This article will introduce you to the LeMat revolver. You'll learn a few things about this antique gem. If you're interested in this revolver, you're in the right place. What sets this revolver apart from other guns is the addition of a second smoothbore barrel. Read on to learn more about this fascinating piece.
LeMat Revolver: A Rare & Antique Piece
Background on the LeMat Revolver
The Civil War-era LeMat revolver is one of those rare oddity weapons that is so rare, collectors might consider a modern reproduction model for two reasons:
Not only does it cost much less than an original antique–you can fire it too.
“Most people who order them from us have heard of the LeMat revolver and want one,” said Keri McDonald, sales manager with Taylor’s Co. Inc. out of Winchester, Virginia. The firm is an importer and distributor of reproduction antique guns including weapons from the Civil War and Cowboy Wild West eras.
Invented by Jean Alexandre LeMat of New Orleans, the gun was an unusual Confederate weapon that combined a .42 or .36 caliber cap-and-ball black powder barrel on top and a smoothbore barrel underneath capable of firing a charge of buckshot; a combined pistol-shotgun.
The Grape Revolver
Also known as “The Grapeshot Revolver,” approximately 3,000 of the weapons were produced in Europe at factories in Liege, Belgium, and Paris, France, and then sent to England where they were smuggled past the Union Naval Blockade on the United States East Coast to reach the Confederate Army.
The South Lacked the Facilities for Producing the Weapons
The gun featured a 9-shot cylinder which revolved around a center barrel of larger caliber than the chambers in the cylinder. The central barrel also functioned as a shotgun and fired pellets. The shooter selected whether to fire a lead ball or a shotgun blast by means of flipping a lever on the end of the hammer.
The Smoothbore Fired a 20 Gauge Charge of Buckshot
The weapon was not considered very accurate with a maximum effective range of 100 yards or so, but at close quarters it was a powerful one-two punch. If the shooter missed with a lead ball they could give their target a blast of grapeshot. LeMat pistols were used by Confederate troops in the vicious close-quarter fighting of the type seen at Gettysburg.
The weapon was a popular cavalry arm and Confederate generals who carried the LeMat included Braxton Bragg, Jeb Stuart, and P.T. Beauregard, who had an engraved model.
The weapon’s rarity and expense make it off the charts for most of us as a collectible antique. Be prepared to spend $12,000 or more for a real one. Collecting a modern reproduction offers advantages. The shooter can still own an unusual piece of history, but also experience the actual firing of a dual, two-purpose piece.
“We get our reproduction LeMats from a company that makes them in Northern Italy, F.LLI Pietta Co.,” McDonald said.
McDonald said customers for the weapon include sports shooters, gun history aficionados, and collectors.
“Our LeMats are much more affordable than originals and run about $1,200,” she said. “They are a fully functioning cap-and-ball gun that fires a .44 caliber lead ball and a shotgun charge using black powder, not a shotgun shell.”
Shipments & Reproductions
The firm gets about four shipments of LeMats per year and at peak, inventory might have 25 of the weapons in stock. Other popular reproduction guns include the 1873 single action Peacemaker and the 1873 lever action (Winchester) rifle.
Reproductions usually do not go up in value the way a rare antique firearm will. Reproduction weapons made in limited editions to commemorate some famous person or event–can increase in value because of their limited production numbers.
What this video by Forgotten Weapons and see the evolution of the LeMat revolver's design through the Civil War:
The LeMat revolver may seem rare and outdated to some, but for sure there is still beauty hiding in that vintage piece. We hope this article helped you decide whether you want to add the LeMat revolver to your gun collection or just let the history tell the future about this bad boy.
What can you say about the LeMat revolver? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 18, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
Featured Image by Gianluca/Flickr