MAS 36 Rifle: Overlooked Greatness ???

The MAS 36 is often derided for its crude physical appearance and a few quirks that most shooters aren’t used to, but the gun truly is an under appreciated great. But what about this gun makes it stand out among other distinguished military bolt action rifles? Well, let’s have a look.

Guns Featured in this video:
MAS 36

Thanks to our sponsors Ventura Munitions and Grizzly Targets.

The full transcript ….

– [Alex] What is the best bolt-action rifle ever issued? Taking into account the end user and the firm manufacturing it.

From this broad standpoint, the MAS-36 is a strong contender for the top of the list.

It is a rather unassuming traditional rifle forged from steel and shrouded by wood, but has been paid little lip service among the firearms community, perhaps due to its strange appearance or odd nuances.

So what makes the rifle a standout? Well, for starters, the gun is short and impressively light, but is just hefty enough to keep recoil manageable.

The MAS fires 7.5 French, a cartridge that is dimensionally similar to 7.62×51, and delivers roughly the same amount of energy.

The spike bayonet is a great feature in my opinion as well, and is contained in a channel under the barrel when not in use.

Fixing it for use is quite easy and even the Germans copied this design element on their FG 42.

Simplicity is one feature that is desirable by both soldier and accountant.

The MAS’ bolt is perhaps the simplest of any bolt-action rifle ever issued, and it locks at the rear.

Ian Hogg that while ugly, it was immensely strong and reliable.

The bolt’s rear lugs cut down on both production cost and time, and also provide the rifle with a great amount of mud and sand resistance.

Another bonus for the accountants was that the MAS was manufactured to be able to share tooling with semi-automatic firearms.

The rifle replaced aging Lebel and Berthiers, and as a bonus, standardized the, at the time, new, short rifle, as a plan to simplify inventory.

The rifle is rear aperture sighted, but is not user-adjustable for windage.

The MAS was designed to be shot, then the group would be used to determine which rear sight leaf would be installed to accommodate.

From a military perspective, this made sense as a soldier would not be able to knock it from zero and it further lowered production costs, but none of this really means anything unless the rifle performs well.

So to test this, I acquired from 7.5 French ammunition from Ventura Munitions, our great ammunitions sponsor, and set up a steel grizzly target at about 75 yards for a close engagement drill.

The test is simple.

Rounds on the move would be fired at steel, then five rounds would be fired at the paper silhouette at three different stages.

Basically, 25 rounds with four reloads.

The following is what happened.

I knew there was something interesting about the MAS.

The doctrine stated that, since it has no safety, French soldiers were actually expected to not carry a round in the chamber, and this was pretty religiously beat into their heads.

So to start, I’m gonna pretend like I’ve just seen an enemy and then engage from there, and here we go.

(cocks gun) (fires and cocks gun repeatedly) (stabs paper target with bayonet) Didn’t go through the rubber but that would’ve killed something.

All right, let’s take a look at how I did.

All right, so in the initial engagement, when I was running and reloading, I got seven hits on this steel, so pretty small silhouette, pretty impressed, that guy’s definitely dead.

Got a neck shot and then one, two, three, four, five, six torso shots on the run.

We move over here to the actual paper target, we can see I actually did very well.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12 hits.

Obviously, I missed some of the hits.

I’ll put the totals, hits versus misses, right here, but all in all, I can tell you, running and gunning with this was actually a lot of fun, and it was pretty easy, saw me slack on the bolt pretty fast, so…

I probably wouldn’t take it over an SMLE, but if I had enough training, or if I shot it enough, I’m sure I can get on that level.

So for the close engagement drill, the MAS did pretty well.

I had never done this before with this rifle and to be honest, I’ve actually done it with very few bolt-action rifles.

If anything, I’ve learned that running and gunning with a bolt-action rifle is actually a lot harder than it looks, but the MAS actually made it a little easier than some other guns I’ve used for this.

While this test isn’t conclusive to prove that the MAS is the penultimate or ultimate bolt-action military rifle, I can at least say that I believe it’s a misunderstood rifle.

Everything about it looks rudimentary and simple because it is, and that’s what makes it fantastic.

It was easy to manufacture, easy to use, and in battlefield conditions, functions very well.

What more could you want in a military rifle? Aside from maybe, semi-automatic or fully automatic capability? But place the rifle in historical context and the best I can say is it’s not that bad.

Anyways, thanks for watching my video on the MAS-36.

This is Alex C. with TFBTV and hope to see you next time.



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


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  • Since Steve forgot to embed the video:
    http://youtu.be/g8ECJea6jyA

    Our bad.

  • Don Ward

    The MAS 36 Rifle: Overlooked I Guess It’s OK Too… ness.

    • ostiariusalpha

      The MAS 36 Rifle: It’s Not a Chauchat.

  • tommytomaso

    Hmmmmmm…compared to what? Lee Enfield,MAUSER and K31 have far superior bolt actions. Now I have only shot one MAS and it’s bolt was as notchy and clunky in operation as could be barely acceptable…. Are they all like this?

    • Not at all. Most are quite nice.
      In the video I thought a did a pretty good job working the bolt.

      • Tassiebush

        I thought you were working it at a good pace especially as you got into it. As you said in the video you haven’t done lots of run and gun with boltactions and that looked very promising.

      • John

        You did fine, dude. It’s pretty apparent that these rifles were meant to be used in a group; team 1 opens fire while team 2 reloads and then alternates or something like that.

    • Don Ward

      Notchy and clunky are good adjectives for everyone I’ve handled and the one in my family.

    • Kivaari

      They are if nothing else, simple rifles. There is merit in that alone. As long as it will print to point of aim, or you have the rear sight elements to correct windage, you will do fine.

  • Plumbiphilious

    What magical realm did you pull 7.5 French out of? It’d be easier to summon unicorns.

    • I mention it in the video.

      • Ian McCollum

        Ventura doesn’t appear to list it on their web site, FYI. However, Prvi Partisan also makes it, and that’s in stock in several places like Graf’s.

  • Ian McCollum

    NIce video!

  • In short, yes.

  • Kivaari

    The MAS 36 is a sleeper. I ignored them when I could find mint condition rifles. I bought a 49/56 in mint condition with all the goodies, piles of spare parts, lots of ammo and never shot it. Those are mistakes the younger shooter should keep in mind. Even though they are French, they are great guns.

    • Bob

      Never fired, only dropped once?

      • Kivaari

        Actually, the French soldiers of WW2 did a pretty good defense of Dunkirk while the bits and soon to become free-French. Tens of thousands of Brits and French forces made it out to keep up the fight. A huge failure of the French high command was the stubbornly unwillingness to have telephone, telegraphs or radios at the primary HQ. Motorcycle curriers delivered messages in both directions. Relying on the border forts, with the always glaring open Belgian border, gave the Germans the same route as WW1. Belgians used WW1 tactics to stop Germans. We also had some support in Afghanistan. The brother-in-law served in Kandahar, where a car bomb went off, killing ~35 mostly kids. French troops were injured. Ken crew ferried them out for care. He’s a Lt Col in the AF. He said the French forces were good men. We used to apply the “never fired and dropped once” line for Italians. France was let down by its senior command structure and the unwillingness to evolve so QRFs could have countered the German airborne troops along the border. Not using tanks in a coordinated fashion with a slow and cumbersome motorcycle courier system was obsolete in 1915.

        • UCSPanther

          I understand that the French have always had some good soldiers, but have always been cursed with incompetent/clueless leadership.

          • Dave C

            A bit like the Brits in that regard, no? While Britain has never sustained wholesale defeat like France in, say, 1870 and 1940, the UK manages at least one, and usually two or even three, big disasters in almost every war the nation has been involved in:

            Singapore, Dunkirk (OK, the army was saved… Call it a “victory” but it disclosed the rout of May-June 1940…) Greece? Norway?
            The Somme, Gallipoli/Dardanelles.
            etc.

          • Kivaari

            Singapore would have been different had the defensive cannon had HE rounds. It was claimed that they only pointed outward, but most could rotate. The failure was nearly all the ammo was solid shot AP designed to poke holes in ships. Unless you took a direct hit, all they did was turn the soil for a couple feet.
            A friends was on the pier when the Japanese bombed. I’ve seen the Jap camera footage showing the bombs striking perfectly in line with the Mount Vernon, hitting stern to stem, but the windage was off. Bill was standing guard duty and the bombs hit between he and the ship.

        • gunsandrockets

          I don’t know if this is true,but I’ve heard the French could have reinforced that hole in the Maginot line, but instead distributed their forces evenly along the entire front. Almost as if the French didn’t have faith in those fortifications to add combat power. Weird.

          • Kivaari

            From all I can remember, the French did not have plans for an aerial assault from the French side of the system. It was an impressive public works project from an engineers perspective. It was a nearly useless bump in the road. Glider and parachute delivered Germans simply came up placed shaped charges on the turrets – and it was all over. I can’t remember hearing of a QRF (not, Quick Retreating Frenchmen) to counter such an attack. The first thing to go wrong in almost all military engagements is communications. France started the war with no serious means of talking to field commanders. They know better today.

          • Dave C

            You are referring to the Belgian fortress of Eben Emael.

            Most of the forts of the Maginot line remained relatively intact until the capitulation of Pétain forced the garrisons to surrender.

          • Kivaari

            The Maginot line became nothing important. When the Germans “out flanked” the French by using airborne troops. Defense forces pointing outward are of little use when the enemy ignores them.

          • Dave C

            Kivääri,

            Please excuse the boxing analogy: The Maginot line’s “ouvrages” were to prevent the Germans from regaining Alsace-Lorraine, and served as a “block” so that the maneuver element of the army could attack the Germans in Belgium, and eventually carry the war into the Ruhr. France didn’t want a repeat of WWI: Northeastern France and its industry under German occupation, and a Verdun-style butchery.

            The German “Fall Gelb” used the famous “sickle-cut” of innovative, highly maneuverable armored forces and accompanying infantry with, yes, you are entirely correct, air superiority and close air support from the Luftwaffe to isolate the Belgians, BEF and French in Belgium. The Germans then wheeled about (leaving Dunkirk to the Luftwaffe, recall) and continued the offensive against the hapless French army. The explanations for France’s failures are many.

          • gunsandrockets

            Sounds like you are recalling the German airborne commando attack on a key Belgian fortification.

      • snmp

        Bob, I suppose you are same type of people who flee in Dunkirk in 1940 or in singapore in 1941?

  • gunsandrockets

    Someday I would like to pick up a 36/51 to supplement my 49/56.

  • Lance

    Out of frances rifles of the 20th century it be the best but the top 3 European combat bolt action rifles still would be the KAR-98 (Germany), Mosin Nagant M-91/30 (Russia) and the Mk-3 Enfeild (UK) The M-1903 would be listed buts still a Americanized Mauser 98.

    • By what objective merit is the Mosin Nagant the best? Unless we’re speaking of historical significance, the Mosin Nagant isn’t particularly uh, good.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Those are the rifles that Lance remembers off the top of his head. Ergo, they are the best.

    • DW

      Too bad AR15 wasn’t a WWII bolt gun. Much sad, very yawn, Q_Q.

    • Dave C

      The Mosin-Nagant is one of my favorite rifles. Historically significant? Yes.
      “Top 3 European bolt rifles?” On what criteria? MAS 36 is superior in every way to the Mosin-Nagant 91/39 or M44–and I regularly shoot all three.
      K98k? no aperture sights, no windage adjustment, the French copied the magazine for the MAS36, but used the simplified Mauser bolt from the Arrisaka… No way the K98 is “better” to the MAS. If anything, they’d be tied, except again, for historical significance.

    • Zebra Dun

      I’ve read where the list goes British SMLE was the Best Military Bolt action Rifle of the wars, The Kar-98 German Rifles were the best Hunting rifles designed for military service of the wars.
      The Enfield P-1917 was the main battle Rifle issued to US Forces during WW1 considered to be the Best US military bolt action by some and the Well loved Springfield 03 is almost a Mauser.

  • Joe Grine

    Nice video – I enjoy reading / watching reviews of these lesser known mil-sups

  • Wolfgar

    I have never handled a Mas 36 but watching your video it looks like a very handy, compact bolt action rifle with a very fast and easy bolt. Great video, Thank’s for bringing it to our attention.

    • gunsandrockets

      That action is not as fast and easy as a SMLE, but the 36 is very short and light for a full sized military bolt action rifle.

  • Tassiebush

    That made me want one

  • DetroitMan

    Meh. I’ll give you that the MAS 36 is overlooked, but I wouldn’t call it great. The SMLE, Mauser 98, M1903, and K31 are great. I don’t see the MAS 36 as being on their level. It’s obvious the French put a lot of thought into it, but some of their decisions were just weird. Expecting a soldier to go on patrol without a round in the chamber is flat out stupid. There is no excuse for the lack of a safety. Rear locking is sub-optimal and there is a reason that few later designs have used it. In their favor, they did get the length and the location of the bolt handle right. I also agree that the simplicity of the rifle is generally a good thing. Overall the MAS 36 was better than the rifles it replaced, but not as good as some significantly older designs in service with other countries at the time of its adoption.

  • robocop33

    Sorry but I consider the MAS 36 to be a very dangerous firearm! The simply fact that it has no safety at all makes it unacceptable for me. It looks interesting with the spike and mine even had the grenade launcher permanently installed. It loaded fine when you could actually find and afford the 7.5 ammo but I could not get past the zero safety on this rifle. I sold it almost as fast as I bought it.

    • snmp

      Safty between your hears!

    • Safeties shouldn’t be required if you are a safe rifle handler. I don’t believe I’ve ever used a safety on a bolt-action rifle as I’ve never had one loaded when it wasn’t pointed directly down range immediately prior to shooting. I wouldn’t even notice the lack of safety and I would operate one just as safely as I’ve operated every firearm.

      • Tassiebush

        That makes sense. Safeties on some guns like are so cumbersome that it’d be more efficient to just carry empty chambered and work the bolt.

    • Casual observation

      Mosins have a safety, but nobody uses them. I don’t think they are considered unsafe.

    • Ian McCollum

      Are you suggesting that you never fired it and dropped it at once? 😉

      For the record, my own quibble with the MAS-36 is simply that the LOP feels a bit short to me. I like the sights and bolt design, though. And the lack of a safety is just fine – if I’m not ready to shoot I just leave the chamber empty. Doesn’t get any safer than that…

      • Dave C

        I contrived a primitive “trigger block” safety so I could do the whole “mag out, bolt open, chamber flag installed, safety engaged” thing at the range… I used a French wine cork for it. What else? 🙂

      • gunsandrockets

        Yep, LOP is short. But perfect LOP when slip on rubber buttpad is added. I believe that pad was intended to reduce recoil strain when indirect firing rifle grenades from the proper butt braced on the ground position.

  • Dave C

    Good video! It is a much maligned and under-rated rifle. The “deal killers” for North American shooters are a) 7.5mm French is an iconoclastic cartridge difficult to find over here. You’ll have to hand-load eventually, and b) the inability to change windage is great for a conscript army, supported by the logistics and armorers to get the correct aperture For a civilian North American shooter, it is usually a deal breaker, and why the MAS36 has a reputation for being “inaccurate” as well as unlovely and ungainly.

    The MAS36 has the fewest parts for a WWII-era bolt-gun. So the French went inexpensive–“last ditch” to focus on the Maginot Line fortresses and their tanks, many if not most of which were superior to contemporary German designs. None of that stopped the defeat of May-June 1940, the deaths of 90,000 French soldiers, hundreds of thousands wounded and missing, and the capture of 2 million.

    S. Jackson has an excellent Mas Mle. 1936 e-book available through Amazon: l Very informative. Goes with the video nicely.

    • Casual observation

      Soviet/Russian Mosins (91/30, M44) aren’t windage adjustable either, without a hammer and punch anyway. Doesn’t seem to be a deal killer.

      • Dave C

        The Mosin-Nagant 1891/30 was a) cheap, b) plentiful, c) had boatloads of 7.62x54r surplus ammo, and more companies made it vs., say, 7.5x54mm French. I adjust windage on my 1891/30s all the time. I’ve tweaked an M44 a time or two, but it is much more difficult.

        I’d say there’s a big difference to drifting, especially if you can contrive a tool to do it, than to try to find one of the various apertures for the MAS36. I’ve got five extra now, but I did finally get the correct leaf for my MAS. It took some doing, however.

  • Just say’n

    For Sale: French Army Rifle. Never fired, dropped twice!

    (Ba-dum-dum! Can’t believe I’m the first to post that. Never get’s old).

    • I would say it is, being as how you were the first to post it.

      • Dave C

        Actually, Bob posted the “soldier of surrender” libel first.
        Still tired.

    • gunsandrockets

      And yet even during the horrible collapse during the German offensive of 1940, the Germans still lost over 50,000 KIA before France fell.

      Sounds to me like plenty of MAS 36 rifles found their mark.

      • Dave C

        Actually, dead numbered 27k for the German army in “Fall Gelb.” maimed, wounded, missing, etc. ran well over 100k of course.

        The MAS was not available to the French in quantity, but they did have an excellent LMG in the 1924/29. Basically a top-mounted magazine BAR with five extra cartridges in the mag. French tanks were superior to German, just not used the way the Germans used theirs. France went to War in 1939 with seven different rifle designs in two different calibers. Most had five-shot Berthiers.

        • gunsandrockets

          50,000 KIA comes from my recollection reading the book, “Hitler’s Panzers”. It’s a good book. That number stuck with me because of the similarity to the number of Americans killed in Vietnam War.

          • Dave C

            Ah, OK. Well, Alistair Horne, _To Lose a Battle_, p. 666 puts the German toll at 27,074 slain, 111,034 wounded, and 18.384 MIA. Perhaps your figures are more recent and/or include the figures for Unthernehmen Weserübung in Norway, April 1940 what with at least ten Kriegsmarine destroyers, well, um, destroyed.

          • gunsandrockets

            Well for what it’s worth, wikipedia also puts the toll at 49,000 Germans KIA for the battle of France.

          • Dave C

            The wiki site I get repeats Horne, revises French losses:
            “German casualties are hard to determine but commonly accepted figures are: 27,074 killed, 111,034 wounded and 18,384 missing.[5][6][7]
            German dead may have been as high as 49,000 men, due to additional
            non-combat causes, wounded who died and missing who were confirmed dead.[5] …

            27,074 dead (The final count of the German
            dead is possibly as high as 49,000 men when including the losses
            suffered by the Kriegsmarine, because of additional non-combat causes,
            the wounded who died of their injuries, and the missing who were
            confirmed as dead.[5] However this higher figure has not been used in the overall casualty figure), 111,034 wounded, 18,384 missing,[5][6][7] as well as 1,129 aircrew killed[8]”

  • Cattoo

    That seems to me like a sweet rifle. Simplistic, durable and accurate. A safe queen this isn’t. Truck gun? Yes. Found stashed in the tool box and not out of place when seen there. I like it.

  • hikerguy

    Reminds me of those French Foreign Legion films back in the black & white days (although I doubt they were using the real thing).

  • Zebra Dun

    Interesting, The NAZI forces used large quantities of capture weapons once a nation was over run the question is, Did the NAZI’s use any M-36 rifles as issue weapons to their troops after the French folded?
    Yes they did Gewehr 242 (f) issued to Occupation troops in France and to Volksturm forces in the last years of the Reich.
    If the German’s thought high enough to re-issue a capture weapon without modification either they had plenty on hand or it worked.

    I’ve handled one at a local pawn shop it felt awkward to hold, operate and aim, the price was very reasonable the rifle immaculate but the deal ender was “he had no ammo available and did not plan on getting any” A search showed that ammo was as scarce as .22 lr is in my area.
    It even had a bayonet!