RIA: Strange Unique European Revolver

With no markings or provenance at all, the origins of this revolver are a mystery. Its features all point to the 1880s or 1890s, and someone clearly spent a lot of time working on it – but we don’t know who. What makes it interesting is the very unusual operating mechanism. It is similar to a “zig-zag” system like the 1878 Mauser or Webley-Fosbery, but with angled splines on the cylinder instead of grooves.


  1. For the reloading problem, could there have been a nut with one ‘wing’ on it screwed onto the firing pin? Rotate the wing all the way to the left to unscrew the pin enough that it doesn’t reach the primer and reload all chambers. Rotate the wing all the way to the right to screw the firing pin in enough to reach the primers. The rotation should be stopped by the wing striking the hammer frame.

    You’d probably want a lock nut as well, so as to be able to fiddle with the proper length of the pin.

  2. I wonder if the intended grip would be up higher than what Ian shows? Perhaps putting the web of your hand near the top of the grip where it has a slight concave surface and running the cocking mechanism with the index finger and working the trigger with the middle finger?
    Moving the index finger between the two seems quite awkward. Additionally, in the video where Ian is showing the way the cocking mechanism works, his grip sits a lot higher than his initial grip and it makes his middle finger sit right where the trigger is while hes’s pulling on the cocking stud (I guess that’s what would you call that?).

    • “Perhaps putting the web of your hand near the top of the grip where it has a slight concave surface and running the cocking mechanism with the index finger and working the trigger with the middle finger?”
      Then it would have benefit of lower bore axis, now I’m wondering – it was objective of designer or only side effect?
      Grip angle might suggest it is supposed to be used with folded armed rather than straight.

      • Are you suggesting the one-hand duelist grip? That is probably the best way to hold this particular subject. The elbow would absorb recoil and permit a better sight picture… But I could be wrong.

  3. Grip section very much looks like a walking stick handle, from that, it may be said, this gun have had a hard holster usable as a walking stick.

    Firing pin should have a knop at its back with indents, showing “safe” and. “Fire” and also this might be usable for reloading.

    Unnatural pointing feature of grip and very long linear igniting travel of hammer precludes the possibility of using the gun for target shooting.


    • Regarding to reloading, there it seems a tip at forward joint of sliding cylinder rotating bolt as if working to retain it at tracked back position. In case of pressing it inward and pulling the rotating knop backward, the whole bolt might go forward without the necessity of actuating the trigger and this might be used for reloading.

    • “Unnatural pointing feature of grip”
      Wait… might it be made for someone with deformed hand?
      As Dave wrote:
      cocking mechanism with the index finger and working the trigger with the middle finger
      so maybe someone without thumb want revolver which can use?

      • It might be. But, double action revolvers which very common at that era, would response that demand better. Very close single action trigger to the handle grip seems purposely made.

      • Even that seems rather optimistic. It sounds more like a revolver for a guy with a SMASHED thumb, which would disqualify the user from effectively holding a sword or any regular handgun. To hold a revolver in a right hand minus the thumb would require the left hand to assist in order to NOT lose the gun upon discharge!!! Perhaps if this revolver had been made with a “dual trigger” pseudo-double-action system like the old Tranter, it might have gone better.

        Any use for a double-action/single-action striker-fired revolver today, guys?

      • A google search turned up nothing. Stylistically, it’s fairly close to the Lagresse revolver, made in France in the 1860s.

        Don’t bother google searching that one, all you’ll get is links about the Beatles’ “Revolver” album. It’s illustrated and described on p. 55 of Military Small Arms, ed. by Graham Smith (London; Salamander, 1996)

        Dare I suggest that it may be French or Belgian?



    • I found It! It appear in a french special magazine “hors serie N°1” de “la gazette des armes”, a french gun magazine. This special issue is scarce, and date from 1996. You can see at page 30 the two “De Dartein” model, the first is our gun (the second is the one on internet, proposed in 1872). It was a prototype made with a base of Lefaucheux 1954. The picture is in black and withe.

  4. Grant Hammond’s Grandpa was a gunsmith, too?

    Seriously, the quality of machining and finish is beautiful for an experiment or toolroom project. I handled a Remington R51 this weekend, and by comparison….not so good.

  5. A half cock could have been replicated by inserting a small block of wood or some other spacer on the groove that was exposed as the “zig-zag” mechanism moved to the rear under the cylinder.

  6. I had a thought: I saw television show once that suggested that it was normal for US railway workers, in the 1900s, to be missing fingers. The work on railroads was hazardous. Maybe you should find an expert in historical hand injuries and ask them about the most common ones? And if anyone specialized in making objects for people with such damaged hands?

  7. I figured it had to be 1870s vintage.

    Centerfire cartridges came to late for it to be 1860s.

    The design was too eccentric for it to be 1880s or later. There were simply FAR too many more practical designs by then to bother with this system. It makes a Reichsrevolver look modern and up to date.

    Still it’s an interesting departure. Maybe some day if somebody makes decent films of Burroughs’ “Mars” series, it’d make an appropriate firearm for a green Martian.

  8. The knob on the firing pin was unscrewed by one of Dartien’s children who added it to the cat’s collar as a Christmas ornament and thus it was never found again … is why the whole length of the firing pin is threaded. Also the size of the knob would limit the depth of the firing pin, uh, screw-in, thus probably making it always the correct length to strike the primer for pierceless ignition.

    If this had had, say, a flip-up firing pin, an ejection rod, and a Tranter double trigger, it might have been a relatively fast-reloading piece for its time.

  9. Just a notion but I seem to remember seeing something about a Russian revolver design from the end of the nineteenth century which also featured a downward cast to the barrel. The explanation given was that it was intended for vey close proximity discharge from horseback against enemy on foot such as a cavalry man might come up against.
    The next bits a bit harder to explain, but try sighting along an imaginary pistol at the horizon. No problem huh , your arms our straight and easy to sight along your “normal” imaginary pistol right?
    Now imagine your on horseback drawing a bead on an opponent a handful of feet away from you . You should find to sight along your conventional pistol you would have to cock your wrist down uncomfterbly and that is where the downward cast of the barrel comes in allowing for change in sight line.
    As to the reload problem, would you be looking to reload in the thick of it or would you be laying about you with a sabre of some such ( or a brace of pistols )
    Also with the barrel cast forward like this it’s hard to reach with the thumb to recock.
    As to weather there was a genuine need to address this issue is another matter but it wouldn’t be the first time someone tried to sort a problem that wasn’t really there.
    Like I say just a thought .

  10. It’s also entirely possible that my memory is playing tricks on me. Dose this sound like a story anyone else has heard?

  11. Other revolvers with dog junction
    Surely there are more revolvers with junction Abadie (or Bodeo or bar etc.).
    It must mention the gun gas tight “De Dartien” designed and patented in London on March 16th 1870 by Charles Felix and Jules Edouard de Dartien on. Walter Behrens published in DWJ 8/1984 an article entitled “Ein Unikat, das es in sich hat: Revolver mit Gasdichtung, über 100 Jahre alt” where he calls the “de Dartein” inventors and AWF in Taylerson “the Revolver 1865-1888” calls them as “de Dartien” mind Buigné JJ & P. Jarlier’s in “the ‘Qui est here’ de l’arme en France de 1350 à 1970″. bring both spellings

    —-I put ‘De Datien” into a “bing” search engine, and it took me to the internet link below, complete with a revolver photo. The English language version of the paragraph was a “google translate.” I would not trust the translation by a machine of “the german.” Do you know someone for a better translation?


  12. Excellent detective work on this. I watched the vid the other night and hoped there would be more info here.

  13. During the mid 1870’s to 1890’s there were numerous underground gunsmiths who provided exceptional works to people who needed specific weapons for very tailor fit applications. Most of the currency was paid in francs and any markings would have led to investigation to who made such a weapon in the first place, in a worse case scenario.

    The action of this gun and shape of the grip suggest somebody was very used to knives. The action looks like it would be easy to simple slap your finger on the ball and then hit the trigger, or even hold down the trigger with the middle finger and slap the ball back with the index creating the ability to rapid fire it, I’m wagering the second way is more accurate to how it was designed. It’d be interesting to see if held over the wrist or arm if the sight picture would be adequate because picture holding a knife in one arm ready to strike and the pistol in hand over the said arm. Six shots out quickly and you have a knife out. Reloading time wasn’t a thought because. I do suspect there was an ornamental piece on the firing pin that kept its depth at a fixed rate and the sands of time made it disappear. This of course, would have made backing out the firing pin easy and then going through the reload cycle easier than one would think, especially compared to most weapons of the time.

    I would love to see this piece in person. My gut says it is Austrian. What’s the calibre? The auction website doesn’t even list it.

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