Dec 20, 2014

LeMat Revolver of the Confederate Army

Firearms in the 19th century was a time in American firearm history that produced several innovative firearm designs.
One of these was the LeMat revolver that was offered in .42 or .36 caliber cap-n-ball revolver invented by Jean Alexandre LeMat of New Orleans in 1856 and financed by P.G.T. Beauregard in 1859, it was produced in Liege, Belgium and Paris, France. It has been estimated that 2,900 were produced and shipped through Birmingham, England where they were proofmarked.

LeMat Patent Drawing
When P.G.T. Beuregard became general of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War, approximately 900 of the LeMat revolvers were shipped from England to the Confederate Army and 600 to the Confederate Navy through Bermuda in order to avoid the Southern Naval Blockade. Production of the pistol ceased in 1865, but limited quantities were made for a time after that. Today, reproduction models are made of the 1861 model available in .36 or .44 caliber, and sold to collectors and black powder firearm enthusiasts. The uniqueness of the firearm was that it had a eight-round cylinder with a 16 gauge smooth barrel under the pistol barrel for firing one round of buckshot, making it a nine-shot revolver. The action, like revolvers of the time, was single action with a muzzle velocity of 620 feet (190 m/s), effective range of 40 yards and maximum range of 100 yards.
Unloaded it weighs 3.1 pounds (1.141 kg) with a length of 13.5 inches (356mm). With an extended barrel and rifle stock it becomes a cavalry carbine for longer range.
LeMat was born in France in 1821 studying for priesthood when he was young, but decided to become a doctor instead. LeMat immigrated to the United States in 1843 and married Justine Sophie LePretre, a cousin of US Army Major Pierre Gustave Toutant Beuregard in 1849; who would lead the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in 1861. Although a practicing physician, he was also a hobbyist inventor and Beuregard financed some of his inventions, the LeMat revolver being one of them.
The LeMat pistol was patented (US 15925) as the “Grapeshot revolver) in 1856. British patents were issued in 1859 and later designed as a revolver rifle.
LeMat Reproduction in .36 or .44 Caliber
Reproduction pistols have been used in several films: The Quick and the Dead (Sven-Ole Thorsen), Twelve Monkeys (Bruce Willis), Last Stand at Sabre River (David Dukes), Cold Mountain (Jude Law), Jonah Hex (John Malkovich), and The Warrior's Way (Danny Huston). The LeMat revolver was featured in the TV series, Johnny Ringo (Don Durant) that ran for one season from 1959 to 1960. It was also used, but modified to look futuristic in the Firefly TV series that ran from 2002 to 2006 by Jayne Cobb (Adam Baldwin).
In the comic book series The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, the character Allan Quatermain uses a LeMat revolver.
Other than the oddity of the design, it is interesting that it was designed and put into production by a physician.
Duelist 1954 provides a short history, loading and firing demonstration in the following video:

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