Terrible 2-Gun: Lebel, 1892 Revolver, and a WW1 Gas Mask

Today, I thought it would be fun (or at least interesting) to shoot a 2-gun match in a reproduction World War One gas mask and helmet. Specifically, a French M2 pattern, which was used extensively by French, British, and American troops. I paired this with an Adrian helmet, a Lebel rifle, and a Modele 1892 revolver.

The match started out badly, as it was cool enough outside in the morning for the mask to fog up significantly. Combined with small targets, my shooting in the first (pistol-only) stage was…not very good. Things got worse on the second stage, where I simply could not see the targets at all. I opted to just abandon that stage, and it was quite frustrating. Not wanting to leave without any rifle shooting at all, I abandoned the gas mask and helmet for the third stage. That one ended up being quite satisfying, despite running out of time just before making my final shot.

It was an enlightening experience to try to engage targets in a period style gas mask. Between the total lack of peripheral vision and lens fogging, it was very difficult. I can’t imagine trying to do it in a real firefight where poison gas was being used.

35 Comments

  1. According to Ian Hogg, one of the reasons for using gas was to force soldiers into what we now call MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture). Then as now, it severely degraded their ability to perform even simple tasks, let alone offensive or defensive operations.

    This was the primary purpose of chemical “harassing fire”. It was a morale weapon as much or more than a casualty creator.

    German doctrine was to use vesicants, such as mustard gas, almost solely for harassment because of the danger the agents presented to their own troops. SOP prohibited sending troops into an area that had been bombarded with mustard for a minimum of 24 hours. As a result, Allied troops tended to bear mustard bombardment with a measure of tolerance, as it virtually guaranteed no trench raids or assaults for a full day.

    cheers

    eon

  2. Looks like Ian never shot with a gas mask? It was necessary to grease the glasses with soap, oil or saliva.

    Chemical weapons are not meant to be “mass murdered”.
    Its main purpose is to impede or bind the enemy’s actions. Force him to leave the contaminated area, or reconsider and restrain possible actions and movements.

    A sort of “artificial COVID”.

    • What actually happened.
      Ian was unable to act effectively.
      And in the end he was defeated when he took off his mask.

      • “Gas discipline” was at least as important as the equipment in avoiding gas casualties.

        A study done by the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Department in 1920 found that over half of all CW casualties were due to the soldier either not hearing the gas alarm or other alert and not getting his mask and etc. on in time, or taking same off too soon, before the agents had settled (mustard) or been dispersed by wind (chlorine, phosgene, etc.).

        Equipment malfunctions accounted for only eight per cent of casualties, and most were traced to malfunctions caused by improper storage, use, and/or maintenance.

        In short, it was up to the individual soldier to “get it right”, because chemical agents didn’t generally give “time outs” or “second chances”.

        cheers

        eon

        • Discipline is generally a useful thing in war. 😉
          There is a (most typical) case when one soldier took binoculars from a heap of property collected from the wounded.
          He hung it on a hook in the room.
          The next morning, everyone who slept in this room showed symptoms of moderate mustard gas poisoning.

        • Had an Uncle, a Marine who fought in WWI. Talked about the horrors of sucking some gas in his lungs. Had to walk on his own back to the aid station.

  3. I was quite impressed seeing the Lebel, it seems to have quite a slick bolt. Shame about the tube magazine.

    I was not so impressed by the gas mask. If the lenses were fogging it must be because there was no efficient outlet valve. It was hard to see where the filter was, and there must not have been any barrier between the filter and the eyes. It looks like a gas mask of 1915. By 1918 they were much better. British respirators had the filter in a box carried on webbing on the front of the body. This made the mask lighter to wear, and I don’t think lens fogging was a problem.

    • The French “Tissot” mask had such a one-way outlet valve right between the lenses.

      https://i.pinimg.com/originals/1c/81/16/1c8116c1346b0f999d2c2a85f5eca824.jpg

      It was mainly used by gas troops, who had to work in MOPP conditions.

      The British “Large Box” mask was also primarily intended for gas operators. The “Small Box” mask was for the infantry.

      The one Ian wore looks like an early war French mask. They were intended to protect against chlorine (the only gas in use at the time) and were made of linen-backed canvas.

      Rather than having an actual respirator, the wearer breathed through the mask material, which was steeped in sodium thiosulfate (photographer’s developing “hypo”) which neutralized the chlorine. Any sort of exertion was difficult, due to the low O2 passage rate of the mask materials.

      The French continued to develop such “one-piece” masks up to mid-1916, when phosgene and then mustard gas made them largely ineffective.

      The Germans briefly experimented with similar masks in 1915, but quickly discarded them in favor of masks with rubberized envelopes, actual filters (usually filled with activated charcoal), and mouthpieces to breath through plus nose clips to ensure that no gas that leaked past the facepiece was inhaled through the sinuses.

      This was especially dangerous with phosgene and chlorine, both of which are so irritating to sinus passages and lung tissue that they can cause copious development of fluid in both; yes, a man can literally drown as a result.

      The British took their cue from the Germans and went for rubberized canvas plus charcoal-filter masks in early 1916. The standard “gas mask” of today, intended to protect against tear gas and etc., is the direct descendant of those WW1 masks.

      cheers

      eon

  4. Back in the Cold War US Army, we were provided with anti-fogging agent to spray on the inside of the M17 mask’s lenses.

    The familiar chest pack mask was the late WW1 British “Small Box Respirator”. which replaced the British version of the hood type mask

    https://gasmaskandrespirator.fandom.com/wiki/PHG/PH_Hood

    https://gasmaskandrespirator.fandom.com/wiki/Large_Box_Respirator

    https://gasmaskandrespirator.fandom.com/wiki/Small_Box_Respirator

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_box_respirator

  5. I have the letter written by my wifes grandfather while he was in hospital after being gassed. He describes the german practice of bombarding crossroads behind the french lines. He was a captain of artillery and died in 1930 from being gassed.My wifes other grandfather died in 1948 from being gassed quite early in the war

  6. So you can’t immediately “drown”.
    Symptoms of damage to the lungs with chlorine (more precisely, hydrochloric acid) appear several hours after the defeat.
    Phosgene and the like do the same.
    In the early cases of chlorine, soldiers fled by breathing through urine-soaked cloths.

  7. My Father (ww1 Gallipoli, Somme, Passchendale ) was slightly (as it turned out) gassed ! he was actually ASTHMATIC also also a smoker! the morning bout of coughing from smoking actually cleared his lungs for a hard days work! …lived to 79. ww2 gas masks were everywhere when i was a kid 1940s. the charcoal filters worked fine in field smoke …amazing no problem. Charcoal is wonderful stuff Thanks Ian for the practical experiment!

  8. When I went through Army basic training (USA) in 1991, We were still using versions of the M17 gas mask with the filters inside the cheek walls. When we went to the range, we were taught to hold the rifle (M16) sideways (Like a gang banger) in order to get a sight picture (iron sights) with the mask on. When the Army fully transitioned to the M40 mask with the screw on canister, it had a much better field of view and was much easier to shoot with. It was also much more comfortable to wear, and you could change the filter without removing the mask, which was a major drawback with the M17.

  9. Silly experiment:

    “GAS! GAS! Quick, boys, the masks!” Thankfully, this is only a training exercise, with dye-marker rounds and paint grenades. There are two teams here, and their objectives are as different as night and day. The simulated gas in question is more like thick fog, making visibility miserable for both teams. Everyone must wear masks. Taking off a gas mask is only possible if you’re tagged out, if you’re suffering from equipment malfunction, or if you intentionally forfeit your role in the game.

    Blue team has launched a gas attack on Red team’s trench line, and will commence a raid just after the bombardment as a surprise. Blue team’s objective is to tag out Red team and safely capture intelligence papers (simulated by a briefcase). Red team’s objectives are evacuating a valuable “treasure” (Blue team hasn’t been informed of this item) within a particular time limit, rigging their intelligence briefcase into a booby trap, and then withdrawing at least 50% of their surviving soldiers from the area before Blue team closes in and probably wins by default. Red team can also win if Blue team is tagged out.

    For this exercise, the following is available:

    Blue team:
    1. M1903 with Pedersen device (you may toss it for an M1 Carbine if you prefer)
    2. Stevens 520-30 with rubber bayonet
    3. Thompson M1921 (with drum magazines)
    4. Colt M1911 with extended magazine
    5. Mills Bomb (paint version)
    6. Rubber sword bayonet (in hand)
    7. Colt R75A
    8. Screw the budget!

    Red team:
    1. Steyr-Mannlicher M1888 (uh, oops, the original version)
    2. Tula TOZ-194 (uh, whoops, didn’t mean to activate a time machine)
    3. Ruby pistol (not the best choice for a side-arm)
    4. Colt-Burgess carbine in .44-40 (okay, I won’t bother explaining this mess)
    5. Tripwire mines (placed as needed BEFORE the exercise starts)
    6. Beretta Modelo 1918 SMG
    7. Bergmann MG 1902 heavy machine gun (what, no literature on this!?)
    8. Screw the budget!

    Does anyone want to speculate on the results?

    • Given you knew what a Toz was, be handy if you changed its Wikipedia entry: Magnum” shells is strongly counterindicated) clearly somebody has Google translated Russuan again and its generated that.

      Counterindicated…

      “The TOZ-194 is a conventional pump-action shotgun that feeds from a 7-rounds tube and chambers 70 mm shotgun shells (“Standard” 2​3⁄4″ 12-gauge, therefore the use of 76 mm (3 inches) “Magnum” shells is strongly counterindicated). Its main feature is its 540 mm (21.2 inches approx.) barrel, which is oddly long for a combat shotgun; this was done to reach an overall length of 805 mm (31.6 inches approx.) which makes it legal for civilian ownership in Russia.”

      So 2 & 3/4 shells… I don’t know to be honest, but can you chamber 3″ shells in chambers thus? As if so, counterindicated likely means don’t. Think you can chamber 20g in 12g if I remember… Was awhile ago, but I think they suggested check as you could load one on the other which is not good.

      Counterintuitive; er you’d like to load 3″ shells as you bought a “Rambo gun” but don’t, it might of meant.

      You battle sounds a bit complex, not sure what to do there, screw the budget for me… Pop my helmet on a stick, see if it gets shot then try to think what to spend the cash on. I suggest we micurate on our masks possibly protecting against rona “has anyone tried?” They tried with gas, so like… Might? How would you know, otherwise. Anyway, frosty mornings…

      • Micturate “piss” got that from Viz comic; said Police helmets must be presented for ladies to micturate in if (caught short) due to an obscure 19th c law. Don’t know if its true…

      • “Counterintuitive; er you’d like to load 3″ shells as you bought a “Rambo gun” but don’t, it might of meant.”
        ТОЗ 194 https://www.wikihunt.ru/%D0%A2%D0%9E%D0%97_194
        was designed for using 12/70 with non-metal hull (common for hunting in Russia at that time). Using too powerful ammunition for given weapon is bad idea to said the least.
        If you prefer longer cartridge, then get MP-153 https://modernfirearms.net/en/shotguns/russia-shotguns/mp-153-eng/ which is available in 12/76 and 12/89.
        It is available in folding stock version, see 3rd image from top:
        http://weaponland.ru/load/drobovik_bajkal_mr_153/43-1-0-158

        • Well they were interesting link cheers, heres an extract from one though: Single-barreled small-sized shotguns with a 12-gauge forend reloading for firing standard matrons.

          Matrons… Sounds lethal they must “spiggot” load (I assume) a matron and fire her at you like a rifle grenade, surprised thats legal to be honest. Doubtless its effective at about 20yrds; home defense Russian style 20 stone hitting you at about 50 fps Fair bazooka.

      • The barrels of Russian shotguns have rather mediocre accuracy and balance. But they are very durable.
        In any case, a shot with a one and a half charge, a shot with a 20ga cartridge and a shot with a 76mm cartridge from a 70mm chamber, they withstand without visible damage.

        Perhaps this was done on purpose, in case the user tries to compensate for the bad blow by selecting wild charges.

  10. MOPP gear is much more effective than WWI equipment, but adds the problems of overheating, restriction of motion, difficulty of working in tight spaces, hearing interference, and difficult identification of individuals. One can, however, shoot accurately, see very well and feel secure from most chemical agents, and that is a big deal.

  11. MOPP gear.
    Yes, it is convenient and functional.
    But this protective equipment has rather mediocre performance in protection against the organophosphorus group.
    Although, all the same, it is better than in the great war or ww2.
    The best protection against FOS is provided by the rubberized kits of the Warsaw block. Which were a continuation of the German developments of the Second World War.

  12. As a user above said regarding 1990’s US NBC protection gear and shooting, we were trained to hold the M16A2 sideways to get some sort of sight picture. Also, the qualifying target was only 50m away AND the whole mag was loaded with tracer, as I recall. So, in summary, expectations of shooting well were nil with the mask on.

    • “…expectations of shooting well were nil with the mask on”(С)

      It’s just a matter of practice.
      The entire M16 family is excellent for motor memory shooting. Therefore, you do not need to clearly see the scope at small distances, it is enough to see the target.
      Yes, the results are much worse than without the mask, but enough for close combat.

  13. My maternal grandfather was injured during a USA training exercise in 1918 where troops were put in a room and wearing their masks were exposed to Chlorine gas. Apparently his mask had issues but the DI would not let anyone out. He managed to stay alive and said he coughed up lots of phlegm afterwards. He lived to be 81 and was able to use all of his nine cat lives doing so.

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