Chauchat Followup

We had a lot of feedback on Tuesday’s post on the CSRG Chauchat light machine gun, so I figured I should do a bit of followup today. Leszek in Poland sent us these photos of a Chauchat captured by the Germans and converted to 8×57 caliber:

German Chauchat in 8x57mm
German Chauchat in 8x57mm (click to enlarge)

The magazine is of particular interest here – a mostly-straight mag was necessary for the Mauser cartridge, but the magazine catch on the gun was designed for the half-moon Lebel magazine. So the German solution was to add that front brace or extension to the magazine, so that it could use the gun’s existing catches.

Leszek also sent us these to photos of what seems to be a Chauchat designed for aerial use, with a top-mounted magazine. We have no other information on this particular pieces, though. FWIW, both sets of photos came from a German booklet published by the Reichswehr IWG in 1926, entitled “Maschinengewehr-Entwicklung”. If anyone happens to know where we might find a copy of it for our library, we would love to hear from you!

Aerial Chauchat
Aerial Chauchat (click to enlarge)

We also got a brief video from another friend of the site showing a standard M1915 Chauchat in use. Although short, the video does a good job of showing the gun’s rate of fire and general operation. You can see the open magazine design that caused so much trouble, and see how the heavy reciprocating bolt and carrier cause the gun to bounce as it fires.


  1. IMHO, they’d better make kind of converter on the gun and use conventional shape mags. Imagine how uncomfortable is to carry such Y shaped spare mags.

  2. Hello everyone,
    The aerial Chauchat was the FM CRDG Mle 1913, a forerunner of the FM CRDG Mle 1915, we all know. These were used as aerial guns, see a photo of Farman(?) if memory serves me well airplane in Collector Grade title ‘Honor Bound’. These were considered lost for ever (ca. 100 were ever manufactured) until not just one, but TWO were found in Czech military museum – even though lacking top attached magazines. The FM Mle 1915 magazines do not fit the latches on the Mle 1913.
    These German photos show an incomplete gun, lacking aluminum pistol grip – perhaps this is a crash-site gun, recovered from shot down French airplane.

  3. Correction – the airplane in queston was a Morane-Saulnier biplane, see page 25, Honor Bound by Jean Huon

  4. more a fast semi auto, with what looks like quite a powerful cartridge! which part could kick the gunner? i don’t see any moving parts outside the gun.

    • It is the back end of the receiver tube that will kick you. It doesn’t move, but the impulse from the recoiling bolt and carrier will smack the contours into your cheek hard enough to bruise, or so I’m told. Keep your face up farther on the gun, and you don’t have a problem.

  5. It’s possible the German-book Mle 1913 was a fixed gun and so mightn’t have had a pistol grip. In that case it was probably from a Farman or other pusher a/c as synchronization didn’t get sorted out until 1915-16. There are some good technical reports on WWI weapons development by Achim Engels and his friends at Fokker-Team Schöndorf. They remanufacture WWI fighter aircraft using, to the extent feasible, the original tools, materials and industrial processes. Achim’s goal is to have a living-history Fokker factory.

    One would think that an aerial gun would want a much higher rate of fire than the infantry gun in the picture, but of course, the magazine-fed nature is a limitation, and also of course, we don’t know from a still picture what the ROF of the aerial variant was.

    You cannot read any WWI pilot or observer’s memoir without reading of weapons jams and of the pains and efforts — and even superstitious rituals — to which aviators went to try to ameliorate them. One thing that was not understood was the effects of acceleration forces on ammo feeding devices. In a level turn at 60º bank you are pulling 2g and so, if your feed mechanism is oriented vertically it needs to have more than 100% extra margin of strength. (This also limits belt length).

    Back to the ground CSRG in the video: what does he mean about, “as many rounds as possible”? Limited supply of 8mm? Mag needs a loader or is very hard to load? Mag is unreliable when fully loaded?

    Also, the weapon’s very bad reputation came in part from the US .30 version, which had a straight mag and a different mag well and catch arrangement. Not reliable at all.

    Long-recoil actions are not well suited for accurate point auto fire but didn’t MG theory at the time place a lot of store in dispersion? You sure get that!

    • Duh. I see this post is an extension of an earlier one where Ian aired the problems with the US Caliber .30 gun.

      I have read several works that suggest that US forces had BARs taken away and CSRG’s provided, and that’s certainly another source of the bad rep of the French gun.

      (interesting: usually a simpler weapon is a better weapon. The BAR is quite complex, but extremely reliable. The CSRG is much simpler, and much easier to manufacture). The French were surprisingly visionary, with a semi-auto rifle (Mle 1918 St Etienne) and stamped and screw-machine guns (the CSRG and much better Darne) years ahead of anyone else.

      I consider the BAR stories apocryphal. The US entered the war with hardly any machine guns. Even though the greatest MG inventors of the era were Americans, they had all had to go overseas to find quantity buyers for their designs up to that point. I doubt that there were ever enough M1918 BARs to outfit the AEF, and would wager logistics drove the substitution of Chauchats. But there has to be definitive documentation somewhere.

    • it would not make much sense to remove the pistol grip, but leave the buttstock on the gun. (if you are mounting in in a plane, that servers no purpose annymore?)

      • It’s hard to say what circumstances led to the photo, as the gun had been captured by Germans. There are two photos of top-mag CS rifles mounted on aircraft in Demaison’ and Buffetaut’s “Honor Bound” and they both show buttstocks and pistol grips on the guns.

  6. Are you sure that it’s a German 8mm conversion? The Poles supposedly converted A LOT of CSRGs to 8×57 in the 1920s and used them against the Soviets.

  7. The mag on the CSRG altered for 7.92×54 looks awfully crude, and not like what you would expect from either German or Polish workmanship. (If you’ve seen a pre-war Radom pistol or Mauser, or a Vz. 63 PDW for that matter, you know what I mean about Polish workmanship, it’s world-class).

    Perhaps it was somewhat jury-rigged so that the Germans could test the gun with readily available ammunition. But I wonder what book Leszek found these images in… it’s clearly an pre-45 German book (German text, Fraktur type) but that doesn’t automagically mean it’s a German gun.

    I was probably wrong about the thing being used as a fixed gun. I don’t think I’d want to sign the engineering drawings on a synchronizing gear mechanism for this weapon; any long-recoil mechanism is not going to take inflight g variability well.

    And then we have WWI quality control on ammo. I just doubt it would be

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