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Help us with this 9 Shot Belgian Maxim Revolver

This pistol, what’s left of it, was found buried near a metal container on a Forward Operating Base in Kandahar City, Afghanistan. An examination revealed very little except for type and rough date of manufacturing.  It’s seemingly a Frankenstein design of three European revolvers, but does not appear to match up with the creations of its assumed namesake, Hiram Maxim.

Maybe you can help identify it.

Afghanistan does not offer much to your average visitor, but it is rich in history and firearms. On my most recent trip to Afghanistan with the Air Force, I was always on the lookout for any old rusty weapon that might have been replicated in a cave somewhere—called  a “Khyber Pass” replica—or was an actual historic piece. Hoping for the latter, I spent my free time looking at the walls of different units on Kandahar Air Field and surrounding Operating Bases hoping to find a pre-1898 weapon, which by military and US customs laws would be legal to ship back to the States (upon completion of proper paperwork of course).

I stumbled onto a few Afghan Jezail muskets during that deployment, as well as some non-functional English Martini-Henry rifles in very rough condition. However, the most interesting piece was a revolver recovered after a large metal container, a Conex box, had been moved, revealing the revolver. Knocking off the dirt and carefully studying the markings, I discovered it was of Belgian design and chambered in 8mm Lebel. Unfortunately, the cylinder was missing and an extensive excavation was out of the question as another Conex was almost immediately slammed down where they’d unearhed the revolver.

Help us with this 9 Shot Belgian Maxim Revolver photo

Apparently the military has little regard for my junior archeological needs.

Regardless, the revolver’s construction revealed very little. It appeared to be a three way mix of Lebel, Nagant and Reichs revolvers. Initially I believed that a Reichs revolver was the easy answer, but closer inspection and comparison countered that thought. I sent a few pictures and emails soliciting input and information but the revolver remained a mystery.

Extending my research to pre-WW I revolvers from Belgium chambered in 8mm Lebel was overwhelming. I understood the important role the Belgians played in arms manufacturing (particularly in the 1800s), but I had no idea how great that extent was. It seems like every contemporary Belgian designer alive was attempting to make their mark in the arms industry. Eventually I was able to narrow the revolver down to the 9-shot-Belgian Maxim Revolver. Cross-referencing that with the legend Hiram Maxim disclosed nothing. Though it seemed that very late Mr. Maxim had attempted to jump in bed with a few arms companies in Belgium to produce automatic pistols, I could locate nothing that suggested he made any attempt to stamp his name on a revolver.

The revolver itself is not a magnificent design. There were far better known (and more infamous) contemporaneous revolvers like the English Webley and various Colts. Indeed it was around this time period that John Browning was cutting his teeth on what would become the most widely recognized side arm of the 20th century: the venerable Colt 1911. However, I did finally have some pictures to do a visual comparison (image courtesy of this site, www.littlegun.be).

Help us with this 9 Shot Belgian Maxim Revolver photo

There were some slight differences between the 9-shot Belgian Maxim Revolver (above) and what I was researching (below), particularly in the main spring and butt.

-          The main spring in the picture seemed to be a rod that was soldered into place. My revolver had a strip of metal.

-          The top cover over the cylinder had a groove, but the website showed a revolver with a solid piece that had the word ‘MAXIM’ inlaid into the metal

-          The bottom of the revolver handle was slightly different but revealed a ring to possibly “dummy-cord” the pistol to a belt to prevent loss during a military campaign.

-          The hammer in the picture has checkering in the shape of a heart. The checkering on my revolver is widely dispersed and covers a third of the hammer.

Help us with this 9 Shot Belgian Maxim Revolver photo

Help us with this 9 Shot Belgian Maxim Revolver photo

I came to three conclusions; either the revolver is what we call a “Khyber Pass” copy, a later version of the revolver found in the website pictures or was civilian model that a merchant carried with him for protection.

Completing the revolver would seem to be a futile gesture by some, but as a gun enthusiast, the history and mystery of this weapon screams, “Rebuild me and shoot me, Shrop!” Therefore, it is my obligation, nay, my duty to reach out to you readers and ask for help. Please lend me your knowledge and expertise; help me solve the mystery of this Belgian Revolver.

The original owner(s) have no doubt long since turned to dust, but the revolver remains with us and begs us to peel back the pages of history and answer these questions:

Why was this revolver in the dirt by the airfield in Afghanistan?

Where did it come from?

Who built the revolver?

The revolver may be a piece of junk that should’ve remain in the dirt, but an old weapon is more than that. When you hold a relic such as this in your hand, your imagination is necessarily filled by thoughts of the people and places observed the firearm must have seen and visited. The people who held the weapon before were little different from us – it’s a tactile connection that bridges the gap between generations.

Please advise your input in the comments.

About the Author: Mike “Shrop” Shropshire (seen below during a particularly loud and awkward moment during the invasion of Iraq) has invested the last 21 years working as a JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) in the USAF. With 8 combat deployments around the globe, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Mike has a dedicated historian when it comes to the subject of firearms development and use in conflicts throughout history. He was able to use this knowledge to help defeat enemy forces during the push to Baghdad in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, during which he earned the Silver Star for gallantry with Crazy Horse Troop, 3-7 Cavalry (3rd Infantry Division). Among Shrop’s other decorations are the the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and Presidential Unit Citation.

Help us with this 9 Shot Belgian Maxim Revolver photo