MANUFACTURER(S): Lefaucheux - France
OPERATORS: France; Italy; Spain; Switzerland; Sweden; United States
ACTION: Pinfire; Repeat-Fire; Revolving Cylinder
CALIBER(S)*: 12mm Pinfire
Detailing the development and operational history of the Lefaucheux Model 1854 Pinfire Revolver.
Entry last updated on 2/26/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
Frenchman Casimir Lefaucheux developed the "pinfire" metallic cartridge from the late 1820s into the 1830s before patenting his creation in 1835. The pinfire system revolved around use of a metallic brass case with the included priming compound being ignited by a striking pin mounted directly to the cartridge base itself - this pin being struck by the hammer of the gun in the usual way. By 1840, the pinfire cartridge was in widespread use throughout Europe, adopted by several of the world powers there including France, Italy and Spain - and improved through an 1846 patent by Houllier of Paris.
Lefaucheux's son, Eugene Lefaucheux, took to the family business and made his own name by developing several firearms to utilize his father's creation to the fullest. One such creation became the Model 1854 revolver which saw combat in many period clashes including the American Civil War (1861-1865) - joining a plethora of handguns to see service in the conflict. Design of the Model 1854 was quite conventional and included a well curved wood-covered grip, recurved tang under the trigger loop (allowing two fingers to be positioned at the trigger area) and standard octagonal or rounded barrels of six inches in length. The weapon made use of a six-round rotating cyclinder with integrated rammer positioned ahead and under the barrel, offset to the right side and used in clearing spent cases from their chambers. The cylinders were generally smooth in their overall finish. A lanyard loop was added to the base of the grip handle. Sighting was through a forward iron post found just aft of the muzzle. The weapon was chambered for a 12mm pinfire cartridge.
In practice, the Model 1854 was regarded as an effective, no frills system by most - in the American Civil War, the weapon gave up some power when compared to the competing Colts. The metallic cartridge was proving a revolution at the time and came about during a period when breechloading weapons were coming into their own, replacing the aging lines of muzzle-loading firearms and their complicated, time-consuming loading/reloading processes. The pinfire cartridge now allowed operators to quickly load their weapons in a safer manner as all required ammunition components were not handily contained in the metallic cartridge - no percussion caps or separate powder supplies needed.
The senior Lefauchaux died in 1852 to which his son continued in selling the world on his father's pinfire system. As such, many more revolver designs - and even some shotgun types - all followed, often times being handed the Lefauchaux name in the family's honor. With the arrival of "rimfire" and "centerfire" self-containing metallic cartridges - these not requiring the integral pin of the pinfire cartridges to actuate ignition - the age of the pinfire soon came to a close.