Shooting the MAC 1950 in Tactical Competition

Following up on yesterday’s discussion of the history and mechanics of the Pistolet Automatique Modele 1950, today I am running it in a run-n-gun pistol match.

The gun worked well for me, not having any malfunctions, but did present a couple issues. One was hammer bite, and the other was my inadvertently engaging the slide-mounted safety when racking the slide (whoops!). Otherwise, the gun was pretty much on par with other contemporary service pistols – the trigger is reasonably good, as are the sights. The 9-round magazines are terribly small by today’s standards, but were rather the norm in comparison to the P38, 1911, Browning High Power, Beretta 1951, SIG P210, and other service sidearms of the 1950s.

In the match, I was 2nd of 3 shooters in the “single stack” division, and 43rd of 49 overall.


  1. Safety intrusion is probably easy learn to eliminate and it is possible it was built in on purpose. It just needs to think about take gun off safe on each rack; before it becomes habit.

    It was good shooting performance, as usual. Ian knows guns from both ends.

  2. About three decades ago I briefly owned a 7.65mm 1935a, and my experience with that pistol helped me to form a theory that explains its unusual safety system (and of the 1950 as well).

    With the hammer down and the safety engaged, it is rather easy to sweep the safety to the fire position while cocking the hammer with the same motion of the thumb. Try and see if this is the case with the 1950 too.

    I suspect those pistols were intended to be carried with the safety engaged and the hammer down, with a round in the chamber. The fact the hammer can still drop while the hammer blocking safety is also engaged, would aid a soldier in safely lowering the hammer to the carry position with a live round in the chamber.

    Anyway, it’s just a theory.

  3. Loan the gun to a right-handed competitor who uses the slide lock with his thumb.

    Perhaps we can find a French military veteran to definitely inform us, but my guess on standard use would be: pistol in holster with hammer down and chamber empty and safety off; charge chamber when drawing; safety up after shooting; holster on safe with hammer up or down. Oh, and all left-handed soldiers are assigned to the artillery. Does this gun have a floating or locking firing pin? Is it safe to carry either cocked and locked or chambered with the safety off and the hammer down? Agreed that this safety makes decocking very safe.

    Ian Hogg in his book described this safety as very crude, more suited to an agricultural device than a firearm. Seems to me economical, logical, and simple to manufacture; with suitable training adaptable and positive. With some forethought could have been made ambidextrous.

  4. Nice. Except for the curse of hammer bite. I have a large scar in the web of my right hand, and if a pistol design has any tendency to hammer or slide bite, I shed blood. Hence, I like revolvers 😉

    • “if a pistol design has any tendency to hammer or slide bite, I shed blood”
      Then solution might be Schwarzlose Model 1908?

  5. I can give some answers (or at least some trail to an answer)

    In French police, doctrine is to carry weapons with safety, hammer down and empty chamber. Doctrine changed with the adoption of the DA/SA Sig Pro SP2022 in 2002 (which is now “condition two” : loaded mag, loaded chamber, hammer down – no safety lever).
    In French army, doctrine is to carry weapons with safety, hammer down and a round in the chamber. That way, with a MAC50, you grab the weapon by rubbing your thumb over the hammer, which cocks it and drops the safety. You are now “condition zero”, ready to shoot.

    That kind of safety, despite its crudeness, is very tough. There is some kind of “underconfidence” in mechanical safety in France and not only about firearms : people using machines with integrated total protections MUST anyway wear protections when using them (and this is a law). For firearms, it’s the same : we (authorities, not people) consider that a mechanism is never enough, so we use very simple, albeit very sturdy, safety mechanisms to be sure that it has the lowest chances of failing. The safety on a MAC50 is crude and simple, but this greatly limits the risks of a mechanical failure and is tangible : you SEE and you FEEL (physically) that the safety is on. This reassure the dumbasses that don’t use guns but choose the ones our soldiers will fight with.

    Also, we must consider the usage of the pistol in French army :
    In French Army, qualification with pistol is done by shooting, one handed, a target at 100 meters. This shows how pistol is considered by the army…
    The MAC50 was not made to be a gun you reload DURING a firefight.
    “Le fusil est l’arme du fantassin”, says a hobby horse in France, which means “the rifle is the weapon of the soldier”. The pistol ? Well, it’s for those artillery of medic guys that do not use their weapons, because real soldiers use a rifle !
    This idea changed when adopting the Beretta 92 (to the point that the PAMAS G1, the French produced 92, were the start to a number of improvement to the original, Beretta made, 92s that are now in production) and has now disappeared but, in the 1950s, it was THE doctrine. My father, which is a great shooter, was provided only a MAS35 because he was a medic (except when on guard duty, where he was issued a MS49/56) and “medics don’t use rifles, that’s all”, despite he was the best shooter of the place.

    Also, I should note that I shot a 1935S and the safety was very sturdy, it couldn’t move easily even when racking the slide. Maybe your pistol has a weak spring somewhere… I don’t know, honestly, but maybe.
    Also note that the French army consider that the slide release lever is made to be used (and, in the 1950s, that left handed shooters are made to burn in hell, too…) and it was teached to soldiers to use it.

    Conclusion of my impressions :

    Despite my love for the MAS35 and the MAC50, you confirm what I always thought : they are good guns, nothing more. Reliable, accurate enough, easy to handle and well designed, but have some major flaws and do not stand up among other guns. A MAC50 doesn’t bring anything more than a 1911A1 in 9 mm parabellum except for difficulty to find spare parts.
    They are nevertheless very reliable and strong enough to live up to tens of thousand of ammos.
    Also, you would feel more comfortable with this gun if you were right handed and acustomed to the 1950’s French doctrine.

    • “In French Army, qualification with pistol is done by shooting, one handed, a target at 100 meters.”
      100 meters sounds quite long for automatic pistol, but how big was target size and how many hits out of all need to be in target is enough?

    • Sorry to disagree with you, Thibaud, but that one-handed, 100m target shooting in the army is nonsense.

      Current shooting techniques (called IST-C, for “Instruction sur le tir de combat” = combat shooting training, as I’m sure you know) considers two cases : weapon is carried with or without a chambered round. In both case hammer is down and safety is engaged.

      With chamber empty :
      Unholster the pistol, rack the slide to chamber a round and arm the hammer in the same motion, disengage the safety with the left hand’s thumb while aiming, shoot.

      With chambered round :
      Unholster the pistol, arm the hammer and then disengage the safety with the left hand’s thumb while aiming, shoot.

      I both case you need to disengage the safety with the left hand’s thumb.

      Shooting distances range from about 3m to 15m, with emphasis on shot placement (upper lethal zone and lower lethal zone, being respectively the face and torso center of mass), speed, and also double-tap/Mozambique drill (though not “0,25s fast”).

      Also, some units use Glock 17 instead of Beretta 92/PA-MAS G1 which is progressively phasing out the MAC 50.

      Source :
      IST-C trainer myself.

      • Breversa, NTTC and ISTC did not exist in the 1950’s. Perotti, Perrin and others who brought’em to France weren’t even born.
        By the way, that 100 meters one handed pistol shooting thing has also been reported to me by several friends, including my own brother, who were students at the Prytanée militaire de La Flèche and at St Cyr (around years 2010 to 2015), which bears witness that this practice is indeed still alive, however nonsensical it is.
        It may be limited to a first impression on officer-aspirants, but is indeed still practiced and those aspirants are still market on this test (which incidentaly caused problems to several of those friend of mine).

        French army pistol doctrine changed, indeed. Firstly, there is now a true pistol combat doctrine, which didn’t really exist before the advent of NTTC and ISTC.
        The “double dotation” (“double endowment”, which defines the endowment of a rifle AND a pistol to soldiers) is now very frequent, if not the rule, and modern, effective combat pistols (and their usage) are considered.
        PAMAS G1, Glock 17 (and 19) that you cited but also HK USP (and maybe some others I don’t remember for now or didn’t eard of) are used by the French army and soldiers are trained to fight with it (I remember witnessing trainings with airsoft guns and simunitions with PAMAS G1). It was not the case, or not the modern way, at the time of the MAC50.

        It’s nonsensical indeed and it’s not what the French Army showcases, it nevertheless doesn’t mean it doesn’t existed nor still exist.
        You seem to know what you are talking about, I assume you are a French soldier or live in a military related milieu, so I also assume you are well aware of the many, many nonsenses existing today in and around the French army.

        Daweo, I don’t know how many shots were fired or needed to fullfil the goal nor the size of the target. We in France use “C##” names for target, were ## is the distance. C50 is for 50 meters shooting, C200 is for 200 meters shooting and the size of each target is adapted to the distance. Unfortunately, my friends among French army weren’t shooters at the beginning so they couldn’t tell me which target was used.

        • Thank you for your in-depth reply, Thibaud.

          What I meant by “nonsense” is that this 100m-shooting you’re talking might be/have been practiced in some military circles (select military schools, apparently), but is in no way a current/regular qualification trial, as you described it. Despite years of military career (through Saint-Cyr too), that’s actually the first time I heard about it. I’d love to watch it though ! 🙂

          • I have a tendency to write extensively. I can’t make short answers…

            If yourself are from St Cyr and didn’t see this practice, then maybe my friends fell on a pain in the arse officer that wanted to push them on the edge of what is possible.
            My father (which is old, by now. When he was in the French army, the Rote Armee Fraktion was still young ! And it was still a threat to French soldiers in Germany, where he was stationed) confirmed me that he also saw this practice.
            I think, if only it was standard at a time, it disappeared with the advent of NTTC or before.

    • Thibaud: you wrote that the the French Army didn’t issue rifles or carbines to artillerymen in the 1950s. That would seem quite unusual, because the self-defense potential of pistols is quite limited, and artillery units can’t assume that friendly infantry is always present.

      • Artillery units where equiped with every kind of weapons, including full size, full power rifles, but with higher amount of SMGs and pistols, some soldiers having only the pistol.

        Also note that equipment wasn’t the same when stationed and when fighting. As I mentioned it, my father was a medic and his issued firearm was a MAS35S (which at that time was already phased out in the French army but was still issued in more or less limited numbers to recruits and conscripts). Nevertheless, when on guard duty because of risks of attacks by insurgent groups in Germany, he was issued a 49/56 with a full load of ammunitions and no pistol.

        For a long time, some soldiers in French army were equiped with only a pistol. Among them where officers (the higher the rank, the less shoulder-fired weapons. I think it is or was the same in US Army), medics, instructors, supply-line operators, some vehicles crews, artillery operators, etc.

        It is indeed not suited for fighting, but it was quite standard in many armies at that time. The MAT-49 and other foldable SMG used by French army (along with “pre-PDW” weapons like the Radom VZ63) were a theoretical answer to this problem, allowing usage and carry of a shoulder-fire weapon without being limited in space and mouvement in vehicles or when manning a canon.

        • Hi
          “For a long time, some soldiers in French army were equiped with only a pistol”
          Before the FAMAS introduction, in an infantry group, the guy with an anti-tank rocket launcher, had only a pistol as a PDW.
          BTW, Thanks Ian for showing this pistol.

    • Edit :
      Close relations of mine confirmed that the hammer bite and the safety issues are frequent and inherent flaws of the MAC50.

      In fact, one of them answered to my question about that safety issue and added, without me asking about it, that “moreover, the slide scraped the top of the hand”, which I think is his way to explain that hammer bite.

      Conclusion : it’s not only yours, Ian, it’s all of em…

  6. You should try Traush grips. They have an extended beavertail to avoid hammer bite. They are said to be an autorized or official accessory in the French army.

    Why don’t you use the slide lock with your left index finger to release the slide? You won’t be swiping the safety.

  7. When racking the slide with your right hand, you have four fingers taking up space on the left side of the slide where the safety is. If you were shooting right-handed and working the slide with your left, only your thumb would be near the safety, and there would be less chance of bumping into it.

  8. * Glue the Safty (like many pepole in army)and wear the handgun like an Tokarev with no bullet in chamber
    * Trauch grip (companie are close now) for MaC50, if you have not small hands (girly hands) protec like Beavertail.

  9. I have a 1935s and I have had a similar situation with the safety. I always thought that the placement and how that happened all the time was intentional to prevent overzealous trigger fingers and, wasting ammo by firing without aiming accurately.

  10. I have always been intrigued by the strange safety on the M1935 and M1950 designs. A safety which protruded out of the rear of the slide did not seem to make any sense. Surely it would be easily caught and disengaged?

    I think perhaps I understand it now. The pistol is not meant to be carried with the hammer cocked and safety applied. Rather, with a round in the chamber, the safety is applied and the hammer lowered. The hammer seems to rebound by quite a noticeable distance from the rear of the slide, but also it seems to “shield” the safety catch as it protrudes from the rear of the slide.

    In this configuration, to fire the pistol, the user needs to thumb cock the hammer, and as he does so, he will also sweep the safety catch down and off. It is not a system I particularly like, but I think it would work, and has the advantage of being different from everybody else, which always seem to be important to the French!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.