Object Title

Model 1777 Pistol

Development

The Model 1777 was first introduced in 1779, replacing the Model 1763/1766. It was manufactured until 1792 at Saint-Etienne, Charleville, and Maubeuge. Between 1779 and 1787, Saint-Etienne produced 14,454 pairs, Charleville 15,342 pairs and Maubeuge 7,500 pairs. An estimated 145,000 pistols were manufactured between 1788 and 1792.

During its period of manufacture the pistol underwent a few minor changes. The first type of Model 1777 was produced with a belt hook, which was retained by a mounting screw under the brass frame. However, as the pistols were intended for the cavalry, the second type of Model 1777, which was modified in 1784, was manufactured without the belt hooks. The Royal Armouries owns an example of this modified second type of pistol, which was manufactured at Charleville.

A Model 1777 was also produced for officers. Production numbers of the officer variant were considerably lower. 138 pairs were manufactured at Charleville and 85 pairs at Maubeuge. This variant was lighter than the cavalry trooper version, and between 1-3 cm shorter.

The final variant produced was the Revolutionary Model 1777. Modelled with the same characteristics as the second variant, the only change was in the maker's marks on the lock plate. Previously the lock plates displayed the name of the manufacturer in full, whereas the marks on the later version were reduced to a single letter, sometimes accompanied by a crown, which signified where the pistols had been produced.

Use and Effect

Initially the Model 1777 was popular. However, when these pistols began to require general repairs, many gunsmiths found them difficult to fix. The hussars complained that the pistols warmed up too easily after just one to three shots, forcing users to leave them to cool down before reloading.  The ramrod was also deemed useless, and soldiers would use their cleaning sticks to load the weapon. In addition, dismantling this pistol for cleaning in the field was fairly time consuming.

Despite these drawbacks, the French supplied thousands of Model 1777 pistols to Britain's enemy during the American War of Independence (1775-1783). The United States went on to adapt this pistol, giving it an 8 in barrel, a rounded breech assembly, and an extra barrel screw on the lower front edge of the frame. With these modifications, this pistol was ultimately renamed the North and Cheney Model 1799 pistol and was the first standardised pistol to be adopted by the U.S. authorities. Today this pistol is extremely rare.

Due to the manufacture of the Year IX pistol, as well as its successor the Year XIII, it would have been unlikely that the Model 1777 saw action on the field at Waterloo. However, one cannot rule out its presence entirely.

Statistics

Barrel length 18.8 cm (7.4 in)
Calibre 17.1 mm (0.67 in)
Country of manufacture France
Date entered service About 1784
Loading Muzzle-loading
Overall length 34.3 cm (13.5 in)
Weight 1.4 kg (3 lb 1 oz)

Author

Lisa Traynor