M1871 Beaumont Rifle

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the city of Maastricht was well known for its manufacturing of weapons. The gunsmiths of Maastricht particularly focused on the production of military pistols and rifles (Widdershoven, 2007). One of their rifles that was developed in the year 1869 by Edouard de Beaumont, is the M1871 Beaumont (Leger Museum, 2014), which is presented to you on this page in a digital manner. 

3D model of the M1871 Beaumont Rifle

This rifle is largely made of walnut wood and metallic elements, that give it stability and strength appropriate to its purpose. The gunsmiths of Maastricht were well-known for their solid craftsmanship (Widdershoven, 2007). 

This object belongs to the following themes:



Place of Origin
Maastricht, The Netherlands

Time Period of Use (ca.)
1871 – 1900 CE

Walnut & Steel

Dimensions (cm)
Length: 130, Width: 10, Height: 16

3D Model

iPhone 13

Processing software
Agisoft Metashape Professional Edition

Ausma Gabriele Minkauskaite &
Deborah Helmich

Jumping the gun to the 19th century Maastricht

It is fair to say that M1871 bears many stories and symbolic value to its name. As this rifle was produced in Maastricht and used by the Dutch army, it represents the weapon industry of the city in the 19th century (Chello, 2010). While there is little to none information regarding the exact use of this particular rifle, the mass production of the rifle alow once to grasp the overall importance of such an object. This blog post will explore the overall meaning of the gun and its significance to Maastricht’s weapon industry. The Beaumont M1871 rifle is presented to you virtually on this page to introduce the firearm production of Maastricht in the past centuries.

M1871 Beaumont Rifle

Limburg gunsmith industry through time

The firearm production of Maastricht can be traced back to the 16th century when the citizens increasingly felt the need to equip themselves with weapons (Widdershoven, 2007). Whether they were used to defend the city walls of Maastricht in the Middle Ages, or for police matters as the times progressed, the demand for these weapons was high in the past centuries (Widdershoven, 2007). In fact, the gunsmiths of Maastricht can be counted among the best in the world, as well-known manufacturers have emerged from a long line of family traditions from the Koster, De Lahaye and Beaumont (Van Os, 2006). Here, we explore the M1871, a Dutch Military weapon from 1869, invented by Edouard de Beaumont, which still carries a plethora of significance now, just as it did in the 19th century. The Armed forces of the Netherlands have actively used it from the year 1871 until 1895. At the time the Dutch had a separate army for their colonial conquests, the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army that used this model up until the 1900s (Leger Museum, 2016). Although the rifle first appeared to be quite practical and modern at the time, it eventually lost popularity within the East Indies Army, as it proved to be impractical due to its weight and size, especially in warm and tropical conditions (Total War Centre Forums, 2017). This ended the short, yet significant lifespan of the M1871. 

Characteristics and materials

For most it is hard to imagine what a rifle of this age and size would feel like in your own hands. Usually seen behind museum glass or digital collections, it is hard to conceptualize the weight and dimension of such items. The frightening power and many stories embedded in the ‘nooks and crannies’ of the M1871 allowed us to investigate its size and weight during the digitization process. Considering the fact that soldiers are already carrying heavy equipment during their duty, the rifle signifies an additional burden with its weight of up to 4,4  kilograms, depending on the rifle’s exact configuration. But it was not only the weight that made the rifle an unhandy object to carry during long marches. Particularly, the length of 1,3 meters reveals how physically straining it must have been to carry such an object around for a long time. The painting “Transport of the Colonial soldiers” shows 70 000 soldiers from the Royal Dutch East Indies Army walking across the Konningsbrug in Rotterdam starting their journey to the Dutch East Indies. 

Colonial soldiers in Rotterdam / Image Source

Although the exact question of the usage and life cycle of this rifle is yet to be answered, while digitizing the rifle we noticed its visible minutiae (scratches and dents on the rifle), which indicated to us that this object has many stories to tell and may have possibly been used by a soldier in the past. Details of wear and tear (such as residue of rust) also reveal the age of this rifle that must have appeared throughout the years.

Rifles from the 19th century were often made of wooden and metal parts (Johnson, 1986). The rifle displayed here, is mainly made up of walnut wood just as noble and base metals. These materials were common at the time as lighter materials were not robust enough; it also allows you to also get a better sense of how these materials impacted the weight.

City coat of arms stamp

In order to allocate the rifle to its manufacturer, the models that were produced in Maastricht were engraved with the traditional city coat of arms (stamp), which the 3D model likewise depicts. 

Wealth and death – the symbol behind Maastricht’s gun industry

As briefly mentioned above, the presented object is a symbol of Maastricht’s long history of firearm production. It not only played a role in power and politics, the M1871 and Beaumont rifles were a token of Dutch status, wealth and imperial power.

In the 17-18th centuries, most gunsmiths of Maastricht had their workshops in the Sporenstraat, as the street was closely located to the city walls at the time (Widdershoven, 2007). In general, Maastricht’s geographic location offered many advantages for the local gunsmiths. As the city is closely located to Belgium and Germany, the craftsmen were able to buy certain materials and entire parts from the neighbouring countries, so they would only have to assemble them. This allowed easy access to bartering, as well as sourcing materials and mass production. This strategic aspect increased the demand and Maastricht’s weapon industry to high demand – it was often the case that buyers purchased an average of 330 units of any given model (Widdershoven, 2007). Additionally, the imperial Dutch nature and being on the ocean side allowed them to easily supply their colonies (especially to colonies in continental Africa) with lower-end, mass-produced weapons (Grant, 2012). That increased the empire’s status, power and politics locally (Europe-wise), as well as globally. 

In contrast to regular military weapons, the Maastricht gunsmiths specialized in luxury weapons that were elaborately produced, while using high-quality and exotic materials that were found during colonial conquests and brought to the Netherlands by sea. Among the material of these luxury weapons were ivory, nacre but also bones (Widdershoven, 2007). Metallic components of the weapons were artistically engraved and decoratively embellished with mythological drawings. Though, wood and ivory parts were manufactured by professional carvers, in order to give the weapon this particular artistic appearance. Only master gunsmiths and very limited guilds produced such items and were allowed to even touch these materials. In contrast to the military weapons, which were used by soldiers during wars, these luxury weapons were mostly used as a status symbol (Widdershoven, 2007).

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Luxury weapons produced in Maastricht


All in all, this antique rifle from the 19th century symbolically represents the former firearm production of Maastricht. The Maastricht gunsmiths were known all across the globe for their long-established, traditional family craftsmanship and high-quality products. The presented rifle, the M1871, was designed by Edouard de Beaumont and used by the Dutch armies. As this blog post has shown, this item is rather a special piece in the collection and is a great symbol of the impressive firearm industry of Maastricht. Whether it was a symbol of status, novelty and luxury for the royal and the rich, or a symbol of power and mass-production of the army, this item adds immense value to the collection. We hope that the 3D model continues to carry the M1871 legacy and symbols across time. 

Written by Ausma Gabriele Minkauskaite & Deborah Helmich