A Revolutionary Revolver: The Manurhin MR 93

By Pascal Thibert

The Manurhin MR 93 was conceived of and designed by the firms Manurhin and Matra. It’s a modular revolver with a futuristic design that was released in 1992; it breaks with the standard classics and offers an innovative look, an original hand “feel” and lots of user approval.

The history of Manurhin begins in 1919 and is closely linked to the industrial development of eastern France, with its steel industry, metallurgy and machining activities. Manurhin has produced machine tools for 99 years—food machines, bottling machines, measurement instruments and also ammunition manufacturing equipment, an activity that will ensure its prosperity. Over the years, Manurhin forged close ties with leading ammunition manufacturers around the world, enabling it to sell 13,000 ammunition machines including complete equipment to over 60 countries, from 4.6mm to 12.7mm, and even up to 40mm.

The small arms production activity began in 1952 with the manufacture of pistols in Mulhouse under Walther license: models PP, PPK, PPKs, PPKe in 22LR, 32 Auto or 380 Auto. They produced approximately 1,200,000 by 1986. Manurhin also made under license 80,000 SIG assault rifles, the models SG 540 (5.56 NATO), SG 542 (7.62 NATO) and SG 543 (5.56 NATO), to ensure to the French army the transition between the semi-automatic only MAS 49-56 and the Famas. Manurhin did not win the assault rifle market bid, obtained by the M.A.S. rifle (Manufacture d’Armes de Saint-Etienne) in 1978.

Rocket Launchers, Cannons and Assault Rifles

Matra Manurhin Defense also manufactured the Apilas, a 112mm recoilless anti-tank rocket launcher, making 120,000 between 1985 and 2006 as well as the 20mm HS 820 automatic gun (Hispano style).

The revolver adventure started in Mulhouse in the Alsace region in eastern France before 1973 and ended with the release of one of the best revolvers existing in terms of quality manufacture and precision, the MR 73, still produced today. Manurhin produced it from 1973 to 1999 for the Gendarmerie, the GIGN, the RAID and the sport shooters, with a version in 9mm Parabellum on request. Then Chapuis Armes took the license and made the revolvers from 1999 to today, with all the barrel lengths. More than 146,000 MR 73s were produced by Manurhin until the launching of the MR 88 model. This descendant of the 73, cheaper to produce and less luxurious, also called the F1 Police, X1 or MR 88, was delivered to the French police from 1981 to 2003—11,729 copies were produced.

While the MR 73 and MR 88 were coming out of Mulhouse’s production lines, engineers worked on a new revolver project. In 1990, Matra Manurhin Defense was sold to Giat Industries. Then in 1991, FN Herstal joined Giat Industries. Thus MR Equipement became a member of the Herstal group. In 1992, Manurhin prepared the release of a new model, much more modern than its predecessors; even revolutionary one can say. The concept of the handgun, its design, its use, its kinematics, its manufacture, all these points were the objects of very thorough studies to create the ideal sport revolver. Mulhouse engineers worked two years in collaboration with the Matra designers, while listening to the advice of shooters and their comments. The MR 93 model was filed, and the various innovations it brought are the subject of several patents. Matra (1937 to 2003) was at that time a prosperous company; manufacturer of sport and leisure cars, manufacturer of weapons and missiles and a specialist in composite materials.

Manufacture on CNC Machines

This research work went hand in hand with the technological challenge of producing the new revolver. Developed and designed on a computer, the MR 93 benefitted from the indispensable experience of the Alsatian armourer and from the contributions of new technologies which allowed the manufacturer to refine the calculations and to model the parts as in production. Computer-aided design allowed accurate evaluation of dimensions of each element during the development of the plans, as well as the control of the weapon’s operation within the manufacturing tolerance limits.

A manufacturer of handguns and long weapons since 1947, Manurhin has the experience and the know-how to quickly produce quality parts and to assemble them. The MR 93 is manufactured on modern CNC machines with highly advanced manufacturing processes. New manufacturing methods are used with several independent and autonomous cells that produce from blank to finish a revolver (frame, barrel, trigger assembly). Strict tolerance controls are in place at each stage of manufacture. Then Manurhin stores fully interchangeable finished parts, and mounts, readies, tests and ships the weapons based on direct orders from customers who can contact the factory or go through a gunsmith. This avoids storing complete weapons and helps to meet needs quickly and efficiently. Each revolver is mounted with fully finished parts without the need to make any adjustments.

An Ultra-Modern Design

For its new sport revolver, Manurhin wanted to break with its other models in terms of general lines and use. The new weapon was a view of the future with futuristic lines and an operation that contrasted with all previous models, French and foreign.

The new revolver had the qualities that made it a perfect sport weapon: ease of use and loading, safety and precision. But it was still necessary to evolve its current production into a 21st century model, and that’s what Manurhin did before Smith & Wesson started producing more modern revolvers with its Performance Center.

Ergonomics was studied to make the revolver attractive and very comfortable to shoot. Its frame is unlike any other with its broken lines, its triangular pivot stop and its rounded aerodynamic forms placed behind the barrel. A steel sleeve surrounds the barrel and counterweight to balance the whole; it brings at the same time a rigidity in the lines that is well-matched with the drawing of the weapon.

An Independent Trigger Assembly

The walnut grip made by Morini is designed with the rest of the revolver; it fulfills its function but also flows in the general design of the revolver. It is held by a single screw placed underneath. Three models were available at the ending of the 93: standard, small or ergonomic. Today, it is possible to mount a Trausch polymer grip (French manufacturer) designed for the MR 96, the MR 93’s worthy successor.

Another great quality is the modular design of the unit, which makes it easier to manufacture and maintain or replace a part. Several main elements are included in the MR 93’s composition: trigger assembly, frame, barrel and its housing, grip.

The trigger plate is an independent set that can be dismounted in one block by removing two screws and the hammer spring. A steel plate located on the right side of the frame carries the hammer, the trigger, the lever, which controls the rotation of the barrel, and the transmission lever which is inserted between hammer and firing pin. This technique, very common today, makes it possible to prevent an accidental discharge in the event of dropping a loaded revolver.

The MR 73 Barrels

The barrels are mounted on axis with a minimum clearance and are retained. When the plate is extracted, the parts do not move; they can be dusted, greased and possibly replaced or adjusted. The MR 93 works in single- and double-action. The mechanism drags a little on the first models, but has been improved to operate more smoothly. Not as sophisticated as the MR 73, with its two adjustable springs, this trigger is perfect for shooting in single action. The trigger weight measurements are 1.46kg in single action and 4.53kg in double action. To go lower, you have to ask to your gunsmith to adjust the hammer-trigger junction.

Most of the parts are made by microfusion, with the exception of the barrel and the cylinder. This technique allows more competitive manufacturing costs and ensures a very satisfactory quality. Barrels are cold hammer forged from the same bars as those chosen for the MR 73 and are 3, 4, 5 1/4 and 6 inches; special steels are selected by Manurhin. On the model tested in 6 inches, the barrel has five grooves in a right hand twist of 450mm. It shot excellent groups and gave complete satisfaction (see stand results).

The barrel has an original lock with a pivot which ensures locking at the front and a steel pin placed in the center of the ejection star, which blocks the barrel in place at closing and during firing. With tight dimensions and automatic positioning, the cylinder has no play and ensures a perfect alignment between chambers and the barrel. The cylinder pivot is designed with a built-in release button that does not protrude.

Millett steel match sight

Placed on the right of the revolver, the match sight can be operated with the right hand, the left being responsible for unloading and reloading. The same spring operates the cylinder lock and the tenon that holds the cylinder pivot on the revolver. With the cylinder opened, it is easy to retract the spring-mounted lug to extract the pivot forward with the tool provided.

The sights are very neat with the intelligent choice of American Millet match sights, made of steel and equipped with white liserets. Interchangeable, they are not susceptible to blows and can be adjusted with the Manurhin tool provided. The manufacturer encloses some replacement front sights, black or with orange inserts, and these are molded in polymer material.

Four versions of the MR 93 appeared at the launch—models in 3, 4, 5 1/4 and 6 inches, all identical, with the same black satin finish, a very resistant finish used by the military. Weights range from 1.030kg for a 3-inch to 1.330kg for a 6-inch, with a maximum line of sight of 201mm.

Improvements in 1995

Unfortunately, this beautiful revolver was not welcomed in 1992 with all the expected compliments. Some find its finish too dull; others find it too heavy or too thick. The MR 93’s price is much lower than the MR 73’s. Difficult to please everyone indeed, but some qualities of the MR 93 cannot be hidden. Thus, its modern and futuristic design is resolutely innovative, which is rarely the case for revolvers. Its handling is nice, it is well balanced, it works with ease, the barrel with its pivot is very practical, its barrel is excellent, and its manufacture produces an accurate revolver. Its qualities have not changed—we find them on the MR 96, its worthy descendant, with an improved trigger, more fluid and dragging less.

The trigger is the only real defect of the MR 93; one feels an unpleasant hard point when the hammer is cocked that the break-in and careful maintenance do not reduce. Listening to its customers, in 1995 Manurhin offered some modifications to improve the operation of the 93. The axis pivot-cylinder was protected because it can foul. A collar was added around its axis to avoid the deposit of lead particles and combustion residues.

The cylinder lock on the frame was improved by replacing the thrust bearing, placed at the rear of the barrel, by a fixed axis guided by a ramp machined in the frame. This axis allows a better performance of the firing pin-chamber-barrel alignment in rapid fire in double action. The abutment of the pivot during firing was reinforced by using the rear surface of the frame.

Manurhin Revolvers Produced by Chapuis Armes

The MR 93 was delivered equipped with a metal front sight (no longer made of plastic) and with a line of white paint clearly visible through the Millet rear sight.

The MR 93 is not comparable to the MR 73 which is a weapon of high competition, titled many times and long used by the sharpshooters of the French police. The MR 93 is a modern and versatile sport weapon, cheaper than a 73 but capable of similar results. Its successor, the 96, takes the torch but with a slightly different look.

Faced with the mixed success met by the 93, Manurhin modified its design a little while listening to the complaints and recommendations of shooters and professionals. So the Mulhouse company released the MR 96 with a lighter barrel sleeve, pierced with rectangular holes, in the manner of a Colt Python. This lightened its line, but it lost a good part of its personality. The finish became tanned, the Manurhin medallion was added on the frame, and the grip was now a Trausch made especially for it. After shooting tests, the 96 turned out to be an excellent revolver, with the soft trigger and the perfect handling thanks to its very ergonomic grip.

Only 640 Copies of the MR 93

Production figures of the Manurhin MR 93 are rather surprising. Only 640 copies were produced from 1993 to 1996. Our test model is number 591. From 1996 to 1999, 568 copies of its replacement, the MR 96, were manufactured, equaling a total of 1208 revolvers in six years. Shooters and professionals have made their choice: MR 73 or the MR 88 only.
What is paradoxical is the choice made by Kimber USA to design a resolutely modern revolver with a very innovative design, with straight and frank lines, which goes against the standard Colt or Smith & Wesson, even on their most recent models. The Kimber K6s™ resembles Manurhin’s evolution in the 90s, with the production of its small revolver .357 Magnum double-action without an apparent hammer. It has links with the designers and engineers of Matra and Manurhin from the 90s, who wanted to change the old revolver concept.

The MR 93 and MR 96 models are no longer in production today due to insufficient demand, but all spare parts are available in stock at Chapuis Armes for all models, with assured after-sales service. The MR 73s manufactured by Chapuis Armes are currently (2018) sold in France for 1,950 Euros ($2,430 USD), and the MR 88s are sold for 1,125 Euros ($1,402 USD).

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N5 (May 2018)
and was posted online on March 23, 2018


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