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Adams revolver history and statistics

Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2019 6:09 pm
by Per
A busy and long time since this newbie posted anything, but I do hope that this can make up for some of that.

Since I started collecting Adams revolvers of all kinds, I have gradually gathered quite a bit of data on these and other British revolvers, which I would like to share with you. If successful, I will attach a spreadsheet outlining the distribution of more than 130 retailers' names found on more than 900 Adams revolvers spanning a better part of the entire time frame of manufacture for Robert Adams through different companies.

This is (should, at least) be the Excel 2010 version (opens as a raw text file, so save and open in excel): ... vsygXiYF0O

A pdf version of the same (I recommend that you download this and scale up, as the google reader is not particularly clear on this file): ... W_HCYhxC24

As you may know, Robert Adams started to compete with Colt with only a few revolvers available in 1851, manufactured in cooperation with the Deanes through their joint company Deane, Adams, & Deane. This cooperation lasted until 1856, at which point Adams was instrumental in establishing the London Armoury Company. He left the position as Manager of that company under suspicious conditions in 1858/9, only to set up his own retail store in 76 King William Street in London. After having recovered from bankruptcy in 1864, he then moved to 40 Pall Mall, before disappearing from all references by the time London Armoury Company went bankrupt in 1866 following the fall of the Confederate States of America, which was its main customer. Robert Adams died from complications following an amputation of the leg in 1870.

After 1864, we can only trace Robert's cousin, John through a number of patents and as the Manager of Adams Patent Small Arms Company. This company landed the contract for conversion of what seems to have been somewhat less than 7000 Deane & Adams revolvers (as the were named by the War Department) into the Adams Mk.I starting in the first part of 1869. My own Mk. I with s/n 72 is approved in May of that year same as the earliest revolver that I have heard of, no. 48. John Adams also started producing the Mk.II, with the civilian version being known now as model 1867 (two variants were made with different locking mechanism for the extractor rod), and the later model 1872 being accepted as Mk.III.

As mentioned, the spreadsheet is based on extracts from a database that I have created of more than 900 Adams revolvers, but I have also found data on more than 1000 other British revolvers such as Webleys, Daws, and Deane-Hardings, just to mention some. The reason for this is simple - the spreadsheet lists retailers per segment of serial numbers, but assigning these to specific years is a different matter. For this, the totality of revolvers proofed must be used, which is where all the other revolvers come to play. I am still working on this, and can at this point only date revolvers to plus/minus one year based on these data, although this may be enough for many purposes.

Serial numbers may seem to be a simple proposition at first. However, it is important to remember that most of these revolvers normally have at least two sets of numbers, and later (with the introduction of the Beaumont improvements in 1855), also a third number. The first and true serial number, is an assembly number. This seems to have been stamped on the frame and major parts quite early in the manufacturing process in order to keep these handmade parts together - perhaps particularly through the proofing process. This number is often difficult to find - as it is normally STAMPED on the inside of the frame, back of the cylinder, and other less obvious places. For the first few hundreds or even thousands of revolvers, this was the only number present. However, as Robert Adams needed funding for his growing business, he sold a portion of his patent to Thompson Hankey, a London banker in mid-1852. This, it seems, prompted the arrival of the second number, which was engraved upon the revolvers and suffixed to each manufacturer (most notably R for Adams, Y and T for Tranter, X for Hollis & Sheath) in order to keep some track of royalties due. It seems that these numbers were added quite late in the manufacturing process, possibly as one of the last steps prior to final finishing and after proofing, and as a separate process from other engravings (border or scroll, depending on customer requests). This as there exists revolvers with no other engravings than these numbers, were even the prefixing text "Adams patent" is missing - but the numbers are correct for both R-suffixes and Beaumont patent numbers.

Looking at the spreadsheet, the extract and presentation provides some statistics per segment of serial numbers. Firstly, it summarizes the number of revolvers in the selection and how large percentage this is. Further down, the similar distribution is provided per retailer. As the serial number segments did not necessarily follow suit, particularly at the start and last third of the period, I have tried collecting both retailers and number ranges so that the first retailers selling revolvers are at the top, and later gun makers follow suit. In this way, the spreadsheet not only provides a sales distribution of revolvers across the market, but also provides an indication of the development of Adams revolver sales over time - from the very first retailer which seems to be Alexander Thompson, to the last few gun makers during the closing stages of production, most probably during the mid 1860s.

As for the years of operation that I included, this is taken from a collection of books, including Bailey/Nie: English Gunmakers and Gooding/Scott-Edeson: The London Gun Trade 1850-1920.

I have also color coded the period during which a retailer was active, with dark green for Adams own production, light green for other retailers, and red for military sales. I believe that this last marker is quite significant, as it seems that only very few of these revolvers survived, and serial ranges which were to a large degree delivered to the War Department have a very low survival rate compared to other ranges. A bit of statistics to substantiate this statement is that, as we know, somewhere between 8000 and 9000 revolvers were delivered to WD during the entire production run, of which about 500 were 38 bore or .49 caliber. Of the remaining 54 bore or .45 caliber - close to 7000 revolvers were converted into Mk.I's. Still, in the known population of more than 900 revolvers, I have recorded around 70 of the unconverted military percussions, but only about 20 Mk.I's. This is a clear indicator that the converted revolvers have had a significantly lower survival rate, but it is also interesting to notice that this makes the military percussions statistically more frequently encountered than any other type of Adams revolver.

Looking at the statistics, it is also clear that some ranges have a noticeably higher apparent survival rate than others, particularly in the early serial number ranges. My suspicion on this, is that as Adams added new manufacturers at an early stage - particularly Tranter and Hollis & Sheath prior to the Hankey transaction in mid-1852, he did probably not focus that much on coordinating serial number ranges, so that two or even all facilities would at some point reuse the same range of serial numbers, thus making revolvers in these ranges much more frequently encountered than others as they would be indistinguishable from each other. This, as there is little reason to believe that these ranges should endure more than normally for any particular reason. In fact, on the contrary since this was the start of the Crimean war, where a large portion of the early revolvers saw considerable use.

So - this is the spreadsheet that I have developed. Needless to say, I have merely collected the data on these revolvers - with The Firearms Technology Museums pages as an excellent starting point, and many online antique arms shops, as well as all major and minor auction houses available on the internet as sources. If I could name them all, I would - but that would be a longer text than I have already written...

If you find that the spreadsheet is interesting and useful in some way, please do use and distribute it freely, but I kindly ask that I be referred to as source of it.

Also, if you were to have details on any Adams revolver of any model that you would like to share and let me include in the database, I would very much welcome your contribution. If so, I would very much appreciate a few pieces of information:
1. Model (1851, Transition, Improved/1854, Beaumont-Adams/1855)
2. Particular properties (counter-rotating cylinder, hesitation lock)
3. Rammer (Adams, Rigby - not seen yet, actually, Kerr, Brazier, other)
4. Adams patent number (with suffix, if present)
5. Beaumont patent number
6. Assembly number
7. Proof (London or Birmingham)
8. Retailer
9. Manufacturing stamp (e.g., LACo stamp or similar)
Any pictures that would substantiate these values would also be greatly appreciated, as hig-res images do indeed help to identify these and other peculiarities.

Also notice, that Belgian revolver were made by a number of manufacturers as well (such as Pirlot, Francotte, Dandoy...), and although they seem to have shared the same number series, these numbers were allocated in blocks - and no, they did not start at the beginning, but rather mixed and gradually completed the entire range as time passed...

...and thank you for reading this far in this rather extensive posting...

8-) Per Oyvind

Re: Adams revolver history and statistics

Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2019 2:49 am
by DuncaninFrance
Per, thank's very much for the information.
I don't know if you are aware of a very specialist forum called The British Militaria Forum but if not I suggest you pay us a visit and look at the knowledge base there.
You may like to start by browsing here ... ndguns-f5/

Re: Adams revolver history and statistics

Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2019 8:15 am
by Per
Hi Duncan,

Thanks for the tip, I will indeed check it out.

Best regards,
Per √ėyvind

Re: Adams revolver history and statistics

Posted: Sat Jun 22, 2019 2:38 am
by DuncaninFrance
Nice to see you made it over there.