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Original French MLE 1866-74 M80 Brass Mounted Gras Camel Short Rifle by St. Étienne Serial F 92655 - dated 1871

Regular price $895.00

Item Description

Original Item: Only One Available. This lovely little brass mounted CAMEL SHORT RIFLE / CARBINE was issued for "Colonial Service", as indicated by the brass mounts, and it definitely has had a long and interesting history! This carbine was actually originally produced as a Modèle 1866 'Chassepot' Needle Fire rifle, and was then later converted to a Mle 1866-74 'Gras' Rifle. The left side of the receiver marked St. Étienne / M80 next to MLE 1866-74 indicating manufacture at the government arsenal at St. Étienne. The right side of the barrel is dated with S.1871, indicating the year of original manufacture as a Chassepot, and next to this is S.1877, indicating the year that it was converted to an Mle 1866-74 Gras Rifle, also at St. Étienne. The M80 indicates further updates to the rifle.

The rifle was then later shortened for colonial service and arsenal reworked, though it is a bit different than most. This example was only shortened by about 6 inches, and it is fitted with all brass fittings of three barrel bands, trigger guard, and butt plate. It was not fitted with a bayonet stand, and the stock was not exactly well fitted, so there is some wood filler around the trigger guard. Additionally, the wrist of the rifle is inlaid with TWO French Two Franc coins clearly marked R.F. (Republique Francais).

Remember the famous French Train Movie which highlighted the use of TWO FRANC pieces being used in the lubricating system to seize the apparatus? The Germans knew what had happened and exposed the train engineers involved and shot them when finding the oil soaked coins in their pockets. The Workers replied before being executed "TWO FRANCS IS TWO FRANCS". There is loads of history and research potential in this lovely little carbine!

The carbine still bears serial number F 92655 on the barrel, while the other components are all non-matching, typical of arsenal refitted rifles. The bolt has the correct mounted trooper's "turn down" bolt handle, which this bolt modification helped prevent the rifle snagging on the horse or camel's tack. The original rear sight has been replaced with some type of non-standard ladder sight.

Overall condition of the carbine is very good considering the age, with the metalwork overall showing a matte steel patina often achieved by cleaning the exterior with the desert sand. There are dents and some cracks in the stock, as well as the previously mentioned wood filler around the trigger guard. The metalwork looks to have been refinished, and the stock is in great shape, with just a bit of wear and no major issues. It does however have the expected dents, scratches, and chips expected on a weapon that was in service for decades. The bore is in very good condition, with strong lands and grooves and a partly bright finish on the lands. There is some fouling and oxidation in the grooves, as well as some past pitting, now cleaned away. The carbine cycles well, with a strong dry fire.

Remember GARY COOPER in "BEAU GESTE" about the French Foreign Legion? In really good condition, fully cleaned and ready to display, all you need is a Camel!


Year of Manufacture: 1871 - converted 1877 and again later
Caliber: 11×59mmR Gras
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 27 1/2 Inches
Overall Length: 46 Inches
Action type: Bolt-Action
Feed System: Single Shot

History of the Gras rifle:

A caliber of 11mm and used black powder centerfire cartridges that weighed 25 grams. It was a robust and hard-hitting weapon, but it had no magazine and so could only fire one shot after loading. It also had a triangular-shaped sword bayonet, known as the Model 1874 "Gras" Sword Bayonet. It was replaced by the Lebel rifle in 1886, the first rifle to use smokeless gunpowder. In the meantime, about 400,000 Gras rifles had been manufactured.

The metallic-cartridge Gras was manufactured in response to the development of the metallic cartridge designed by Colonel Boxer in 1866 (Boxer cartridge), and the British 1870 Martini-Henry rifle. Those were soon emulated by the Germans with the 1871 Mauser.

The Hellenic Army adopted the Gras in 1877, and it was used in all conflicts up until the Second World War. It became the favorite weapon of Greek guerrilla fighters, from the various revolts against the Ottoman Empire to the resistance against the Axis, acquiring legendary status. The name entered the Greek language, and Grades (γκράδες) was a term colloquially applied to all rifles during the first half of the 20th century. It was manufactured by Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne, one of several government-owned arms factories in France. However most of the Gras rifles (60,000) used by the Hellenic military were manufactured under license by Steyr in Austria.

The Gras rifle was partly the inspiration for the development of the Japanese Murata rifle, Japan's first locally-made service rifle.

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