Could The Next French Service Rifle Be… Italian?

    Since the French announcement earlier this year that they would begin replacing the aging FAMAS with a new design by 2017, there has been some speculation over what design would be chosen as its replacement. One question that hovered over the heads of myself and a friend, though, was how, exactly, the FAMAS fleet – which unlike the Russian AK or American M16 and M4 fleets, has been serving the French armed forces in conflicts around the world for at least 15 years without any newly produced rifles – was being maintained in battle ready condition. Given the state of French military equipment, my friend and I both speculated that perhaps the FAMAS was not being well-maintained, and that maybe the weapons were simply well designed and manufactured enough, with enough spares in inventory, to continue serving all this time.

    However, according to small arms writer Leszek Erenfeicht of Poland, Jean Huon, French military technology historian and author of the excellent Collector’s Grade books Proud Promise and Honor Bound, mentioned a couple of years ago that the French government had contracted with Beretta to overhaul their FAMAS rifles.

    Could this relationship mean Beretta is a shoe-in for the French contract, or might the faults of the commercial ARX-100s carry over to the military weapons and affect their bid? Was the inside source who said the French had adopted the H&K 416, which was reported on this blog in 2012 wrong, or has the official news of that just not broken yet?

    The existence of a relationship between the French government and Beretta doesn’t necessarily mean Beretta will win the French rifle contract – the now defunct St. Etienne small arms factory was well-known for being one of the most rigorous small arms testing organizations in the world (it was not unknown for companies to enter French competitions just to have their rifles evaluated there), and this rigor in procurement might carry on today. However, it does give Beretta an edge over other companies, should Beretta meet French testing standards.

    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. He can be reached via email at [email protected]