Preorders now open for my book, “Chassepot to FAMAS: French Military Rifles 1866-2016”! Get your copy here:
The Model 1866 Chassepot was France’s first military cartridge-firing rifle. It used a self-contained paper cartridge on the same basic principle as the Prussian 1841 Dreyse rifle, but was a substantial improvement on that system. The Chassepot fired an 11mm bullet at about 1350 fps (410 m/s), which was substantially higher velocity than the Dreyse. It was more accurate and had a substantially longer effective range. The French would produce about 1.5 million Chassepot rifles, most of them before the Franco-Prussian War.
Despite the quality of the Chassepot rifle, that war would go tremendously badly for the French, with hundreds of thousands of men and arms captured by the Prussians and the new German state being declared in the palace of Versailles. In the aftermath, many German cavalry units would adopt Chassepots for their own use, until the Gewehr 71 was available in carbine form. The French would resume Chassepot production briefly after the war, but would soon transition to a new rifle, the metallic cartridge firing Gras.
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