LeMat Centerfire Pistol and Carbine

Colonel LeMat is best known for his 9-shot muzzleloading .42 caliber revolver with its 20 gauge shot barrel acting as cylinder axis pin – several thousand of these revolvers were imported and used in the field by Confederate officers during the US Civil War (and modern reproductions are available as well). What are less well-known are the pinfire and centerfire versions of LeMat’s revolver, and the carbine variants as well.

In this video I’m taking a look at a centerfire LeMat revolver and a centerfire LeMat carbine, both extremely rare guns. They use the same basic principles as the early muzzleloading guns, but look quite different. In these guns, the shotgun remains 20 gauge but uses a self-contained shell loaded form the rear, and the 9 rifles shots are designed for an 11mm (.44 caliber) cartridge very similar to that used in the French 1873 service revolver.


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[ LeMat Centrefire Revolver & Carbine ] Hi guys, thanks for tuning into another video episode on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian, I am here at the Rock Island Auction Company looking at some pretty awesome guns That are in their December of 2014 Premier Auction. And one of the ones that I found in the handgun racks Was this Confederate provenance LeMat revolver. You may be familiar with these, but This really isn’t quite as interesting as what I really want to talk about today. So put this away. What’s really cool that I found sitting next to it was this later Centrefire version of … the LeMat revolver. You get 9 rounds of centrefire .44, and a 20-gauge shotgun barrel, and that’s pretty awesome. And even more awesome on top of that, sitting next to it Was this cartridge-firing centrefire LeMat carbine. Now this is fantastically rare, both of these frankly are fantastically rare. But I wanted to take the chance to take a look at these two with you guys on video, Because you almost never see these. So let’s bring the camera back here and take a closer look. Alright, so the … regular muzzleloading LeMat revolver Is not a particularly unknown firearm here in the US. Especially because the Italian folks are making reproductions of these, which are pretty cool. A couple of thousand of these were imported by the Confederacy during the Civil War, And actually used by Confederate officers primarily. They have a 9 round cylinder of .44 calibre … ball, And then below that a 20-gauge shotgun barrel, all muzzleloading. We have a cartridge rammer here on the side. This one’s … I believe it’s missing a fitting to lock it in place, it’s a little loose. But they are single action only. So we have it, … it’s fired now. We have a half-cock notch, we have a full-cock notch. And then the hammer, as you can see back here, we have the … position for the caps for the cylinder. And then there’s one extra nipple back here for the shotgun barrel. In order to fire that, you take this lever on the hammer, push it up, And it brings the hammer down into a position where, when you fire it,

It hits that shotgun barrel. So these were designed by a Frenchman named Jean Francois Alexandre LeMat. He was born in 1824 in Paris, then in 1840 he actually immigrated to the US, Moved to New Orleans, started working on guns. He patented this revolver in 1856. In fact specifically what he patented was using the centre axis of the cylinder as a shotgun barrel. And by the way, that’s why it’s such a high capacity with a 9 round cylinder. It’s because this centre axis has to be this large to … contain a shotgun barrel, Which means the cylinder has to be fairly large in diameter. And … you take the existing size of the cylinder, What you need in order to make the shotgun part work, and that gives you 9 rounds of .44 capacity. So that’s what set the regular cylinder capacity. At any rate, these went into production in France in Paris in 1859 or 1860. Quite a few were made, this is serial number 2,400 and change. And they were not hugely popular, but reasonably popular. Now, like I said, the gun I really want to take a look at today is actually the later version of this. I should say there was an intermediate, there was a pinfire version, Which I don’t have an example of to look at today. But frankly, pinfires were a pretty short-lived idea. The final version of the LeMat was this, which is a cartridge-firing gun. It is substantially uglier than the original muzzle loader, But it’s also frankly quite a bit more capable technically. It … retains the same sort of features: It’s 9 rounds of .44 calibre, or actually what this was is 11mm. These were chambered in 11mm. Oh, I’m going to butcher the name, I want to say Chamelot-Delvigne, The same as the French 1873 Ordnance Revolver. And then it retains a 20-gauge shotgun barrel. However, all of these were now cartridge … chambers instead of being muzzleloading. So on this one in order to load it, … it was at half-cock notch, we have a full-cock notch on the hammer. This is required to load the shotgun barrel. We then have this flip-up gate, spring loaded. That allows us to drop a shotgun shell right in here. It used a fairly short shotgun shell, one that would actually fit in that space

Between the hammer and the rear of the cylinder there. You can see we have a little half-moon shaped extractor. That would pull the empty cartridge out when you opened the gate. Interestingly, it also has a spring-loaded firing pin here For firing the shotgun shell. So once you put a shell in, you then close the loading gate and you’re ready to fire there. As with the muzzleloading version, the hammer has two positions, We pull this little lever down and it exposes this flat surface. When I drop the hammer now, That flat surface, right there, hits the firing pin for the shotgun chamber. You can see up here the main firing pin is not deep enough to detonate a .44 calibre cartridge. Now in order to load the … main cylinder, … pop the … hammer back into … cylinder mode. Drop it, and then I’m going to click it back one notch to half-cock, right there. That allows the cylinder to spin freely. Then there is a loading gate down here at the bottom, we open that up. And now we can get in there and load each cartridge. If I need to unload empties, I have a non spring-loaded ejector rod right here. Line it up with each chamber, run the rod through, pushes out the empty cartridges. So you do that nine times and tilt the revolver down, Load it up, close the loading gate. Cock the revolver, and you’re once again ready to fire. The original LeMat had the rear sight actually mounted on the hammer, Which was not that uncommon for muzzleloading pistols. This cartridge version has the rear sight here on the frame. The front sight out on the barrel, Actually a little bit bigger sights than the original gun, which is kind of nice. Totally different grip frame. These are frankly very heavy, they’re not all that well balanced. These guns clearly never caught on, this particular example is serial number 19. The highest one I’ve seen pictures of is serial number 146, And I suspect there were not more than 200 or so ever actually made. It just did not catch on commercially, I expect it was way too expensive. And by the time this came on the market, There were a lot of other options out there, they were getting pretty good for cartridge revolvers.

Now, what is even rarer than this cartridge LeMat handgun, Of course is the cartridge LeMat carbine, or full-length rifle actually. Alright, so we’ve got the exact same loading gate down here at the bottom, same ejector rod. Cock the hammer back, we have the same loading gate for the shotgun shell, same extractor. This is the exact same action as the pistol. Where it does differ slightly is here in the trigger guard. You can see the regular LeMat handgun has a normal trigger guard. The LeMat revolving rifle has this flat spur coming down the front. The idea there is that you would pull your support hand back against this As a way to prevent the cylinder gap from burning your hand. Which is the endemic problem of revolving rifles that no one has ever really solved all that well. This was LeMat’s solution, was Simply to encourage you not to have your hand out in front of the cylinder. The rear sight on this guy is marked on the front 100, for presumably 100 metres, right there. So … the rear sight on the LeMat carbine is marked 100, presumably 100 metres. It has here on the top, the flip-up portion of the sight has additional markings for 200 and 400. But it does have three notches there, I suspect the middle one is a 300 yard notch, And there just is no convenient place to write 300. So that … flips up like so. It gives you not a terrible sight picture, especially for something of this era. And it is marked on the top Colonel LeMat Patent, right here on top of the barrel flat. Right there. So the regular muzzleloading LeMat was just barely a commercial success. And it was the best of the bunch as far as sales go. The cartridge firing gun was a commercial failure, And the carbine version was manufactured in such low quantities As to barely qualify as having been mass produced. Very cool to have all three of these actually in the same place at the same time. Alright guys, thanks for watching. I hope you guys enjoyed the video. I know I thought this was an extraordinary chance to take a look at All three of these different versions of the LeMat. Being that this is an auction house, all three of these guns are for sale. In fact Rock Island does have a second muzzleloading LeMat pistol For sale in this auction as well, I’ll leave that one to you to find in their catalogue.

But I have links to all three of these auction lots in the text description below. So click there, check them out, take a look at Rock Island’s pictures and description. And if you would like to add any one of these to your own personal collection, Because they are truly cool guns, go ahead and place a bid online any time. I will say, personally I think … revolving carbines always struck me as a bit awkward, They’re interesting, but I’m not sure. … If I had my choice the one I would want I think is this guy, the cartridge revolver. It’s pretty cool, what’s interesting is these often have less collector interest Than the muzzleloading guns. The muzzleloaders of course have that US Civil War Confederate connection, And often direct provenance. These cartridge guns were far rarer, and never used By anybody really interesting, or flamboyant, or historically relevant. So these often go cheaper, and I think these are cool. But it’s up to you, they’re all available. Thanks for watching.


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