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Why the Apache Revolver Is a Terrible Weapon

Mamerto Adan is an engineer by profession, but a writer by night. He loves toys and knives. He also has a martial arts background.

The Apache revolver

The Apache revolver

Looks Can be Decieving

When it comes to weapons, looks can be deceiving. An innocent-looking implement might turn out to be far more than enough to kill a man. People will laugh at neck knives, but a tiny knife that could pop out from nowhere as you grapple with someone is a nightmare scenario. A Walther PPK pistol might look puny until you get shot with it. After all, weapons are meant to kill, and they demand respect no matter how cartoonish they look. Don’t take chances when someone pulls out a potentially lethal weapon. Just run away or else.

But there are some weapons that just look menacing, and that’s it.

Make no mistake about it, they still pack the punch to injure or kill. It’s just that they are not as efficient, durable, or effective as other implements out there. Just like gas-station knives that adopt aggressive designs to mask their poor quality. They seem designed for bark rather than bite.

A good example is this folding pistol from the 1860s.

They call it the Apache revolver and it was made notorious by a gang of criminals from France. We will learn more about the infamous Les Apaches later. This pistol looks scary, and it could kill you, but modern-day handgunners, knife fighters, and martial artists will surely hate this hybrid weapon.

The pistol, with the knuckle duster and dagger extended.

The pistol, with the knuckle duster and dagger extended.

What Is the Apache Revolver?

Basically, the Apache revolver was an attempt to create the Leatherman Wave of handguns in the 19th century. And like many dedicated multitools, it had many functions, multiple implements and portability.

The design dates back from 1860s. The design was credited to Louise Dolne and the weapon was manufactured until the end of the1800s.

This weapon was unique since it combined the features of a gun (revolver), a knuckle duster and a dagger.

Firstly, let’s talk about its deadliest feature, the revolver. It was based on a pepperbox revolver using pinfire cartridges. The pepperbox revolver is basically a handheld semiautomatic Gatling gun. Imagine a multi-barreled machine gun being scaled down to the size of a pistol. That’s exactly what a pepperbox revolver looks like, except that it won’t fire in full auto. The cylinder is the barrel itself. And in the case of the Apache revolver, the gun feature lacks a barrel but uses cylinders instead.

Next, we have the folding dagger. The blade is classified as a dagger since it is ideal for stabbing. As you can see from the photo, the blade is shaped like a spear point, meant for efficient penetration. The blade profile is even wavy like a Kris.

Forming the grip of the pistol is the folding knuckle duster. This future is usable once the gun is in a folded state.

Demonstration of Les Apache's method of mugging.

Demonstration of Les Apache's method of mugging.

Les Apaches

Historically the weapon was associated with the notorious criminal subculture Les Apaches. They were so named because their savagery was supposed to rival that of Native Americans (talk about racist labelling). A journalist named Victor Moris was said to be the one who popularized the term. One of their preferred methods of mugging was the coup du Père François. The victim, after being stalked by several gang members, would be held in a garrote choke as one gangster searched the pockets for valuables, while others served as lookouts. With a codified method of mugging and a preferred form of hand-to-hand combat, some Apache criminals carried the said pistol.

A pepperbox pistol

A pepperbox pistol

How Useful Is the Gun Part

In general, we could classify the Apache revolver as a gun sword, or a gun knife in this case. Attaching a blade to a live firearm was nothing new, as soldiers had been fixing bayonets to guns for a long time. The difference with a gun sword is that the firearm part is just a secondary weapon and the bladed part is not detachable. Modern-day weapons experts disdain gun swords.

We will review how the features of the Apache revolvers held up.

And let’s start with the deadliest aspect, the firearm.

Again, this weapon can kill you, period. But it will kill you only in extremely close range. As was mentioned before, it uses the pepper-box design where each cylinder is its own barrel. In the case of the Apache revolver, the cylinder was shortened up to a point where it never had a barrel. When a gun loses a barrel, it loses accuracy and power when fired at a distance.

Because of this, the gun could only be used at close range, a problem made worse by its lack of a sight.

And do note that this type of pistol had no trigger guard or safety catch. Hence when it was folded and stored inside a pocket, it was a common practice to leave a chamber empty under the hammer. In this way, accidental discharge was avoided.

Another disadvantage was its reloading time. Firearms of that period have problems with quick reloading. And when reloading the Apache revolver, one must remove the cylinder to refill it.

The pistol, folded and extended.

The pistol, folded and extended.

The Blade and the Knuckles

Not much can be said about the folding dagger. Rudimentary is the best way to describe the blade. I own folding knives, and in terms of self defense, folding knives should have the proper blade length, lock durability, and speed of deployment. And yes, you need a nice sharp blade to stab someone to death.

One doesn’t need an overly sharp blade to kill someone. In fact, soft-metal prison shanks are good murder weapons. I’m saying this because the dagger part of the Apache Pistol needs not to have hair shaving sharpness. And the blade doesn’t even have a sharp edge.

But the problem here is the length.

The dagger is simply too short to do enough damage. The blade is only 1.15 inches! Just to get an idea of how short it is, a Victorinox Swiss Army Knife could have a blade length of 1.36 inches, already longer than the Apache revolver dagger. And some models could have bigger blades. The Leatherman Wave blade could reach 2.9 inches. Other knife brands like Kershaw, Spyderco, and Ontario Rat 1 boast blades up to 3.75 inches (some are longer). And there is no denying how humongous Cold Steel knives could get.

Aside from having a puny blade, this knife requires two hands to deploy (though it can be opened with one hand), the lock is basic, and there is a lot of plays and wobble in the blade. This means that there is a potential for breakage with repeated stabbings.

We cannot say for certain that the brass-knuckle part works, though it seems obvious that it is capable of breaking someone's face. There are no written accounts of how it was used. Will it cause accidental discharge? Will it damage the gun when used?


The Apache Pistol is basically a small pistol sword, a weapon that fell out of favor rather quickly. Aside from being expensive, full-sized pistol swords are cumbersome. What you will get is not a two-in-one weapon, but an off-balance blade and a heavy pistol.

The Apache Pistol is not heavy or cumbersome, but with a flimsy dagger and a poor firearm, serious gun owners and martial arts people see it as a novelty.

Sure, it became a feared weapon in the hands of a criminal gang. But muggers never worried about going into a gun or knife fight. Their prey were mostly unarmed and unsuspecting people without any means of fighting back. If that was the case, Les Apaches wouldn't even need a good steel and an accurate firearm?


1. JByam, Michèle (15 August 2011). "Arms and Armor." DK Eyewitness Books. New York, NY: DK Publishing.

2. JHogg, Ian V; Walter, John (2004). "Pistols of the World."

3. Philipp Blom, (2008). "The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-1914."


Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on May 14, 2019:

Of course Mamerto! :D

Mamerto Adan (author) from Cabuyao on May 14, 2019:

Thanks Alexander for stopping by!

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on May 14, 2019:

This is fascinating.