Gasser M1870
Photo credit: Nesbits Auctions

Carry iron or be clapped in irons

As Crown Prince (and later, King) of Montenegro, Nikola Petrović, or Nicholas I, saw quite a bit of the use of arms in the expansion of his kingdom and furtherance of his rule.  He led the 1862 and 1876 campaigns against the Turks.  These campaigns ultimately resulted in the recognition of Montenegrin sovereignty, doubling in size as well as the gain of Adriatic ports for Montenegro in the 1878 Congress of Berlin.  Later campaigns of his in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and WWI (allied with Serbia) were not so successful.  Defeated by Austria-Hungary, he was exiled to Italy and eventually died in toney Antibes, France in 1921.

Nicholas I of Montenegro, note Gasser Revolver in his belt. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Nicholas I of Montenegro, note Gasser Revolver in his belt. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Feeling the pressures of a small state in an extremely tumultuous region and period of history, Nicholas I enacted a law of some interest to our TFB readership during his tenure.  Roughly translated, it stated that all Montenegrin adult males were members of the militia, and therefore obligated to own at least one “Gasser type” revolver.  Revolvers were expected to be carried loaded at all times.

The Gasser’s a Gas

Leupold Gasser’s double action revolvers were quite popular throughout the Balkans.  Made in Vienna, Austria, most Gassers fired the black powder 11.25x36mmR cartridge, which was a 310gr big bore firing the same bullet (but slightly downloaded cartridge) as Austria’s 11mm Werndl rifles.  The cartridges loaded through a bottom-hinged loading gate, and later versions (1880 onwards) featured top break frames and auto-ejecting cylinders.

If one couldn’t handle big bore power, models such as the Gasser-Kropatschek M1876 were also chambered in 9mm.  Montenegrin Gassers were typically carried not in a holster, but tucked into a wide belt or sash, as was the style of the time.  The hand ejector of the M1870/74 could even be pivoted in line with the frame axis when not in use, in order to make carrying easier in this fashion.

Fake it till you make it

Belgian and Spanish revolver manufactories, hearing of this proclamation, tried to get in on the game as well.  While genuine Leupold Gasser production was somewhere in the neighborhood of 200,000 units, the lesser-quality examples from Spain and Belgium were also bought by Montenegrin citizens. As a result, genuine examples became a status symbol amongst the men of Montenegro.  In fact, later on, the Belgian and Spanish copies were banned for purchase, and everyone was expected to carry a genuine Austrian Gasser.

Which one would you choose?

If forced to make a decision of which Gasser type revolver to carry, which one would you choose?  Personally, I’d have to select a M1870/74 with a 9″ barrel.

For just about the best history of Gasser revolvers, the fakes, and the intricacies of the Montenegrin decree, C&Rsenal has a near-feature film on these neat revolvers.

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