In 1856 the E. Remington & Sons Co. was preparing to release their first repeating firearm - a .31 caliber pocket revolver. Thanks to a relationship between Remington and prolific firearms designer Fordyce Beals, Beals had originally worked for Ames Manufacturing Co., but had been acquired by Remington when the company purchased manufacturing equipment from Ames in order to fulfil a government contract for Jenks Naval Carbines. Remington quickly realized Beals' genius as a firearms designer and ultimately hired him as a fulltime employee. Beal's first design for Remington was the .31 caliber pocket revolver, which saw limited success. Later in 1858 Beals patented new designs for a cylinder pin and loading lever system that would play crucial roles in his later revolver designs and would ultimately define the profile of all the large-frame Remington handguns through the 1880s.
By 1860, Beals had incorporated his newly designed cylinder pin and loading lever into a new solid frame .36 caliber revolver. The new pistols were produced with a potential government contract in mind, however the government had already contracted with Colt to supply its Navy revolvers. As a resulted Remington, offered the "Beals-Navy" revolver on the open market; producing roughly 15,000 over the course of production from 1861-1862. Ironically, the majority of these pistols ended up being purchased by the government anyway, however the majority of these guns were purchased by the US Ordnance Department on through third party retailers, with very few purchased from Remington directly. According to John D. McAulay’s research the firm of Cooper & Pond sold 600 Beals Navy revolvers to the US government during 1861. The Ordnance Department also acquired additional Beals Navy revolvers from Schuyler, Hartley & Graham and from Tyler, Davidson & Co, each of whom delivered 850 and 2,549 guns respectively. McAulay further notes that between August 17, 1861 and March 31, 1862 an additional 7,250 Beals Navy revolvers were purchased by the government on the “open market”, bringing the total US non-contract acquisition of Beals Navy revolvers to 11,249. As these guns were not part of a government contract they were not marked or inspected in any way, making it impossible to differentiate between those that was US purchases and those that were not.
Field reports of the "Beals Navy" revolvers were mixed. Overall, the pistol was considered to be durable and robust, and surprisingly accurate. However a number of complaints were also reported - the height of the hammer spur which made recocking the Beals Navy difficult. Additionally the loading lever was deemed too delicate, and a lack of safety notches in the rear of cylinder meant that the gun couldn't be carried loaded without resting the hammer on a live chamber. These issues were addressed with subsequent model pistols starting the with the M1861 Navy revolver. The design would continue to be improved with subsequent itirations of the 1861 Navy revolver; requiring the need for collectors to designate earlier production pistols as "Old Model" and later guns as "New Model". Remington's willingness to retool and improve their revolvers means that original Remington Beals Navy revolvers are extremely rare; especially in comparison with later production Navy revolvers. This has lead to original Remington Beals Navy revolvers to become highly prized by the collector market.
This particular Remington Beals Navy revolver is in great shape. The action is very smooth and the hammer locks solid on both full and half cock. The timing of the cylinder is excellent and the lock up is nice and solid with minimal cylinder wobble. The finish is good with a pleasing smooth brown patina and no rust or pitting.
The barrel is full length and the Remington address stamp is faint bu legible. The bore is good with strong rifling and a few scattered areas of very light surface pitting. The chambers of the cylinder are clean with no pitting and some very minimal scattered surface rust.
The grips are original and it good condition. The grip screw and right grip escutcheon are modern replacements.
This handsome revolver would be a great shooter and display piece. No Remington collector is complete with a Beals Navy!