Today we'll look at one of my newly favored rifles - the Dutch Beaumont Vitali. It's a long story on how exactly I came to learn about the Beaumont, but I am glad that I did as today it is one of my favorite rifles. First we'll look at the history of the rifle a little bit, then move into specifications, and finally what makes it a great rifle to own.
A Brief Beaumont History:
The 1871/88 Beaumont - Vitali is an original 1871 Beaumont with the famous Vitali box magazine installed in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The original Beaumont 1871 was a single shot and when it came into service it had an outstanding repertoire for being an excellent rifle. Designed for the Dutch armed forces by Edouard De Beaumont, a rather strange and eccentric man, to replace the Dutch variant of the Snider-Enfield that had been in use in the previous few decades.
Two things happened during the lifespan of the Beaumont that played a significant role in its future - the creation of the 8mm Lebel and of the Vitali magazine feeding system. Vitali was a general in the Italian army and a impressive thinker when it came to the future of firearms. Vitali created a small and odd, yet rather beautiful, box magazine. Shortly after its creation the Swiss and Italian armies bought the rights and retro-fitted its current breach loading rifles with the new design - thereby giving them a substantial increase in firepower over other countries of the time. While the Dutch were slow to see the benifit they eventually adopted the Vitali and began the mass retro fitting of all the original Beaumont, now being called Beaumont-Vitalis.
The other event that took place during this time was the creation of the round that changed warfare, the 8mm Lebel. The 8mm Lebel was significant for two reasons. The first being that it was a smaller projectile than the standard military rounds of the day. Second, it was the first military cartridge adopted that used the newly invented smokeless powder. The combination of these two made for an extremely accurate, powerful, fast moving round that required more than a significant amount less of rifle cleaning and maintenance compared to black powder. While the Beaumont was originally designed fire black powder propelled projectiles they were re-configured to handle the increase in pressure from smokeless rounds when they had their Vitali magazines installed.
Specifications of the Beaumont Vitali 1871/88:
When the retro-fiting occurred the Beaumont was already significantly outdated due to the recent progressions in technology such as the 8mm Lebel. The original Beaumont cartridge was 11.3x50mm with a rimmed case, similar to a 50/90 Sharps. It held a 345 grain projectile and was propelled by black powder. To get the most energy it could from the rifle it used a 32.5 inch barrel. When the rifles were updated in the late 1880s they had changed the cartridge dimensions to 11.2x52mm, still using a rimmed case, but now using a small amount of smokeless powder. Similar to other cartridge designs during the time many people did not know how much power they could really get out of the smokeless powder so the effective power of the round did not change much.A really neat thing that I had noticed on the Beaumont rifles is how the sight markings were inscribed. As if from a right handed person's point of view, when looking at the left side of the sight you see sight markings that graduate every 100m. If you were to roll the rifle over counter clockwise to see the other side of the sight, you would notice that they are upright even thought the rifle is now inverted! The right side of the sight is incremented by 50m and this ingenious setup allows the rifle's user to quickly make adjustments within 50m accuracy with just the roll of the rifle - very cool stuff!
Why the Beaumont?
But why the Beaumont? What is so special about this rifle that has singled it out amongst so many other possible purchases or intrigue. To be honest, at first it was price. I had found one for $150 which unfortunately had been "sporterized" and completely sanitized of its historical value. After I had bought it I immediately felt terrible, being the lover of all guns historical. At that time I had the good fortunate of meeting a truly amazing guy who not only gave me a stellar deal on a Beaumont that he was selling but also told me all the history I could ever want to know about them (even how to reload for them)!
Speaking of reloading for the Beaumont, its the only way to go! With prices well over $90.00 plus shipping for a box of 20 newly crafted 11mm Dutch you have two choices, hang the gun on your wall or reload. I had no intention on letting this rifle collect dust so with the help of the previous owner I got all the information I needed to reload. With the rifle the previous owner included a handful of custom shells to reload with. These shells are an unholy combination of resized 45/70 Government brass which is then wrapped up in a cut down 32 gauge shot shell to fit snugly in the chamber. With this "brass" I loaded it with 57 grains of black powder, a regular large rifle primer, and capped it off with a 345 grain lead projectile.
These bad boys shot like a dream. Not too much kick, but just enough. The end specs of the cartridge shot from my rifle is close to: 345gr Lead Projectile, with 57gr of Triple Seven black powder substitute, producing around 1570fps and a similar muzzle energy near 1600 ft-lbs.
In the end, the most simple and unthoughtful reason I could give for my extreme passion towards the Beaumont is the history it holds. I could go on and on about the many different aspects that make this rifle special but it would take books.
I hope you enjoyed this installment of the Ann Arbor Gun Guys! Check back for some reviews on the C-93 (semi-auto version of the HK33) and a new AK74 built by Lancaster Arms.