Object Title

Year XIII Pistol


Designed in 1804 it greatly resembles the Model 1786 Marine pistol, which is sometimes referred to as the father of the Year XIII. It is the successor to the Year IX pistol, although the Year IX was still in use throughout the First Empire (1804-1815).

This pistol shares many characteristics of the Year IX. The most obvious difference is the shortening of the wooden stock below the barrel, and the more compact mouthpiece, which uses only one barrel fixing, rather than the two used on the Year IX. The design was also more robust than its predecessor.

Between 1806 and 1819, 150,000 pairs of the Year XIII pistol were produced, being manufactured in Charleville, Maubeuge, Saint-Etienne, Tulle (depending on the Ministry of War), Mutzig, and Versailles (411 pairs). As these pistols were being manufactured up to 1819 it is also quite common to see locks made at royal factories, after the restoration of the monarchy.

Use and Effect

Napoleon believed that his cavalry were of great importance on the field of battle. 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. The pistol has no sight and an effective range of around 10 m, and therefore in battle it would have been used mainly for fighting at close quarters.

Although the pistol was not the primary weapon of the cavalry, it was nevertheless a useful item for a cavalryman to have about their person. Pistols were also utilised by mounted infantry officers, who would use this weapon for battle at close quarters. Senior officers may have purchased pistols privately, as they would have been produced to a higher standard, but if they did not wish to do so they would have probably been issued with the Year XIII pistol.

Pistols would have been used in many duels during the Napoleonic period, despite the French duelling weapon of choice usually being the sword. By the end of this period duelling in France surged, usually as a result of hard drinking. French royalists, Napoleonic factions, and even British and Prussian soldiers who had remained in France after Waterloo would all partake in duels. It became a daily occurrence amongst French officers to provoke a duel, preferably with the sword, as the French had a low regard for British swordsmanship. Duelling treatise of the time often advised the British to insist on a pistol duel. If they did so it is entirely likely that Year XIII pistols may have been used.

The Year XIII pistol continued to be used by the French until the 1840s, and some were converted into to the percussion-ignition system.


Barrel length 20.7 cm (8.1 in)
Calibre 17.1 mm (0.67 in)
Country of manufacture France
Date entered service About 1806
Loading Muzzle-loading
Overall length 35.2 cm (13.9 in)
Weight 1.27 kg (2 lb 13 oz)


Lisa Traynor