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Cased French Model 1868 Galand 12mm Revolver

Cased French Model 1868 Galand 12mm Revolver

  • Product Code: FHG-2244-SOLD
  • Availability: Out Of Stock
  • $1.00

The middle of the 19th century was a time of monumental improvements in firearms technology. In the short period between the 1830s and the 1870s the typical firearm evolved from a single shot, flintlock ignition weapon to a percussion ignition weapon that was often a repeater, to a repeating firearm that fired self-contained metallic cartridges. In the world of repeating handguns, it was only about a two-decade journey from Sam Colt’s percussion Paterson revolver to Lefaucheux’s self-contained pin-fire metallic cartridge revolver, with Colt and Lefaucheux both receiving their initial patents within about a year of each other. 


By the end of the American Civil War, the age of the percussion revolver was officially over, and the metallic cartridge revolver designs of France, like the Lefaucheux, Perrin, Société Pindault & Cordier (Raphael), and Devisme had proven themselves to be both reliable and available in calibers powerful enough for use in combat. While Smith & Wesson had patented their .22 and .32 rimfire cartridges prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War, these were not really combat handgun calibers when compared to the competing percussion chamberings of the era. 


With the exception of the Lefaucheux pinfire system, the other French cartridge handguns were centerfire designs. All, however, were available in “man stopping” calibers, ranging from 9mm to 12mm and were more powerful than the Smith & Wesson offerings. While these cartridge revolvers saw only limited secondary use during the Civil War, their advantages over the percussion designs was obvious and by the latter half of the 1860s all of the major firearms manufacturers were competing to bring cartridge revolvers to the market, chambered for larger, more powerful cartridges. Two basic types of metallic cartridge revolvers came to dominate the handgun designs of the period. The first was a revolver with either an open or solid frame, that was loaded and unloaded one cartridge at a time via a gate on the side of the frame. These revolvers are typified by the Colt Single Action Army in America and early Adams and Tranter revolvers in Great Britain. The other primary design was a “break open” action that allowed for simultaneous extraction of spent cartridges and more rapid reloading. In America, the Smith & Wesson design predominated, while in Great Britain it was the Webley that best represented this type of revolver. While the top break system certainly had advantages in loading and unloading, it had limitations as well. The system was not well adapted to long cartridges or cartridges that had small rims. Longer cartridges meant a longer extraction system which was weaker and less reliable and small case rims had the potential to slip through the extractor star, falling back into the chamber and rendering the revolver useless until the case could be punched out of the chamber. These two failings were the reason that the Smith & Wesson Schofield was not chambered for the standard service revolver ammunition, the .45 Colt cartridge. The cartridge was too long, with too small a rim to function reliably with the extractor system. In an attempt to circumvent the design limitations of the break open action design, several competing “simultaneous” extraction systems were patented around the world. The best known in the United States was that used by Merwin, Hulbert & Company. In Great Britain, it was the design of John Thomas, as produced by Tipping & Lawden, and on the continent of Europe it was the very successful design of Charles François Galand. 


All three systems used a similar concept, in that opening the action allowed the barrel and cylinder to be drawn forward on the cylinder arbor pin, which by a variety of methods removed the spent cartridges from the chambers and allowed unfired cartridges to remain in the action of the revolver. While the Merwin, Hulbert & Company design is well known to most arms collectors, the Thomas Patent Revolver remains a relatively obscure and unknown design. The French Galand revolver is not as well known in America, but was rather successful in Europe, and to a lesser extent in Great Britain.


Charles François Galand was born in France in 1832 and spent most of his life in the invention and manufacture of firearms. While a French national, Galand seems to have produced many his arms in Liège, Belgium, one of the largest gunmaking cities in the world during the 19th century. Galand was registered with the Liège Proof House from 1869 through 1942, well after his death in 1900, with his son Rene running the firm for several decades after his passing. Galand maintained premises at 242 Rue Vivegnis in Liège (1878-1881), as well as at 7 Rue de la Loi. In Paris, his addresses included 3 rue Richer (1870-1872) as well as 13 rue d’Hauteville (1879-1890). He also maintained an English office at 21 Whittall Street during the 1880s, where he probably offered his continental made guns for sale. In 1868, Galand patented a double action, simultaneous extraction revolver design that would influence revolvers well into the next century. The double action lockwork would become the basis for the Nagant revolver design, as well as several other continental revolver actions. However, it was the simultaneous extraction system that made the revolver special. The Galand M1868 was open top design, with a six-shot, reverse rebated cylinder that was smaller in the front rather than the rear, the exact opposite of the Colt Model 1860 Army’s cylinder. The revolver was designed to accept Perrin centerfire cartridges with a wide, welted base or rim. When looking at the revolver the influence of Perrin’s design is quite apparent as the cylinder of Galand’s revolver looks like a copy of Perrin’s cylinder, with the exception that the Perrin cylinder is one piece and the Galand’s is two-piece. It is worth noting that references differ on the caliber of the Perrin cartridge, citing both 12mm and 11mm. It appears that this difference is the result of the 19th century system of referring to a cartridge’s caliber by the diameter of the case, rather than the bullet. In this case, the Perrin cartridge case is nominally 12mm and the bullet closer to 11mm, thus the confusion. At any rate, the new Galand design was chambered for the 12mm (11mm if you prefer) Perrin cartridge and would soon be available in 9mm and 7mm variants as well. The simultaneous extraction was achieved by means of a lever that doubled as the triggerguard for the revolver. By releasing the triggerguard and pulling the lever down, the barrel and cylinder were pulled forward and as they reached the end of the frame, the rear portion of the cylinder would lock in place and the remainder of the cylinder would continue to move forward with the barrel. The result was the cartridges were pulled from their chambers and could then easily be shaken free of the revolver. The resulting simultaneous extraction was similar to that achieved by the Merwin, Hulbert & Co design as well as the Thomas’ Patent design, but by a different mechanical method. As any firearms manufacturer would hope, Galand’s design was soon noticed by several militaries around the world. 


The Russians adopted the Galand for Naval use in 1871, designating it the M1870. With the looming Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 on the horizon, Galand revolvers were popular purchases for French officers who felt the quick loading and reloading feature would be a real asset in combat. Considering the standard French sidearm of the period for their land forces were single shot percussion (or percussion alteration) muzzleloaders, the Galand was a major improvement! Although the French subsequently lost that conflict, the privately purchased Galand revolvers acquitted themselves well enough that Galand was asked to submit a design for the 1872 French revolver trials. The specifications for the trials required that all submissions have a topstrap, so Galand designed a new variant the of the gun, the Model 1872. However, this version was eventually defeated by the Chamelot-Delvigne submission, which would become the French 1873 Ordnance Revolver. Although the French military gave the Galand high marks for its ease of loading and unloading, in the end the complex machining and resulting higher cost of the gun “cost” Galand the contract. Galand did, however, receive an order from the Romanian military for his revolvers, but after the loss in the French trials he concentrated on producing arms for the civilian market. Galand pursued sales in Great Britain by partnering with the firm of Braendlin, Sommerville & Co, to produce the Galand under license there.  Galand also registered his design with the British patent office, listing Sommerville as co-patentee. Thus, the English made version of the M1868 Galand are known to collectors as Sommerville Galand revolvers. As noted, the Galand revolver was made available in the smaller 9mm and 7mm calibers and a variant with a folding skeletonized shoulder stock was made available for sportsmen as well. Galand also designed the Tue-Tue revolver, a concealable self-defense handgun chambered for an 8mm cartridge, and the Mignon revolver, which was designed for the same purpose. The Mignon would be the inspiration for another classic European self-defense revolver from the late 19th century, the “Novo”. Galand would also be credited with inventing the 5.5mm Velodog revolver, which was subsequently patented by his son Rene.


Offered here is a FINE condition example of a Retailer Cased 12mm Galand Model 1868 Revolver. The revolver has minimal markings with the only external mark other than proofs and assembly numbers being on the right barrel flat near the breech, where is marked in three lines with a {CROWN} / C.F.G. / 1177. The “crown” over C.F.G. is Galand’s trademark and the number under that is the serial number of the revolver. A full set of Birmingham commercial proof marks are  present on the cylinder between the chambers. The gun is marked internally and externally with the assembly number 11567. This number is found on the left side of the frame under the grip and under the barrel, concealed by the extraction lever system.


The robust revolver has a 4 7/8” long octagon barrel and is about 9 ¾” in overall length and is chambered for the 12mm Perrin cartridge. The revolver appears to have been originally finished bright, as many French military pattern revolvers were and was later cleaned in European fashion to remain bright. There are traces of the original yellowish strawed finish on the trigger and dull blackish case coloring on the extraction lever latch catch. The metal is mostly smooth, but shows tiny areas of scattered freckled surface oxidation, some very minor pinpricking and a few areas flecked age discoloration. The bore is rifled with 5 very narrow grooves with wide lands and a very slow rate of twist that appears almost straight. The bore rates about FINE.  It is mostly bright but shows some evenly distributed oxidation and light pitting that is primarily located in the grooves. The revolver is mechanically FINE as well and functions correctly in every way. The gun indexes, times and locks up perfectly. As is typical of these revolvers, there is some minor play in the cylinder when the hammer is at rest, but the lock up is tight when the hammer is cocked and when the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. The extraction system operates correctly as well, with the lever operating smoothly and the entire action opening and closing exactly as it should. The lever also locks tightly into place when closed. It was the level of  complex manufacturing machining and quality that made the revolver too expensive for the French government to adopt for military use. The revolver retains its original front sight in the dovetail on the top of the barrel near the muzzle. The original rear sight notch is present at the top of the recoil shield at the rear of the frame. The two-piece checkered walnut grips are in about FINE condition as well. The grips are solid and complete with no breaks or repairs. The grips do show some light handling wear with some minor smoothing of the sharp checkered points and some minor bumps, ding and handling marks. However, the grips show no abuse. 


The revolver is contained in a period English oak casing with brass latches, hinges and a folding handle on the top. The interior of the casing is a traditional French style, form-fit insert in dark green baize. The casing interior includes three lidded compartments to store ammunition and accessories and green pillow in the lid that is stamped in gold leaf:





It is my opinion that since the revolver bears Birmingham commercial proofs the gun was certainly sold in England, but the case interior certainly suggests that the revolver, and at least the case interior, were produced in France with the exterior oak casing added by the retailer in England. The casing is in VERY GOOD to NEAR FINE condition. The exterior of the casing shows some scattered wear, minor mars and handling marks. The interior of the case shows some moderate wear, with some fading and staining of the fabric, along with a small tear in the pillow and some scuffed and worn areas in the fabric as well. There is also some minor loss to gold leaf stamping inside the lid. The only accessories contained in the casing are an old brass cleaning rod and jag that are worn and may or may not be associated or related to the revolver. They are contained in the larger, lower rectangular storage compartment.


Overall this is a very attractive example of a Retailer Cased Model 1868 12mm Galand Revolver. This would be a very nice example to add to a collection of early centerfire cartridge revolvers, particularly one that traces the various mechanical extraction systems. The gun and casing display very nicely and the set is very fairly priced for such a fine set.


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Tags: Cased, French, Model, 1868, Galand, 12mm, Revolver