Belgian M1854 Lefaucheux 12mm Pinfire Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2158
- Availability: Out Of Stock
In many ways the large bore marital pinfire revolver, based upon the patents of Casimir and Eugene Lefaucheux was one of the most modern and advanced 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 (and quite probably many more) saw service with Confederate troops as well. Although US government purchases only record about 13,000 M1854 Lefaucheux patent pinfire 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 M1854 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 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, in much the same way that 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 also provided the Model 1860 Pidault-Cordier “Raphael” revolvers to the US), Alexis Godillot of Paris (who also provided the Perrin revolvers to the US) and even Tiffany & Company. US cavalry units that received significant numbers of pinfire revolvers included the 5thIL, 2nd& 5thKS, 6thKY, 8thMO, 1stWI and the 9thMO State Militia Cavalry. The Springfield Research Service serial number books list the serial numbers for 69 Lefaucheux revolvers that were in the possession of Company B of the 9thMissouri State Militia Cavalry during 1863. These 69 revolvers range from serial number 33,895 through 42,522. This 9,000+ range of serial numbers within a single company of US cavalry makes it relatively easy to extrapolate that Lefaucheux revolvers within the 25,XXX through at least the 45,XXX range are within the realistic realm of US purchased revolvers that saw use during the Civil War. However, it is equally clear that any pistols with a lower serial number could easily have seen use during the war as well.
Confederate units under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest had at least a few hundred of these revolvers in their possession in late 1864. A May 25, 1864 Ordnance Report from Meridian, Mississippi by Forrest showed his 1stDivision in possession of 190 French Pistols and his 3rdDivision in possession of another 160. It is almost certain that these French Pistolswere Lefaucheux patent revolvers. Additionally, in 1864, the Selma Arsenal was offering Lefaucheux revolvers for sale to Confederate officers at a price of $25 each, including 12 cartridges. In August of 1864, the Selma Arsenal listed the following pistol ammunition in their inventory “For French Pistol (LeFaucheux) caliber .472k – 52,800 rounds”. This is a very clear indication that CS Ordnance Department was actively trying to keep ammunition available for a decent number of Lefaucheux revolvers in the field. Using the theory that the CS Ordnance Department was trying to maintain an inventory of between 20 and 50 rounds per pistol, this would indicate they were trying to keep between 1,056 and 2,640 pistols supplied from Selma alone.
This pistol is a solid example of a Belgian made Lefaucheux revolver, intended for retail sale or export, and is in about VERY GOOD+ condition. The pistol follows the pattern of the standard French made M1854 Lefaucheux single action military pinfire revolver and is chambered for the 12mm variant of the round. The bore measures 11.00mm groove to groove, with the chambers measuring 11.45mm at the front and 12.00mm at the rear. The pistol is approximately 11 ½” in overall length, with a 6 3/8” round barrel that has a 1 1/8” long octagonal section where the barrel meets the frame. The bore is rifled with six deep, narrow grooves with a moderate rate of right hand twist.
The left side of the frame/barrel juncture is marked in two horizontal lines:
Which translates to E. Lefaucheux invention & patent. The cylinder is marked with a crisp E / LG / * within an oval, which was established as a Liège, Belgium black powder proof mark in during the early 19thcentury and remained their black powder proof through the 1890s. The cylinder also shows a clear (CROWN) / Y mark below the proof, which was Liège proof house controller mark from 1853-1877. The right side of the barrel lug is stamped with another (CROWN) / Y controller’s mark, and with a (CROWN) / JL mark. This is likely the mark of the maker of the gun and could be the mark of J. Lejeune who worked in Liège during the mid-19thcentury. The lower left side of the frame is marked with the serial number 38518. The left side of the frame/barrel juncture is marked in two horizontal lines. The assembly number 17 is found stamped on the rear face of the barrel web, on the rear face of the cylinder, on the face of the recoil shield and in both grips, apparently written in chalk.
The pistol retains about 20%+ of its original blued finish, most of which is on the cylinder and the barrel web. The remaining blue shows thinning and wear, with some even plum patina forming where the finish has worn. The barrel retains essentially no finish with a mottled and oxidized brownish gray patina. The frame retains about 50%+ of its original vivid color casehardened finish, with fading and dulling, along with some scattered flecks of surface oxidation. The metal surfaces are predominately smooth, with only some scattered areas of minor surface oxidation and freckling, mostly on the barrel, which shows some minor surface roughness here and there and some scattered pinpricking. The action of the revolver functions correctly, with the cocking of the hammer properly rotating and indexing the cylinder and the trigger releasing the hammer as it should when it is pulled. The only somewhat questionable mechanical issue is that the lock up of the cylinder when the hammer is at full cock is not 100%. While the cylinder will not counter rotate at full-cock, it can be manually advanced when in that position, suggesting the bolt stop is worn. The bore of the revolver is in about FINE condition. It shows crisp rifling, and is mostly bright and shiny, with some lightly scattered oxidation and some light pitting along its length. The original loading gate is present and functions correctly, although the small catch that locks it shut is broken and missing. This is a minor issue and is not uncommon as these parts are delicate and are often broken or missing from the gates the M1854 revolvers encountered today. The original ejector rod is present on the right side of the frame and functions exactly as it should. The original sights are present as well. The rear sight consists of a notch in the nose of the pinfire hammer, much like the rear sight of many Colt percussion revolvers. The front sight is a dovetailed triangle near the muzzle that is normally topped with a small barley corn bead. In this case the small bead is broken and missing, again a not uncommon situation with these revolvers as the bead is small and delicate and easily broken. The original stationary lanyard ring is securely in place in the bottom of the grip. All of the screws and original and remain in relatively crisp condition with only some minor slot wear on a couple of the heads. The two-piece, smooth European hardwood grips remain in about VERY GOOD+ to near FINE condition and retain much of their original varnish. The grips are solid and complete with no breaks, cracks or repairs. They show some scattered minor bumps, dings and handling marks, but remain quite crisp overall.
Overall this is VERY GOOD, solid and essentially complete, representative example of a M1854 12mm military pattern pinfire revolver. The gun has a couple of minor parts issues with the missing gate latch and sight bead, but also retains much more finish than usually encountered on these guns. The finish loss of the barrel suggests long term storage in a holster, but amazingly the cylinder retains some very nice blue and the frame retains some very nice case coloring. This revolver lands right in the middle of the known serial numbers of US used M1854 revolvers, but it is impossible to know if the numbers on record are for French made Lefaucheux revolvers, Belgian made ones, or a combination of both. As such, all I can say definitively is that this is a classic example of the M1854 military pattern 12mm pinfire revolver that saw use during the American Civil War and would be a great addition to any Civil War revolver collection. This gun is very reasonably priced and really is a lot of gun for the money.