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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

I'm looking at an original, all-matching French Chassepot Model 1866; the unit is all original and all-matching 100%; right down to the original needle!

If I acquire this unit, can I fire it successfully? Needle-fire weapons are unknown to me, so it will be a learning experience to me.

Anyone with experience in this arena please express your thoughts.

Thank you in advance.

· Registered
802 Posts
Shooting the Mle. 1866 Chassepot


Handloading the Cartouche Mle. 1866 to its original specification requires much specialised base and case forming equipment, correct bullet mould duplicating the cylindro-conical ball (balle), and plenty of patience. We have been handloading this cartridge for around twenty years to the original specification and have found it an exteremly powerful and accurate round and have used it in the fusil and carabine.

The carabine de cavalerie chambers the same cartridge. A charge of 5.5 gm provides the service velocity of 423 mps fusil, 350 mps carabine. Recoil and muzzle flash with the carabine is quite heavy.

To shoot the Mle. 1866, a new rubber obturator must be used and the spring has to be replaced as they have usually lost their tension. A slow needle strike will inevitably fail to ignite the primer.

However, there is a site that provides an easy solution to handloading: [email protected]

We have produced articles on shooting the Mle. 1866 fusil and carabine (and Dreyse), these can be obtained by contacting the HBSA Journal editor: [email protected]

Good shootiing.

Guy and Leonard A-R-West

· Silver Bullet member
1,155 Posts
Great shoot

I shoot mine, I replaced the rubber seal with a stack of thick rubber plumbing washers and made a new needle from a spring steel rod so I could preserve the orignal seal and needle. I did not need to replace the spring.

I use traditional 45-70 lead bullets in mine. Making cartridges takes a lot of patience, but at least there is no case cleaning after shooting. One particularity you will find is that because of the large soot build up due to the combustion of the cartridge paper, the chamber will gradually get shorter until chambering is impossible. I have a bent brass cleaning rod to quickly brush the residue out every 4-5 shots.

There are a few french sites with reloading suggestions too if you can understand it.

Good luck!

· Copper Bullet member
105 Posts
Cartridge making also depends upon if one wants to duplicate the original as close as possible or have a cartridge easier to make that has reasonable reliability and accuracy.
Either way, it is time consuming but not overly difficult. After many experiments, I settled on the latter and developed two types based upon Pyrodex pellets and the 405 grain 45/70 HBRN bullet. The pellets help the cartridges to have consistent and repeatable lengths as the powder is already compressed.

Type A can be made without a mandrel as the Pyrodex pellets themselves are taped together to make a form for the paper tube (see photo below). This method requires making a pocket in the base of the first pellet for the musket cap primer assembly. Length is adjusted by the number of wads between the pellets and the bullet. The bullet is retained by tying it to the paper tube by its lowest lube groove. This cartridge ignites the best, but does leave the most residue in the chamber.
Type B uses a mandrel (metal preferred) as the form for rolling and gluing a single layer traditional paper tube. Gluing the musket cap primer assembly to the bottom of the paper tube is facilitated by a pocket in the end of the mandrel. The space around the primer is filled with loose powder and then covered with a thin paper wad. The pellets are dropped down the paper tube on top of the primer assembly. Wads are added as needed between the pellets and bullet to get the needed over-all-length. Bullet is tied as in Type A. This cartridge has slightly less reliable ignition, but leaves much less residue in the chamber while giving a slightly higher velocity.

Besides the seal and needle already mentioned, one also needs to check the needle retainer and its corresponding T on the end of the bolt for any signs of metal fatigue. The design is such that if a failure occurs at this junction, the cocking assembly will be expelled violently rearward into the shooters face. These failures are rare, but one needs to be aware of the possibility.

My Chassepot celebrated its 140th birthday in May of this year and I have no reservations about taking it to the range.

Discussion Starter · #10 ·

You all are terrific!

Yes----I was successful and did in fact acquire the piece.

I intend to study all of your replies to my inquiry & proceed.

Take Care,

Charles S. Brown
Oakland, Oregon

· Registered
7 Posts
Shooting the Chassepot Mle. 1866

I shoot mine quite frequently. I have a system for 'Roll-your-Own' combustible cartridges that are infallible (just remember BLACK POWDER ONLY).
There is a downside to shooting the Chassepot, and that is the Obturator Rubber must be replaced quite frequently. Finding suitable replacements at an affordable price is difficult. Nevertheless, I find that this is one of the most enjoyable rifles to shoot I have ever owned, not to mention the attention it draws at the range.


· Gold Bullet member
701 Posts
rubber seal

Amberg rifleman,
The rubber seal is supposed to reduce the amount of fouling that can accumulate inside the bolt around the rear of the needle. I do not know whether this feature actually does what it is supposed to do. I have made cartridges with and without it and fouling does indeed get into the bolt. This is not a big issue as long as you thoroughly clean the bolt after shooting. I have made only about 50 cartridges so I am definitely no expert here but once the cartridge is properly asembled I found ignition pretty reliable and the Chassepot is a nicely balanced rifle to shoot for me. I got reloading instructions from Sangle and Magoo on this forum. Best Regards, Joe
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