The brass escutcheon around the lock mechanism is missing from the case, but the lock remains in place. Unfortunately, the key is missing from the cased set. The case contains a number of accessories appropriate to the use and display of the pistol. These include a FINE condition dual cavity mould, which casts a pair conical two-groove, flat based bullets. The mould is clearly and appropriately marked with a 54 (indicating 54-bore) on the side and is additionally stamped in three lines: E.M. REILLY & CO / NEW OXFORD ST / LONDON. This clearly indicates that this mold goes with the casing and the revolver, as retailer marked accessories are not regularly encountered. The mould has a lovely, untouched bronze patina and nearly perfect mould cavities. The iron sprue cutter functions perfectly but retains most of its original bright fire blued finish. The case also contains an appropriately sized, unmarked marked English copper bag flask with a fixed charging spout. The copper flask shows only a few minor bumps and dings from handling. The brass charging cap and spout have a lovely, untouched patina and the charger functions as it should, retaining strong spring tension. A period jappaned percussion cap tin is included with the pistol casing as well, located in the one lidded compartment, which is missing the ribbon lid pull. The cap tin is embossed on the lid in three lines: REILLY / GUN / MAKER, surrounded by the words NEW OXFORD STREET LONDON. There is also an unmarked pewter oiler included with the casing and a wooden cleaning rod included in the casing. The oiler is in VERY GOOD condition with a milky patina. The rod is about GOOD, showing wear with a threaded brass tip and a removable brush. The brush is damaged and well worn.


Overall this is a really wonderful condition 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 period accessories, two of which are retailer marked to the same vendor and with the original paper retailer label within the case. Adams revolvers were as important to the development of handgun technology 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. These cased holster sized revolvers were particularly popular in the American South and were a regular often purchased for use by Confederate officers.

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