The Beaumont M1871 (Dutch: Beaumontgeweer) was a Dutch breech-loading single-shot bolt action rifle designed by Edouard de Beaumont in 1868 and produced by various manufacturers from 1869 to 1880. Designed as a replacement for the Dreyse needle guns the Dutch were using at the time, the Beaumont was one of the first major European metallic cartridge rifles to see any sort of adoption.
During the 1860s, the Dutch were using old flintlock and percussion lock rifles, and needed a new modern weapon to arm their soldiers; to temporarily stand in for new rifles, the old Dutch rifles were converted to use the Snider breechloading system, following in the footsteps of the British. The Dutch also used Dreyse needle rifles during this time.
To find a new and more modern rifle, the Dutch decide to conduct tests to find a new breechloading rifle. Breechloading rifles of the Peabody, Remington, Cooper, Comblain, Jenks and Benson-Poppenburg patents were tested, but ultimately, the Dutch decided to go with a design by Edouard de Beaumont, based in Maastricht. The rifles were mostly produced in the De Beaumont-Soleil workshops in Maastricht, started by de Beaumont and his business partner, Luikerwaal Soleil; he however also outsourced production to various German factories in Suhl, including Simson & Co., Gebrüder Luck, Friedrich Göbel & Co. and Richard Bornmüller & Co. Various versions of the weapon were also produced by Koninklijke Wapenfabriek Petrus Stevens, also based in Maastricht, and by J.F.J. Bar based in Delft.
The rifle was adopted in 1871 by the Royal Dutch East Indies Army. The rifle was initially generally well liked by the soldiers who used it; this liking eventually eroded due to the rifle's lack of a magazine and it being too long and rather cumbersome to use, especially in hot conditions. By the 1880s, the rifle was becoming obsolete, as well as the single-shot rifle as a whole, with many replacing their rifles with newer and more modern magazine-fed rifles or converting old rifles to use magazines. By this time, those who use the Beaumont rifle apparently despised it. Production of the rifle ended in 1880 with some 138,000 produced.
Many countries employed single-shot rifles such as the Martini-Henry that would be impossible to easily convert to multi-shot versions; the Beaumont rifle was not considered one of those weapons, and in 1886, the Dutch War Ministry appointed a commission to assist in gathering information on magazine-fed repeating rifles. The evaluation process for a magazine-fed rifle was in no way considered a short-term task, and a short-term stopgap solution was considered.
After testing various magazine conversions for single-shot rifles, the committee ultimately settled on a box magazine conversion designed by Italian designer Giuseppe Vitali. de Beaumont undertook the conversions himself from about 1888, purchasing the old Wapenfabriek Petrus Stevens facilities to do the conversions himself. The resulting rifles, the M1870/87 Beaumont-Vitali, were adopted in 1888, although the opinion of the Beaumont rifles as a whole didn't change and they were apparently still generally despised. Various rifles were also converted to .22 Long Rifle for indoor target practice; these rifles were known as KSO rifles (Kamer Schiet Oefening, lit. "room shooting practice"). Others were re-modified with sliding bayonets placed in the barrels for soldiers to practice fencing.
The Beaumont-Vitali rifles were retracted from frontline service in 1895 to be replaced by Dutch Mannlichers. Most rifles were handled over to the militia, where they would be used until 1907. Most of the rifles rejected by the military would also be converted to smoothbore shotguns. The KSO rifles and the "fencing guns" would be used until 1940.
The Beaumont is a single-shot breech-loading bolt-action rifle. The rifle uses a split bridge action with a single-lug rotating bolt. The rear end of the striker is smooth and as such the rifle cannot be easily decocked and can only be cocked on opening the bolt. The bolt head is fitted with an extractor, but not an ejector. The bolt head is made of two pieces and is screwed into the bolt by a single screw fitted on the top of the bolt body.
Early versions of the Beaumont feature a trigger-shaped safety which locked the bolt in position; it was mounted on the side of the receiver. When rotated, a spring-loaded pin fit into the detent of the bolt when it was half-open. This safety system was abandoned on later versions. The mainspring arrangement of the weapon is said to be quite distinct. The rifles had provisions for a bayonet.
The rifle used the 11.4×51mm Danish and the 11.3×50mmR Beaumont rounds.
Version of the M1871 chambered for the new 11×52mm Beaumont cartridge.
- M1873 Colonial rifle
Almost identical to the M1871 but featured a "burned" finish to prevent corrosion.
- M1873 Naval rifle
Featured shorter handguard and different mounting points for a naval bayonet.
Cadet rifle intended for training use.
Rifle intended for practice at shooting ranges.
- "Fencing rifle"
Rifle intended for soldiers to use for bayonet fencing practice. Updated to become longer to match the length of the Dutch Mannlichers when the Mannlichers were adopted.
The Beaumont had numerous magazine-fed conversions, involving tubular magazines, box magazines or something of the sort.
Version with four-round internal box magazine designed by Italian designer Giuseppe Vitali. Adopted in 1888 as a stopgap solution to finding a magazine rifle.