Original French MLE 1866-74 M80 Brass Mounted Gras Camel Short Rifle by Tulle serial H10595 - dated 1870

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 Mle 1866 'Chassepot' Needle Fire rifle, and was then later converted to a Mle 1866-74 'Gras' Rifle. The left side of the receiver marked Tulle / M80 next to MLE 1866-74 indicating manufacture at the government arsenal at Tulle.

The rifle was then later shortened for colonial service and arsenal reworked. The original barrel was at some point swapped out, and it is marked S.1870 S.80 on the right side of the nocks form, indicating original manufacture as a Chassepot at the St.-Étienne Arsenal (S Is the St.-Étienne Prefix), and then converted to a Gras in 1880. It is not clear when the barrel was swapped out, or when it was converted for Colonial service.

To make things every MORE interesting, the right side of the barrel is also marked BELGIUM, with the "Tower of Liège" proof on the left side of both the receiver and barrel. There is also the well-known CROWN over E / L G / * in an oval marking from Liège as well. It is possible that the barrel was swapped out at that time, and that this carbine may have even seen service during WWI in Belgium. There is loads of history and research potential in this lovely little carbine!

The carbine still bears serial number H 10595 on the barrel, bayonet stand, and wooden stock. The bolt, which has its correct mounted troop's "turn down" bolt handle, is numbered F 6879 on all three parts. This bolt modification helped prevent the rifle snagging on the horse or camel's tack. The original rear sight has been replaced with the correct carbine rear sight.

Overall condition of the carbine is very good, having been serviced at arsenal. 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. There is some fouling and oxidation in the grooves, but no major rust or damage. 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!

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 favourite 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 licence 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.


Year of Manufacture: 1870 - converted 1880 and again later
Caliber:  11×59mmR Gras
Cartridge Type: Centerfire Cartridge
Barrel Length: 20Inches
Overall Length: 39 Inches
Action type: Bolt-Action
Feed System: Single Shot

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