RELOAD: 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M 1873
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Thread: RELOAD: 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M 1873

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Old Europe

    Default RELOAD: 11mm French Ordnance Revolver M 1873

    ralph h
    Posted - 12/07/2003 : 3:41:36 PM
    Greetings, Gentlemen,

    Won on auction. One of those "buy it now for $230.00 deals".

    When I received the 73 revolver, I inspected it very closely for any areas that might need my attention before putting it in service. I found 4 items. Probably the most serious being the muzzle had been struck hard enough on the bottom to actually create a slight out of round condition of the bore. Very carefully using a hardened steel rod, of slightly less than bore diameter, an oak die with a half round notch same diameter as barrel O.D., and a hydraulic press, I was able to restore bore roundness.

    Next priority item was the cylinder lacked about 4 or 5 degrees of coming to full index against cylinder stop during operation. The surface of the hand that contacts the ratchet at full cock was worn. Got out the torch and hard faced it approx. .020" thick. I then carefully filed it down with a diamond file, then polished the surfaces. When finished, .008" had been added to the thickness. Now it indexes perfectly, and is as smooth as roller bearings.

    Only things left to do were to clean the outside surfaces and point up the checkering. That being done, we will get to the important part of the story.

    I have finally reduced the handloading of the 11mm French down to a few basic steps, along with what I feel are the proper tools and components to produce a satisfactory cartridge that gives excellent power and accuracy in the 73 French Ordnance revolver.

    I measured the chambers, and they are .473" at base, .451" at throat. The .44 Mag. case base diameter is .453". The .44-40 case base diameter is .462". I opted for the .44-40 case as the .44 Mag. case rattles around too much in the chamber. I trimmed the rim to .040" thick and O.A. case length to .740".

    Walt Melander of NEI Handtools made the mold for the .451"-220 gr. heeled bullet. ( Sad note: Walt died on his way to work just a few days after finishing my mold.)

    Resize fired cases in 44-40 sizing die.
    Run a .44 Spec/Mag sizing die down the case only as far as the bullet will be seated.
    Use .44 Spec/Mag expanding die. Belling mouth just enough to prevent shaving bullet.
    Install Federal 150 large pistol primer.
    I charged with 5 gr. Unique powder.
    Seated bullet with my .450 Adams seating and crimping die. No crimping can take place.
    I crimp case in my special 11mm crimping tool that fits my Lyman mold handles.
    Apply Lee's liquid allox and set aside.

    Fired in my shop. That's the reason for target at 30 feet. Chrono at 10 feet from muzzle. Velocity average: 740 fps. Fired 12 rounds.

    I know, I pulled a couple shots out of the group. But when you're 68 years old, you're allowed to do that.
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    Posted - 12/07/2003 : 4:09:48 PM
    Beau travail, Ralph !
    I heard about a cartoonist whose name is same than yours , your family ?

    ralph h
    Posted - 12/07/2003 : 4:31:39 PM
    Thank you, Edmond,

    Sorry, not related.

    Posted - 12/08/2003 : 11:04:24 AM

    Got one missing the loading gate, otherwise perfect, last week for $100.00 US. This is the third one I have found in Pawn Shops here in Birmingham since 2001. I had no idea that they were going to be so popular!!! So far I have one "F" three "G" and 2 "H" series, mostly from Gun Shows in this area and the aforementioned Pawn Shops. Since these guns are legal in France, I suspect that the foreign buyers will be snapping them up at US Shows.

    ralph h
    Posted - 12/08/2003 : 10:39:31 PM
    Greetings, Dale,
    Seems there is quite a few out there. Sounds like you are particularly fond of them. Do any shooting with them or just collecting? Really a robust little revolver. I am a collector of early, large bore, cartridge revolvers. I get a great deal of enjoyment and satisfaction from restoring and shooting the old revolvers.

    John Wallace
    Posted - 12/09/2003 : 09:42:58 AM
    Well, somebody has to do it. 1873 revolvers do indeed fetch a lot more in France, as you can see on , and I dare say French dealers are buying them in the Us. But it doesn't seem to be showing much in terms of prices yet. They must surely be the greatest bargain available in antique firearms.

    My second-best 1873 has the same condition of the cylinder, although due to a mismatched cylinder in this case. I have made a very similar complete replacement hand, for my Dutch M1873, but it seems better to use an existing part if you have one. Not everybody has acces to hardfacing equipment, or would care to trust such a crucial part to a non-gun welder. An alternative I think would work well, though, is to silver solder a piece of steel to the top. A piece of high-speed steel wouldn't require hardening, and thus would let you out of the danger of loosening the added portion.

    Posted - 12/09/2003 : 11:41:47 AM
    Ralph: I shoot them occasionally in my yard, I live in the woods, so no one cares, I have not got into reloading yet...Is there an equivalent smokeless load for this gun??

    John: I have some of the Mle 1874 Revolvers too, also the Webleys and the often overlooked Spanish 455 Revolvers from WW 1....

    Dale in Ala

    ralph h
    Posted - 12/09/2003 : 2:29:55 PM
    Back up to the message above the photo. Smokeless load is described there. If you like old revolvers, click on this thread.
    I don't think it got read much. Must have titled it wrong.
    Regards, Ralph.

    Posted - 12/15/2003 : 6:49:06 PM
    Ralph, I read your other post on Galands. Can you recommend anyone who can perform similar repairs to my two Galands? I have one in 9mm and one in 12mm.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2003127154118_73%20French.jpg  

  2. #2


    Hello Gunboard Friends,

    Have been reading about loading the 11MM French for the 1873 Revolver. I saw this hollow based .429 bullet on Buffalo Arms' website.

    Could this possibly work?


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2008


    Probable not, groove is .451 or larger, dont think it would blow out enough.

    Last edited by burkefj; 04-03-2017 at 07:07 PM.

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  5. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2008


    Here's the synopsis:

    I did a bit of reading on the cartridge, and discovered it used a heeled bullet. Case dimensions were such that 44 russian(or spl or mag) would have the right rim diameter and base was close enough for these low pressure rounds. I started with 44 russian cases I had trimmed to .75" which worked in my first revolver chamber. In my second revolver the rims were too thick so I used formed brass from buffalo arms, which is basically the same thing with a thinned rim.

    The problem with a heeled bullet is that the outside diameter of the bullet is the same size as the outside of the case and crimping requires a pliers sort of contraption to crimp from the sides. I decided to experiment a bit with what I had on hand. The mouth of my cylinders measured just over .446 and I had a .446 sizer on hand. I ran some 185 and 200 grain lswc .45 acp bullets through my .446 sizer I had for 43 mauser. I could have left them .452 but since the cylinder mouth is .446 on my revolvers they get swaged down anyway.

    I then used a 45 colt expander die to expand the cases to the right seating depth I wanted, about 3/16" so I could seat the bullets so that the case mouth was just below the top of the lube groove. This leaves the front of the bullet exposed so that it maintains larger diameter for the bore. Because the bullets were .446 I could seat them by hand, otherwise you need a 45 acp seating die or similar.

    In order to allow them to chamber, as they now have nice fat bump in them from the oversized base of the bullet, I ran the loaded round into a 45 acp/45 colt sizing die with a .480 base with decapper removed till they would chamber fully. In one of my revolvers I had to use a .308 sizing die which has a .473 base to squeeze them down enough to chamber.

    Once you do this the bullet will have no neck tension, so I ran them back up into a 44 mag sizing die which has a .457 entry just enough to bump a roll into the lube groove, and not push the bullet into the case further.

    So, instead of using a heeled bullet, I used a full size bullet, and re-sized after seating to create a heeled bullet in effect.

    I used 2.1 grains of bullseye with these loads.

    Shooting these were very mild, much less than a 38 special target load.

    Pictures show the 15 shot group at 21 yards offhand, the case progression, the .446 bullet just fitting into the cylinder throat, and a pulled bullet driven through the rifling, you can see plenty of rifling even on the reduced rear swaged portion.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails CIMG3292.JPG   french.jpg   WP_001858.jpg   WP_001859.jpg  
    Last edited by burkefj; 04-03-2017 at 07:13 PM.

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    New England


    I bought the "correct" mould, .451 dia acorn shaped heeled bullets.

    Used a .45acp die to seat in case. (Cut down .44 spl). First loading was very tight to seat the bullet. 2nd and after were still acceptable neck tension, but seated easier. I have not yet resized any cases, they fit, loaded and fired the second time without any need.

    I also used 11gr of 3f german powder.

    While I don't have a picture of the target, at 10yd, they went exactly where they were supposed to.

    Below, see the heeled bullets in my cylinder like the poster above. Also note the huge throat into the barrel, that's the same bullet. Just for laughs I stuck a .455 Webley bullet in too, and you can see it swallows it. Lots of room there.

    Basically, if it chambers, it WILL fire. The heeled bullets were externally lubed, dipped in molten SPG.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 20170403_204519_1491267916372.jpg   20170403_204531_1491267978138.jpg   20170403_204710_1491268025703.jpg   20160712_184853_1491268215243.jpg  

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