Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Apache Pinfire Revolver

Of late I have been watching the first season of Man From U.N.C.L.E. courtesy of Netflix. Half the fun is the gadgets and enhanced weapons used by the lead characters, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. While making notes my mind wandered to a vicious weapon I was once sure U.N.C.L.E. would never allow their agents to carry, the Apache pin fire revolver.

I first encountered this murderous creation of L. Doine Invor when my Grandfather took me to the PANHANDLE PLAINS MUSEUM in Canyon, Texas. He explained to me that it was actually three weapons in one.

In its 'carrying configuration' it was a set of brass knuckles capable of pounding one's opponent into a bloody pulp.

There was a knife as well. When this double edged ribbon of steal was deployed a man could be sliced to pieces.

If neither of these weapons was equal to the task the brass knuckles unfolded to make the grip for a revolver. Unfold the trigger and your enemies could be annihilated in a hailstorm of bullets.

I shuttered, realizing this deadly device was mere inches from me behind a thin sheet of glass.

I was six at the time.

In the, shall we say numerous, years since I have gained a more realistic understanding of the Apache. Still, they are neat beasties.

Production started sometime around 1869. I'm not sure how long they were made. Depending on when they were made, or the grade, the features change a bit. Being French, some are very fancy.

Others are, is functional the right word?

A few years ago I encountered one at Collectors Firearms in Houston, Texas. The clerk on duty was kind enough to take it out of the case and let me examine it.

I still think the little beastie would make a creditable set of brass knuckles. In fact, the knuckles are the heavest built part of it.

The knife changed on some models from a strait blade to a kriss style wavy blade on the one I was able to examine. After close inspection I'm not sure it would survive determined letter opening. This is not a knife I would want to make anyone made at me with.

This brings us to the firearm portion of the Apache. Depending on who you ask, it was available in 6mm or 7mm pin fire, perhaps both.

Pin fire cartridges seem to were in production in France longer than in the United States. Reloading equipment and components for pin fire cartridges are available in Europe. Be warned, they ain't cheap! It would take a very determined owner to be able to fire one.

Having said that, the pinfire cartridge seems to have a good track record. It only complaint I got on them when I made an inquire a while back was moisture coming in through the pin channel. If they are dry, they usually work.

In the case of the Apache my big complaint would have been the small caliber. Be it a 6 or 7mm black powder cartridge, you would get more punch out of a 22. This is something else I wouldn't want to get anyone mad at me with.

Still and all, I first saw one of these at a museum with my Grandfather. As of 2007 it was still there. The only reason I left 'Collectors' without it was the $2,600.00 price tag.


  1. You showed great restraint at Collectors.
    "Whew!" Certainly a weird beast.Do the knuckles and knife serve as back-up to the gun?

  2. Greetings from Falls County, Texas,
    I don't know if the knife would stand up to vigerous letter opening, at least on the one I examined. The brass knuckles are the only real weapon there.
    I suppose the pinfire could be used to start races and make noise at parties. I don't know that I would want to shoot a snake with it. Those snakes are mean when wounded and some are pretty fast.

  3. Art,

    The original French patent (#90314) for these was issued May 14, 1870 to J. Delhaxhe of Liège, Belgium. The were produced until 1896.

    They are most commonly referred to as Apache Knuckledusters. This name comes from the violent Parisian street gang of late 1800s who favored their use. Also of note is that the pronunciation of this gun (and the violent gang from Paris) is "ə-ˈpash" rather than "ə-ˈpa-chē."

    As for the caliber of the weapons, they came in 5mm and 7mm pinfire. No 6mm ones.

    I had a client who bought about 50 of the 5mm pinfire cartridges to shoot in his Apache Knuckleduster. Of those cartridges (that were some 125+ years old) only 3 still shot. The rest he was able to disassemble and use new powder. The mercury filament cap inside the cartridges were mostly all still live after all these years.

  4. Greetings from Texas,
    Thanks Aaron, it's always good to hear from you. To date I only have one pinfire revolver and I wouldn't dare shoot it. I like my hands where they are. If I ever get a hold of one I would shoot, may I pick your brain about componets and tool to reload or build up new cartridges?