Preorders now open for my book, Chassepot to FAMAS: French Military Rifles 1866-2016! Get your copy here!
The French Navy chose not to adopt the Gras rifle, and continued to use the paper-cartridge, needlefire Chassepot into the late 1870s. When they finally decided to adopt a new metallic-cartridge rifle, they decided to jump right to a repeater. Testing was done in 1877 of the Winchester-Hotchkiss, Krag-Petersen, and Kropatschek, and the Kropatschek was the winner. As the Navy did not need very many rifles, it opted to buy them directly from the Werndl factory in Steyr (Austria), which owned the rights to the system. An order for 25,000 was placed in 1878 and deliveries were completed in 1881.
This rifle was designated the Model 1878 Marine (ie, Navy), and it was chambered for 11mm Gras with a 7-round tube magazine. They were delivered polished in the white, as naval small arms often were at the time. While limited in number, these rifles would see widespread service in French colonies, and would also form the basis for development of the French-build model 1884 rifles – which we will cover in the next video.