Les chasseurs luttent contre la Bête du Gévaudan

Jean Chastel's rifle

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Initially "flintlock", this rifle was transformed into a "piston" rifle (see Pourcher)

Total length: 132 cm

Length of the two barrels: 93 cm

Inner diameter of their end: 1.6 cm

Weapon weight: 2,950 kg

“Cannons in three pieces of unequal length”: The two cannons juxtaposed are of equal length. The inequality of which the Abbé Pourcher speaks concerns the ramrod used to load the weapon and its housing, placed below them and a little shorter.

Location of the aiming point 7 cm from the tip.

Dimensions of the plate (slightly oval) in the name of JEAN CHASTEL, 3.5 cm by 3 cm (it can be read from the front of the rifle and is behind the rings indicated below.) Two copper rings surround the handle of the butt, victim of a fracture: the closest to the lock is 1 cm wide, the other 2 cm (they are fixed by small nails, above and below).

Inscriptions engraved on the plates: on the left, clearly legible, “à Saugues”; on the right and very difficult to decipher: “…west L.” It takes a lot of imagination to read “Bymanet Louis” as indicated by Pourcher on page 1027 of his work on the Beast! The capital "L" can for its part mean: Louis, of course, but also Lucien, Léon, Laurent... "Roses with leaves on the trigger guard, and the plates": yes! Very pretty ! Metal butt plates: 10 cm long on the top and 11 cm vertically. The butt is "inlaid in the fashion of the clogs of the country", according to the expression of the abbot.


1 - The device for fixing the trigger guard to the weapon is very beautiful, a little longer, it is normal on the stock side than on the barrel side.
2 - This rifle, obviously, suffered an accident (probably during a hunting action). The butt was broken, as we said, at the level of the handle, in the longitudinal direction (hence the presence of the two reinforcing rings)
3 - The barrels have also been the subject of an intervention, as evidenced by a weld (reported by Abbé Pourcher) 37 cm from the top of the current end: they have been lengthened. This could have been done during the transformation of the rifle (originally "flintlock") into a "piston" rifle to increase the range (transformation carried out by the named Miramond, of Langeac (Haute-Loire), at the request, probably, of grandfather Duffaud, Pierre.

Successive owners of the famous rifle:

Jean Chastel (1708 - 1789) It was with this weapon that he killed the Beast of Gévaudan, on June 19, 1767 at Sogne d'Auvers, in the Tenezeyre forest, near Mont Mouchet.

The Marquis d'Apcher (1748 - 1789) He bought Chastel's rifle shortly after (cf. the certificate drawn up by Joseph Plantin, mayor of Saint Julien des Chazes, for Abbé Pourcher on December 4, 1888): "... It is the gun that killed the Beast of Gevaudan... When the lord of Apcher... learned that the craftsman Jean Chastel had killed the Beast (he) summoned him and slipped him the coin so that he let him glorify of the honor of having killed her. The affair could not have happened in secret, came to light, and failed... It was then that the lord bought him his gun..."

Pierre Duffau, from Vereugues, commune of Saint Julien des Chazes (Hautes-Loire) (cf. same document as above): "... the late Father Duffaud acquired it directly on the forfeiture of this lord...". Certainly at the end of 1791, or during 1792.

François Duffaud, grandson of the preceding, inherited the rifle. "... My grandfather who was Pierre Duffaud had bought the rifle that was sent to you from the Lord of Apcher..." (Letter to Abbé Pourcher dated December 17, 1888).

A tracklayer at the P.L.M. Mouton in Saint Julien des Chazes, bought the weapon on behalf of Father Pourcher at the beginning of December 1888. (cf. letter from Mouton to Pourcher dated December 5, 1888): "... I have just finished commission and deal according to the orders you gave me to buy the gun that killed the Beast of Gévaudan…”.

The price paid was 22.50 francs. Father Pourcher was informed of the arrival of the rifle at La Levade station (Ardèche) on December 7, 1888, and took possession of it the next day. We can usefully refer to the letter from Pourcher to the prefect of Lozère, dated December 9, 1888 and published in the brochure of Monsieur Crouzet, "Abbé Pierre Pourcher historian and priest-printer at Saint-Martin de Boubaux", at page 13. The abbot, then his niece, will therefore have remained the owners of the weapon for about forty years.

On the death of the abbot, on March 3, 1915, his niece, Maria, notably inherited the rifle and kept it until February 1929, when she sold it to a descendant of François Antoine (the port-arquebusier of Louix XV) for the sum of 1200 francs.

The weapon has since been kept in his family.

Some personal photos of the rifle

Le fusil de Jean Chastel

The brochure (.pdf format)

published during the exhibition

from rifle to malzieu, august 4, 2011

(Click on the image to view the brochure)

The brochure (.pdf format)

"Autopsy of a legendary weapon" by Alain Parbeau (Click on the image to consult the brochure)

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