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Joined: Jan 2002
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Sidelock
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Sidelock

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Hey guys here are some pictures of my wife's Manufrance.

Dave B







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Per the current president of Verney-Carron, his ancestor invented and patented the Helice system in the 19th century. It was copied by many other makers when the patent expired.

As Ted said, it's almost certainly too late to do a book on French doubles. So much of the industry vanished after WWII. And that's a shame.

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The first gun is an 1984 Darne patent design. In 1909 Regis Darne improved (updated, actually-there wasn't much wrong with his earlier patents) the R, V and P patent guns, mostly so his son, Francisque, would have a proven design to sell and use at his company. Francisque did quite well with the older designs, and sold models based on the 1894 patent that were even further improved, to the point that a gold medal was awarded for his 1910 exposition guns.
Most would call this example a "guild" gun, and it may be, but, it is more likely what I call a "lunchbox special" built the same way Johnny Cash built his car. Many French gun maker employees were talented enough to build, or, farm out the work they couldn't do, to produce guns in their spare time for profit. And, they did. The proof with powder T tells us built after 1909. The one piece stock points to an earlier gun, as two piece sliding breech guns were "nom de rigor" after about 1925, or so. The 30,000 plus serial number is likely quite optimistic if this is the case, but, was used as a ploy on occasion to help sell guns that had no name-"they've built that many, eh?"
Name or not, I've no doubt is is a nice handling bird gun, and will be useful for that for many, many seasons to come. Light loads (have a look at the chokes and chambers for eveyday use) will improve a guys opinion of it, the earlier patent guns are light and can kick like hell. Use it in good health.
Gun number two is a French boxlock. Hope you didn't pay a lot, and it will do everything, within reason, that a guy might ask of an upland gun. Ditto the use in good health bit.
Best,
Ted

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Boxlock
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Boxlock

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Interesting timing,
I have been watching this gun at auction,mainly because I did not recognize the name.
It is possibly French?
http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=98454282

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HELICE, that's French.

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Pictures aren't the greatest, but the St. Etienne triple proofmarks show on the barrels. Definitely French.

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Ted, thank you..your reply brings up more questions...Hope your up for a round of questions... Please excuse me in advance if I ask what may seem to be a ridiculous question. Although I have a pile of stuff on the Darne explosion, and I've examined all of it, I've not yet structured it into a timeline as a Darne collector would. First, we're talking about Regis, correct, in regards to the 1894? patent? I can't find anything that shows Regis being active as an inventor before 1909. I've read stuff about that refers to earlier dates but I can't seem to get past 1909. I've come across other sliding breech patents and advertisements that pre-date that, but not by Darne. Clair Freres in 1907 and Charlin to 1904, but even then things look a little strange. Beyond that, the Darne evolution seems to wander, like this 1891 Chevalier ad. So we know some Darne was active before 1890, but who?



Any insights or clues could be very helpful...also when I compare this Darne type to the patent drawings, it most resembles a drawing by Francisque Darne in 1911. And, no I didn't pay a lot. The Darne type cost $125, needing restocking and more. The Compain 16 was very nearly free, needing restocking and rebluing. The Compain is a Cadillac, made to withstand heavy range use, which is good around here, because all our pheasants are gone.

Last edited by Robert Chambers; 05/02/07 10:01 AM.
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More for everyones files...the folowing is two pages from a 1928 catalog that shows relative costs of Robust, Darne, and Charlin.






Last edited by Robert Chambers; 05/02/07 10:22 AM.
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Well, from memory, I will do my best. The significant Regis Darne patents were 1881 for the rotating breech model C, 1887 for the pivot breech model A (nice illustration above, by the way) 1894 for the first generation sliding breech designs, 1896 for a quick loading "Canardier" (punt gun) 1902 for flanged (monobloc) barrels, and 1908 (renewed in 1933) patents for the intercepting sear arrangement on V guns (although they aren't sears, and don't work exactly like intercepting sears, they do accomplish the same thing) and converging obturator discs. Those are the significant civilian patents, in 1916 (renewed in 1936) Regis Darne received patent for a synchronized aviation machine gun that spat out 1200 rounds per minute.

Regis Darne had been at design work in the firearms industry for many decades prior to 1909. He was very elderly when he passed away in 1939.

Somewhere in my collection of Darne trivia, is an English sales brochure on the Darne machine gun. It was intended for military consumption, and was, contrary to several reports, a good functioning unit, and quite light.

Francisque was Regis Darnes eldest son, and for the usual reasons, struck out on his own, circa 1909. If he was ever awarded a patent for anything, I've yet to see it in writing, and, sadly, he died in 1917. The company he founded, Francisque Darne, Fils Ainé, soldiered on until 1955, under several different owners. Quite a few French civilian gun manufacturers gave up the ghost circa 1955, by the way. Tough economic times were the cause.

When I was last in St. Etienne, I passed on a neat model A, which was a pre 1887 patent gun, based on the fact it had damascus barrels. I've seen a few 1894 patent Darne sliding breech guns that seem to be pre patent guns as well, based on the fact that they were barreled by others, and had no patent information on them. The first production Darnes were barreled by others, and it must have chapped senior Mr. Darne's ass badly, as most of the guns he built later go into great detail on the flats that they are patented and barreled by Darne. The 1909 catalog has 1881 and 1909 patent model C guns (the very first model C rotating breech models were hammer damascus guns, I've seen and photographed one example, but, never seen them in a catalog) 1907 patent model A (improved) 1894 patent model R guns, 1898 model P guns, and 1909 model R and V guns, and several different punt guns. Whew. Something for everyone.

By 1936, just the 1909 R and V models, along with two grades of Halifax (# 4 and 5) and a single grade of P, # 17, are listed.
Only one of the V guns gets triple proofed, the 22. V guns 19-21 are double proof guns. All R and P models are triple proofed, excepting Halifax, double proof on both grades.

Gold medals were won in Paris, in 1889 and 1900, St. Etienne in 1891. Exposition honors in Lyon, 1894, Bologne, 1927, Liege, 1905, Milan, 1906, Marseille and Berlin, 1907, London (!) 1908, Turin, 1911, Liege (again) in 1930, and Paris, 1931.

The list of pigeon shoots where folks using Darne guns won is too long to type, but, includes places like Monte Carlo, Vichy, Monoco, and some off the beaten path places as well, Moscow, Bogota, Palencia, Lisbon, etc.

Hope that answers a few questions. Don't ask any more for a while, OK?
Best,
Ted

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