Calibre/Item: Featured Article
Licence Number: Informative Article Only
Comment: The MAS Modèle 36 was a military bolt action rifle. First adopted in 1936 by France and intended to replace the Berthier and Lebel series of service rifles, it saw service long past the World War II period. It was manufactured by Manufacture d`Armes de Saint-Étienne (MAS), one of several government-owned arms factories in France. Because production was initiated late in 1937, not enough MAS-36 rifles were available to arm French infantry when the war broke out in September 1939. Mass production finally caught up after World War II and MAS-36 rifles became widely used in service during the First Indochina War, the Algerian War and the Suez Crisis. Altogether, about 1.1 million MAS-36 rifles had been manufactured when production ceased in 1952.
The MAS-36 is a short, carbine-style rifle with a two-piece stock and slab-sided receiver. It is chambered for the modern, rimless 7.5×54mm French cartridge, a shortened version of the 7.5×57mm MAS mod. 1924 cartridge that had been introduced in 1924 (then modified in 1929), for France`s FM 24/29 light machine gun. The rifle was developed based on French experience in World War I and combines various features of other rifles used, like the British SMLE rifle (rear locking lugs resistant to dirt), the US M1917 Enfield rifle (turned down bolt, peep sight), and the German Mauser (five-round box-magazine), to produce an "ugly, roughly made, but immensely strong and reliable" service rifle.
The MAS-36 bolt handle was bent forward in an "awkward fashion" to bring it into a convenient position for the soldier`s hand, some of which found today have since been bent backwards into a facing-downwards position like that of many other bolt-action rifles. The MAS-36 had a relatively short barrel and was fitted with large aperture (rear) and post (front) sights designed for typical combat ranges. Typical for French rifles of the period, the MAS-36 had no manual safety. It was normally carried with a loaded magazine and empty chamber until the soldier was engaged in combat, though the rifle`s firing mechanism could be blocked by raising the bolt handle. The MAS-36 carried a 17-inch spike bayonet, reversed in a tube below the barrel. To use the bayonet, a spring plunger was pressed to release the bayonet. It was then free to be pulled out, turned around, and fitted back into its receptacle.
Though intended to replace the Lebel Model 1886 and Berthier rifles as well as Berthier carbines, budget constraints limited MAS-36 production, and it served along with the former rifles in many French army and colonial units. During World War II, the MAS-36 was often reserved for front-line infantry units, with other troops and reservists often receiving elderly Berthier and Lebel-type rifles. After the Battle of France, the Germans took over a large number of MAS-36s, which were given the designation Gewehr 242 and put into service with their own garrison units based in occupied France and later the Volkssturm.
The MAS-36 was extensively used by French Army and colonial defense forces during France`s postwar counter-insurgency operations in the First Indochina War and the Algerian War, as well as in the Suez Crisis. During the Suez Crisis, French paratroop marksmen of the 2ème RPC (Régiment de Parachutistes Coloniaux), employed telescope-sighted MAS-36 rifles to eliminate enemy snipers. The MAS-36 remained in service into the early 1960s as an infantry rifle, often serving with indigenous colonial units. It was officially a substitute-standard rifle after France adopted the semi-automatic MAS-49 rifle series in 1949, though its bolt design lives on in a dedicated sniper version of the rifle, the FR F1 (now chambered in 7.62×51mm NATO) and its successor the FR F2 sniper rifle.
After the war, civilian hunting rifle versions were made by MAS and by the gunsmith Jean Fournier. These half-stocked rifles were chambered for the 7×54mm Fournier (common, 7.5x54mm necked down to 7mm), 7×57mm Mauser (very rare), 8×60mm S (less common), and 10.75×68mm (rare). Hunting rifles in the two latter calibers had integral muzzle brakes. Also imported into the United States were a few military surplus MAS-36 rifles, converted to 7.62×51mm NATO from 7.5×54mm. These rifles were modified to chamber the NATO round and also had an SKS type trigger safety fitted to them.