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French semi-automatic rifles


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#1 Latze

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 10:59 AM

Hi all,

the French army fielded the Winchester 1907 semi-automatic rifle as well as the semi-auto Meunier rifle. Does anybody know how these weapons were assigned? Did the use them as sniper weapons or use them in special assault units or equip whole chasseur units with them or what?
The production of the 1917 Meunier model is said to have been 80.00 rifles, and there were several thousand Winchesters so it seemed to have been a rather relevant class of weapon for the French army.

thanx in advance
Latze

#2 TonyE

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 10:05 PM

The French were in the van of automatic rifle development in the early years of the 20th century and had experimented with a number of designs between 1905 and 1914. The Meunier was one of the "first wave" designs and saw only very limited service in the French military. Total production was only 1,013 rifles, of which 843 made it to the front line. (Proud Promise, Jean Huon) There was also an aviation carbine with a shorter barrel.

The Winchester M1907 in .351" calibre and the Model 1910 in .401" were really aviation service weapons, bought as a stop gap when aircraft were too underpowered to carry a machine gun and ammunition in the early years of the war. France manufactured ammunition for both, and as aircraft developed and the Winchester self loading rifles became obsolete, they were transferred to the army for use as an early type of assault rifle. Some were even fitted to accept the Model 1892 bayonet. The number purchased is uncertain, but it was probably about 20,000.

The real French innovation was the adoption of the M1917 automatic rifle and its development, the M1918. The M1917 was issued in substantial numbers, over 85,000 having been made by the time of the armistice. The M1918 was really too late for the war and only 4,000 were made in 1918. 16 rifles were distributed per company to platoon leaders and individual marksmen.

France was thus the first country to field an automatic rifle in any serious numbers.

Picture shows me firing a Model 1917.

Regards
TonyE



#3 4thGordons

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Posted 23 May 2010 - 10:27 PM

QUOTE (TonyE @ May 23 2010, 05:05 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
France was thus the first country to field an automatic rifle in any serious numbers.


hypocrite.gif So is the Lewis gun in the background an automatic rifle or a light machine-gun Tony whistle.png
no response needed BTW....just recalling old times.
Where was the picture taken? looks like fun.
Chris

#4 TonyE

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 10:57 AM

Hi Chris

It was taken down in Arizona a good few years ago when there was still a hint of colour in my hair!

If I remember rightly, the Lewis light machine gun was in 6.5mm Dutch calibre!

Great days, shooting all sorts of MGs, 20mm Solothurn and Lahti and even a 37mm PaK one year.

Cheers
tony

#5 4thGordons

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 04:37 PM

I didn't think the foliage looked like SW19! laugh.gif
Chris

#6 TonyE

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 06:58 PM

QUOTE (4thGordons @ May 24 2010, 05:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I didn't think the foliage looked like SW19! laugh.gif
Chris


Don't knock it, we have some pretty exotic species in Wimbledon, some of them are even flora!

Cheers
tony

#7 Siege Gunner

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 07:23 PM

QUOTE (4thGordons @ May 24 2010, 05:37 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I didn't think the foliage looked like SW19! laugh.gif


From the forthcoming book 'Sniping in South London' - a flooded trench (note the periscopes) in Morden Hall Park (just about SW19) a couple of days ago. A whole 9 miles from Trafalgar Square. The pic is even almost 'on topic', as Morden Hall was a military hospital in WW1.

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#8 TonyE

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 08:17 PM

QUOTE (TonyE @ May 24 2010, 07:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Don't knock it, we have some pretty exotic species in Wimbledon, some of them are even flora!

Cheers
tony



.....and one of them has just posted!

Regards
TonyE

#9 Siege Gunner

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Posted 24 May 2010 - 08:57 PM

QUOTE (TonyE @ May 24 2010, 09:17 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
.....and one of them has just posted!


He's only jealous of the collection at the bottom of my garden ...

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#10 TonyE

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 10:30 AM

It's odd that no matter how old one gets, the "Mine is bigger than yours" syndrome always seems to reassert itself!

Cheers
TonyE

#11 truthergw

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 10:57 AM

Bags I the doodle bug.

#12 Siege Gunner

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Posted 25 May 2010 - 01:56 PM

Post your GPS coordinates, Tom, and I'll arrange for it to be delivered ...

#13 Latze

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 07:40 PM

Hi Tony,

QUOTE (TonyE @ May 24 2010, 12:05 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
16 rifles were distributed per company to platoon leaders and individual marksmen.


thanks a lot. That was the kind of information I was seeking. Maybe you can name a book on that subject?

regards
Latze


#14 TonyE

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 08:59 PM

The best book is the one I mentioned in my first post, Proud Promiseby Jean Huon (Collector Grade Publications). That details the French experiments with automatic rifles from before WWI through to the MAS 56.

There are other books covering Winchester rifles that will give more details of the M1907 and M1910 models, but they will not specifically cover French or British military use in WWI.

Regards
TonyE

#15 DavidB

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Posted 27 May 2010 - 10:58 PM

Big boys toys ?

David

#16 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 30 May 2010 - 05:46 AM

There is a brief mention of the French work on automatic rifles in Général Maitrot's book "Les Armées Française et Allemande: Leur artillerie, leur fusil, leur matériel : comparaison". It was published in January 1914 and provides a fascinating insight into what the French knew about the German Army just prior to the war.

With regards to automatic rifles, Maitrot wrote the following:

'Moreover, the automatic rifle, of which there are models in France and Germany, has so far been a disappointment: it is not very robust, has a delicate mechanism and may even be dangerous because of the high temperatures of the barrel, which may cause the pressure to increase up to 5000 kilograms per centimetre instead of the normal figure of 4,000.

Therefore we should stick to our Lebel and conclude with these words of wisdom spoken by the Minister of War from the rostrum of the House in the June 18 [1913] meeting: "I want to say that, with respect to the present state of our weaponry, I do not think it is necessary to make a change. But it must be understood that if any great military nation started manufacturing an automatic weapon, we would not allow our military to fall behind." '

Robert

#17 dibw29

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Posted 31 May 2010 - 11:08 AM

QUOTE (Robert Dunlop @ May 30 2010, 06:46 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There is a brief mention of the French work on automatic rifles in Général Maitrot's book "Les Armées Française et Allemande: Leur artillerie, leur fusil, leur matériel : comparaison". It was published in January 1914 and provides a fascinating insight into what the French knew about the German Army just prior to the war.

With regards to automatic rifles, Maitrot wrote the following:

'Moreover, the automatic rifle, of which there are models in France and Germany, has so far been a disappointment: it is not very robust, has a delicate mechanism and may even be dangerous because of the high temperatures of the barrel, which may cause the pressure to increase up to 5000 kilograms per centimetre instead of the normal figure of 4,000.

Therefore we should stick to our Lebel and conclude with these words of wisdom spoken by the Minister of War from the rostrum of the House in the June 18 [1913] meeting: "I want to say that, with respect to the present state of our weaponry, I do not think it is necessary to make a change. But it must be understood that if any great military nation started manufacturing an automatic weapon, we would not allow our military to fall behind." '

Robert


Guys,

Slight digression, but with France at the forefront of automatic rifle development heading into the Great War, what happened in the inter-war years that turned them off the concept and saw the Americans as the only nation heading into WW2 with a standardised semi-automatic infantry side arm? All tied in to the Maginot mentality and the general lack of investment in militaru technology amongst the former European Allies? Or did they never master the technological shortcomings sufficiently to make it viable? I recall seeing the Frankinstein creations that were trialled with the SMLE to produce a self-loading capability; not an act of war!

Cheers,

Dave

#18 TonyE

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Posted 31 May 2010 - 01:09 PM

Actually, the French continued to put considerable effort into developing a self loading rifle throughout the interwar years. There were different development models in 1921, 22, 24, 26, 28 and 29. In 1931 they held a Concours to find the best design. By 1939 they had a reasonably satisfactory design and troop trials started in 1940, with plans to manufacture 100,000 rifles in place. The fall of France put an end to this, but as soon as the St.Etienne region was liberated in 1944 the MAS 1944 was put into limited production.

Thus I think it is fair to say that your view that they were turned off the concept of a self loading rifle is simply not valid.

As for the "Frankenstein" versions of the SMLE, these were all emergency designs. The Howell of WWI vintage and the later South African Reider and the NZ/Australian Charlton were all conceived at a time when arms were sorely needed. None would have been seriously considered as a replacement infantry rifle.

Had the Farquhar-Hill been put into production in 1919 as planned, who knows where we would have been by 1939? The .276" Pederson was certainly a candidate as a potential British self loader in 1930, but only because it was believed that the US were on the verge of adiopting it. As a portent of what was to happen in 1948-52, the .276" Pederson was killed of by vested interests in the .30-06 in the US Bureau of Ordnance.

Also, remember that the Soviets were not idle in the development of self Loading rifles and had issued limited numbers of SVT-38s.

We will not mention what the was going on in Germany....

Regards
TonyE