This is a really gorgeous example of the French M-1833 Percussion Cavalry Officer’s Pistol. These high-grade pistols were among the last single shot percussion pistols utilized by the French military, or any countries military for that matter. The pistols 17mm (about .6& caliber), single shot percussion pistols with 9” swamped barrels that were rifled with 42 very narrow grooves. The pistols resembled expensive Continental aristocratic dueling pistols more than utilitarian cavalry pistols. While the French were among the first military organizations to adopt a percussion ignition handgun, their belief that the pistol was secondary to the saber as a weapon for the cavalry, resulted in these antiquated guns remaining in service through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870! Some other branches of the French military had already adopted much more modern arms, like the M-1854 Lefaucheux pin fire revolver and the M-1866 Chassepot bolt action rifle, but the cavalry remained firmly in the grips of Napoleon I tactics which called for thundering saber charges by the cavalry.
This French M-1833 Percussion Cavalry Officer’s Pistol is in NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The pistol retains strong traces of the original browned finish on the barrel, which shows a lovely spiral twist pattern along its entire length. The traces of brown finish have blended with a smooth gray-brown patina, and the metal is almost completely smooth, with only some light freckling and minor peppering near the breech. The swamped octagon barrel retains crisp edges, with some minor silvering along the sharp corners. The barrel is clearly marked with *F* and *C* proof marks on one flat, and the production date 1855 on the opposing flat, over the initials M I for Manufaturie Impériale. The lock and hammer retain about 85%+ of their original silver plated finish, with some minor flaking and bubbling around the lock markings, and an untouched tarnished look, mixed with blue-black patina. The back action lock is clearly marked in two lines of script: Mre-Imp-de / Châtellerault, and is also marked with a * / J within a depressed shield mark. The action of the pistol works perfectly on all positions, and remains crisp and fine. Removing the butt cap of the pistol reveals a compartment for the storage of spare cones (nipples) and other implements, and has a lanyard ring as well. The triggerguard has finger spur and pistol has an iron nose cap, both of which have a smooth bluish gray patina that matches the balance of the pistol. The original brass tipped rammer is in place in the channel under the barrel. The barrel is secured to the stock by the tang screw and a single iron wedge. The original brass bead front sight is in place at the end of the barrel. The bore of the pistol is about EXCELLENT and remains mostly bright with nearly perfect and very crisp rifling. The highly figured, furniture grade walnut stock remains in VERY FINE+ to NEAR EXCELLENT condition. The checkered grip area is in crisp, condition and the checkering remains fine with only the most minor scattered light rubs and minor handling marks. The stock is well marked with a number of inspectors / storekeepers marks, crowns over script letters like B and D. The stock shows only a handful of minor bumps and dings and remains crisp throughout. The only issue worth mentioning is a small grain crack emanating from the single lock mounting screw escutcheon and traveling in a lazy, with the grain line towards the barrel channel. This is a minor, non-structural grain crack and is mentioned only for exactness – it is barely noticeable.
Overall this is a very attractive and simply superb example of a French Cavalry Officer’s pistol. These guns saw service from the mid-1830’s through the Franco-Prussian War and were quickly replaced by the French M-1873 Ordnance Revolver, which was a huge technological jump from a single shot percussion pistol to a self contained, metallic cartridge revolver! These guns were designed to appeal to the aristocratic heritage of so many French military officers. They were much better made and finely finished pistols than the guns of the rank and file. For any collector who loves European martial arms, very few pistols combine the form, functionality and beauty of these guns. This pistol deserves a place in a high quality collection, where it will not outshine the more utilitarian military pistols of the era. SOLD