Object Title

Year IX Pistol

Development

This model of pistol greatly resembles its predecessors, in particular the more delicately made Model 1763, and its direct descendent the Year VIII model. Certain examples of the Model 1763 are stamped with the markings of makers, who would eventually be associated with the Versailles factory. These makers were heavily involved in the design and production of the Year IX model, suggesting that some features in the older designs were incorporated into the newer pistols.

In 1800, Napoleon asked a committee made up of artillerymen and weapons manufacturers to generate ideas for a new pistol suitable for military service. Originally introduced between 1800 and 1801, this model of pistol was at its height during the First Empire (1804-1815). Different types of the Year IX models were produced: a cavalry version and a gendarmerie version. The latter was mostly used as a customs weapon, but also as a defence weapon at arsenals.

By 1807, approximately 33,000 pairs of the Year IX model had been produced, manufactured in Maubeuge, Charleville, Saint-Etienne, Versailles (681 pairs), Tulle, and Mutzig. The cavalry example held at the Royal Armouries bears the French Government stamp on the stock, the letters 'R F' in a circle, and the name 'MOVET'.

Use and Effect

'An army superior in cavalry will always have the advantage to cover well its movements, to be always well informed of the movements of its opponent and to commit only as much as it will want. Its defeats will be of few consequences and its efforts will be decisive.' (Napoleon Bonaparte)

Napoleon believed that his cavalry were of great importance on the field of battle. He identified three types of cavalry, each of which were dedicated to a specific role. The light cavalry, which was made up of chasseurs à cheval and hussars, protected the stationing of troops and performed pathfinding duties on the march, usually by riding far ahead or by reconnoitring at a shorter distance. The line cavalry took part in tactical operations reinforcing the infantry. Made up of lancers and dragoons, it also supported both the light and heavy cavalry. Consisting of cuirassiers and carabiniers, the heavy cavalry's principal mission was shock action; charging the enemy at high speeds.

Alongside the principal cavalry weapon - the sword - the French cavalry were usually equipped with a pair of pistols (sometimes only a single pistol). These were carried in leather holsters, providing some protection against wet weather. In battle, the pistol would have been used mainly for fighting at close quarters. However, even this may have been rare. One British report from the Napoleonic period states that 'we never saw a pistol made use of except to shoot a glandered horse.'

Nonetheless, H. T. Siborne has written about the use of firearms from the French cavalry during their great attack. Frustrated by their first charge making no impression on the allied infantry squares, they employed a new tactic for their second assault:

'The second attempt (charge) was preceded by a cloud of skirmishers, who, advancing to within a very short distance of our front, did us considerable mischief with their carbines and pistols, but their intention being evidently to draw out our fire, no notice was taken of them.' (H. T. Siborne)

Although, as stated previously, the pistol was not the primary weapon of the cavalry, it was a useful item for a cavalryman to have about their person. While another, lighter pistol began to be manufactured in 1804 (the Year XIII), the Year IX pistol continued to be used in Napoleon's cavalry until the end of the Empire in 1815.

Statistics

Barrel length 22.2 cm (7.9 in)
Calibre 17.4 mm (.685 in)
Country of manufacture France
Date entered service About 1800-1801
Loading Muzzle-loading
Overall length 35.5 cm (14 in)
Weight 1.33 kg (2 lb 15 oz)

Author

Lisa Traynor