Literature Review: English-Language Books on French Firearms

Since we are in the middle of a series on French rifles, I figured it would be an appropriate time to take a look at what printed reference books are out there in English on the subject of French military arms. Unfortunately, the selection is very limited, and only two of these are still in print.

There is no book covering bolt action rifles like the Lebel and Berthier, so I am working on writing one myself (which I plan to have cover rifles from the Chassepot to the the FAMAS). However, here is what can be found now:

French Military Arms by Major James Hicks. This is a reprint of a types pamphlet written in 1938, which covers rifles, pistols, machine guns, artillery, grenades, and bladed arms from 1717 to 1938. While wide-ranging, it includes very little detail beyond the names of the various items, and is not entirely accurate.

Proud Promise by Jean Huon. An outstanding reference on French semiautomatic rifles, from the earliest developments before WWI to the retirement of the MAS 49/56. Most of France’s self-loading rifle development was done in secret by military institutions without use of patents, which makes research on them very difficult (many of these records are still classified as state secrets, thanks to French bureaucracy). M. Huon has done an excellent job finding and presenting this information.

Honour Bound by Gerard Demaison and Yves Buffetaut. Another excellent work from Collector Grade Publications, this is specifically on the M1915 Chauchat machine rifle. It covers the weapon’s development, accessories, context in the French military, and wartime field usage. It is a must-have for anyone interested in World Wa rOne or French arms, and is still available from the publisher for the cover price of $40….at least at the time this video was filmed.

The Last Bolt Gun by Steve Jackson. A self-published ebook covering specifically the MAS-36. It is not a reference book with the depth of the previous two, but it is a good overview of the MAS-36 for the typical owner. Do not expect too much, and you will not be disappointed. Available in both print and electronic forms.

The French 1935 Pistols by Eugene Medlin and Colin Doane. Approximately 140 pages on the development, production, use, and accessories for the 1935A and 1935S automatic pistols, adopted by the French military to replace the half-dozen different handguns used through World War One. Quite good, and unfortunately out of print.

Military Handguns of France by Eugene Medlin and Jean Huon. Similar in size and composition to the previous book, but larger in scope, covering French military handguns form 1858 to 1958 (the Lefaucheaux pinfire to the MAC PA 1950). Also a very good reference, essential for anyone interested in French handguns. Unfortunately also out of print.

23 Comments

  1. I wish a proud Frenchman would take the time to write a book on French sub machine guns. I have a MAT49 and have learned a great deal from several blogs/forums. The information is out there, I would love to see it put together. I am not aware of anything in French on the topic.

    • Well, there are at least 2 available:
      – “LES PISTOLETS MITRAILLEURS FRANCAIS” by Jean Huon
      – “LES PM FRANCAIS ET LE MAT 49”, special issue #16 of the GAZETTE DES ARMES magazine
      You could find them at crepin-leblond.fr, librairie-hussard.com or arms-books.be

      • So now put ’em together, translate into English–you know the joke: “a person who speaks three or more languages is a polyglot, a person who speaks two languages is bilingual, and a person who speaks one language is a North American!”–and hey presto!, there’s a book that’d fit at least a fringe market!

        Ian, I’m mighty glad to hear you are going to write the long overdue book on French repeaters! If you need some editing help, then please consider contacting me for whatever help you might need. I tried my best with Jackson’s _Last Bolt Gun_ without having a copy to mark up. Count me down for a copy when it is finished!

        BTW/ _Proud Promise_ by J. Huon is an excellent resource.

        e

  2. This was a second time Ian calls the 7.65×20mm Long cartridge “7.65mm Browning Long” in a video. It is of no real consequence, of course, but shows how a wrong mental association can be annoyingly sticky.

    Good luck with the book, Ian!

  3. there are so much designations :

    7,65 x 20
    7,65 Long
    7,65 Francés
    7,65 MAS
    7,65 x 20 French Long
    7,65 mm Long French M.1935
    7,65 L pour Pistolet
    7,65 mm L pour Pistolet mitrailleur 1938
    7,65 mm French 1925
    7,65 mm French 1938
    7,65 mm Long Auto-Pistol
    7,65 mm MAS Auto-Pistol
    7.65 L Pistolet Mitrailleur Mod. 1
    .30 Browning Automatic Rifle
    .30 Pedersen Short
    .32 Peters

  4. Ian: Does Steve N. Jackson’s book “The Last Bolt Gun” include any discussion, or information on the MAS 36 TIR training rifle and it’s servo cartridges?

  5. Proud Promise and Honor Bound are both excellent books, I am glad I bought Proud Promise before it went out of print. I have a newer version of the Medlin and Huon book “French Service Handguns 1858-2004” (copyright 2004)that is also excellent. I know you said you are not pre selling, but you can go ahead and sign me up for any book you write concerning French rifles. Keep up the good work Ian!!

    • ““French Service Handguns 1858-2004” (copyright 2004)”
      Does it cover various foreign automatic pistol bought during First World War like Gabilondo Ruby or it is limited to French produced arms only?

    • Jean Huon is one of the most prolific french author. And one of the few that also publish in english. His books and articles are always well researched and documented. Although not always easy or pleasant to read: they are often a rough delivery of facts.

  6. If anyone here who has read the book on the French M1935, or has other sources, including Mr. McC, could answer the following questions, I would be grateful: 1) Which engineer in French service, M. Petter or another, evolved the Mod A into the Mod S by designing the locking lug that fit into the ejection port? 2) Was it a crib from the Webley locked-breech automatics? (Some great ideas, including Cubism, the smelting of aluminum by hydroelectricity, and the breech-loading rifle itself, were sometimes generated at the same time in far-apart places by totally independent thinkers.) Bonus question: Was the S significantly cheaper or faster to manufacture? Thanks to anyone who attends to this.

  7. PS. I have read that if you own a Model 1935, you can cut a 3mm or so sleeve from the appropriate cartridge brass or steel (.30 Carbine?), fit it into the chamber of the pistol to abut the step for the cartridge case mouth, and then shoot .32 ACP one shot at a time. When it’s time to clean the gun, knock the sleeve out from the front with a bore brush. Don’t know if you could fiddle with springs and mag to make it shoot semi-auto, don’t remember how long ago I read this in “Guns & Ammo” or similar publication, don’t know if the article is republished on line anywhere. Don’t know if this helps anyone.

  8. I have just done a quick check on my usual sources of French weapons books and no, there seems to exists no book covering all French military rifles. There are books on Chassepot, Gras, Lebel, Berthier, assault rifles, self-loaders… but none on the whole topic.

    • Correction: I found on my bookshelf “La Grande aventure des fusils réglementaires français 1866-1936” (The great adventure of French military rifles, 1866 TO 1936), special issue #2 of the GAZETTE DES ARMES magazine: 98 pages from the Chassepot to the MAS 36.
      I almost forgot I bought this one last year with other old issues. It should be stil available at crepin-leblond.fr, librairie-hussard.com or arms-books.be.
      I need to read it anew right now to stay in tune with Ian’s current videos serie on that topic.

  9. Thanks, Ian. I went ahead and ordered Honour Bound by Gerard Demaison and Yves Buffetaut since I am a Chauchat fan, in part because of your videos. Cheers, Matthew

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