Jean Huon is a – possibly the premiere – French military small arms historian of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Proud Promise is his effort to document the story of the French military selfloading rifle, up to the year 1979. Along with its companion Honor Bound detailing the history of the CSRG 1915 machine gun (better known as “Chauchat”), it is one of two Collector’s Grade Publications’ resources on French military long arms, both of which should be required reading for the student of the subject.
For anyone interested in the history of self-loading rifles, Proud Promise covers a great chunk of their early history, as so much of it is French history. While the Americans were the first in the late ’30s to adopt a self-loading rifle, there is a compelling argument to be made that it was the French who had by far the most experience with them until that point. The capstone weapon of the book – the MAS 49 rifle – arrived after World War II, and was primitive in some ways compared to other contemporary weapons, but in other ways it was still more advanced, and it embodied the great corpus of French work on the type going back to before the Boer Wars. Indeed, the argument that the French may have known a thing or two the Americans didn’t carries some weight, especially considering some of the recent testing done by Ian of Forgotten Weapons between the MAS 49/56 and the M14.
Like A History of Modern U.S. Military Small Arms Ammunition, Proud Promise is essentially authoritative. It’s difficult to imagine a book covering so much with as much depth; on the subject of French selfloading rifles, it is difficult to find another resource that competes with it. Its biggest limitation is that more introductory audiences may find the subject boring, or lacking in wider context. However, for the patient, truly interested reader of any stripe, Proud Promise offers a compelling, lush view of its subject matter.
Proud Promise is available on Amazon for around thirty dollars (US).