Small Caliber Book Reviews: The Last Bolt Gun

2015-06-29 23_47_53-Amazon.com_ The Last Bolt Gun_ The History of the MAS 1936 Bolt Action Rifle eBo

So you’ve just bought a MAS 36, and you’ve heard a lot about how it was too little, too late, how it shoots a weird, hard-to-find caliber, has no safety, and you can’t adjust the sight for windage. On the other hand, you like that the action is short and compact, and the rifle is pretty short and light for a military gun. Where to from here?

If that sounds familiar, then you are the target demographic for Steve Jackson’s new book, The Last Bolt Gun.

I’ve covered Collector Grade books before, and so the reader should note that Jackson’s book is not an exhaustive treatise on the subject like those from that publisher are. It is closer to an introductory pamphlet for the new MAS 36 owner, with a basic (but correct) foundation in the rifle’s development and history, and important notes on – for example – what sort of ammunition is available and exactly how to adjust windage on the rifle. At 63 pages long, most with photos, The Last Bolt Gun does not take long to read, but in several cases the information in the book could save the reader from a lengthy sighting-in procedure, or get their rifle shooting straight again.

Information on the MAS 36 is pretty scarce, so any details Jackson adds are welcome to the new owner of one. Those who don’t own a MAS 36 and aren’t looking to purchase one will still find plenty of new details in the book, such as the .22 caliber MAS 36 trainers made during the German occupation, or the commercial MAS 36s made in calibers as large as 10.75x68mm (the existence of which dispels, hopefully, the myth that the MAS 36’s action was particularly weak). Moreover, The Last Bolt Gun makes a good case for redemption of the MAS, a rifle that despite its lack of what most would consider essential features still represents what is probably the apex of the military bolt action rifle. Strong, quick to operate, simple, sturdy, and light, the book portrays a rifle that challenges even the superlative Mauser and Enfield rifles as the finest manually-operated implements of war ever devised.

Mention should be made of the photos of the book. Almost every page has a full-size photo, and those that were not black-and-white originally are in full color. Being an ebook, the photos are in higher resolution than would be possible with a dead tree volume, and are very clean and sharp, portraying everything from different variants to full disassembly of the rifle.

mas36

This image of a MAS 36 LG48 variant is typical of the high resolution photos presented in The Last Bolt Gun.

 

The Last Bolt Gun is for the MAS 36 owner first, but it’s also a brief but fine read for those more generally interested in the subject. Being the last bolt-action ever designed by a major power, the MAS 36 is inherently interesting, and Jackson’s book brings additional, if modest, depth to the table. Moreso, though, for MAS 36 owners the book contains information that should well justify its price, especially if their firearm needs maintenance or sight adjustment. Since, so far as I know, no MAS 36 manual exists in English, The Last Bolt Gun is a sort of stand-in for Anglophones, with additional supplementary history and trivia, with an overall bent towards the civilian shooter and collector.

Should you buy The Last Bolt Gun? If you own a MAS 36, I would say “yes” for the same reason I would recommend buying stripper clips, a sling, or a cleaning kit. If you don’t, it depends on your interest. Jackson’s book only covers just that rifle, and unlike the much more expensive Collector Grade volumes, it is not an exhaustive treatment, but there’s still information to be gleaned – and at the very least The Last Bolt Gun is a starting point for additional research into the subject.

The Last Bolt Gun can be purchased in Kindle format on Amazon’s website for $8.99 USD.



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • UnluckyLuke

    Well the “last” part is slightly exagerrated – Ian from forgotten weapons covered M47 Madsen “Lightweight Military Rifle”. And then in the eighties Brits from
    BMS Trading Ltd. came up with Milcam Rifle, catered for third world countries in hope that they would throw away surplus and combloc automatic weapons and happily buy STANAG compatible bolt action .556 – as if being poor must mean that one is also stupid, when it comes to procurement.

    • abecido

      Last adopted by a major power.

      I am poor, and I would consider procuring a Milcam rifle were any to be had in the US, but I wouldn’t discard my combloc and surplus weapons to do it.

      (I know about the Mossberg, but it’s just not the same.)

  • Vitsaus

    Very underrated gun. Thanks for the article, and for bringing this book to our attention.

  • tgonza

    Mine is very accurate. It was sporterized by a company in California in 1949. It has a shortened barrel and a safety. I was going to take it hunting as backup and hit a gallon milk bottle at 200 yards so figured it would hit a cow elk at 100. I had my 7mm mag but told my son I’d use the MAS at anything within 100 yards. Cow elk was quartering towards me at 100 yards. Hit it right in chest and went right down with reload shooting 150 grain spitzer.

  • iksnilol

    I think I will stick with the 6.5mm Krag as my “still relevant antique”.

  • Still relevant to this dude (hope his floorplate is in that bag).

    • Looks like the floorplate is in the gun, or am I missing something?

      I note he has the rifle grenades ready to go for his 36/51.

      • voldamane .

        The slight scalloping on the top guard shows where the sight is folded in for the 36/51. The 36/51 remains in service today in French Gendarme units as a dedicated CS gas thrower for riot control.

    • Just noticed this – the photo looks like it was originally black and white, and someone artificially colored it. Check it out, they colored the receiver body with the wood hue because they apparently didn’t know it has a two-piece stock!

      • voldamane .

        I have been in search of the original photographer and owner of this image for a year. The image original is indeed black and white. Whoever colorized the image did a great job – except of course not realizing it was a two piece stock. The image could be Rwanda – after the genocide militia received stocks of MAS 1936 rifles for local defense from adjacent donor nations and the MAS 1936 is in common use across Africa and the Middle East. MAS 1936 rifles are commonly signs of government backed militias as terror organizations usually have the money and foreign contacts to get AK class weapons. It could also be, despite the grenades, a park ranger.

  • abecido

    GURPS stats?

    • McThag

      GURPS WW2: Return to Honor p.38-39 for 3e stats.

      4e stats:
      TL: 6
      Damage: 6d pi
      Acc: 4
      Range 800/3,500
      Weight: 8.7/0.3
      RoF: 1
      Shots: 5+1(3)
      ST: 11†
      Rcl: 4
      Cost: $840
      LC: 3

      • voldamane .

        Based on the normal GURPS formula and practical use. The MAS 1936 should have 5 shots rather than 5+1 as it was never, ever carried with a round in the chamber. Cost should be 90% of whatever that supplement charges for a Lee/Enfield as this was the historic costs.

        • McThag

          The 5+1 is based on “can you” rather than “did they”. A Mosin, for example can’t be overloaded. If it can accept +1 that’s what the stats are even if nobody every carried one that way. A Lebel get’s a +2 for one in the chamber and one on the elevator and those were never carried that way either!

          Prices are in the 4e G$ which is some kind of purchase price parity equation they didn’t make public. An SMLE Mk III is $700, so $630 is the 90% value for the MAS 36 ($600 is what it calculates to if you us the WW2 books numbers proportionately). The price above (and stats oops) was for the CR39 with the really expensive at the time aluminum stock.

          MAS 36 should be:

          4e stats:
          TL: 6
          Damage: 7d pi
          Acc: 5
          Range: 1,000/4,200
          Weight: 8.6/0.3
          RoF: 1
          Shots: 5+1(3)
          ST: 12†
          Bulk: 5
          Rcl: 3
          Cost: $600
          LC: 3

          • voldamane .

            Great. The CR39 is one of two models of the original MAS 1936 still in service – it is used in Air Force survival kits. Sadly, the price of the CR39 is still top secret – however you are correct it was higher than the plain model.

          • Patrick Hernandez

            The only time the Fusil d’Infanterie Modèle 1886 ‘Lebel’ ever had a cartridge placed in the cartridge carrier lifter and one placed in the chamber was when they knew that they were going right into action and that command was called CHARGEZ (Charge) … if they were out of action they would carry it under like the command of APPROVISIONNER (Load) … open the bolt, place the selector lever to the reward position, load the magazine until it is full (8 rounds), DO NOT place any cartridges in the cartridge carrier lifter or chamber of the rifle. Place the selector lever to the forward position and then close the bolt.

            Here is how they were taught to fire in combat, as per the Manuel du Chef de Section d’Infanterie (“The Manual of the Infantry Section Leader”) dated January 1918
            Firing Commands:

            FEU À VOLONTÉ … Fire at Will
            À (xx) MÈTRES … at (xx) meters
            SUR (xx) … On certain point, this usually will be the following: la tête (head), la poitrine (chest) and la taille (waist)
            COMMENCEZ LE FEU … Commence Firing

            On the first command, load the weapon if necessary.
            On the second command, set the sight according to the distance prescribed.
            On the third command, look at the point indicated through your rifle sights, keeping the eyes fixed on it.
            On the last command, open fire until instructed to cease fire or change to a different firing command.

            FEU DE (xx) CARTOUCHES/CHARGEURS … Fire (xx) prescribed number of rounds or chargers depending on the model of rifle bieng used
            À (xx) MÈTRES … at (xx) meters
            SUR (xx) … On certain point, this usually will be the following: la tête (head), la poitrine (chest) and la taille (waist)
            COMMENCEZ LE FEU … Commence Firing

            On the first command, load the weapon if necessary.
            On the second command, set the sight according to the distance prescribed.
            On the third command, look at the point indicated through your rifle sights, keeping the eyes fixed on it.
            On the last command, open fire and continue doing so until the prescribed number of rounds or clips have been fired. Once the prescribed number has been fired, continuing to fire, one shot at a time until ordered to cease fire or change to a different firing command.

            FEU À RÉPÉTITION … Fire by Repetition
            À (xx) MÈTRES … at (xx) meters
            SUR (xx) … On certain point, this usually will be the following: la tête (head), la poitrine (chest) and la taille (waist)
            COMMENCEZ LE FEU … Commence Firing

            This firing command is like the above command except that the soldier will fire all of the prescribed number of rounds or chargers depending on the type of rifle being used until the magazine is all expended. In the case of the Fusil d’Infanterie Modèle 1886 “Lebel” this will be a total of 8 to 10 rounds, the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915, 3 rounds and the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916, 5 rounds.
            Once the magazine has been emptied, continuing to fire, loading one shot at a time until ordered to cease fire or change to a different firing command.

            FEU PAR SALVES … Fire by Volley
            À (xx) MÈTRES … at (xx) meters
            SUR (xx) … On certain point, this usually will be la homme (man) as this is done at very long distances of 800 + meters
            JOUE … Aim
            COMMENCEZ LE FEU … Commence Firing

            On the first command, load the weapon if necessary.
            On the second command, set the sight according to the distance prescribed.
            On the third command, look at the point indicated through your rifle sights, keeping the eyes fixed on it.
            On the fourth command, aim the weapon and wait until the final command is given to fire.
            On the last command, fire the weapon once, reload and then wait for the new command of JOUE. The command to fire again will be FEU.

            CESSEZ LE FEU … Cease Fire
            When this command is given the soldier repeats the command to his neighbors and then ceases fire.

            Note: The above commands that require the adjustment of the sight or the point of aim is only done upon restarting firing or as the officer sees fit to adjust for this. Example: You are firing FEU À VOLONTÉ at 400 meters at the waist and the enemy is closing in at a distance at 250 meters, the officer will command once again FEU À VOLONTÉ, A 250 MÈTRES, SUR LA POITRINE, COMMENCEZ LE FEU

            The relative commands regarding the adjustment of the sight and taking note of the indicated point are only done upon restarting fire if it is necessary to change the sight or the point being aimed at. If armed with the Lebel rifle, when the command to “Cease Fire” is given during a “fire by repetition,” refill the magazine and, before loading, set the “squared” button back to its forward position.

          • voldamane .

            Just an FYI. For people who do not recognize Mr. Hernandez, he is one the top five English-speaking experts in the employment of French arms. In the scholarly community of firearm history, there are dozens of odd corners – his odd corner which is is master of is everything to do with the French soldier pre-WW2. If I could give someone a PhD for what they know, Patrick would have one.

  • voldamane .

    Around 200,000 rifles were in French hands at the start of WW2. There is no solid numbers but maybe 60,000 went into allied hands through the Free French and colonials, and another 60,000 into Vichy, plus 20,000 or so into German use. The actual number of weapons produced is still a French state secret but could have been up to 2 million (or may have been as low as 1.2 million), plus 200,000 36/51.

  • Southpaw89

    I have a MAS 36 that I bought at a nearby gun show for $160 and love it. It was sporterized by Santa Fe arms but is still a beautiful and very handy little rifle. Funny thing was that when I bought it the seller had it tagged as being .308, probably assuming it was converted like the Century arms imports, I discovered very quickly however that it was still chambered in the original 7.5×54 and after reading about the problems people have had with the century conversions I think that was a lucky break. Either way its not a hard round to reload for, brass is still available or you can use 6.5×55 brass, and the very common .308 bullets are used as well. Despite some initial confusion over the caliber it is a purchase that I do not regret.

    • voldamane .

      The Sante Fe models are a completely under-appreciated gun that thankfully, never came close to the CAI offices as they did not exist at the time. Their history is a bit fun.

      Golden State Arms was a California gun store who was responsible for importing and sporterising a number of military rifles in the 1940s and 1950s. Their 1949 Sante Fe model was a mildly good seller. They produced the weapon from orphan stocks of weapons – small numbers of MAS 1936 rifles they found in unfired condition stored in various places after the war and bought from the French, for whom it would have been more expensive to ship the small lots back. One example given me was that some of the weapons came from the Brooklyn Navy yard, and had been removed from French ship armories during radar refits and replaced with American weapons.

      Golden State Arms took the rifles and cut down their barrels to 18 inches, replaced the rear-sight leaf to calibrate for the new barrel length, replaced the front two-piece stock with a one-piece by welding a screw point under the barrel, added one of two types of safety (an early trigger guard safety and a later striker block safety) and left the rifle in its original 7.5 calibre. To supply ammunition Golden State signed a ten-year contract with several ammunition houses in France to provide 20-round boxes, floor priced at $2.50 per 20 but sold in bulk far cheaper.

      Sales staff estimate that around 1,000 of the rifles were made. It was thought the rifle would appeal to young shooters but the sales staff actually sold most to ranchers. One unintended consequence of the modification beside the weapon being very light and short, was that for some reason the 18 inch barrel ended up being more accurate than other carbines like the Winchester lever actions, and the action was considered must more durable than a lever gun for a working rancher, resulting in many being used as saddle guns. Of the four original owners I interview three were Alaskans and one from California, and all carried it back country, two as an airplane gun, and two as their saddle guns. Another man showed me his father’s picture holding a Golden State with brass stud work and hand carving in the wood which he carried on the Hopi reservation.

      An even more rare version, only one of which I have ever been shown, had a custom stock with a longer comb and a sling under rather than side stock. It was, I am told, the deluxe customer version you could request, but was not sold on the floor. No ads attest to this.

      A number of the Sante Fe models as well as a few MAS 1936 have been converted privately to .45-70 and .444 Marlin for back country use.

      • Southpaw89

        Wow, some great info there, I had noticed the shorter barrel on mine, its nice to know that they adjusted the sights accordingly. Would also add that I love the sights on it, very easy to use. Interestingly mine does not appear to have any kind of safety, but everything else is as you described, I can certainly see its value as a back country gun, the only downside is the unusual caliber that your not likely to just buy off the store shelf, of course if there are no stores where your going that’s a bit of a moot point. I must admit that its light weight surprised me considering how massive the receiver looks, and I’ve found that that funny looking bolt is very lefty friendly, putting it within easy reach of my forward hand while the light weight allows me to keep the rifle level with my shooting hand while doing so. For all the flack that the French seem to take over their apparent lack of prowess on the battlefield, they did have some very nice rifles, the MAS 49/56 is also on my list of rifles I’d like to get.

        • voldamane .

          Yours likely had the original trigger safety which was the weakest part of the design. I am going to keep the book as current as I can for buyers – an advantage with an e-book is that sub-editions are free downloads. I have a photo- shoot scheduled with a Golden State in two weeks, and the article is getting expanded as I proof my notes. Also we are negotiating with a CR39 owner and a Fournier owner, and I am in talks with a wildcatter from Alaska that uses the MAS as a basis for back country guns.

          The MAS 1936 is my favorite back country gun. The Sante Fe is a wonderful modification with a history all of its own. Few people know it so the gun usually goes for 100-150 on auctions but for that price you get a gun that can literally take anything from desert to deep freeze.

  • gunsandrockets

    The 36/51 variant has what is probably the most elaborate rifle grenade spigot launcher of any rifle ever issued.

    • voldamane .

      The 1949/56 has a similar design (based on it actually, with a gas cutoff.) The French were and are serious about rifle grenades. The problem with rifle grenades has always been the bang not being bigger than the miss. The French fought this in two ways – much bigger bang (than for example a 40mm) and much more accuracy (then for example a M203).

      • gunsandrockets

        Three hours and counting, waiting for my reply to post, that included an informative link. As of now that reply is still “pending”.

        • voldamane .

          Probably you posted a link or had a word in it that triggered moderation. That is a SPAM feature of most forums. I would not expect a forum admin to be up at 7a. If it goes through this event just send a polite e-mail and I am sure someone will look into it.

  • Jim

    I collect older military firearms and one of the ones that I purchased was a MAS-36 and it was in like new condition and appeared like it had never been issued. It even had a grenade device permanently attached to the muzzle. Great looking firearm BUT, I sold it quickly because one the ammo was expensive and difficult to find plus, and to me the most important, was the fact that it had no safety on it, period! I felt that this was a dangerous firearm even to use on a firing range.

    • voldamane .

      In general I would never suggest a MAS 1936 for a person who was not 100% up on safety at the range, or who was uncomfortable carrying an older style single action pistol or an old lever action, who likewise lack safety.

      The French when they adopted repeating rifles recognized that the safest weapon was one whose striker could not find a bullet under it, and they were obsessive about safety training. French rifles have no safety from 1866 on. Instead their safety process is the same as was followed by a single-action revolver. The weapon is loaded and the bolt is closed on an empty chamber. Upon fire the bolt is cycled to bring a round into the chamber, then the weapon is fired. On cease fire the bolt is opened and then the magazine is dropped the the remaining rounds conserved,

      If this sounds like Boy Scout camp it is the same safety process that is used still for many shooting ranges. The concept is based on the idea of fail safe process – if the worse happens and the striker falls, it falls on nothing. Only with the adoption of hammer fired weapons did the French give up on this safety ideal.

      As for ammo – it is the same price as .308 and is widely available online. For me it is only a little harder to find it than my .35 Rem, which in the past few years has disappeared from many store shelved but still is available online, and it is only half the price of that round.

  • voldamane .

    The French believe (since 1915 in fact) that all of a team’s killing power resides in its ability to throw explosives at enemies. The rifle since the 1950s is a close defense weapon. The first post WW2 rifle grenade design was essentially a 50mm mortar shell designed to fire from a rifle with a special adelaide sight. The French also pioneered putting scoped rifles in every combat team.

    The French got interested in statistical fire team analysis as early as the 1920s – although their findings were and still are top secret, leaks and references have given the world a good idea of what they are about. It was discovered in WW1 that German light mortars were actually the most deadly weapon in the German inventory once you got rid of human wave tactics, and the Germans hated this little French 37mm cannon and the French VB grenade launcher. A problem the French had with 50mm mortars was the tendency for the mortar crew to fire off their ammo and then wait around out of the fight while more was brought up. So the French decided why not give every squad the firepower of a 50mm.

    In Vietnam the Mle 48 grenade was especially effective as it did not give away a position the way a bazooka did. The hope that eventually every soldier would have one did not come around until 1958 and the adoption of the 49/56.

    The weapon you cite is one of the new generation of French weapons designed to get more explosive out into the field in a smaller package without having to resort to carrying around a light mortar,

    • gunsandrockets

      Looking at the French small arms of 1939, it looks like they replaced the team equipped with VB grenade launchers with a 50mm Brandt mortar team. From the specifications that light mortar has much better range than any rifle grenade launcher.

      It seems pretty obvious (though I’m guessing) that the spigot rifle grenade launchers of American forces in WWII influenced French doctrine after WWII. I would also guess that the flexibility of a rifle grenade spigot launcher vs the 50mm Brandt would be obvious, such as direct fire of wide diameter HEAT grenades.

      • voldamane .

        It was actually a cooperative development. The M1 Grenade Launcher was the first 22mm Spigot. During WW1 French trainers donated a pretty significant number of VB launchers to US units attached to Lebel rifles. Some unit museums still have these weapons – they can be identified by a lack of an N marking on the barrel, a ring around the barrel where the VB mount bit in, and the stacking hook being weld cut by unit armorers. They had, a few years ago, one of these at Springfield. US unit armorers preferred to have something that would work with a M1903 and an interim launcher, the M1, was produced and sent to France along with a cup to carry grenades.

        The French loved the M1, but hated the fact that it, like the VB, made the rifle less effective as a rifle. The US went forward and produced the M7 in 1936 which was worse, since the Garand it attached to was no longer able to fire semi-automatically. The French >> M1 love / hate relationship goes way back – the M1 was based on the RSC 1917 rifle and Garand had access to French test notes and was in communication with French designers about their own work.

        The 50mm Brandt team was developed in 1930 and fielded in 1935 not as a replacement for the VB, but as its own team fired unit. The 9 mortars in an Infantry Regiment would all support whatever battalion was assigned to make an attack, and could lay down 2000 rounds of explosives onto enemy positions in 10 minutes of firing, each round worth 5 VB grenades alone. Since each French VB carrier had five rounds, and everyone else in a squad carried another grenade, you would also have another 2500-3000 rounds of explosives coming down on the enemy heads. In WW2 German units who experienced functional regimental attacks absolutely hated it, and these weapons contributed to a lot of the German casualties in the 1940 campaign.

        US and British units before the war observed French regiments on the attack and commanders of both the British Army and the US army asked for their own light mortars to be incorporated into Infantry formations. The US M19 was the result (but was not released until 1942) while the British resurrected its 2 inch trench mortar in 1936, calling it the MkII. Germany also made one but the Granatwerfer 36 was too complicated for front line use and was not liked by soldiers, who often discarded them and used captured Brandts.

        After the war the French wanted to go one step further by loosing the Brandt and simply making every rifle able to fire a 50mm mortar shell as once the Brandt teams had fired their basic load they tended to mill around the battlefield waiting for people to bring them ammo – a problem that exists even today with light mortar teams. The result of the French search for a rifle grenade with the power of a light mortar was the Mle 48, which was exactly that, a mortar bomb on a tail. The French also had a bunch of Garands with M7s, but again the problem was that they interfered with operations. By then the US were again abandoning rifle grenades. The french took the M7 spigot concept, added it to a remarkable sight, and ended up with the Mle 1936/51. Their concept of every man able to be a grenadier or a sniper came true when they adopted the Mle 1949/56 which had both a grenade launcher with full sights and a mount for optical sights.

        • Patrick Hernandez

          AEF Usage of the V.B.
          The American Expeditionary Force (AEF) made use of the V.B. system aswell.
          There were five different types of V.B. Launchers used with
          the U.S. Service Rifles …
          1. This was the French Tromblon but modified by U.S. Ordnance to fit the service rifles. The lower part and split socket were modified to fit the barrels and front sights of the rifles. French made 50,000 for the U.S.
          2. Mark I … This launcher was the modified type as stated above made by the French … 50,000 made for the U.S.
          3. Mark II … no information on this launcher … It was probably a prototype made in the U.S.
          4. Mark III … This launcher was made in the U.S.; these launchers were stamped on the outside to which service rifle they were to be used with. The Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917 launcher had a knurled band on them so that the soldier could be sure he had the correct launcher on it during darkness. The Mark III was like the original French launchers.
          5. Mark IV … This launcher had a spiral groove that
          hooked around the front sight to give it a more positive lock. The
          Rifle, Caliber .30, Model 1917 still retained the knurled band. This
          model had a Locking Spring and two Screws that hold the Locking
          spring to the Tromblon. The smaller or lower end is slotted so that
          it can receive the part of the barrel that is immediately under the
          front sight. Just above this slot is another one that will allow the
          Tromblon to be twisted around the front sight of the weapon. The
          spring is screwed to one side of the slot in such a manner as to pass
          under the front sight thereby holding the Tromblon firmly to the
          weapon.
          The U.S. produced grenade was essentially the same as the French one but it was made of malleable iron. The initial American design of U.S.produced VB grenade did not take into consideration the difference between the 8mm and 30.06 projectiles which caused a number of accidents and the initial batches of these American made VB grenades had to be scrapped. They also produced an inert practice grenade called the Grenade, Rifle, Practice, 50mm which vaguely resembled a real grenade. These were fired with a special type of cartridge called the CAL., .30, V.B. Grenade Practice Cartridge, M1921. The cartridges were loaded with wooden bullets and Boxer primed cases,this ammunition is often mistaken for blank ammunition and the easiest way to tell it was made for this purpose was the headstamp
          will marked as follows: FA 22-R, the R indicated that the case head
          had undergone a special annealing process to make it harder than the
          standard service cartridge.
          The Tromblon was still being used by American and Pilipino Troops in the Philippines during the Invasion of the Philippines in 1941/42. There is also some mention of them being used by the USMC at Guam and Guadalcanal.

          • gunsandrockets

            Great photos, helps a lot.

        • gunsandrockets

          Interesting. But are you sure of some of those dates? When I googled I found the U.S. M1 grenade launcher was first produced November 1941 and the M7 grenade launcher entering service in 1943.

          • voldamane .

            I am quoting Kevin Dockery in the Armory for when the weapons were released. French accounts of the US spigot come from a ms. called Infantry Accounts, but the admiration for the American 22mm class of launchers is not hard to find since the French used them in WW2. As Patrick says the VB was used with sed with the US forces more than I thought.

        • gunsandrockets

          I’ve tried to discover via google what was going on with French grenade launchers during WWII, but aside from some tantalizing clues I find very little that’s definitive. Part of the problem is that France was in the process of equipping with new weapons while still using large stocks of older weapons just prior to the German invasion of 1940.

          What is not in doubt is the French use of large numbers of 60mm and 81mm Brandt Mortars. The 60mm apparently issued one per infantry platoon, and eight of the 81mm per infantry regiment.

          • gunsandrockets

            Here is the best picture I could find of French mle 1937 50mm mortar.

            http://www.municion.org/morters/Mle37G.jpg

          • gunsandrockets

            Re: French mle 1937 50mm mortar

            This was a very light weapon firing a very light bomb to a maximum range greater than 600m. Which is three times farther than a V-B rifle grenade launcher.

            The bombs look like a miniature Brant bomb with fins and nose impact detonation. That means it was probably more lethal than a V-B timer fuzed rifle grenade even though the mortar bomb was of similar weight.

            There were only limited numbers of the mle 1937 made before the Germans overran France; the French possibly intended one mortar issued per rifle platoon, eventually replacing the V-B rifle grenade launcher in the rifle platoon HQ.

            The mle 1937 were fired from a fixed elevation of 45 degrees so the minimum range must have been fairly distant. I don’t know what means of range adjustment was provided, though judging from the photo of the mortar in use I doubt it was by variable gas bleeding from the tube.

          • gunsandrockets

            Here is some information I’ve run across regarding French WWII era rifle grenade launchers, accept it with a large dose of salt.

            1. V-B rifle grenade launchers were issued one per rifle squad and one to the rifle platoon HQ.

            2. In combat, a rifle platoons rifle grenade launchers were grouped together as a tactical unit.

            3. The 50mm mortar was supposed to replace the rifle grenade launcher issued to the rifle platoon HQ.

            4. That a replacement for the V-B rifle grenade was going to be issued that didn’t require a launcher attachment, presumably a spigot type grenade fitting over the bare forward barrel of the MAS-36 rifle. (I actually find this somewhat plausible because of the MAS-49 rifles I have seen, which have a plain muzzle yet also have a screw-adjustable barrel-sleeve for range adjusting a spigot type rifle grenade)

            5. That a grenade launcher attachment for the MAS-36 rifle would be issued that would allow firing of the 50mm mortar bomb.

            6. The French MAS-36 rifle had a V-B rifle grenade launcher made for it.

            7. That a spigot-type rifle grenade launcher attachment for the MAS-36 rifle was made in limited numbers by the Vichy government during WWII.

          • voldamane .

            WW2 French Grenade policy had grenadiers teamed with snipers and machine gunners in an assault team. When faced with opposition the team would establish a base of fire with the LMG, a marksman would deploy and seek to direct precision fire against supporting units, while grenadiers would use bounding overwatch to gain firing positions. This tactic is outline originally in the book “the Attack in Trench Warefare” and remains standard for France until this day.

          • voldamane .

            There was only enough 50mm to provide 9 per regiment prior to WW2, The idea that they were intended to be more common is correct – there was not enough time to get them into service. Despite this the existence of the weapons that were issued and their effectiveness caused the 50mm class mortar to regain steam in the war.

            lacking sufficient numbers they were used to support the assault battalion of the regiment, where their ability to rapidly dump HE on the heads of the enemy made them key tools of French success. As noted supply issued often kept the 60mm and 81mm mortars out of action, the 50mm was often the artillery on hand that could be counted on.

            To fire the 50mm mortar the range is set by a sleeve on the barrel. The sleeve changes the point inside of the barrel where the round fires, changing the velocity of the round. Less barrel, less range.

            After the war the 50mm bomb was taken from the Mle 1937 and turned into a grenade launcher. There was plans for this before the war. The plans became a reality with the LG48

          • gunsandrockets

            Invaluable photograph. The GL setup looks just like what I have seen on the MAS-49

          • voldamane .

            It is. The MAS 1949 used the grenade launcher from the LG48. The launcher was retained on export models then removed by most units with France went to 22mm designs. The Mle 48 grenade was simply the Mle 37 bomb rigged for rifle grenade launch. The reason it was adopted was pre-war and wartime experience that showed 9 or 10 launchers of that type throwing bombs with roughly twice the explosives of a hand grenade really could ruin the day of an enemy. By the time the MAS49/56 is adopted everyone except the sniper, the LRAC, and the GPMG operator had the ability to take on the role of grenadier.

  • Beaumont

    The 7.5×54 French cartridge is close in size to 7.5 Swiss, which I occasionally find even at my local Wally World. Wonder if anyone has tried such a conversion?

    • voldamane .

      To my knowledge no, but re-chambers for 7.5 French weapons are pretty rare since the ammo is so common now. Not wally world common, but common enough for Internet work.