My bizarre piece of history - an Auguste Francotte 416 Rigby

Discussion in '.375 & Up' started by rookhawk, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. rookhawk

    rookhawk AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Occasionally when I have a few cycles to myself and some insomnia I'll try to get to the bottom of the provenance and history of one of my guns. My latest sleuthing brings me to a strange old shooting iron of mine and I thought I'd share what I've learned so far to educate others and to hopefully learn more about the gun in the process.

    My Auguste Francotte Mauser is a strange gun. It was made by them in 416 Rigby and its indeed, a beautiful feeding, smooth as silk gun based on a Mauser large ring action. A bit more on the rifle's configuration: It looks exactly like London Rigby from the odd-ball pseudo quarter rib, the standing and folding sight, barrel band swivel, low comb for iron sights only, and even the large stock belly to accommodate the double stack 4+1 ammo capacity. It also has delightfully tuned set triggers, nice wood, and an ebony forend. Not unlike many of the British rifles it has a long 27" barrel and ramped front sight. It has a lever release magazine latch externally also. Naturally, it has the thumb cutout on the receiver as well.

    The interesting part of the project is I've always wanted to know more about the tradespeople that made this marvel of custom gunsmithing, its provenance, and the actual year of manufacture. Like any good mystery novel, the answers are deductive albeit still incomplete.

    The gun's proof marks thus far have triangulated the following date ranges:

    LLH Stamp on the barrel - LLH is the mark used by the company Laurent LOCHET-HABRAN & G brother and sister of Jupille. This company manufactured barrels for the trade until 1951.

    Proof Mark of a star over a C indicates - Controller of Proof was Brenu Louis who worked from 1924 to 1948.

    So based on the above, I know the gun was made no later than 1948, but was it made earlier and how much earlier?

    One Francotte expert I spoke to suggested the gun was made right in the middle of Nazi occupation of Belgium in 1942 which sounded pretty improbable initially. (would the Nazis let gunmakers in a seized nation make sporting arms!?) In fact, they did. I found 2 records of Francotte shotguns that were made in the wartime that are within 70 digits of the rifles serial number that positively dated to 1941 and 1942!

    So absent any actual records from Auguste Francotte the only way to pinpoint the date of manufacture any further is reliant on an area of expertise I do not have...the multitude of marks and stamps on the bolt and receiver.

    It appears that Belgian Mauser actions changed quite a bit in the years 1940 through 1948 that might give way to an answer from the experts. Military actions became sporter actions in 1945 or so while retaining the thumb cutout, then bent bolts were made available, then the true civilian actions came out without the thumb cut somewhere around 1947-1948.

    Here's the stampings and marks of the bolt and shroud in case anyone can decipher what action and year it may indicate? I'd love to know if indeed this rifle was made during the middle of WWII or not. Oh, one other thing I could never decipher: a stamp or control mark abounds on the gun of an A inside a square. -It's featured on most parts of the gun. The receiver is devoid of any writing that would normally exist on the left side of many mauser actions. The top of the mauser front ring was stippled by the maker defacing any normal marks that would be present in that location.



    IMG_0514.PNG IMG_0516.PNG IMG_0523.PNG
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2018
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  2. sierraone

    sierraone AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Rookhawk, I can't help you with identifying your Francotte, but it's good you are back to your old self writing interesting posts for AH!
     
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  3. rookhawk

    rookhawk AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Thanks @sierraone , I've missed the forum. I've been on the road for a very long time and only now have I been back in town for more than two days at a stint. Wife and kids are in bed and AH is "me time" to unwind and reconnect with old friends on this site. It's good to be back in friendly company for however brief a time as I may get.
     
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  4. rookhawk

    rookhawk AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    I heard rumor elsewhere on the Internet that the "Circle around a Capital A" market on the lower action and "Square around a Capital A" on the bolt may have been a Belgian marking from FN denoting the rule of the particular King. If that's the case:

    King Albert I
    Reigned 1909-1934


    Which would indicate the action is made in that timeframe. If that's true, and if the action wasn't just laying around as old stock, the gun could have been made 1924-1948. (ignoring the Francotte serial numbers for shotguns which is a leap to apply them to a rifle)
     

  5. Hammergun

    Hammergun AH Member

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    I'd like to see photos of the whole rifle.
     
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  6. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Yep we have us a real detective job ahead......going along for the experience myself so a picture would be great to see. This sounds like an interesting rifle.
     

  7. rookhawk

    rookhawk AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    5CFF0B76-1C85-400E-BE63-BCD2E8327F2B.jpeg An old picture for insurance. I have to take close ups sometime when I’m home.
     

  8. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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  9. rookhawk

    rookhawk AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    We're past the basic proof marks from Belgium on this one. The rifle has the Inspector's Mark (Louis Brenu as inspector), Rifle, Blindee, and the other usual suspects identified already.

    We even got to the barrel maker's mark identified on the underbelly of the barrel of LLH figured out.

    What persists as mystery is the story of the action which may give the vital clue by what action is it, where and when was it made, that may prove precisely the year of manufacture.

    Right now, it appears to be 1942 to 1947 with deductive reasoning from all the already learned markings. What an interesting story it would be if we could pinpoint the gun to manufacture in Auguste Francotte's shop amidst WWII and Nazi occupation of Belgium. It would then raise questions of who could have ordered this rifle during wartime? (German officer?) If on the other hand it is postwar, it would suggest the likelihood of an American customer as we had a passion for Belgian arms in America at that time through the importers / retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Von Langerke & Antoine, and Griffin & Howe.

    This is why I love vintage rifles so much. They have soul. They have a story to tell. The places they've been. The things they've seen. The craftsmen that made these works of art.



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  10. Hammergun

    Hammergun AH Member

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    Nice looking rifle.
     

  11. Moosemind

    Moosemind AH Senior Member

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    There was one at Cabelas I was interested in but sold. Same caliber and model. Nice looking rifle.
     

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