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chassepot rifle, chassepot
The Chassepot pronounced "shas-poh", officially known as Fusil modèle 1866, was a bolt action military breechloading rifle, famous as the arm of the French forces in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 It replaced an assortment of Minié muzzleloading rifles many of which were converted in 1864 to breech loading the Tabatière rifles A great improvement to existing military rifles in 1866, the Chassepot marked the commencement of the era of modern bolt action, breech-loading military rifles Beginning in 1874, the rifle was easily converted to fire metallic cartridges under the name of Gras rifle, a step which would have been impossible to achieve with the Dreyse needle rifle[2]

It was manufactured by Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne MAS, Manufacture d'Armes de Châtellerault MAC, Manufacture d'Armes de Tulle MAT and, until 1870, in the Manufacture d'Armes de Mutzig in the former Château des Rohan Many were also manufactured under contract in England the "Potts et Hunts" Chassepots delivered to the French Navy, in Belgium Liege, and in Italy at Brescia by Glisenti The approximate number of Chassepot rifles available to the French Army in July 1870 was 1,037,555 units[3] Additionally, State manufacturies could deliver 30,000 new rifles monthly Gun manufacturers in England and Austria also produced Chassepot rifles to support the French war effort The Steyr armory in Austria delivered 12,000 Chassepot carbines and 100,000 parts to France in 1871[4] Manufacturing of the Chassepot rifle ended in February 1875, four years after the end of the Franco-Prussian War, with approximately 700,000 more Chassepot rifles made between September 1871 and July 1874[5]


  • 1 History
  • 2 Technology
    • 21 Bolt mechanism
    • 22 Cartridge
  • 3 Gallery
  • 4 See also
  • 5 Notes
  • 6 References
  • 7 Further reading
  • 8 External links


The Chassepot was named after its inventor, Antoine Alphonse Chassepot 1833–1905, who, from the mid-1850s onwards, had constructed various experimental forms of breech loaders[6][7] The first two models of the Chassepot still used percussion cap ignition The third model, using a similar system to the Prussian Dreyse needle gun, became the French service weapon on 30 August 1866 In the following year it made its first appearance at the Battle of Mentana on 3 November 1867, where it inflicted severe losses upon Giuseppe Garibaldi's troops It was reported at the French Parliament that "Les Chassepots ont fait merveille!", "The Chassepots have done wonderfully!" The heavy cylindrical lead bullets fired at high velocity by the Chassepot rifle inflicted wounds that were even worse than those of the Minié rifle By 1868, the entire French active army had been re-armed with the Chassepot

In the Franco-Prussian War 1870–1871, the Chassepot met its Prussian counterpart, the Dreyse needle-fire rifle The Chassepot had several advantages over the Dreyse It featured a rubber obturator on its bolt head to provide a more efficient gas-seal Although it fired a smaller caliber 11 mm vs 154 for the Dreyse, the Chassepot ammunition had more gunpowder 568 grams vs 485 grams, resulting in higher muzzle velocity 436 meters per second, 33% over the Dreyse, a flatter trajectory and a longer range Thus the sights on the Chassepot could be elevated up to 1,600 meters, while the maximum sight setting of the Dreyse was only 600 meters[8] The Chassepots were responsible for most of the Prussian and other German casualties during the conflict

After the war, 20,000 captured Chassepot rifles were sold to the Shah of the Persian Qajar Dynasty Surplus Chassepot were exported to China[9] Some of the warriors of the Ethiopian Empire were equipped with Chassepot rifles during the first Italo-Ethiopian War of 1898[10]


Bolt mechanism

Chassepot bolt mechanism

The breech was closed by a bolt similar to those of more modern rifles to follow Amongst the technical features of interest introduced in 1866 on the Chassepot rifle was the method of obturation of the bolt by a segmented rubber ring which expanded under gas pressure and thus sealed the breech when the shot was fired This simple yet effective technology was successfully adapted to artillery in 1877 by Colonel de Bange, who invented grease-impregnated asbestos pads to seal the breech of his new cannons the De Bange system


The Chassepot used a paper cartridge, that many refer to as being 'combustible', whereas in reality it was quite the opposite It held an 11mm 43 inch round-headed cylindro-conoidal lead bullet that was wax paper patched An inverted standard percussion cap was at the rear of the paper cartridge and hidden inside It was fired by the Chassepot's needle a sharply pointed firing pin upon pressing the trigger

While the Chassepot's ballistic performance and firing rates were excellent for the time, burnt paper residues as well as black powder fouling accumulated in the chamber and bolt mechanism after continuous firing The bolt's rubber obturator eroded in action but was easily replaced in the field by infantrymen The older Dreyse needle gun and its cartridge had been deliberately constructed in a way to minimize those problems but to the detriment of its ballistic properties

In order to correct this problem the Chassepot was replaced in 1874 by the Gras rifle which used a centerfire drawn brass metallic cartridge Otherwise, the Gras rifle was basically identical in outward appearance to the Chassepot rifle Nearly all rifles of the older Chassepot model Mle 1866 remaining in store were eventually converted to take the 11 mm Gras metallic cartridge ammunition fusil Modèle 1866/74 About 665,327[5][11] Chassepot rifles had been captured by the German coalition that defeated France in 1871 Large numbers of these captured Chassepot rifles were shortened and converted to 11 mm Mauser metallic cartridge It served with cavalry units of the Kingdom of Saxony and of the Kingdom of Bavaria[12] Others were disposed of "as is" with British surplus dealers In most but not all cases, the French receiver markings on these German-captured Chassepot rifles had been erased


See also

  • Antique gun


  1. ^ Ford, p 23
  2. ^ New International Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Walter, John 2006 Rifles of the World Krause Publications p 87 ISBN 978-0-89689-241-5mw-parser-output citecitationmw-parser-output citation qmw-parser-output id-lock-free a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-free amw-parser-output id-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output id-lock-registration a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-registration amw-parser-output id-lock-subscription a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-subscription amw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registrationmw-parser-output cs1-subscription span,mw-parser-output cs1-registration spanmw-parser-output cs1-ws-icon amw-parser-output codecs1-codemw-parser-output cs1-hidden-errormw-parser-output cs1-visible-errormw-parser-output cs1-maintmw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registration,mw-parser-output cs1-formatmw-parser-output cs1-kern-left,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-leftmw-parser-output cs1-kern-right,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-rightmw-parser-output citation mw-selflink
  4. ^ "Zuendnadelgewehr Chassepot" Schmids-zuendnadelseitede Retrieved 8 July 2018
  5. ^ a b "Bladstadt" PDF Bibliotekacyfrowapl in Polish 1873 Retrieved 8 July 2018
  6. ^ "mousqueton" Alienororg Retrieved 8 July 2018
  7. ^ "CMPC Dossiers : De la bouche à la culasse" Alienororg Retrieved 8 July 2018
  8. ^ Flatnes, Oyvind 2013 From Musket to Metallic Cartridge: A Practical History of Black Powder Firearms Crowood p 368 ISBN 978-1-84797-594-2
  9. ^ Ball 2011, p 81
  10. ^ McLachlan, Sean 20 September 2011 Armies of the Adowa Campaign 1896: The Italian Disaster in Ethiopia Men-at-Arms 471 Osprey Publishing p 35 ISBN 9781849084574
  11. ^ Walter, John 2006 Rifles of the World Krause Publications p 88 ISBN 978-0-89689-241-5
  12. ^ Ball, R 2011 Mauser Military Rifles of the World 5th ed Iola: Gun Digest Books pp 138–139 ISBN 978-1-4402-1544-5CS1 maint: ref=harv link


  • Ford, Roger The World's Great Rifles London: Brown Books, 1998 ISBN 1-897884-33-8
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D C; Peck, H T; Colby, F M, eds 1905 "Chassepot" New International Encyclopedia 1st ed New York: Dodd, Mead

Further reading

  • A-R-West, Guy; A-R-West, Leonard 2017 The Needle-Ignition System of the Modele 1866 'Chassepot' Woodfield Publishing ISBN 978-1-84683-187-4

External links

  • The French Army 1600–1900
  • Forgotten Weapons – Chassepot Needle Rifle
Preceded by
Tabatière rifle
French Army rifle
Succeeded by
Fusil Gras Modèle 1874

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