Beginners guide (Part 1)
The French introduced the MAS 36 in 1936 (hence the nomenclature) and it was a robust rifle lasting in use until the late 70’s when replaced by the MAS 49 and MAS 49/56.
It is a simple design with wooden furniture to the very end of the rifle, an integral magazine and simple sights. In the end of the rifle is a bayonet inside a tube under the barrel.
The bolt is moved back and a clip of five 7.5mm rounds are located into a groove to the front of the rear sight. The rounds are then pushed down into the integral magazine. Although the magazine can be removed, this is only for cleaning and cannot be loaded outside of the rifle. You can add another couple or single rounds manually if necessary to bring up the capacity. The bolt is then pushed forward and down to engage the round in the chamber.
There are only a couple of working parts that need to come off the rifle. The bolt is pulled to the rear and comes out the receiver very easily. The magazine spring is removed by depressing two small buttons to the front of the magazine housing (just before the wood foregrip). The magazine spring comes out downwards. At the very end of the rifle the bayonet is removed by depressing a small spring loaded ‘see saw’ button. The bayonet slides out easily – and can be returned in a fighting position by reversing the direction of the bayonet and pushing back in the hole which it came out of. Make sure the ‘see saw’ button engages with a click! Interestingly there is a small ‘spigot’ that is attached to the front sights that looks like a small mushroom. This is to enable the user to catch another bayonet from an enemy and with a twist of the rifle disarm the enemy or at least snap their bayonet blade off! A hang over from earlier designs I think..
The safety is controlled by the bolt which has two settings – one as ‘safe’ and the other as ‘live’. The bolt fully pushed home is the live position, partially lifted any trigger movement will bring the bolt home and into a safe mode. The sights are on a slide and easily pulled back to raise and lower. The trigger has two settings, the first position and a second pull of the trigger will fire the rifle - this helps with precise shooting techniques. The trigger is very angular with ridges in it and is can be quite uncomfortable to use repeatedly. The kick is quite harsh, about the same impact as a 7.62mm round and the noise is load with a definite ‘crack’. Reloading is smooth and easy as long as the magazine is clean and the spring not overly compressed. The weapon is balanced quite well but the barrel area is quite heavy, especially with the bayonet in place and prolonged unsupported shooting can be troublesome.
The process is the same as a strip, and then flannelette cloth is pulled through the barrel. To reassemble is the same process as a strip, but in the opposite order!
The rifle isn’t exactly easy to carry, the leather sling is side mounted and must be very loose to fit comfortably over the shoulder. Prolonged carrying on the sling can be wearing – so I understand why I always see the rifle carried in other ways!! The weight isn’t great, but being a long rifle and very unforgiving, it can become a bit of a burden over long distances.
In all a simple to use and maintain rifle but by the 1960’s the rifle was very dated and was long over due for a replacement. It was then complimented by a gas operated version (MAS 44), and then a ‘carbine’ version the MAS49/56.
Beginners guide (Part 2)
The French introduced the FM24/29 before the Second World War. They were showcased in the Maginot line forming the backbone of the machine gun requirements for the fort. There is confusion concerning its name - some sources believe it is the year of design and manufacture – others talk about the calibre the weapons was originally designed with. In use they utilised 7.5 mm rounds. The FM went on to deliver sterling service up until the early 60’s when it was replaced by the belt fed 7.62mm AA52.
It is a simple design originally copied from the American BAR but with a vertical magazine feed. It was itself copied and went on to influence the Bren Gun of UK fame. It is a very solidly built gun with round ejection to the right and gas capture barrel to the bottom.
The magazine cover is lifted up by pushing in two ‘tabs’ to the rear and either side of the opening. The cover is not spring assisted and is manually pushed forwards and upwards. The magazines are placed in the opening pushing the ‘toe’ of the magazine in, then the ‘heel’, which comes down with a click. Failure to ensure the magazine is seated correctly (and there is a nack!) will result is mis feeding and a possible jam. To remove the magazine there is a magazine release ‘paddle’ to the rear of the magazine housing that is pushed forward to release the ‘heel’ of the mag. This paddle only comes to the upright position when the magazine is placed in the housing.
The bolt is pulled back using the leather covered knob to the right hand side of the weapon. This involves great effort as the return spring is very ‘ lively’. The bolt is held at the rear and depressing the trigger pushes the bolt forward and engages the round.
I could write a whole novel on a detailed strip, but I will here just describe a partial strip.
The magazine is removed and the weapon cocked. At the rear of the weapon before the wooden stock (to the right side) is a small metal ‘winder’. This is pushed back and up (you can see the tracks on the weapon in the second pictures) – this then rotates anti clockwise for about 4 or five turns and comes out. The stock is pushed downwards and comes away from the weapon, at the same time allowing the trigger mechanism housing to drop down away from the weapon. Turn the weapon onto its back and the bolt can be slid to the rear and taken off its runners – as well as the cocking handle. This gives clear access to the breech for cleaning/ inspecting. The barrel is also removed in a similar manner with another ‘winder’.
The bolt is replaced, engaging the cocking handle and the reassembly is the reverse of the strip. Extremely simple to do, the only fiddle is the ‘winder’ ensuring it is fully screwed in – or the weapon will not work correctly.
Once the magazine is loaded and the weapon cocked it is ready to fire. There is a safety switch on the trigger on the right side. Click from S to F. There are two triggers – the front one is repeated or continous fire, the second is for single shot. The weapon will continue to fire until the magazine is empty where the bolt will close and will need to be re-cocked when a new magazine is introduced.
Interestingly, because the ejection port is to the right it can be held as per a normal weapon and fired from a standing position. The foregrip is useful and stops burning of hands on the metal work.
There is also a ‘flip up’ metal but-plate to stop the weapon jumping from the shoulder whilst firing in the prone position. During firing the recoil is lessened as the weapon is also cocking. It has slightly more recoil than the Bren Gun, but having a heavier barrel the accuracy is outstanding.
The process is the same as a strip, and then flannelette cloth is pulled through the barrel. There is also cleaning needed of the trigger mechanism and gas barrel.
The greatest fun with this weapon is carrying. We have nicknamed it ‘the beast’. It is extremely heavy. The bipod folds together is rotated 90 degrees to clip around the barrel. This position is best for carrying, but the tripod can work loose very easily and fall forwards.
The sling is designed to be full length , but can be shortened very quickly by using a hook to allow the weapon to be help closer to the chest for firing from the shoulder whilst standing.
The weapon comes with a cleaning kit and rear support (for sustained firing) as well as another heavy canvas bag with a further 12 magazines. In all the whole kit is very heavy and probably inspired the AA52 to be light weight with a removable barrel! Unlike the Bren the barrel of the FM is fixed. It can take a good deal of rounds, but can overheat in prolonged firefights.
In all a simple design and absolute dream to strip in the field. Its heavy barrel means great accuracy but it can get hot and adds to the overall weight. Its reliability allowed it to last until the early 60’s but I feel sure the troops getting the new AA52 were very happy to get rid of the very heavy FM ‘beast’.