I often find myself answering the question, why didn’t anybody adopt a revolving rifle based on the M1895 gas-seal Nagant revolver? It does seem like a natural solution to the gas-related problems inherent to a revolving rifle, doesn’t it? Well, the answer is that at least one group did adopt just such a weapon: the Mexican Rurales (Rural Police). In the late 1890s, they bought a number of 9-shot gas-seal revolving carbines from Pieper of Belgium. The guns were chambered in 8mm Pieper, a cartridge a bit longer than 7.62mm Nagant, but with the same feature of the brass extending beyond the end of the bullet. These carbines functioned the same way as the very common 1895 revolvers, with the cylinder camming forward upon firing and the brass case forming a seal between cylinder and barrel.
I happened to find one of these carbines at the Antique Arms show in Las Vegas last weekend, and took a few photos (I apologize for the poor lighting and horrific carpet background; it was all I could find at the time). Unfortunately, this particular one has some parts either missing or broken, as the cocking and cylinder camming action were not functioning properly. However, I was able to actually handle one of these for the first time, and came away impressed by it.
The weapon as a whole is light and well balanced – it comes to the shoulder well. The cylinder opens smoothly and easily as well. As a weapon for a mounted policeman, I think it has a lot going for it. Firing one-handed would certainly be much easier than with a lever-action (the Rurales standard weapon at this time was the 1894 Winchester), with no second hand necessary to ready the carbine for a followup shot. Ultimately, I expect it was the proprietary ammunition that led to these revolving carbines being abandoned for Winchesters, and it’s hard to fault that choice for men who might easily need to acquire ammunition far from government depots.
Hopefully one of these days I will find one of these in good working order to actually try shooting!