Berthier rifle

Infobox Weapon
name= Berthier rifle

caption= fusil mle 1907-15
origin= flagcountry|France
type= Bolt-action rifle
wars= World War I, Rif War (1920), World War II, First Indochina War, Algerian War of Independence
cartridge= 8 x 50R mm
action= Bolt-action
velocity= 1,950 ft/s (594.51 m/s)
feed= 3-round magazine,
clip fed

The Berthier rifles were a family of full length bolt-action rifles in 8mm Lebel used in the French Army from the early 20th century to the beginning of World War II (1940). Moreover, due to their small size, the Berthier carbines ( Mle 1890M16 and 1892M16 ) did survive in some French law enforcement units ( e.g. the "CRS" ) until the 1970's.

Developed from the cavalry and artillery carbines issued in 1890-92, known as the "mousquetons Berthier", two full length Berthier rifles had already been introduced before World War I. They were the "fusil mle 1902" ("rifle, model of 1902") and "fusil mle 1907" which were issued to Indochinese and Senegalese Tirailleur troops. Like their shorter carbine counterparts, these Berthier rifles also used a Mannlicher-type 3-round clip and 8 mm Lebel ammunition. They were made in small numbers (altogether about 5,000 rifles) by the Manufacture d'Armes de Châtellerault).

During World War I, a modified version of the "mle" 1907 rifle called "fusil mle 1907-15" was mass produced and issued to colonial troops and to some allies (e.g. Russian Legion in France, American Expeditionary Force African-American regiments detached to the French Army). It was also issued to some French regular infantry units after 1916 in order to bring relief to an endemic shortage of the Lebel rifle. Both the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne and the MAC were the principal state contractors for the mle 1907-15 rifle. Remington UMC also took on a large order of mle 1907-15 rifles. Although very well finished, the Remington mle 1907-15s were incompletely accepted by the French Government which invoked barrel rifling accuracy problems near the end of the production run. French civilian contractors (Delaunay-Belleville and Continsouza) also participated in the manufacture of the mle 1907-15 rifle. In general, infantrymen found the small magazine capacity of the Berthier mle 1907-15 to be problematic, which led to the introduction of a 5-round Berthier rifle. It was designated "fusil mle 1916" although the mle 1916 rifle only appeared in numbers on the front lines in mid 1918.

After World War I, the French military sought to replace the 8 mm Lebel ammunition which was poorly suited to large-capacity rifle magazines and to automatic or semi-automatic weapons. The barrel lengths of the Lebel/Berthier rifles (80 centimeters) were about the same as the barrel lengths present on the WW-1 German Gewehr 98 infantry rifles (74 centimeters). In both the French and German infantry rifles, these barrel lengths had been designed to extend the reach of bayonets not to marginally increase muzzle velocities. The experiences of WW-1 demonstrated that the casualties inflicted by bayonets amounted to less than 1% of the overall casualties suffered by both sides. Consequently Germany, France, Russia, Italy and Switzerland adopted shorter infantry rifles during the post-war years. After considerable delay the modern 7.5 mm mle 1929 rimless ammunition was finally introduced for the FM 24/29 light machine gun. Berthier rifles were converted ("fusil mle 1907-15 M34") or newly manufactured ("fusil mle 1934") to make use of the new round. However, the French Army finally adopted the MAS-36 as its new standard bolt-action rifle. Hence the production of converted 7.5 mm Berthier rifles was limited to approximately 40,000 units only.

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