Original U.S. Civil War French M1854 Lefaucheux Cavalry Model 12mm Pinfire Revolver - Serial Number 34782
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 serial number 34304 is within the range of numbers of the revolvers imported to the USA during the Civil War (25,000-37,000).
The 1854 model 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 earlier M1854, 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 Local Contractor-made gun made under contract to Lafaucheux in 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 pinfire revolver and is chambered for the 12mm variant of the round. The bore measures 11.45mm groove to groove, with the chambers measuring 11.47mm at the front and 12.10mm at the rear. 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 crisp rifling, and is partially bright, though there is a bit of fouling. Only real issue is that the loading gate at the rear of the cylinder has been lost to the ages. We were not able to find a replacement.
The gun bears an LF marking next to serial number 34304 on the left side over the trigger, indicating that this pistol was made by the Le Faucheux company itself. This serial number fits nicely into the Union contracts for this gun. The left side of the frame under the cylinder is marked with the manufacturer information (INvr stands for Inventeur):
INvr. [E. LEFAUCHEUX]
The marking is a bit faded, but we know from other examples what the complete marking should read.
The Pin Fire Cartridge had a pin protruding from it's side which when in the revolver's cylinder extended outside the cylinder wall. When struck by the hammer pushing the pin into the cartridge the internal primer was ignited and the cartridge discharged. This process was a lot faster and easier than muzzle loading and capping as were the standard Army Percussion revolvers of the day. Despite this convenience the revolver was not a success, it was considered not rugged enough for Military Service and accidental discharge of the cartridges before being loaded into the weapon became a serious problem.
The revolver is in very good working condition and has a nice bright finish, as originally issued. An unusual example of a French Revolver model that was imported in large numbers for use in America's most tragic war, with a serial number that fits right into that story. Ready to display.
Year of Manufacture: circa 1860
Caliber: 12 mm Lefaucheux
Ammunition Type: Pinfire 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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