Shooting the Chatellerault FM 24/29 Light Machine Gun

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The Chatellerault FM 24/29 is an oft-forgotten light machine gun despite its relatively early design (predating the ZB/Bren series, DP28, and Nambu LMGs) and very long service life. It was the standard French LMG for World War Two, Indochina, Algeria, and many small African interventions. It has a decent bipod, good 25-round box magazines, a front handguard for hip- and shoulder-firing, and a dual trigger system for semiauto and fully automatic fire. I was curious to see how it handles, so we took this one out to the range courtesy of the Morphy Auction Company

39 Comments

  1. “(…)FM 24/29 is(…)relatively early design (predating(…)Nambu LMGs)(…)”
    Uhmm… But light machine gun TYPE 11 converted to inter-war European understanding of time means 1922. That is earlier than FM 24/29 either (1924 or 1929) way. Later other his LMG was adopted (TYPE 96 giving 1936 in interwar European understanding of time) which certainly differs in some aspects (for example usage of normal box magazine) but nonetheless it was further development of TYPE 11 sharing many commonalities.

    • Yes, but… the FM 24/29 certainly predated the ‘good’ Nambu LMGs. The Type 11 was utter rubbish.

      Would be kind of neat to see it on the Forgotten Weapons, though.

    • We know that, it’s just the problem of French grammar/pronunciation as opposed to English interpretation of foreign words.

  2. As much as practical and common sense this weapon is, in my mind it is not a machinegun per se. Same apply for ZB 24,26,30, Bren series. They are Machine-rifles (word which ironically coincides with equivalent term “maschinengewehr”).

    What however IS machinegun is MG34, among other belt fed guns. Yes my dear, belt-feed that’s what it needs.

    • Good luck with all that…

      Machinegun terminology is irretrievably bad in most languages; add in the need to discuss the issues with other languages? LOL…

      I would be open to establishing a sane set of conventions that could be used to unify discussion, but since the language differences reflect different viewpoints on the use, deployment, and design of the things, establishment of a common frame of reference is near impossible. Hell, just between the UK and the US variants of English…? Dear God, make the bad men stop, just… Stop.

      • 🙂 Yeah, I know English is kind of vague.

        I like name Kulspruta (in Swedish) – bullet sprayer.
        Czechs used to have before WWII word “strojni puska” which means “machine-rifle”, but they meant actally machinegun.

        The word for MG in Czech language established after WWII is “kulomet” (ball thrower) exactly same in meaning as ‘kulspruta’.

        Russian word “pulemyot” means exactly same thing as “kulomet/ kulspruta”. Hungarians call it (back again) “gep-puska”, exactly as Czechs used to call it in old times. So do Poles – karabin maszynowy”.

        • “Bullet hose” sounds silly but very obviously descriptive of automatic weapons. One thing is for sure: DO NOT GET IN FRONT OF ONE!!!

        • “(…)So do Poles – karabin maszynowy”(…)”
          Actually, this is direct translation of Maschinengewehr that is term used by both by Kaiser Germany and Austria-Hungary (many Polish officers in 1919 were former officers from these armies).

          Interestingly Suomi term Konekivääri for machine gun is machine (kone) – rifle (kivääri) rather than “ball thrower” (as in Russian) or “bullet hose” (as in Swedish).

          Interestingly in Bulgarian its name is картечница which itself is derived from картеч meaning canister shot (kind of artillery ammunition, which act like shot-shell – sending swarm of balls – but just bigger), which at least for me make sense (-> device throwing a swarm of bullets).

          • Same in Spanish: “bote de metralla” was a case of cannister shot… So cannister= metralla. Ametralladora for machine gun.
            Sub-machine guns are where it gets weird:
            sub-ametralladora…. sub-fusil… pistola-metralladora…metralleta….

    • Original term is FM which stands for Fusil-mitrailleur that is literally rifle-machine gun. Which I think describe this weapon reasonably well as it has both traits of rifles (ability to firing from shoulder) and machine gun (full-auto fire ability).

      “(…)belt-feed(…)”
      In this regard I can not agree, which this (maybe) might work for early 21th century designs, it make no sense to use such logic (no belt-fed -> it is not machine gun) for historical (pre-1945) designs. In fact I am not aware of any country in this period which would follows such logic in official designation. As I generally found English terms somewhat lacking convergence, in this case I must admit that in this case – light machine gun – they did it right and logical, it is machine gun, but lighter than just machine gun, right?

    • In french FM means fusil-mitrailleur, ”machine-rifle”, so in their terminology and classment is was not a light machine gun. In fact I believe the germans invented it alogn the first GPM in the form of the mg 34.

      • to complicate matters further, gewehr can mean any kind of personal weapon.

        as in ‘seitengewehr’ = usually bayonet, but any bladed sidearm.

        buechse means rifle (and tin can)

  3. I have to say that Ian is opening my eyes to a lot of the weirdnesses I’ve wondered about, looking at French weapons. Things like that magazine catch on the MAS 49/56–I had no idea that came out of a design having been originally meant for a five-round stripper clip fed weapon, with integral magazine, which was then converted over to detachable box-magazine feed. Now, the mag catch on the magazine makes sense to me… I thought it was just stereotypical French obtuseness at work, wanting to be different from everyone else.

    With the 24/29, what strikes me is the longevity; the French came up with a design in the twenties that lasted into the 1950s, and in terms of LMG, that’s pretty damn good. And, they did it under the radar, ’cause nobody nowhere gives them credit for this gun. It’s virtually unknown, unless you were a serving French soldier or from somewhere in the Francophone parts of the world.

    It’s weird how the successful French weapons are unknown, but everybody knows the unsuccessful ones like the Chauchat and the AAT-52. It’s like there’s a bit to be set somewhere in French weapons design: 0=successful design that will be completely unrecognized, and 1=unsuccessful design that will be well-known, and notorious for being really, really bad…

    The 24/29 was obviously set at “0”.

    • “(…)0=successful design that will be completely unrecognized(…)”
      I would say it was caused by French attitude of “keep it secret”. So little was published about actual performance, reasons why they decided that they want it use that way or any finding from development process which did not ended in implementation.

      “(…) a bit to be set somewhere in French weapons design(…)”
      That being said, they managed to introduce few average design (that is such designer which were neither abysmal, neither stellar). That is:
      Berthier carbine (1892) – somewhat small magazine (capacity 3) but do not protrude, relatively light (empty weight 3,1 kg) – good feature for carbine that is weapon used among others by soldiers for which it is not “main” weapon, like for example artillerymen. Nice feature: clip has two “correct” ends (you do not need to care if you are not putting it upside-down).

    • The Chauchat was a cheap design that was NEEDED, even if it wasn’t ideal. Let’s look at the differences between popular Hollywood history and the situation with the French Army:

      Modern Hollywood interpretation: The French are stupid for making a machine gun that jams a lot and doesn’t allow me to go all-out Rambo on the Germans. Give me a Lewis gun and I’ll exterminate every Hun on the Western Front!

      French Army in 1915: We need automatic weapons fast and have found ourselves short on money and resources (and a lot of our factories got captured by the German Army), so purchasing Hotchkiss machine guns by the hundreds is UNREALISTIC. The British Lewis gun is great but Lewis charges a ludicrous amount of money for a SINGLE GUN WITH ONE MAGAZINE (about 200 Pounds Sterling), so we can’t even afford that! Col. Chauchat’s automatic rifle looks pitiful, but we need it RIGHT NOW as it can be manufactured even by bicycle shops! Which is better, having ten automatic rifles and sets of magazines delivered to a platoon in one week, or having ONE machine gun delivered to one COMPANY of soldiers per MONTH?

      Yes, this is just a joke post.

      • Actually, no it isn’t. It’s the same problem both the Union and Confederate armies faced in 1861.

        1. Ordnance experts on both sides understood that breechloaders, at least single-shot if not repeaters, were going to be needed, if nothing else for cavalry due to the impracticality of reloading a muzzle-loader on a moving horse. (Revolvers, of lesser range and killing power, were a compromise; at least they had adequate firepower for the first six shots.)

        2. BUT the arms industries of both North and South simply were not tooled up to build breechloaders, aside from a few companies like Sharps. Nor were there many available from overseas. (The British Army at the time was issuing Sharps 1853 model carbines to its hussars- bought from the U.S. seven years earlier during the Crimean War.)

        3. As a result, both sides issued .58 and .54 muzzle-loading percussion rifle-muskets, bored out and rifled .69 caliber smoothbores to make “substitute standard” rifle-muskets, bought anything they could get overseas (not just British Enfields but Belgian, French, Austrian, you name it), and contracted with companies that had never made guns in their history to make more.

        Yes, in 1861-62 both regulars and volunteers on both sides went to war with flintlock smoothbores. It must be pointed out, though, that a lot of the volunteers had never used anything else in their lives, and were quite experienced with the peculiarities of a Charleville or Brown Bess-type “punkin’ roller”.

        In short, American went to war with muzzle-loaders in 1861 because that was the best they could get. Yes, there was considerable resistance to the idea of breechloaders in the ranks of the Ordnance Corps (just as there was considerable affection for Napoleonic tactics in the higher echelons of the officer corps generally- most of which they got knocked out of them within two years), but the cold fact is that American and foreign industry could barely deliver enough modern small arms for cavalry or other specialized units. There was no way that they could have manufactured enough breechloaders, even single-shots, to equip even half of the armies’ line infantry on either side.

        The moral, as Ian Hogg said, is that ordnance design is like a bank. You pay in in terms of R&D (which costs money) in peacetime, and withdraw in terms of finished gun designs in time of war.

        And if you run short, God help you, although sometimes you can get away with an overdraft.

        cheers

        eon

  4. According to https://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=1408 French tests of available light machine gun in early 1920s ended in conclusion that BAR1918 was best from all tested and from technical point-of-view is good enough to full-fill planned role. However, producing it would requiring paying Colt Company for production rights, a cost deemed too high. So Jean Reibel started works aimed to create light machine gun having features from tested machine guns deemed desirable AND which would need require paying for license. It is worth noting that despite BAR M1918 was found best from available, FM 1924 general layout is much closer to Berthier or Hotchkiss 1922. As interesting tidbit: it was updated in France as late as 1960s aimed to improve ergonomics.
    Export sales were pursued but never ended in great numbers of examples.

    Regarding mentioned Hotchkiss 1922, according to Modern Firearms query https://modernfirearms.net/en/machineguns/france-machineguns/hotchkiss-m1922-eng/
    It was also produced in limited numbers in the French 7.5×54 calibre for the French army as the Mle.1934.
    I am wondering what convinced French to order already rejected light machine gun?

      • Rather like the Wehrmacht in 1944-45 taking MG15 aircraft flexible guns intended for their (by then nearly nonexistent) bomber forces, bolting the bipods and shoulder stocks intended for ground use by a downed aircrew onto them, and giving them to the Volkssturm and reserve formations.

        As John Walter points out in Guns of the Third Reich, the MG15 was not a true LMG, in that it didn’t have a quick-change barrel, and it had an inconveniently high RoF for a SAW (about 1,000 R/M) intended for air-to-air use against fast-moving enemy fighters. The MG42 had an even higher RoF, about 1,200 R/M, but it of course had a quick-change barrel system.

        But the choice was either the “ersatz” MG15s or no LMGs at all for those units. The Wehrmacht, sensible as they generally were on purely ordnance matters, decided to use what they had available to make the best of a bad situation.

        It should be noted that in combat, the MG15 was often mistaken for the MG42 aka “Hitler’s Buzzsaw” by Allied troops, due to having nearly as high a RoF, and of course having that saddle-drum magazine setup that gave it nearly the volume of sustained fire of the ’42, as long as the gunner remembered to fire short bursts and let the barrel cool between same.

        So maybe it wasn’t such a bad “ersatz” after all.

        cheers

        eon

        • The MG-15’s Romanian export version was given a water jacket and could feed from the original drum magazines or box magazines if needed. Let’s just say that the German/Italian/Japanese “group infantry platoon around the machine gun and support it” plan worked better than the American/British “have riflemen charge forward and head-shoot/bayonet every bugger” plan so long as the former strategy was backed up by a generous ammunition supply and not on the receiving end of the US Army’s “moon-scape the whole sector and everything in it with heavy artillery” plan. I could be wrong.

        • “(…)often mistaken for the MG42(…)”
          Now I see some analogy with every German tank = Tiger, while MG42 was certainly most (in)famous from all German, Nazi German used multitude of (rifle-caliber) machine guns – older domestic designs (for example MG 13), “grounded” aircraft machine gun (mentioned M.G. 15.), foreign designs – captured (lMG 28(p)) aswell produced in conquered countries (MG 26(t)).
          As for M. G. 15.: Luftwaffe already has been phasing it out, as they adopted superior flexible 7,9 mm machine gun, namely MG 81 which had higher Rate-of-Fire and was belt-fed.

    • I suspect that with Germany rearming rapidly under its new regime’ (Herr Schickelgruber), the French army was looking at it from a standpoint of “It’s already in series production for export, and it’s better than nothing”.

      Which is how a lot of procurement decisions get made in the real world. That’s one of things they never teach in the academies.

      cheers

      eon

  5. Interestingly, no one mentioned that FM 24/29 actually uses Browning’s link&pin lockup; just to disqualify French effort 🙂

    However, lets imagine some ‘atelier du appareil militaire’ figured out how to add a belt feed to this gun. They (French military) could have saved themselves from lots of hassle; no need for dubious AAT52 not to mention throw-back into history with obsolescent MAG58.
    One of those ifs.

    • “(…)However, lets imagine some ‘atelier du appareil militaire’ figured out how to add a belt feed to this gun.(…)”
      This would require adding quick barrel change and would produce weapon with exactly same problem as in original timeline – that is bi-pod attached to barrel and thus hard barrel swap in light (bi-pod) role.
      What could save them from R&D costs was… Darne machine gun https://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=1299
      which I presume was from very beginning designed to allow mass (cheap) production and was already available in belt-fed version and could be used both from bi-pod or tri-pod, that mean it would need only addition of barrel change mechanism. Easy field stripping (or at least I have such impression from description) is feature desirable by users.

      • The only problem was that the Darne was made for the French Air Force, a division of the French Army that didn’t work and play well with anybody, even their own contractors. And they were “La patrie” to a level that would have made Marat look at them strangely- to the point of deliberate sabotage of things that might be better than their “domestic brand”.(See Victory Through Air Power by Alexander P. de Seversky for an example of the way they worked.)

        They tended to demand everything their way, plus exclusivity. If they didn’t get both, they got very peevish. And as a “prestige” arm, they had a lot of pull in the legislature.

        Any attempt to get any part of Darne production diverted to ground use (which could have been a game-changer in May/June 1940) would have gotten the Armée de l’Air on its patrician high horse even more thoroughly than the Curtiss Hawk 75A outperforming the Dewoitine D.520 did. They’d have blocked it any way they could.

        “This is ours, and you can’t have any.”

        Again, this is something about procurement they don’t teach in the classes.

        cheers

        eon

        • “(…)“This is ours, and you can’t have any.”(…)Again, this is something about procurement they don’t teach in the classes.(…)”
          Wait. So far I know DARNE machine gun was both offered for export and in France main user (in 1930s) of it was Aéronavale which was part of Marine Nationale. Also did not by 1930s Armée de l’Air already switch to MAC 1934 machine guns?

  6. A very fine review of the Mle. 24/29; Ian’s presentations are always informative.

    A pity that he did not describe an unusual and clever feature built into the gun: its rate reducer, which may at that time have been unique. The bolt recoils against a spring-loaded plunger in the buttstock; the rearward movement of this plunger flips up a lever which catches the bolt carrier and holds it to the rear until the plunger returns forward and depresses the lever. This results in significantly slower cycling.

    That feature might not have been working correctly in another video in which Ian fired the gun, as it seems to be firing extremely fast.

    The magazine catch spring also appeared to be weak or broken. In the slow-motion segments of the video, it can be seen flapping back and forth with every shot. I was expecting the magazine to fly off the gun, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

    I believe too much was made of its antecedent introduction. In fact the ZB26 was only two years behind, and a far more sophisticated design. It corrected the major shortcomings of the Mle. 24/29, primarily its lack of a quick-change barrel. Also, nothing could be done if the firing pin was broken. Replacing it was a workshop operation.

    The French themselves recognized that the loose small parts were a liability. Unmentioned in the video was the fact that every gun was issued with a spare ejector and takedown pin tucked into
    a compartment under the buttplate.

    M

    M

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