Original French M1854 Lefaucheux Cavalry Model 12mm Rimfire Conversion Revolver - Serial 96782
Original Item: Only One Available. The Model 1854 Lefaucheux pinfire revolver was a large frame single action variant of this popular French pinfire system. The pistol was the first metallic-cartridge revolver adopted by a national government. Most were produced either at the state arsenal in St. Etienne (MAS), Liège, Belgium, or local producers under license. The revolver was sold to the civilian market as well. Most military models were produced only with single-action, whereas civilian models were made primarily with double action. This model revolver, as well as the later M1858 Navy, were imported in large numbers by both the North and South during the American Civil war.
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 solid example of a French-made gun, made by the designer Lafaucheux in Paris, France, intended for retail sale or export, and is in about VERY GOOD condition. The pistol follows the pattern standard French made M-1854 Lefaucheux single action military revolver design, however at some point the revolver was converted from pinfire to use 12mm RIMFIRE ammunition instead. The Cylinder ends was beveled to accept the rim of the cartridge, the slot where the hammer would rest was filled in, and the hammer was converted to rimfire, going through a newly drilled hole in the rear of the frame.
As before conversion, the bore measures 11.45mm groove to groove. The pistol is approximately 11 3/4" in overall length, with a 6 1/8" round barrel. The bore is rifled with six deep, narrow grooves with a very slow rate of twist, which almost appears straight. The bore shows rifling, but is worn, with some areas of corrosion visible.
The gun is marked on the right side of the frame with LF under a tiny gun logo, and also marked with serial number 96782 on the left side over the trigger, which is not part of the official Union contract for these guns.The top of the barrel is marked:
E. LEFAUCHEUX BRTE S.G D.G A PARIS
The pinfire system lent itself to relatively easy conversion to rimfire or even centerfire cartridges, as this one was. It was possibly a private purchased firearm, imported into the U.S. during the civil war, and then after the war as pinfire ammunition became unobtainable, it was converted to take rimfire cartridges. The conversion in this case left the slots for the "pins" on the cartridges intact, which can still be easily seen.
The revolver is in very good working condition and the original bright finish has faded to a nice patina. The cylinder and inside of the loading gate show signs of some type of paint or blued finish, applied during conversion. The revolver does cycle, but the action is worn and somewhat finicky, as the conversion was most likely not of the same quality as the original manufacture.
An unusual example of a French Revolver model that was imported in large numbers for use in America's most tragic war, converted for use in the late 19th century. Ready to display.
Year of Manufacture: circa 1860 - converted 1870-80s
Caliber: 12 mm
Ammunition Type: Rimfire Cartridge
Overall Length: 11 3/4 inches
Barrel Length: 6 1/8 inches
Action: Single Only
Feed System: 6 Shot Revolver
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