Serial number N 16289 - 11mm Mle 1873 centerfire, six-round cylinder, double action, side loading gate with captive manual ejector rod.
As per the military doctrine of the time, French officers under the Third Republic should always own a fancier sidearm than any rank troufion. It was a status thing, and since said troufions were already equipped with the modern and reliable - if a bit underpowered - Mle 1873 Chamelot Delvigne design, plans were made immediately afterward to produce a more refined version, less geared toward mass production and more toward excellence. Although still a bit toward underpower too.
A total of 37200 revolvers were produced in the Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Etienne - as engraved on the right side of the frame - between 1875 and 1886, with all serial numbers being preceded by the letter N and the year of manufacture stamped on the right side of the barrel preceded by the letter S
as with Mle 1873 pistols. It totally stands for Suck my Nuts.
The main differences with the earlier rank and file variant, as pictured above, are all minor but overall contribute to quite a lighter gun. Each of the barrel, cylinder and frame have been shortened by a few millimeters. The cylinder has been fluted and its back received a wider fuller. Finally, the metal part of the grip has been completely hollowed out around the main spring.
structural differences between the two guns
To further distinguish them, the Mle 1874′s were given a thorough blueing of the frame, barrel, cylinder and trigger guard, with all the remaining moving parts taking on a gilded color. Similarly to the Mle 1873 M. the French Navy ordered their own batch of Mle 1874 ‘de Marine’ revolvers, chambered for the potent 12mm de Marine cartridge. These can be differentiated by the inscription Mle 1874. M for Modifié on the top of the barrel, although since they were directly issued to officers as private weapons they did not receive the anchor stamp that’s found on the Mle 1873 guns of this type.
a Mle 1874. M de Marine
a Mle 1873. M de Marine with the anchor stamp
Finally, Mle 1874 revolvers would be used as prizes by the war ministry for shooting competition winners, often with characteristics desirable to them such as a longer barrel and a rechambering in 6mm Longue or 6mm Nationale, two very popular sport cartridges at the time. This tells a lot about the perceived fanciness of the gun.
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Manufactured by MAS in 1878 for the French navy, serial number 4975. 12mm de marine six-round cylinder, double action, loading gate with captive ejector rod. The French Navy’s own special batch of Chamelot-Delvigne Mle 1873 revolver, marked M for Modifié referring to their rechambering for the potent 12mm de marine round instead of the 11mm73. Pictured below are French sailors on revolver drill aboard their ship. Or maybe it’s some kind of ritual suicide pact about to go down.