Frenchman Dr. Jean Francois Alexander LeMat (1821-1895) is primarily remembered for his unusual percussion and pinfire handguns from the Civil War era that were used by some Confederates including General J.E.B. Stuart. However, after the war, LeMat continued to design more advanced versions of his distinctive firearms and returned to France in 1868. In France, he also led an American volunteer legion during Franco-Prussian War, was a negotiator during the French Insurrection in 1871, and developed early airships. Production totals for the LeMat firearms are not known. However, given that production of the more well-known and more often seen percussion revolvers numbered only in the low thousands, the centerfire carbines from the late 1860s to the 1880s production totals were likely very low, possibly only a few hundred. There are very few surviving examples. Though there is at least one known example with a serial number in the thousands, it may have been continued from percussion, pinfire, and rimfire ranges, and most known centerfire LeMat carbines have fairly low serial numbers like this example. Revolving rifles, carbines, and shotguns were never very popular and were essentially obsolete when compared to repeating arms manufactured by Winchester and others in the same period. Similar Belgian LeMat centerfire carbines are illustrated and described on pages 127 and 130 of "LeMat, The Man, The Gun" by Forgett and Serpette. The cylinder has gold inlaid stars on each chamber, a "2" on the rear face, and a Liege proof on the front face. The shot barrel has "21," "66." or ".99" and "crown/15" markings. The rifled barrel also has "66." or ".99" on the bottom of the breech section and has a thin gold band at the muzzle, blade front sight at the front barrel ring, "COLONEL LE MAT PATENT" in small gold letters ahead of the notch and folding leaf rear sight, and a gold star at the breech. The serial number is marked on the bottom right of the action. There are separate loading gates for the cylinder and the shot barrel. The latter has a built in firing pin, and the hammer has a selector for switching between the cylinder and the shot barrel. The rifled barrel's collar screws around threads at the front of the cylinder arbor, and the shot barrel screws into the same. The stock is smooth walnut and has a steel buttplate.
Very good with nearly all of the gold inlay, 20% of the period refurbished blue finish, case colors visible on the hammer, mostly brown patina throughout, some patches of minor pitting, and scattered marks and scratches. The lightly sanded and refinished stock is very good and has some small hairline cracks, some gaps at the frame, a chip on the left at the junction with the frame that has been sanded smooth, and slight handling and storage marks. Mechanically fine. All LeMat firearms are scarce and desirable, and this carbine is a particularly attractive example of the rare and lesser encountered LeMat centerfire carbines.
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