Rifleman Q&A: 19th-Century German Revolver?

posted on December 3, 2021
NRA member photo

Q. I recently inherited a big single-action German revolver of some sort, but I cannot find any information on it. Can you identify it for me or tell me where I can find out more about it? Also, it seems like .44 S&W Russian cartridges will fit in the chambers. Can I shoot them through it?

A. Your photo shows one of the German Service Revolvers Model 1879, 1883 or 1884 chambered in 11 mm German Service (also called 10.6 mm and 10.8 mm German Revolver). The issue Reichsrevolvers were made by a number of German firms, including yours. It is marked “V.C.S. * C.G.H./SUHL” in an oval indicating it was made by V. Charles Schilling and C.G. Haenel in Suhl, Germany. The 1878 version had a 183 mm barrel, and the Infantrie Officer’s Model of 1883 had a shorter 126 mm barrel. Both were solid-frame six-shot single-action revolvers. A safety lever on the left side of the frame blocks the mainspring.

“GUSS-STAHL” is means “cast steel” in German and was marked on some of these revolvers. The Reichsrevolver was replaced in German service by the Luger self-loader in 1908.

Do not fire .44 Russian cartridges in your 1879 German Reichsrevolver. The 11 mm German Service revolver cannot handle the pressure of the .44 Russian. These guns are described in great detail with photos in Service Handguns, A Collector’s Guide by Klaus-Peter Koenigh and Martin Hugo. Another reference that discusses these arms is The Revolver 1889-1914 by the late American Rifleman Contributing Editor A.W.F. Taylerson.

This “Questions & Answers” was featured in the January 2005 issue of American Rifleman. At time of publication, "Questions & Answers" was compiled by Staff, Ballistics Editor William C. Davis, Jr., and Contributing Editors: David Andrews, Hugh C. Birnbaum, Bruce N. Canfield, O. Reid Coffield, Charles Q. Cutshaw, Charles M. Fagg, Angus Laidlaw, Evan P. Marshall, Charles E. Petty, Robert B. Pomeranz, O.D., Jon R. Sundra, Jim Supica, A.W.F. Taylerson, John M. Taylor and John Treakle.

To subscribe to the magazine, visit NRA membership page and select American Rifleman as your member magazine.


Desert Tech Trek 22 Ruger 1022 Stock F
Desert Tech Trek 22 Ruger 1022 Stock F

First Look: Desert Tech Trek-22 Bullpup Stock

Converting a standard Ruger 10/22 carbine into a bullpup rifle has never been easier, thanks to the Trek-22 bullpup stock from Desert Tech.

First Look: Samson Manufacturing Hannibal Mini-14 Rail

For the first time, owners of Ruger Mini-14 or Mini Thirty rifles can now mount optics forward of the action, thanks to the Samson Manufacturing Hannibal Rail.

The Story Behind Remington Ammunition

Through several name changes, ownership exchanges, and financial debacles over the past century, Remington Ammunition lives on today under the guidance of Vista Outdoor.

The Gewehr M2021: A Modernized Mauser 98

Despite having been developed more than a century ago, the Mauser 98 action is still one of the best bolt action designs ever conceived. Follow Jeromy Knepp as he sets up his own "modernized Mauser."

NRA Gun of the Week: Mossberg 940 Pro Snow Goose

On this week’s “Gun of the Week” video preview, American Rifleman examines a dedicated goose gun from Mossberg with increased capacity and custom finishes.

New For 2022: Savage Arms Model 64 Precision Rifle

New for 2022, Savage Arms introduces a new addition to its Model 64 semi-automatic rimfire rifle lineup with its introduction of the Model 64 Precision rifle.


Get the best of American Rifleman delivered to your inbox.