Book Review: The Modele 1866 Chassepot


Until now, there has really been nothing substantial and scholarly printed on the Chassepot needle-fire rifle in English – but now that has changed, thanks to Guy & Leonard A-R-West. Their just-released book on the system covers everything from the development (including several competing systems form the 1850s and 1860s), the mechanics, the ammunition, the production and markings, and the historical impact the rifle had in Europe.

Despite the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the Chassepot was a stand-out piece of technology, offering substantially higher velocity and longer effective range than the Dreyse rifles used by the Prussian forces. It was such an impressive rifle that tens of thousands were reissued by German cavalry units, both in the original needlefire configuration and converted to 11mm Mauser metallic cartridges.

The authors cover the modification from the first production rifles to the standard later versions, and also the progressive improvements to the ammunition. Visually, this is done with a combination of photographs and hand drawings. The photographs are sometimes a bit small, and the drawings (which are very well done) do a good job of showing the specific details the authors are trying to highlight. The occasional firsthand commentary taken from soldiers on both sides of the 1870/71 battles also adds a very interesting flavor to the narrative.

The book is published in the UK, and runs 145 pages softcover (but in color). As of this writing, the price is £45.00 plus shipping, and it can be ordered directly from the publisher’s web site or through them on