M1853/67 French " 'a Tabatiere" Infantry and Dragoon Rifles


GENERALLY:  The "Tabatiere" (a French term that means "snuffbox", because the conversion block reminded the French of a snuffbox of the times) is a Snider variant, although attributed by the French to a French national ironically named Schneider, who was a joint patent-holder with Jacob Snider, an American credited with development of the M1853/66 British Snider Enfield.  The Tabatiere action was adopted by the French to convert their Mle 1853-54  (and later, also their Mle 1822) muzzle loading rifles to cartridge breach loaders.  The Mle 1857, a Mle1853 with steel rifled barrel, was also converted but is not generally viewed as a distinct variant.   The system was used to convert no less than 4 distinct rifles to breach loaders:  The Mle 1853-54 Infantry rifle, the Mle 1853 Dragoon (slightly shorter, otherwise about identical, also sometimes referred to at the Voltigeur rifle), the Mle 1859 Carabine de Chasseur, (a rifle, differing quite a bit in length, caliber, being 18.2mm, nosecap, 2 bands instead of 3, sights and mounting a sword bayonet on a barrel mounted lug and tenon rather than a spike bayonet.  The Carabine de Chasseur also carried a different ram/cleaning rod) and the Mle 1822 T.bis infantry musket.  The conversions were made after the adoption of the Mle 1866 Chasspot (q.v. Mle 1866-74 Gras) and after seeing the success of the Snider, as well as being mindful of the Prussian campaigns against the Danes in 1864 and Austria in 1866.  Because of it's large, obsolescent caliber and relatively weak action it was quickly relegated to rear echelon troops and was substantially withdrawn from service altogether by the mid-1870's.  Most Tabatieres were discarded or converted to shotguns (of which there are quite a few extant ... the "Zulu shotguns" often seen as decorators at gunshows).

PHOTO:  The rifle shown is a Mle 1867 Tabatiere fusil de Dragon (Dragoon rifle).  It is virtually identical to the infantry rifle but is approximately 4 inches shorter.  (The Carabine de Chasseur, Mle M1859/67, is a noticeably different variety and is detailed in a separate page, linked here and also noted below).

DISTINGUISHING CHARECTERISTICS:  The Tabatiere is a very large calibre (17.8mm) conversion arm using a system similar to but different from the Snider conversion of the Enfield muskets.  Because of the large calibre, the area behind the breech block is deeply cut out to allow for clearance of the large cartridge.  Except for the Mle 1822/67, the actions are back-action.  The Mle 1822/67 is forward action, and, most of them having been converted during the exegicies of the 1870-71 War, the receivers and breech blocks are often seen in bronze rather than iron.  Note, however, that bronze actions are found fitted to Mle 1853/67 infantry rifles as well.   The Tabatiere hammer is so distinctly French that it's impossible to miss a Tabatiere, notwithstanding any other features.  Except for the Carabine de Chasseur, the nosecap on all varieties is elaborate, and very similar to the Belgium Albini-Braendlin.

Mle 1853/67 Tabatiere Infantry and Dragoon Rifle:

Notes from the Owner:

    You'll note a conversion mark -- "227 B" -- on all parts relating to the conversion to tabatiere;  including some screws, on the butt stock and on the bottom of the breechblock itself.  Also, you'll note a "9BRE" in the buttstock rondel.  Can't be positive but I believe this likely refers to manufacture (or final proof/acceptance) in September of that year -- "Septembre" en francais.  Dave.

    Note from Keith Doyon:  Dave has the right idea, however I've been kindly informed and corrected that "9BRE" would be November.  Sept would be 7, Oct meaning 8 and, interestingly, December is often denoted as "XBRE"   X meaning 10 of course!  :)  The earlier months are spelled out where short, abbreviated where longer.

Subj:  Tabatiere M1822T / 67
Date: 02-02-11 04:05:18 EST
From: vhelden@home.nl (J v Helden)
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com

Hey Keith,

As promised some pictures of my French M1822TBis transforme a tabatiere.  As you can see there is a brown patina on the rifle now, original they where bright with iron barrel bands.  I have a book in French about their regulation arms (hard to read for me, but I try to give a short translation)

It seems that these Tabatiere rifles had a bad reputation do to their large caliber and ineffective ammo.  As the French started to loose the French-Prussian war, they decided to transform the large amounts of M1822Tbis and 1842T rifles and even some AN IX flintlocks they still had in stock to the Tabatiere system.  They were used to armed the "Garde National de Paris" and the "Francs-Tireurs" to defend Paris.

The bronze blocks where easier and faster to produce.  Lots of them are transformed by Paris gunmakers like mine "Ets. Mignon et Rouhard, rue Oberkampf a Paris" (MR and the rear end of the breech block).   After the French-Prussian War they were put out of service.

I hope you can do something with this information, if you want more pics, just let me know !!

Best regards
Jos van Helden


Photos this page courtesy of Jos van Helden

Note that the lock on this model is a "conventional" forward action lock.  If you will review the photos of
the other models of Tabatiere rifles, you will note that they are all "back-action" style locks.


The bronze receiver and breech block, with the forward lock, are the notable distinguishing
charecteristics of this model of Tabatiere.

Page built:  January 24 & 28, 1999
Revised February 8, September 26, 1999
Revised May 7, 2000
Revised February 12, 2002
Revised August 31, 2003

Updated: Oct 29, 2021