Norwegian Military Pinfire Revolvers and Cartridges
On 12 September 1859, a Norwegian military commission recommend contracting with Eugène Lefaucheux to acquire some of his model 1854 pinfire revolvers to begin updating their service handguns. In October 1859 they ordered 800 revolvers and 120,000 pinfire cartridges for the Norwegian Navy with a delivery date of summer 1860.
There are various sources that claim differing serial number ranges of this first order, but The Lefaucheux Family Archives has matched up original purchase orders and invoices to determine that they are around the LF14597 – LF15936 range. Some of this is detailed in the excellent book on the subject, La Production des Modeles d’Eugène Lefaucheux by Guillaume Van Mastrigt.
Norwegian Model 59
This first order of revolvers followed the below design as shown in this example from the Norwegian Armed Forces Museum where they have it labeled as an example of the Norwegian Navy Model 1859. It is thought that there are no special markings that specifically indicate which guns Lefaucheux made specifically went to fulfill this first order.
It is unknown what 120,000 cartridges were included with this purchase. There are some early Gévelot cartridges that have turned up so it is likely that they could have been what was provided.
Unique blank loads are found in these and some of the following Norwegian-made cartridges we will look at. This is uncommon for military cartridges. I assume that there must have been a bigger focus on using blanks for training or some other important use.
In 1862 the Norwegian military held some more tests with some new revolvers and in 1863 decided to purchase an additional 300 revolvers for the Navy and another 200 with octagonal barrels for officers. These followed Eugéne Lefauchuex’s brand new 1863 design. Unfortunately for Lefaucheux, This small order from Norway was the only major purchase for these revolvers which he had hoped would follow the success of his 1854 model.
Norwegian Model 64
They also purchased 1100 model 1854 revolvers from Lefaucheux for use by the cavalry and designate them as the Norwegian model 1864. A portion of these 1100 revolvers were used for a very long time and were kept in the arsenal until the 1940s.
The Norwegian army also bought a license from Lefaucheux to manufacture their own revolvers based on this system. These revolvers were manufactured at the Kongsberg Weapons Factory and all have a crowned K marking on them.
The example in my collection is one of the 1100 purchased from Lefaucheux. (Though it was later modified as we will talk about soon.)
They all had the Norwegian crowned, rampant lion holding an ax engraved into the side of the revolver. This symbol has been used in Norwegian heraldry since the 13th century and is still used in their coat of arms and royal standard today.
There are a lot of other interesting markings on this gun that are not found on typical Lefaucheux model 1854 revolvers.
The top of the barrel has the common Lefaucheux patent signature however mine is missing the last two letters of PARIS. Eugène must have got distracted when making this one!
Matching serial number printed multiple places on this gun including on the cylinder.
The 64 printed multiple places on this clearly signifies the model 64 that Norway designated this as. However there is also another symbol that is repeated as well; a < and Y with the < sometimes pointed different directions.
There is a circled TI and another letter or two in a circle that I can’t quite make out.
For the next 20 years, cartridges may have still been provided by Gévelot or any of the other many European manufacturers of pinfire cartridges. However, it seems that they were likely also made at the Hovedarsenalet Akershus (The Main Arsenal at Akershus).
Gévelot or someone provided a 15-page manual to Hovedarsenalet Akershus with instructions on how to fabricate pinfire cartridges. The above page shows a cartridge machine and gives the instructions on drilling the hole in the case directly above the A in the headstamp.
Examples of blank and ball loads of the Norwegian pinfire cartridges with the A headstamp. Also a rare example of a pinfire with the rampant lion headstamp.
After 1884 Gévelot founded Société Française des Munitions. In 1895 SFM produced a drawing for Norwegian pinfire cartridges. These include the same A headstamp as well. It is also possible they were making them before this document was produced as there are not many of these drawing that have survived and they redrew them every so often.
Norwegian Model 64/98
In 1898 some of these Model 64 revolvers were still in service and were modified to add the piece of metal on top to stiffen the frame. These modified revolvers were designated as the M/64/98. Mine is an example of this.
The metal strap on my example that they fitted on top of the revolver was engraved with the same serial number as the revolver.
They also converted some of the ones made at the Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk arsenal as well.
By this time Société Française des Munitions also began providing the following pinfire cartridges and boxes to the Norwegian Army.
Norway designated their revolver as 11mm which is why SFM marked the box as 11mm. The exact same cartridges were sold elsewhere as 12mm. The box contains 18 cartridges which was enough to reload the revolver 3 times.
These cartridges were shipped in bricks of 4 boxes containing a total of 72 cartridges. This brick shown above was manufactured in 1899.
Arsenal inspections in 1926 showed there were 1371 revolvers spread across the country at the following arsenals:
Svelvik Fortifications – 494 revolvers
Fredrikstad and Fredrikshald mine detachment – 97 revolvers
Christiansø Fortress – 202 revolvers
Bergen Fortress – 274 revolvers
Agdenes Fortress – 139 revolvers
Vardøhus Fortress – 25 revolvers
Sarpsborg Fortress – 86 revolvers
They were formally discontinued and disposed of in 1931 but an arsenal inspection in 1940 showed there were still 138 at the Main Arsenal in Oslo.
This adds up to a total lifespan of 72 years of Norway using a pinfire revolver in a military capacity!