Original French MLE 1874 M80 Brass Mounted Gras Camel Short Rifle by St. Étienne - dated 1881
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 was originally produced as a MLE1874 "Gras" rifle, and later shortened for colonial service. The left side of the receiver marked MANUFACTURE D'ARMES / St. Étienne / M80 next to Mle 1874 indicating manufacture at the government arsenal at St. Étienne. The rifle has arsenal proofs on most parts, and also is marked S.1881, indicating original manufacture in 1881 (S Is the St. Étienne Prefix).
The short rifle retains its serial numbers of F 93779 on the barrel, bayonet stand and stock. The bolt, which has its correct mounted troop's "turn down" bolt handle, is numbered B 2462. This bolt modification helped prevent the rifle snagging on the horses tack. The weapon still retains the bayonet stand, which were usually removed, and does have its correct "short" adjustable rear sight still in place.
Overall condition of this short rifle is good, with a lot of the blued finish on the steel components still intact. Bore is excellent, bright with crisp lands and grooves, and little sign that it was ever used. The stock has the expected dents, scratches, and chips as expected of a weapon that was in service for decades. It was sanded down at arsenal, so a lot of these were removed, and there do not appear to be any major cracks or other damage. Really quite nice looking.
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: 1881
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
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