Original Civil War Era French Lefaucheux 11mm Engraved Pinfire Revolver - Serial Number 273616
Original Item: Only One Available. The Lefaucheux pinfire system revolvers were very popular private purchase items during the U.S. Civil War, particularly for Confederate officers, who did not have access to the pistols produced by the North. They had to turn to imported firearms for their sidearm, and the pinfire pistol was one of the best out there at the time. These private purchase examples were more heavily ornamented than the military issue, and issued in double action as opposed to single. They were available in various different calibers ranging from the large 11 and 12 mm down to 7mm or so.
In many ways the large bore martial pinfire revolver, based upon the patents of Casimir and Eugene Lefaucheux was one of the most modern and advanced military handguns to see use on the battlefield during the American Civil War. Thousands of these pinfire revolvers were imported for use by US troops, and at least a few hundred saw service with Confederate troops as well. Although US government purchases only record about 13,000 M-1858 Lefaucheux patent pin fire revolvers as being officially purchased (along with over 2.2 million cartridges), surviving examples and regimental records indicate that far more than that were imported. The primary importer of M-1854 revolvers was George Schuyler who purchased 10,000 Lefaucheux revolvers for the US government. Most of Schuyler's purchases appear to have been made directly from Lefaucheux in Paris. However, extant examples with American Civil War provenance indicate that many Belgian licensed copies were also imported during the war.
The Ordnance Department did not appear to differentiate between the French and Belgian made versions, much like they often lumped French and Belgian made muskets together without any distinction at all. Other importers who provided pinfire revolvers to the US government included Herman Boker, Schuyler, Hartley & Graham, George Raphael (who provided the Raphael revolvers to the US), Alexis Godillot of Paris (who provided the Perrin revolvers to the US) and even Tiffany & Company. Period documentation indicates that pinfire revolvers saw significant use by Confederate soldiers as, and many deep south arsenals maintained inventories pin fire cartridges and even offered the pistols for sale to officers.
However, the use of pin fire revolvers by the North and South was not limited to the 12mm military guns. Many men took privately owned, "civilian" pattern pin fire revolvers into the field. It is not uncommon for relic diggers to find 7mm, 9mm as well as the more common 12mm pinfire cartridges in known Civil War campsites. Excavated and recovered pinfire revolvers are known from these campsites as well, and at least one privately owned 9mm pinfire was recovered from the wreck of the USS Cairo gunboat, and is on display at Vicksburg National Military Park.
This pistol is a nice example made by E. Lefaucheux itself in France, intended for retail sale or export, and is in about good display condition. The side of the cylinder is marked with CROWN / E L / 6 9, one of the usual proof marks seen on those made by the designer. The pistol follows the pattern standard French made M-1858 Lefaucheux Navy model pinfire revolver, however it is chambered in the smaller 11mm size.
The pistol is approximately 10 1/2" in overall length, with a 5 1/2" round barrel. The bore is rifled with six deep, narrow grooves with a standard rate of twist, unlike the standard military versions. The bore shows crisp rifling, and is mostly bright, with only a few areas of oxidation. The loading gate is present and functional.
The gun bears serial number 273616 on the left side of the frame under the cylinder. The left side of the barrel nocks form is marked with the manufacturer license information. (INvr stands for Inventeur):
There are also various proof marks on components of the revolver.
The Pin Fire Cartridge had a pin protruding from it's side which when in the revolver's cylinder extended outside the cylinder wall. When struck by the hammer pushing the pin into the cartridge the internal primer was ignited and the cartridge discharged. This process was a lot faster and easier than muzzle loading and capping as were the standard Army Percussion revolvers of the day. Despite this convenience the revolver was not a success, it was considered not rugged enough for Military Service and accidental discharge of the cartridges before being loaded into the weapon became a serious problem.
The revolver is in partially working condition, and currently only works in double action only. This requires a very strong trigger pull to get it to fire, after which the trigger needs to be moved forward manually, so the internal mechanics definitely need work. The ejector is still present and functional, however the front sight from the barrel has been lost. This is a prime candidate for restoration, with the lovely engraving on the frame and cylinder.
An unusual example of a French Privately Purchased Pinfire Revolver, which were imported in large numbers for use in America's most tragic war. Ready to display!
Year of Manufacture: circa 1860
Caliber: 11 mm Lefaucheux
Ammunition Type: Pinfire Cartridge
Overall Length: 10 1/2 inches
Barrel Length: 5 1/2 inches
Action: Double Only (Needs Work)
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
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