* Berthier Carbine and Rifle Information *
Pictures of the various type of Berthier Carabines, Mousquetons and Fusils
Prototype à base de Carabine Modèle 1890
Top: Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 2ème type
Middle: Carabine de Cuirassier Modèle 1890
Bottom: Carabine de Gendarmerie Modèle 1890 avec Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1890
Top: Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle 1892 avec Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892 du premier (1ème) type
Middle: Carabine Colonial Modèle 1902 or Carabine Alpine Modèle 1902 avec Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892 du deuxième (2ème) type ... This was an un-official Model
Bottom: Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle Modifié 1916 avec Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892-1915 du troisième (3ème) type
Top: Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 avec Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1902
Middle: Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 Modifié 1916 avec Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1902
Bottom: Fusil de Tirailleur Sénégalais "Colonial" Modèle 1907
Top: Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 avec Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886
Bottom: Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916 avec Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886-1915
Top: Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1890
2nd down: Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 ... the handles were originally made in German Nickle Silver (bronze de nickel) and after October 1914 they were made in brass (laiton)
3rd down: Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886-1915 ... La poignée en bronze de nickel (German Nickle Silver handle)
4th down: Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886-1915 ... La poignée en laiton (Brass handle)
5th down: Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886-1915 ... La poignée en acier (Steel handle), these handles came into use after July of 1917
Bottom: Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1886-1916 ... Very rare bladed version bayonet
Berthier Carabine, Mousqueton et Fusil Histoire
1887 - The Comité de L'Artillerie headed by Général Gallifet decided to experiment in making a carbine version of the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 "Lebel" with the following requirements: It had to use the same cartridge already in service, Cartouche à Balle Ordinaire Modèle 1886, the magazine capacity had to equal or better 5 rounds and the final weight of the weapon shall not be over 3,6 kg (7.93 pounds). Under the direction of the L'Ecole Normale de Tir (E.N.T.) a prototype carbine which was to be called the Carabine d'Essai Modèle 1887 was built. This carbine was basically was a shortened rifle with a 6 round capacity with a shortened butt stock, forearm and barrel. It also had a slightly modified rear sight, which was only graduated to 1800 meters, a small straight ball-tipped stacking hook was added to the upper barrel band, a rotating swivel mounted on the underside of the stock and a concentric ring mounted on the left side of the lower barrel band. The experiment did not meet expectations of the Comité de L'Artillerie due to a number of reasons with the main ones being, it was unable to meet the weight factor as well as the magazine tube system did not work properly unless it under 4 rounds. The project was finally dropped on February 28th of 1890 but 45 years later it was revived again with successful results resulting in the Mousqueton de Artillerie et Cavalerie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 Raccourci 1935. Only two of these prototypes are known to exist, one being located at the Musée de la MAS in France and the other in a unnamed collection in the USA.
Émile Berthier, a mechanical engineer for the Algerian Railway System, Bureau des Chemines de Fer Algériens, with one of the five subsidiary companies, La Compagnie Bône-Guelma , had two great passions in life: dirigible balloons and firearms, proposed to modify the existing Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 "Lebel" with its massive solid receiver, two piece stock and tubular magazine system into a system based on the en-bloc packet/charger system patented by the Austro-Hungarian weapon designer Ferdinand Mannlicher to the Comité de L'Artillerie and Section Technique de L'Armement (S.T.A.) on June 10th. He was ignored, discouraged and rejected by the various commissions/committees from designing a new firearm system but in the end finally won his case to build a weapon for trials the next year.
1888 - Under the direction of Monsieur Berthier, L'Atelier de Puteaux (APX) helped build a number of prototype weapons called the Lee-Mannlicher-Berthier or what now is called Berthier Boitier No.1 et No.1bis, which were to be tested at Mont Valérien in December of that year. A number of small problems were found with the en-bloc packet/chargers used during this testing, but in the end the weapon proved itself successful enough against the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 "Lebel", firing 26 rounds in 1 minute 10 seconds compared to the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 "Lebel" 21 rounds in 1 minute 34 seconds, which had impressed the various commissions/committees to proceed the next year with more testing. They recommended to him to develop two different carbine models, one for the cavalerie (cavalry) and another for the artillerie (artillery).
1889 - Monsieur Berthier went on to develop the two different Berthier Boitier prototypes recommended by the commissions/committees, the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Essai No.2 et No.2bis and Carabine d'Cavalarie Essai No.3 et No.3bis. Both of these were 1005mm (39.5 inch) in overall length, had bent bolt handles and similar modified rear sights. No.2 featured a bolt handle which was positioned on the rear portion of the bolt and the upper barrel band was modified to use the standard bayonet in service the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886. No.2bis was modified to have the locking lugs on the bolt head to be positioned “vertical”, 90 degrees, instead of the traditional manner of being “horizontal” which would help to eliminate the jams when chambering the cartridge from the en-bloc packet/charger. No.3 had its bolt handle positioned near the front of the bolt, had a protruding metal magazine, and had no provisions to mount a bayonet. No.3bis also had the same type arrangement for the locking lugs as No.2bis. Testing continued throughout the rest of the year at Mont Valérien.
1890 - On the 19th of January the situation changed dramatically as France’s long time arc-enemy, Germany, adopted the Karabiner Modell 1888 with its fast loading en-bloc packet/charger system for its mounted troops and the French military quickly realized that they needed to get a new smokeless powder carbine for use by their various mounted units to counter this new German threat. On February 28th it was decided by the E.N.T. to drop the Carabine d'Essai Modèle 1887 and go with the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Essai No.2bis carbine for adoption. It was recommended to Monsieur Berthier to go from a 4 round en-bloc packet/charger to a 3 round en-bloc packet/charger and completely abandon the two piece stock for a simple one-piece type that had been a tradition for French regulation carbines. After a series of modifications during the first few weeks of March the weapon was transformed into what was to become the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890, which was officially adopted for service on March 14, 1890. This weapon was latter called the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 1ème type by the French military to distinguish between the two different types of the same model. This weapon, as mentioned, utilized a one piece stock which was stocked to within 1 3/4" of the muzzle, had an overall length of 0,945m (37.2 inch) with a 45,5cm (17.8 inch) barrel, weighing 3,00kg (6.61 pounds). It has two-barrel bands, carries a clearing rod in a channel down the left side of the stock and lacks a top hand guard. The sling configuration is unique in that a rotating swivel mounted on the underside of the stock works in combination with a concentric ring mounted on the left side of the lower barrel band allowing for it to easily be slung over the back of the cavalryman. The carbine is loaded using the new 3-shot en-bloc packet/charger as this was based on a desire to avoid having a magazine extend below the bottom line of the stock creating any surfaces that might catch on the various equipment carried by mounted troops and not to infringe on Ferdinand Mannlicher patents. The weapon was not designed to accept a bayonet, since all of the mounted units of the French Army were issued lances, sabers or swords as their primary arms.
Later in that year both the Carabine de Cuirassier Modèle 1890 and Carabine de Gendarmerie Modèle 1890 were adopted for service.
The Carabine de Cuirassier Modèle 1890 was identical to the cavalry carbine but can be easily distinguished by the lack of a comb on the butt stock to allow for proper sight alignment when the trooper shouldered his carbine wearing the Casque Modèle 1870 Cuirassier. The cheek-pieces of this helmet consisted of a series of scales running the length of the leather chinstrap and these overlapping scales would have prevented the soldier from placing his cheek directly against the raised comb of a normal carbine. Another unique feature was a checkered leather butt plate, as the carbine was intended to be shouldered while wearing a steel breast plate called a cuirass, the use of leather for the butt plate was more suitable than a standard steel butt plate, which would have slipped off the tapered breastplate during recoil and possibly damaging the plate. This leather buttplate was held by three horizontal brass screws. These butt plates were made by Établissement Demange et fils and Bld Voltaire à Paris. This weapon weighed 2,980 kg (6.56 pounds), was 0,952m (37.4 inch) in overall length with a 45,3cm (17.8 inch) barrel.
The Carabine de Gendarmerie Modèle 1890 was developed for the Gendarmerie which were the military police units within the French Army and their carbine is identical to the cavalry carbine except for the location and construction of the upper barrel band. It is set back 4 1/2" from the muzzle and was designed to accept the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1890 which was similar to the standard bayonet in service the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 with exception of the locking arrangement and a groove that extends down the left side of the bayonet grip to allow clearance for the brass-tipped clearing rod.
1892 - The Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 was adopted for service, as French military doctrine required the artillery to work in close concert with the cavalry and infantry, the artillery crews needed to protect themselves at close quarters and as their mousquetons were considered secondary weapons, they needed a light, handy and easily slung weapon while manning the guns, what was developed was a weapon exactly identical in pattern to the Carabine de Gendarmerie Modèle 1890. These were also were issued to Engineers, machine-gun crews, certain other specialized troops such as drivers, and the French Navy, particularly the Troupes de Marine (Marines) and Fusiliers-Marins (Naval Light Infantry). The biggest difference was the bayonet it took, in this case a sword type bayonet, called the Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892, which has a 15 5/8" long knife-style blade with blood fullers and an unusual third fullered groove in the forward spine opposite the cutting edge of the blade. The grip of the bayonet is oval in cross section and did not require a groove to allow clearance of the brass-tipped clearing rod. The locking mechanism of the bayonet is identical to that of the Gendarmerie bayonet and are in fact interchangeable as each can mount on both of these particular variants. There were three variations of this bayonet, the premier (1ème) type had grips that were made of hard black composition affixed by two small rivets and the rear of the muzzle ring was flush with the grips. The deuxième (2ème) type had grips that were made of wood affixed by two large rivets and the rear of the muzzle ring extends backwards over the grips 1/8th of an inch. The troisième (3ème) type sometimes called the Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892-1915 had grips that were made of wood affixed by two large rivets, the rear of the muzzle ring extends backwards over the grips 1/8th of an inch and the hooked quillion removed during The Great War in 1915.
1894 - It was found that the sling swivel at the bottom of the stock on the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 1ème type was not suited for carrying while mounted as it tore into the uniform and the shoulders of the trooper, therefore it was decided to modify the weapon to carry it in a better position while on the back of the trooper. A inletted notch was cut into the left side of the stock with a 6cm (2.36 inch) steel sling bar placed over it to retain the sling in place when in use. The concentric ring mounted lower barrel band was replaced with a new type lower barrel band that had a straight type sling retention bar placed on the right side. The above modification resulted in the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 2ème type being adopted for service on March 25,1895. In 1909 per a circular put out by the Ministre de La Guerre the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 1ème type were to be modified with the inletted notch, sling bar and new type lower barrel band. The rotating swivel mounted on the underside of the stock was removed and filled in. Very few of the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 1ème type exist as most got modified to this new system.
1901 - In January of 1898 a new service cartridge was adopted for service, developed by Artillery Major Désaleux, called Cartouche Modèle 1886 à Balle D, commonly called Balle D, which featured a solid lathe turned brass, spitzer, boat-tailed bullet, which was generalized for service in 1901. As this cartridge started to replace the older Cartouche à Balle Ordinaire Modèle 1886 M , the rear sights of the Berthiers already in service had to be modified for the new rounds trajectory. The quickest and simplest method was to grind down the right ladder steps on the rear sight to compensate for this new trajectory instead of having to replace them with a completely new rear sight. The rear sight might sometimes be marked on the base with a "D" and/or the receivers sometimes also be might be marked with "M.D." (Modification Désaleux) after the weapons nomenclature indicating that they undergone this new change.
1902 - The half cock notch which had been intended to provide a rudimentary safety was no longer made on the cocking piece. It was determined that this feature was now useless under the pretext that it did not allowed the bolt to be maneuvered quickly and by removing it allowed the weapon to be cycled much faster.
When the various Vietnamese/Cambodian troops (Troupes Annamite) in Indochina were issued the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 and it was found that it had too much recoil for them, the Gouverneur de l'Indochine asked the Ministre de La Guerre in 1901, after a visit to Paris, to develop a special rifle for them. The Comité de L'Artillerie looked into the problem and determined that as the Berthier was already in production as a carbine, it would be a rather simple task to produce a scaled-down rifle that would be perfect for the smaller stature colonial troops in Indochina. The weapon produced for them was the Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 which was adopted for service on May 22,1902, was 1,125m (44 1/16") in overall length with a 0,635m (25.0 inch) barrel, weighing 3,600 kg (7.93 pounds). The upper barrel band had a unique curved stacking hook added, a feature not found on any Berthier up until then, which was used for interlocking a small groups of rifles in an upright position like the frame of a teepee when arms were to be stacked for a period in the field. All previous made Berthiers were stacked by interlocking the clearing rod. Like the rest of the Berthiers in service it lacked a top hand guard, had a long brass-tipped clearing rod mounted down the left side of the forearm and used 3-shot en-bloc packet/chargers. The most important feature that this rifle was to have was the addition of a recoil lug to the rear of the receiver to help prevent breakages and cracks in the stock near the wrist. This problem was found to be chronic, over 60%, in all the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 that were in service in Indochina due to the extreme high humidity conditions encountered there. This problem was later addressed in 1909 for all earlier produced weapons already in service. All of these rifles were manufactured solely by Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) for the basic price of 51,58F (51 Francs/58 centimes) and it is believed that possibly only 50,000 were made. These were delivered to Indochina in zinc-lined cases of 20 rifles in the following numbers:
1902: Décret Ministériel N° 15649 dated 05/22/1902: 10,000 weapons ordered, sold to Indochina for a price of 56 francs, the contract was finished in 1903, it was sent and delivered to Tonkin.
1904: Décret Ministériel N° 6059/2/3 dated 02/21/1904: 4,500 weapons ordered, sold to Indochina for a price of 63 francs, the contract was finished in December 1904, it was sent and delivered to Tonkin. 2,500 went to La Direction d'Artillerie de Saigon and 2,000 to La Direction d'Artillerie de Hanoi.
1906: Décret Ministériel N° 13629/2/3 dated 04/11/1906: 10,000 weapons ordered, 6,000 planed for in 1906 and 4,000 planed for in 1907. These were sold to Établissement Schneider et Cie at the price of 72,15 francs/centimes each for sales to Persia. These weapons are numbered from 1 to 10,000 and are believed to not have the letter prefixes before the serial number. This order was fufilled by August 1907, the weapons were then transferred to Établissement Schneider et Cie in March 1908 for delivery. Due to some administrative problems with the Russian Custom Officials, as these were going by via rail through their territory, they finally arrived in Persia in April of 1908.
1907: Décret Ministériel N° 26026/2/3 dated 05/13/1907: 3,200 weapons ordered, sold to Indochina for a price of 75,67 francs/centimes, the contract was finished in 1907, it was sent and delivered to Tonkin in December of 1907. Décret Ministériel N° 43508/2/3 dated 12/05/1907: 1,000 ordered for the forces in Annam.
1910: Décret Ministériel N° 8655/2/3 dated 02/23/1910: 1,300 ordered and sent for the forces in Annam.
1911: Décret Ministériel N° 7535/2/3 dated 02/14/1911: 2,500 ordered and sent for the forces in Annam.
1914: An order was placed for 300 stocks but none were made.
The bayonet used with this rifle was the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1902 which was identical in design to the Gendarmerie bayonet and are interchangeable. The bayonet was found to be too long for these smaller stature soldiers and was shortened in 1912 from 520mm (20.4 inch) to 420mm (16.5 inch) to better accommodate them.
There are some collectors who believe that some of the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 were modified after this date with the unique curved stacking hook to arm some of the various colonial and French Alpine troops (Chasseurs Alpins) which they call either the Carabine Colonial Modèle 1902 or Carabine Alpine Modèle 1902. To this day no such model exists in any of the French texts, of any period, regarding this name. It is believed that the most probable reason this was done was so that these units had an easier way to stack arms without using the clearing rods which probably was true in the case of the Chasseurs Alpins.
1908 - With the successful adoption of the Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 for its troops in Indochina, the French military decided to replace the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 "Lebel" that were in service with the French African colonies, particularly Senegal, all of whom were tall in stature, with a full-scale rifle. In 1904 l’Inspection Permanente des Fabrications d’Artillerie along with Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault got together with the S.T.A to develop this new rifle. What they came up with was the Fusil de Tirailleur Sénégalais Modèle 1907, which was adopted for service on June 19,1908 and with the introduction of this rifle the Berthier finally came of age as a full-length infantry rifle. This rifle had an overall length of 1,305m (51 3/16") with a 0,800m (31 1/2") barrel and weighing 3,800kg (8.37 pounds). Again like all previous Berthiers it lacked a top hand guard, used the 3-shot en-bloc packet/charger, had the curved stacking hook on the upper barrel band but one feature that was completely eliminated was the brass-tipped clearing rod. The barrel of this weapon had a larger muzzle diameter and the sight, front and rear, follow the pattern of those used on Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 "Lebel". The bayonet this rifle used, which was called the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1907, was of a peculiar type, following the lines of the Gendarmerie and Indochinois, but due to the diameter of the muzzle ring required to fit the larger muzzle diameter of the rifle barrel it was not interchangeable with them. This bayonet did not have the groove that extends down the left side of the bayonet grip as it did not have to go by the clearing rod which was now eliminated. Once again all there rifles were built solely by Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) and it is believed that only less than 10,000 of these were made. The only production numbers know are as follows: 10 rifles made in 1908, 818 in 1909, 2,416 in 1910, we do know for sure production of this rifle ceased in 1915 with adoption of the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915. This model was plagued with a number of faults and breakage of parts due to the various weather conditions this rifle encountered such as high humidity and desert conditions mixed together, caused a number of high ranking officers and officials to cease issuing them until the problem could be resolved. This problem was finally solved sometime in 1914/1915 utilizing better metallurgy and heat treatment procedures.
1909 - As previously stated, per a circular put out by the Ministre de La Guerre ,the Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890 1ème type were to be modified with the inletted notch, sling bar, a new lower barrel band and rotating swivel mounted on the underside of the stock, removed and filled in. It was also at this time that a recoil lug was added to the rear of the receiver of all new made carbines to help prevent the wrist breakages in the stock, which was dovetailed to fit this modification.
1910 - On May 22 the Ministre de la Guerre wanted to build and test a carbine for the various Dragoon Regiments (Régiments de Dragons) and under the guidance of the S.T.A. and Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC), 100 carbines were converted for experimentation, which were to be called the Carabine de Dragons Modèle 1890. These carbines had two very unique features never seen before on any Berthiers up to this date, a 29,5cm (11.6 inch) reversible triangular bayonet with a hooked quillion and full length hand guard running the top of the barrel from the front of the receiver to the upper barrel band. The bayonet system was unique in that it was the first French design of having a bayonet meant to stay with the carbine at all times. The bayonet was to be slipped over the barrel right up to the upper barrel band and was held in place by the front sight base. When the bayonet was not to be used, it was reversed, re-slipped back on the barrel and went inside a steel tube in the front of the stock. It was latched and unlatched by means of a trigger type catch mounted underneath the special bayonet housing, part of the upper barrel band. As with all Berthier carbines previously adopted, a brass-tipped clearing rod was mounted down the left side of the forearm. In December after extensively converting all of these carbines, MAC submitted then to l’Atelier Central for trials in January of 1911. After a series of delays due to circumstances beyond MAC’s control they were finally issued to the 16ème Régiment de Dragons stationed at Riems in November of 1911 for service testing at both Camp de Châlons and Camp de Versailles. After these initial tests it was found that these carbines needed some additional modifications and were returned back to MAC. On July 26, 1912 they were returned back for more extensive field testing. In January of 1914, MAC built approximately 400 more of these weapons for service testing but as fate would have it the project was finally terminated in August of 1914 due to start of The Great War. This system was to be re-introduced in the 1928-1934 trials for what would become the Fusil Modèle 1936. Most of these weapons were either scrapped or re-built into other configurations during the war and only 2 are now known to exist with one located at the Musée de la Cavalerie and the other at the Musée de l'Armée.
1914-1918 - La Grande Guerre - During The Great War, the French military did what they had to do to make complete weapons especially after the Battle of Verdun known as the "meat grinder" during the first half of 1916, which chewed up men, animals and material at an unprecedented pace. The ongoing struggle waged by French Ordnance to arm the troops at the front, along with each year's new draft of young men, resulted in large-scale small arms salvage operations, where teams of scroungers picked up all of these weapons, all along the various fronts and were returned to the nearest facility for re-build and re-issue. The French arsenals put together rifles and carbines with whatever parts were on hand, be it carbine or rifle, from these battlefield-recovered weapons resulting in, rifles found with carbine bolts, carbines with rifle bolts and more, especially when it comes to stocks and stock furniture, you name it!. They did not stand on ceremony, tossing all of the pre-war fussiness out the window and re-built them as fast as possible into any functional model that they could. The easiest way to determine the number of potential wartime variations is to take a stack of Berthier components from the various models and see how many different ways you could possibly put them together, you will be surprised at what you could make!. All this frequent re-building using parts from different models resulted in one of the more interesting aspects of collecting WWI-issue Berthier rifles and carbines, “What do I really have ?”, just remember this, that what ever configuration the weapon is at the present state is now is the nomenclature of this particular weapon. So the next time you stumble across a Berthier at a gun shop, in the rack at a gun show, at the range, or on the internet, don't be surprised if it has one or more features from several different models.
1915 - As the war went into its second year with the Western Front having one solid line of massive trenches from the coast in Belgium to the Alps Mountain Range on the Swiss border and the cavalry trooper was no longer required to be on horseback but instead were manning the trenches as Infantrymen, the various cavalry carbines began to be converted to the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 configuration. This conversion consisted of shortening the forend of the stock and fitting them with a bayonet lug and in the case of the Carabine de Cuirassiers Modèle 1890, the stocks were replaced with the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 pattern combed stocks but still retaining the leather butt plates.
As France had suffered a large amounts of staggering defeats, with massive losses of men and material at the outbreak of the war during the crushing defeat of "Plan 17" and the "Battle of the Frontiers", which brought the Germans within striking distance of Paris, the French victory at the "1st Battle of the Marne", which staved off a potential German victory, nearly brought the country to its knees. French forces were desperately short of weapons to equip the replacements for the tens of thousands of casualties suffered before the end of 1914, one answer, as determined by the Ministre de La Guerre in November of 1914, was to increase production of the Berthier system and tasked Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) to find a solution. The easiest solution MAC found was to slightly alter the Fusil de Tirailleur Sénégalais Modèle 1907, as it could be pushed into mass production with an absolute minimal number of changes into a new model full-length rifle. This new model was to be called the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915, which was adopted for service on February 26,1915. This weapon was almost identical with the following exceptions: The upper barrel band was redesigned with a semi-circular base, with a straight ball-tipped stacking hook, and adding a one piece bayonet guide under the barrel allowed the standard Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 to be utilized. The front sight was changed from a blade type to a square block with a small shallow V groove in it to allow for pin-pointing a target, the rear sight was modified to conform to this new pattern front sight. The very first production, 80,000, did have a bent bolt handle but in November it was determined that this should be changed to a beefed-up straight type bolt handle with a rounded bolt-knob for easier opening of the bolt in combat and all production after the 15th of December followed this recommendation. The production number for these rifles that are known are as follows: March: 200, May: 1,470, August: 46,000, October: 51,000, December: 54,000, the maximum number was obtained in July of 1916 with 101,511 and the final production numbers reached by the end of the war was a staggering 2,387,541. As the two National Armories producing Berthiers, Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault et Saint Étienne, could not keep pace with production demands set by the Ministre de La Guerre, two private companies, Établissement Delaunay-Belleville and Établissement Continsouza, both located in Paris, were employed to manufacture these new weapons. A contract was also established with Remington Arms Company in Ilion, New York sometime in late 1915 or early 1916 for an unknown quantity but believed no more than 100,000, according to French sources, of the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915. * Remington claims the contract was originally for 200,000 rifles.
The standard bayonet the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 was modified for “trench” warfare starting in January with the complete removal of the quillion and simplifying the bayonet latch release with a semi-rounded type. In October of 1914 the German Nickel Silver bayonet handle was replaced with one made of brass and in July of 1917 steel substituted brass. These new bayonets were called Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 Modifié 1915. In all of the photographic evidence seen by myself and other French Firearms Collectors this bayonet was the standard one that was used on all Great War full-length Berthier rifles.
1916 - As the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 production was well underway, two French designers, Sous-Lieutenant Vibert and Contrôleur Généraux Principaux Chossé of Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC), started to work in March to up-date the Berthier to match the 5-round capacity of the German Infanterie Gewehr 1898, as it had been felt by the French soldier (poilu) that the 3-shot magazine was a handicap compared to the German Mauser which in a time of war could be detrimental to morale. After a series of tests, Sous-Lieutenant Vibert design was adopted on November 28 by Marshall of France, Commandant of the Armies, Joseph Jacques Césaire Joffre culminating in the both the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916 and Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle Modifié 1916 and were to be called by the simple designation “M.16”. Both the rifle and carbine were exactly identical to the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 and Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 already in production except that they had an addition of an extended 5-shot magazine and a top hand guard running from the front of the receiver to 3 inches beyond the lower barrel band. Due to the extreme taper of the Cartouche Modèle 1886 à Balle D (am), the extended magazine is substantially thicker and deeper in the back and slopes forward toward the stock. As originally issued, the extended magazine retained the same rectangular opening in the floor plate to allow the expulsion of the empty en-bloc packet/charger upon reloading but in the mud. dirt and filth of the trenches, all of these designs proved susceptible to collecting foreign debris through the charger ejection port causing enumerable jams as the dirt and crud collected on the cartridges which was then carried into the action. The French lessened this problem somewhat by adding a spring-retained cover over the ejection port so that the soldier could either flip it open manually or just force a fresh en-bloc packet/charger into the magazine forcing the cover open to allow the charger to fall free from the magazine system. The cover could the either be closed by the soldier or simply left open if firing was continual. With this modification the follower assembly was lengthened to fit the extended magazine. The rear barrel band was also replaced with one that fit over the hand guard to keep it in place. The Mousquetons were produced with the inletted notch and sling bar. With the extra features the carbine version weighed 3,100 kg (6.84 pounds) and the rifle version 4,195kg (9.25 pounds). These new rifles and carbines did not start to be distributed until very late 1917 and very few of these replaced the Berthiers already in service during The Great War, it was not until after the war that these were to become the standard issue.
It was at this time that a straight ball-tipped stacking hook was added to upper band of the earlier produced Carabines and Mousquetons but in very limited numbers. Starting in August and again in March 1917 MAC developed “night sights” for the as-issued front and rear sights, the modification consisted of placing a small amount of fluorescent radium in a small 1/8" deep rounded hole on the front sight facing the shooter and two on the back of the rear sight leaf , one on each side of the sight notch.
1920 - "A" sights were started to be adopted, these were squared U shaped rear sights which were meant to replace the earlier rear sight V shaped sights. These sights did not quite replace the older sights of the some of the weapons already in service. If these sights were used they were supposed to be marked with an "A" on base of the rear sight but in most cases this was never done for one reason or another.
The majority of the Carabine de Cuirassiers were converted to the M16 configuration in November which included the adding of the hand guards, the inletted notch and sling bar and the 5 shot en-bloc packet/charger system.
10,000 Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 were converted to the M16 configuration for the basic price of 128 Francs, another 2,200 done in 1921 and 1,000 in 1924. In 1925 1,715 brand new Fusil de Tirailleur Indochina’s Modèle 1902 Modifié 1916 were made, 4,950 in 1926, 3,000 in 1927 and 3,100 in 1928. These “new” rifles are extremely rare to find as the majority of them never left Vietnam and have disappeared over time.
1927 - This was the year when the majority of modifications took place, which happened to be the biggest and most extensive re-building program for the French military after The Great War. As had been done before they did what they had to do to make complete weapons, particularly to the M16 configuration using any parts that were on hand. The biggest difference this time for the Carabines and Mousquetons was the stock, in which clearing rod was removed and the clearing rod channel on the left side of the forearm was filled in with a wooden patch or they were completely re-stocked with a brand new stock without the clearing rod channel. In addition, a straight ball-tipped stacking hook was added to the left side of the top barrel band in which two small holes were drilled in the original top barrel band, the stacking hook was then pinned and brazed to the side of the upper barrel band.
Sometime around 1930, they began to update the receivers of guns made before 1909 in which a recoil lug was added to the earlier receivers by a dovetail slot and pin, these were brazed or hard soldered to the receiver. This modification was done at Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) and when completed they struck a proof mark across the joint. This work is almost totally perfect and reflects the peacetime efforts to rebuild at a leisurely pace.
1932 - Modèle 1932N (Nouveau) was adopted for use, this new cartridge was designed for long range shooting in Heavy Machine Guns, such as the Mitrailleuse Hotchkiss Modèle 1914 and is much more powerful than the regular rifle ammo at the time Cartouche Modèle 1886 à Balle D (am). This cartridge has a much heavier bullet being pushed by a bigger powder charge resulting in a higher chamber pressure and firing this cartridge in a non-N modified weapon will most likely lead to catastrophic failure with injuries for both the shooter and any bystanders. This cartridge may chamber alright in a non-N modified weapon, which does not have a capital “ N” stamped on the top of the barrel and receiver at 12 O'clock position, and as stated it will generate much higher pressures than expected as the chambers neck (collet) is not sized up to allow the neck of the this cartridge to expand sufficiently to release the bullet as designed. A common misconception is the maximum diameter of the Modèle 1932N bullet which is exactly the same as the Cartouche Modèle 1886 à Balle D (am) bullet: 8,32mm (.3275 inch). The biggest difference between the solid brass lathe turned "D" bullet and the lead-core “N” bullet beside the weight is the location of their maximum diameter: For the “D” bullet, it on the fore part of the bullet, before the crimping groove and outside of the case neck. In the case of the “N” bullet, it is on the aft part of the bullet, after the crimping groove and inside the case neck. Due to the above, the enlarged neck of the Modèle 1932N cartridge had to have a maximum acceptable diameter of 9,02mm instead of 8,80mm for the previous Cartouche Modèle 1886 cartridges. The origin of the chamber re-throating was carried out on the various weapons in service that were still in French inventory as of 1934 with most being done during the period 1935 to 1939. One other interesting fact is the "N" label is a misinterpretation as there is no such item as a "N" cartridge in any of the French texts and if you wish to use the correct name for this cartridge, you would have to call it Cartouche Modèle 1932N.
1934 - After World War One had ended the French military realized that the Cartouche Modèle 1886 was not suited for light machine gun usage and in 1924 Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) designed a new light machine gun and cartridge to replace them. What they came up with was a new modern light machine gun, the Fusil Mitrailleuse Modèle 1924 chambered in 7.5x58mm and in 1929 the cartridge case was shortened 4mm (7.5x54mm) to stop the number of accidental incidents between it and the German 7.92x57mm Mauser cartridge. This new cartridge was called Modèle 1929C à Balle Ordinaire, of which Balle C was meant to be used with rifles and Balle D for light machine guns. Starting in 1927 a small number, under 5,000, of Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 "Lebel" ‘s were converted to the new cartridge, now called the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 Modifié 1927, but due to number of extreme modifications and exorbitant expense required to convert it, the military decided that it would be much easier and less expensive to convert the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915.
In 1932 both Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) and Tulle (MAT) began work on this new conversion, to be called the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 Modifié 1934 or simply “M.34”, after a series of testing at both Camp de Châlons and Camp de Versailles it was adopted for service in early 1934. The weapon was to retain the typical Berthier lineage but was modified to the following major components: the barrel was replaced with a new 570mm (22.4 inch) chambered for the Modèle 1929C; both the front and rear sights were changed to reflect the change in the new caliber ballistics, the rear sight leaf and base was changed to a sliding ramp type which was graduated from 200 to 900 meters; the bolt head was replaced with one that was able to support the base of the rimless Modèle 1929C and a movable type ejector added; hand guards were added to the top of the barrel and with this a new lower barrel band and hand guard retaining ring near the receiver was used to hold it in place. The biggest modification however was the magazine system which was changed to a 5 round staggered-column box type with a spring loaded follower and solid floor plate. The top of the receiver was notched with charger guides so that the magazine could be loaded by the use of charger/stripper clips. This new rifle was 1,080m (42.51 inch) in overall length and weighed 3,700kg (8.15 pounds). There were two different variations made, one for the infantry and one for the cavalry. The difference between these two was the sling placement, the infantry model had the typical under mounted front and rear sling configuration and the cavalry model utilizing the sling bar and concentric ring mounted on the left side of the weapon. Approximately 50,000 weapons were converted to this new system from 1934 to 1939 and 90% converted were the infantry version. The bayonet used on the models was either the Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 Modifié 1915 or Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892-1915 depending on the branch of service the rifle was used by. Most of these rifles were issued to the Fortress Infantry such as those who were stationed on the Maginot Line.
1937 - A very small unknown amount of Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 were converted at this time to Modèle 1929C to become the Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 Modifié 1937. These are marked on the left side of the receiver “Type S.E - MAS 1902 M.37”, SE is for Service d'Etudes, which was a workshop of Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Saint Etienne (MAS) dedicated to making prototype or very small runs of weapons for testing purpose before the approval of a model for full scale line fabrication. These are extremely rare as the majority of them were destroyed during World War Two.
All of these carbines are on display at the Musée de la MAS in France
Berthier Boitier No1 bis
Mousqueton d'Artillerie Essais No2 bis
Carabine d'Cavalarie Essais No3 bis
Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"
Vive le Pinard !
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01-28-2009 07:12 PM
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Superb photos and review!
To those who went before me, showing the way with courage and honour.
To those who went with me.
To those who follow behind me.
To those who are missing never to be found.
To those who gave all, while asking nothing in return.
You will always be remembered, honoured and will live in our hearts and minds forever. I salute you all.
This is good to have this info posted here. Maybe Canadians will finally stop calling them "Mannlicher-Berthiers" now.
New Information needed to Ammended:
1902 - There are some collectors who believe that some of the Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 were modified after this date with the unique curved stacking hook to arm some of the various colonial and French Alpine troops (Chasseurs Alpins) which they call either the Carabine Colonial Modèle 1902 or Carabine Alpine Modèle 1902. To this day no such model exists in any of the French texts, of any period, regarding this name. It is believed that the most probable reason this was done was so that these units had an easier way to stack arms without using the clearing rods which probably was true in the case of the Chasseurs Alpins.
Needs to be replaced with following: There were some Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 that were modified by a decision on the 10th of January 1902 for the unique Modèle 1902 curved stacking hook to be used by Batteries Alpine.
Middle: Carabine Colonial Modèle 1902 or Carabine Alpine Modèle 1902 avec Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892 du deuxième (2ème) type ... This was an un-official Model
Needs to be replaced with following: Middle: Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle 1892 avec embouchoir Modèle 1902 pour Batteries Alpine et Sabre-Baïonnette Modèle 1892 du deuxième (2ème) type ... This was an un-official Model
Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 Modifié 1934
Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"
Vive le Pinard !
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List of some of the various contractors that made pieces for the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915, Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916 and Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 Modifié 1915 during The Great War:
1. Établissement Delaunay-Belleville: made complete weapons ... Société Anonyme des Automobiles Delaunay-Belleville was formed in 1903 by Louis Delaunay and Marius Barbarou and was a French luxury automobile manufacturer from Saint Denis sur Seine, France. At the beginning of the 20th century they were among the most prestigious cars produced in the world, and perhaps the most desirable French marque. The Delaunay-Belleville were favorite automobiles of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, and other noblilities, King George I of Greece and King Alphonso XIII of Spain. By the late 1920s the Delaunay-Belleville had lost its prestige and converted to truck and military vehicles production. The factory was sold in 1946 to Robert de Rovin and was used to make the De Rovin minicars up to 1950. They made 159,912 complete Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 and Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916 during The Great War ... Code: EDB
2. Établissement Continsouza: boîte de culasse ... Établissement Continsouza was created in 1909 by Pierre-Victor Continsouza which produced gramophones and cinematography equipmnent. In 1914 Monsieur Continsouza rented industrial buildings called l'Usine de la Marque in North-East part of Tulle to produce armaments for the war effort. After the war he moved his entire production of cinematography equipmnent to this location. He continued operations until May of 1928 when he merged with Éstablishments Louis Aubert to form a company called Mécanique Industrial de Precision (M.I.P.) but in 1929 he was forced to liquidate his assets to the Banque Nationale de Crédit (B.N.C.) and thus the name Établissements Continsouza disappears from history.
3. Avis and Co. (USA): made 43,500 barrels, contract was terminated before the end of production due to poor quality of the barrels.
4. Atelier Bariquand & Marre: têtes mobiles, extracteurs, chiens, manchons, visserie, goupilles et entretoises n'entrant pas dans la composition d'éléments complets ... Code: BM within a circle
5. Société des Automobiles Brasier: supports d'élévateur, gâchettes, manchons ... Code: B within a circle
6. Société des Anciens Établissements Chenard & Walker: pontet, vis de crochet, vis d'éjecteur, vis de gâchette ... Code: CW
7. Établissement Bliss & Cie: chargeurs
8. Société Anonyme des Anciens Établissements Cohendet & Cie à Paris: tenons à fourche pour mousquetons, ressort d'embouchoirs pour carabine de cavalerie ... Code: CO interlaced
9. R. Cornely & Cie: pieds de hausse.
10. Darracq & Cie: embouchoirs à quillon, battants de crosse, embases, pivots, écrous, rondelles, rivet, goupilles, anneaux de battant.
11. L. Delage & Cie: gâchettes, détentes, goupilles de détente, crochets de chargeur, poignées de baïonnette ... Code: LD
12. Delahaye & Cie: planches inférieure, ressorts à galet, galets, goupilles, détentes, gâchettes ... Code: D within a circle
13. Société Lorraine des Anciens Établissements de Dietrich & Cie, Lunéville: planches supérieure, cylindres de culasse, cylindres, vis d'assemblage ... Code: L within a circle
14. Établissements de Dion-Bouton: planches supérieure, cylindres de culasse, supports d'élévateur ... Code: DB
15. Société des Établissements Gaumont: pieds de hausse.
16. M. Guinard: ressorts de grenadière, ressorts de crochet et de gâchette, ressorts de percussion, ressorts de virole de baïonnette, planches de hausse, ressorts de hausse, ressorts de curseur.
17. Gaston Johnson: pontets, planches supérieure, planches inférieure, ressorts de planche inférieur, galets, vis de planche d'élévateur, goupilles de galet ... Code: J within a circle
18. Établissement Malicet & Blin: anneaux de grenadière, croisières de baïonnette.
19. Manufacture d'Etampage et de ferrure du Nord-Est: cylindres de fusil.
20. Manufacture Parisienne d'Armes et de Mécanique Générale: canons, culasses mobiles ... Code: MPA
21. F. Marinier: embouchoirs ... Code: MA
22. Société des Anciens Établissements Panhard & Levassor: chiens, percuteurs, ressorts de percussion, embouchoirs à quillon, viroles de poignée de baïonnette ... Code: PL
23. Société Générale des Établissements Pathé Frère: ressorts d'embouchoir, écrous, supports de vis de culasse, curseurs de hausse.
24. Société des Automobiles & Cycles Peugeot: lames de baïonnette, écrous de poignée, fourreaux de baïonnettes ... Code: P
25. Victor Pouzet: pontets ... Code: P
26. Automobiles Renault: pontets, supports d'élévateur, t^tes mobiles, percuteurs, éjecteurs, entretoises de pontet, poignées de baïonnette, visserie goupilles et entretoises n'entrant pas dans la composition d'éléments complets ... Code: R
27. Compagnie Française pour l'Exploitation des Procédés Thomson-Houston: gâchette.
28. Société des Automobiles Unic: planches inférieure, ressorts de planche supérieure, ressorts à galet, galets, goupilles.
29. Établissements Vibert-Truchon & Cie: boîtier de protection (mle 1916) ... Code: HVT Co
30. Établissements Zavaterro à Saint Bonnet le Château: plaques de couche, crosses.
31. M. Zavattero Frères: plaques de couche
32. Maison Pathé: planches de hausse
33. Établissements Boulland
34. Maison Dacheux Frères
35. Établissements Vilboeuf & Ladreyt
36. Société Anonyme (S.A). des Anciens Établissement L. Chambon ... Code: C
37. Clément Bayard ... Code: CB within a circle
Comité des Forges de France: pièces de forge ... This committee was created in 1864 by various master of forging mills to study and defend the professional interests of forging mills. It was reorganized in 1887-1888 and played a paramount role in the collective organization of the French iron and steel industry, in particular by the fixing of quotas of the production and the sharing of markets.
A contract was established with Remington Arms Company based in Ilion, New York sometime in late 1915 or early 1916 for an unknown quantity of Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915. (It is believed that no more than 100,000, according to French sources and according to Remington it claims the contract was originally for 200,000 rifles). The French state that 9,444 were supposedly delivered and as the official records from Remington are no longer around we will not really know what is true. Many of these rifles did not get to France for one reason or another, speculation to the actual cause for the rejection and subsequent cancellation of the contract run the gamut. Some say the war ended before they could be fully shipped, some say the had dimensional issues with the chambers and were rejected or they needed to be re-worked and by the time they did get it right the war ended. Other theories are that they had poor heat treatment of the receivers, the French changed the contract to make them into Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916 with the 5 shot extended magazines and the French refused to pay for the conversion. The most ridiculous suggestion is the French simply rejected them due to resentment of the growing influence of the United States! This ridiculous idea doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, either. At the time the contract was placed, the Allies, including the French, were in desperate need of small arms. Regardless of the cross Atlantic sentiments of today, during WWI, the French were more than happy to have as much help as the United States was prepared to provide.
What we do know is that a majority of the weapons made were sold after WWI to the American public through the DCM, the predecessor of the CMP. The ones that did make it to France were serialized upon inspection. What sketchy information does exist seems to indicate a maximum of perhaps 9,000 to 10,000 rifles that were actually received by the French Military are believed to have been inspected and rejected by the French. The rejected rifles were then reportedly sent to one of the French arsenals (reportedly MAC) where they were reworked. after which they were placed in stores as reserve weapons. An extremely small number of rifles were accepted and marked with French serial numbers have surfaced. The example in a collection bears an "E" serial number in the 6,000 range. This rifle, along with other serialized examples examined in Europe, would seem to support the numbers quoted in French sources.
Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"
Vive le Pinard !
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Thank you to barbossa for his book referance and assistance on the 1891 carbine. I finally purchased a frank De Hass book which was suggested by barbossa and the info contained within the books exploaded view was of great assistance. thank you again , fireminer.
Merci beaucoup M. 1886Lebel, et WOW!
I remember examining one of the carbines at the old Hunter's Haven at Zero Prince Street in Alexandria, Virginia, a few years ago. It is funny what you remember about things and the particularly elegant lettering is what I remember the most. The father of one of my co-workers here was a French colonial soldier in WWII from Senegal and may have even used one of them.
The same place had a few French 25mm anti-tank guns on hand that had probably been there for thirty years or more. One morning while waiting for the store to open I notice that one of the guns had an inscription of a date just a month or so before the invasion of France in 1940. I thought that would make an interesting rubbing and decided to do that the next time I came by. But by the time of my next visit they had been sold after sitting there for half a lifetime.
Bonjour 1886Lebel (un compatriote peut-être ?),
Merci pour cette brillante étude et ces belles photos.
Un dossier plus complet que ceux que l'on peut trouver sur beaucoup de sites Français.
Un cordial salut d'un Français de Picardie
Vive la France
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its so amazing pics....i like it