During the 1900s the early French gangster used a very interesting revolver, which was known as the Apache Revolver. The main idea was to have a weapon that could be a revolver, a knife, and brass knuckles – all in one. The design was based on the pepperbox revolver concept which was using a pinfire cartridge, with a folding knuckle duster and a dual-edge knife that could be folded. It was a preferred gangster weapon at the time because due to it having no barrel on the gun, it was extremely easy to hide.
Due to the lack of barrel, the range was very limited so it could only really be used at very close ranges. Gangsters would keep it concealed in their pocket and it was very common to leave one chamber unloaded under the hammer – to avoid shooting oneself. This was because the trigger had no guard or safety lock. And with no sights either it could not be used at range, but despite all this, it was a popular gun at the time and proved to be very deadly.
On the mean streets of Paris in the 19th century, it was a very popular weapon to keep handy at all times. Historians believe it was a local gangster weapon of the time, not something that a member of high society would be caught using. Today they are very sought after by collectors and seen as being a very rare item. Some researchers believe it was aptly named the Apache Revolver because it was mostly used by an infamous street gang known as Les Apaches.
A Frenchman named Louis Dolne patented the device in 1869 and they were manufactured by several companies in Europe for several decades. But by the early 1900s, we started to see many different types of modern pistols being created. For reloading, you have to remove the cartridge cylinder completely and put in a new one. This meant it was a one-shot chance to surprise a rival gang member or to quickly defend off an attack.
During World War II, British Commandos did use a revolver called the 9x19mm Parabellum which had a very similar design. It is thought to have been deeply inspired by the Apache Revolver, but due to it having no official documentation or manufacturing details we are not exactly sure.