Adams Style English Wedge Frame Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2112-SOLD
- Availability: Out Of Stock
This is a VERY GOOD condition example of an English Adams Pattern Webley Wedge Frame double-action percussion revolver, as produced from the late-1850s through the mid-1860s. These guns provided less expensive alternatives to the Adams and Tranter patent revolvers of the day. The primary cost savings was in the use of a two-piece frame and barrel design, similar to Colt revolvers, with the two parts held together via a “wedge”. Adams and Tranter patent revolvers utilized one-piece frame/barrel assemblies that were forged from a single piece of metal and were much stronger and less prone to breakage and wear with age. The one-piece design could not “shoot loose” with repeated use, as wedge secured two-piece revolvers could. The “wedge” frame design is attributed to Birmingham gun maker Philip Webley, although Webley himself seemed to have manufactured very few of the guns. The simplified double-action lock mechanism typically encountered in these revolvers is usually of the Joseph Bentley design, and these guns are often referred to as Webley-Bentley revolvers, even though they were produced by many Birmingham gun makers and are often unmarked.
This Webley wedge frame is very well made and has both an action and a profile more akin to that of the Beaumont-Adams than the typical Bentley style double-action only mechanism. The gun has a top strap over the cylinder to reinforce the frame, a feature missing from most Webley-Bentley guns. The gun is typical of larger bore English double-action revolvers in that it features a five-shot cylinder. While Webley style guns usually have numbered cylinder chambers, this example does not. This is more in keeping with the Beaumont-Adams profile and appearance of the revolver. The gun is Birmingham made and has the expected Birmingham commercial proofs between each chamber. The revolver has a 5 ¾” long octagonal barrel and is chambered in the popular English 54-bore, which is about .442 caliber. The overall length of the gun is about 11 ¼”.
As previously noted, the action is more akin to the Beaumont-Adams lockwork of the era, and the gun is a “conventional” double action revolver. It operates as a standard double action by pulling the trigger, which rotates the cylinder, cocks the hammer and releases it, all with one long, heavy trigger pull. The action also allows for more precise shooting. By thumb cocking the hammer and firing the gun in single action mode, a lighter trigger pull is available. In typical English revolver style, the cylinder only “locks up” when the trigger is pulled completely back (in double action mode) or when the hammer is locked in the fully cocked position (single action mode). This eliminates the need for a spring actuated cylinder stop in the bottom of the frame, a feature typical of American guns of the era like those of Colt and Remington. While some of the Webley “wedge” style guns utilize a Colt style, under barrel loading lever, others used the decidedly English pattern lever, similar to the Kerr Patent lever found on many Adams revolvers. This revolver uses the Kerr style, side mounted lever. The top strap of this particular gun is unmarked. The only marking other that the proof marks is found on the lower right side of the frame and reads: LONDON PATENT No 37067.
Extant examples of Webley Wedge Frame revolvers are known with no markings on the top strap, with simply the word LONDON, and with the names P WEBLEY & SON, D. BENTLEY PATENT and J ADAMS (with and without the additional word LONDON). A handful of examples of similar Webley and Webley-Bentley English double action revolvers are known with pre-war Southern retailer marks, usually from New Orleans. New Orleans seems to have been a major source for imported English revolvers prior to the Civil War. Extant examples include guns retailer marked by Thomas Bailey of New Orleans. At least three variations of Bailey’s mark are known on Wedge Frame revolvers.
As noted, this example is unmarked except for the Birmingham commercial proof marks on the cylinder and under the barrel and the frame markings. LONDON PATENT No 37067. Any student of “wedge frame” revolvers and Adams revolvers will immediately notice that the serial number is quite odd. Most of the wedge frame guns that are encountered from the Civil War period are numbered into the 5,XXX range and below. This number is right in the middle of Civil War era Adams revolver serial numbers. More interesting, it appears to be towards the end of the London Armoury Company serial number range of Adams revolvers. I suspect that this gun may have been produced on the behalf of either L.A.C. or Robert Adams by a Birmingham maker to help fill a speculative, early war Confederate revolver contract. To the uninitiated, the gun appears to be a Beaumont-Adams revolver and only looking carefully reveals the two-piece, wedge secured frame of the Webley design. Adams was well known for assigning serial number ranges to other makers to produce guns on his patent. This may be an example of an “assigned serial number” gun that uses a Beaumont-Adams action, but the easier to make and less expensive two-piece wedge retained frame. As L.A.C. guns in this serial number range are made at the end of Adams revolver production, as Robert Adams had transitioned out of the company (replaced by James Kerr), there are a number of possible explanations for the strange variant revolver in that L.A.C. serial range. The gun (and others like it) might have been needed to fill a standing Adams revolver order as L.A.C. was tooling up for Kerr revolver production and unable to produce the Adams revolvers, or it may simply have been an easy and less expensive way to fill a contract expediently.
The reliable and reasonably priced double-action English wedge frame revolvers were popular export items and were available for sale around the world. Confederate purchasing agents acquired these revolvers, as they were much less expensive than the competing Adams, Tranter & Kerr patterns. The Pratt Roll, which is an inventory list of revolvers that details the 15 handguns in the possession of Company H of the 18th Virginia Cavalry in July of 1864, lists 3 Webley and/or Bentley revolvers, as well as 4 guns of “unknown” pattern. The balance of the revolvers on the list are 7 Kerr’s patent revolvers & 2 Tranter pistols. The “Bentley” numbers on the list are 3111 and 3221, while the “Webley” revolver is number 5054. It is interesting to note that even in this small sample of CS used revolvers, 20% were of the Webley and/or Bentley “wedge frame” patterns. As the average company grade officer would probably not be familiar with the names and patterns of English revolver manufactures (other than possibly Adams and Tranter), I have a feeling that the guns were identified by the maker or retailer name on the topstrap of the revolvers. This suggests that #3111 and #3221 were likely “D Bentley” marked Webley-Wedge frame revolvers, and #5054 was probably a P. Webley marked wedge frame. The “unknown” revolver with serial number 3563 was almost certainly a wedge frame revolver as well, but with no retailer mark on the top strap. The “unknown” revolvers with serial numbers 33,609 and 36,604 were almost certainly Adams patent revolves, also with blank top straps. However, based upon this example, I now wonder if those guns (also in the L.A.C. serial number range for Adams revolvers) were not also “Wedge Frame” Adams style revolvers, with no markings, like this one.
While there are no direct Confederate Central Government contracts known for “wedge frame” revolvers, some Confederate correspondence exists that suggest the more reasonably priced double action revolvers (in both 80 bore and 54 bore) were purchased primarily by speculators for importation to the Confederacy. It appears that most of these guns were imported through Mexican or Texas ports and many saw use in the Western Theater and the Trans-Mississippi Theater. It is believed that the revolvers delivered by Nelson Clements (who had a contract to deliver 5,000 revolvers to the Houston Quartermaster) were of the Webley “Wedge Frame” pattern. A handful of guns that appear to have been part of his deliveries are known, and they are in the low 2,XXX serial number range, and obviously numbers above and below that point would be potential Clements contract arms due to the size of the order. Additionally, examples of Webley Wedge Frame double action revolvers exist with Confederate provenance. These include several well-documented Webley Wedge Frame revolvers in museum collections. The gun of Colonel John Smith of the 20th Alabama Infantry (ex-Bond collection) is one example, as is one reported to be engraved to General William Mahone. Both pistols are in the Museum of the Confederacy collection, to the best of my knowledge. Another Webley Wedge Frame revolver, formerly in the famous Richard Steuart Collection, resides at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond. The Webley Wedge Frame revolver (#5553) is identified to Captain George Russell, the quartermaster of the 47th TN Infantry Regiment.
This double action Adams Style Webley Wedge Frame is a classic “export” revolver and is unmarked externally except for previously mentioned LONDON PATENT No 37067 mark on the frame and the Birmingham proof marks. The gun is in VERY GOOD condition and is very crisp but retains none of the original finish. The gun has been cleaned to bright, with a lightly oxidized pewter patina that shows some scattered surface discoloration and what appears to be an old, discolored coat of oil that is now brownish. The barrel, top strap and cylinder show some very minor scattered pinpricking and lightly oxidized surface freckling, mostly around the chamber mouths and in the percussion cone recesses, and on the topstrap above the chamber mouths and forcing cone. Some similar pinpricking and light pitting is present around the muzzle and is lightly scattered here and there on the balance of the revolver. As would be expected with a lower cost, “working man’s” revolver, this one shows none of the lightly engraved embellishments typical of Adams and Tranter revolvers, with the only aesthetic addition being a pair of lightly engraved boarder lines that trace the outline of the revolver frame, cylinder face and muzzle. As noted, the gun has a side mounted Kerr style loading lever, like the majority of Beaumont-Adams revolver production. The revolver is fully functional and is mechanically very good. The pistol functions perfectly in both single action mode and double action mode as well. The revolver times and indexes exactly as it should and has very tight lock up. The loading lever functions smoothly and locks into place securely. The bore of the revolver rates about VERY GOOD as well. It is mostly bright with some areas of darker oxidation. The revolver is rifled with five broad grooves and a similar number of more narrow lands. The rifling remains strong throughout. The bore show evenly distributed light pitting with some areas of more moderate pitting here and there. The revolver retains all five of its original percussion cones (nipples), which show some erosion from firing and use, but remain very crisp and useable today. The original dovetail mounted front sight is in place on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle as well. The two-piece checkered wood grips are in about VERY GOOD+ condition as well. They show some use and wear, with some minor flattening and smoothing of the checkering from carry and handling. The grips are in solid condition, with no breaks, cracks or repairs noted. The grips show wear commensurate with the flashing erosion found on the rear of the cylinder in the cone (nipple) recesses and match the revolver perfectly.
Overall this is a very attractive example of a rather scarce Adams style variant of an English wedge frame percussion revolver. Even though the Confederacy probably imported several thousand wedge frame pistols, they appear for sale only rarely, and when they do often show hard use and mediocre condition at best. These guns did not have the name recognition or caché of similar pistols by Adams and Tranter and were probably more likely to have been used in the post war era than saved as mementos of the “late unpleasantness”. These sturdy, workingman’s revolvers certainly saw use during the war, and this one might be one the Nelson Clement deliveries. It is interesting that the gun appears just above the serial number range of some of the “unknown” Confederate used Webley Wedge Frame revolvers on the Pratt Roll. This pistol is 100% correct and complete, and functions very well. It would be a great addition to any collection of Civil War era revolvers and would be equally at home in a collection of typical Confederate used handguns. It is a lovely, large bore English pistol that displays well and is rarely seen on the market for sale.