Antique firearm experts and collectors Guy & Leonard Alston-Roberts-West have produced this meticulously researched history of the French firearm known as the Fusil Modèle 1866 ‘Chassepot’ used extensively by the French forces fighting in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 and renowned for its innovative breech loading / needle-ignition mechanism, which represented a major leap forward in small arms design and established it as a forerunner of all modern breech loading firearms.
Named after its inventor, Antoine Alphonse Chassepot (1833–1905) and officially known as Fusil Modèle 1866, the Chassepot was used to great effect by French forces in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, marking a move away from muzzle-loading weapons and heralding the modern era of bolt-action, breech-loading, military rifles.
Using a similar ignition system to the Prussian Dreyse needle-fire rifle, but with a number of refinements, the Chassepot made its first appearance on the battlefield at Mentana on 3rd November 1867, where it inflicted severe losses on Garibaldi’s troops.
Manufactured in France at Saint-Étienne, Châtellerault, Tulle and Mutzig, many more were manufactured under contract in England, Belgium and Italy with the result that by the start of the Franco-Prussian War in July 1870, over a million of these weapons were available to the French Army.
This highly technical book contains a wealth of in-depth information that will be of particular interest to collectors and enthusiasts with detailed drawings and cutaways illustrating the breech and ignition mechanisms, distinctions between weapons made by different manufacturers, various kinds of ammunition, and much more.
The authors conclude by providing their evaluation of firing this weapon in comparison to other vintage firearms of the same era.