A Matched Pair of Early Pinfire Pistols designed by Casimir Lefaucheux
I recently picked up this pair of pinfire pistols designed by Casimir Lefaucheux. I had never seen examples quite like them before and was really excited to get them in. Casimir Lefaucheux was making pistols from the time he took over the Pauly company in 1827 as shown in our recent post on the topic. But these early pistols were much larger and bulkier. In 1833, Lefaucheux was issued a new patent for his fusil à charnière, or hinged gun.
He advertised and promoted the fact that these pistols and rifles were easier to use and safer and better in every way than his earlier Pauly guns, and especially better than other percussion guns of the day. They could shoot 500 rounds without cleaning or even wiping down which was unheard of for typical percussion guns that loaded from the muzzle. Lefaucheux also emphasized that they were easier to take apart and maintain by the average person.
And all of these new ideas were tested by many people and were very well received. This ad from 1833 advertises a friendly challenge putting this new design against Robert’s. We went into some detail on this in an earlier article where this new Lefaucheux gun was compared and tested versus Robert’s breechloading gun.
A couple years later, in 1835, Lefaucheux would deposit an addition to this patent which invented the self-contained pinfire cartridge which quickly gain popularity and even more notoriety to the Lefaucheux system. The pair of pistols here follow this 1833 design for the hinged, double-bite fastening mechanism and both have a matching serial number of 4600.
I am not certain exactly when these pistols were made, though it is likely that it was in the early 1840s. Some of Lefaucheux’s earliest advertisements such as this one from 1834 picture his early percussion pistols but do not mention pistols anywhere in the text.
These early pistols made with his new fusil à charnière system were much larger guns. By 1836, shortly after Lefaucheux temporarily sold his company to Camille Jubé, ads begin to mention that Maison Lefaucheux sells “pistolets de combat” which were typically fancy pairs of dueling pistols such as the following set which sold at Rock Island Auction.
The next type of pistol we see advertised is in 1843 when Jubé, owner of Maison Lefaucheux, advertises a pistolet de voyage, or travel pistol.
It is possible and likely that these pistols were made around this time. The concept of a travel pistol lends itself to the idea of something smaller and easier to keep on you. The original 1833 patent was also issued for 10 years which would end around this time.
There is also the interesting unknown issue of if the marking “Invention Lefaucheux Breveté à Paris” is different than guns marked “Lefaucheux Breveté à Paris” without the invention part. Was Jubé required to add “Invention” to the markings on the guns? This idea is definitely not consistent as some of the pepperboxes made a few years later after Lefaucheux took back ownership of the company, are also marked Inv. Lefaucheux Breveté.” Some of the very earliest guns which were made before he sold the company to Jubé are also marked with “Invon Lefaucheux Breveté à Paris.”
Nouveau Pistolet de Poche
In 1845, Lefaucheux purchased the company back from Jubé and deposited a couple new patents for new pistol designs. The first design was a single and double barrel pistol which swiveled 90° to load. You can see this design is pictured on the early boxes of cartridges made for the gun by Jules Joseph Chaudun.
He advertises this new pistol as his nouveau pistolet de poche, or new pocket pistol. It also mentions that this design can be adapted to any type of gun.
In 1845 another depiction of a gun shows up and is actually pictured on this pistol and hundreds of thousands of pinfire pistols made by Lefaucheux, Maison Lefaucheux and Eugène Lefaucheux for decades into the future.
It pretty clearly depicts this pistol, especially when comparing it to his earlier pistols. So maybe it was made at the same time or maybe it was made a couple years prior which lends more credence to the rotating one being called a “new” pocket pistol. But it was likely made by at least 1845 when its depiction became the mark used on Lefaucheux guns for the rest of time.