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Remington Timeline: 1858 - Beals Revolver

Remington Timeline: 1858 - Beals Revolver

In 1858 Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action, percussion revolver. The unique feature of this pistol was the manner of securing the cylinder pin with the loading lever. This arrangement would have far-reaching implications for Remington's large-frame revolvers.

Beals would receive at least eight more patents for revolvers and single-shot rifles in the decade that followed, and all of these patents were assigned in whole or in part to the Remingtons.

In 1858, Fordyce Beals invented and patented a spur-trigger, single-action percussion revolver. In the decades that followed, all of these patents were assigned in whole or in part to Remington. Top: Remington-Beals Navy Revolver sn. 460 (Charles Schif Collection). Remington-Beals Navy Revolver sn. 2941 (Slim Kohler Collection)

His first successful martial revolver, which came to be known as the Beals' Navy Revolver, was an excellent firearm. Beals designed a six-shot, .36-caliber, percussion revolver with 7 1/2-inch octagonal barrel and walnut grips. This developmental work occurred in mid and late 1860, with the first models ready for testing in the spring of 1861. The term Navy revolver refers to .36-caliber revolvers, while Army revolver refers to .44-caliber revolvers.


In early 1861, there was little doubt that a major conflict with the southern states was possible. President Lincoln, inaugurated on March 4th, was soon after compelled to use his powers as Commander in Chief to call up 75,000 volunteers to augment his small standing Federal army. This action resulted in a fever of enthusiastic recruiting throughout the North and compelled manufacturers such as Eliphalet Remington to take notice.


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The Army Ordnance Department established an operation in New York City to procure commercial weapons for Federal troops. Major William A. Thornton, commander of Watervliet Arsenal, and Major Peter Hagner, chief of the New York Agency, tested the Beals large-frame martial revolver and wrote letters of commendation to Chief of Ordnance General James W. Ripley. Armed with this correspondence, Samuel Remington journeyed to Washington, D.C. and showed Ordnance officers a Beals Navy Revolver.

Ripley evidently liked what he saw, for he immediately ordered 5,000 Beals revolvers at $15 each; however, these were to be made in .44 Army caliber, not .36 Navy. The official letter order was dated June 13, 1861, and called for these Beals' Army Revolvers to be delivered "with the greatest possible dispatch.' Nevertheless, Remington was to deliver a combination of Beals Army and Navy revolvers on this contract.

Workmen at E. Remington & Sons completed the first large-frame Beals Navy Revolvers in June 1861, and these guns had a ready market during the first difficult months of the Civil War when firearms of any sort were scarce.11 Feverish activity gripped Eliphalet and his three sons in Ilion as they procured skilled workmen, ordered raw materials, sought new machinery, and designed tooling to make precision gun parts.


The stress must have been enormous on everyone, especially the proprietor, Eliphalet Remington II. On July 12, 1861, the founder of Remington Arms passed into gunmaking history…

Possibly the finest thing that could be said of Remington was this statement written by Albert N. Russell many years later: In stature he was tall, of muscular build and capable of great endurance. His manners were gentle and kindly, but his resolutions were firm. He was a man of sterling integrity and had the implicit confidence of his employees, who always sought his advice and counsel. I am able to pronounce no greater eulogy upon his character than by saying that during the thirty-six years I have lived in Herkimer County, I have never heard him spoken of except in terms of respect and commendation.

Control over the burgeoning company fell to Eliphalet's three sons, Philo, Samuel, and Eliphalet III. They proved that they had learned much from their father, and out of respect they retained the company name as it had been for many years. Under the brothers' management, a gunmaking establishment that had no equal was built over the next twenty years. But it was Beals large-frame revolvers that were needed by Federal officers and cavalrymen alike.


Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, military goods dealers in New York City, were among the first to procure large numbers of these martial revolvers. Other private dealers who procured these guns directly from Remington included Cooper & Pond, Palmer & Batchelders, and Tyler Davidson & Co. Concurrently, the Army Ordnance Department needed as many of these revolvers as possible to arm Federal troops in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys.

In all 4,586 Beals Navy revolvers were procured for the Western Theater troops by the Ordnance Department from dealers between August 1861 and May 1862. Between August 1861 and May 1862, E. Remington & Sons sold 7,250 Beals Navy revolvers directly to the War Department for $15 each, and nearly 13,000 Beals Navy revolvers were in Federal service by the summer of 1862. On August 17, 1862, E. Remington & Sons delivered the first 300 Beals Army revolvers to the Army Ordnance Department on the original contract with Ripley. Deliveries continued thereafter.

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