In the time between cap-and-ball revolvers and modern self-contained ammunition as we know it, there were a few innovations, and the pinfire bridged the gap between the cap and ball and modern cartridges. Casimir Lefaucheux, a French gun-maker at that time, invented the pinfire in 1843. It was very popular in Europe and was implemented in rifles and shotguns as well.
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I have a 7mm pinfire model called the Guardian American Model of 1878. This model was produced from 1878 to 1891, even though pinfires were obsolete by then. The purpose was to have a small repeating handgun for protection. Even though its 7mm chambering is anemic, no one wants to get shot with anything, so it was a deterrent in that regard. The Guardian is a small six-shot revolver with a 3½-inch barrel. The triggerguard is missing, but it is in fair shape and is shootable. The barrel looks like a .30 caliber at first glace, but the front and rear have what looks like a chamber. Why? Who knows, but I slugged the bore and it is a 7mm.
I obtained a kit with everything I needed to assemble a few 7mm pinfire rounds. A company in Belgium sells kits to make pinfire ammo in various calibers. The bullet weighs 52 grains, and I loaded it in front of 5.5 grains of FFFg powder. It takes a few minutes to assemble a round, but I don’t plan on shooting it a lot. I also picked up some round balls that weigh 42 grains and will be trying those. Under no circumstances should this gun be fired with smokeless powder. The risk of damage is too great, and it only takes a few minutes to clean it up after using black powder.
Shooting the little pinfire proved interesting and fun. The single-action trigger was very light—close to being a hair trigger—so I had to take that into account. According to my trigger pull gauge, it consistently went off at 12 ounces. The gun doesn’t work as a double action, and the cylinder has to be manually rotated for each shot. The empties are ejected with an ejector assembly typical of a single-action revolver. The gun has wear but it shoots, and I don’t plan on using it for a carry piece.
Aiming at the X on a B-27 target at 7 yards, the gun hit about 8 to 10 inches high, and all of the shots went into a group the size of a saucer. For this type of gun, I will take that kind of accuracy. There was no felt recoil, and it was reliable most of the time. Since making the pinfire ammo is very time consuming, I only fired about 18 rounds. I can reload the cases when time permits, as I will shoot it a few more times and give some fellow shooters a chance to shoot this unique revolver.
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This article originally published in the Spring 2016 issue of GUNS OF THE OLD WEST®. For print and digital subscriptions to GUNS OF THE OLD WEST, please email email@example.com or call 1-800-284-5668.