There’s just something about revolvers with mini-shotgun capability that has an enduring appeal to a certain niche in the gun enthusiast community.
In the past few months, we at 19FortyFive have published articles on two such guns, namely the Taurus Judge and the Smith & Wesson Governor, both of which are compact double-action wheelguns combining a .45 Long Colt bore with a .410 shotshell bore.
Both of these shotgun-revolvers came out in the current century.
However, they’re not as new or radical a concept as they might seem at first glance. You can find predecessors not just in the current century, but indeed in the century before that.
Say hello to the American Civil War-era LeMat single-action revolver.
LeMat Revolver History & Specifications
I was inspired to write about after seeing an article on MSN’s World News section recenetly titled “Civil War Weapons Facts: 7 Most Interesting Weapons From The War,” with Travel In Missouri listed as the author. Thus quoth the article:
“Used by the Confederate army, the gun known as the LeMat revolver had a normal revolver style on top, with a buck-shot shotgun on the bottom. Weighing almost 5 pounds fully loaded, while interesting, the gun would be set aside eventually for the light Colts, as soldiers usually like to carry multiple pistols so as not to have to reload.”
That 80-ounce weight is quite the contrast to the 29.6-ounces of the S&W Governor and the 26.0 ounces of the Taurus Judge. The above-quoted segment on the LeMat is accompanied by a photo of one belonging to Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant (P.G.T.) Beauregard, who was essentially the Confederacy’s first hero of the war by virtue of his status as overall commander both during the attack on Fort Sumter and the First Battle of Bull Run.
As opposed to the .410 caliber (10.4mm) shotgun bore of the Governor and Judge, the LeMat’s buckshot/grapeshot bore was a 20-gauge (.615 caliber/15.6mm). Meanwhile, the pistol cartridges – which used cap & ball black powder – were either .42 or .36 caliber, and the LeMat had an impressive capacity for nine of these rounds. Barrel length was 6.75 inches and overall length was 13.25 inches.
The gun was named for its inventor, Dr. Jean Alexandre LeMat (1821-1895), a Frenchman and eventual emigrant to the U.S. who studied for the priesthood at an early age before going on to become a physician and a firearms designer. LeMet designed the gun in 1855, and it was officially recognized by the U.S. Patent Office the following year. Approximately 2,900 of the guns were built between 1856 and 1865.
Good Enough for Good Ol’ Dirk Pitt
Although I’ve never fired the LeMat, or any other Civil War vintage firearm – shame on me, I know, being the huge Civil War buff that I am – it nonetheless evokes a fond childhood memory. As some of you may already know, one of my top three all-time favorite fiction authors is the late great Clive Cussler, best known for the bestselling Dirk Pitt series of action-adventure novels such as Raise the Titanic! and Sahara. For those of you unfamiliar with the Dirk Pitt character, he’s essentially an American James Bond, Jacques Cousteau, and Indiana Jones, all rolled into one.
Anyway, back in the spring of 1986 when I was in the 6th grade, I read the Pitt novel Deep Six. In an epic action scene towards the end of the novel, good ol’ Dirk ends up enlisting the aid of a group of Civil War re-enactors. The leader of that group just so happens to have not only a LeMat revolver on hand, but a convenient supply of live ammo to go with it, which he generously lends to Mr. Pitt.
Without providing too much of a spoiler, suffice to say that our intrepid hero makes judicious use of the gun’s loadout against the bad guys.
Christian D. Orr has 33 years of shooting experience, starting at the tender age of 14. His marksmanship accomplishments include: the Air Force Small Arms Ribbon w/one device (for M16A2 rifle and M9 pistol); Pistol Expert Ratings from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP), Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP); multiple medals and trophies via the Glock Sport Shooting Foundation (GSSF) and the Nevada Police & Fires Games (NPAF). Chris has been an NRA Certified Basic Pistol Instructor since 2011. In his spare time, he enjoys (besides shooting, obviously) dining out, cigars, Irish and British pubs, travel, USC Trojans college football, and Washington DC professional sports.