French 1833 Cavalry Officer's Pistol, Second Model

  • Country: France
  • Ignition System: Percussion
  • Calibre: 18mm (.69) Ball

This is the first European .69″ calibre military pistol designed on the outset using the percussion system.

For the time it features several unique design features for a military pistol, namely:

– A sighted barrel featuring a damascus twist steel and rifled with 48 microgrooves and having a swamped muzzle.

– A tapered powder chamber referred to as a “Delvigne breech”

– A slim curved chequered grip, and trigger guard spur, features coming straight from the duelling pistols popular at the time.

– A back-action lock, the rear of which is held by a hook.

The Delvigne breech was one of the first systems attempting to improve speed of loading whilst ensuring good contact between a ball and the rifling upon firing. The breech forms a slight taper which forms a powder chamber at the breech. The ball comes to rest on the top of the chamber when loaded, a further sharp tap on the ball would cause the ball to compress axially and expand radially into the rifling, thus ensuring that the ball would catch the rifling and spin upon exiting the barrel. The only down side of this system is that the ball is no longer spherical but since the pistol was intended for very close range the resultant loss of accuracy was probably of no consequence. For the ball to really take the rifling a great deal of force is needed, definately not something to be done while on horseback with bullets and sabers crashing about you.

The pistol is dated 1844 at the breech with the lock being signed by the Chatellerault arsenal. The lock further shows two scrolled letters EB which would indicate that this pistol was a privately ordered but manufactured by the state arsenal rather than being issued by the army, a common practice for officers at the time who were free to purchase their own equipment.

Within the lock recess is the stamp BIROCHA, without further information I assume it is the name of the stock maker.

Despite being a private order pistol it conforms exactly to the standard pattern and has all the correct official arsenal proofs and inspection marks.

It features a butt trap in which a powder measure for 1 gram of powder is housed, this being screwed onto the threaded end of the ramrod. To load the powder, the measure would be filled, the pistol barrel would be inserted over the measure and then pistol would be up ended such that all the powder would pour directly into the powder chamber

These pistols would have been carried in pairs, with the butt trap of the other pistol housing a pair of replacement percussion nipples.

With the slim grip and finger spur the pistol points extremely well in the hand. It is not until you look at the muzzle and see the gaping bore that you realise it is not a delicate duelling pistol.