Lefaucheux Model 1859 Carbine
The Lefaucheux model 1859 carbine was a small carbine Eugène Lefaucheux made with hopes to gain military acceptance. It is a very simple design with few moving parts. It only weighs 4.5 pounds and has an overall length of 3 feet 4 inches.
There are multiple variations of this gun; some with a full metal frame, some with an automatic cartridge extractor, a percussion cap version, a double barrel version, pistols, and various bores.
This example is chambered for 12mm pinfire cartridges, has a manual extractor and a solid wood stock.
There are two levers on the gun. The one on the right is the cocking lever and also serves as the breechblock. When you raise it it opens the breech, allowing you to insert a new pinfire cartridge or remove a spent cartridge. It also cocks the extra-long hammer. The following video and image shows how this works.
Once you are ready to remove the cartridge the other lever functions as a manual cartridge extractor. You first need to open the breech and cock the hammer. Then you will be able to raise the second lever which pushes the cartridge backward so you can dispose of it. The following image and video give an example of this.
It is designed to chamber a rimless 12mm pinfire cartridge and likely would have been used with some of the carbine-length pinfire cartridges that existed at the time such as these paper-cased examples made by Gévelot.
There is nothing preventing one from using a shorter pistol cartridge in this as well. However a longer pinfire shotshell would not be able to be maneuvered into the chamber. You would also need to use a cartridge with a long enough pin which only some of the pinfire pistol cartridges had. The following images give some various examples of pinfire cartridge that do and do not work with this Lefaucheux model 1859 pinfire carbine.
First up is an image with examples of various 12mm pinfire cartridges. Some work some do not. We will use this middle paper cased one in every image for reference. I think it is the ideal cartridge to use in this gun. The cartridge on the far left is a typical pistol-size 12mm pinfire cartridge. All the rest are various pinfire rifle cartridges.
On either side of our reference cartridge is shown cartridges that will fit in the gun, but their pin is too small so the hammer can not hit it. These were likely used in the 1854-style revolving carbines or in pistols.
Here are three 12mm pinfire shotshells loaded with balls. The one on the left is has a good length, and they all have a long enough pin, but they are rimmed cartridges that will not fit correctly.
Here are four examples of pinfire rifle cartridges (along with our reference cartridge) that are rimless, have a long enough pin, but have too long of an overall length to maneuver into the chamber. So they will not work with this Lefaucheux model 1859 carbine. The shotshell to the far right could be cut down short enough to be used however.
And lastly, here are examples of pinfire cartridge that fit perfectly. They all have a long enough pin, are rimless and have an overall length short enough to fit in.
This Lefaucheux model 1859 carbine has a lot of markings on it. One in particular is unique to this model. It is found on both levers and is a picture of the Lefaucheux model 1854 revolver over an E. LF., for Eugène Lefaucheux
On the underside of the barrel is the serial number, 438.
A marking common on the Lefaucheux model 1854 pinfire revolvers is found as well. It says Invn. E. Lefaucheux Breveté SGDG Paris which signified the patent protection. Breveté SGDG stands for Breveté Sans Garantie Du Gouvernement and means that even though the government issued the patent they do not provide any guarantees for its usefulness or function or safety or anything.
And lastly, on top of the barrel is Eugène’s signature written out as E. Lefaucheux Bte à Paris.
The gun follows Eugène Lefaucheux’s patent number 43,104 registered on 5 December 1859. This design also received two additions on 7 February 1860 and 20 February 1860 covering additional features such as the automatic extractor and the percussion version. These French patents and a dozen variations of this gun can be seen inside the excellent book on the subject, La Production des Modeles d’Eugène Lefaucheux by Guillaume Van Mastrigt.
This patent was also registered in the United States. Eugène Lefaucheux received patent number 31,809 on 26 March 1861. The complete patent specification and drawings are shown below. The drawing shows the full metal frame version and also gives a look at the pistol.
Overall it is a really neat gun and is very uncommon. It is not in perfect condition and is pitted and aged. But these guns are very hard to find and it has found a welcome home in my collection!