Ribeyrolles, Sutter, and Chauchat - made by the Manufacture d’Armes de Tulle in France c.1917~18. 8x51mmR Lebel five-round en-bloc clip, gas-operated semi-automatic, loaded from the bottom. Made with several Lebel parts, the RSC Mle1917 was the first semi-automatic military rifle to be mass-issued and used during a major conflict, namely World War one. It was a far cry from the revolutionary designs of the French rifle trials of the early 20th century, but it was decently reliable and provided a lot more firepower than the old Lebel Mle1886.
Used in battleships and coast defenses c.1870~1918. 274mm caliber 216kg shells, 434m/s muzzle velocity giving it an estimated 300mm of penetration in wrought iron armor at combat range, breech-loading single shot.
Picture taken c.1885 by Gustave Bourgain onboard a Colbert-class French ironclad, below the center battery.
Note the boarding weapons on racks on the left side of the picture, including cutlasses and Lefaucheux Mle1858 revolvers. The Colbert-class ironclads were also armed with, beside a variety of other naval guns, more than a dozen Hotchkiss 37mm revolving cannons, four 356mm torpedo tubes and a ram.
Manufactured by Louis Perrin c.1873~80′s in paris, France - based on his Mle1865 revolver design - serial number 413. 11mm73 six-round cylinder, double action, side-loading gate with manual ejector rod, leaf sight, military foregrip and buckles. Originally presented in its prototype stage along with its handgun counterpart to the French army as concurrents to the Chassepot rifle and Lefaucheux revolver, the Perrin Mle1865 was rejected on both occasion. It was however a very popular private purchase for French officers, especially in the Army where the service pistols were still percussion designs. I doubt that the prototype carbine presented by Perrin was in a serious military rifle caliber, which might have been why it lost to the Chassepot despite arguably using superior technology. This particular example was manufactured well after that however, since it is chambered for the same round used in the MAS Mle1873 revolver.
Made by the Manufacture d’Armes de St-Etienne post-WW2 until 1965 at a total of 295840 units, including an initial production of 20240 MAS 49. 7,5x54mm 1929C 10-round removable box magazine, gas-operated semi-automatic fire, built-in compensator/Nato 22mm grenade launcher with sights. This rifle’s had a long and tortuous development, in major parts due to a little historical event you might have heard of. First of all it’s important to note that its action is in fact based on Rossignol’s B5 prototype rifle of the French military rifle trials in the early 1900′s. This is in fact the direct impingement system that would later be used not only in these MAS rifles but also in the American AR series.
The Rossignol B5 ENT-1901 rifle.
In 1938, with a war looming and thus in the very same circumstances that saw France try to modernize its arsenal around the turn of the century, the Manufacture d’Armes de St-Etienne started development of a new semi-automatic military rifle. The resulting weapon was the MAS 38/39 and MAS 40 prototypes, both featuring a 5-round fixed box magazine like the bolt action MAS 36, but making use of the Rossignol system.
The MAS 40 rifle.
About 60 working prototypes were made during the early days of WW2, before being adopted in March of 1940. Unfortunately much like the A6 Meunier in 1913, there were no time or resources to implement a new military rifle during a world war. With German occupation becoming unavoidable, workers at MAS hid the plans to the gun as well as its prototypes. They did their job extremely well, to the point that Free French forces in their now liberated country had to reverse-engineer the MAS 40 without blueprints to resume production, leading to the creation of the MAS 44.
The MAS 44 rifle.
Less than 7000 Mle1944 were manufactured for use by French Marine Commandos in the later stages of WW2. This is the first iteration of the design to introduce a detachable box magazine holding ten rounds. Following the end of the war and the rebuilding of the country’s infrastructure, the rifle was very lightly modified and rolled out for mass production as the MAS 49. It was supposed to see service with all branches of the French military but only ended up in the hands of soldiers fighting in the conflicts of the Decolonization era.
The MAS 49 rifle.
It was finally after these experiences in the Indochina war, the Suez canal crisis in Egypt and the start of the Algerian war that the MAS 49 was refined into the Mle1949/56, with an overall shortened and modernized exterior more fit of a battle rifle. Before that it still looked very much like the MAS 36 bolt action rifle, which is fine if you’re into hunchbacked Lebels.
Mitrailleuse de Reffye volley gun, aka “Canon a Balles”
Based on the designs of Belgian engineers Fafchamps c.1833-51 and Montigny c.1863, adopted in French military service c.1867 and manufactured under the direction of general of ordnance Verchère de Reffye at the workshops of Tarbes and Meudon up until the Franco-Prussian war. 13x86mmR 25-round speedloaders, 25 steel barrels in a cast bronze barrel cluster with individual firing pins, sequentially actived by a small crank. The breech is opened and closed through a larger crank on the back of the gun. The Mitrailleuse was initially designed to replace grapeshot fired from standard artillery pieces, rendered obsolete by the effective range of Minie rifles in the mid 19th century. That is in this mindset that it was deployed and employed during the Franco-Prussian war, in which its heavy artillery mount did not lend itself well to what will become standard machine gun use in WW1. Volley guns being a technological dead-end, the Mitrailleuse only had a small moment of questionnable glory as an urban warfare and mass execution weapon during the Paris Commune. It remained in service alongside Gatling guns made in Puteaux until 1897-1900 when it is slowly replaced by the first Hotchkiss machine gun.
Introduced by the Belgian company FN Herstal in 1991, the P90 was developed in the late 1980′s as a response to a NATO request for a new caliber to replace the 9mm Para. As a result, the FN P90 would create a new class of military firearm, the Personal Defense Weapon (PDW). As far back as the 18th century, there was a need for light, compact weapons designed specifically for rear echelon units, units which were not expected to enter into front line combat, but still at risk of being ambushed and being thrust into combat. Such personnel included artilleryman, vehicle drivers, communications personnel, signalers, messengers, and other support troops. These troops needed weapons which were light and compact so that they didn’t hinder the soldier’s main task, but effective enough that the soldier could defend himself. In the 18th and 19th century rear echelon soldiers typically carried musketoons and carbines, which were often shortened versions of the standard issue infantry musket. During World War I pistols, pistol carbines and short rifles were common. During World War II submachine guns became popular as well as short rifles and carbines.
The FN P90 was introduced for this purpose, but differed greatly from all other carbines, short rifles, and submachine guns that came before it. As a PDW, the P90 used a new kind of small caliber high velocity cartridge. The intermediate cartridge used in modern assault rifles was designed to be a compromise between a submachine gun and high powered bolt action or semi automatic rifles. It was developed to be smaller in caliber and shorter than say a .30-06, .303 British, 8mm Mauser, or 7.62x54R, and thus having less range and power, but more powerful and with greater range than pistol or submachine gun cartridges such as th 9x19mm Para or .45ACP. The concept behind the intermediate cartridge was to replicate the firepower of the submachine gun, but still maintain accuracy and range sufficient for battlefield use. The P90 uses a cartridge shorter than the intermediate cartridge, but longer than a pistol cartridge. The new cartridge introduced was the FN 5.7x28mm.
Essentially the 5.7x28mm cartridge was a further compromise between the submachine gun and the assault rifle. While shorter than an intermediate cartridge, it produces more range and accuracy than a submachine gun. What is also special about the 5.7x28 is it’s small caliber 20-40 grain bullet, which despite being small, packs an incredible punch with a muzzle velocity between 2,200 - 2,800 feet per second depending of grainage. Compare this to the 5.56x45mm cartridge used in assault rifles which has a muzzle velocity of around 3,000+ feet per second, and the 9mm Para, a common pistol cartridge, which has a muzzle velocity of around 1,000 -1,300 feet per second. As a result the 5.7x28mm is rated as being able to puncture level IIIA kevlar armor at a range of 300m. The 5.7x28mm cartridge is also known for being very accurate, with a very flat trajectory. Finally, since it is a very small cartridge, soldiers can carry more ammunition. When paired with the P90 the cartridge allows for 50 round standard capacity magazines, whereas most assault rifles have 30 round capacity mags.
The magazines are also unique in that they are top mounted horizontally. The P90 has a blistering firing rate of 900 rounds per minute, which is aided by the cartridge’s light recoil, allowing for very controlled fully automatic fire. Recoil is also managed with a muzzle brake which also functions as a flash suppressor. The P-90 can also be fired in semi automatic with the flick of a selector switch. Spent casings are ejected downward through a chute in the grip.
Aiding its purpose as a light rear echelon weapon, the P-90′s bullpup design makes it a very compact weapon, being only 20 inches in length and weighing 5.7lbs. The P90 was also designed the be completely ambidextrous; equally suitable for both right and left handed users. Another unique standard feature of the P90 is a reflex sigh, with regualr v-notch iron sights for backup. Optimum range is around 200 meters.
Despite its unique features the P90 hasn’t been heavily popular, with only around 17,000 being produced. In fact, the PDW concept has been slow to get off the ground. Nor has the 5.7x28mm replaced the 9mm Para, despite FN having also introduced a pistol chambered for it called the FN Five-seven. However, the P90 has been adopted for use by special forces of 40 nations. Some law enforcement agencies have also adopted the P90, most notably the US Secret Service because it is a weapon that packs a lot of firepower, but is compact enough to hide under a coat. The P90 saw some use among special forces deployed during the Persian Gulf War, and some have made their way into the hands of Libyan and Syrian rebels. However, the P90 lacks a serious battlefield history.
While the P90 has not yet fulfilled it’s role as a rear echelon weapon, there is one role that I must point out that the P90 has fulfilled beautifully. A role that I’m sure is on the back of the minds of many people readings this and probably the only reason the P90 is recognizable in pop culture. Due to the P90′s futuristic design, it made a perfect weapon for use in Science Fiction films and TV shows. Probably the most notable was was in the SciFi TV series Stargate SG-1 and it’s spin off series Stargate Atlantis, the P90 becoming the weapon of choice of Stargate command and being featured in most episodes. As a science fition geek, I would consider Stargate SG1′s use of the P90 to be almost as iconic as the phaser in Star Trek and blaster in Star Wars. Indeed Startgate SG1 probably made a better advertisement for FN Herstal’s PDW than any battlefield performance reports.
Fire and retreat from Replicators
“This is a weapon of terror, it’s made to intimidate the enemy. This is a weapon of war, it’s made to kill the enemy.”
Designed by Louis Daudeteau c.1884-95, made by the Manufacture d’Armes de St-Etienne for French Navy field trials with marine infantry in the French Asian colonies - serial number 3443. 6,5x53,5mmSR Daudeteau 6-round en-bloc clip, bolt action repeater. One of the many rifle designs developed by Daudeteau, characterized by their small caliber cartridges and funky clips.
The French Navy entertained the prospect of equipping marine infantry with these overall fairly modern rifles in the 90′s. Unfortunately for Daudeteau, French marines passed under the juridisdiction of the army shortly afterward, and the trial period was aborted without any sale.
Even up to the 1930’s the French Army had vast stores of Lebel rifles, an aging bolt action firearm which originated in 1886. However the French did not merely want to sell or scrap the rifle, but put them to some use. A common policy of the French Army in the 20th century was to hold on to weapons no matter how old or obsolete they were.
In 1935 the French Army commissioned a program to shorten many older Lebel rifles in carbines for artillery units, rear echelon units, reserves, police, and colonial forces. Conversion of the rifle to a carbine was simple, they merely shortened the barrel down to 18 inches and adjusted the length or the forward stock. Of course this conversion came at a cost. The Lebel did not have a box magazine but rather a tubular magazine. Shortening it reduced its magazine capacity to only 3 rounds. In addition, the R35 still used the aging 8mm Lebel cartridge (8x51R), even though the French Army had adopted the 7.5x54 French.
The R35 Lebel saw limited used during World War II. Around 50,000 conversions were produced.
Designed Louis Chauchat by Made in France c.May 1907 by the Manufacture d’Armes de St-Etienne - serial number 4. ~7,5mm rimless experimental French six-round mannlicher clip designed by the
Section Technique de l`Artillerie, long recoil operated semi-automatic, with both the barrel and bolt backing up about 4 inches. A 1890-1912 French rifle trials, APX’s
C7 rifle of the C series of prototypes experimented with at the time, in parallel with the A series of Meunier and the B series of Rossignol. These trials ended with the adoption of the A6 Meunier rifle tested by the STA and also chambered in a 7mm round.