The Bernardelli baby pistol in 25 acp 2/2

This second article on the Bernardelli baby pistol is the sequel to the first, published a few weeks ago. The following chapters will deal with the carcass, the description of the successive stages of a shot start, the loader, the shot with the Baby pistol and the conclusion. Good reading …

The frame

The frame subassembly is composed of 23 parts:

  • The frame ;
  • The left grip ;
  • The right grip ;
  • The screw’s grip ;
  • The lever savety’s spring ;
  • The lever savety ;
  • The trigger bar ;
  • The trigger ;
  • The sear ;
  • The pin’s sear ;
  • The magazine safety ;
  • The pin’s magazine safety ;
  • The lever assembly ;
  • The spring and push of lever assembly ;
  • The slide bolt catch ;
  • The slide bolt catch’s spring ;
  • The pin of the magazne catch ;
  • The magazine catch ;
  • The return lever of the trigger tail ;
  • The magazine catch’s spring.

Gunsmith disassembly of the carcass

The dismounting “gunsmith” of the carcass is pleasant to do because several operations do not require tools. The only useful tools are a screwdriver and a pin punch 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter. Here are the steps:

      • Remove the separator ;
      • Using a screwdriver, remove the right and left stick pads (be careful not to lose the safety lever spring in the left pad) ;
      • Remove the safety lever ;
      • Remove the trigger bar ;
      • Remove the trigger ;
      • Using a pin punch with a diameter of 1.5 to 2 mm, extract the trigger pin.
        You can then disassemble: the trigger, the assembly lever, the assembly lever spring and push, the assembly lever lock, the assembly lever lock spring ;

      Bernardelli Baby 6,35 mm / 25 acp

      • Using the same-hunting pin, extract the loader safety pin and disassemble the loader safety ;

    • The last action is to come to hunt, always with the same punch-pin, the charger lock pin.

    At the end of these steps, the weapon is completely dismantled.

    The trigger and sear mechanism

    The mechanism has few parts. Although small in size, they are well machined and adjusted.

    Some machining of the carcass are complex including the housing of the trigger. The thickness of the walls of the feeder well are fine (1.2 and 1.36 mm). And yet the pieces are terribly well finished.

    The operation of the magazine safety: the latter pivots around an axis and is driven by a small spring. When the loader is not present, the loader safety tilts under the action of its spring and prevents the movement of the trigger tail. In the event that the spring of the magazine safety is broken and / or it is difficult to find one, it can be considered to temporarily remove the loader safety of the weapon (disassembly is explained in the previous chapter) in order to continue using it the time to get the missing items. The removal of this piece does not prevent the weapon from functioning. However, we must not forget that a security has been removed and so that it can change your habits.

    What happens when the shooter presses the trigger, (take the case where a magazine is engaged, the striker is armed, the breech is closed, a munition is chambered):

    1. The shooter presses the trigger. By pressing the trigger, the shooter moves the bar back. The two pieces are connected to each other;
    2. The bar being in contact with the return lever of the trigger tail, it pivots about its axis. The return lever of the trigger tail is moved by the force of the common spring loader lock;
    3. Moving the trigger lever of the trigger tail back releases the trigger. Indeed, this part is a lock for the trigger, it prevents it from going down and thus release the striker in various circumstances.In other words: after a certain stroke of trigger, the trigger is no longer locked;
    4. The shooter continues his action on the tail of relaxation.The back of the bar comes into contact with the trigger and forces it to turn (down) about its axis;
    5. After some relaxation tail stroke, the striker is released;
    6. The striker spring relaxes;
    7. Under the action of the striker spring, the striker is launched on the primer of the cartridge;
    8. The primer is struck, the flame produced ignites the powder;
    9. Under the action of the gases produced by the powder of the cartridge, the walls of the case expands and sticks against the walls of the chamber, there is sealing;
    10. The ammo leaves its location in the cartridge case.The warhead comes out of the barrel;
    11. The impulse produced by the expansion of the gases is channeled through the barrel. It acts on one side on the projectile and on the other side on the case of the cartridge and the breech;
    12. Once the warhead comes out of the barrel, the internal pressure drops. The case retracts, it no longer sticks to the room;
    13. The energy gained by the breech breaks the inertia of the breech. The breech begins to retreat;
    14. About 7 mm after the start of opening, the separator lowers and disengages the trigger from the grip of the bar;
    15. The released trigger returns to its high position under the action of its spring;
    16. Ejection of the drawn socket;
    17. Pushed by the lifting board and the magazine spring, the next ammunition of the magazine takes its place on the lips of the magazine;
    18. The armor of the firing pin protrudes beyond the arm’s length of the trigger, when the firing pin is armed;
    19. The recoil of the breech is damped by the recuperating spring;
    20. The recuperating spring decompresses, the breech begins its race forward;
    21. A new ammunition is pushed towards the room;
    22. The striker is held back by the trigger;
    23. At the end of the cylinder head closure, the separator resumes its place under the action of the return lever of the trigger tail;
    24. Returning forward the return lever of the detent tail causes the bar to go up and thus back to the contact of the trigger;
    25. The shooter releases the pressure on the trigger tail;
    26. The bar resumes its place;
    27. The weapon is ready to repeat the same cycle if the shooter presses the trigger tail again.

    The magazineThis subset is composed of 05 pieces:

    • The magazine body;
    • The lifting board spring;
    • The lifting board;
    • The magazine bottom lock;
    • The charger bottom.

    The magazine is a sheet that has been stamped and welded. It is surprising to see that the weld is not located at the back but on the left side. This is unusual especially since the Baby gun magazine has side openings. The piece is perfectly made and has not suffered from past uses. The welding is fine and not very visible, it shows no sign of weakness. The location of the side openings is clearly not a problem for the weld.

    There are two types of magazine for this weapon. A version in 5 moves and one in 8 moves. The latest version protrudes from the weapon and acts as a handle extension. The addition brings greater comfort to the user but gives a little more volume to the weapon. We can not have everything.

    Few people completely and regularly dismantle the magazine of their weapon. It is a mistake because this cleaning allows to remove any kind of deposit, such as: dust pile, stuffed animals, firing residues, oil … which can at some point block the lifting board and make it inoperative. food. What’s more useless than a defensive gun that does not work when you need it. If you do not do the disassembling and cleaning yourself, have a conscientious connoisseur do it better to see a professional.

    You will find below the operating mode for the disassembly of the charger:

    • Using a tool, push the magazine bottom lock into the interior;

    Insérer un outil

    • Push the feeder bottom towards the front of the feeder;

    Le fond de chargeur est déverrouillé.

    • Remove the loader bottom completely, taking care to hold the loader bottom lock and the spring of the lifting board;

    Le fond de chargeur et son verrou son déverrouillé.

    • Remove the lifting board and its spring;

    Pay attention to the disassembly direction so as not to make mistakes during reassembly.

    On the model at my disposal, the lifting board has side flanges that improve the guidance. The part seems to be executed by stamping a flat sheet.

    The shot Bernardelli Baby

    Shooting with this small weapon is very nice. The recoil is small, equivalent to shooting a 22 Lr ammunition in a similar weapon. The accuracy has not been tested for lack of available ammunition and the weapon is not really intended for marksmanship.

    The average pressure of a 6.35 mm cartridge is 1300 bar (source: CIP standard). The test pressure: 1690 bar (source: CIP standard). For a ball weight of: 3.2 grams, a speed of: 200 meters per second this gives us a warhead energy of: 70 joules (Fiocchi catalog).

    The power of stopping the 6.35 mm is not enough to stop the attacks of a decided individual. Even less if he is under the influence of narcotics or in a state of delirium. The interest of the weapon is its very small volume but not its stopping power. In some ways, it can be reassuring to have this type of defense weapon in your pocket (if the regulations allow you) but it must be borne in mind that it will not necessarily be enough to get you out of bad situations. 


    It should not be easy to machine small parts in series. V.Bernardelli’s Baby pistol is nevertheless very well done. No traces of machining are visible. Industrial choices are bold but mastered. The aesthetics is very nice. The weapon is well proportioned and well balanced.

    It would be very interesting to compare the weight of the cylinder heads, the strength of the recovery spring of the versions in 22 short and 6.35 mm to relate these data with the average pressure and the ball weight of the two calibers mentioned. This would make it possible to determine a typical breech weight, a standard barrel length, a typical spring recovery force for a given caliber and then compare them again with data from other manufacturers. If you have this information, they interest me.

    The realization of a “torture test” and the analysis of the results provide a lot of information on the design and life of a weapon. While the latter is not intended for intensive shooting, what would be the behavior of the Baby gun during a torture test? After how much ammunition fired would the first piece break? What would be the first cased pieces? Are the same pieces breaking at the same time? How to cure it ? To this day, I do not know if the firm Bernardelli performed this kind of test for this weapon. It would be interesting to have access to the results of one of these tests.

    The choices of the designers, the validators of these choices are of great importance. Good technical choices will allow the weapon to become an icon of its category and to go through the years to become a timeless object. The design, the realization, the promotion, the marketing are deeply linked stages which, if they are successful, will anchor a weapon in the thoughts. We will find this weapon many years after its manufacture always in working order (because well designed), always pleasant to look at or use. Time will give it a charming patina and a greater value. I think the Baby gun is one of them.

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The Bernardelli baby pistol in 25 acp 1/2

The opportunity is given today to write on the gun mod 68 or “Baby” V.Bernardelli.The weapon that I present to you is in gauge: 6.35 mm or 25 acp.

I wanted to talk about this weapon because I did not expect to find such a beautiful finish on a weapon of this type, namely: a small defense gun. The second reason for writing this article is the mounting of the barrel on the carcass. This one is not very current and very well executed, it deserves that one pays there also.

Vue de la face gauche du pistolet Bernardelli Baby en calibre 6,35 mm

Characteristics of Bernardelli Baby

I will not go back on the history of this weapon because I do not have any elements on the question. It seems that the first models appeared in the years 1940/50. You can find the history of the firm V.Bernardelli, by clicking on the logo of the brand.

Logo V.Bernardelli.There is a version of this weapon in 22 caliber shorts. It would have been useful to compare the two models in order to relate commonalities and differences. I was not allowed to combine the two versions at one time. Therefore, I can not do this comparison today. The future will give me the opportunity to do this experience later.

Bernardelli Baby 6,35 mm manuel

  • Length of the weapon: 106.5 mm;
  • Length of the weapon: 106.5 mm, Height of the weapon: 69 mm (with the 5-cartridge magazine), 68.5 mm (without magazine);
  • Thickness of the weapon: 20.5 mm;
  • Mass of the weapon: 260 grams (with the charger 5 shots empty);
  • Barrel length: 53 mm;
  • Caliber: 6, 35 mm Browning or 25 acp;
  • Number of shots: 5 to 8 depending on the magazine (here, 5-cartridge magazine);
  • Type of mechanism: single action;
  • Safety lever on the left side of the carcass;
  • Charger security;
  • The grip is good but the weapon is low volume;
  • The weapon is entirely made of steel (except the butt pads);
  • Number of rooms: 39.

Vue de la face droite du pistolet Bernardelli Baby 6,35 Browning

User disassembly of the Bernardelli Baby:

The user disassembly of this weapon does not require any special tools. The different steps to accomplish this task are detailed below:

  • Handling a weapon can cause serious damage. Therefore: Always point the weapon in a direction that is not dangerous to you or others, check that the weapon is not supplied (no charger engaged) and that the chamber is empty;
  • Remove the magazine from the weapon;
  • Check that the chamber is empty;
  • By checking that the chamber is empty, it is likely that you have armed the striker (it all depends on the length of the rear stroke that you make the bolt). It takes a race of the breech 23 mm back to arm the firing pin. It can be seen that the firing pin is in the cocked position when a small pointed piece projects at the rear of the bolt;

    A la pointe du crayon se trouve le témoin d'armement du percuteur. On voit le cône pointu : le percuteur est armé.

  • Press the button on the back of the frame on the left side of the weapon;

A la pointe du crayon se trouve le bouton de démontage de la culasse.

  • Whatever the position of the firing pin, (armed or unarmed) the assembly lever will be extracted from its housing under the pressure of the firing pin spring and the trigger spring;

Levier d'assemblage de la culasse en position ouvert.

  • Push the striker spring back into the breech. To do this, you must, if the firing pin was armed during subsequent manipulations, engage an empty magazine (just enough to disengage the magazine security from the trigger, see the next picture) and squeeze the trigger (d where the interest of having checked if the room is empty);

Pour renvoyer le percuteur à l'avant, replacer un chargeur vide dans son logement. La chambre doit être vide. Appuyer sur la queue de détente.

  • Remove the charger again;
  • Pull the cylinder head a few millimeters backwards to disengage the extractor from its housing;

La culasse est suffisamment en arrière, l'extracteur est sorti de son logement.

  • As you have disengaged the puller, lift the back of the bolt;

Une fois l'extracteur sorti de son logement, on peut soulever l'arrière de la culasse.

  • When lifting the rear of the cylinder head, be careful not to lose the separator. He only asks to leave. We will see later the role of this piece.

Au démontage, faire attention à ne pas perdre le séparateur.

  • Under the action of the recovery spring the breech will leave its housing forward. Accompany the breech in its movement. Be careful not to lose the separator, the striker spring, the striker, the recuperator spring and its guide;

Sous l'impulsion du ressort récupérateur, la culasse est extraite par l'avant de son logement.

  • To dismount the barrel, extract it by pushing it on the left (on my copy, it leaves on the left);

Pousser le canon vers la gauche pour l'extraire de la carcasse.

  • User disassembly is complete, you get the following items;

Vue de l'arme démontée.

The subsets of the Bernardelli Baby

The subsets of the Bernardelli Baby pistol in 6.35 mm are:

  • The breech / barrel subassembly;
  • The carcass subassembly;
  • The charger subassembly.

Let’s detail each of these subsets.

The breech / barrel subassembly

The breech / barrel subassembly of the studied weapon is composed of 11 pieces:

  • The breech;
  • The extractor;
  • The extractor spring;
  • The axis of the extractor;
  • The Canon ;
  • The recovery spring;
  • The guide rod;
  • The striker;
  • The striker spring;
  • The guide of the striker spring / armed witness of the striker;
  • The return spring of the armed indicator of the firing pin.

The cylinder head is made of steel. It enters a volume of: 15.4 mm (width) x 21.5 mm (height) x 104 mm (length). The mass of the piece (with the extractor) is: 72 grams. The distance separating the bottom of the breech (or the top of the carcass) and the axis of the barrel is: 4.5 mm.

The diameter of the firing bowl (housing of the base of the case in the cylinder head) is: 8 mm for a depth of: 0.94 mm.

The maximum stroke of the barrel in the breech (same with or without a recuperating spring) is: 28 mm whereas an ammunition measures approximately 22.8 mm.

Bernardelli Baby

The “gunsmith” disassembly of the parts constituting the cylinder head consists in driving the axis of the extractor from its housing by means of a 1.5 mm pin punch. The axis is fine and short. The extractor spring is 3 mm long and has a diameter slightly less than 3 mm. These pieces are small: be careful not to lose them. Disassembling these parts should cause you to properly clean the extractor housing. We do not often have access to this site, so it’s an opportunity to do things right. Clean the parts also before reassembly.

Vue de l'extracteur démonté

The diameter of the striker body is: 5.96 mm. The diameter of the striker tip is: 2 mm. The total length of the firing pin is: 19.5 mm. It would be interesting to compare the striker of the version in 6.35 mm and that of the version in 22 short. Indeed, the percussion of an annular cartridge of caliber 22 short requires, so that there is percussion, to come to hit the bead of the holster. In this case, it seems that two solutions arise for us:

  • Either bring the diameter of the striker body to 7 mm (diameter of the bead of an annular short cartridge 22) to then locate the tip of the striker at the periphery of the cylinder of diameter 7 mm;
  • Or eccentrate the housing of the firing pin;
  • See both solutions at the same time.

What choice did the manufacturer make? To date, I do not have the exact answer to the question because I do not have access to the dimensions of the piece in shorts. An exploded view of the short version, however, helps us in our reflection. We can see on the exploded below the form of the striker but also that the ejection is not operate by the striker itself but by the extension of the guide rod of the striker spring.

Vue éclaté du pistolet Bernardelli Baby en calibre 22 short. On remarquera la forme de l'éjecteur et du percuteur.

The cylinder head does not move on the carcass via machined rails as on most automatic guns. The guide of the cylinder head is made in two points:

  • The first guide is the barrel, the front of the bolt slides around the barrel;
  • The second is the assembly lever. The latter penetrating into the housing of the striker limits the movements of the breech.

    After percussion, a rear stroke of 23 mm is required at the bolt for the striker to be cocked again. The firing pin of the firing pin does not protrude from below the bolt. It is the trigger that comes to “look” in its path. The firing pin serves as an ejector. At the end of the race of the breech, the point of the striker protrudes by 3.6 mm in the bowl of firing, which gives an impulse to the case which pivots around the extractor and ejects.

The barrel enters a volume of: 53 mm (length) x 11.7 mm (width) X 14.4 mm (height). The outer diameter of the round party is: 9.8 mm. The mass of the barrel is: 21 gram. The bead of the cartridge remains outside the chamber.

Was the barrel scratched after machining its profile? Or, did the scratching take place first and then the machining of the profile? This would be interesting information to know. I would go for the second solution (because the most common). Namely: the use of steel rod of several tens of centimeters drilled and scratched to the caliber 6.35 mm. The bars are cut to the desired length. The profile of the barrel is obtained by machining these portions of bars. Then the room is made with a specific strawberry (strawberry room). The barrel of the Bernardelli baby can be obtained from a strip of 14 mm diameter bar (minimum). The barrel has 6 scratches on the left.

One of the important things about this weapon is the method of assembly chosen by the manufacturer V.Bernardelli to bind the barrel and the carcass. Indeed, this type of assembly is little used. The barrel is held on the carcass via an inverted T-shaped fit. The barrel enters laterally in a groove made in the carcass. The machining does not present simple shapes: that is to say rectangular (what one would expect) but are rounded shapes. If the machining of the female housing requires a milling cutter, the male form requires more complex machining and fitting. I think this choice is a desire of the manufacturer to avoid the appearance of cracks in the corners (especially the upper corners) if a rectangular geometric shape had been chosen. The adjustment on the weapon at my disposal is particularly well done, the barrel once on the carcass has only a very weak game.

The width of the T branch is: 11 mm. The height of the T branch is: 2 mm.

The recovery spring has a length of: 55 mm. The diameter of the wire is 0.7 mm. The spring is flared at both ends. In the center, the outside diameter is: 5.7 mm. The flares have an outside diameter of: 6.6 mm.

The guide rod has a length of: 53.6 mm for a body diameter of: 4 mm.

Bernardelli Baby, vue de la tige guide et du ressort récupérateur.

The following in a future article.

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The rifle mle 1866 Chassepot 2/2

Through the retranscription of an article punctuated by an ounce of optimism published in 1869, we saw in the first section devoted to the rifle Chassepot to outline the beginnings of the adoption of the new regulatory weapon. A weapon firing so much cartridge that the enemy would be quickly cut in pieces in case of conflict.

What about in 1873? Through the study of older texts, what can we deduce? Is there a relationship with more contemporary facts?

The rifle mle 1866 Chassepot

The wish to have a small caliber rifle charging the breech was issued in June 1865 by the Emperor Napoleon III. That same year, the permanent commission of Versailles had chosen a rifle charging by the mouth. The recent victories of Prussia require a more modern choice.

Under the influence of Switzerland, the tendency of the time tends towards the diminution of the caliber. We look for a weapon of caliber between 10 and 15 mm in order to obtain a more tense trajectory and to make it possible to shoot at great distances, which is not possible with a projectile of 17 to 18 mm. One thus seeks to strongly impact, to see undo, the enemy before the combat with the white weapon.

It is a period of strong technical evolutions, many choices exist. We make selection tests with a retrograde rifle but still strongly anchored in the minds: the shotgun. The latter is ultimately a stallion of the old armament and an old way of making war. On the other hand, no weapon with metal case is present on the ranks. The commission is charged with deciding on three weapons: the Chassepot rifle, the Chassepot rifle modified by Mr Plumerel, a rifle charging by the mouth. The Chassepot rifle was adopted.

The creator of the 1866 rifle is the author of three patents: the rubber shutter, the latch mechanism derived from the Prussian Dreysse, the cartridge. The ballistic characteristics of the gun and the warhead: bullet length / caliber, bullet weight / powder charge, shape and inclination of the stripes / influence of the rotation of the projectile were defined according to the studies of various stakeholders and commissions then applied on the Chassepot mechanism.

February 14, 1866, an order of 1500 weapons is passed to the factory of Châtellerault.

In June 1866, 400 rifles were received. they will be sent to the camp of Chalons to be experienced by the Imperial Guard (see first article on the Chassepot rifle).

July 03, 1866, creation of the manufactures of St Etienne and Puteaux. The goal is to manufacture 150,000 weapons a year and 1,800 machine tools for manufacturing.

The 1866 rifle is a resolutely modern weapon for its time. Terribly well done and that required a major effort to the nation. Then comes the time of the first tests then the fire test. The only criterion of the gun is not enough to predict the winner of future battles. The idyllic setting described by the first article has it evolved? What about the best weapon in Europe? Are Mr. Chassepot’s patents adapted to a weapon of war? or a stand gun?

Spitting towards the face of the shooter (synonymous with lack of tightness) are the reasons for the delay in the adoption and spread of bolt loading weapons. Mr Chassepot uses a recent material for the time: a rubber washer to achieve this seal which in the process reduces the recoil of the weapon. The room is deteriorating in various ways. It cracks, it melts and closes the channel of the needle, it loses its elasticity. The spitting increases in a growing way when in melting it loses its diameter. The soldier has a spare room in his cabin. The use of this material is a bold choice. To date, very few weapons have used rubber for this function. The Chassepot may be the only one.

As seen above, the seal is more or less well done to the outside. It is the same towards the interior. The gases, the result of the burning of the powder, go wherever they do not encounter resistance. This is how they pass into the breech through the channel of the percussion needle. This has the effect of soaking the percussion spring causing a weak percussion see the breakage of the spring. In some cases, it is possible to arm the dog just by slamming the ground diaper. The combustion gases also strongly foul the inside of the cylinder head.

The fouling does not only affect the inside of the cylinder head but also the room. Debris and firing residues remain and prevent the introduction of the following ammunition.

The diameter of the needle is 1.5 mm. A doubled diameter, 3 mm, would bring a solidity 4 times higher.

The muscled closure of the breech may cause the percussion of a cartridge. This sudden closure exists due to the lack of inclined closure ramp on the receiver. The presence of this machining helps the shooter to gradually push the ammunition into the chamber while locking the bolt. The vast majority of modern lock weapons have this ramp, it brings unparalleled comfort.

The polished white finish of the weapon, in addition to being very visible, requires significant maintenance under penalty of corrosion.

Despite the speech of Mr Thier, President of the Republic, of June 8, 1872:

“In the opinion of the men of war, the Chassepot rifle was the best weapon in use in the armies” “The Chassepot rifle is recognized excellent except the cartridge, which all European countries seek to improve” …

Although it is necessary to bear in mind the industrial context of the time as well as the speed with which the weapon was manufactured and distributed, it still seems that one can address some reproaches on the design of the Chassepot rifle.

The Chassepot Rifle Cartridge

As said before, three principles compete at this time in the history of armament: the loading by the mouth, the cartridge with fuel pouch, the cartridge with metal case. Although proposed by the commission of Versailles, the loading by the mouth is considered exceeded, swept away by the consequences of the battles of Sadowa.

The fuel cell cartridge thus found itself in competition with the cartridge with metal case. Although some observers of the time give their preference for the latter which is said to be of better quality even from abroad. The disadvantages of it have had a bigger forum. The defects of the era of the metal cartridges are:

  • The excess weight of the holster. The weight of the case add to that of the warhead decreases the number of cartridges that can carry the soldier;
  • Chemical reactivity between the holster and the powder which may lead to the decomposition of the powder;
  • Delicate extraction;
  • Cases that are likely to split;
  • Requires the use of extractor. A thin piece, so fragile, not easy to replace by the fighter on the battlefield;
  • The cartridge can not be recharged or manufactured by the fighter;
  • The tools required for mass production are considered too expensive;
  • The dimensional differences of cases due to various manufacturers;
  • Lack of power of the ammunition;
  • Difficulty of chambering in case of shocks on the case;
  • The cost of manufacturing the case.

In 1866, no metal holsters were in competition with the Chassepot.

In 1873, the choice between modernity (cartridge with metal case) and semi-modernity (cartridge with combustible case) is not made. Public finances, past military principles have made some people say that the paper cartridge remains the future. The choice will be decided in 1874. This is probably the time needed to perfect the metal case and the time to overcome a certain resistance to changes.

The standard cartouche of the Chassepot

The characteristics of the regulatory cartridge are:

  • Powder charge: 5.25 grams;
  • Ball weight: 24.5 grams;
  • A 25 mm long bale (should approach 33 mm for greater accuracy, 3 times the diameter);
  • Diameter of the warhead: 11 mm.

According to the notice on cartridges for weapons of war and in particular for Chassepot rifle (1873), the 5 qualities of a weapon cartridge of war should be:

  • 1 The preservation of the cartridge;
  • 2 Regularity, promptness, security, accuracy of shooting;
  • 3 The strength of the cartridge;
  • 4 The ease of manufacture;
  • 5 The economy over the cost price.

1 Cartridge conservation

We have a little trouble imagining a good and long conservation of paper ammunition loaded with black powder. In addition, what conservation are we talking about? those of the components before manufacture, conservation of the manufactured ammunition, conservation during the delivery, conservation in ammunition hold, conservation during the operational transports, conservation in the bags of the soldiers … Each of the manipulations quoted can be, if it is badly carried out, a source of deterioration. The ammunition with combustible case is fragile, they must be protected from the difficult atmospheric conditions … not easy in so much of war. The Chassepot cartridge is not ideal in this area.

2 Regularity

This quality comes from the homogeneity of a batch of cartridges. It therefore depends on a number of criteria such as conservation, regularity of components, manufacturing … to say that the parameters to master are important especially if part of the manufacturing is delegated to civilian workshops. To this must be added the irregular deposits left by the firing residues and the paper case in the room that will distort the regularity.

2 Readiness

The speed of the Chassepot shotgun is a real advantage compared to a weapon loading by the mouth and this especially as it allows a reload squatting or lying. This speed is only possible if the chamber of the weapon is not too dirty or if the warhead has not detached from the holster in the sack of the soldier … among others.

2 Security

It is a natural way that the Chassepot cartridge does not offer all the security guarantees. The reason has already been mentioned above: there can be no security when firing an ammunition without a case if the mechanism to load the bolt is not waterproof.

2 The accuracy of the shot

Some criteria of the accuracy of the shot are the centering of the ball on the axis of the barrel, the regularity of the speed of the bullet, the wear and the cleanliness of the barrel, the regularity of the weight and the diameter of the ogive.

Matching the axis of the bullet with the axis of the barrel while the chamber is fouled may seem complicated. Similarly in the case of a residue-free chamber, there is always a gap between the connecting cone and the warhead causing misalignment. This game can be decreased (but not removed) by using several layers of paper around the warhead, it will always result in a settlement and an irregularity.

Depending on the state of the rubber ring of the cylinder head, there may be losses of gas that change the internal pressure and therefore the speed of the warhead. This will have an influence on the projectile’s tension and thus on the accuracy of the shot. The firing residues present in the stripe of the barrel will have the same impact.

3 The strength of the cartridge

The solidity of the Chassepot cartridge is very inadequate for a war cartridge. It is estimated that 20 percent of the ammunition was damaged during the 1870-1871 conflict, sometimes destroyed in the military bag during travel. There are traces of stories of soldiers fleeing the enemy for lack of cartridges, for lack of supplies that do not come … even with the railroad.

4 The ease of manufacture

By adopting the cartridge paper case, we would like to keep the soldier the ability to make his own cartridges. In the case of taking a convoy, an enemy camp, it is then possible for the combatants to use the stocks of powder and primers left by the opponent.

Nevertheless ammunition becomes more complex, it is not so easy to have them manufactured by the soldiers in a war of advantage in movement. We rely on the use of the railroad to carry supplies. This is the beginning of “industrial operational support”. On the other hand, it is easy to set up manufacturing workshops with trained workers and simple tools. It appears that poor ammunition was delivered by civilian workshops during the 1870-1871 conflict. A worker makes 85 cartridges for every ten hours.

Following the modification of the military uses and the lengthening of the range of the weapons the consumption in ammunition explodes. This is probably one of the reasons for the lack of supply.

5 The economy

In 1873, a military law programs 1,200,000 men under the flag. At a rate of 100 cartridges per staff per year, an annual requirement of 120,000,000 cartridges are required under penalty of insufficient instruction. It is easy to imagine that each component needs to be optimized in order to reduce the cost as much as possible and thus reduce the bill. In view of the annual need for cartridges, the smallest savings passed on each munition represents very quickly large sums. The paper case cartridge remains more economical than the metal case cartridge.

Can we say that 100 cartridges a year are enough to educate and maintain the knowledge of a shooter, a soldier? We then see the interest of encouraging private initiatives such as the establishment of civilian firing ranges, hunting societies, to educate children shooting at school, to propose weapons close to regulatory weapons to civilians so that they train throughout the year without impacting the resources of the state. We find in the old catalogs of manufactures the traces of these initiatives.

Many of the above criteria are not met, however, the paper cartridge will be accepted.

The Callebaut cartridge

“The Chassepot rifle is recognized as excellent except the cartridge, which all European countries are seeking to improve.” (speech of the President of the Republic June 8, 1872)

In a desire to equip the Chassepot rifle with a more adequate ammunition. The house Callebaut (Paris) offers a cartridge with wooden body. This new cartridge without a metal case is said to hunt hunted.

This consumable case cartridge version provides a faster shot of 150 cartridges for only 101 cartridges fired with the prescribed ammunition. One miss on 1089 rounds fired. 207 cartridges shot without incident related to the rubber sealing system against 85 in the regulatory rifle thanks to the use of a rubber membrane closing the tube of the cartridge and which under the pressure of the gas vein take a larger diameter (decreasing the stresses on the rubber shutter).

When fired, the wooden tube 13.5 mm in diameter is forced into the cone of connection, which breaks it and the pieces of wood leaving the barrel cleans the latter. No plots of wood stay in the room.

The wooden body of the cartridge is stronger than that of the standard cartridge. According to the manufacturer, it can be half-crushed, the ammunition still works. If it still works … it must be difficult to chamber !!

200 cartridges can be manufactured in ten hours, or 2.35 times more than for the prescribed ammunition. Time is not the only one to be saved, the missed ammunition is too.

This cartridge does not seem to have been adopted by the armies. The following year, the Gras rifle will end the paper cartridge case, the era of the metal case has arrived.

I did not find any representation of this ammunition.


We can see through this series of articles the difference between the transcription of the book and the reality of war, finally … between theory and practice.

Pressed by German victories, including that of July 3, 1866 in Sadowa, France decided hastily to equip his army. She chose a modern weapon for the time: the 1866 Chassepot rifle. It takes the opportunity to create new factories. The choice made by France is audacious. Modern engineers have not clearly solved and therefore not or little commercialized this type of weapon. Indeed, the use of fuel cases is likely to face problems that are difficult to solve today. In particular the clogging of the chamber and the sealing. It is ambitious in 1865-1866 to want to replace a regulatory piston weapon with a weapon adding several technical advances with the hope of solving major problems (use of a mechanism to load by the cylinder head, reduction of the caliber, fouling of black powder, fouling of residues of burned paper, evolution of the doctrine of the use of long weapons, adoption of new ammunition, mass production of the new ammunition, use of an uncommon material then in armory: rubber, etc …) all made by a new factory.

The St Etienne gun factory will supply the weapons ordered shortly before the war, but what about the training of soldiers, officers, health services, various supplies …

Germany took the lead in endowing its army with breech-loading rifles well before other nations (1841, 25 years before France). This advance certainly had setbacks but by equipping decades before the others, they had time to stop at various technical events and train their soldiers, gunsmiths, officers to make them more fit to fight.

Following the despatch of Ems and despite the warnings of Adolphe Thier, France declared war on Germany. The war lasted from July 19, 1870 to January 29, 1871, a little over six months. The result of the lack of preparation will be the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. Territory that will remain German until the end of the world premiere is 47 years.

Fundamental problems directly affecting Mr Chassepot’s patents would have been worthy of experience earlier, which would have allowed the various levels of civilian and military maintenance and supply to address certain pre-conflict defects. Or, do not declare war on Germany to fix the anomalies. Chassepot rifles will be transformed from 1874 for firing the metal cartridge. It will bear the name of 1866/74 Bold.

In 1873, America, England, Belgium adopted metal cartridge weapons. France is resisting, the cause is perhaps the absence, the limitation of private industries that bring, in the hope of a major government contract, an innovation, a competition more abundant. France preferred the opposite: the monopoly of national manufactures whose insufficiency, history demonstrated it during the war of 1870-1871 and many years later (to see article gunsmith designer concerning revolver 1892) , can occur.

The importance of regimental gunsmiths and private companies to change the world of weapons, quickly change endowment weapons is well established. A nation must maintain knowledge and talents. To date, the situation of the arms industry in France is such that the private industry dies, the manufacture of weapon of St Etienne is closed, the next assault rifle of the French army will be German and American inspired.

Useful sources for writing this article:

You can download these three documents on the download page of the site:

  • Armament of Europe and the United States: Influence of the Rapid Shooting Rifle on Tactics and Training of the Soldier – 1870 – (bnf-Gallica);
  • Small arms and the treatment of firearm wounds in the field – 1892 – (bnf-Gallica);
  • Notice on the cartridges for weapons of war and in particular on the cartouche for rifle Chassepot – 1866 – (bnf-Gallica).
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