079-0821-4978, Perrin Second Model, M-1859 DA 12 MM CF Revolver. Probably the rarest revolver purchased by both sides during the Civil War. It is fairly rare to see one of these revolvers on the market, let alone in a collection. Many of the finest collections of Civil War revolvers simply do not have a Perrinin them. Here is a great chance to own a very nice displaying example of a very rare gun. The gun is 100% complete, correct and fully functional. This is a revolver that your collecting friends are quite unlikely to have in their collections and will be a very nice addition your advanced collection of Civil War era secondary martial pistols. #28xx. The last one of these I had was Gold washed and about 10 years ago. No records exist of the Serial Number range that were part of the batch of guns delivered to the Union Army and no definite range of number of guns delivered to the Confederacy, but those delivered were either 1st or 2nd Models.
Next to the Raphael revolver, the Model 1859 Perrin Revolveris probably the least often encountered of all American Civil War imported handguns. Like the Raphael, the Perrin was a French designed, self-contained, cartridge revolver with a double action lock work and a 6-shot cylinder. While the Rafael was a “traditional double action” (it could be fired in either single action or double action modes), the Perrin was what would be called a “double action only” revolver today, with the action only being actuated by the long, heavy pull of the trigger, and with no facility to cock the hammer manually.
The Perrin fired a very advanced 12mm (approximately .45 caliber), internally primed, self-contained metallic cartridge. The cartridge had a thick rim and while the primer was not visible from the outside bottom of the casing (as it is with modern center fire cartridges) it was a center fire design.
The Perrin had an interesting hidden ejector rod that was used to eject the empty cases from the cylinder. The rod was stored within the center portion of the cylinder arbor, and could be withdrawn, and then rotated via a cam on the barrel, to align it with a cylinder chamber on the right hand side of the gun. This placed the rod in the correct position to push the empty cases out of the chambers. This storage system protected the slender, and somewhat delicate, rod from damage when it was not in use, and allowed for a more streamlined design without an ejector rod or housing mounted on the frame or barrel of the revolver. The ejector rod also kept the cylinder arbor pin in place when it was being stored and taking the ejector rod out of storage freed the arbor pin to be withdrawn from the frame, allowing the cylinder to be removed.
Perrin revolvers were marked with the patentees’ name and with a serial number on the major components. Collectors have separated the Perrin revolvers into three “Types”, which appear to be chronological in their evolution. Both Types I and II have open top frames, while the Type III has a top strap. The variations between these three types is further indicated by the type of loading gate system. Type I gates are rather thin and are hinged at the top, swinging outward and upward. Type II gates are somewhat thicker and are also hinged at the top, but swing to the rear of the revolver to open. The recent publication French Service Handguns by Eugene Medlin & Jean Huon refer to the pistol as the M1859 and as they seem to be the most definitive word on the subject, I will defer their opinion. Eventually it appears that the 6-groove system was settled upon as standard. The majority of the revolvers were finished “in the white” with bright polished metal and had smooth one-piece walnut grips. However, some examples are known with special finishes, including blued, nickel plating (a very new technology in the 1860s), as well as gold damascene. Checkered grips are not uncommon either, although smooth wood certainly seem to predominate on extant examples.
We can document the sale of 550 Perrin revolvers, from a contract for 10,,000 total revolvers, to the US Government by arms speculator Alexis Godillot. Godillot listed “New York & Paris”as his business addresses and delivered the revolvers at a price of $20.00 each, including 50 rounds of the proprietary Perrin ammunition with each revolver. Godillot made his initial delivery of 350 Perrin revolvers on January 6, 1862, delivered another 100 on March 28, 1862. The final 100 Perrins that he would provide were delivered on May 31, 1862. Interestingly, the Holt-Owens Commission, which had been established in early 1862 “to audit and adjust all contracts, orders, and claims on the War Department in respect to ordnance, arms and ammunition,”actually cancelled Godillot’s contract for Perrin revolvers in April of 1862, due to his inability to deliver them in a timely fashion. However, they did allow the final delivery of 100 guns on May 31, even after the cancellation of the contract, due to the fact that “the arms are needed by the government, and are of good quality, and of reasonable price.” On May 31, he also delivered 1,500 Lefaucheux pin fire revolvers, and no further deliveries of Perrins are noted in US Ordnance documents. US Ordnance Department documents show that 1 Perrin was in storage at the New York Arsenal on December 31, 1862. An additional 249 Perrins were in storage in at the Ordnance Depot in Louisville, KY on the same date. This indicates that the other 300 pistols that had been delivered were likely in the field and in use during this time frame. Ordnance returns of November 5, 1864 show that the single Perrin at the New York Arsenal was still there, and that 187 Perrin’s were in store at the New York Agency. It is not clear what happened to all of the Perrin revolvers that the Ordnance Department purchased, but on June 19, 1901 the New York Arsenal sold 368 Perrin revolvers to Francis Bannerman and Company for $0.2765 (yes, only 27.65 cents) each. It is likely that the other 182 revolvers were lost or stolen during or after the war, with some likely going home with the soldiers to whom they were issued. Due to their proprietary ammunition, these arms were probably of limited utility in a civilian world where the French made cartridges were not likely to have been readily available. While no specific list of Civil War used examples by serial number is known, from those that have a “Civil War” association all are of the open frame, Type I or Type II variants. Much like the Perrin’s contemporary, the Lefaucheux revolver, it appears deliveries were of available guns on hand and no systematic attempt to keep the deliveries within a specific serial number block or range was attempted by the furnishers.
This M1859 Perrin Revolver is in Very Good overall condition. The right side of the frame, forward of the cylinder is marked in two lines: PERRIN / & Cie Bvt, indicating the gun was patented by Perrin & Company. The cylinder is clearly marked No 28xx as well and is otherwise unmarked. The same serial number also appears on the bottom of the barrel, hidden by the ejector rod/cylinder arbor combination. All of the markings remain quite crisp, sharp and legible. This one was finished in blue with strong flashes of original blue remaining in protected places . This oxidized patina is quite thin in some areas, somewhat thicker in others, and also shows some scattered patches of darker age discoloration. The metal is mostly smooth, with some scattered areas of very light surface roughness and some small patches of very light pinpricking. There is also some old grease and oil present in the protected areas, which has developed a darker brown color. The double action mechanism works very well and is quite crisp, even though the trigger pull is rather heavy and slightly gritty. The revolver remains mechanically excellent in every way, and times, indexes and locks up exactly as it should. The original Type II top-hinged thin loading gate, which is the weakest point of the design of this gun, is present and functions perfectly, snapping securely into position when closed and rotating upward when opened. Amazingly the gate shows no signs of replacement or repair. When a Perrin is located, it is not uncommon to find both the loading gate and this safety spring missing, damaged, repaired or replaced. IN this case both pieces are complete and original. The original front sight, which is often damaged or missing, is in place and remains in very good condition. The brass post and bead are slightly bent, but other than that are no worse for the 150+ years of the revolver’s life. As previously mentioned, Perrin revolvers were manufactured with barrels that varied in length between 5 ½” and 6 ½” in length. The barrel of this one has a barrel that is just shy of 6” long, measuring 5 15/16”. Although this is a fairly early production revolver, the bore is rifled with the 6-groove rifling system would become the norm for these revolvers. The bore is in about Very Good condition and is mostly bright with very crisp rifling along its entire length. Only the most minor surface oxidation and some frosting in the grooves is present. The original ejector rod in the center of the cylinder pin is present and the rotating cam allows it to function correctly. Pulling out the rod and rotating it to the right side of the gun allows it to be used to eject the spent cartridge cases. The one-piece walnut grip is in Very Good condition, with no chips or breaks or repairs. But overall bumps, dings and use marks. Perrin’s appear with both checkered and smooth grips, with no particular rhyme or reason to which variant is encountered, although smooth grips appear to be somewhat more common. The original, small diameter, lanyard ring is present on the iron butt cap and swivels freely as it should.
Overall this is a very good example, crisp and well-marked example of one of the two rarest of the US import martial revolvers used during the American Civil War. While not commanding the price or the of the renown of the LeMat, far fewer of these revolvers exist these days. Like the Raphael, Fredrick Todd’s seminal work American Military Equipage 1851-1872 lists the Perrin as being a possible secondary Confederate purchase, as well as a US purchase. Unfortunately, Todd provides no substantiation for his claim.
Most of this description was pulled from Tim Hill of College Hill Arsenal.
Est. Retail Value: $2400