Original French MAS Modèle 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne 11mm Service Revolver Serial Number H123

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This is a wonderful condition very interesting example of the service revolver Modèle 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne, which was the first double-action revolver used by the French Army. It was produced by Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne from 1873 to 1887. Although replaced by the Model 1892 revolver, it was nevertheless widely used during the First World War, and issued to reserve units in 1940. The Resistance made widespread use of it during the Occupation. Both the 1873 and the 1874 use a 11mm cartridge which proved to have an insufficient velocity. The weapons themselves were very reliable and resistant.

This very good mechanically sound example looks to have been manufactured in a blued finish, with other parts case hardened, a finish we have not seen before. It is possible that it was arsenal refinished in the late 19th century to match the later Lebel revolvers, but it also has other interesting features that set it apart from other example we have handled.

It is marked M're de S't Étienne on the right side of the frame, which is different from the usual "Mre d'Armes Saint-Étienne" marking. It features all matching serial number H 123 on the barrel, frame, trigger guard, trigger, hammer, and cylinder arbor pin. The rear of the cylinder, arbor pin latch, screws, trigger, and other small parts are marked with assembly number 23. That makes this a very desirable "ALL MATCHING" example, with no parts swapped out over the years.

The top of the barrel is marked Mle 1873, however there is no date on the right side of the barrel, something we have not seen before. It does not look to have been removed, and the "H" series serial numbers were being used circa 1878 to 1883. The revolver was only produced until 1887, so it is definitely a Pre-1899 Antique firearm, even without a date. We assume that the differences in markings, finish, and lack of a date indicate that this may be a "private purchase" or commercial example of the revolver, something that we have not had before!

The checkered wooden grips are original and the overall condition of the revolver is very good. Most of the dark blued finish is still retained, with wear in the usual areas. The bore is in excellent condition, with clear lands and grooves and a bright finish, showing little sign of use, just a few spots of oxidation. The lanyard ring is still present, and is not damaged or dented. The action works well, with good cylinder lockup and indexing. The loading gate is present and fully functional, as is the ejector rod. The revolver breaks down correctly for cleaning as well.

You may recall that a pair of these revolvers were carried in shoulder holsters by Brendan Fraser in his 1999 adventure film "THE MUMMY".

A great chance to own a very nice and very interesting example of a late 19th century French Service Revolver, ready to display!

Specifications of MAS model 73

Year of Manufacture: circa 1879
Length: 240 mm (9.5 inches)
Barrel length: 115 mm (4.5 inches)
Finish: Bright Steel
Weight (empty): 1.04 kg
Cylinder: 6 cartridges
Ammunition: 11 mm Mle 1873 (11x17mmR)
Rifling: 4 right-hand grooves
Operation: Double Action / Single Action

History of the MAS 1873

The Franco-Prussian War in 1870 clearly demonstrated the need for up-to-date equipment in war time. A great military tradition and esprit de corps can be defeated by superior training, and in the case of that war, artillery. After the war, both Germany and France continued to improve their military technology. However, neither side was convinced of the importance of pistols for field officers. The sword continued to be the symbol of authority for an officer on the battlefield all the way into World War I. European general staffs at that time were extremely conservative and pistols were sometimes grudgingly adopted as personal defense weapons with no practical offensive use. Even as pistols became more of a symbol of the officer, most preferred to privately purchase a smaller and more comfortable handgun instead of using a large standard issue revolver.

The Chamelot-Delvigne 11mm Modele 1873 was adopted by the French army as a service revolver for non-commissioned officers. The Modele 1874 Revolver d'Officier was the version issued to officers. The differences between the two models included the following: the 1873 was finished in the white, whereas the 1874 had a fluted cylinder and a blued finish. The 1873 and 1874 were the first center-fire cartridge revolvers adopted by the French army. They had solid-frame, side-ejection, double-action mechanisms. The pistols were manufactured by the St. Etienne armoury, which still continues to manufacture fine sporting arms.

The design of the Chamelot-Delvigne revolvers became so popular that versions were adopted by the Belgian in 1871, Dutch, Italian, and 1872 in Switzerland with the Model 1872 Revolver.

The caliber of these French pistols was 11x17.8mmR. The French round was actually 0.47 mm larger than its German counterpart. The German round could be loaded and used in the French pistol, but French rounds would not chamber in the German pistol. The cartridge had a pointed lead bullet weighing 11 grams. The case length was 17.8 mm, which was rather on the short side. Reloading this cartridge could take some patience due to the shortness of the case. Military specifications called for black powder loads, replaced by a mild smokeless powder in the early twentieth century. Standard muzzle velocity was around 550 feet per second.

The cylinder had a side-loading gate which pulled straight to the rear. The sight picture was a ball and v type and is easy to align. It could be difficult to stay on target double-action due to the stiffness of the action. There was certainly no danger of accidentally pulling the trigger double-action. Cleaning and disassembly were easy as the cylinder pin doubled as a screwdriver and all-purpose tool. Internal parts were finely machined and finished. The trigger, hammer, and several of the internal springs were straw-finished, a type of case-hardening hot oil finish.

The French pistols began their service with the French army in the late 19th Century and saw service all over the globe in French colonies. Many saw service in World War I when European armies finally realized how important pistols were in the trenches. The Chamelot-Delvigne finally ended its venerable service as a police sidearm in World War II.

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