Testing 7.65mm French Long Ammo (Reed’s and Buffalo Arms)

 

I am on the search for suitable ammunition for the Mle 1935A and Mle 1935S French pistols, as well as my MAS-38 submachine gun. They are chambered for the 7.65mm French Long cartridge, aka 7.65x20mm, aka .32 French Long. It has never been produced commercially that I am aware of, and surplus French military ammunition is scarce, corrosive, and very unreliable. So that leaves a couple custom ammunition makers to try from.

I did not try anything from Gad’s Ammo, as I have had poor experiences trying to order from him in the past. I did buy a supply of ammo from Buffalo Arms, made with converted .32 S&W Long brass. I also was given some similar ammunition made by Reed’s Custom Ammo by a viewer (thanks!). I also had a selection of steel-case French surplus ammo. My results on a chronograph were:

Buffalo Arms (9 shots):
Average velocity at 3 yards – 979fps
Standard deviation – 41 fps
Conclusion: Underpowered; usually ejected the case but would not chamber a new one. Not recommended.

Reed’s Custom (9 shots):
Average velocity at 3 yards – 815fps
Standard deviation – 82 fps (!)
Conclusion: Significantly underpowered and extremely inconsistent. Never cycled the pistol, and usually failed to eject the empty case. Definitely not recommended.

French surplus:
10 rounds attempted, only one fired. Velocity of that round was 1085fps. Corrosive. Not recommended.

At SHOT Show in January 2018, the Starline booth rep told me that they were planning to start making proper new production 7.65mm French Long brass within the year. My understanding is that converted .32 S&W brass has a tendency to split case heads when loaded to original spec, so getting new production brass from Starline will be the key to anyone being able to make workable ammo for these pistols (both at home and commercially).

33 Comments

  1. “7.65mm French Long cartridge, aka 7.65x20mm, aka .32 French Long”
    Data from Альбом конструкций патронов стрелкового оружия (1946)
    COUNTRY: France
    NAME: 7,65-mm cartridge for sub-machine guns
    CARTRIDGE MASS: 8,6 g
    VELOCITY at 10 meters: 380 m/s
    POWDER CHARGE: 0,32 g
    POWDER DENSITY: 0,58 g/cm^3
    POWDER: nitroglycerin based
    AREA OF PERPENDICULAR CUT OF BARREL, INCLUDING RIFLING: 0,48 cm^2
    BULLET MASS: 5,5 g
    DISTANCE BETWEEN BULLET BOTTOM AND POINT OF CENTER OF GRAVITY: 42,8 % of length
    CASE MASS: 2,6 g
    CASE CAPACITY: 1,21 cm^3
    CASE CAPACITY AFTER BULLET SEATING: 0,53 cm^3
    PRIMER MASS: 0,15 g
    MATERIALS:
    -BULLET JACKET: steel, hardness 190 Vickers
    -BULLET CORE: Plumbum with addition of Stibium
    -CASE: Steel

  2. “converted .32 S&W brass has a tendency to split case heads when loaded to original spec”
    Does anyone tried to use .32 H&R or .327 Federal? I presume they are stronger as higher pressure is used.

  3. Good reasons not to get reproduction ammo if nobody did test-firing… but I hope someone tried to get a consistent powder load first.

  4. I presume that re-sized and trimmed .30 carbine cases have been ruled out?

    Using Wiki numbers (never incorrect, eh?) – .30C base diam seems a tad large, and normal mouth diam too small, but mouth might be OK at cut length. Re-sizing a base could be challenging.

    • Even if you could get around the larger cartridge case base factor, the thicker web of the .30 USC case at the head would require careful loading to avoid excessive pressure. You might end up with lower velocities.

      With that in mind, I’ve been thinking that since .30 USC doesn’t work too well in a pistol-length barrel (as we discussed here a while back re the Kimball automatic pistol), maybe the best solution is a “new” .30/.32 caliber self-loading pistol cartridge.

      Suppose we cut a .30 USC case (7.62 x 33) to 22mm to 23mm length, expand it to a true straight-wall profile rather than its standard slight taper, and load it with any of the better .32 ACP or 7.62 x 25 expanding bullets around today.

      With modern powders and primers, ballistic performance should match or slightly exceed 7.62 Tokarev, but in a “package” better suited to a compact pocket pistol; cartridge OAL about the same as 9 x 19mm, but diameter not much different than .32 ACP.

      It would absolutely require a locked-breech or gas-delayed blowback action to deal with the pressures involved. I would think the former would be preferable, something like the rotating-barrel lock on the new Glock 46.

      For that matter, in a compact police service-sized weapon, the smaller case diameter might allow a 14-to-16 round capacity in a frame size in which 9 x 19mm would only permit 10 to 12.

      Comments?

      cheers

      eon

      • “Comments?”
        Such cartridge would be similar (at least in term of dimensions) to ancient 8 mm cartridge for Repetierpistole M.7
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8mm_Roth%E2%80%93Steyr
        which according to data in link can be crafted from .30 Carbine.

        General conclusion is that before buying old automatic pistol which you want also to shot, even if only sometimes, make sure that you have supply of proper cartridges.

      • “For that matter, in a compact police service-sized weapon, the smaller case diameter might allow a 14-to-16 round capacity in a frame size in which 9 x 19mm would only permit 10 to 12.

        Comments?”
        I would suggest something even more radical – .256 caliber (using .256 Winchester bullets) high-pressure cartridge which would looks like elongated 6,35 mm Browning (.25 Auto). Providing enough muzzle velocity and open-tipped bullet should give enough effectiveness and allow many to fit into magazine

        • The problem with .256 is that bullets designed for the Winchster round are (1) getting hard to find because the .256 is an obsolete round that is no longer made, nor are rifles made for it, and (2) they are designed to hold together at its impact velocities of over 2,000 F/S (650 m/s) at 100m, which requires firing them at over 2,600 F/S from a 24- to 26-inch barrel. Fired at considerably lower velocities in the 1,400 F/S range from a short pistol barrel, they probably would not expand at all.

          A 7.62 x 23 pistol round by comparison could use any bullets designed for either .32 ACP, .327 Federal, or other such current calibers. And there are a lot of those around.

          Another possibility for a 23mm round based on the .30 USC would be to emulate Melvin Johnson’s .22 Johnson spitfire and neck it down to .223in. which would make it a 5.56 x 23mm, shorter than 5.7 x 28 but with the same or greater powder capacity due to the larger-diameter cartridge case. Loaded with any of the 50 to 60-grain .223 hollow point or soft point bullets available, it would probably exceed 5.7 x 28 performance, which means you would have a centerfire defensive/service pistol “small bore” round that outperformed a .22 WMRF, as opposed to just being a more expensive centerfire ballistic “twin” of same.

          cheers

          eon

          • I really wish Ruger and an ammo company would team up to bring back the .256 in that nifty little 77/357 carbine. I put a lot of ammo through a .25-20 Savage Sporter bolt action, which would do everything at 125 yards my .22 would do at 50, and the thought of a “super .25-20” makes me smile.

  5. Seems like a possible work around is to get lighter recoil springs for use with the under powered ammo. Either that or buy the under powered ammo, pull the bullets and reload with a stiffer dose of powder. Then start reloading the brass yourself.

    • Good grief, why use anemic ammunition unless you want a manual repeating weapon? The only useful application I can see for that stuff is acoustic suppression so that the gun can be used for pest extermination, not that anyone needs to kill huge rats without terrifying the neighbors. I hope I’m wrong on this.

  6. Ian,
    Any theories as to why French military ammo (pistol and rifle) always seems to have such poor shelf life? I’ve shot similar age military ammo from other countries (UK, US, Germany, and Austria) and, as long as it’s been stored reasonably well, it shoots quite reliably.

    Perhaps the French used a less stable formulation for their primer compound, and it’s simply degraded?

    • It’s not the primer, it’s the propellant powder itself. Poudre B, the original smokeless powder for the M1886 Lebel, tended to develop esters which over time both degraded performance and increased the sensitivity and volatility of the propellant, much as with British Cordite.

      Later formulations (BF and BPF1) reduced these problems but never entirely eliminated them.

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

      BPF1, introduced just before WW2, was used by the French Army until the early 1970s. So any surplus 7.65 x 20 ammunition will likely be loaded with it.

      Its stability and usability at this late date is open to question.

      cheers

      eon

      • Cordite was also unreliable out at sea, if I’m not mistaken. So much for the Quick-firing 2 pounder naval guns…

        • From the link;

          The earliest “Poudre B” tended to eventually become unstable, which has been attributed to evaporation of the volatile solvents, but may also have been due to the difficulty in fully removing the acids used to make guncotton. In the early years of their use both the original Poudre B and guncotton led to accidents. For example, two French battleships, the Iéna and the Liberté, blew up in Toulon harbour in 1907 and 1911 respectively with heavy loss of life.

          It wasn’t just the Royal Navy that had problems with first-generation double-based powders.

          cheers

          eon

          • Incidentally, here’s a contemporary newspaper sketch of what the powder explosion did to the Liberte’;

            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0e/Cuirass%C3%A9_Libert%C3%A9_1911_draw.png

            On 25 September 1911, as Liberté was moored in Toulon harbor, an accidental explosion in one of her forward ammunition magazines for the secondary guns destroyed the ship.[1] The explosion hurled a 37-metric-ton (36-long-ton; 41-short-ton) chunk of armor plate from the ship into the battleship République moored some 210 m (690 ft) away, which caused significant damage.[5]

            The French Navy had earlier suffered a series of fatal accidents in Toulon, beginning with an explosion aboard a torpedo boat in February 1907, in which nine men were killed. The following month, the battleship Iéna blew up, killing 107 men. An explosion aboard a gunnery training ship killed six in August 1908, and an explosion on a cruiser killed 13. Six more men were killed aboard the cruiser Gloire a year later, on 10 September 1911. The explosion aboard Liberté killed some 250 officers and men.[5] The culprit was unstable Poudre B, a nitrocellulose-based propellant that was also responsible for the destruction of Iéna,[6] and possibly the other explosions as well.[5]

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_battleship_Libert%C3%A9

            In short, however good French small arms and ammunition concepts are (and they’re pretty decent), their propellant powders leave a lot to be desired.

            cheers

            eon

        • “Cordite”
          Here: http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-100.php
          you can read about various propulsive powders used in naval application, about cordite:
          Both Mark I and MD were in use during World War I, and both had poor storage characteristics with their stability degrading over time. A study performed after World War I found that MD tended to form highly unstable micro-sized dust particles consisting of nitrocellulose and iron pyrites. These unfortunate traits led to several ships suffering magazine explosions during World War I, both in action and in harbor.
          Explosion of cordite lead to loss of HMS Vanguard in 1917.

  7. Hey Ian,

    I would sure like to know how much you end up having to shorten a M1935A recoil spring in order to get reliable functioning with the Buffalo Bore ammo. I also have a quantity of it.

    Thanks!

  8. Seems like .32 ACP, from a correct chamber, has comparable recoil impulse to the commercial ammo.
    Thus your MAS-38 with the lightened spring should also cycle .32 ACP, if you had an appropriately chambered barrel. Have you thought about having the over-deep chamber in your original barrel bored out, an insert installed, and rechambered for .32 ACP?
    Then you’d have:
    barrel A + recoil spring A = .32 ACP
    barrel B + recoil spring A = 7.65 long, commercial
    barrel B + recoil spring B = 7.65 long, full-power

    • You would also need to “block” the magazine in some way to make up for the shorter cartridge OAL of the .32 ACP (7.65 x 17mm SR). Otherwise you would likely have the top round “nosedive” into the magazine instead of feeding correctly.

      Examine a Norinco-made TT33 Tokarev clone in 9 x 19mm. Its magazine is a standard 7.62 x 25 box, that has been blocked in back by a stamped steel piece looking rather like a stripper clip turned wrong way round and spot-welded in place. Plus, it has a follower that has been made shorter front-to-back than the standard 7.62 x 25mm follower, by some 5mm. Both were necessary to prevent the “nosediving” problem.

      Any 7.65 x 20 magazine, pistol or SMG, to be used with 7.65 x 17mm SR would probably have to be modified in the same way to insure reliable feeding. Not to mention having the feed lips relieved at the back to accommodate the semi-rim. And once modified, they could no longer be used with 7.65 x 20 rounds; they wouldn’t fit.

      In short, you’d need not just extra barrels and springs but extra magazines, too.

      For the cost of all that, you could probably buy a lot of Starline 7.65 x 20 brass and load your own rounds.

      cheers

      eon

      • “For the cost of all that, you could probably buy a lot of Starline 7.65 x 20 brass and load your own rounds.”
        How ammo availability affects price of Modèle 1935 automatic pistol vs MAB Modèle D automatic pistol (that later being chamber for available 7,65 mm Browning (.32 Auto) or 9×17 mm Kurz (.380 Auto) cartridge): https://unblinkingeye.com/Guns/MABC/mabc.html ?

  9. My solution is a spacer ring in the chamber, .32 ACP with the rims turned down a little, and hot heavy bullet loads. Works fine.

  10. I hope Starline starts making brass for it. Would love to see both running 100%. It would also be super cool to see the Russians make a commercial value priced steel case load for it. I was super happy when they started offering a 30carbine steel case load.

  11. Uh oh. This will cost me some money. My favorite gun shop has a nice condition 35A for sale. It’s been sitting there for months; no one wants it due to lack of ammo…..

  12. I bought three boxes from Buffalo during their last run. Not a single issue. All fed and ejected beautifully out of my 1935A. The gun is in pristine condition so I don’t know if that makes a difference. I didn’t feel the ammo was underpowered at all. Very accurate and with barely an recoil. Great loading from Buffalo Arms.

  13. Hi!
    I also just purchased an SACM 1935a. Neat little gun.
    Now to my question.
    I contacted a barrel manufacturer and asked if he could make a barrel in 7,65 Browning for this gun. They told me, that they would have to custom make it and it would be quite expensive (machine recalibration and such things).
    Is there a interest in such barrels? Maybe i could convince them, that they would sell enough to sell it at a reasonable price.

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