THE WHITNEY&BEALS "WALKING BEAM" REVOLVER
This curious little pocket revolver was invented and patented in 1854 by Fordyce Beals (genius gunmaker who will become 3 years later the creator of the excellent percussion military revolvers manufactured by Remington), and produced in 3 versions by the prolific Eli Whitney, who made and sold it from 1854 until the end of the 1860's.
The first model (abt 50 made) has a brass frame and is of .31 caliber.
The second model is identical to the previous one except for the iron frame (abt 2,300 made)
The third model (presented here) has also an iron frame. About 850 have been made, very few among them having the scarce 7-shot cylinder, the remainder featuring a 6-shot cylinder in the .28 caliber.
The great majority of the scarce examples encountered today are chambered for metallic cartridges, but this one is still an old "cap&ball" muzzleloader.
The nickname "Walking Beam" is due to the resemblance of the cylinder rotation mechanism with the steam engine beams on the steam boats of the time.
In the early 1850's, the famous trial won by Colt against the Massachussetts Arms Co for infringments on his master patent, all gunsmiths who entered the field of revolver manufacture were very alert to avoid any infringment of the choleric little colonel's master patent, who at that time was reaching the highest level of his commercial power.
In this arm, the cylinder rotation is totally independent of the hammer, which will again lead some purists to refuse the term "revolver" since
this system is not in accordance with the Colt patent.
The nipples are integral and placed horizontally in individual recesses on the rear face of the cylinder. The gun works only in single-action mode, the hammer has to be thumb-cocked. The hammer features a safety position for transport.
There is no return spring to the ring trigger. The upper part of the trigger, which is mounted in an external carter on the left side of the cylinder, features two lateral levers, of which the hooked top ends engage notches cut in the cylinder, near the muzzle and near the rear face.
Pushed forwards, the trigger causes the cylinder to rotate 1/12 of a revolution; pulled backwards again, it brings a chamber in alignment with the barrel. In that position, the trigger acts also as cylinder locking cam.
A little more pressure brings the trigger against an raised part of the internal trigger lever, which comes out in the rear of the trigger guard when the hammer is cocked. Pressure on that raised portion releases the hammer, allowing it to strike.
the gun is slow and difficult to handle: the cylinder has to be taken out for loading, the grip is too small to allow for a good prehension, the dimensions of the ring do not accept thick fingers, and the entire system makes the gun a very slow shooter. It is quite difficult to use the revolver with one hand. Besides, the .28 caliber has a very weak stopping power.
This arm was designed to give its user a "feeling of safety" in the first place.
However, the Walking Beam, that has become very scarce today, is one of the most curious American revolvers of the percussion era, and a good example of evasion of Colt's master patent.
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