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GUNS Magazine April 2010 - Page 28
™ • HOLT BODINSON • THESE ARE PISTOlS! The big-bore military single-shot. ne of the most enjoyable aspects of collecting milsurps is O learning something about their capabilities and performance. It’s putting them in firing condition, finding or concocting what they shot, and then going out and shooting them—finding out for yourself how well the old warhorses served the troops who carried them into battle. Thisisapistol!AFrench.69Mle1859witharifledbarrel(above).ThelockplateoftheM1859 indicatesitwasmadeattheFrencharsenalofTulle.TheelegantUSModel1805(below)wasthe firstpistoleverbuiltatafederalarsenal.Originallya.54smoothbore,thisoneisrifledin.58. There is so little historical documentation on the performance of small arms in the field and so much misinformation and prejudice afloat in the literature (the Carcano being a sterling example) that you really do have to carry out your own tests. Nothing could be more interesting, enjoyable and yet, at times, more challenging. Every time I pick up a big-bore military pistol from the past I think of Crocodile Dundee’s classic line, “This is a knife!” Well, 54-, 58- or 69-caliber pistols deserve the same level of respect. Just think of the punch those pistols delivered. Our fighting ancestors may not have known anything about muzzle velocity, but they did understand size, mass, and terminal energy. Just look at the size difference between the 45-, 58-, and 69-caliber lead projectiles and consider the wounding capabilities of those big, soft lead balls fired at pistol distances. I’ve been curious about the performance of big-bore military handguns for a long time. The first one that came into my possession was an 1859 French cavalry pistol (a conversion first done as the Mle 1822, then rifled during Napoleon III’s time) a friend brought back from the Paris flea market. I was 13 at the time and was shooting an 1863 Springfield musket and a 32-caliber squirrel rifle on a regular basis. I had an ample supply of caps and black powder but no bullet mould for the .69" bore of 28 WWW.GUNSMAGAZINE.COM • APRIL 2010