Chauchat Field Testing vs Mock MG08/15 Nest

Out at the range today with the Chauchat, testing accuracy against a simulated MG08/15 nest at 150 yards. I’ll try out semiauto and full auto (in short bursts), and see how they compare. For reference, the US Army recommended never using the Chauchat beyond 400 yards, as it was not sufficiently accurate to be effective at greater distance.

Original WW1 American Expeditionary Force Chauchat manuals


  1. I thought you’d play dead until the MG08/15 team stopped for loading up a new belt, then charge them (while screaming something along the lines of “to death or glory”) with their gun open and their pants down (so to speak), just to spray them IN THE FACE! Realistically, the enemy assistant gunner (the guy on the right, not hit a lot) would be fleeing once the main gunner got ventilated if such happened. You haven’t simulated a panicking, fleeing, and terrified enemy. Plus, the MG08/15 crew would be outnumbered by charging Chauchat teams at least ten to one!

  2. When I heard “field / combat test” and your opening remarks, I envisioned “walking fire”, and thought “NFW!” for hits.

    Then you (an experienced and skillful shooter) fired prone, rested, what? 2′ single-shot groups (crediting the numerous misses as being IVO the target) – at 150 yards under benign conditions? I’ve never heard of anyone firing a Brown Bess musket off a bipod, but based upon extrapolation from their known offhand performance, I’d say the Chauchat shot roughly in the same ballpark as the chunk of lead bouncing loosely down that fouled, preindustrial length of pipe.

    Your CSRG videos keep repeating “it’s not so bad” like a textbook victim of abuse. The fact that your enablee literally gave you a black eye is too ironic for words :p

    • Let’s be honest, for this test to be realistic, Ian would need an assistant gunner running alongside him with a magazine bag. As for the black-eye, I’d prefer taking the French approach: Don’t get hit by the receiver tube! Yes, the Chauchat performs pretty badly in terms of accuracy here, but the gun in question is over a hundred years old. Let’s not abuse it. Lots of detractors advocated smashing the Chauchat into rocks and trees to “prove” it’s bad, while they’d never do the smashing to the Browning M1918. At least shooting at the enemy MG crew during their reload period would make them NOT able to shoot back, even if they’re not killed immediately!

      • “(…)Don’t get hit by the receiver tube!(…)”
        According to this situation was named la gifle, so I presume it was not uncommon. This article also point another weak point of design: small bi-pod legs area and thus danger of sinking into soft ground. It said that Belgians after Great War replaced bi-pods of their guns to solve this problem.

        “(…)but the gun in question is over a hundred years old. Let’s not abuse it.(…)”
        Age per se do not affect accuracy – barrel wear do. If it did not conform to French standards of Great War era of being “fit” then poor result are understandable and can NOT be applied to all Chauchat guns.

        “(…)Lots of detractors advocated smashing the Chauchat into rocks and trees to “prove” it’s bad, while they’d never do the smashing to the Browning M1918.(…)”

      • Shot a few; heard / read of many 100+year-old guns (Mausers, Winchesters, etc.). I can’t recall a single example that was both in a condition safe to fire, yet also worn enough to shoot 16MOA! Since Ian is a knowledgeable / connected collector, as well as an advocate for the Chauchat, I’d assume he’d look down his bore and replace it before making these “It’s not so bad!” videos if it was a shot-out pipe. I think the MG’s jarring recoil, poor sights, and other intrinsic issues are more at fault than age and wear.

        Likewise, while I agree that no rational person would intentionally smash any antique into a rock or tree, most others (and certainly an M1918) would be far more likely to survive it, because they aren’t made of mild steel sheet tubing.

        • 1. Okay, yes, please do ask Ian to replace the barrel.
          2. Please underscore “rational.” The alleged detractors in question were critics from the 1920’s, not people from nowadays, but you will find some contemporary armchair pop-historians (who haven’t really read up on anything but “history” as presented in movies) who will advocate stupid things like shooting the A6M Zero with a Colt M1911 “since the Zero will catch fire from getting hit by ANYTHING.”

          I kid you not, one idiot in a (now defunct) “history” forum advocated smashing the Chauchat into a tree to see how long it could take abuse before your commander finally gave up on issuing more Chauchats and placed orders for Lewis Guns, which were then to be used as ASSAULT RIFLES in place of the usual bolt-action rifles. Genius, that guy was NOT, as the overall 1915 cost for a SINGLE Lewis Gun and ONE matching magazine was 150 Pounds Sterling, over half of which was licensing fee payment that went directly to Col. Isaac Newton Lewis. In contrast, a Vickers Class C water-cooled heavy machine gun cost the British government 100 Pounds Sterling. Oh, yeah, the Lewis Gun was NOT MADE IN FRANCE, so forget trying to find a French general placing orders for Lewis guns. Said moron from earlier also insulted all of the Hotchkiss machine guns, calling them a bunch of sissy guns that would jam if you stuck your finger down the barrel before the trigger was pulled, that required three liters of motor oil PER AMMUNITION STRIP, and that were made by monkeys in some French version of an ACME factory.

    • “…textbook victim of abuse..” I’d say that pretty well sums up Ian’s experience with the CSRG. With his access to all sorts of excellent and much more reliable firearms, I fail to see his attraction to the Chauchat, known throughout the firearms world (and especially by the poor soldiers that were issued them) as the worst machine gun ever issued.
      It’s probably only fitting that this gun gave him the same injury inflicted on so many hapless poilu and doughboys. (those it didn’t kill by freezing up after 100 rounds )

      • “(…)known throughout the firearms world (and especially by the poor soldiers that were issued them) as the worst machine gun ever issued.(…)”
        I would say most meaningful assessment of Chauchat is fact that in 1921 French recognized needs for new:
        – light machine gun
        – sub-machine gun
        – automatic pistol
        – rifle (self-loading)
        – rifle (repeating)
        – machine gun
        – light mortar
        – light anti-tank gun for infantry
        and only light machine gun was treated with high urgency, which resulted in adoption of new Fusil-mitrailleur Model 1924 at January 1, 1924. It was mechanically much closer to BAR M1918, than Chauchat (Browning Automatic Rifle was found superior to other weapons tested between 1920 and 1923, but it would require license, so was deemed too expensive). Other rifle-caliber weapons on list above did not enter service until mid-1930s if at all (MAS 40 as self-loading rifle, MAS 36 as repeating rifle, nothing – if I am not mistaken – as machine gun).

        • It’s worth noting that official release (propaganda) news items in British and American papers at the time, translated from the French, refer to Chauchat gunners as “automatic rifle infantrists”. Meaning, they were defined and trained as riflemen, not machine gunners, which is as they say a whole different kettle of fish.

          Seen as what it is, a machine rifle (in the same general category as the M1918 BAR), the Chauchat comes off as no better or worse than most first-generation types. Comparing it to an actual machine gun is fairly silly. Expecting it to do the job of a Lewis Gun is completely unrealistic.

          The fact that the BAR could come very close to doing the Lewis Gun’s job is mostly just more proof that John Moses Browning always delivered more and better than his customers asked for, no matter what the project.



    • I also thought he will demonstrate “walking fire” in natura, but realistically no one doing that in font of Spandau gun would last very long.

      • Forget walking fire, you’re better off ordering the Chauchat gunners to play dead and then fire on the SPRINT once the Spandau pauses to reload.

        • Keep in mind that on battlefields of Great War water-cooled machine guns were generally deployed in such manner, than if enemy will go dangerously close neighbour machine guns could fire at them.

  3. It’s interesting to me how large the half targets seem to be at 150 yards. (They are 17.72 inches wide and at full height are 29.53 inches tall including the “head” which is 5.9 inches, so if you fold it exactly in half they would be 14.76 inches tall with about 8.86 inches of “body” below the “head” – yes I know the numbers would be much easier to state in metric: 45cm wide x 75cm tall. Head is 15cm tall. Folded in half: 37.5cm talk with 22.5cm of that being “body”)

    My guess is that if you took a photo of yourself firing the Chaucat, with the camera positioned 10-20 yards/meters down range facing directly at you and then made a target based on what your actual firing position silhouette looks like you would see that there is even less of you exposed from your non-sandbagged prone position than an IPSC half-target, but that’s a guess.

  4. It seems to have been a marked improvement over a bolt action rifle. But not what you would call a light machine gun or even a reasonable semi automatic rifle (accepting that these rare beasts in that period). Better than nothing, but worth it?

    • Well, the alternative is sending lots more men with bolt-action rifles and bayonets to get killed. The Nivelle Offensive was this, with a nasty mutiny occurring shortly afterwards.

    • I beg to differ. I cannot imagine any bolt action (certainly none of the refined WWI generation) going 3 for 18 on those silhouettes at 150 yards, especially in the hands of a rifleman as experienced as Ian. One could argue that only an expert could manually crank out 18 rounds in a comparable period, but the 15 misses don’t count unless you have a serious grudge against your buddy in Logistics.

      I think even the suppressive aspect of “Walking Fire” is wishful thinking against Maxim crews protected by trenches, sandbags, mount shields, etc. The idea that they’d be fooled into thinking they were still under MMG bombardment is implausible; if they weren’t close enough to see you clearly, the rounds wouldn’t land close enough to register. Look at the scatter in the relevant episode of Project Lightening, and consider that they were much closer than 150 yards.

      • I believe you are wrong in one point. The 15 misses indeed count. Count a lot.
        The rate bullet expended/hit achieved in WWI was well below 1/1000 overall. The main efect of bullets was (and its, indeed, today) make a “hiss” close enougnt to the intended target to scare him and make him look for cover instead of returning fire.

        • Read the rest. I well understand the value of suppressive fire. I just don’t believe this weapon is optimal for providing it; Project Lightening demonstrated that NO weapon is capable of performing it effectively in “walking fire” as originally envisioned.

  5. Boy, this thing knows how to punish your shoulder, not even considering dze German will fire his more steady and probably more accurate gun back. Looks like PPU ammo is pretty good though.

  6. “I love to hear the old, old story”

    of hits per minute firing semi vs. full auto. Armies all over the world throughout the past 100 years have learned, when they didn’t already know, that LMGs do better service fired semi, whether rapidly or deliberately, as here. The US Army tested the whole thing (in the 1920s?) with the BAR, and even published drawings of the targets, including the big witness sheets surrounding them. Amazing how far a bullet can stray over the course of 200 yards.

    • I am familiar with 5.56 Minimi, a fair bit. That thing, although not exactly light, cannot hit a barn door. Both U.S. and Canadian militaries are less that enthused with its accuracy.

  7. Regarding frontline trench defense, in his book Grenades and Mortars, Ian Hogg noted that after about the middle of 1915, when trench raiding became the primary mission of infantry, the usual practice was to have a “bombing trench” about ten yards behind the frontline trench staffed by a few good grenade throwers or “bombers”. Once the raiders were in the frontline trench, the “bombers” went to work pitching grenades, backed up by riflemen and HMGs in pits.

    Anybody who stuck his head up to try to shoot a bomber got his head blown off; anybody who stayed in the trench got Mills Bombs or etc. to play with.

    Another dirty trick was to roof over communications trenches, etc., with wire rope net with about a one-foot mesh. This made it very hard for assaulters to throw grenades up and out, but dead easy for the defenders to drop them in. So hiding in the zig-zag communications trench wasn’t healthy for raiders, either.

    Everybody becomes so focused on the machine guns’ use in The Great War that they tend to overlook the fact that from 1915 on, machine gun troops were a specialized branch, operating rather more like the artillery than anything else.

    By that time, the infantryman’s primary weapon was the hand grenade. Even the rifle was largely secondary to the “bomb”. It could even be argued that the rifle was in third place in the infantry repertoire’, behind both the grenade and the trench mortar.

    After all, you didn’t have to stick your head up to use either one of those.



    • I think that is a number of good points by eon.
      To further adumbrate the “tactical impasse” of WWI trench warfare, by the end of the war, “dzee Ghermans” had Hutier light infantry tactics for offense: lots of sturdy guys with sacks of hand grenades, shovels, backed by a flammenwerfer or two? but understanding that the vast majority of fighting would be defensive from the Sigfried Stellung–aka. Hindenburg line–the MG08/15 with a crew would be placed in all-round defense widerstandsneste aka. “strong points” and that bolt action rifle fire was a frill. Trench mortars and minenwerfers a bit farther behind the lines, and the MG08 with intersecting fields of fire a bit farther back.

      Meanwhile, at least some French officers appeared to think the future of infantry arms would be crew served: The 37mm infantry gun to take out pillboxes and bunkers, groups of rifle grenadiers, and the crewed CSRG Chauchat. Perhaps a flame thrower or two of their own.

      Small wonder that the Germans came to see infantry as groups of machine gunners supported by their ammo carriers and spare barrel carriers, and that the French seemed to have gravitated that way too… With the above comments about the FM 1924/29 7.5mm LMG, various tanks, and the ouvrages of the “ligne Maginot” super trench developed first, and a new service rifle something of a distant afterthought… let alone an SMG in meaningful quantities.

  8. I notice that the 8mm Lebel ammunition seems to make a throaty sort of bang, not a crack. It’s a sound which I feel would have been good for morale, at least until the Chauchat jammed.

  9. Recall that a good long while ago, unless I am mistaken, our intrepid experimental archaeologist and firearm raconteur did say that if thrust into some sort of hypothetical phantasmagorical time travel situation into WWI with an entirely fictitious and unrealistic choice of weapon, his response was the *Madsen LMG*…heh.

    • Good choice, assuming you’re not in the middle of winter with wet ammunition. I’d rather not take the Chauchat unless there’s nothing better (and over half the time on the Western Front, the French Army literally could not afford to issue anything that “everyone knew was better” for the job). And no, you can’t use a bolt-action rifle in place of a Chauchat to attack a heavy machine gun nest without making yourself the designated “expendable idiot.” I probably messed up.

      • In an assault (in which you’re going to be pretty much running into the MG nest) It’s pretty hard to beat the combination of a 12-gauge Trench shotgun like a Winchester M1897 or Model 12, loaded with no. 0 buckshot, plus a couple of Mills bombs.

        My great uncle who was in “The Great War” stated that U.S. troops obtained Mills bombs (Grenade No. 23 and No. 36) whenever they could in preference to their usual French-made hand grenades, simply because the fuze was both more reliable in ignition and more consistent in burning time. You pulled the pin, let the spoon fly off, threw it, five seconds later it went BANG. Very simple.

        They had the French Vivien-Bessiere discharger cup grenade system for their Springfield and M1917 Enfield rifles, and it seemed to work about as well as the SMLE cup and disc used with the No. 36.

        The VB of course could be used with a standard bulleted round for launching instead of a blank; fired at a 35 degree angle to send the grenade about 150 yards, the bullet would naturally land about two miles away, but since that was in the Germans’ rear area nobody cared much.



  10. When I was in the Army, we qualified on ranges with “pop-up” targets, that would go down when hit. It was common knowledge that if a shooter was not an excellent shot, they could improve their odds aiming center mass the far targets, which would hit low, scattering gravel on them to make a “hit”. That was back when we used iron sights, Of course these days they qualify with optics, so it would be much easier.

  11. Would be interesting to repeat the identical exercise with an FG42, essentially the same design intent, admittedly with a different doctrine. But still – intended primarily as a semi-auto rifle with suppressive full auto capability.

  12. My maternal grandfather carried one if these in France prior to being issued the BAR. He said it was clumsy and unreliable under battlefield conditions. Mud got into the magazines and the gun would reliably jam every few rounds. He related that some soldiers ‘threw it in the ditch’. He also stated they were all very happy to have the BAR when it was finally issued.

  13. If someone were to have tried in the 20’s / 30’s, to make a more compact / smaller, less heavy system and lighter cartridge in the M1918 US configuration… in short, try and retrofit this into a better, less heavy weapon with a better feeding magazine…

    1) What cartridge might be preferable?
    2) What would need changing and in what fashion?

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