View Full Version : Deane, Adams and Deane Revolver

March 1, 2012, 11:43 PM
I'm on the hunt for some information on an ancient revolver, and I'd just like to share what I have. My half-brother's grandfather gave it to him, and he passed it along to me.

I've done some research on these guns. They were produced from 1851 into the 1870s it appears.

The part that's interesting is the engraving.

Top Strap: Deane Adams and Deane 30 King Williams St London Bridge (typical marking).

Along One Side of the Barrel in a tiny script font:
"The Gift of an Affectionate Friend, To Gordon Hughes ESQ of HM 85th REG on his birthday and departure to India 22nd July 18_4"

Problem is I CAN'T READ THE THIRD NUMBER OF THE DATE. (I'm not positive about the 4 in the date either, but it's my best guess, and 85th could be off, too.

The Indian Rebellion was in 1857. That with the patent date means it could be 54, 64, even 74.

I even searched the web for British military records and found nothing.

I would love to learn more about this gun and the man who owned it. Knowing who the "affectionate friend" is would be interesting, too.

I took a quick picture with my phone. I'm going to try to get some better pics of the thing (I'm a photographer, so it shouldn't be too hard!) The thing has a lot of rust on it, which makes the engraving really hard to read.

That brings me to my next question. Is there anyway to clean it up without damaging the engraving?

By the way, the nipples are beat to hell, but the action functions. The hammer goes back and drops, the cylinder rotates and can be taken out. The trigger is really interesting to use. You can pull back with your ring finger all the way, then use your trigger finger to hit the smaller trigger "lever?". The hammer won't drop unless this is done. You know, just like a Glock. :)

It appears the ramming lever is gone, and for that matter, the trigger guard, too.

I have it soaked in Hoppes lube to try to halt the rusting.

Basically, I'd like to be able to display this. Any tips on the rust removal (which won't be done if it is too damaging to the engraving) and long term preservation would be greatly appreciated!

Mike Irwin
March 2, 2012, 06:57 AM
You sure there was a ramming lever?

Some of the Deane Adams and Deane revolvers didn't come with rammers. They used a separate loading ram road sold as part of the overall kit, as shown with this one: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www3.hants.gov.uk/adams-revolver1.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www3.hants.gov.uk/firearms-collection/adams-revolver.htm&usg=__sRO7dkdvrskodXzO-msxo2aF_Ag=&h=485&w=440&sz=28&hl=en&start=3&sig2=ySsnOgnZpY6-OsYGxSIplw&zoom=1&tbnid=mH2aQuX1-RUf3M:&tbnh=129&tbnw=117&ei=QbRQT46sN6rz0gGms435DQ&prev=/search%3Fq%3Ddeane%2Badams%2Band%2Bdeane%2Brevolver%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26gbv%3D2%26tbm%3Disch&um=1&itbs=1

What's interesting, though, is that this is the only trigger cocking single action DAD revolver I've ever seen...

March 2, 2012, 11:05 AM
You said "It's the only trigger cocking single-action DAD revolver..."

I only kind of understand this phrase. Knowing very little about old cap and ball revolvers and early revolver actions, I would have assumed this would be considered a double-action revolver.

What makes this a trigger cocking single action? Also what is DAD mean? I initially thought you might have meant DAO, but as I said, I'm extremely unfamiliar with these early systems.

Mike Irwin
March 2, 2012, 11:49 AM
Trigger cocking single action really probably isn't the right phrase to describe what's going on with your gun.

A better description might be a "cocking lever actuated single action." But even that might not capture what's going on there.

DAD is a short-handed acronym for Deane, Adams, and Deane. My apologies for the confusion.

March 2, 2012, 11:57 AM
Thanks, Mike. I'm going to do a little more research on the action system.

My brother gave it to me years ago. At the time, we was living in apartments and bouncing around between jobs. Since then he's settled down and I've taken him shooting a few times, he's now got a house and a wife.

I think it would be nice to get it cleaned up (as best I can), put it in a nice display case with an exhibit card stating the words on the engraving and some more historical information about the gun.

Funny thing is that I'm younger than him and he knew then that I'd be able to take care of it. I think it would be nice to get it back to him.

I've been researching rust removal, but I'm really scared that I'm going to screw up the engraving.

I'm not looking to ever get it to fire again. Thanks again!

James K
March 2, 2012, 01:33 PM
That action is often called a double action, but Mike is correct, it is actually trigger cocking. To fire single action, the bottom trigger is pulled with the middle finger while the index finger is off the top trigger. The bottom trigger is then released. That cocks the hammer (hence "trigger cocking" as opposed to "hammer cocking", like the SAA Colt); pulling the top trigger releases the hammer and fires the gun. To fire "double action", the shooter uses both the index and middle finger, holding the top trigger while pulling both triggers. That cocks the hammer and releases it; not technically DA, but effectively the same.

I am going to do some digging - no guarantee of results, but I'll give it a shot (OK, bad pun).


James K
March 2, 2012, 02:43 PM
I did some digging and if the unit is the 85th Regiment of Foot (infantry regiment), they did serve in India for quite a while and were all over India and Afghanistan. The regiment fought in the Second Afghan War and on the Northwest Frontier, which means they were likely in heavy combat at times.

(Fighting in Afghanistan - the phrase sort of sounds familiar.)

Deane Adams Deane was founded in 1858; the 85th was in India before 1868, so I would guess the presentation date on the revolver would be 1864; I don't know when DAD stopped producing percussion revolvers, but by 1874, cartridge revolvers were in common use and I think a presentation of a percussion revolver would be less likely, though still possible.

An interesting sidelight: It was during the Second Afghan War (1879) that the commander of the Peshawar Field Force devised a military belt that is still mentioned in the books and bears his name. He was Lt. General Sir Sam Browne.


March 2, 2012, 05:38 PM
Jim, you're amazing.

I'm going to get out a magnifying glass and take a look at the date again. It's sometimes easier to look verify a rusted over number than try to determine what it is.

1864 means the gun turns 150 years old in two years. That's pretty incredible. I'm going to try to get some better pictures of it tonight, and start on a new thread on rust removal.

Thanks so much!

March 2, 2012, 07:56 PM
So the first thought I had about the OPs gun was this:

Wow, that looks just like one of the Tranter revolvers, but its not!?!?!

Here is the one I thought of. What is the difference between his and this one?


March 2, 2012, 09:17 PM
Winchester 73 - I believe the Tranter is based on the same design. In my research, I stumbled across a lot of them. I think the companies that produced each of them are connected in some way.

The biggest difference between what you posted and the model I have appears to be the grip angle. The photo you posted seems to have a more raked back grip.

Mike Irwin
March 3, 2012, 07:34 AM
Judging by things I've read over the years it would appear that Adams, Tranter, Dean, and Beaumont were all active at the same time and were freely using each others' design features.

March 3, 2012, 10:53 AM
One method that I've used with very good result for removing surface corrosion while not adversely affecting any remaining finish or "patina" is a product called "Corrosion X" and 3-4 X bronze wool.

First of all, remove the wooden grip if at all possible. If you can "field strip" the piece without damaging it, by all means do so.

Putting on a pair of solvent-resistant latex or rubber gloves is a good idea, IMHO, whenever one is working with chemical "penetrating" agents or solvents. YMMV, but I always do.

Then take a small piece of the bronze wool and wet it with the Corrosion X. Lightly rub the metal surfaces using a circular motion. Rewet and/or replace the wool as needed.

During the process, wipe the resulting residue from your work areas with a soft rag often. The Corrosion X will penetrate into all pitting and surface imperfections and effectively neutralize any "active" rust. The bronze wool, being much "softer" and less "agressive" than steel wool is much less apt to remove any remaining original finish, damage or degrade the markings and/or engraving.

This method has worked well for me on quite a few antique and badly neglected "modern" firearms and edged weapons. Both products are available from Brownell's and several other outlets.

Hope this is of some help to you in preserving your very rare and interesting find.

March 8, 2012, 01:51 PM
Just wanted to post an update on this. I slathered the gun down with Hoppes lube (not solvent). I started with a rag, and it did pick up a little of the rust, but wasn't making a visible difference. I then moved to bronze wool, same result, slightly better. I then moved to lightly rubbing with steel wool. I used a lot of lube.

It cleaned up a little. There's still a bit of rust, but at this point I can't tell the difference between rust and what appears to be some really dark finish (bluing or something). I assume this gun was not shiny when it was made.

The engraving is not damaged, but it's really not any more visible than it was before.

I'm interested in learning what this gun cost when it was made, and maybe finding a picture of the facility (which is know is pretty unlikely). Maybe just an early picture of London Bridge, as I assume the revolver was produced near there?

I've decided to give it back to my brother on his birthday in April. I'm going to get a case with glass on two sides. I'll divot out a place for the butt to sit, use a dowel to support the barrel, and another dowel to rise up and somehow grip one of the cylinder bores.

And advice on long term storage. I store my guns with a light coat of hoppes lube, but is there something better to use on this old piece?

And lastly, I also forgot to ask early on what caliber this gun is. Is it a .50, a .44, a .40?

March 9, 2012, 02:24 PM
I can't offer anything about the revolver but there is a King William Street in London and when you cross London Bridge going north, you will be on King William Street for about three blocks. You will also be on the left!

March 10, 2012, 08:53 AM
Just by coincidence, there were some photos of Civil War soldiers published in the Washington Post last Sunday and one of them appears to be armed with one of these revolvers or a copy. The photo appeared again in today's paper because a reader recognized the individual and had sent in their own copy. He was a cavalryman in the First Virginia Cavalry. He is displaying his drawn saber and his revolver is thrust into his belt. It's a small photo but it is clearly neither a Colt nor a Remington. There are no holsters visible in any of the photos although the men in four out of the ten photos had pistols.

There were a number of interesting weapons in the photos, suggesting that troops were armed with a greater variety of weapons than you might otherwise think. Another cavalryman, for example, has two revolvers, one in his belt and the other fitted with a shoulder stock but it isn't perfectly clear that the two revolvers are the same. Another has one of the Harper's Ferry pistol-carbines. He's also a cavalryman and the only one with a carbine belt. The prize, however, has to go to a man with a revolving rifle. I don't know the make but it has a side-hammer. I also think the photo is printed in reverse (as are one or two others) because the hammer is on the left. He also is wearing a fine hat.

Several of them are sporting knives. One man, probably Confederate, has a jacket with shoulder straps (not the US kind) in a contrasting color, the first time I've noticed that in a Civil War photo.

The man with the First Virginia Cavalry who had the interesting revolver was killed in 1863 near Warrenton, Virginia. He was 19.

Mike Irwin
March 10, 2012, 09:12 AM
Got a link to those photos, Blue Train?

March 10, 2012, 11:54 AM
Now let me just see if I can do this. The photos were from the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs in the Library of Congress. It says to go to: Prints 7 photographis Online Catalog at www.loc.gov/pictures/. The Liljenquist Collection is featured top right.

March 10, 2012, 12:06 PM
That link does work, although you have to enter "Liljenquist Collection" somewhere in a search to find it. Unfortunately, it is a large collection and it would be an achievement to find the same photo. However, it seems to collection is sort of organized, which would help, and some photos had enlarged details. All of the photos in the paper were the little photos that you see in tin frames.

On a related subject, the Smithsonian has a collection of Confederate army records that were saved by the adjutant general of the Confederate Army, Samuel Cooper, my wife's great-great (maybe one more great) grandfather, who by the way married one of George Mason's granddaughters. Anyway, when Richmond fell, he loaded what he could into a wagon and headed south (or further south, that is) until he was captured. Apparently there was some controversy within the Smithsonian, though probably not recently, over preserving those records since they were rebels. There are some more records in private hands locally that I know about.

General Samuel Cooper was from New York.

March 10, 2012, 01:35 PM
Use the search "confederate uniform holding" "Confederate revolver" or just revolver.
Here's a well armed union boy;

James K
March 10, 2012, 11:38 PM
The Post today identified the gun as an "English revolver" but didn't identify it further, and the picture is not good enough to waste time on.

Some general comments: In those days, photography was in its infancy and taking a picture required a solid pose, a clamp to hold the head, and an exposure of minutes; there were no "candid" cameras or 1/1000 second shutter speeds, and no cell phone cameras in the shirt pocket. Photography was a studio business, only a bit less complicated than getting an MRI scan today..

Plus, soldiers on leave in town or even visiting one of the photographers who set up his wagon in the training camps weren't allowed to bring their guns.

The result is that in almost all of those CW pictures, of both Union and Confederate soldiers, the guns, knives, sabers, etc. are studio props, used so the new troops could look appropriately patriotic and ferocious for the folks back home. That is why it is never a good idea to draw conclusions about a unit's arms from the weapons in those photos.

Also, FWIW, the photo process of those days printed a reverse image. So that French (?) musket in Buzzcook's photo is not some rare left handed model. I wasn't there (I am not quite that old), but I doubt any Civil War soldier really carried three revolvers, an infantry musket, and two bowie knives in combat.


March 10, 2012, 11:55 PM
Here's a link to the Daily Mail that shows the photo of the revolver that Bluetrain was talking about.


March 11, 2012, 06:58 AM
That set of photographs certainly got around, didn't it? That's a much better reproduction than appeared in the paper, too, as you can see.

I agree that many of the weapons that appear in studio photographs were probably studio props but it is interesting nevertheless that such a variety of things were on hand. I believe, however, that personally owned weapons were also carried into battle, mainly small caliber pistols and bowie knives, which were issued in some units. I likewise suspect that in Southern units would have had a greater variety of weapons. They manufactured what they could and had to rely on imports and captured weapons for the rest. I think most of the imported weapons, from swords to artillery, came from Great Britain.

While the number of "action" photos made during the Civil War could probably be counted on the fingers of one hand, there were many taken in the field, some soon after battles, although the process was involved. Basically, the photographer had to have his processing lab close at hand since the plates has to be prepared almost immediately before exposure. But leafing through a book entitled "Historic Photos of Alexandria," (Virginia) which I have before me, there are dozens of photos taken during the Civil War, nearly all of which were taken outside and most have a lot of people in them. The quality of the photos is very good and contain very few blurred images. Weapon-wise, however, only muskets are prominent and just a few officers are shown with swords or sabers. There is a surprising variety of uniforms (all the men shown in uniform are Federals) and, again, many fine hats.

It is an odd feeling to look at these photos and being able to recognize so many of the buildings.

James K
March 11, 2012, 06:08 PM
Anyone who lives in the VA, PA, MD area knows the feeling of looking at CW era pictures and recognizing buildings and areas. A lot has changed but a lot hasn't, in some cases because of historic preservation but in many cases because there was no need to destroy perfectly good buildings.

True, the CS army did use a variety of weapons, but they tried to keep to a standard. Standard .577 ammo was hard enough to make or smuggle in, without trying to supply ammo in non-standard calibers. Mostly they didn't bother. The soldier who brought a personal weapon (and, yes, many did, at least in the early part of the war) was on his own for ammo in both armies.

In a way, the CS was fortunate in that regard. The US ordnance department was plagued by hundreds of inventors, each of whom not only had a war-winning gadget gun that he wanted adopted immediately, but a brother-in-law who was a Senator/Conressman/Secretary-of-whatever who was using his influence to secure a contract.

Much scorn has been heaped on Ripley for turning down what (with 20-20 hindsight) turned out to be good guns, but he knew the CS had nothing better than the standard rifle-musket and felt, reasonably, that the US could win by simply having more of them and more troops to carry them.


Mike Irwin
March 12, 2012, 05:58 AM
"Much scorn has been heaped on Ripley for turning down what (with 20-20 hindsight) turned out to be good guns, but he knew the CS had nothing better than the standard rifle-musket and felt, reasonably, that the US could win by simply having more of them and more troops to carry them."

During the Civil War Ripley's organization also had the incredibly difficult proposition of supplying something over 100 kinds of standard small arms ammunition to troops, a frigging logistical nightmare if ever there was one.

That was his main opposition to the Spencer repeater, not the theory that troops would fire too quickly and waste ammunition.

March 12, 2012, 06:17 AM
In the book I referred to earlier, my wife had tagged several photos with sticky notes because the buildings in them were incorrectly identified. So proceed with caution with regards to what you see in books.

We've sort of strayed from the original topic. I wonder how popular British made revolvers were in the New World. I read somewhere that Custer had one, possibly an Adams at Little Big Horn.

August 7, 2012, 11:18 AM
I hope you guys don't mind me, as a newcomer, reactivating this thread a bit.

Reading the initial postings, I realize that the revolver in question may already have changed hands - in which case I am sorry to bother you. However, after having done quite a bit of research myself on these Adams revolvers, I am just as puzzled as mentioned in an earlier post that this revolver, apparently being a Tranter double-trigger, has the trade address of Deane, Adams, & Deane - as no other that I have noted seem to have this address- Most of this data, by the way, come from www.firearmsmuseum.org.au. If you have not done so yet, I would advice you to have a look at this site for more info on rammers, models etc.

With this said, I would be very interested in knowing the serial number of the revolver - engraved on the side, after "Adams Patent No", including the (if any) suffix?

In any event, from the picture, it seems that this is a fairly early frame Tranter (from the grip angle - they started quite steep, then adjusting it gradually until its final form which is even less angled than yours, in about 1855). From this it would seem that the revolver was made some time prior to 1855. Furthermore, the double-trigger mechanism, which was covered by patented no 212 of Jan. 28th 1853 by Tranter, was superseeded som time around 1855-56 as Adams introduced the Beaumount-patented addition (double action, with a spurred hammer). Almost at the same time (again, cf. the site mentioned above), it seems that Tranter introduced his 4th model with a single-trigger layout.

As for the trade address - D,A&D broke up and went separate ways in 1856-7, the Deanes registering Deane&Son at the same address in King Williams St., and Robert Adams continued as manager of London Armoury Co. from 1856 onwards (starting in February 1856).

As for the manufacture of these revolvers, it seems that a number of factories produced these - although, and at least until 1858, all of these seems to have been proofed in London. These manufacturers include Deane, Adams & Deane (London), Tranter (Birmingham), Hollis & Sheath and Brazier (Wolverhampton).

I am, as we speak, assembling the manufacturing numbers and serials from different factories, but I am still, despite having collected data on more than 2000 revolvers, not quite there - yet. For my own research, I would therefore be very interested in not only the serial number, but also the internal serial of this revolver - preferrably the one stamped underneath the frame towards the grip (and, thus, covered by the wood), alternatively, and if legible, stamped on the back of the cylinder, between the nipples.

In summing up, it is my opinion that the previously suggested year, 1864, would be incorrect, and that, based on the grip angle, mechanism, and trade address, the year 1854 would be the only solution. From this it would seem that the revolver may not have been made earlier than 1853, but at the same time not later than 1855-6.

From my preliminary estimations, I would assume that this revolver is manufactured by Tranter (they all shared serial numbers - just to make things complicated for future historians...), in which case I would expect it to have a serial number somewhere in the 11-12000R range, alternatively early in the 20000Y range, or, if manufactured by D,A&D, in the 10-11000R range. I may, of course, be completely wrong on this...

Again, if this topic is already complete resolved, I appologize for bumping this thread.

Best regards,
(from Norway)

James K
August 7, 2012, 09:46 PM
There are always questions about the guns of that era because of the practice of makers often not putting on their own names, so the name on the gun is that of the retailer. Some retailers were also makers, so it can be a question whether a given marking means that company made the gun or whether it is only the retailer. Further, a London address means little, and was often that of the retail store, with the guns actually being made in Birmingham or elsewhere. Guns made elsewhere were taken to London for proving if the company had its offices and store in London.


Ideal Tool
August 8, 2012, 12:54 AM
Hello, ckpj99. If your revolver truly has no loading lever, it could be an early one using the "wadded" ball. These were both round ball & conicals, with a short small dia. pointed tang cast on base. In use, a lubricated felt wad was pushed onto tang & protruding portion clinched over, securing wad.
Loading was faster than with a lever type..bullets were a thumb-press fit in cylinder mouths. The drawback came when the cavalry found the constant jogging on horseback loosened the balls & the trouper found he had a holster full of loose powder & ball..and an empty revolver! Colt made much of this..claiming more power & velocity..plus waterproofness from his tight fitting bullets..he was probably right...Still, in the close-in fighting against native warriors..where speed would trump any velocity advantage..it probably had it's merits.

August 8, 2012, 04:34 AM
Jim, I agree that few manufactured and quite a lot actually retailed and engraved their names on such revolvers. However - and this may just be a statistical error of my data, I have not found any examples of Adams revolvers proofed in other places than London prior to serial numbers 30000 (about late 1858 or early 1859 from my preliminary research). From this point onwards, Birmingham proofs start being more frequent.

As another point of interest, and quoting the reference earlier mentioned, even Tranter - as always having been located in Birmingham - wrote a letter in (i think it was - quoting from memory) 1854 to the London proof house in order for them to accept proofing of extra cylinders for revolvers (i.e., prior to this, it was mandatory for revolvers to comprise of a frame and on, and only one cylinder). If Birmingham proof house were to accept revolvers at this point - why would he not proof his revolvers there?

My hypothesis at this point is, that prior to at least about 1857, all revolvers were proofed in London. If this holds true (and for now it seems to be), it may very well be possible to identify quite well when a revolver was made - as Taylorson, in his books, quote other references identifying the number of revolvers (and pepperboxes) being proofed in London from 1850 and a few years onwards (I have extrapolated these numbers until about 1860). Subtract the Colt-manufactured revolvers, my guess is that the remaining are Adams-derivates, Lang-revolvers - and possibly a very small number of (mainly Cooper) pepperboxes. Scanning auction records for the last 20 years, I have found very little evidence of pepperboxes proofed in London after 1850, though...

As for rammers - Tranter patented his double-trigger layout in January 1853, while his rammer was described for the first time in December of the same year. This first rammer was separate, and needed only a hinge on the left side of the frame as a pivot point. This first type was later superceeded by his 2nd model which was fixed by a keyhole on the same pivot, and later (the 3rd model) with a screw. So, although it may appear as if no rammer is present, it may in fact just have been misplaced - apparently, even the 2nd model rammer was not tight enough to ensure that it was not lost.

But indeed - if the revolver has no evidence of a rammer, it would appear as if the revolver is either produced by Tranter prior to December 1853, or by somebody else (using Tranters patented trigger), after this point. Therefore, it would be very interesting to know more about this particular revolver - having a Tranter trigger and being the only one that I have heard of having the D,A&D trade address.

Although the Birmingham gun-trade was very active, contemporary sources from 1858 onwards only mention a handful of manufacturers producing Adams patented or other revolvers in Britain. If somebody else were to produce such revolvers, they would either have to be of own designs, within the Adams patent licencing regime, or as copies. However, I doubt that the latter would be widespread, as these guys seemed to be quite eager to uphold their legal rights to patents (business men, as they definitively were...). As for own designs, the only British manufacturers mentioned seems to be Lang (gas-sealing revolver), Adams (i.e., D,A&D and later L.A.Co), Tranter, Hollis & Sheath and Brazier. Later, we know that Preuse & Redham and Callisher & Terry produced Adams revolvers, both proofed in Birmingham, and I recently also found a statement that R & W Aston produced Birmingham-proofed Adamses. Adams even had his contractors on the continent, with Ancion & Cie, Auguste Francotte and Pirlot Freres manufacturing such revolvers. These are, however, usually proofed in Liege, and bear a stamped monogram on the left side stating that the revolver is an Adams patent.

As for the spigoted balls of early Adams revolvers - I have had the pleasure of trying out this patent in my own Adams revolver. It works, but for combat, I would probably go for a more tight-fitting ball, which Adams changed to at some point after September 1854 - first using a Rigby-patented rammer, and then (after December) a similar one of his own design. The Beamount-Adams, as we most commonly encounter these today, got its Kerr-patented rammer with his patent no. 1722 of July 28th 1855.

August 9, 2012, 09:53 AM
Hey tanks to all for some interesting reading.. But I do have a question..

Does anyone here know why Tranter or Deane Adams Deane made these Hammerless.. ????? Was this marketed as a Pocket gun??? (coat pocket in this case)

August 9, 2012, 10:45 AM
All the Deane Adams and Deane I have seen have been double action only guns; However, there was a Tranter patent ca. 1856 that used a primary trigger to first cock the revolver, and a secondary trigger to fire. The mechanism used on your DAD may have been inspired by Tranter's patent, or possibly even designed by Tranter himself. It seems that all of these designers were well acquainted with each other and often worked together.

Photos of DAD revolvers in one of my reference works are listed as "Model 1851," and appear identical with your specimen with the exception of the trigger mechanism. Since all shown have standard DAO triggers, they also have trigger guards. The type of mechanism on yours would preclude the use of a trigger guard. I suspect you have a rather unusual example of a DAD.

This type of mechanism is not entirely unknown; The Savage pistol (Henry S. North and Edward Savage of Middletown, CT) purchased by the Union Army utilized a similar mechanism. A lower ring shaped trigger cocked the pistol, which was then fired by an upper, conventional trigger

There was, ca. 1855 a Beaumont-Adams revolver that introduced what can best be referred to as a "hesitation action." It allowed the revolver to be cocked, but, when cocked, required that the shooter release the trigger slightly, at which point it would reset the sear, allowing a second (lighter) pull on the trigger to release the hammer and fire the gun. Even with this mechanism, it was still only a single trigger gun, however.

BTW, a superior way to remove rust (CAREFULLY!) is to go to your local health food store and purchase a bottle or two of "NOW" brand 100% pure natural wintergreen oil. (Not the stuff they sell at Walgreen's.) This is one of most effective rust dissolvers I have ever used, and was introduced to me by the late Clarence M. Bates. It will soften rust to the point where it can be removed quite handily with a stiff toothbrush. It's also a miracle product when it comes to stubborn, rusted screws.

August 11, 2012, 06:54 PM
If memory serves me, Colt's patent for mechanical rotation of the cylinder expired in 1850 in Britain (sure, know it was 1857 in USA). At this point, most, if not all multi-shot rotational guns were pepperboxes with (again, mostly) double-action only mechanisms. Adams decided to better this, but to a certain limit - he did, in fact, not patent neither the DAO-mechanism, nor the "revolver"-part at all. His patent from 1851 covered at lest three elements, but the one of significance for his name in history, was the frame and barrel assembly, which was cut from a single piece of iron. Due to it being "know by the trade in general", the trigger mechanism was not patentable. However, a true double-action was NOT known at this point (1851).
During the World Exhibition in Lodon in 1851, Colt and Adams met, and a number of tests (semi-official and non-official) were made. The results were inconclusive, at best. Colt, with his single action, rather heavy revolvers, versus Adams DAO revolvers - significantly lighter and mostly with a bigger caliber. The actual power of these revolvers may be debated far and wide, but for all practical purposes it seems as though they were pretty much identical in that respect (although the Adams has a significantly shorter cylinder and will, therefore, hold a much smaller charge). So, it boils down to the actions and the fact that Adams is 5 shot, and Colt has 6.
I am, from time to time, fortunate enough to be able to repeat these tests, and can verify that it really is a matter of use and situation. The Colt is far more accurate, while the Adams is very much faster to shoot. Pick one.
In order to remedy this, Tranter patented his "double trigger" in 1853, and gained apparently some market shares with this. However, this was not a purely cut-throat competition. Tranter and others were assignees of Adams' patent, and the revolvers are so marked on the side or the frame. Furthermore, Tranter and others manufactured both their own revolvers using Adams' patent (with their own improvements, such as the double-trigger), as well as being contractors for Adams himself. As an example, my own Adams is made by Tranter in early 1854, but is a pure 1851 Adams with DAO mechanism and D,A&D topstrap address.
With this said, back to the question. Were they marketed as pocket guns due to the mechanism? I would definitively say no to this. It seems that more than half of the early most Adams 1851 (the ones with the DAO) were huge monsters made in the 38 bore caliber. In modern term, that translates to .49, or nearly 13mm for us in Europe... With barrel lengths of more than 7", I think you would have some problems defining them as "pocket guns" - unless you have really big pockets, that is...
As time passed, more calibers and different sizes were introduced - a few bigger (but few apart and short lived), but mostly smaller, with the 54 bore (.44") being the most popular. As true "pocket guns", you have the 120 bore (no, it is not a .31, its a .34 - I have one, and guess how many makes bullet moulds in that dimention today? None! Had to get a custom made mould for that one), while some Belgian made even smaller guns in a 200 bore.
This was the status at the outbreak of the Crimean War. At this point the British Army had little feelings for revolvers - and not a big problem either. Officers were in any event obliged to purchase their own side-arms, and most purchased either a Colt or an Adams before being shipped to Russia. Some time into the conflict in 1855, an engineer lieutenant Beamount returned from Crimea with a proposition - he patented a hammer spur, and 3 additional parts for the Adams, and by doing so, had invented a true double action revolver. After a short transition period, all Adams revolvers incorporated this change, and with a verbal addition as well. Over the normal "Adams Patent No. XXXXXR" serial number, another number was added with a B suffix to number the royalties to Beamount. This revolver, the Beamount-Adams, was an immediate success, and must definitively have been at least a significant reason for Colt shutting down his factory in London two years later.
This situation changed little over the next 5-7 years in technical terms, except that manufacturers were added and removed from the conglomerate - as Adams broke up with the Deanes in 1856 to for the London Armoury Company (LACo, as we know, a major supplier to the South), which he actually left in 1858.
So, as for mechanisms, we have the following:
1851 Adams DAO
1852 Adams DAO, Tranter DAO, Hollis&Sheath DAO (all Adams models)
1853 - same as 1852, but Tranter start producing "double-trigger" revolvers as well
1854 - same as 1853
1855 - Same as 1854, but Adams (probably D,A&D) starts producing DA-revolvers (Beamount-Adams)
1856 - Main production of Beamount-Adams, Tranter starts making his 4th model revolver which is a "single-trigger" - also a double-action.
This is the status until about 1859, when LACo seems to stop manufacturing Beamount-Adams in favour of "their own" revolver - the Kerr. Other manufacturers do seem to continue production of Bamount-Adams revolvers, and only at this point do they start being proofed in Birmingham - even those with London addresses. I am not sure when production of the Beamount-Adams ceased, but some time during 1862-63 seems probable based on my research of existing serial numbers and suffixes.
The next development from the Adams-family, was the establishment of the London Small Arms Company by John Adams (apparently Roberts brother), who started producing his own patent percussion revolver in 1866. In cooperation with Boxer, he developed the first true center-fire revolver based on this model 1866 the next year, which was adopted by the British Army in 1867, virtually at the same time as they decided to start converting Enfields into Sniders, also using Boxers patent center fire cartridges.

Most of this comes from the very good books of Taylorson on the subjects: The Revolver 1818-1865, and Adams' Revolver. In addition to this, I have spent some time researching the topic myself - with very good help from auction lists and Google Books for contemporary sources (very good project by Google, by the way - scanning all those old books from the mid-1800s).

August 13, 2012, 12:36 PM
Thanks Per,
I wanted to reread this over a couple days to fully break down all the facts. Again Moocho thanks there..That was Yeoman effort there.

But to just step back to my question Why not a cocking spur.. It looks like at that time the trigger action pepper box guns did not have a cocking spur, it seems a logical step to make a trigger action DOA not to have a cocking spur..

A least that is what I am seeing now..

Now I will be honest here I have Never Held a DOA and you kind of knocked me over when you told me the the DOA was lighter then the Colt.. From just seeing photos and the fact that the bullet caliber was heavier, I just assumed the colt was lighter.. Many thanks for that info.

August 13, 2012, 04:41 PM
You're welcome - just glad to share some of this info.

As for the DAO mechanism - I think it definitively must have been as you mention. In fact, Adams himself patented what is now called a "hesitation lock", in which the hammer is raised by the trigger, but you may release the trigger and the hammer remains in place so that only a light pull of the trigger is enough to dischard the revolver. This was patented in 1854, but only a very small fraction of revolvers produced after this time has this feature added. So - and this taken from Taylorson's book as they did some really heavy research into the history of our guys - the market just does not seem to have been very interested in such an arrangement, but were more than satisfied with the DAO mechanism. ...Apparently, they needed more insight into the benefits of the single action mechanism of Colt in order to appreciate this.

The weight issue between Colts and Adamses is quite significant. This comes from the fact that Adamses have thinner barrels, narrower frames and pure wooden grips (no metal frames). Compared to Colts, you have a thicker barrel with the ramrod assembly, wider frames - with the large recoil/nipple shields, and a heavy brass or iron grip frame. My comparisons from the shooting range are, however, not entirely representative - as my Adams 1851 is in the rather unusual 80 bore, and has a somewhat lighter frame than the same 54 bore revolver. Still, its weight is only about half of my original 1851 Colt Navy (about 0.7kg compared to about 1.2kg).

Needless to say - with a long (but *very* smooth) trigger pull and tiny grip (compared to just about anything else), the Adams is rather difficult to shoot accurately with - especially compared to the Colt. At 25 yards, my best group with the Adams is about 10", while my best group with the Colt is 2". Still, I haven't been shooting them too much - so I guess much may be improved with better loads. In addition - the wadded spigoted round ball for the Adams is rarely completely centered on the wad which it pierces and is attached to (and is still attached to when it hits the target), so precision is a difficult proposition, at least compared to the Colt with its smooth single action trigger, steady balance and ROUND balls.

Another interesting fact of the (at least 1851) Adamses is the chamber and bore dimensions. As mentioned earlier in this thread, the early Adamses used spigoted balls with a wad attached. The reason was, also as mentioned, due to the cylinder being oversized compared to the bore. In my case, the 80 bore cylinder (.390") is matched with a 90 bore barrel (.375"). Anybody reading this and wanting to test fire their Adamses, should be aware of this: Firing a full-sized ball (compard to the cylinder) in these revolvers may be extremely dangerous, as the load required to resize the ball in the forcing cone is close to a full cylinder, which may destroy the revolver! Therefore - do as the originals: Size the ball according to the bore, and add an oversized wad.

My resolution to this was to duplicate the original moulds using a standard (Lee, actually - easier to drill in aluminum) .375 bullet mould matching the bore, with a .1" tapered spigot drilled about .2" into the block. When cast, this produces a rather strange-looking ball which may be attached to an over-sized wad and the remaining spigot hammered carefully into the wad (I use pre-cut and pre-greased .40" wool wads). The entire construction is then gently pushed finger tight into the cylinder and fired in a normal way. I guess the same approach could be used with appropriately sized moulds for 54 bore and 38 bore revolvers.

With this done properly, duplicating the early trials and competitions between Adams and Colt are extremely fun. I have arranged this a few times as "shoot your way through the 1850's"-kind of events, and people's reaction to shooting and comparing these revolvers continue all the remaining evening, even after returning from the shooting range - which one is better: Colt or Adams? It all depends on the use and situation - and probably your initial bias.

Even today, it seems difficult to decide on a winner. Colt is the favorite amongst western enthusiasts, while the Adams tends to get a number of votes from people with military background and those familiar with the history of the British Empire. Nevertheless, both groups find that neither gun is perfect - at least compared to their next experience - the double action Beamount-Adams, which even the most fanatic western fan must admit is an improvement - even over the Colt...

...And then we move to the pin-fire Lefaucheaux with its rather interesting (but dangerous) cartridges which some great guys in France (H&C) decided on making reloadable cartridges for: Excellent precision, fast reloads, but still a single action, and finally the tiny Smith&Wesson No.1... (before we move on into the next decade).

These were just some random experiences with Adamses. In my opinion, the combination of business and technology history, and the possibility to once again experience this history - evaluating for yourself how good or bad a solution actually was, is one of the most interesting and fun sides of firearms history and collection.

Jon Burge
May 5, 2017, 03:35 PM
This thread has a thorough accounting of the Adams and is much appreciated.
A firepower comparison should compare the Adam 38 ga with the Colt Navy.
I have an Adam 38 sn 9032 and Colt Navy sn 9032, the low serial numbers suggesting very early examples of each.
Sitting side-by-side they are about the same size, length, barrel length, the Adam being just 7 percent heavier 43 oz vs 40 oz, and 4 % longer overall.
The Adam shot are more than 2 1/2 times heavier than the Colt and a full load accounting for the 5/6 cylinders is more than twice the amount of lead and powder than the Colt - a big difference.
I would prefer the Adam firepower at close quarters such as a cavalry charge or ship boarding with adversaries just a few yards away.
The Colt's accuracy would become an advantage only at much longer range.
Perhaps carry both?