Delhaxhe “Apache”: The Other French Knife-Knuckle-Gun

Long associated with Parisian street gangs called “Apaches” (after the American Indian tribe), there were two main patterns of combination knife/knuckle/firearm made in the mid/late 1800s in France. This one was designed by J. Delhaxhe, and features a solid frame set up as brass knuckles. The firearm part is a six-shot pinfire pepperbox cylinder of approximately 6mm caliber. There is also a short dagger that folds away against the backstrap of the frame. This pattern actually feels fairly solid in the hand – definitely moreso than the Dolne style of Apache combination weapon.


  1. I grew up with the notion that ‘Apache,’ (pronounced without a third syllable) was a generic term for street toughs rather than a gang name. Hence the ‘Apache Dance’ cliché.

    According to
    SIG SAUER Launches Commercial Variant of U.S. Army Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) MCX-Spear and 277 SIG FURY Ammunition
    which does sport SLX Suppressor which is optimized to dramatically reduce harmful toxic backflow
    Which spawn question: what kind of propulsive explosive is used in 277 SIG FURY ammunition, which is giving so much toxic products so it needs special muzzle device?
    As always U.S. name choice is mind-boggling for me, as I would not, as they claim
    revolutionary SIG FURY ammunition is the most technically advanced leap in smalls arms ammunition in over 150 years
    to be named after one of latest fighter aeroplane of piston-power era

    • To Kirk;

      Re what you said about a cartridge with a “two-stage” propellant load, half of which is wasted in the shorter barrel of the IW but generates higher MV in the longer barrel of the MG or other support weapon?

      It looks like that’s exactly what SiG has done with the 277 SiG Fury round. From their website;

      Ammo Type Rifle
      Caliber 277 FURY
      Grain Weight 135 gr
      Qty Per Package 20
      Muzzle Velocity @100 yds [16in 1750] [24in 3000]
      Muzzle Energy @100 yds [16in 2267] [24in 2697]
      Ballistic Coefficient (G1) 0.475

      In other words, from the rifle barrel it’s a 6.8 Creedmoor, from the support weapon barrel it’s a 7mm Winchester Short Magnum.

      And oh yes, it uses what is basically a 7.62 x 1mm NATO case as its “basis”.

      The problem with postulating what is a fundamentally dumb idea is that there is always some Wile E. Coyote Super Genius who doesn’t get that it’s dumb.

      And unlike us, he probably works for Ordnance.



  3. Non related, but do not miss Ian’s interview on ‘Czech my guns’ YouTube channel, a nice gun channel that deserve more recognition

  4. Apaches! Even art students were going “packed” at the time: so Ccitics beware! All kidding aside, I’m surprised that the concept hasn’t been reborn with the “tatical-cool” obsession of today. A bayonet for you J-frame, etc.

    • Most obviously, the primary market would be the United States, and in the US most states have laws prohibiting “brass knuckles”. And dagger-type blades are considered weapons rather than tools, under similar statutes which prohibit the concealed carry of most knives with blades over 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) in length.

      I have really never believed the “Apache” street gang story, as it is highly unlikely that a gunmaker in France would have designed and built a pistol specifically to appeal to criminal gangs.

      Also, the gangs there and then preferred daggers or similar sized knives (under a foot OAL), as they were easily concealed, or wooden clubs, which were cheap (often free, in fact, with the equivalent of a “dumpster dive”) and could be discarded after use.

      I would point out (wearing my old “CSI” hat) that at the time (1870s) fingerprinting as a method of identification was still about a quarter-century in the future, except for “payday” in India during the Raj to avoid some local “double-dipping”. (“No, no, you have not already paid me, that was my cousin who looks much like me.”)

      So the toughs wouldn’t be worried about “prints” as they knew nothing of such things- and neither did the authorities.

      Also consider that using a knife or club is a lot quieter than using a gun, especially in pre-suppressor days and particularly with a short-“barreled” pepperbox, which would have a distinctly loud and sharp report, rather like a firecracker.

      Also, a “gadget” like this would be fairly expensive due to the handwork involved in making it. Much like a Leatherman tool today. Your average tough probably couldn’t afford it to begin with, and if he had the money, he’d be more inclined to spend it on wine, women, or whatever anyway.

      So, who was this item really intended for?

      My best estimate is your typical Parisian boulevardier, or “gentleman” of the middle-to-upper classes. Consider;

      First of all, they tended to be swells, dressed to the nines, including topcoats with rather large pockets, where something like this could be concealed.

      Second, most of them were sons or cousins or whatever of the genuine upper classes, who were roughly the social equivalent of the lesser nobility in England and Germany at the time. Most of them had “private” incomes of at least the “comfortable” level, did not work (perish the thought!), and spent their days (or more correctly nights) parading around, playing cards at their clubs,gambling, drinking, and generally enjoying themselves. In short, they had money.

      Third, most of them had a visceral horror of “the lower classes”, hence perfumed handkerchiefs and etc., plus a mortal fear of being mugged. Not least because they had money, in a society with even sharper social and economic “stratifications” than most today.

      Another way of saying that is target.

      The latter would go with the gambling, after all; thugs would be more than happy to relieve them of their winnings, and an inebriated “gentleman” could easily be waylaid, yanked into a dark alley (which Paris still has many of even today) and- well, I’m sure you get the picture.

      In that sort of situation, a freak weapon like this might make sense, as a last-ditch self-defense arm. It could be carried concealed in that large topcoat pocket, right next to your “purse”, and deployed when the toughs demanded the latter.

      You could shove it into an assailant’s face, put one or two into his head or gut, or stab at his face or down at his collarbone with the dagger blade. (Don’t laugh; there are plenty of vulnerable blood vessels in that area.)

      As a final move, the “knucks” could flatten noses, break jaws, or do even lethal damage to the unprotected lower torso below the ribcage.

      Also consider that in this situation, the loud report of the pepperbox is an advantage. Paris did after all have police, they did after all patrol on foot, and if they heard five or six pistol shots close together, they would naturally conclude there was dirty work afoot and respond.

      Note that unlike police in Britain, French police were always armed, with firearms, and could be very deadly and effective. The “signal” of gunfire would instantly tell them exactly where they needed to be deadly and effective at.

      No, they did not normally go into those dark alleys; even a policeman could be ambushed, and often were. But responding in force to a robbery/assault in progress was a different story.

      That, in my considered opinion, was the more likely origin and purpose of the so-called “Apache” pistols. They were likely named not for their intended users, but for their intended targets.

      Myself, if I’d been there at the time, I’d have probably stuck to those two old American standbys. A .44 or .45 revolver and a Bowie knife.



      • My guess would be that these were “inspired by” the criminal gangs of the time, as kind of an “edgy” marketing ploy, rather than actually expecting to be used by such gangs. “You’re afraid of gang attacks? Carry their kind of weapon!”

      • “(…)Also, the gangs there and then preferred daggers or similar sized knives (under a foot OAL), as they were easily concealed, or wooden clubs, which were cheap (often free, in fact, with the equivalent of a “dumpster dive”) and could be discarded after use.(…)”
        I am wondering what was French 1870s judicial practice regarding punishment of robbery with making victim dead in process vs robbery with knocking victim unconscious in process? If later was substantially milder, that might promote club over fire-arm.

          • Correct. Armed robbery, too.

            As for “knocking victim unconscious” see “knockout game”.

            Violent crime in France was as much “class warfare”, Jacobin-style, as it was motivated by financial gain. The self-defined “proletariat” getting their own back on the nobility or equivalent.

            Don’t forget, Marx and Engels were already writing and proselytizing; one result was the Paris Commune just after France lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71.

            Robbing and killing a “boulevardier” was seen as a revolutionary act as much as a simple mugging. By the muggers.

            The authorities responded in kind.

            The culmination was the anarchist terror of the 1890s-1910s, which only really ended with August 1914. The anarchists didn’t stop with killing the upper classes; they wanted to eradicate anyone who failed to support and obey them.

            See THE BONNOT GANG; The story of the French illegalists by Richard Parry;


            You could buy it at Amazon, but since Parry is a self-defined anarchist himself, I believe the free download is more in keeping with his philosophy.

            Also The Dynamite Club: How a Bombing in Fin-de-Siècle Paris Ignited the Age of Modern Terror by John Merriman


            That one you’ll have to pay for, I’m afraid.

            Violence in the service of “philosophies” is neither exclusively American or even a recent phenomenon. Today, the world is in many ways replaying the events of the 1890s to 1920s.

            As the old saying goes, history may not necessarily repeat itself, but it often rhymes.



  5. “Not again! You should know better than that! Get a real weapon, not a glorified toy!” Is that what a combat expert would say about this? Any input, Kirk?

  6. Everything is the opposite.
    It’s not “for hooligans” it’s “against hooligans”.

    Probably the first example of a “less lethal weapon”.
    A blade that will paint rather than stab.
    Brass knuckles, which will break the owner’s fingers more than the victim’s skull.
    And a bullet that will get stuck, if not in clothes, then shallow under the skin. In any case, it will be stopped by the first large bone.

    • PS I think Popenker’s link is quite appropriate.
      This is the same harvester for making money.
      Just as spectacular in appearance and just as meaningless in terms of compliance with the main purpose.
      Good analogy. 😉

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