Pistol: Model 1892 Revolver

Pistol Revolver Modèle 1892 Manufacturer Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne
Cartridge 8mm French Ordnance Overall Length 9.3″
Action Galand-Schmidt Barrel Length 4.6″
Cylinder 6 rounds Weight 1.88 lbs

 

 

 

 

 

 

The invention of smokeless gunpowder propelled the French military to the forefront of small arms technology.  With other countries joining fast, the French knew they needed to upgrade their equipment quickly to stay ahead.  Eight years later they built a revolver.

In 1884 Paul Vieille developed a stable, smokeless gunpowder later named “Poudre B.”  In 1886 France began producing the Fusil Lebel and kicked off an arms race that meant smaller calibers, flatter trajectories, and longer ranged shots.  The French Ministry of War followed their new rifle with an immediate request for a smokeless, small-caliber revolver.  Due to rapid retooling and heavy manufacture of the Fusil Lebel, French industry was unable to produce the new sidearm for several years.

France’s previous service weapon was the venerable 11mm modèle 1873 Chamelot-Delvigne double-action revolver.  Originally Manufacture d’armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS) offered a design known as the modèle 1887.  This piece was mostly a scaled down modèle 1873 for use with smokeless powder and not much else.  Because MAS was unable to commit to full production and the pistol failed to completely impress the government only 1,000 were made until 1889.

The modèle (mle.) 1892 is commonly referred to as the “Lebel” revolver or the “St. Etienne.”  The latter makes sense as the revolvers are stamped “St. Étienne” but the former is a misunderstanding as Nicholas Lebel does not appear to have played a part in their development.   As rifle production in France began to stabilize more attention was paid to the revolver and the MAS inspector-general Monsieur Richard decided to take a hand in the design.  The revolver moved to the Galand-Schmidt action, common in Colt double action revolvers on into the 1960′s.  Disassembly was eased by a hinged side plate that allows the mle. 1892 to be opened like a book. More importantly, the singular loading gate was replaced with a swing out cylinder for much quicker reloading.  The hammer is designed to return to a slightly retracted position after firing and has a tilting striker to prevent misshaps with misfires or pierced primers.  The mle. 1892 shares the rifling pattern and dimensions of the Fusil Lebel rifle; revealing the French to be more concerned about tooling costs and setup than accuracy.  Ammunition was provided in an 8x27mm rimmed round known commonly as 8mm French Ordnance, partially chosen for thrift.  It began as a black powder round and made a graceful transition to smokeless.  Holsters were originally a hard leather shell with later substitutions of soft leather flaps.

The modèle 1892 began production in its namesake year and continued until 1924.  Barrels have been dated up to 1930 but these are refurbished revolvers.  Manufacture date is stamped right on the barrel, so no confusion for collectors.  M1892s served with the French armed forces through WWI until they were officially retired in 1935.  WWII, however, had other ideas and the pistols were not completely replaced until after 1945.  In many places formally under French rule they remained in service well into the 1960s.  Commercial models, Belgian, and Spanish-made copies also abound with slight variations of fitting, markings, and caliber.

Using the mle. 1892 is a mix of old and new revolver styles.  The internal mechanism should be very familiar to American shooters but the operation will seem a bit odd.  To load the gun pull back on the lever on the right side of the frame behind the cylinder; yes the one that looks exactly like a loading gate.  This, surprisingly, will release the swing-out cylinder.  Now gape openly as it drops out of the right side of the revolver.  This is a left-handed shooters dream.  Insert your ammo, close the cylinder and you’re ready to fire.  The revolver may be used in single or double action.  Once done the spent casings are ejected using a single ejecting rod set in the center of the cylinder.

Ultimately the mle. 1892 is a revolver that pushed home some wonderful ideas and really could have been one of the great military side arms of history if not for a few oversights.  The revolver is light, rugged, and shows a clear departure from the earlier European designs.  Its action is simple and effective and disassembly and maintenance are a piece of cake given its swing-open frame.  It’s a shame, but even French rifles decades later weren’t as easy to service.  On the downside, the pistol has a somewhat lackluster grip angle.  This is compounded by the light barrel with poor rifling from the start.  While the dimensions were adequate for a 3ft. long rifle, a 4.6in. barrel just couldn’t get the same performance.  You’re also shooting an anemic 120 grain, 8mm at only 728 fps.  So while it’s a fun piece of history, the mle. 1892 might not be the best choice in accuracy or knock-down power.

Oh, and that whole right-side cylinder thing?  We’ve tried looking into that and found only one reference to the cavalry.  It claims they expected to hold their pistols in the left hand with the reigns for reloading and so the gun was built.  While we cannot confirm this it is somewhat bolstered by the stabilizing springs on the ejector rod and the crane pivot.  These would add stability to the reloading process while on horseback. Patrick’s post below has some great information on why this was done.

 

 

13 Responses to “Pistol: Model 1892 Revolver”

  1. I would like to find a 1873 Camelot Devigine to purchase Good to poor condition eveen just as a wall Hanger.I wish to find one that is in good condition to shoot.At a fair price.Thank you

  2. PCShogun says:

    Last line is missing a “to”

    “Without further confirmation, however, we’re going TO list this tidbit as lore.” Just an FYI.

  3. Nagao says:

    Good catch.

  4. John says:

    I just purchased a 1892 today at a local gun show. It looks exactly like one I previously owned but has no date on the barel and the St Etienne is a small stamp on the right side of the barrel.
    The serial number is 23268 and has no letter prefix.
    Could anyone tell me what I have and it’s approximate date of manufacture?
    Thank you

  5. Suzie says:

    John,
    Where did you pull your serial number from? 1892 should always have a prefix, so you might want to double check it to make sure there isn’t one (yours should be “F”). That mystery aside, given your serial number, it looks like your gun was manufactured in 1893. Hopefully that helps some, but if it doesn’t, and you’re willing to send us photos, Nagao and I would be happy to take a look at it for you.

    -Suzie

  6. Robert says:

    I have the 1892 revolver I would like to sell. Would anyone have an idea as to a good site to list it?

    It is in very good condition, but needs cleaning. I just had a local gun shop look at it and the owner thought it was a great item and would shoot it without a doubt.

    Thank you

    • Nagao says:

      In order of preference:
      1. Brick and mortar gunshop in your town.
      2. Gunboards.com Trader section
      3. Gunlistings or Armslist for local sales
      4. Gunbroker.com

  7. Robert says:

    Thank you Nagao,

    It is an F serial # making it over 100 years old military revolver.
    Selling it to buy a sig,

    Thanks again

  8. Patrick says:

    Here is how the procedure worked for loading the Revolver d’Ordonnance Modèle 1892 …

    From the French manual called ‘Le Livre du Grade D’Infanterie à L’usage des Élèves Caporaux, Caporaux et Sous-Officier de L’Infanterie et du Génie; 1917′ that answers the question of how the Revolver d’Ordonnance Mle.1892 was to be shot and used. This book has loads of information on many different weapons used by the French during this period such as nomenclature, how to breakdown them, how they function, clean and maintain, etc.
    Here is the translated version.

    Article 4
    Exercise of Charging the Arm
    Charge
    1. Place the revolver in the left hand, raise the barrel towards the horizion, open the loading gate and pull the loading gate back with the left thumb, then using two fingers opening the cylinder to the right, then with the right hand place the cartridges in the chambers of the cylinder.
    2. Close the cylinder by swinging it to the left making sure it latches and then close the loading gate with left thumb.
    (If you want the weapon to be on safe then open the loading gate)

    Un-Charge the Arm
    1. Place the revolver in the left hand, open the loading gate and pull the loading gate back with the left thumb, then using two fingers opening the cylinder to the right, then with the left pinkie hand press the extractor and eject the cartridges into right hand.
    2. Close the cylinder to the left making sure it latches and then close the loading gate with the left thumb.

    Article 5
    Execution of Fire
    1. At the command CHARGE REVOLVER do the above
    2. At the command READY place the revolver in the right hand and then raise the revolver 10 centimeters from the right shoulder with barrel straight up with the triggerguard towards the front and the right index finger is placed on the side of the triggerguard.
    3. At the READY TO FIRE draw back the hammer with the right thumb, point the revolver towards the target and get your line of sight.
    4. At the command FIRE place the first part of the index finger on the trigger and then squeeze the trigger.

    Depending on how you are told to fire the revolver whether it is to be fired by one round at a time or continuos fire you either pulled back the hammer each time you fired or just kept on pulling the trigger which made it double actioned.
    5. At the command CEASE FIRE go back to the postion of READY making sure you take your finger of the trigger.
    6. AT the command UN-CHARGE the Arm you will do the above.

    I hope this helps out as to why the cylinder opens to the right instead of the left.

    As to the revolver that does not have a letter prefix and date on it … This was a civilian commercial made revolver made by Manufacture Françaises d’Armes et Cycles de Saint Etienne which went by the names Manu-France or ‘La Manu’. This company was and still is the Sears and Roebuck of France.

    Patrick Hernandez
    French Firearms Collector

  9. Code Taylor says:

    My Dad brought one of these home from europe after WWII. Is ammo available for it?
    Also it has 31476 on the under side of the barrel and S Elienne followed by a A with a F underneath it. Can you tell me what these mean?

    • Greg says:

      Thats “St. Etienne”. its the manufacturer. I believe the other marks you are talking about are the stamps showing that the parts passed inspection. Mine has a “P” and a “B” after the “Mf d’armes de Saint-Étienne”

  10. Kevin says:

    on the Mle 1892 what is the name of the screw that goes thru the revolver from left to right just below and in front of the cylinder?

    • Nagao says:

      I believe Numrich calls it the “Trigger Guard Stud Screw” but I cannot promise that. It should be the only component by the name though.

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