In the aftermath of World War One, France would face the need to replace virtually all of its small arms, because nearly everything it had been using was either a wartime stopgap (like the Ruby, Chauchat, and Berthier 07/15) or had been obsolete before the war began (like the Lebel and Mle 1892 revolver). The first focus of the rearming was a new light machine gun, which would be adopted in the form of the Chatellerault M24/29. Plans were made to develop a semiautomatic infantry rifle and bolt action support troops’ rifle (both in the new 7.5mm rimless cartridge), but these would not prove to be as quickly realized. As a result, the Berthier Mle 1916 carbines would remain in major frontline service right up to the outbreak of World War Two.
During the twenty years between the wars, the Berthiers would see a series of changes and upgrades including:
- Sling bars replacing swivels
- Revised handguard profile
- Raised sights
- Removal of the clearing rods
- Adoption of the 1932N cartridge and associated rechambering
- New metal finishes
Production of new carbines in fact continued all the way until 1939, with at least 160,000 made in 1919 and later. Many of the alterations made during this postwar period are evident on examples found today, and there is a collecting premium on guns that do not exhibit these peacetime modifications. So, let’s have a look, shall we?