The Chauchat: Shooting, History, and Tactics (Video)

I hope everyone had a successful weekend with the Rock Island auction that just ended! For those of you who still have some money left, there is a James D. Julia auction coming up in a couple weeks with a whole bunch more very cool guns. Today marks the first of a series of videos I filmed there, and I figured that some live fire with a Chauchat would be a great way to kick off the series!

The M1915 CSRG, commonly called the Chauchat after its primary designer (Colonel Louis Chauchat), has a reputation as the worst gun ever put into military service. That reputation, however, is not deserved. It was not a great weapon, but it was a very serviceable gun for its day. The French needed a light automatic rifle right now, and needed it in large numbers. The Chauchat answered that call, and was used to great effect by many French soldiers.

The Chauchat’s poor reputation comes from a couple places, some justified and some not. First off, many US troops trained on M1918 Chauchats built in .30-06, which were poorly made and pretty darn bad guns. They were replaced by 8mm Lebel guns before going into combat, but the bad experiences of training stuck with many Americans. The biggest mechanical flaw in the Chauchat was its magazine. All automatic weapons are heavily dependent on good magazines, and the Chauchat used a magazine that was made of thin metal, easily damaged, and open on the sides for dirt and mud to enter. If the magazines were not treated well, the gun would become hopelessly useless.

In addition, many of the Chauchat guns in the United States today were deactivated at one time, and often badly reactivated. This has nothing to do with their original reliability, but it does a lot to perpetuate their reputation. This particular example at James D. Julia is an original gun that does not appear to have ever been deactivated, and it ran flawlessly for me. It will be an excellent example for someone who can appreciate it!

75 Comments

  1. I recall reading an account of US troops being issued the Chauchat and that there were recurring problems with the extractor breaking…they were issued spare extractors, to be carried in their ‘musette’ [sic?] bags, for when the extractor broke…

  2. When I was a lad there was a WWI bring back Chauchat on permanent display in a glass case in Barton Hall at Cornell University, it being the ROTC Drill Hall. I recall seeing photos of the Chauchat in use during the early 90’s in the war in ” former Yugoslavia “.

    • Do you have any photos? I have seen Lewis (taken in naval depot in Split, stored there since retirement of Vosper landing crafts in ’50s) used by Croats, but never a Chauchat – those were not even in 1948. infantry weapons listing , since most were given to Greek communists and Albania in 1947…

      • Re: Barton Hall. Alas & Alack I have no photos. don’t even know if it’s still there, last time I saw it was 1973. I do have a photo of the 40MM Boffors in front of the Ithaca VFW I took 5 years ago. I used to play on it as a child. I was shocked to note the flash hider had rusted away in the intervening 55 years.

  3. Excellent Expose’ on the Fusil-Mitrailleur CSRG Mle.1915.

    What you did not mention, was that the wastage of Magazines was such that at one point in 1917, they were making 10,000 magazines per week.
    ( “Honour Bound” Collector Grade Publications)

    There was also a short piece of “Walking Fire” ( left foot down, one shot) which was not fully explained.

    The other scenes and takes were excellent for a Training Video, especially “le Gifle” (“the Slap”) to the cheek by the recoil if the face is not well positioned, and the grip firm.

    Whilst Belgium converted them to 7,65mm ( Mle 1915/2?) the Poles converted them to 7,9mm (Kmk 15/27) until they adopted the FN BAR in 1928. They then sold the 7,9CSRGs ( and some 8mm Lebel ones) to Greece, where some were used through out the Resistance and the following Civil War. Naturally, both the Belgian and POlish conversions resolved all the Problems ( Thicker-walled, closed mags, and wider Barrel to Jacket tolerances, and a sturdier Bipod.

    The Major Problem with the M1918 Machine Rifle, was that the reamers for the .30/06 chamber were undersized, and so the chambers were very tight, even to not admitting a cartridge to full battery…If the Barrel is properly reamed with a true to spec. Reamer, the Problem is solved ( Several NFA M1918s have been “revised” in this way, and work well with .30 cal. M2 ammo ( equivalent of WWI M1906 cartridge.)

    MY problem is I need at least TWO CSRGs for Movie Work (WW I) and we can’t import them, Permanently…but we Could Make them here Down Under. Has anybody got any designs in Metric (French) or Inch(US) of the CSRG, to be able to construct one here? ( we are Licensed to Manufacture).

    Doc AV
    AV Ballistics Film ordnance Services
    Brisbane–Australia. info@avballistics.com.au

    • Nope, Doc, there were no Polish 7.9 mm Chauchats, and “Kmk 15/27” means nothing in Polish. Our nomenclature for Chauchat and other machine rifles was “rÄ™czny karabin maszynowy” (literally “Hand-held machine gun” and the abbreviation was “rkm”, then goes “wzĂłr” (pattern of), abbreviated to “wz.” and only then numerals. And so the Chauchat was an “rkm wz.15”, only ever used and recorded as a weapon chambered in 8 mm French. There were 1998 of these reported in the Army’s inventory in 1922 and the number rose steadily until 1925, when a zenith of 9123 was reached. In 1924 the 7.9 mm x 57 was chosen as Polish Army’s standard round with Mauser 98 standardized as the Polish Army rifle of choice, while weapons chambered in 8 mm French were designated Substitute Standard, to be replaced with 7.9 mm weapons when and if practicable. All other rifle calibers were declared obsolete and were to be replaced at once. After the fiasco of the ckm wz.25 Hotchkiss MGs ordered from France in 7.9 mm, there was an official ban on conversion projects in the Army – the only conversion project that ever found traction was the Mosin wz.91/98/2x (24, 25 and 26), or conversion of the ex-Russian rifles to the Mauser caliber and furniture – but even these were quickly phased out by the Polish-manufactured Mauser 98AZ clones, and then by Polish-designed wz.29 short rifles, with 7.9 mm Mosins handed over from the horse artillery (the only military branch that used them) to the Border Guards and the State Police. Anyway, in 1928 the BAR was chosen as a new LMG (rkm), and the Chauchats were phased out into obsolescence and the storage. Then in 1936 5000 were sold to “Mexico” – while in reality they were sold to the Republican Spain. Then in 1937 the rest of the shootable Chauchats, 3651 in total, were sold to “Greece” – meaning probably to Spain as well. But none of that were in 7.9 mm, because there were NO conversion programs implemented in the Polish Army. There were only two attempts, ever, at converting anything automatic, one foreign (7.9 mm Hotchkiss Mle 14, aka ckm wz.25) and one domestic (Lewis aircraft machine guns converted to 7.9 of which only less than 100 were ever made. Both were failures, and both were made good by replacement with other guns: Lewis being replaced with Vickers E and F guns, while the ckm wz.25 Hotchkiss with ckm wz.30 water-cooled Brownings.

    • The book “Automatic Arms” by Melvin Johnson and Charles Haven (pub. William Morrow and Co., New York 1941) has several big fold-out plans and cutaways at the back. One of these is for the Chauchat — probably the 8mm Lebel version, given the highly-curved magazine. It’s not dimensioned, and just a cutaway; but clearly made by a draftsman, and presumably dimensionally correct in relations.

      (Melvin Johnson is the man behind the Johnson Rifle and Johnson LMG. I had a chance to see a Johnson LMG at a gun show recently; boy howdy the magazine looked complicated!)

      Best I can suggest, sorry …

  4. So James D. Julia Auction House would happily let you fire it but not take it down to show the action?? Oh well; still a great video!

    • I decided not to do a full teardown because I was more interested in the history and shooting and I didn’t want the video to wind up at 40 minutes long. I’ll do a teardown on another one later.

  5. “Myth: busted!”

    A very highly informative video on the much-maligned CSRG automatic rifle, Ian!
    Thanks very much for the research and effort!
    I particularly agree with your comment that the CSRG–Chauchat should be understood as the “Sten(ch) gun” of the First World War. Those flimsy, tinny, magazines with the muck, mud and sludge of trenches and no-man’s land would be a real disaster. On the other hand, those big leather belt scabbards for the magazines worn on the gunner–and the assistant gunner too?–would keep them fairly covered. I imagine that in practice the muddy mag was ditched ASAP.

    Can any of the more experienced, learned firearm cogniscenti think of a firearm *before* the CSRG–Chauchat that was designed to be made so cheaply? Absent any prior design, I’d think the Chauchat is a “first” in that regard as well as in the category of a first automatic rifle to actually be fielded.

    • I believe the CSRG was the first gun mass-produced by the stamping processes that figures so prominently later on. By comparison, the Bergmann Muskete aka MP18 had quite a lot of machined components; the only serious “stamping” production the German army did, weapons-wise, was for “rapid production” bayonets for the 98 Mauser, beginning around the middle of 1914;

      http://www.old-smithy.info/bayonets/HTNL%20DOCUMNETS/German%20Ersatz.htm

      It’s worth noting that in the 1920s, the French Air Force had the Darne MG in 7.5mm, made by the same company that’s more famous for their side-by-side shotguns, built by the same rapid-production methods as the CSRG but looking more like an MAG or VGO, with a belt-feed. Very light in weight for its caliber due to the use of stampings, it was intended as an aircraft observer’s flexible gun, and would seem to have had potential as a bipod-mounted infantry gun, but apparently this was never considered.

      Most of the CSRG’s problems were due to cartridge selection. The 8mm Lebel round is even crankier to feed through any sort of magazine than the 0.303in Enfield, and the .30-06 is very nearly a Magnum round that is not too tolerant of deficiencies in things like chamber dimensions.

      Oddly enough, the French had a round at the time that would probably have solved most if not all of the problems, the rimless 6.5mm Daudeteau, but it only saw limited use with the French Navy. IIRC, it most closely approximated the 6.5 x 53 (Greek) Mannlicher, which puts it in the same general class as the 6.5mm Arisaka or Mannlicher-Carcano. It was certainly powerful enough for the job, and would have been a good deal easier for the CSRG’s feed system to cope with.

      As for the shape of the receiver and the buffer in the shooter’s face, the Johnson M1941 LMG had a similar setup, and there were few complaints about it.

      Both guns proved that a recoil-operated LMG was a workable idea. It’s interesting to note that the Germans were the ones who took notice of this, especially with the CSRG, and ended up fighting the next war mostly with recoil-operated GPMGs, the MG34 and MG42.

      cheers

      eon

      • I think I have already mentioned this in a much earlier post ( when a lot of us on FW were having a discussion about aircraft guns in general, spurred by Ian’s posting of an article on Ilyushin bomber flexible armament from the inter-war years — I believe the Ilyushin ANT-4 / TB-1 and ANT-6 / TB-3 were the specific types that got the ball rolling ), but the Darne 7.9mm aircraft MG was also a reliable and functional weapon that fulfilled its intended role quite well. It may have looked cheap and unrefined externally, but it was actually mechanically sound and well-made where it really mattered.

  6. Ian, a wonderful job as ever. I’ve also had a lot of misconceptions about the Chauchat when I was first offered a place behind it by Bob Farris during my unforgettable visit to his place with Dolf Goldsmith in January 2000. Nice that we agree on the overall evaluation.
    Two corrections, though. First, it freezes after about a 100 rds in quick succession – just 5 magazines of fun with no malfunctions, and then a sudden silence. We unloaded, put it aside, started firing other guns, and then after say 10 minutes we heard a loud KAZZZONKKK as the CRDG’s bbl returned to battery. 20 minutes later the rest of our stash of 8 mm Lebel ammo went through with no ill effects whatever. The assistant gunner only carried one 10 magazine box (200 rds) and two pouches with 4 mags (80 additional rounds)with him, so firing 300 rds to heat-freeze it would be kinda hard to make.
    Second correction: Mr Huon is wrong in his Chauchat book (Honour Bound), Poland had never converted any Chauchats into 7.9 mm, though we used several thousand of them (in 8 mm Lebel) until the Polish wz.28 BAR phased them out from the first line units in early 1930s. The 7.65 mm rework was Belgian only, but Germans were converting CRDG to 7.9 mm even during the WW1. There was a photo of a Chauchat with peculiar straight banana magazine equipped with a sort of triangular strut or brace in front, to be secured the way the French semi-circular magazine fitted the receiver. It was published in the 1926 German GPK book of Maschinengewehren). I have handled (and made photos of) a single-file magazine which looked exactly like the fine-ribbed American ones, but was too short to fit the .30-06 inside, but fit the 7.9 mm perfectly and was stamped with Cyrillic characters on the bottom, which would make them Yugoslav IMHO.

    • Yugoslavian Chauchats were made by FN and were in 7.92x57mm I type, round nosed Mauser round due the large amount of those captured from Austro-Hungary and Bulgaria.
      They were in reserves since about 1933 and introduction of ZB-26 (and later ZB-30 LMG), but saw widespread service in WW2 on all sides, including German 3rd rate units. Where did they get I type ammo IDK, possibly they used IS pointed type.

      Post war they are not in 1948. infantry arms listing, since most servicable were sent to Greek communists and Albania in about 1947.
      One was recaptured in late 1950s in border incident on Albanian-Yugoslav border.

  7. It is frequent to hear these kind of complaints about the Chauchat. In France, many say the same things as seems to be told in USA : worst gun ever, doesn’t function good enough to shoot an entire clip without jams, etc.
    In fact it surely was not the best gun ever produced, but it worked.
    One frequent claim is that, being planned to be assembled (and even build, for some parts of the gun) in any workshop with minimal equipment (no more than a welding machine), the guns were not really “mass production” industrial guns and, then, parts were not interchangeable. Which is not totally true or false, juste greatly exagereted.

    It’s the same kind of unfair complaints the Beretta 92FS suffers in the USA : the large majority of soldiers in USA, for what can be heard on the internet, dislike the Beretta 92FS (in fact the M9. I’m not used to call it by this designation) because it is an inaccurate, unreliable, underpowered pistol prone to jam and break, etc.
    In Europe and particularly in France, were Beretta 92F and G (not 92FS – which is the M9) were mass produced under license with high standard of quality, the Beretta 92 is greatly appreciated for its strength, especially since the “G1S” upgrade (the “anti slide breakage” security and the reinforced slide, known in France as the “G1S uppgrade” and now made on every beretta pistols, were MAS’s improvements, and not Beretta’s ones contrary to what many people think).
    It’s a gun known here for being capable of using any ammunition whitout jamming or parts breakage (and remember 9 mm parabellum in Europe are frequently overloaded compared to US standard, the standard loads being around 620 to 700 jouls and sporting or malitary loads frequently exceeding 720 jouls. For exemple, the current French army round is more than 700 jouls, compared to the 540 jouls of the USA’s M882 – Though I don’t know if this loading is still used by the US military) even if the gun has not been cleaned a single time, being relatively accurate (especially the PAMAS G1 of the French army, which is more tightly fitted than the Beretta’s ones), being very sutrdy, etc, etc.

    The truth is, berettas are objectively very good guns. Maybe the best 9 mm combat pistol of its generation on par with the CZ75. But in the US army, M9 are old guns that lived tens of thousand rounds and are totally worn out : complaints about them are not against Beretta 92FS themselves, they are against old and worn guns that need to be changed. And US military Berettas objectively need to be changed.

    Chauchat was the target of the same kind of complaints : they were contextual complaints, not representative of the reality and overly exagereted by people that used their guns in combat and, therefore, couldn’t afford to have an approximately working gun.

    • To a great extent, the slide breakage problem on early U.S. issue M9s can be traced to the SEAL teams, who persisted in using IMI “Uzi Carbine” 9 x 19mm ammunition in their M9s. The slides began to show cracks around the locking pieces at around 7-8,000 rounds, and failure (with the slide breaking at that point) at around 10-11,000 rounds.

      Considering that the box clearly states NOT TO BE USED IN PISTOLS (pressure-wise, the Uzi Carbine counts as a “+P++” round with mid-level .357 Magnum ballistics and pressures), I think it’s a tribute to the brute strength of the M9s that they stood up to that sort of abuse as long as they did.

      cheers

      eon

  8. Ian:
    I enjoyed your presentation on the Chauchat. I knew about these guns and their use in WWI but your article has enlightened me on them. What was the reason for the offset sights? It looks to me like they had no reason to offset them such as on the Bren Gun where the mag fed in from the top.

    Kerwin

  9. Excellent video Ian!!

    Do you know if the M1915 ever saw service with the French air force in the early part of the war? It seems I remember reading years ago about possible use of the Chauchat in aircraft in the early days.

    • It was not the CRDG Mle 1915, but the earlier model, 1913, with top mounted magazine. Czech Military Museum in Prague has got TWO of these.

      • Leszek: Have I bought a wooden stock for my Lebel from you? Great work. As for the 1913’s were these MG’s part of maybe an Austro-Hungarian purchase evaluation or were they perhaps part of some license production run for the Austro-Hungarian Army that has heretofore not been documented?
        A lot of folks don’t realize the extent the Germans used Madsen light machine guns for auxiliary use and I was wondering if the Austro-Hungarian Empire used them or perhaps license built 1913’s?

    • The poor old Chauchat was designed for Aircraft use so an open magazine wouldn’t nearly be such a big issue. Basically not a bad design forced into a role it was never intended for by circumstances beyond its control.
      A basic design that worked reasonably well probably also plagued but so so manufacturing processes.

  10. “First off, many US troops trained on M1918 Chauchats built in .30-06, which were poorly made and pretty darn bad guns. They were replaced by 8mm Lebel guns before going into combat, but the bad experiences of training stuck with many Americans. The biggest mechanical flaw in the Chauchat was its magazine. All automatic weapons are heavily dependent on good magazines, and the Chauchat used a magazine that was made of thin metal, easily damaged, and open on the sides for dirt and mud to enter.”
    So far I know Chauchats low reliability was caused by:
    – low production quality
    – during heavy fire barrel expanded due to heat and jammed

  11. Great video.

    Reputations must always be evaluated in context. It seems people think of “.45 ACP as best” or “pump shotgun as best” at least in part because in, say, 1918 trench raids, they may have been best….

    Does 240rpm of a battlefield cartridge in a 21# gun set the firepower for weight record for the time?

    I know that I (a 50 something) can run with a 20# object (do it in some sports) so it’s credible that a 2 man team could move with the Chauchat at the speed of infantry. Surely the multi-man teams with the 100# HMGs where much harder to move, no?

    As for the open magazine – an obvious mistake now 100 years later. But the very worst of the mud, the entire offensives drowned in rain and mud, haven’t happened yet in 1915. (It was clearly horrid, but amazingly it would be become more horrid….)

  12. It does look like it jars you around a bit, I think it was being fired semi automatically in the walking fire scene possibly as a consequence. There’s a Darne machine gun- French, model 1918 on this website which has an unusual belt feed mechanism. The Chauchats layout via it’s long recoil operation might enable you to incorporate that belt mechanism into this layout, giving you clean lines if you… A lack of bulk etc. There’s a picture of American soldiers with Chauchats on the link, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chauchat
    along with the usual unflattering description.

  13. Thank you to Julia auction house for allowing you to shoot the this gun. It is my bet that the gun will sell for far more than the estimate. People may assume Wrongly that it is the the only Chauchat that works and want Pay more to have it on that assumption.

    • Are those actually Germans? Or are they doughboys clowning around/ mugging for the camera with captured German trench armor, CSRG automatic rifles, and a captured Mauser AT rifle?

      I ask because of the magazines… Are those the nefarious .30-06 training versions, or the front-strutted, crazy angle 7.92x57mm German magazines?

      • Ian’s earlier video on that German body armor explained that it was intended for heavy machine gunners and sentries. That seems like an unlikely pose for Germans, but a likely one for US soldier showing off their trophies. Something about the soldiers’ faces also seems more American than German to me… Maybe the lack of any mustaches, which seem pretty common in WWI German photos.

        • It says they are Americans with captured Chauchats actually, the chap above “in that link” said the Germans were keen on them for assault troops armour aside possibly…

  14. Protype 1912, cause the oribal order is for devlopment LMG for airplain (arial)

    * http://cs425931.vk.me/v425931682/2e98/PyIYOykTmOE.jpg
    * http://odkrywca.pl/forum_pics/picsforum25/p3336.jpg
    * http://www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/AerialChauchat.jpg
    * http://albindenis.free.fr/Site_escadrille/RGA/Bourget_Chauchat_Nieuport.jpg
    * http://albindenis.free.fr/Site_escadrille/Photos3/073_Mit_Corcieux.jpg
    * http://cs425931.vk.me/v425931682/2e98/PyIYOykTmOE.jpg

  15. Poor Chauchat! He wasn’t so bad after all. Okay, so supposing we changed the ammunition, the magazine design, and the overall quality of construction (and materials for good measure), could the Chauchat potentially get better performance and a better reputation? Incidentally, did I hear someone scream “Nicht schieĂźen!” across the field?

    Weapon of choice scenario:

    I hate being at war on a budget. Given a choice, what would you grab from the “bargain bin” to repel or perhaps defeat the drug cartel that somehow avoided getting captured by FBI? The “bargain bin” in question (along with the baddies) is close to your home, so feel free to grab stuff…

    1. Chauchat
    2. Knorr-Bremse kg m/40
    3. Sten
    4. PPS-43
    5. BĹ‚yskawica submachine gun
    6. Volksturmgewehr
    7. Type 99 “Last ditch” variant
    8. Northover Projector or Smith Gun
    9. Polish Ford FT-B armored cars with machineguns and grenades (don’t ask how I got these here)
    10. Get a weapon from your basement!!

    This is completely voluntary. You aren’t required to participate in playing sheriff if you would rather stay at home (and if so, please say so). Please keep any and all criticism of this post humane and free of foul language.

    Thank you,

    Cherndog

  16. Which Volkssturmgewehr? The VG-1, VG-2, or Barnitzke self-loader?

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Northover Projectors… Someday, I may try to contrive one. The Smith gun? direct fire 70mm mortar transportable by, oh, I don’t know, a Triumph or BSA motorcycle of sufficient power?

    As for the list, how ’bout a “poignard clou français,” a Svenska Automatvapen AB Kg m/1940 or Finn KP m/44 or a Sten Mk.I.

    • Technically, the first two you listed were bolt-action “volksgewehr” guns. I was referring to the semi-auto “VG 1-5.” I already listed the M/40 and the Sten, so feel free to bring the other two implements of war. At least I didn’t suggest using “bang sticks…”

  17. There are persistent reports that the CSRG showed up again in Indochina in the hands of the Viet Minh during the war of liberation from French Colonial rule, and also possibly even later in the employ of the Vietcong during the Vietnam War.

    Does anyone have more detailed historical information on this subject? It would be interesting to see if the Viet Minh and Vietcong, who were masters of practical improvisation and the underground field workshop, had come up with their own solutions to the CSRG’s biggest single problem, i.e., the fragile OEM magazine.

  18. I was just watching a program on the early Israel Air force (Above and Beyond on netflix) and it showed an Arab with a Chauchat in a group of other fighters in 1948. The French had their mandate in 1946 in Syria and Lebanon and although I was surprised to see it, I should not have been as the French had been there with the ousting of the Turks and the Syrians taking over old French stocks of weapons should not be surprising.

    The problem with the Chauchat mags was not the hole, it was the feed lips. It was requested that the feed lips be strengthened almost from the start, but the French never got around to it.

    If anyone has a beat up mag for my Chauchat parts kit dummy, I am looking for one. As it is static I could use even just the shell of one.

    • I went back to the documentary and found the first film clip at only 00:01:34 into the program with and Arab Chauchat gunner and a loader. I then saw another Chauchat, a captured one, obviously being played with (no magazine) by a couple of Israeli soldiers near the end of the documentary at 01:15:21. I can only presume these were used in the Syrian part of the war.
      So at least we have the Chauchat still being used in combat in 1948.

  19. Thanks Ian, a great job.

    It has moved the rifle, in my mind, from why didn’t they make it “the right way” to a better understanding of why they did it the way they did. I think that is something that we have to be careful of, of assuming that anything old and odd must have been a mistake. Sometimes it was, other times there was a really good reason for it.

    In the spirit of Earl’s question, were there any accounts (in any conflict using the rifle) of field modifications to magazines to better keep gunk out or to protect them from dents?

      • I don’t know about keeping gunk out of the magazines, but I looked up data from Eon’s mention of Belgian Chauchats, and of course the Belgians modified the magazines or made new ones to keep them dirt free.

        • @ Jacob Morgan & Cherndog :

          There is specific mention in Wikipedia’s posting about the CSRG under the “Improvements” chapter of improved, fully-enclosed, dirt-proof magazine prototypes being successfully tried out in May / June 1918, but which came too late to be introduced into general service, although the article does not indicate by whom.

          My question is this — were the improved magazines manufactured in any quantity after the war and issued to at least some lucky end users, or were they dropped and essentially forgotten in the post-war era with the advent of peace and disarmament?

          The Wikipedia write-up also does state that stronger open-sided magazines and protective canvas pouches had been introduced in late 1917 ( presumably as a stop-gap or partial solution to magazine-related issues ).

          At least as far as the OEM open-sided magazine design is concerned, it would appear that whatever ended up becoming available on the international market after the war would comprise a mixture of original and improved magazines.

          The Wikipedia article on the CSRG is well-presented and seems to be generally well-balanced and accurate, although it does state — wrongly, as it were, in the light of Leszek Erenfeicht’s revelations above — that the CSRG in Polish service was converted to 7.92mm x 57 Mauser. However, it does support the case of the success of the Belgian 7.65mm x 53 conversion along with unspecified improvements against mud and dust intrusion ( presumably, this is a reference to the improved Belgian magazines mentioned by Cherndog ).

          It would be really interesting to view a side-by-side comparison of the original thin-walled magazine, improved OEM-design magazine, and the improved Belgian magazine.

          There is only a somewhat vague one-line mention of the gun’s reported use in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War.

  20. That was utterly brilliant, thank you!
    It’s awesome to see real testing instead of the same myths repeated over and over again.
    Definitely going to have to get on patreon.

  21. Sorry Ian, I’ve got to put in w/ the original views. When I was very small we had an old timer where I live who used both the CRSG and the BAR (2nd Div.) in WW 1. He would go to great length about the ills of the “Sho Sho” (expletives deleted). He related that (as has Mr. Erenfeict) 100 rds were about as much as one could get out at any one time. Not enought for a skirmish, much less a sustained battle. My old timer also told me that, while they did get training on the right way to fire the sho, battlefield conditions didn’t often allow for it, so his cheeks were always scabbed up from firing in the wrong position. Couple that w/ the ever prevelant mud and gas meant for an infection he about didn’t get over. Bad magazines may have been the worst thing, but the grunt has to use what the grunt gets. I never knew what green division came up alongside the 2nd, but my old timer said the 2nd I.D. guys stole their BAR’s so fast that it made their heads spin.

    • Matt:
      Unless you can differentiate which Sho Sho the old timer actually used the old timers accounts are useless.

      The 1915 8mm Model like Ian is using (the 1915) or the 1918 .30-06? The Chauchat 1915 was issued to the first ten divisions including 2nd but the 2nd had a whole lot of Marine units with Lewis Guns. Later on replacement Chauchats were most likely the CSRG 1918. The Chauchat 1918 which was exclusively issued to US troops in large numbers when available in the late summer of 1918 was indeed miserable and near useless due to rushed design and manufacture by a separate factory. The Chauchat 1918 was a different “cat” in that it was not merely a rebarreled Chauchat 1915 but a new production weapon.

    • Actually I hope every HATES the Chauchat 1915 so maybe I can afford one one day.

      I have written my congressman and ATF about an amnesty for all WWI machine guns or better taking them out of Class III but ATF says they can’t do anything without Congress. I thought they could do at least the amnesty in honor of WWI vets.

      There are so many Chauchats and MG0815’s sitting around in museums that ought to be able to be registered at least.

    • I built up a “model” or “dummy” Chauchat 1915 from a demilled tube, and original stock and rear sight, with everything else built up from metal. The handle was easy, a wooden file handle was perfect. The only thing I think needs cosmetic improvement is the exposed part of the bolt and a better tripod, carved the knukcle from brass and it is not robust enough to allow the legs to rotate freely. Looks great on he wall and on display at events though.

      I have a friend with two original demilled Chauchats, but lacking bipods and he has only one magazine.
      Therefore I would like to find a decent all metal bipods, either replica or original for these three pieces, as well as a couple of magazines, even just the shells with out the springs would work.

      I have tried to get IMA to make replica Chauchat mags, either display or original but they say the demand is for working mags. With the shortage in the US, I am surprised that someone has not made these. I know there are some difficulties in importing individual mags to the US, but it is only an inconvenience and if a quantity were imported, it would not be a major problem.

  22. He was using the french version (8mm). The 2nd ID didn’t get the sho’s until they got to France. As far as which particular version, I couldn’t say (remember, I was very young, and just aproaching ‘gun nerd’ stage). I was a machine gunner myself, though, and whether it was 100 rds, or 300 rds, an jam that the only immediate action for which is leaving the gun to cool for 10 minutes somewhat negates the weapons purpose.

  23. I think the US bought new Chauchat 1915’s for the first ten divisions but they had a problem with the ammo for both the Chauchats and the Hotchkiss guns as they were using US manufactured 8mm rounds that had a different powder than the French rounds so there were reliability issues until the problem was solved. This was the first ten divisions. Also the US troops did not receive the intensive training that the French troops had in using the Chauchats.
    The next 12 Divisons that came in midsummer were equipped with Colt-Vickers MG’s and Chauchat 1918’s both in 30-06. The next divisions that started coming around late summer were to be issued all Brownings but there was a delay in deliveries partially due to the divisons not being set up yet to receive the Brownings as it was not just bringing in the guns, but organizing the logistics of support units in the divisions. I believe and many were issued Colt-Vickers Guns and Chauchat 1918’s. It is now becoming appreciated that the Brownings saw significant use by the new divisions in September-Nov 11, the earlier divisions using what they were issued with .
    It is not hard to speculate that even the first ten divisions must have received replacement Chauchats as they often received replacement troops (I think the 4th Division was used as a source of replacements to the other Divisions initially) as the need arose with the Chauchat 1918 Models which could use the standard US ammo while still keeping the 1915’s that were not used up. Broken Chauchats tended to be discarded even in the French Army who was more experienced and better trained with Chauchats, it wasn’t a great weapon even the 1915 model and battlefield attrition was great. And lesser trained US troops had more issues with Chauchats which did best with developed tactics.
    The US presence in the last five months of the war was if not chaotic, very busy with organization and getting the support infrastructure set up so records are tough to come by. It had to be rush, rush, rush so we probably will not know the whole picture. And not all the units in the Divisions saw the same actions and many units never fought at all.
    We know that a lot of Doughboys brought their Chauchats home in their duffle bags. Most of these were the 1915 model, and very few Model 1918’s are know to have been brought back, that speaks volumes for the opinion of the US soldiers for the two similar but not identical weapons.
    So its a tale of very different Sho Sho’s, and while the 1915 was at least a usuable weapon the 1918 model with it’s box magazine and differently placed front grip was a disaster…a disaster that might have been prevented had the errors not been made in the chamber lenghtth and in polishing.

  24. …and I’ll end my comments with a thank you to Ian and a belated tribute to the Chauchat. Ian is spot on with how advanced the gun was for 1915. Thanks to Ian in particular, and thank you to Hoodoo for his detailed response.

  25. Hi, I enjoyed your video on shooting the Chauchat [“Show Shaw”] very much, altho’ I wish you’d used the correct pronunciation of the name at least once instead of the U.S. doughboy colloquialism “ShoSho” throughout. I appreciate that you showed the correct firing position to avoid “Le Gifle” [“the slap”]; that was a real neat touch! One thing that may help to understand the success of this design in French hands vs. the miserable reputation from U.S. experience is that the French forces trained their fire teams employing this machine-rifle for a specific task, and did not really use it as a light machine gun [which its contemporary the Lewis gun truly was,] that task being to particularly hunt down the Boche [“heavy” in the parlance of the times, Maxim] machine guns, of which the Kaiser’s forces had an overwhelming majority. For more on this aspect of the Great War, I suggest reading MacBride’s _The Emma Gees_, which elaborates on the British experience of the use of machine guns in trench warfare, both of the heavy tripod mounted guns used in indirect fire and the lighter Lewis guns used to dispatch opposing heavies. At any rate, in French use, 2 [or more] fire teams w/ CSRGs would be despatched to take out a heavy, and leap-frogging one another wouldn’t require more than one or two magazines be fired in rapid succession before the gun would have time to cool down as they were running forward while the other team fired. At least, that’s the story as depicted in the (translated) French training manuals. Who would have thought it, the French codifying & employing advanced tactical practices? So much for all the “surrender monkey” stereotypes that idiots constantly spout on the ‘net… ::)

    • The miserable experience of Americans with the Chauchat was the C.S.R.G. 1918 not the C.S.R.G 1915 which saw sufficient success to cause the US to stub it’s toe trying to have made a .30/06 “version” too fast with a new manufacturer.
      The US had this problem with a rushed just before the war variant of the Colt M1895 digge. . The Navy, who liked the digger, wanted one without the reciprocating lever. The MG’s were designed and made quickly as the Navy was expanding rapidly in 1917 and needed them NOW but it was found out that the new style digger was designed around Frankford Arsenal ammunition only and allowance was not made for Springfield ammunition, at that time no one realized the ammo’s powder had what was probably a different pressure curve although you could not tell it in a rifle or heavy machine gun like the Colt Vickers the problem killed the project. Due to the time factor the Navy flat out rejected the initial production run, the mg’s getting other guns in time to fill the gap. Perhaps this no lever digger would have been a bigger disaster than the Chauchat had the Navy not caught the problem before issue,

  26. The french used this weapon long before the americans came into the picture. who else was running around with a portable machinegun? Why did countries continue to use it after the war. It was a beginning and better than nothing type weapon. time to look at its good side.

    • The Chauchat was used by the French Postwar but the FM 24 was developed after the war and was in BAR and BREN class so it rapidly replaced the Chauchat. Unlike the Lewis which was a true light machine gun and was still very effective equipment, The Chauchat was a heavy machine RIFLE and with the acquisition of the FM 1924 for the French Army the Chauchat went into storage or to foreign possessions (which is why it popped up in Arab hands in Syria in 1948 and maybe to a small extent in French Indochina). No one else really needed it as nobody thought that there was going to be another war and the French kept in reserve. I don’t think the French were big on marketing their stuff outside their own possessions. The French had been bled white by WWI so they probably did not want to give up their Chauchats too quickly and certainly did not want to give them potential adversaries.
      The Chinese were buying German weapons and Belgian BAR equivalents in the 30’s. The Spanish Civil War might have been an appropriate market but the French were reticent about selling arms to the Spanish Republicans.
      Just my opinion though.

  27. Thank you for this very interesting video. Hopefully, this fair and objective study will contribute to restore some truth about this old weapon.
    Personnally, I remember reading the memories of an old french gentleman who had fought during WWI and had the opportunity to see and use the Chauchat light machine gun in the field. Interestingly, he emphasized that – although it was ugly – the Chauchat worked rather well and was appropriate for its intended role : to provide the Poilu with close support & automatic fire capability at medium or close range. In an article dated 1977, the old soldier mentionned that during 1916, the Modèle 1907 heavy machine guns, although kept under cover at 400 meters behind the first line, were un-reliable and frequently incapable to maintain sustained fire against german attacks. In those conditions, no doubt the Chauchat was appreciated by the poor guys supposed to stop the boches…

    • Thanks for the info! At least the Chauchat was lighter than the St. Etienne and probably easier to reload, if it makes anybody happy. It also did not require complex gearing…

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Never Yet Melted » Shooting the Chauchat

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*