Antique Robert Adams Firearms
Antique Robert Adams Firearms are handguns designed by Robert Adams (1809-1880), who patented the first successful double-action revolver in 1851.
Robert Adams worked as the manager for London arms manufacturers George and John Dean. Adams’ British patent came through in 1851, and the .436 Dean and Adams began to be produced. The .436 Dean and Adams was a five-shot percussion revolver, and the first made with a solid frame. The double action system cocked the hammer itself by simply pulling the trigger, instead of having to cock it manually, thereby allowing the gun to be fired much more rapidly than single-action revolvers.Background & history of production
The gun was so successful that the Dean brothers made Adams a partner in the firm. It was used by the cavalry of the East India Company.
However, while it was highly regarded, it was more expensive than the Colt’s mass-produced single-action guns. It had no recoil shield behind the cylinder so therefore occasionally burned the hand of the shooter with black powder blowback, and the longer trigger pull necessary to cock the hammer meant that aiming the gun was less accurate.
A new and improved model was produced in 1854, and it was used by the British in the Crimean war.
A Crimean veteran, Lieutenant Frederick E. B. Beaumont, improved the Adams gun in 1855. He linked the trigger to a spurred hammer to allow both single and double action fire. The Beaumont-Adams revolver was produced, adopted by the British Army, and tipped the scales in the fierce competition between Adams and Colt, forcing Colt to close his London manufactory.
Adams left the Dean brothers and founded the London Armoury Company in 1856. The Beaumont-Adams became the official revolver of the British Army during the 1857 Indian Mutiny. The U.S. purchased hundreds of the guns after the Massachusetts Arms Company were licensed to manufacture them, which were used during the American Civil War.
The London Armoury Company did very well from the Adams revolvers, but in 1859 they decided to focus on infantry rifles instead. Adams sold his stock and left the company, to continue to manufacture his revolvers in Birmingham.
Adams revolvers can be beautiful items for collectors. They are more valuable if they retain original cases, with accessories such as bullet moulds, oil bottles, cleaning utensils etc. They saw many small adaptations over the years rather than bringing out several new models, so each one can be seen as quite unique. They were also often adapted in one aspect or another by the manufacturer. As is common with firearms, the worth rises considerably if they have a proven connection with a famous historical figure or event, so it is worth researching them thoroughly.
Price guide and notable auction sales
Adams revolvers are very coveted firearms. They usually sell for several thousand, sometimes tens of thousands. The top priced Adams revolvers are generally beautiful examples come in original cases, with accessories.
- Presentation 54-bore Beaumont-Adams five shot percussion revolver circa 1862, in case with accessories, sold for £6,463 at Christie’s in July 2001.
- Presentation Dutch 54-bore Adams five shot Stevens conversion centre-fire revolver in case, circa 1860, sold for £7,800 at Bonhams in November 2007.
- Gold-decorated 54-bore early Beaumont-Adams five shot percussion revolver, circa 1860, sold for £7,920 at Bonhams in July 2008.
- Adams five shot 120-bore percussion revolver, sold for £8,160 at Bonhams in August 2011.
- Cased 54-bore Adams five shot percussion revolver, circa 1851, in case with accessories, sold for £10,200 at Bonhams in April 2011.
- Adams revolver, “Virginia”, .44 caliber, five shot percussion revolver in case, shipped to America in 1861. Sold for $11,352.50 by Heritage Auctions in December 2006.
- German Adams patent 80-bore five shot percussion revolver presented to Prince Otto von Bismark, circa 1860, sold for £23,000 at Christie’s in October 1993.