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5 December 1839

The United States Army officer and cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer was born. Custer fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army... Read more ...

5 December 1839

George Armstrong Custer was born
The United States Army officer and cavalry commander George Armstrong Custer was born. Custer fought in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars

George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1857, where he graduated last in his class in 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.

Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War. He participated in the first major engagement, the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, near Washington, D.C. His association with several important officers helped his career, as did his success as a highly effective cavalry commander. Custer was promoted to captain in 1864, and was brevetted to major general in 1865. At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was present at General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.

After the Civil War, Custer remained a major general in the United States Volunteers until they were mustered out in February 1866. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain and was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the 7th Cavalry Regiment in July 1866. He was dispatched to the west in 1867 to fight in the American Indian Wars. On June 25, 1876, while leading the 7th Cavalry Regiment at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana Territory against a coalition of Native American tribes, he and all of his regiment—which included two of his brothers—were killed. The battle is popularly known in American history as "Custer's Last Stand." Custer and his regiment were defeated so decisively at the Little Bighorn that it has overshadowed all of his prior achievements.



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    Shooting the Percussion Revolver

  • Shooting the Percussion Revolver

    The percussion revolver, also called cap and ball revolver, is perhaps the most common black powder weapon in use by modern black powder shooters. It was invented in the 1830s and was extensively used during the American Civil War (1861-1865). This article focuses on the history of the percussion revolver and shows you how to load and shoot it.

Shooting the 11mm Lefaucheux revolver

Category: Handguns
Published: 5 May 2019 by Øyvind Flatnes.
Views: 1616
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M/1864/98 Lefaucheux.

11mm Model 1864/98 Lefaucheux revolver made for the Norwegian Army by Lefaucheux in Paris in 1864. It was reinforced with a top-strap in 1898.

This is how the revolver looked like before it was reinforced with the top-strap in 1898.

This is how the revolver looked like before it was reinforced with the top-strap in 1898.

Model 1864/98 Lefaucheux as seen from above.

Model 1864/98 Lefaucheux as seen from above.

The top-strap is marked with the last four digits of the serial number and the K marking of Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk (Kongsberg small-arms factory).

The top-strap is marked with the last four digits of the serial number and the K marking of Kongsberg Våpenfabrikk (Kongsberg small-arms factory).

The barrel is marked with Eugène Lefaucheux' address.

The barrel is marked with Eugène Lefaucheux' address: 'E. Lefaucheux Brte S.G.D.G. A Paris'.

The revolver is marked with a Norwegian lion.

All Norwegian-issue Lefaucheux revolvers are marked with a Norwegian lion.

Norway’s first military revolver was a pinfire revolver invented by the Frenchman Eugène Lefaucheux in the 1850s. Unlike the percussion revolvers of the era, the Lefaucheux revolvers were loaded with a metallic cartridge with pinfire ignition. The pinfire cartridges allowed for easy loading without the use of fragile paper cartridges, loose caps and ramrods. But the system also had its disadvantages and was relatively short-lived.

Norwegian Lefaucheux revolvers

The first Lefaucheux revolver was patented in 1854, and when the French navy adopted a six-shot 12mm Lefaucheux revolver in 1858 France became the first country to officially adopt a metallic cartridge for military use. However, Norway was not far behind. In 1859 the Norwegian navy ordered 800 single-action 11mm revolvers from Lefaucheux in Paris. In 1864 the navy ordered 300 more, in addition to 200 double-action revolvers.

In 1864, the Norwegian army also ordered 1100 single-action revolvers for enlisted men, as well as 200 single-action revolvers and 200 double-action revolvers for officers. The enlisted men’s revolvers had round barrels, while the officers’ revolvers had octagonal barrels. In addition, the small-arms factory at Kongsberg produced 200 enlisted men’s revolvers in 1868. All the Lefaucheux revolvers used in Norway are marked with the Norwegian lion on right side of the barrel.

The enlisted men's revolvers were mainly issued to cavalry troopers and artillerymen.

The 1898 modification

In 1893 the Norwegian Army and Navy adopted the 7.5mm Nagant revolver. The old Lefaucheux revolvers had been obsolete for many years already, and the open frame was fragile. In 1898 many of the Army revolvers were modified with a top strap to make them sturdier. The Model 1864 revolvers modified in 1898 are designated Model 1864/98.

Originally, the revolvers had a wide rear sight filed into the hammer similar to the Colt percussion revolvers. Now a new and narrower V shaped sight was added on top of the top strap. This made sighting easier.

Even though Norway purchased over 12 000 of Nagant revolvers from Belgium between 1893 and 1899, the Lefaucheux revolvers were not pulled out of service. Some of them were still in use by the fortress artillery in the 1920s. In 1931 it was formally decided to retire them. The Navy’s Lefaucheux revolvers were sold out of service in 1904.

The pinfire cartridge

Original pinfire cartridges for Norwegian 11mm Lefaucheux revolvers (photo: Forsvarsmuseet).

Original pinfire cartridges for Norwegian 11mm Lefaucheux revolvers (photo: Forsvarsmuseet).

The Norwegian Lefaucheux bullet.

The Norwegian Lefaucheux bullet.

The Norwegian Lefaucheux cartridge.

The Norwegian Lefaucheux cartridge. Note the cardboard ring surrounding the percussion cap.


The Lefaucheux revolvers are pleasant to shoot. The light charges produce a mild recoil.

The pinfire cartridge was patented by Eugène Lefaucheux' father Casimir in 1835 but were further developed in the years to follow. Casimir was possibly also involved in the development of the revolver, but when he passed away in 1852 at the age of 50 Eugène took over the business.

A pinfire cartridge consisted of a copper case, cap, powder, ball and pin. The cap was an ordinary percussion cap which was placed inside the case. A part of the integrated firing pin protruded outside the case and had to be placed in a slot in the barrel during loading. When the revolver hammer struck the pin the cartridge ignited.

The Norwegian cartridges are sometimes designated “12mm”, but the army’s cartridge boxes are labelled “11mm”. As far as it is known, there is no difference between 11 and 12mm pinfire ammunition, and it is not known why two different designations were used.

The pinfire system had two major drawbacks. As well as being expensive to manufacture, the protruding pin was sensitive to rough handling in the field. If, for example, the cartridges were carried in the pocket, the pin could bump into something and ignite.

The Norwegian pinfire cartridges were loaded with 7,7 grains of fine black powder – not very potent for a military revolver. The American .44 calibre percussion revolvers used in the American Civil War (1861–65) were loaded with almost four times as much powder. Many of the American revolvers were loaded with up to 30 grains of powder.

The Norwegian 11mm cartridges were loaded with a heel-base lead bullet with the following specifications:

  • Weight: 190 grains
  • Diameter: 11,452 mm/.450"
  • Length: 15,766 mm/.621"

No lubrication was used on the bullets.

In 1867 it became evident that the load was too light, and tests were performed with a slightly increased charge of 9,4 grains. This load performed better. At 63 metres the bullets went through a 1" piece of wood.

The increased load was adopted on 2 January 1869. The same load was also used for the blank cartridges as the previous 7,7 grains load was so weak that it couldn’t be heard even at short distances.

Loading 11 pinfire cartridges

From .45 ACP to 11mm pinfire.

From .45 ACP to 11mm pinfire.

11mm pinfire cartridges.

11mm pinfire cartridges.

French company H & C Collection, offers reloading kits for 11 and 12 mm pinfire cartridges, but you can also make your own pinfire cases from spent .45 ACP cases. You simply saw off the rim, plug the primer hole and remains of the primer pocket with tin solder and drill a hole for a firing pin. The process is described in the video at the bottom of the article. Note that instead of using solder, you can also plug the hole with a copper or iron rivet and file it flush with the base.

Bullet moulds are not readily available, but roundballs for .44 calibre percussion revolvers work fine. .451" and .454" is close to the original diameter. The .45 ACP cases turn out about 20mm (.800") long. The original pinfire cases were only 14mm (.55") long, so you can safely trim the length about 5mm (.200") if you want to use longer conical bullets.

Shooting and accuracy

The revolver pictured in this article has a mirror bright bore and a tight mechanism. The ejector rod was missing, but gunsmith Runar Stava made a nice replacement. The barrel failed to rotate when the hammer was cocked, but Runar fixed that as well.

The cases made from .45 ACP was loaded with 11 grains of Swiss #2 (FFFg) and a .454" roundball. A lubricated felt wad was used between the powder and ball. A small amount of semolina between the wad and ball served as a filler.



To tønner på ca. 15 meter.

The second attempt on target. Two cylinders at approx. 15m (16.5 yds).

Fired pinfire cases.

Fired pinfire cases.

The ball was forced into the case in a reloading press as shown in the video.

The revolver was first tested at 25 metres. I added a small amount of soft black powder lubricant in the chamber mouth as well. The wind was quite strong, and the shots grouped high and to the left (one hand offhand). With the correct point of impact however, the shots would have grouped within a 20 cm circle.

The revolver has a comfortable grip and the recoil is not surprisingly quite mild.

The next test was carried out at approximately 20 metres, but now I used 11 grains of Wano PPP and omitted the lubricant in the chamber mouths. The first shots grouped nicely but the group opened up a bit after two barrels (12 shots). The last load looks promising and with some load development this revolver will probably shoot even better. The ignition was reliable and I did not encounter any misfires.

You can of course reuse spent cases. Simply remove the pins with a pair of pliers and was the cases and pins in hot soapy water.


The annual reports of the Norwegian artillery (1864–1884).