Welcome to College Hill Arsenal
Whitney Walking Beam Revolver - Fine

Whitney Walking Beam Revolver - Fine

  • Product Code: FHG-3063-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

In 1793, Eli Whitney, a recent graduate of Yale University, created the single most important industrial innovation of the late 18th and early 19th century, the cotton gin. The gin gained Whitney immediate national (and international) acclaim for his mechanical genius, and the genesis of what would eventually be known as the American System of Manufacture was begun. Whitney was a true visionary and saw that a system of production based upon the use of interchangeable parts on an assembly line system was the future for successful and profitable manufacturing. In 1798 Whitney received a contract to produce 10,000 stands of arms for the US government, and overnight entered the field of arms manufacturing. For the next 27 years Whitney continued to produce flintlock long arms for the US government on various contracts, without producing any arms for sale to the general public. In 1825 Whitney passed away, and left his nephews Philos and Eli Whitney Blake to operate the manufactory until his son Eli Whitney Jr. was of age to take over the family business. While Eli Whitney Sr. never achieved the level of interchangeable parts arms manufacturing that he had strived for during his lifetime, but his son Eli Whitney Jr. did with the contract to produce the US M-1841 “Mississippi” Rifle. The downside to achieving this level of production quality was the cost, and Whitney Jr. would later opine that the cost of producing the arms with interchangeable parts, to strict government specifications, resulted the firm losing money on the Mississippi Rifle contract. Up until this time the Whitney firm had only produced US marital arms for military contracts and had never produced handguns. In 1847 Whitney entered into a joint venture with Sam Colt to produce Colt’s Walker revolver. Colt’s manufacturing facility in Patterson, NJ had gone bankrupt and he was without a factory to produce his guns, but had a contract to manufacture the M-1847 Walker revolver, and Whitney provided the facilities to do this. This project introduced the Whitneyville factory to handgun production, and introduced the company to a new potential revenue stream – manufacturing handguns. Whitney introduced his first handgun model, the “Hooded Cylinder” Pocket Revolver in 1850. Whitney was concerned that he would run afoul of Colt’s patents that covered the mechanism that allowed the cocking of the hammer to revolve and index the cylinder. Thus, until Colt’s patents expired, Whitney had to produce a variety of unique revolver mechanisms that did not violate that patent. After his “Hooded Cylinder” guns, Whitney introduced a “2-Trigger” revolver (c1852-1854), that relied upon a manually rotated cylinder, and then his Beals’ Patent Ring Trigger Pocket Revolver, better known as the “Walking Beam” revolver, in 1854. The “Walking Beam” revolver received its nickname from the similarity of the actions operation to the “walking beam” of the steam engines of the period. The revolver was manufactured in three basic models, a brass framed, 6-shot .31 caliber version, an iron framed 7-shot .31 caliber version and an iron framed 6-shot .28 caliber version, a very few of which were also made in a 7-shot variant. The revolvers had blued octagonal barrels that were available in lengths from 2” to 6”. The revolver was designed by Fordyce Beals, who would go on to be one of the most important handgun designers as the Remington Arms company during the later 1850s and 1860s. The revolvers had a shield on the left side of the frame that contained the “walking beam” an actuating arm that was moved forward and backwards by the action of the ring trigger. The actuating arm that served the function of the hand in the Colt design, engaged a series of offset stop notches in the side of cylinder at both the front and the back. Moving the trigger forward indexed the cylinder halfway and pulling the trigger back finished the motion and put the cylinder in the correct position to fire. Pulling the ring trigger a little further back would depress the sear release and allow the manually cocked hammer to fall and fire the revolver. The cylinder was flush at its rear and all of the cones (nipples) were recessed. As there was no loading lever to ram a fresh charge into the cylinder chambers and no capping groove in the recoil shield, the cylinder had to be removed from the revolve to load it. While not the most practical or advanced design, Whitney produced about 3,200 of his Beals’ Patent Ring Trigger Percussion revolvers of all types between 1854 and the mid-1860s. Only about 50 of the brass framed guns were made, with nearly all of the total production having iron frames. The .31 caliber variant represented the bulk of the production of this model, with about 2,300 manufactured over about 10 years, with only about 850 of the .28 caliber handguns being produced.

This example of the Whitney Beals’ Patent Ring Trigger Pocket Revolver, better known to collectors as the “Walking Beam” Pocket Revolver is in about FINE overall condition. The revolver is one of the .28 caliber revolvers, of which only about 850 were manufactured between about 1854 and the early 1860s. The revolver is 100% complete and correct in every way, and remains in very crisp condition. The revolver is serial number 577 and this number is found stamped into the right side of the grip frame, under the grip panel, and into the interior of the left grip panel. The 2 7/8” octagon barrel retains about 60%+ of its original bright blue finish, which shows flaking and wear over all of the barrel’s surfaces, particularly on the bottom where the cylinder arbor pin has worn away the finish from being removed and reinserted many times. The design of the revolver required the cylinder to be removed to load it, as no loading lever or percussion capping groove were included in the design. The bore of the revolver is in about VERY GOOD condition. The 7-groove rifling remains in nice condition and is quite deep and well defined. The bore shows light scattered pitting along its entire length with some scattered patches of more moderate pitting along its length. The bore would probably benefit from a good scrubbing as well. The barrels shows a handful of minor scattered impact marks along its length, possibly from being carried in a pocket with other items that dinged and nicked the barrel. The original brass post front sight is present on the top of the barrel, near the muzzle of the revolver. The frame of the revolver retains only the most minute traces of blue in the protected nooks and crannies of the frame, primarily at the frame to recoil shield juncture. The largest majority of the frame has a lightly cleaned pewter gray patina. The frame is quite smooth, but does have some evenly distributed very tiny pinpricking present, most noticeably on the top strap. The left side of the frame is clearly marked in three lines, between the recoil shield and grip, and reads:

SEPT. 1854

The topstrap is marked in two lines:


This marking is a nod to Colt’s “Address Saml. Colt” marking found on Colt revolvers of the period, and Whitney may have noted that mark while producing Colt’s Walker revolvers in 1847. The marks appear to have been struck with two single line dies, rather than a single double line die, and as a result the lines are stamped in such a way that they almost intersect on the right side of the marks. Both markings remain quite legible and are fairly deep and crisp. The cylinder has a similar lightly cleaned pewter gray patina as the majority of the frame, and the color matches the frame well. The cylinder retains about 90%+ of its deeply etched decorative scene, which shows a variety of decorations including floral sprays, a shield and spear and other decorative foliate motifs. The original cylinder arbor pin is in place and the arbor pin retention lock functions perfectly, crisply engaging the notches on the pin in both positions. The original ring trigger mechanism functions smoothly and correctly, with a forward move of the trigger indexing the cylinder halfway and a rearward pull finishing the indexing of the cylinder and tripping the sear to resale the manually cocked hammer. The ring trigger retains some strong traces of its original brilliant fire-blued finish. The hammer mechanism operates correctly as well, and functions crisply as both half cock and full cock. The two-piece walnut grip panels are in about FINE condition. The grips are solid and complete and free of any breaks or repairs. The grips fit the frame wonderfully and remain very crisp overall. There are two tiny chips out of the grip panels, one on the left panel on the top at the frame junction and one on the right grip at the lower rear trailing edge. Both are tiny and barely noticeable but are mentioned for exactness. Otherwise the grips show only a handful of minor bumps, dings and light surface mars.

Overall this is a very nice, very crisp and very scarce example of an early Whitney revolver in a wonderful state of preservation. These guns are fairly rare in the first place and are rarely encountered with any of their original finish. This one is very attractive with lots of blue on the barrel and nearly all of the original acid etched scene on the cylinder. The revolver is fully functional and is 100% complete, correct and original. This would be a wonderful addition to any collection of Whitney arms, 19th century pocket revolvers or any serious collection that focuses on the development of the revolver. The unique Walking Beam design always makes these guns stand out in a display and you will certainly be proud to display this high condition example of this scare handgun.


Write a review

Please login or register to review

Tags: Whitney, Walking, Beam, Revolver, Fine