The French military is the butt of quite a lot of jokes…I’m sure we’ve all heard the one about the great deal on French surplus – never fired and only dropped once! Well, when it comes to ordnance development, the French deserve a whole lot of credit that they are rarely granted. Many important aspects of firearms technology were pioneered by French designers, from smokeless powder to tilting bolts and direct gas impingement.
Today, we have a gallery of photos of an Meunier A6 M1916 semiauto rifle. This design was initially submitted to the French military in 1910 and showed promise. However, the looming was caused the abandonment of the French automatic rifle program in favor of a mass production of more proven existing designs. It was not until 1916 that the value of an autoloading rifle was truly understood by French commanders for use in raiding, and at that point there was nothing readily available. As a stopgap, approximately 1000 Meunier rifles were produced and some 843 sent to front lines. It proved to have some functional problems, including rapid overheating and general overcomplexity. The most pressing issue for troops with Meuniers, though, was maintaining a supply of its 7x57mm (not to be confused with 7×57 Mauser) cartridge, which was not used by any other French weapon.
Mechanically, the A6 Meunier fell into the category of a long recoil action. It was locked by means of a rotating bolt with interrupted-thread locking lugs, and held a 5-round magazine of the rimless 7mm Meunier ammunition. A carbine version was also developed experimentally, which weighed 8.5 pounds empty and used with 5-, 10-, and 15-round detachable magazines. It has been argued that this was the world’s most advanced rifle at the end of World War II, and I would be inclined to agree.
For all the pictures, I refer you to the A6 Meunier M1916 page in the Vault. Unfortunately, I do not have higher-resolution copies of these pictures. I’ll post a zip archive of them in the Hi-Res page simply for the convenience of anyone who wants to download them.