MAS 36 Rifle: Overlooked Greatness ???

Steve Johnson
by Steve Johnson

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
Steve Johnson

I founded TFB in 2007 and over 10 years worked tirelessly, with the help of my team, to build it up into the largest gun blog online. I retired as Editor in Chief in 2017. During my decade at TFB I was fortunate to work with the most amazing talented writers and genuinely good people!

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2 of 64 comments
  • Hikerguy Hikerguy on Sep 17, 2015

    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 Zebra Dun on Sep 19, 2015

    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!