The 37mm gun was found in many guises during World War One – that caliber was the smallest allowed to use exploding projectiles by the 1899 Hague accords. Every nation in the world, it seems, used 37mm guns of one type or another. Well, one particular version I had the chance to look at was built by Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania for the French Army. Chambered for the same 37x136mm Hotchkiss Heavy cartridge used in US naval service, 200 were purchased in 1916. Only 15 were actually shipped before the US Army seized the bulk of the order in 1917 – but they were never put into any sort of service by the US military. The French tested the guns for suitability as n infantry gun, anti-tank gun, anti-aircraft gun, and naval landing gun – and found unsuitable for all roles. It was probably tested only as a backup in case the redesign of the Mle 1916 Tir Rapid ran into problems.

At any rate, the 15 guns sent to France were sent back at the end of the war, and the guns remained in US Army inventory until 1921, when they appear to have been distributed out the National Guard units.

I think this is a very cool gun for the present-day enthusiast. In addition to the historical links to WWI, it has the practical benefits of being relatively light and using ammunition relatively inexpensive to reload. And, of course, the free mount and shoulder rest and iron sights give it more the feel of a shoulder rifle than later light artillery that use precisely adjusted mounts. This one is just more fun to shoot! Alas, there are very few still in existence. Perhaps an opportunity for someone who wants to make a reproduction Big Boy’s Toy?

1 Comment

  1. Curious beastie – transitional design; neither fish, nor fowl, nor good red meat. But yeah, looks like fun. 🙂

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