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Please help me to identify this Unknown Rifle


M1866/?? Chasspot-Conversion

GENERALLY:   This rifle certainly started life as a M1866 French Chasspot, but which has been subsequently converted to center-fire metallic cartridge, very similarly to, but not exactly like, the most common Chasspot conversion, the M1866-74 French Gras.  The bolt-head and extraction systems are significantly different than the Gras conversion system.  This rifle is marked with what appear to be original French markings below the stock line, but all Chasspot markings have been polished off and different markings have been added, very likely by the converters.  The rifle is also stamped with what I believe to be Mexican national markings, but I don't know.  I would appreciate any help anyone might be able to give me.

There were over a million Chasspot rifles made, large numbers of which were captured by the Prussions as a result of the Franco-Prussion war and converted by Germany to fire the German M1871 Mauser cartridge.  Even greater numbers were converted by the French themselves to M1866-74 French Gras.  Chasspots were also converted by Kynoch to accept the German cartridge for the China trade, and these are marked "Kynoch" and "Birmingham" so this conversion is not extraordinary.  It is, however, one that I have not previously encountered and I'd love to identify it.

PHOTO:  Do others have any opinions?  Originally a French M1866 Chasspot, this rifle has been converted to center-fire metallic cartridge.

Subj: unknown rifle on the Site
Date: 7/14/2003 8:19:12 AM Mountain Standard Time
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com


An addition to the unknown Chassepot on your site:

The eagle-emblem also appears on some Chassepots in our collection. It appears to be a commercial marking of Chassepot. The examples in our collection can be read more easily and have the word CHASSEPOT underneath the eagle.

With regards,
Mathieu Willemsen
Curator Royal Netherlands Army and Arms Museum.

Subj: RE: unknown rifle on the Site
Date: 8/3/2003 11:25:48 PM Mountain Standard Time
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com

Another addition concerning the Chassepot:

I have checked our examples, and They are read: CHASSEPOT
And underneath: FRANCOTTE. So these are made in Liege, probably for the commercial market.

Mathieu Willemsen.

Subj:  M1866/?? Chaspot
Date: 01-04-15 13:00:07 EDT
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com

For what its worth: Looking at references of Mexican Eagles on rolling blocks and early Mausers, the eagle is always facing to its left and has a snake in its beak. Also, early Mexican coinage always has the eagle this way. The bird on this rifle is facing right and has no snake. Of all the South American countries that used a bird of prey on their coinage in the late 1800's, Chile's condor is the most SIMILAR, but not exact as the bird pictured on the rifle.

So, I would guess that its "probably" not Mexican, but still unknown.

(Tom Jackson)

Subj:  Mystery Chassepot
Date: 01-05-09 16:05:28 EDT
From: (Trevor Dixon)
To: KeithDoyon@MilitaryRifles(.)com


 First, I must congratulate you on a superb webb site. I have found lots of interesting information & particularly the hotographs, which are not readily available elsewhere.

 With reference to your request for information about this unusual Chassepot conversion:

 I believe that this rifle did not originate in France but in Birmingham, England, hence none of the usual markings. There are three reasons for this belief:

1.. It has Birmingham proof marks
    a.. The provisional proof of a Crown over BP
    a.. The final proof of Crown over crossed swords with letters P, B & C
    a.. The view mark of Crown over crossed swords and the letter V

2.. the names on the side of the receiver seem to be P. W..(not easily decipherable from the photo but could this be P.Webley & Sons? I can make out part of an E & SO) and underneath BIRMINGHAM (these could be the retailers)

3.. the initials on the barrel of 'C & G' are, I believe, for Cooper & Goodman (ref. The British Soldier's Firearm by C H Roads page 106) who were contractors within the Birmingham gun trade making (in 1861) Lancaster Carbines.   Further to these, Chassepots with designation letters 'U' & 'V', while supposedly made in France by Cahen & Lyon, were actually made at a number foreign factories including Birmingham, Brescia, Liege, Vienna & Placienta (ref; 'La Grande aventure des fusils regementaires francais 1866 - 1936' by Henri Vuillemin). So the Birmingham gun trade were 'tooled up' for making Chassepots.

 The actual conversion is more difficult! With my limited library I have found three possibilities:

   1.. In 1866 Artillery Captain Gustave Plumerel developed a system to allow the use of a paper cartridge that was stronger than the original Chassepot one. This meant that it would not be consumed on firing and would need to be removed from the chamber. He added, what I translate to be, a 'spoon' to the bolt head into which the cartridge was placed and moved in & out of the chamber. (ref; 'La Grande aventure ......)

   2.. The Davoust system of 1869. A means of adapting the Chassepot bolt to fire a metal cartridge with a central Boxer primer. To make the conversion, a new bolt head was fitted and the rubber obturator removed. The bolt head had a recess to take the base of the cartridge and was fitted with an extractor. The Chassepot needle was replaced by a firing pin surrounded by a more powerful coil spring. Modification to the Davoust system could have been relatively cheap if it had not required the re-machining of the chamber. (ref; 'La Grande aventure ......)

   3.. The Mauser brothers were also experimenting with conversions for the, more than half a million, Chassepots that were captured during the Franco-Prussian War. They were granted a Patent, number 78603 to use a metallic cartridge and an ejector but I have no further details (ref G & L A-R-West, article in Classic Arms & Militaria Vol 8 Iss 1 p31).

 In conclusion, the firing pin (needle) shown in the photo looks to be too long for use with a metallic cartridge. So I still favour some form of paper cartridge although the Plumerel conversion may not be the right one, but it seems to fit with the Chassepot you are asking about. At the end of the day I enjoyed researching the problem.

  Best regards

 Ted Dixon
Cambridgeshire, England


More M1866/?? Chasspot-Conversion  ---  The ACTION parts


The receiver, bolt and action.  The M1866 Chasspot heritage is irrefutable.


Bolt partially closed in the breech, but not fully seated nor locked.  Rifle faces to the right.


Bolt, viewed from the top, rifle would be facing to the left.  The extractor is the slotted piece with the detent of the bolt head fitted into it.


The bolt assembly as it would look partially withdrawn.


View of the bottom of the bolt, rifle would be facing to the left.


Bolt head disassembled, notice that the bolt head is freely pivoting with the assistance of a crude brass washer.
The screw locks the bolt head to the bolt body by fitting into the groove machined around the bolt head.
The lower piece is the extractor which fits along the top of the bolt and rides in __________


The cartridge is a M1867 Werndl round, which is a very close relative of the French Gras, used only for scale.
the piece fitted into the bottom of the receiver is the extractor, shown here extracting the unfired round.
Rifle facing right.


It may not be apparent, but there is a groove machined into the bottom of the receiver into which the extractor is fitted and slides to provide unlevered primary and subsequent full extraction.
Rifle facing right.


Cocking piece, serially numbered, but showing it's origin as a M1866 French Chasspot.

More M1866/?? Chasspot-Conversion  ---  The Proof marks, sights etc

Page first built March 26, 2001

Updated Dec 3, 2021

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