MAS-36 LG48: A Grenade Launcher for the Bolt Action Infantry

Once it became apparent that the MAS-36 was going to be used in a substantial amount of frontline combat (to the contrary of its intended role as a reserve or secondary rifle), it became important to provide it with grenade launching capability. The French military really liked rifle grenades as a way to have explosive support firepower always available with the frontline infantry, without needing to call for specialized units like mortar crews.

After various experiments with clamp-on launchers (like and including the WW1 VB launcher), the LG48 (lance grenade, or grenade throwing) rifle was adopted in 1948. It used the same basic projectile as the Mle 1937 50mm light mortar, but with a new tail assembly fitted which allowed it to slide over the muzzle of a MAS-36 rifle. The LG48 rifle was essentially just a MAS-36 with a new nosecap assembly which included a simple grenade sight and a range-setting adjustable sleeve over the barrel.

The LG48 pattern rifles were made both brand new in the St Etienne factory and also supplied as conversion kits to be applied in the field. Neither type ever received new or special markings to identify their grenade launching status. The Mle 1948 grenades and the LG48 rifles were declared obsolete in 1968, as the French had switched to the NATO standard type of rifle grenades in the early 1950s. In 1968 the existing rifles were ordered to be retrofitted back to standard MAS-36 pattern, and their lack of special markings makes those retrofitted rifles virtually indistinguishable from original MAS-36 rifles. The surviving examples, like the one in this video, are almost all from nations which received the rifles as military aid from France and were not subject tot he French retrofitting order (this particular rifle was imported as part of a batch from Lebanon in the 1990s).

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14 Comments

  1. And nobody considered the issue of over-stressing the barrel or stock. As fun as it would be to have the entire platoon play grenade spam with the other team serving as the intended victims, this may provoke retaliation by proper mortar fire or heavy artillery, to say nothing of annoying a medium tank with a very trigger-happy gunner…

    • “say nothing of annoying a medium tank with a very trigger-happy gunner”
      I am not sure about that particular modern, but generally grenade-launcher rifles can be used together with HEAT projectiles giving armor-piercing ability.
      Korean War-era Belgian-made ENERGA: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ENERGA_anti-tank_rifle_grenade
      or using official name Anti-tank Grenade, No. 94 (ENERGA)
      it has ability to penetrate 200 mm armor, so it should be enough against non-heavy tank of that period.

      • As Ian Hogg related in Grenades and Mortars

        https://www.amazon.com/Grenades-Mortars-Weapons-Book-no/dp/0345237234

        The problems with grenade launching from a rifle are twofold.

        First, a rodded grenade causes a gas “check” pressure peak where its rod ends inside the barrel when it’s fired. This inevitably results in a ring-bulge in the barrel, and sooner or later the barrel will split open or even burst at that point. The cure for this is the discharger cup, or else the grenade launcher with a grenade tail that fits over the outside, much like a spigot mortar. The gas “check” then occurs at the muzzle, where it does no harm to the barrel.

        The other problem is more insoluble. The mass of a grenade is many times the mass of even the heaviest bullet. As per Newton’s Third law of Motion, firing the heavy weight of a grenade one way causes a proportionately heavy recoil the other way, much heavier than the rifle was originally designed for. This excessive force tends to split the stock, bend or break bedding-bolts, overstress and even fracture the receiver/barrel mate-up, and just generally batter the rifle to bits in relatively short order.

        During World War One, it was customary to reinforce the rifle’s stock and etc. with wire-wound bindings to prevent it from coming apart under this sort of mistreatment at least long enough to win the war. The British Army went so far as to have an officially-issued reinforced grenade launching version of the SMLE, called the EY rifle;

        http://www.empirearms.com/60828H.jpg

        As you can see from the inscription, this variant showed up in WW2 as well, still doing the same job, i.e., flinging No. 36M Mills Bombs into the enemy’s dugouts and etc.

        Incidentally, no one is quite sure what “EY” stood for originally, and the debate over its exact meaning continues to this day.

        Occasionally, these “reinforced” rifles show up in the shops and at gun shows. They make nice curios, but firing them with ball ammunition is not recommended. Their barrel and action bedding is a bit dicey, to say the least, less from the state of the barreled action than that of the stock.

        cheers

        eon

    • Yes. All French rifle grenades of the era required a separate blank cartridge. Later 22mm grenades had the cartridge stored in a plug in the base of the grenade (the plug was obviously discarded). The French did not adopt bullet trap rifle grenades until the late 1970’s with the introduction of the FAMAS.

  2. I have two questions:

    Did the soldier launching a grenade have to carry, and remember to load, a blank cartridge (I always guessed having grunts under stress forgetting, and firing a bullet through a grenade, was the reason rifle grenades were never common)?

    Did the Free French ever use the MAS 36? My understanding is that all French (and other Allied forces fighting with British or American forces) were equipped with either British or American weapons, or they were simply were not put in any front line.

    • But rifle grenades WERE very common… US used them until early ’60s and whole NATO used them much longer, British until about 2004-5-6 back, Germans until ’80s, Belgians still use them, Norvegians until ’90s etc. France still uses them and one of requirements for their new rifle was that it should be able to take a steady diet of RGs.
      Non-NATO Europe uses them also, Yugoslavia used NATO-standard 22mm launcher.
      Even in WP some countries used them – Albania, Poland and Hungary.
      Outside Europe India and Pakistan used them (India still uses them) as did South Korea and Israel. Plus many many more.

      • Modern rifle grenades with 22mm tail booms for 5.56 x 45mm rifles often come in “regular” and “bullet trap” versions. The regular version must be fired with a special blank cartridge.

        The “bullet trap” type has a resilient “plug” or “cushion” in a special hardened steel “socket” inside the tail to stop the bullet from going through the grenade’s filling (and probably setting it off). Instead, the bullet’s kinetic energy is used to throw the grenade downrange, rather like “knocking away” a ball in croquet.

        Bullet trap grenades in NATO service customarily have the letters “BT” in their designation. Note that generally, the BT version of any rifle grenade will have about 15-20% less effective range than the blank-fired version.

        And NB; Confusing the two types can be extremely unhealthy for the operator.

        cheers

        eon

  3. I’ve been watching the Burns and Novick film “The Vietnam War” and it includes a lot of footage from the early days (1958 and on) and there are several clips/stills where you can see rifle grenades on various rifles including M-1 Garands (which were used extensively by the ARVN and then captured and used by the NLF) and various bolt-action rifles. (B y the way you can watch it in english, spanish, or vietnamese http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war/home/)

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