Chassepot M1866 French Military Rifle

Created on August 2nd 2017

Rare and Unusual Model 1866 Chassepot Rifle in its original specifications and chambering

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The main French long arm in the Franco-Prussian War in its original unaltered Pin-fire form – an Obsolete calibre which requires no license to hold.  This M1866 is a particularly fine example stocked in its one-piece full length European walnut stock.  This stock is in really good condition with a cartouche on the RHS of the butt-stock.  Unfortunately the only discernable part of the impression is the central “M.A,” the outer ring has become worn with the passage of time and lots of handling.  On the obverse the stock clearly shows the original matching serial number impressed into the surface of the timber; “Q 12545″.  What is pleasing is the fact that this stock has borne no other number which would have been obliterated or struck out in the process of replacement.  The whole of the stock retains a pleasing patina with no apparent repairs or threat of a fault within it at any point.

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Most of the steel work has lost its finish and is now in the white with a mild surface pitting – which is to be expected.  It is possible that the action was originally in the white and the barrel blued as the latter is displaying that plumb brown patina associated with a very old blued item.  Internally however the bore is in very good condition considering its age and original propellant.  It does have the mildest patches of very sparse pitting and misting, but this certainly would not detract from its abilities to score a hit if it was ever possible to find the ammunition for it. ( Which I doubt would be possible, and of course for legal reasons, I have to point out that here in the UK, one would have to add it to one’s FAC! )   The calibre looks to be 11 mm.  The rifling is a good depth and the surfaces both within the groves and on top of the lands are bright.

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Overall the rifle measures an impressive 51.1/2″ in length.  The round barrel is a nominal 32″ long.  The pull measures 13.1/2″ – this is probably to allow for your heavy blue trench coat ! As far as can be seen, all the numbers on this Chassepot are matching and they are repeated on many components in an almost “Germanic” way.  Hexagonal breech with action sidewall marked as follows:- “MANUFACTURE D’ARMES / St Etienne.  M’le 1866.”  The bolt has many factory inspectors marks and numbers confirming its originality to the rifle.  This 1866 still requires the original, slightly quirky process of cocking. This particular method is something, we who are used to the modern conventionalities of firearm manufacture, are unfamiliar with.  Although there is a short bolt arm, hanging out temptingly to the right, it will not move on first attempt.  The user has to thumb back the rear of the bolt.  Once this has be moved to the rear and is held in position it is then possible to open the bolt and load the next cartridge.  “Cartridge” is this case would have to be the original paper-wrapped type which the bolt head has been designed for.  Primarily, the bolt head has a sleeve rather like a punch which is forced into the rear of the paper cartridge then the needle within the bolt is released by the trigger so igniting the round.  The bolt head still has one of the black rings in place which help gas-seal the chamber, but the smaller of the two, towards the rear, is missing.  Not surprising, as they appear to be made out of a leather or rubber like substance and have perished over time.

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All other stock fittings are in position although none have retained their finish.  There is a full length threaded cleaning rod stored in the grove under the for-end.  Plain steel butt-plate in fairly good order.  Two sling swivels.  The muzzle has a long sword type bayonet mount.  Once again this is stamped with the serial number and a final securing lug on the obverse.  The rear sight is a ramp-type with two ladder sections which are graduated for distance and also function laid flat.  The front sight is a simple inverted “V” upon a block.  There is little evidence of tampering with the screw heads and some even have numbers stamped into them.  The serial number is stamped into the hexagonal portion of the barrel adjacent to the action.  The 45 degree slope of the same has the letters “F.V.” and within a circle “M” and then a “J.”  The top surface of the hex form has two small but clearly stamped proof or inspectors marks. Then the next surface on the RHS of the hex has “S 1873″ and two more stampings.  Lastly visible on the vertical are the letters “M.A.” and another inspectors’ stamp.

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A good example of an early rifle that has escaped being upgraded by the French military as technology progressed.  Definitely worthy of a place in any serious military rifle collection.  Rare as still in pin-fire order.

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£ 925.

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