|Action||Rotation Bolt||Barrel Length||32.7″|
|Magazine||4 rnd fixed box||Weight||10 lbs|
The Beaumont-Vitali was the first Dutch bolt action and featured a unique spring setup in the handle. In 1888 it saw some updates before finally being replaced with a true smokeless rifle.
In 1871 the world was still shooting black powder, but had already moved into single shot cartridges in breach loaded rifles. When the Dutch sought out their first bolt action they tested a number of advanced designs, but ultimately selected an amalgam rifle designed at home. This somewhat controversial rifle was introduced by Edouard de Beaumont and bears striking resemblance to two contemporary rifles. It’s overall shape and configuration were clearly inspired by the Chassepot, but the action is strikingly similar to an experimental rifle known as the Norris-Mauser, especially its mainspring configuration.
The Beaumont action uses a rotating bolt with fixed bolt head, the handle drops in place to provide the only locking surface. It is cock-on-open and the cocking piece itself has no texture surface for manual re-cocking. Most interestingly, the mainspring is not a coil type, but a flat spring nested inside the bolt handle. This may have been an attempt to avoid using a coil spring due to manufacturing costs but ultimately worked against the rifle, making carbines and other bent-bolt modifications impossible. This same spring can be seen on the later Murata rifles. Originally the Beaumont included a safety on the right side of the action but these were omitted and later removed by the late 1870’s due to their cumbersome operation. You can still see the remnants on some models as a faint circle on the bulging form on the right side of the receiver, behind the bolt handle. Model 1871 Beaumonts were also single shot rifles with no provision for a magazine.
After the adoption of the Lebel Mle.1886, an arms race began. While the Beaumont’s single locking handle was too weak to support conversion to smokeless powder, it still had to soldier on. As a stop-gap nod to progress, the 1870’s were re-manufactured to include a four-round, fixed box magazine designed by Giuseppe Vitali and adopted by Italy in order to update their own single-shot Vetterli rifles. This new Vitali magazine was loaded from a four-round charger which was inserted whole into the magazine and then yanked back out (now emptied) by an attached string. The addition of the magazine also included a magazine cut-off lever on the left side of the receiver. This new model 71/88 also included an added ejector, drilled gas escape holes in the receiver for blown cases, and improved sights.
Overall the Beaumont-Vitali is usually not a readily recognized rifle, but they can be quite stunning to see on display. They are long and heavy, with sleek, French-inspired lines. They served right up to and slightly beyond the adoption of the M1895 Mannlicher and represent one of the last of the black powder rifles.
Special thanks goes out to Carolina Arms and Ammo for sharing this piece with us and all of you!