(Mfg by Établissement Delauney Belleville)
(Click PIC to Enlarge)
Caliber: ........................ 8 x 50R Lebel (8mm Lebel)
Rifling & Twist: .............. 4 groove, right hand twist.
Barrel Length: ............... 31.5 in. (800mm)
Overall Length: ............. 51.41 in. (1306mm)
Weight: ........................ 8.4 lb. (3.810 kg)
Magazine Capacity: ....... 3 rounds
Qty Mfg: ....................... unknown?
Source: ....................... La grande aventure des Fusils réglementaires français 1886-1936 (1996) – by Henri Vuillemin (no ISBN number).
Canadian Collector Market Value Estimate: $250-500 approx.
Modèle 1907-15 Mannlicher Berthier Rifle
(21 picture virtual tour)
The artillery and cavalry had already adopted, beginning in 1890, the Mannlicher-Berthier series of carbines - the 1886/93 Lebel rifle not being convertible to carbine length very successfully. The arm was well liked by its users, but military doctrine of the day didn’t allow for carbines being issued to front line troops. Fortunately, in 1907 the board of artillery had developed a long rifle version of the Mle 1892 artillery carbine for the colonial “Tirailleurs Sénégalais”. This rifle was proving more effective in 1914 than the beloved Lebel as it could be rapidly reloaded under fire by use of pre-loaded charger clips. It was also a robust rifle, easily maintained, and was less expensive to manufacture and service than the 1886/93 was.
In 1914, the Manufactures d’armes de St. Étienne was ordered to begin working on a modified Mle 1907 des Tirailleurs Sénégalais which could be rushed into production and supplement the depleting stocks of Lebel rifles. The result was the 1907-15 Mannlicher-Berthier rifle, officially adopted in 1915. By mid 1915 the first rifles were reaching the troops.
Berthier rifles were manufactured by Manufactures d’armes de St. Étienne, Manufactures d’armes de Chatellerault, Remington Repeating Arms, Établissement Continsouza and Établissement Delauney Belleville.
Only a few thousand Remington made rifles were ever delivered to France where they promptly failed inspection. Popular belief is that it was due to improper heat treating. Chatellerault rebuilt a few thousand of them before abandoning this practice as not cost effective. Those that were rebuilt were sent to war reserve to be used only in the most dire of emergencies – the rifles were considered that unsafe. The remainder of the contract was never delivered and most Remingtons never left the USA. These rifles should probably not be fired if encountered. Most are like new and bear no serial number, as serial numbers were only applied to rifles accepted for service.
The Berthier never completely replaced the Mle 1886/93 during the Great War, but by mid-1916, at least as many Berthiers as Lebels were on the front line. In late 1916, a 5 round version of the Mannlicher-Berthier was developed (the Mle-M-16), though they were not widely distributed until late in 1917 and very few saw any service in WW1.
After the war, most 1907-15 rifles were converted the Mle-M-16 pattern, making the 1907-15 rifles much rarer in general. Many rifles earmarked for colonial service, however, remained in the 1907-15 configuration but did receive the Balle N chamber upgrades. The Balle N modification enlarged the chamber throat to accommodate the same ammunition as the Hotchkiss machine gun in order to simplify the supply chain in the military. Such rifles are marked with a capital “N” on the receiver ring and over the chamber. Balle N should not be fired in rifles not so marked.
The Mannlicher-Berthier was still the most widely issued French rifle in WW2. The MAS-36 slated to replace it had not been made in great numbers when the war started.
The rifle pictured above is a 1916 made Mle.1907-15 Mannlicher-Berthier in 8x50R Lebel made by Établissement Delauney Belleville. Delauney Belleville was a Luxury Automobile Maker (Limousines - one is featured when Kate Winslet is ravaged by Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic...) that answered the call in WW1 and switched production over to making arms and munitions for the French Army during the war. Of the two Établissements (private companies) that did so (Continsouza and Delauney Belleville), Delauney Belleville was the only one to make complete rifles, Continsouza only supplying receivers and small parts. Delauney Belleville is the rarest manufacturer of 1907-15 rifles. They are very uncommon as Berthiers go.
This one has been rearsenalled, like nearly all Berthiers still in existence. It has not been converted to the later Mle-M-16 pattern, but has received the Balle N chamber and sight upgrades undertaken in the 1920’s. The stock has been arsenal renumbered matching and the bolt is, sadly, mismatched. Berthier bolts require partial disassembly to remove them though, so I suspect it was fitted at the time of the sight upgrades. In the late 20's onward, French arsenals stopped force-matching replacement bolts.
Collector's Comments and Feedback:
1. The 1907-15 Mannlicher Berthier is an uncommon milsurp in Canada. France, like many other European nations, has in recent years pursued a policy of destroying its surplus arms rather than selling them to private persons. Those that we do see here are invariably from colonial service in countries that have since severed most ties to France. Morocco and Syria are examples.
Delauney Belleville and Continsouza rifles command the highest prices, along with any Remington found with a French serial number applied to it. The other makes are more commonly encountered. 1907-15’s that are still in 3-round configuration are less common that those converted to 5 round and should command a small premium. For a short time in 1916, some Berthiers were built with primitive night sights. The above rifle is one such example. The rear sight blade was equipped with two small holes filled with radium and the front sight blade had a larger hole filled with lead and painted with radium. Today, rifles rarely retain any trace of the radium, but the night sighted rifles command a premium to collectors as they are relatively uncommon.
Berthier rifles are limited in their price and appeal, making very good examples still affordable at the time this article was written, assuming you can locate one for sale. This is due to the stigma attached to the French Army following their rapid defeat in WW2 and also due to these rifles being a “reloading only” proposition. Factory ammunition is not readily available in Canada.
If brass cannot be located to reload for the Berthier, it can be made using .348 Winchester brass. It must be formed, shortened and the bases lathe turned a couple thou to fit the Lebel chamber.
The issue bayonet is the Mle 1886 “Rosalie” with a cruciform blade. (Feedback by "Claven2")