Lebel 1886 Run and Gun (This One Sucked)

By popular demand, we are now ponying up and putting the Lebel on the run and gun course. As the first rifle to make use of smokeless powder, the Lebel is one of the few moments in the history of small arms that changed the entire game. The 8mm rifle doubled the effective range of a soldier and was, in 1886, the best gun in the world. So how will this one go?

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Transcript …

– [Voiceover] Well, here we go.

The running gun that I have been dreading for a long time, but has been requested by you guys quite a lot.

So, I guess give people what they want and here we are doing the running gun with an 1886 Lebel rifle.

The Lebel rifle is truly one of the greatest innovations in firearm history.

You had smokeless powder introduced with this rifle.

And the French, all of a sudden, had the best rifle the world had ever seen.

These are strange now, but at the time, were absolutely incredible.

You had new cartridge and a new rifle that doubled the effect of range of all black powder rifles and it sent everyone into a frenzy.

Not to mention it just had smokeless powder, but eventually they introduced a spitzer bullet, which is a pointed bullet.

It was not introduced with the cartridge originally, but it was added later.

And if you’d like to learn more about this, I’m sure that a thing could learn you.

But they do have a tube magazine.

You might wonder how to store pointy bullets in line with one another.

You can see that the French put a recess around the primary pocket so that you could store the pointy bullets in line with one another.

Now, to load the Lebel is really not pleasant at all.

You open the mechanism, and then, it’s almost like loading like a shotgun, but from the top.

You basically click the rounds into the magazine, one by one, so there’s no way to quickly load it like as a Mauser, or something with an in-block click, which most of the major powers in World War One had, so I would make the case that during World War One, this rifle was already obsolete.

So, let’s try this running gun, I guess.

We’re gonna fire the tube magazine and then single-load, as I guess that’s the only way to make sense, and I’m going to fire some single shots on a run, like you do if you’re running across a trench line and you didn’t want to not ammo.

So, 70 yards, 24 shots, here we go.

Alright guys, here we go with one of the most requested rifles for this.

That’s gonna be a Lebel.

Basically, I’m gonna fire the entire tube magazine and then just single-load because in World War One.

Well, in World War Two, French troops probably wouldn’t have taken the time to sit and reload if there were enemies charging at them.

So, here I go, and I’m ready to embarrass myself.

(ammo loading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (gun shot) (gun shot) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (gun shot) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) (gun shot) (gun shot) (gun shot) (ammo reloading) (gun shot) Alright guys, that’s it.

Let’s go talk about it a little bit.

Okay, so that was probably the weirdest running gun I’ve ever done.

When I used to single shot rifle, the Rolling Block, at least, you know it’s a single shot rifle, so, you’re kinda prepared, but with this gun, after you run out of rounds in a magazine it’s just like regressing back to a Chassepot, or something like that.

So, it’s very strange and as you saw, it didn’t eject the shell all the time, so I had to really kinda muscle it out to make them leave the gun, and often, I was kinda flipping it out of there, but, I fired a total 24 rounds, normally it’s 25.

I guess I forgot to load one extra in the pouch, but I can’t say that it is pretty dang accurate.

The sights are very simple, but I believe I’ve landed 24 out of 24 hits.

I’ll count the pings and put the total hits versus misses here.

But, I can say with some confidence that when the Lebel was introduced, it was the best rifle in the world.

But, it held on to that title for maybe a year and a half or two years.

So, let’s go back to the room and talk about this just a little more.

Alright, so that was probably the least graceful running gun I’ve ever done.

I will admit it, it was probably the most interesting one I’ve ever done, because in World War One, if you heard the whistle and you had to charge across no man’s land, then you fired your magazine, and if you were still alive, you obviously just didn’t stop and reload.

You’d threw a round in there and hopefully fired it at the enemy, and that was a daunting task to say the least.

I would much rather have a Berthier or an RSC 1917 I guess if I was really lucky.

But, I hope you guys enjoyed this one.

I can’t really say that I did, but at least I kinda got a feel for how crude these were come World War One.

I’m sure in 1886, everyone was happy to have one, but I would really, really had rather had pretty much anything else in World War One.

Anyways guys, thanks for watching special thanks to Ventura Munitions and we hope to see you next time.



Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • The_Champ

    Nice shooting. A terribly antiquated gun yet it still delivers rounds on target. For all of it’s failings, would anyone really like to be down range of someone with this rifle?
    I’d be very curious to see it grouped off of a bench rest.

  • needs more elan

  • Bob

    Didn’t seem so bad. Not exactly 600 rounds a minute, but far from a muzzleloader.

  • ostiariusalpha

    And for all its craptasticness (which it certainly has in spades) it still used the ballistically superior spitzer projectile to the Mauser, in that the Balle D am had both a boattail and a secant ogive.

    • Kind of a lucky accident though, and zee joymanz certainly caught up with the sS Patrone.

      • ostiariusalpha

        And what year did they adopt the sS, again? Even the French were quicker to drop the 8mm Lebel than Germany was to replace the S.

        • That the Balle D was so aerodynamic definitely was a lucky accident, they didn’t have anything like the understanding of supersonic flow that we do now, then.

          • ostiariusalpha

            No, and that’s a lot more insulting to the amount of time and effort that Desaleux and others were putting into research at the end of the 19th century than you have any business saying, Nate. Supersonic flow theory was not as well understood at that time as it was 50 years later, much less today. Nonetheless, Desaleux had available a very large array of rigorous experimental studies on how projectile profiles effect ballistic performance, not just from Rubin and other small arms researchers, but also the fast moving developments in artillery shell technology. It was not even slightly an accident, it was hard work.

          • Mr Silly

            I’d argue actually no. There were plenty of fluid dynamicists around at the time- especially hydro-dynamics as boats were becoming ever faster. Aerodynamics had become the “hot’ physics topic of the day- so much so even Hiram Maxim- patented a steam-powered aeroplane 1888-1891. And considering most scientists would tend to be bi-lingual or have access to bi-lingual colleagues (at a university etc) and that the UK and Europe were only a half days’ sail if that and that telegram was near commonplace at the time- it’s very reasonable to assume within one or two weeks week- a published paper could be read in all the major European cities on the latest aerodynamic goings on.

          • Secundius

            The First AIP (Air-Induction Propulsion) System was Built in 1867. The World’s First Aircraft Carrier was a US. Civil War Barge, called the USS Geroge Washington Parke Custis in 1861…

          • Secundius

            Prehistoric Man Discovered Sound when a Meteorite Streaked thought Sky and Produced No Sound, BUT NOT Recorder. Leonardo Da Vinci, Discovered the Properties of Sound in 1500 and Englishman Robert Boyles, was the First Person to Calculate the Speed of Sound. Lot’s of Smart People Around, ONLY Limited by the Technology of the Times…

  • marathag

    8mm Lebel was the first round that caused a lot of malfunctions in Maxim’s early Machine Guns, vs the black powder rounds he had set the gun up for other countries.

    Far higher pressure resulted in far higher ROF

  • Kelly Jackson

    The rifle used by the French troops in The Mummy right?

    • felix

      If you’re not sure check out imfdb its like the “these firearms were in this movie” website.

      • SP mclaughlin

        Heck, that image is on the IMFDB article.

        • Kelly Jackson

          So it is, I got it from Google images
          That bolt handle sticking out to the side like that is so distinctive.

      • Secundius

        Well the French Foreign Legion used the Lebel 1886. Along with Roumania, Imperial Russia the Second Spanish Republic, the Princedom of Monaco, the Greek Army, the Vietnamese 1946-1949, the UK Homeguard, and the Volkestrum under the designation Gewehr 301(f)…

  • mosinman

    i wonder if they only expended half of the tube mag on an advance and then used the rest if they reached the opposite trench

    • Generally speaking, they died way before they even got close. In the event of a trench raid, handguns or melee weapons were common.

      • ostiariusalpha

        Shotguns worked pretty good also.

        • LG

          Only the U.S. officially used the shotgun in the trenches. Pershing specifically requested shotguns for the U.S. forces due to his experience with their use at the end of the Indian wars and Mexican intervention against Villa. He was appalled that they were not already in the supply system. Once the Americans started using them, the German’s protested that the shotgun was contrary to The Hague Convention and that any soldier captured with one would be summarily executed. The U.S. naturally objected, and the shotgun won the argument in the trenches.

    • mosinman

      yeah that’s why i said “if” i could see the pointy bayonet and maybe a knife and trench shovel would come in handy

  • Lance

    Ha Alex finally found a WW1 and WW2 firearm that in your opinion is inferior to a Mosin Nagant. Face it a M-91/30 is better has a stripper clip better sights and smother action compared to french rifles.

    The Label stayed too long in French service. Two rifle in WW1 tried to replace it but French leadership stayed with the label as its primary rifle threw WW1 and the 20s and 30s. Finally a decent French gun the MAS 36 was adopted but by Frances surrender in May 1940 only a few of them where in French service, most of France’s doomed military used Labels. far inferior to the WW1 G-98 and the improved WW2 K-98K. Free french units primarily used US and British rifles like the Lee Enfeild and US M-1 Carbine. Even after WW2 the Lebel served for a few years after and saw use early in the Indochina war, before renewed MAS-36 and soon MAS-49/56 production ended the Labels service. face it it short glory day in 1886 made it stay far after it was obsolete in 1893 and 1898 (Mauser 1893 in 7mm and the M-98 in 8mm), and yet it lived on far past its usefulness.

    But hay it made Alex C work hard on a run and gun cant be all bad LOL 😉

    • Strelets

      Just think of it this way: people and forces to this day still use Mosins in one capacity or another.

  • Jeff

    Alex; perfectly acceptable performance. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

    • Dave

      Yeah, I agree. I thought the use of the cumbersome, awkward, heavy, wonky, bolt-action rifle was quite good all things considered. I mean, wax your moustache and wear red MC Hammer pants next time, I guess.

      Prolly shoulda used the 8 shot magazine in “reserve” for when you got up closer to the Boche, and started out single-loading. Then switch to the 1886 equivalent of the “giggle” switch and unload the 8 round magazine…
      Vive le France!

      Don’t forget that the French had the most bestest grenade launcher in the VB with “shoot through” grenades, and the first hastily manufactured, junky, semi-disposable auto-rifle in the CSRG Mle. 1915 Chauchat with double the Lebel’s capacity: 16 cartridges in the flimsy and crummy 20-rd. half-moon magazine with open viewing slot to let plenty of Flanders’ mud, Artois or Champagne chalk, dust, dirt, debris in…!

      In WWII, far more soldiers had the Berthier than the Lebel, IIRC.

  • Tassiebush

    That was actually very cool to see one being used! Not sure i would have ever seen one being shot otherwise.
    The bolt angle seemed unergonomic compared to what we’re used to these days or pretty much anything post Lebel. I thought it was a good performance all things considered!
    Gee it’d be cool if you could get lebel style brass for leverguns like the .3030Winchester.

    • CupAJoe

      A lot of the cowboy action guys run the 1887’s by dropping two into the action, one slides into the chamber and one stays on the lifter. I wonder if the lebel performance could be improved in this run n gun by throwing one in the tube while single loading the chamber. Load two fire two… Not practical as was previously mentioned this was a single shot with the magazine used for emergency and this technique may not have even worked and if it did would only be applicable after the magazine was expended.

      • Tassiebush

        That’s a worthwhile thing to try out with the lebel. That could substantially speed things up if it worked.
        I have the IAC clone of that winchester levergun but I never really had that two at once load thing working for me.

  • Out of curiosity, with run and guns like this, using such rare calibers, do you police up the brass and see that it gets re-used? I would imagine it is valuable enough to take the time to collect and reload, but I’ve honestly no idea.

  • Mike

    As I understand the rifle was meant to be used as a single shot and the magazine engaged for emergency situations. This was the thinking of the time the Lee Metfords had a magazine cut off for the same reason. Generals and politicians didn’t want all that ammo wastage. Certainly better than just a single shot which it was competing against.
    Only 20 odd years earlier guy were still muzzle loading remember

    • Mr Silly

      Good point.

  • Erik Davis

    This test is utterly irrelevant without period-authentic cartridge belt to reload from. Your space age fabrics ruin the moment.

  • borekfk

    So when are you going to complete the French bolt action trifecta and try this with a Berthier?

  • Zebra Dun

    Designed to be used from behind a parapet such as at Fort Zinderneuf.

  • Mikial

    Looks like the action was pretty clumsy.

  • Mr Silly

    Nice presentation of a rare weapon. Enjoyable.