Extremely Rare Delvigne Bullet Mold


Henri-Gustave Delvigne (April 10, 1800 in Hamburg – October 18, 1876 in Toulon)

Excavated Delvigne Bullet

Extremely Rare Delvigne Bullet Mold – Two French army captains, Claude-E´tienne Minie´ and Henri-Gustave Delvigne, in 1849, created the conical, soft-lead bullet with four rings and a rifle with a grooved barrel to go with it. Delvigne, who would go on to co-design several models of revolving pistols, had earlier created a conical bullet design, but Minie´made the projectile smaller and longer, easier to load. At the time, French troops were facing Algerians whose long rifles outranged French muskets, and the invention of Minie´ offered a solution to that problem.

Delvigne, a French soldier and inventor, became a captain in the French infantry service, from which he resigned at the outbreak of the 1830 July Revolution. Delvigne revolutionized rifle technology and rendered it proper as a weapon. Formerly an officer of the French Royal Guard, he grasped that reducing windage–the gap between the sides of the barrel and the ball–was key to raising the musket’s accuracy. The problem here was that muskets loaded faster than rifles because their bullets slid easily down their smooth, wide barrels. Reducing the windage would make loading only more difficult, thereby lowering the musket’s rate of fire to that of the rifle. Delvigne’s novel solution was conceptually similar to a ship-in-a-bottle, in which the folded, flattened vessel is slipped through the narrow neck and unfurled inside. He placed a “rebated,” or slightly smaller, chamber at the bottom of a broad but rifled barrel. The soldier poured the powder down so that it settled into this cramped space and, after rolling down a spherical ball, used a heavy ramrod to stamp on the soft lead bullet so that it flattened and expanded its diameter. Upon firing, the bloated ball gripped the grooves, spun, and turned the musket into a rifle.

Starting around 1830, Delvigne further developed cylindro-spherical and cylindro-conical bullets which received the bullet grooves, for stability; this addition to the bullets was developed by French artillery officer, Francois Tamisier. Delvigne’s bullet design was further improved by the French officer Thouvenin, who induced the deformation of the bullet by placing a stem inside and at the center of the powder chamber. When hit by the ramrod, the bullet would expand radially against the rifling grooves and at the same time wrap around the stem, giving it a more efficient and aerodynamic shape. These inventions marked important steps in the improvement of the rifle, and were precursors to the invention of the Minié ball.

It is extremely rare to find an excavated Delvigne bullet, but finding one of the original molds that was used to make them is a markedly greater rarity; in fact, we have never seen an example prior to getting this mold. The mold is in excellent condition, exhibiting a pleasing, overall mellow patina; someone molded a bullet in it to show what the finished product looked like. This is the rarest of bullet molds we have ever handled.