Why wasn't the LeMat revolver ever given a cartridge conversion?

Discussion in 'General Handgun' started by Cyrano, Sep 13, 2010.

  1. Cyrano

    Cyrano Resident Curmudgeon Forum Contributor

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    This has always puzzled me. The LeMat was immensely popular among Confederate cavalrymen and infantry officers. It wasn't as bulky or heavy as a Colt's Dragoon, it was hard-hitting, and of course there's that smoothbore barrel with its one buckshot load for desperate times.

    But as far as I can tell, no one ever retrofitted them as cartridge revolvers the way so many Colts and Remingtons were converted before the advent of the SAA in 1873. I've never seen one that was converted in any museum, the few LeMats that show up at auction are always cap and ball, and none of the replica gunmakers has ever offered a cartridge version of it, so far as I know.

    The Lemat's virtues would have been unchanged by such a conversion. Even the smoothbore barrel could have been adapted to accept a paper shotshell, either in 16 or 20 gauge. (Since you'd only use that barrel in extremis anyhow, having to, say, screw it open and closed to load it would not have been a handicap.)

    Can anyone throw some light on this? More to the point, in the opinion of the gunsmiths on the Forum, would it be possible to take one of the modern replicas and retrofit it to take some appropriate cartridge?
     
  2. big boomer

    big boomer G&G Enthusiast

    There were only about 2000 of them made and I did see one cartridge gun but I don't know if it was a one off copy or what I only saw a picture of it a long time back.
     

  3. samuel

    samuel G&G Newbie

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  4. JDubia

    JDubia G&G Addict

    I believe that the short barrel shotgun is contrary to the FFL folks. Maybe if they put a in light rifling like the Taurus Judge it would be acceptable to the "overlords". I would bet that it would be quite a handful with a 12 gage! :D
     
  5. AaronN322

    AaronN322 G&G Regular

    They were actually made as a pinfire also, not only as cap and ball. The carbine was too. I will try to post pictures later.

    Edit: from that wikipedia article
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2010
  6. Cyrano

    Cyrano Resident Curmudgeon Forum Contributor

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    So LeMat did make them in cartridge form. They simply picked the wrong format.

    Still, you have to wonder why they never did a centerfire conversion. I guess these days the closest you'll get to one is a Taurus Judge with a 5 inch barrel.
     
  7. samuel

    samuel G&G Newbie

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    After the introduction of cartridge-firing firearms, the LeMat system appeared in pinfire, but this version is exceedingly rare. A centerfire version in 12mm Perrin or 11mm Chamelot-Delvigne, with a 24 gauge shot barrel was made in later years in Belgium. While having better sales than its pinfire relative, the centerfire LeMat also had no real commercial success due to the invention of the double-action system. With both weapons, loading was accomplished via a loading gate located at the 4 o' clock position for the cylinder, and by swinging the breech of the shot barrel up and left.

    [edit] Variants
    [edit] Muzzle Loader
    The first variant of the LeMat[3].

    [edit] Pinfire Cartridge

    A close-up of the hammer on a LeMat Pinfire Revolver, showing the pivoting striker that could be used to fire either the pinfire cartridges in the revolving chambers or the secondary smoothbore barrel.Second variant, can be recognised by cylinder[4].

    [edit] Centrefire
    The centrefire variant came with a distinctive grip[5].

    [edit] Carbine
    A rare variant with extended barrels and a rifle type stock[6].

    [edit] Modern reproductions

    Modern repro of a LeMat Revolver.
    The Pietta company of Brescia, Italy has manufactured modern reproductions of the LeMat revolver since 1985. United States distributors include Navy Arms Company, Dixie Gunworks and Cabela's. Canadian Distributors include Marstar Canada, among others.

    Elmer Keith, Sixguns 1955, noted that early 20th century percussion caps would sometimes fire under thumb pressure when seated on the cones. This would raise a blister on his thumb. While the possibility of this happening with modern lead styphnate caps is present and it is important to point the gun in a safe direction while capping, it is rarely, if ever, seen, even when using a dowel or the gun's hammer to seat the caps. He referred to it as a doubled-single-action revolver.
    TV Gunslinger turned Sheriff Johnny Ringo, carried a LeMat revolver. Played by Don Durant, Johnny Ringo aired for one season (38 episodes) in 1959-60.
    Jayne Cobb, a character from the television series Firefly and the movie Serenity, uses a handgun based on the LeMat Revolver.
    Dr. Theophilus "Doc" Algernon Tanner in the Deathlands series of novels has carried two different LeMat revolvers.
    Bruce Willis' character in the movie 12 Monkeys was equipped with a LeMat for a time-traveling mission into the past to assassinate a bioterrorist.
    Swede Gutzon is armed with a LeMat in the film The Quick and the Dead.
    Inman, the main character in the novel Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, carries and uses a LeMat.
    Bufe Coker, a character in both the novel and miniseries Centennial carries a LeMat revolver.
    Ezra Justice in the novel "The Justice Riders" written by Chuck Norris uses a LeMat revolver.
    Red Dead Redemption, a video game set in the dying days of the old west, includes the LeMat revolver as an available weapon in the later part of the game.
    Jonah Hex, a film based on the comic. Josh Brolin plays the title character, and uses a pair of LeMats in the film.
     
  8. AaronN322

    AaronN322 G&G Regular

    Here is a centerfire lemat. They made them too:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  9. Cyrano

    Cyrano Resident Curmudgeon Forum Contributor

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    Now there is an Old West pistol I would not mind owning. Thanks, sam, and thanks, Aaron, for the info and the photos.

    I suppose it's too much to hope for that one of the replica Western gun makers has a centerfire LeMat in their product line?
     
  10. samuel

    samuel G&G Newbie

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