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 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 Patterson revolver to Lefaucheux’s self-contained pin-fire metallic cartridge revolver. 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, Societe 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 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 much 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 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 (often with a solid frame) that was loaded and unloaded one cartridge at a time via a gate on the side of the frame, 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, fall back into the chamber and 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. It 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 Li’ge, Belgium, one of the largest gunmaking cities in the world during the 19th century. Galand was registered with the Li’ge 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 Li’ge (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 smaller in the front rather than the rear, the exact opposite of the Colt 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 VERY FINE example of a 12mm Galand M1868 Revolver in its original Galand retailer marked casing. The revolver has minimal markings with the only external mark being on the right barrel flat near the breech, where is marked in three lines with a (CROWN) / C.F.G. / 2479. The “crown” over C.F.G. is Galand’s trademark and the number under that is the serial number of the revolver. The gun is marked internally with the assembly number 2170 and this number is found under the barrel (concealed by the operating lever) and on the face of the recoil shield. The additional subassembly number 5 (sometimes with an “S’ prefix and sometimes without) is found on many small parts, including the operating lever, on the operating lever latch, on the frame under the grips, on the trigger web, on the rear face of the cylinder, and in pencil inside both grip panels. The robust revolver has a 4 7/8” long octagon barrel and is about 10 ““ in overall length, and is chambered for the 12mm Perrin cartridge. The revolver is finished “in the white” and retains much of its original bright polish, with only some very lightly scattered flecks of minor surface oxidation and discoloration. The revolver is free of any pitting, but does show some very light surface scuffs and scratches. The bore is rifled with 12 ratchet style grooves and remains very bright and shiny. The bore rates about VERY FINE with only some minor oxidation and light pinpricking present, mostly in the last inch or two near the muzzle. The revolver is mechanically EXCELLENT and functions perfectly in every way. The gun indexes, times and locks up perfectly and remains tight as a drum with a very crisp action. The extraction system operates perfectly as well, with the lever operating smoothly and the entire action opening and closing like the piece of precision machinery that the revolver is. It was this level of manufacturing quality that made the revolver too expensive for the French government to adopt. The revolver retains its original front sight in the dovetail on the top of the barrel near the muzzle as well as its original rear sight notch at the top of the recoil shield at the rear of the frame. The original lanyard ring is in place in the butt as well. The two-piece smooth wood grips are in VERY FINE to NEAR EXCELLENT condition as well. As previously noted they are assembly numbered in pencil to the revolver on their interior surfaces. The grips are solid and complete with no breaks, cracks or repairs. The grips do show some minor bumps, ding and light handling marks, but show no damage or abuse. The revolver is contained in its original “French” fit leatherette covered retailer casing. The case is designed to resemble a travel case or trunk of the period with a pebble grained leatherette covering with embossed decorations and brass tacks around the outer edge of the lid. The front edge has a brass escutcheoned lock and the rear has a leather handle to allow the case to be carried like a satchel. The interior is lined in with a rich burgundy red crushed velvet and has form fit compartments for the revolver, an oiler, a cleaning rod, cleaning brush and a turn screw. There are also two lidded compartments with ebony pulls. The pull on the larger lid is loose and can be pulled out of the lid if the lid is not carefully removed. The case shows light to moderate wear inside and out, with minor loss to both the lining and covering, with most of the wear at the high edges and points of repeated contact and handling. The case contains several accessories that appear to be original to the set. These include an ebony handled turnscrew (screwdriver), a steel cleaning rod with a brass plunger tip and a removable brass jag and a pewter oiler. A bore brush is also present but appears to be a more recent addition that is probably not original to the casing. All of the accessories are in very nice and serviceable condition and certainly enhance the casing. The interior of the case lid is block printed in gold in four lines:
3 . RUE RICHER . 3
This address in the casing suggests the revolver was retailed by Galand circa 1870-1872 while he was located at this address. Further, the lack of Belgian proof marks on the gun suggest it was manufactured in France, rather the Li’ge. The casing remains in very nice and serviceable condition and is certainly a wonderful accompaniment to the revolver.
Overall this is a really wonderful example of a M1868 12mm Galand Revolver in its original Galand retailer marked Paris casing. The address allows us to narrow the revolver and casing to circa 1870-1872, placing it right in Franco-Prussian War period. While it is impossible to know if this revolver was acquired by a French officer for service during that war, it is certainly a possibility. The gun is 100% complete and correct in every way, remains in very nice condition and is mechanically perfect. The casing retains equally nice visual appeal and has a wonderful gold embossed retailer mark on the velvet pillow inside the lid. The accessories included in the casing only add to the overall displayability of this fine revolver. This would be a wonderful addition to any collection of high quality 19th century cartridge revolvers, especially a collection that focused on mechanical innovation and technological advancements. It would also be a great gun to display with an American Merwin, Hulbert & Co revolver and a Thomas’ Patent revolver to show the primary variants of simultaneous extraction revolvers that did not rely upon a break open action. This is a great example of a desirable gun that is often hard to find in the US for sale and is rarely found in this condition with such a great retailer casing. I have no doubt you will be very proud to add this gun to your collection and display.SOLD