1874 Beaumont Vitalli 11.3 X 50 "Small Calibre Rifle"

1874 Beaumont Vitalli 11.3 X 50 "Small Calibre Rifle"

This is a discussion on 1874 Beaumont Vitalli 11.3 X 50 "Small Calibre Rifle" within the General Firearm Discussion forums, part of the Related Topics category; Interestingly enough, I was hunting for more information on one of my rifles, a 1874 Beaumont Vitali, when I ran across an old DC thread ...

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Thread: 1874 Beaumont Vitalli 11.3 X 50 "Small Calibre Rifle"

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    1874 Beaumont Vitalli 11.3 X 50 "Small Calibre Rifle"

    Interestingly enough, I was hunting for more information on one of my rifles, a 1874 Beaumont Vitali, when I ran across an old DC thread in which I had referred to the Beaumont. While Google and the Internet are fun, it's almost spooky the way it filters information. Finding that thread sparked my enthusiasm for this thread. Additionally, Bryan's recent thread about hyphenated cartridge rounds got me thinking about my Beaumont, which harked from 1874 and was one of the rifles that were caught in paradigm shift to metallic cartridges and smokeless powder.

    The “Hyphenated Cartridge” Thread

    The 19th Century was a very busy time, as arms manufacturers were innovating at a breathtaking pace, and many world powers were large purchasers of vast arms caches. The Dutch, French, Italians, Americans, British and others were financing and supporting an arms race that brought heretofore unseen levels of innovation to the industry. A lot has been written regarding this period, and I shall not re-write it all, nor paraphrase it, but I shall attempt to use much here, and give credit as due to that previously written. Furthermore, to avoid a loss of effort, I'll be adding to and saving this as I work along.

    The Beaumont rifle is the first purpose-built cartridge rifle to be used by the Netherlands. The Dutch briefly used percussion firearms converted using the Snider breech loading system but this was only a temporary measure while the trials for the new rifle held. The rifle presented here is a Beaumont-Vitali model 1871/88 as it has been retrofitted with a 4-shot Vitali box magazine. This rifle was manufactured by P. Stevens of Maastricht which was contracted to produce the majority of Beaumont rifles.
    Dutch Beaumont-Vitali 1871/88 - Military Guns of Europe



    General Specifications were as follows:

    M1871-88 Beaumont-Vitali Infantry rifle.

    Caliber: 11.3x50R mm
    System of operation: Bolt action
    Length overall: 51.95 inches
    Barrel length: 32.7 inches
    Feed device: Vitali Box Magazine
    Sight:Front: Blade
    Sight:Rear: Quadrant sight graduated to 1100 paces (about 825 yards
    Weight: 9.66 lb
    Muzzle velocity: 1330 f.p.s

    Edouard de Beaumont designed the bolt and receiver which has very clean smooth lines with few sharp edges. The bolt is particularly aesthetic with no gripping surface on the cocking piece and bulbous bolt handle. The most famous feature of this bolt is concealed in the handle, namely the mainspring. Contrary to early bolt action rifles using coil springs as mainsprings, the Beaumont uses a flat V-shaped spring, the body of which is sandwiched between the two halves of the bolt handle. One of the arms of the spring is longer and protrudes down into the bolt body and pushes against a rib on the firing pin to bias it forward. An obvious consequence of this design is that the bolt handle could not be bent for use on cavalry carbines, which is why the Dutch cavalry and artillery were armed with license built Remington rolling block carbines.
    The bolt face has an extractor claw on the right side and a sliding ejector, added when the rifle was converted into a repeater, on the left side which results in a firm ejection to the right horizontally out of the receiver. The top of the chamber is drilled with two holes to vent gas away from the shooter in the event of a case rupture. This is a common feature in first generation bolt rifles as early brass cartridges were of varying quality.
    In 1888 it was decided to modernise the rifle to make it a repeater. After various trials it was decided to adapt the Italian Vitali non-removable box magazine already used on the Italian Vetterli rifles. To fit this magazine it was necessary to cut a well under the receiver which weakened the stock in this area and it is not uncommon to find Beaumont-Vitali rifles with a stock repair in the magazine area. Another feature that was added at the time was the magazine cut-off switch on the left of the receiver. Pressing this switch causes a small flap to protrude into the top of the magazine, thus preventing further cartridges from feeding. The magazine could be loaded through the receiver with 4-round speed loaders just like the Vetterli-Vitali. Smokeless powder had been around for 2 years when this refit occurred so it is quite unusual that they chose to update their old rifles rather than go for a new smokeless rifle.
    Does the above decision illustrate political forces often impose budget decisions on procurement agencies? If one contemplates this, the Dutch could have had much newer arms produced for the newer smokeless powders. Would the Dutch have retained more of their empire?

    The bayonet for this rifle is a socket bayonet with a cruciform blade. The early version of this bayonet has a one-piece locking ring which was later changed to a two part locking ring fastened together with screws. The naval version of this rifle mounted a sabre bayonet similar to the Chassepot bayonet.
    The Beaumont can be found in various configurations, the three main types being divided into rifles for the army, navy, and colonial troops. The navy and colonial models were never fitted with the Vitali magazine. The colonial versions were blued with the exception of the bolt to help against corrosion due to the humid tropical conditions of the Dutch colonies. The only blued parts on the army rifles are the rear sight elevator and magazine. A small number of slightly shorter and lighter cadet versions were also produced as well as modified gallery rifles chambered for 6mm Flobert.
    Interestingly enough, industrial espionage and intellectual theft were rampant in the period. Nothing new today, eh? This rifle sports ideas that appeared in the Lebel, the Chasspot, the Murata, and even the Mauser.

    The Beaumont is a turning bolt action rifle who's major distinctive feature is the arrangement of the mainspring which is housed inside the large, hollow, bulbous two-piece bolt handle. The rifle was designed by a Dutch engineer from Maastricht, from whom it gets is name. Apparently inspired by the French Chasspot, forerunner to the M1874 French Gras, the action is a typical split-bridge with the bolt handle locking forward of the receiver and constituting its sole locking lug. The rear of the striker is smooth and rounded thus the rifle may only be cocked by the bolt, and cocks on opening. The bolt is sleeve is two piece with a very simple non-rotating bolt head retained by a screw fitted from the top of the bolt body. Like its early single shot bolt rifle contemporaries, (e.g., the German M1871Mauser), the bolt head is fitted with an extractor located in a channel on the left side of the receiver, but not with an ejector.

    It appears from the literature that the striker spring was delicate and more prone to breaking than the more common coil spring powered strikers, although this author has examined perhaps 20 Beaumonts and has never seen one with a broken striker spring. Despite what appears to have been the disadvantages of the striker spring arrangement, this design was copied in the Murata Type 13 and Murata Type 18 adopted by Japan in 1880 and 1885 respectively. Perhaps more disadvantageous was that the striker spring in the bolt assembly prevented the development of carbine versions with turned down bolt handles. Holland adopted a Remington Rolling Block carbine chambered in the Beaumont cartridge (now a rather rare variant) to fill it's carbine and short rifle needs. The M1871 Beaumont was one of the first major European metallic cartridge rifles and also one of the last, remaining in service, after modification to a repeater as the M1871/88 Beaumont-Vitali, to the turn of the century.
    Beaumont

    All of the links I have posted include numerous hyper-links for those of you enthused by the details.



    This is the view of the left side of theBeaumont's unique rear sight. The range marks on the left side shown above are "right side up" as you would expect. But on the RIGHT side, the range marks are at 1/2 step ranges marked "upside-down" so that if you are right handed you can set the range simply by rolling the rifle over in your hands seeing the range marks clearly!!.
    Mine has nice cartouches, and all of the expected stampings and markings from the Crown. Here are examples:









    Mine was a build for the Crown, and converted to the Vitali likewise. I've never shot it, and it's over the hearth right now. If the old war-horse could tell stories. How it ended up in Cripple Creek Colorado in 2006 to be purchased at auction is beyond my ken. The owner at that time misclassified it as a "Buffalo Rifle", inferring it's place in history as the railroads met in Nevada, but knowing it's provenance that appears impossible except as to casual hunting.

    It always makes me smile, that the Dutch called this a "Small Calibre Rifle", at 11.3 X 50.

    Maybe more later.
    Last edited by Rock and Glock; December 19th, 2014 at 12:53 PM.


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    Now that is pretty freakin' cool!
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    Neat.

    Is yours anywhere near firing condition if refurbished R&G, or is it purely wall hanging material?
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    The Beaumont is a seriously nifty design!

    > Does the above decision illustrate political forces often impose budget decisions on procurement agencies?

    Armaments are about money, and politics runs on money. If you remember reading about the procurement process of the 9mm Beretta back in the '80s, that's a good example.

    Sometimes the politicians don't want to spend any money. The US Army was carrying trapdoor Springfields in 1874, not nearly as good of a design as the Beaumont... while a private citizen (even a child!) could purchase an Evans levergun with a 34-round magazine at the local hardware store, or via US Mail.

    Small arms technology advanced *very* rapidly during the 1800s; often, by the time a design was evaluated, approved, funding was secured, production commenced, arms were accepted, and finally put into soldiers' hands, they were obsolete.


    > If one contemplates this, the Dutch could have had much newer arms produced for the newer smokeless powders.

    In fairness, a lot of countries were hanging on to tried-and-true black powder then. The British were still using it in the early batches of ammunition for their Lee-Enfields after the Beaumont was retired.


    > Would the Dutch have retained more of their empire?

    Probably not. The Dutch colonial holdings, like some others, depended mostly on keeping the conquered tribes at each others' throats, shifting favor from one to another to keep order. Once the colonists started cooperating, the disparity of manpower was too much to handle at a distance. Not to mention other European nations angling for the same territory...
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    Wow. I am so imbedded Military, that I look at comptempory weapons. Wow. Neat!
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    Quote Originally Posted by buckeye .45 View Post

    Is yours anywhere near firing condition if refurbished R&G
    I'd swab the bore and fire away. I'd say it's in better condition than guns I've seen at gunshows. I'll post some pics of my this afternoon or evening.
    Last edited by Rock and Glock; December 18th, 2014 at 05:29 PM.
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    "He went on two legs, wore clothes and was a human being, but nevertheless he was in reality a wolf of the Steppes. He had learned a good deal . . . and was a fairly clever fellow. What he had not learned, however, was this: to find contentment in himself and his own life. The cause of this apparently was that at the bottom of his heart he knew all the time (or thought he knew) that he was in reality not a man, but a wolf of the Steppes."

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    Interesting post and rifle sir. Thanks for sharing
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    Very cool indeed!
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    Wow that is a great rifle, can you post a picture of a cartridge too?
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    That is soooo cool!
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    The .43 / 11mm cartridge the Beaumont used was state-of-the-art for 1874. Most militaries had found that somewhere between .40 and .45 bore size with a straight or slightly-bottlenecked case worked well.

    Black powder wasn't bothered by heat or cold and was very consistent from batch to batch. Neither was a given with early smokless powders. Cleaning wasn't really an issue; primers were corrosive, so guns that had fired smokeless cartridges had to be thoroughly cleaned too.
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    11.3 mm = .44 caliber for those who are unfamiliar with the metric system. Small bore indeed!

    [Sorry TRX, I guess you type faster than I do.]
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    A bolt action musket! Thanks for posting, R&G. Very interesting.
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    A beautiful piece with a rich history.
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    Quote Originally Posted by RickyD View Post
    That is soooo cool!
    Yep, +1
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