8mm M1915 Chauchat Fixing and Range Testing

Well, my 8mm French Chauchat finally cleared transfer, as did my application to reactivate it. This was a “dewat”, or “Deactivated War Trophy” – a machine gun put on the NFA registry but modified to be non-firing. This is not the same as legal destruction, as the receiver of the gun remained intact. The method of deactivation on such things can very significantly; in this case the chamber was plugged with weld, the bolt face welded up, and the barrel extension welded to the receiver. I did have an intact spare bolt and barrel assembly, however. I removed the weld holding the barrel assembly in place, cleaned it up a bit, and dropped in my new parts.

Legal note: this was done after the receipt of an approved Form 5 from ATF, complete with tax stamp.

Today I took it out to the range for the first time, to see if any further work would be needed. And yeah, there was a bit of tweaking necessary. The feeding and extraction are solid, but the ejection requires some work. So, after swapping in a better extractor, I headed back to the range for another test run.

This time is ran great, with the exception of one bad magazine (3 of 4 being 100% reliable is better than I expected, given their age and construction). So now, I have a fully functioning Chauchat and three known-good magazines. Next up? Two-gun match! Stay tuned…


  1. Wow! I have experienced “reverse stovepipe” stoppages in my Tavor shooting mil-spec ammo with a suppressor.

  2. Ian must really love the Chauchat in his efforts to show it can make it around the track of reliability long after it was left at the starting gate. 🙂

    • Ian likes the Chauchat (1915 model) for all the right reasons. Actually it helped win WWI. A GREAT strategic weapon. Much like the Sherman and T-34’s of WWII. You can nitpick all you want, but history has proven that the Chauchat did it’s job on a grand scale, admittedly from time to time, it let individual soldiers down, but they were considered acceptable casualties. War is hell.

      • The problems that plagued most WW2 tanks (engine, transmission, running gear) were sorted before the M4 was ever issued. It may have been for the early war French high command easy to dismiss casualties due to poor performing equipment, as you seem to do, but it is not in US service. The Chauchat could have been a much better weapon with good quality control, decent magazine’s and better repair.

        • The Chauchat was developed and issued during the war with a significant portion of France, including many industrialized areas, already occupied by the Germans. So yes, it was easier for the French high command to gloss over the shortcomings of the weapon.

          The M4, on the other hand, was largely developed before the war and heavily based on earlier tanks such as the M3 Light (Stuart) and M3 Medium (Lee/Grant). Furthermore, development was done under nearly peacetime conditions even after Pearl Harbor, albeit with a greater sense of emergency.

        • And then you build 1/3 of the numbers. Or none at all. The Chauchat where build by Établissements des ciclos Clément-Gladiator. A premise that have instalations and machines for buidin bicicles. With the most indistrialiced regions of France ocupped by the Germans, France was scrapping the very bottom of the barrel in order to put weapons on his soldiers hands.

      • “You can nitpick all you want, but history has proven that the Chauchat did it’s job on a grand scale, admittedly from time to time, it let individual soldiers down, but they were considered acceptable casualties.”
        I did not think issuing weapon, which is not trusted by soldiers and for real reason to be good idea, though it must be noted that it was first mass-produced light machine gun.

        “A GREAT strategic weapon. Much like the Sherman and T-34’s of WWII.”
        Wait. What is your definition of strategic weapon in context of Great War?

        • Okay, let’s look at the context of the first statement. The Chauchat did its job right if crafted well and treated well. What was that job? Suppressing-burst fire ON THE SPRINT. This is not a job for the pan-fed Lewis gun or for the strip-fed Hotchkiss guns, for they both were intended for temporary static defense (meaning they should not fire until they have been properly positioned and that the guns MUST WAIT FOR THEIR INTENDED VICTIMS TO ATTACK FIRST BEFORE FIRING IN RESPONSE).

          • According to https://medium.com/war-is-boring/in-1914-french-airmen-desperately-needed-an-aerial-machine-gun-c98a546a257b
            The trial [of predecessor of CSRG M1915] report suggested that magazine deformation wouldn’t be a serious problem for the machine rifle, as its main role would be static defense. A year before the outbreak of World War I, the French army saw the C.S. machine rifle not as an infantry light support weapon, but as a light machine gun to be deployed within fixed fortifications.
            Following a demonstration of Chauchat and Sutter’s machine rifle, in April 1915 Gen. Joseph Joffre, the French commander-in-chief, requested 50,000 machine rifles. A production contract was signed in October 1915 for what would become the CSRG M1915.

          • Okay, that was true. The CSRG 1915 was produced with static defense in mind (and it probably sucked at that owing to the low rate of fire). But lighten the thing up and we now have an assaulting light machine gun (light enough to fire from the hip while moving), something that the British clearly did not have and something the Americans managed to craft later with the Browning M1918 (no more of this bolt-action-bayonet charge nonsense, get the machine rifles and hand grenades ready and we’ll bulldoze those nitwits!). Did I mess up?

          • “crafted well and treated well.”
            In this place I want to ask about Belgian variant:
            main difference was usage of 7,65×53 mm Mauser (7,65 mm ARGENTINE MAUSER in U.S. collectors parlance) cartridge. It was replaced as late as mid 1930s by:
            My question are:
            – did anybody known any opinion of Belgian users about this weapon?
            – why it was replace in mid 1930s, were Belgian forces looking for replacement earlier?
            – are reports from test known/survive 2nd World War? (I assume some comparative test between old Chauchat and new FN model D were made)

  3. The ancestor of all the automatic weapons using cheap materials, simple, un-skilled manufacturing processes by non-firearm factories… From the Lines Bros. largest toy factory in the world cranking out Sten MkIIIs to the repurposed Clyde side Singer factories producing the very unlovely and rudimentary Sten MkI the “line of descent” must go back to the Gladiator automobile and bicycle factory and the Chauchat!

    And as Cherndog might have it in one of his oddball scenarios… The brass decided that since I was such an enthusiast for fewest moving parts, they’d pull me out of the field bakery and have me in a detachment with the Großfuß Sturmgewehr, some concrete or nipolit hand grenades and a Darne macinegun in support along with a 70mm Smith Gun and repurposed automobile to tow it, as well as a Northover projector with some self-igniting-petrol bombs packed in a crate of sand to try to hold them together…

    I’m also looking forward to the 2 gun with the CSRG Mle. 1915 and… Um, Star Modelo 1914? Chamelot-Delvigne? Ruby 7.65mm? Captured German Mauser Broomhandle? I guess we’ll soon see!

    If only I lived in Arizona, I could volunteer to run alongside and change magazines! Heh.

    • Considering the steel pistol targets the 2-gun AcM normally uses, anything with much less bullet momentum than 9mm Parabellum would probably make it very difficult to knock down the targets rapidly. From French WW1 alternatives all but the modèle 1873 would have much less momentum, but the 1873 is a gate loader. So a captured Broomhandle, preferably in 9mm Parabellum, would probably be the only sensible choice.

      • Yeah! That’s it! I do have a bunch of un-consulted stuff on how to go about wood-gas generation to power vehicles… And I’ve seen some pretty crazy images of Scandinavians and Nordic folks who still tinker with that technology… My personal favorite was a Finn with a b****ing El Camino with the rear bed laden with the boilers and hoses and whatnot and other external combustion machinery was required to convert the beast to wood gas. Very cool.

  4. Bad reputation for this gun came from english language sources based only on the 30-06 US version and all the tales about it.
    If you take the french sources that’s quite different. Not only did this gun suddendly give a lot more firepower at the platoon level but it was the most important element, with the V-B grenade launcher, of the new french tactics for trench assaults.
    The only error were to still give absolute priority to the Lebel rifles when a part of the production should have been halted to make the M1915 with quality controls and production much better than thoose of a former bicycle factory. But it was a time of war and the thing was a great novelty, too much for the usual petrified High-Command even after some demostrations for the top level.
    Still the gun gave a great boost to the allied cause and should be remembered for that, like the Sten in WWII.

    • Indeed. The Sten and also the PPSh-41 both had more than their fair share of magazine problems as well. Both took a less or more reliable magazine design (MP 18 box and Suomi 70-round drum, respecively) and introduced problems by making them too cheaply and lacking quality control. At least the Chauchat had the excuse of having a newly designed magazine for a cartridge (8mm Lebel) that was probably the worst suited for a magazine fed machine gun of all major WW1 rifle cartridges.

      • I would rather say the worst suited for belt feed.

        In this case the designers shaped the magazine accordingly (it is nicely integrated into receiver with minimum of under-hang) and given proper amount of care, it could have worked (we shall see the outcome of Ian’s continuing trial soon).

        Looking at 8mm Lebel cartridge with little more oversight, it is not hopeless either; it has steep taper which is conducive to extraction.

        • “I would rather say the worst suited for belt feed.”
          Do you consider is less fit than, say ·303 British, if yes – why?
          DARNE machine gun: http://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/france-machineguns/darne-eng/ was available in 8×50 R (among others), did it worked less reliable than others variants?

          “Looking at 8mm Lebel cartridge with little more oversight, it is not hopeless either; it has steep taper which is conducive to extraction.”
          Not, due to said taper is very poorly suited for banana magazines, especially if you want reasonable capacity for full-auto weapon. Notice that even for modest 20 rounds they get 180°. That has consequences – peculiar way of working for spring and inevitably friction between follower and magazine walls.

        • “Looking at 8mm Lebel cartridge with little more oversight, it is not hopeless either; it has steep taper which is conducive to extraction.”
          Also note that when France introduced in light machine gun after Great War:
          they abandoned 8×50 R for new practically straight-walled, rather than trying to force 8×50 R into box magazine, even though they apparently consider capacity 25 as good enough.

  5. “Lebel Ma’m’selle” was apparently a soldier/ poilu/ “hairy ones” pet name for the ungainly long Mle. 1886/93, from “Lebel Mademoiselle.”

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