Mle 24/29 Chatellerault

Our friend Joe had the opportunity not too long ago to take out a French Mle 1924/29 Chatellerault light machine gun for test firing. The 24/29 is a quite nice LMG that is definitely under-appreciated. As with several other very good guns, it gets an automatic poor reputation simply for being French. In truth, the French led small arms development for a long time, and produced many excellent designs.

In addition to the brief video clip, we also have a number of detailed photos of the gun. Thanks, Joe!

Chatellerault FM Mle 1924/29 (download whole gallery in high res):

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  1. It wasn’t just small arms! France led the world in artillery (remember the French 75?) and they had just about the best tanks in the world at the start of the 1939 war. They simply didn’t have Guderian’s advanced tactics, despite Heinz basing a great deal of his tactical theory on that of Chuck DeGaulle.

    It must also be remembered that were it not for France’s brilliant and gallant rear-guard actions, the BEF never would have been able to make it to Dunkirk. France’s military prowess is grossly (not to mention unfairly) maligned.

    (Can you tell I’m a bit of a Francophile?)

    • The development of French small arms was hindered by the French government. Despite having a head start on everyone else in semi-automatic rifles, for example, development proceeded at a snail’s pace because the funding just wasn’t there. Thus, the MAS Mle 40 was just barely starting production when France was overrun. It could’ve ended up being just as famous as the Garand, if it had arrived soon enough to be used.

  2. A very good article with excellent video and detailed still photographs, as usual. I agree that the Chatellerault Mle 1924/1929 was seriously under-rated and even today tends to be unfortunately ignored by many experts and historians alike. I believe there was also an Mle 1931 version designed for use in tanks and fortifications that was fed by a 150-round drum magazine that could be clipped in place on either side of the gun, and an Mle 1934 belt-fed aircraft gun.

    Another fairly significant French-designed MG that is now largely forgotten, and which preceded the Mle 1924 by a few years, was the Darne 7.5mm aircraft MG of 1920. Most people tended to dismiss the gun as light and flimsy because it looked that way ; in reality, Darne deliberately chose not to expend labor and resources on the external fit and finish, but instead concentrated their efforts on making the internal workings strong and reliable, where it really mattered. The result was a weapon that worked well in its intended role as an observer’s gun, and it was adopted as the standard rifle-caliber MG of the Armee de l’Air as well as some smaller European air forces. It was only when Darne attempted to introduce an infantry LMG version in 1926 that they ran into trouble, the lightweight construction necessary for the aerial role being insufficiently robust for the rough-and-tumble of field service, although reliability remained consistent.

    Any chance of laying your hands on an Mle 1931, Mle 1934 or Darne for review at some point in the future?

  3. No love lost between me & the French, but they did design/build more great weapons then they did bad ones. And the 2 widely noted bad ones,IMO, were more emergency/rushed weapons.

    I’d really like to know much more detail about the 8mm Ribeyrolle.

  4. You are absolutely right, france did have some of the most gallant troops in the world, although often armed with lebel and berthier rifles.

    The MAC m1924/29 was one of the best (if not the best) light machine gun’s in the world at the time. In some cases free french troops preffered their mac 24/29’s to BAR’S and bren’s.

    Another impressive feature to this gun is the excellent reliability. The french learned from their mistakes with the chauchat and put like 15 dust covers on it.

    And lastly, the mac 24/29 has an incredibly long service history. It has been France’s lmg for half a decade.

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