Rare French LePage Moutier Model 1858 9mm Cartridge Revolver
- Product Code: FHG-2180
- Availability: In Stock
Few names in European gunmaking are more famous than that of LePage, a multigenerational family of French gunmakers dating back to the beginning of the 18th century. By the mid-19th century the LePage family was firmly entrenched in the French gun trade, with numerous relatives trading on the name of the two creators of the dynasty; Pierre LePage (1709-1783) and his nephew Jean LePage (1746-1834). Jean earned the titles of Gunmaker to the King, Gunmaker to the Duke of Orleans, Gunmaker to the Emperor (Napoleon 1802-1815), and again Gunmaker to the Kingafter Napoleon’s defeat. Jean’s son Henri (1792-1854) was at least as famous as his father and was awarded such titles asGunmaker to the King, which included Louis XVIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe during his working life. Henri married the sister of French gunmaker Louis Perrin, creating the partnership of LePage & Perrin. Intermarriage of the LePage family with other notable French gunmaking families would result in the LePage family being intimately involved in nearly aspect of the French gun trade for well over a century.
One such LePage company by marriage was that of LePage-Moutier, sometimes called Moutier-LePage, a business based on the marriage of Henri LePage’s daughter to the French gunmaker Gilles Michel Louis Moutier (1810-1887). The firm was established in 1842 and remained in business under that name through 1868. For all practical purposes Gilles Moutier took over the gunmaking business of Henri LePage and was certainly more than capable of filling those huge shoes. In about 1865, Emile Henri LePage Fauré, another relative joined the company and circa 1868-1869 took over, renaming it as LePage-Fauré (or sometimes Fauré-LePage). Emile Henri Fauré was Jean LePage’s grandson, the son of Eléonore LePage, one of Jean’s daughters.
Gilles Michel Louis Moutier was capable of extremely ornate and highly decorated work and examples of his masterpiece arms grace the collections of numerous museums and institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, like most mid-19th century gunmakers he was also always looking toward the future, at ways to improve arms and for the ultimate solution to the obvious move towards self-contained ammunition for use in repeating firearms. In 1858, Moutier received a French patent for a double action, self-contained cartridge revolver that fired a version of the “rocket ball” style self-contained ammunition that was being experimented in the United States by companies like Smith & Wesson and Volcanic who were trying to make lever action repeating arms using this type of cartridge, and in Europe by makers like Victor Colette who was using it in his “gravity pistol” repeating handgun design. Moutier’s variation was a nominally 9mm lead bullet that had a short metal skirt extending from its base, allowing a larger amount of propellant to placed in the “cartridge”, but was still not as powerful as competing percussion designs of the period.
The handgun that Moutier designed for his cartridge was somewhat more innovative. It was a double action, six-shot revolver that was often produced with a ring trigger which implied double action was the way it was intended to be used, although the hammer could be cocked manually, allowing the pistol to be fired single action as well. The revolver was built around a two-piece pivoting frame, with the grip and lower portion of the frame hinged below the cylinder, with the barrel and topstrap portion. The topstrap engaged a groove in the standing breech of the revolver to index and secure it and a small spring in the topstrap applied enough pressure to keep the action closed unless the user wanted it opened. What was unusual about the pivoting frame design was that the barrel did not tip up or down on the hinge, but rather pivoted to the left. This took the cylinder with it, exposing the chambers for loading and unloading. The cylinder arbor pin was attached to the face of the cylinder and entered a tube under the barrel, where it was retained by another spring. Depressing the spring near the frame allowed the cylinder to be withdrawn from the gun and loaded or unloaded with relative ease. Some variations of the pistol also included an ejector rod mounted on the left side of the gun which drove a plunger into the chambers when the ejector lever was pushed “down” away from the barrel.
The Model 1858 Moutier design saw limited success, primarily due to the relatively weak cartridge. The narrow, ¾” wide cylinder certainly did not allow for very much propellant behind the bullet. Circa 1866-1867, Moutier’s new partner Emile Henri LePage Fauré improved the design by reengineering the gun to accept an 11mm metallic cartridge and these revolvers had some modest success, primarily as personal sidearms for French officers during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71.
Offered here is a rare, original Moutier Model 1858 Revolver. This is one of the ring trigger models that also has the ejector system mounted on the right side of the barrel. The gun is nominally 9mm and has a six-shot, ¾-inch deep cylinder that accepts Moutier’s “centerfire” rocket ball style ammunition. The 4 ¾” octagonal barrel is rifled with eight ratchet-style grooves and the overall length of the gun is about 8 ½”. The top flat of the barrel is deeply acid relief engraved in a single line of Gothic print:
Lepage Moutier Bte à Paris
The gun is serial number 205 and is so marked on the top edge of the rear of the frame, underneath the stylized JL logo of the Jean LePage firm, the firm that Moutier had taken over circa 1842. The frame, cylinder, three upper flats of the barrel, the left side flat of the barrel, the ejector rod lever, backstrap and are all deeply acid etch, relief engraved with foliate patterns and designs. The revolver is assembly numbered 24 on the rear face of the cylinder, on the face of the recoil shield, on the reverse of the ejector lever, and inside both of the grips. The revolver is finished “in the white” and has smooth, two-piece ebony grips with a lanyard ring in the butt cap. A notch in the center top of the frame functions as a rear sight and a dovetailed brass blade is the front sight.
The revolver remains in about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition with the largest condition issue being that the firing mechanism is not currently functional. The hammer can be cocked manually, and this rotates the cylinder as it should, although the cylinder does not always correctly index. If the ring trigger is pushed forward the hammer will usually remain at full cock. Pulling the trigger does release the hammer as it should. However, the double action mechanism does not work at all and as noted the single action function is dicey at best. It would be safe to assume to some parts are broken or worn inside and at least the trigger spring is not strong enough to keep the trigger in the right position when the hammer is cocked. It is also possible the full cock notch of the hammer is worn, which is why the hammer remaining cocked is inconsistent. The fact that the main sideplate screw shows moderate slot wear suggests that more than one intrepid gunsmith has attempted to fix the mechanical issues to no avail. The break open, pivoting action of the revolver works as it should as does the ejector rod; as long as the plunger are correctly aligned with the cylinder chamber mouths. Despite the mechanical issues, the revolver has an attractive steel-gray patina with a nice pewter tone. The deep relief, acid etched engraving it mostly clear and sharp with only some light wear here and there due to handling and use. The metal has some scattered surface oxidation and discoloration, showing freckles and minor patches of age darkening. The metal shows some scattered light pinpricking here and there but not real pitting to speak of. The bore is in about GOOD+ to NEAR VERY GOOD condition as well with deep, clear rifling. The bore shows scattered oxidation, discoloration and some evenly scattered light to moderate pitting along its length. The lanyard ring remains in place in the base of the grip, as does the dovetailed brass shark-fin shaped blade near the muzzle. The two-piece smooth ebony grips are in about FINE condition and are numbered to the pistol. They are solid and complete, free of any breaks, cracks or repairs. They do show some scattered light handling marks and minor mars, but no abuse or damage. The only condition issue worth noting is a pair of tiny chips missing from the upper rear edge of the trailing tips of the grips at the upper rear of the grip frame.
Overall this is a really attractive and very scarce example of a LePage Moutier Model 1858 Revolver. These guns are extremely rare in Europe and appear for sale even less often in the United States. This gun does not have the post-1866/67 upgrades of Emile Henri LePage Fauré, so the gun dates to between 1858 and about 1866. Considering the very low serial number, the gun was almost certainly produced circa 1858-1860. Despite the mechanical issues the revolver displays very nicely and is a very interesting example of an early self-contained cartridge revolver that is rarely available for sale, particularly in the United States. It is also an opportunity to own a revolver by a world-renowned French gunmaker, whose work is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.