For another perspective on the AA52 – and some live fire footage – check out Bloke on the Range’s video on the gun today:
With the end of World War Two, it was finally time for France to replace the Hotchkiss 1914 heavy machine gun with something more modern. The German universal machine gun concept had garnered a lot of attention with militaries worldwide, and the French opted to look for just such a design. They wanted something belt-fed that could serve in a light role off a bipod, a heavy role off a tripod, or a vehicular role. Three French design bureaus went to work, and the winner was the Chatellerault arsenal with the gun that would be adopted as the AA52 (Arme Automatique 1952).
The AA52 is a simple to construct weapon made largely from heavy-gage stampings. It is chambered for the 7.5x54mm French rifle cartridge (although it was rather quickly replaced by the AA-F1, a version in 7.62mm NATO) and uses a lever-delayed blowback action. Thus, it has no gas system, nor the complexity of a recoil operated design. It is a rugged and simple gun, but not particularly comfortable to shoot.
Many thanks to the French IRCGN (Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie) for generously giving me access to film this very cool specimen for you!