A man stopped into my tavern recently and upon learning that I had served in the French Army asked if I might have any interest in a French rifle. I shrugged my shoulders and said I might. He stepped out to his wagon and asked me if I would give him $9 for it. Well after a little bit of haggling and a half bottle of cognac we settled on $7 and I paid him from the till.
The French M1842 was the first rifle I ever held in my hands. I had been chosen to learn how to use a rifle instead of the typical musket because of good eyesight and an apparent natural aptitude. This one is the Dragon modele 1842 T, Dragoon model intended for mounted Infantry, I learned on the Voltigeur model which was some longer. At the time I liked the weapon immensely finding it handy, accurate as well as easily cleaned and maintained. I used the weapon to some effect in both North Africa and the Crimea. At the time I felt it compared favorably to the P51 & P53 Enfields I had an opportunity to compare it to. But now I know that to have been a biased reaction. The reality of the M1842 is that while I believe it to have been a revolutionary arm that changed the face of warfare forever it was a far cry from the best. The angle of the hammer made the rear sight rather difficult to use in an effective manner as it obscured the sight picture. The weapon was also not an interchangeable arm which put it second fiddle when compared to modern US made arms
Several regiments carried these in the Civil War along with a variety of newer models of French rifles and rifle muskets. Generally they were not all that highly thought of in comparison to American made arms such as the M1841 and M1861 series arms. When the opportunity to trade them for a new Springfield arose I know of no instance where anyone thought twice.
The Dragoon model M1842 is similar in length but a touch lighter than my beloved M1841. I will admit it took me a little while to re learn how to hit anything with her but I satisfied myself that I could still shoot straight if need be. But if it comes time to pick up a rifle again it will not be an M1842 such as this one but my tried and true M1841, Springfield or Sharps rifle. This nice old M1842 is past her prime surpassed by designs that improved upon the road she set the world upon. I hold a fondness in my heart for her as she reminds me of times long past, a time in my life of blistering sands and numbing cold.