Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

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timmy
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Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

Post by timmy » Sun Jan 16, 2022 1:25 am

Gun Brothers:

I have just begun reading the book, Chassepot to FAMAS: French Military Rifles, 1866 – 2016 by Ian McCollum, which documents French military rifle development from the Chassepot Rifle (used in the Franco Prussian War and superior to the German Dreyse "Needle Gun" at the time) until the present day. The book covers, in other words, topics of interest to those who enjoy old weapons, like myself, to those interested in modern military gear, like some folks here.

https://www.headstamppublishing.com/pur ... j88j-2rrs5

Some who know me well have accused me of being a Francophile, and it is true that my tastes do often run toward an appreciation for French engineering. They seem to have a way of approaching an application that's different from everyone else's, and for this reason I like to study their work to understand these other approaches. The author of this book, Ian McCollum, seems to share my taste in this matter. It was his youtube video review that set me on a course to obtain a "Turkish Forestry Carbine," a modification of the WW1 French Berthier rifle.

There is a rifle (a French rifle) that occupies my mind as "most wanted": The French RSC semi-automatic rifle of WW1! That's right, WW1! This long predates the USA M1 Garand and Soviet Tokarev SVT semi-automatic rifles of WW2. The RSC occupies that "most wanted" (but "will never have") niche in my rifle wants, like the Webley Fosbery "automatic revolver" does in my handgun wants. I can't afford one, but I would love to have one.

Consequently, the chapter on the RSC in Chassepot to FAMAS was the chapter I browsed immediately on opening the book. Like all the chapters, the entire book is lavishly illustrated with detailed pictures and McCollum tells you how the guns work, along with production data like dates and numbers. Thus, the book has something for collectors, students of design, and those with general interests.

Ian McCollum is an engineering graduate of Purdue University, a school of no mean reputation in the fields of engineering. He is quite knowledgable in his field and this shows in his simple, yet detailed explanations. You can get a sense of his approach to the topic of firearms from his "Forgotten Weapons" youtube channel. I'll include links here to his videos on the RSC to serve as examples of both McCollum's work and the RSC. Turn on the subtitles for a clearer understanding of his narration.







McCollum discusses, examines, and shoots the RSC in these short but informative videos.

Not all share my taste for firearms design and history, but for those of you who do, I thought you would find this book interesting.
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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Re: Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

Post by revolver » Sun Jan 16, 2022 12:27 pm

timmy wrote:
Sun Jan 16, 2022 1:25 am


Some who know me well have accused me of being a Francophile, and it is true that my tastes do often run toward an appreciation for French engineering. They seem to have a way of approaching an application that's different from everyone else's, and for this reason I like to study their work to understand these other approaches. The author of this book, Ian McCollum, seems to share my taste in this matter. It was his youtube video review that set me on a course to obtain a "Turkish Forestry Carbine," a modification of the WW1 French Berthier rifle.
Hi Timmy

Please can you educate us as to what is it about French engineering that fascinated you as compared to German or American or maybe even Russian. I myself have never truly been a fan of French engineered products including guns.

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Re: Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

Post by timmy » Sun Jan 16, 2022 2:18 pm

revolver wrote:
Sun Jan 16, 2022 12:27 pm
what is it about French engineering that fascinated you as compared to German or American or maybe even Russian.
Certainly, Revolver!

As my post outlined, being first to deploy a workable semi-automatic rifle 20 years before anyone else, and doing the development while a huge war was going on is a sign of engineering prowess. I might also note that the French had a number of other successes in the firearms department.

The Chamelot Delvigne of 1873 was a significant development of the double action cartridge revolver, providing the basis for the Swiss 1882 refinement by the Swiss and subsequent Colt use, up to the Diamondback and Python models

The development of smokeless powder and the first power to deploy a small caliber high velocity military rifle

Search these forums and the internet in general for the Darne shotgun. Its unique toggle link sliding block action gives Darnes the most pleasant and svelte form for SxS doubles.

My Berthier-based Turkish Forestry Carbine is very enjoyable to operate, being well made and finished, and very smooth. While some don't find the shape of the Berthier to their taste, I will say that the Turkish modification makes a very nice, trim looking rifle, even if it is heavy.

On to other fronts:

The French were leaders in the development of the breech loading artillery and naval ordnance, developing the Carnot ring breech system. This was the alternative to the German/Austrian sliding wedge system used by Krupp and Skoda.

French steel armor was of high quality for naval construction before the 1st and 2nd World Wars.

The Dunkerque and Richelieu classes of battleships were examples of engineering excellence. The Richelieus were not inferior to any of their contemporaries, the Italian Littorios, German Bismarcks, USN South Dakotas, or RN King George Vs. Besides this, these ships of both classes were very handsome designs, as well.

The French were leaders in the early development of aircraft, and the Hispano-Suiza V8 was the leading aircraft powerplant design at the end of WW1. (Yes, I know that the Napier Lion was an advance, but it was a post-war design.)

French automobiles were also leaders of that engineering field. For instance, the fantastic success of Miller/Offenhauser racing engines into the 70s and early 80s were all based on engine designs of pre-WW1 Peugeot engines and post-WW1 Ballot valve gear. This continued through the interwar years with such makes as Bugatti, Hispano-Suiza, Delage, and Delahaye and continued after WW2 in the Talbot-Lago.

Also a French auto maker, but so significant as to deserve a mention of its own, the autos of Citroën were world leaders in engineering. The trademark of Citroën represents their use of double helical gears, which allowed quiet operation without generating side thrust. The 1934 Traction Avant featured front wheel drive and unit body construction, giving it a low center of gravity. This was succeeded by the famous "DS" series, which had a coefficient of drag in 1955 that rivals modern cars today. By placing the wheels at the very corners of the car, Citroën had a long wheelbase for a rather short car, giving a comfortable ride. The DSs revolutionary hydraulic system powered the air/hydraulic suspension that allowed the car to be driven on 3 wheels, saving the life of President De Gaulle in an assassination attempt. This also allowed wheels to be changed without the need of a jack. The hydraulic system also powered the power steering, brakes, and clutch. Rolls-Royce thought highly enough of the Citroën hydraulic system to license its manufacture and install it on their own cars. The early 70s saw the introduction of the high performance SM, with a Maserati V6. After WW2, Citroën introduced the 2CV, an inexpensive car that put France on wheels (like the Model T Ford in the USA).

Andre Citroën himself was not an engineer, but he built cars on the assembly line massed produced model developed by Henry Ford, and incorporated the most advanced engineering possible at the time. His theory was that, in this way, it would take a decade or more before his competition caught up with his products, and this would eliminate the need to produce "improved models" so often.

Let us not forget the French portion of engineering that went into the Concorde supersonic airliner, or the current line of Airbus aircraft used around the world today.

I'm leaving out the contributions of people like Pasteur in the field of medicine and the Curies in physics and radioactivity (although we know that Madame Curie was Polish). These contributions fall more in the category of Science, rather than engineering.

This much is coming to me from off of the top of my head, but seems to be a good start.
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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Re: Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

Post by revolver » Sun Jan 16, 2022 6:21 pm

Wow you certainly are a treasure chest of information. I do agree with you point of view but in my opinion iss that even though the French have been pioneers on many fronts but other countries by being “inspired” with the French designs have improved manifolds in their engineering capabilities in todays times. Be it space, military weapons, aircraft manufacturing, mobile phones etc are fields in which though the French may have exceld at some point but are still taking trailing other nations today. Recent example being Australia cancelling the submarine deal with France and getting them from the US instead.

Lastly I feel the French work culture keeping in mind the Mordern day “democratic” society is very laid back and not as motivated and hardworking say as someone like the Germans or Russians IMHO. I know I might have ruffled a few feathers with my last statement😁.

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Re: Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

Post by Vikram » Sun Jan 16, 2022 9:35 pm

Tim,

Fascinating and educational as ever. Thanks for the initial post and the essay on French engineering accomplishments. Thoroughly enjoyed.
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Re: Chassepot to FAMAS: Book about French Military Rifles

Post by timmy » Sun Jan 16, 2022 11:27 pm

revolver wrote:
Sun Jan 16, 2022 6:21 pm
Australia cancelling the submarine deal with France and getting them from the US instead.
!!!

Yes, the AUKUS agreement and canceling of the French submarines is a whole subject unto itself. Some hints I've read include that the whole project was not meeting milestones and wasn't about to do so. Also, that the issue was to break the contract and resolve the business after the next Australian election.

Some have suggested that Australia might lease some boats that the USN is retiring in the interim, until the new boats are built. The whole business, considering the capabilities of nuclear boats compared to diesel ones has put the Chinese on notice, which doesn't seem like a bad thing, though Malaysia and Indonesia, among others, don't seem to be happy about it. But, I wonder, what the alternative is? If these ridiculous sea claims aren't stopped somewhere, the kid's fishing pond near my house might be their next claim.

If you want to read about some interesting subs, check out the peroxide-fueled ones used by the Swedes. I don't think they'd have the endurance for Australia and the Pacific theater, though, If I remember correctly, they involve using Sterling engines, as well.
timmy wrote:
Sun Jan 16, 2022 2:18 pm
The DSs revolutionary hydraulic system powered the air/hydraulic suspension that allowed the car to be driven on 3 wheels, saving the life of President De Gaulle in an assassination attempt.
By the way, this event was dramatized in the movie, "The Day of the Jackal" from the 70s (not the later Travolta movie). I love that movie and watch it often, as it reminds me of the Paris I remember from my youth. It also has a very neat 22 Magnum rifle in it, one that I've tried to place unsuccessfully figure out for years now.
"One constant about the elements of 1914 - as of any era - was the disposition of everyone on all sides not to prepare for the harder alternative, not to act upon what they suspected to be true"

Barbara Tuchman, "The Guns of August"

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