Gun Jesus Ian McCollum of Forgotten Weapons has already written about his success at Rock Island Auction’s recent sale, or more specifically about his acquisition of a CSRG Chauchat in .30-06. I love this buy, and here’s why:
I wanted it. And, for what it’s worth, as the Curator of a major military technology collection, I’ve never seen another one. If you’re familiar with the Institute of Military Technology, it might surprise you that there isn’t one in the collection, but it’s true. At least, not one in .30-06.
Sure, it was a disaster of a gun. Glance at the comments section on Forgotten Weapons’ Facebook page or their website and you’ll see any number of questions in some form of, “Wasn’t the .30-06 version the really terrible one?” Terrible being subjective, we’re still talking about the Chauchat here. But yes it was.
As an example of why the Chauchat is so terrible, I once had a hard time getting the bolt to go forward on IMT’s 8mm Lebel gun (you know, the good one). I eventually solved this problem by discovering a not-that-small cutout near the fire control group perfectly shaped to insert a screwdriver to depress the sear far enough to send the bolt forward. Apparently I wasn’t the first person with this problem.
There are stories that the CSRG was so terrible those who were issued one would discard it as soon as any other weapon found itself unaccompanied on the battlefield. Other stories circulate that troops were inclined to interlace them in the bottom of the trench in a lattice pattern as to avoid standing in the mud – because at least then they’d be useful for something.
Of course it’s not fair to say the CSRG is all bad. It was far ahead of its time as far as overall weight and mobility on the battlefield was concerned (with this brand-new concept of “Walking Fire”). It was ahead of its time ergonomically with the rear pistol grip. It was ahead of its time mechanically with the straight-line buffer system. And it had a multi-lug rotating bolt for crying out loud. The BAR was still a several years away. According to Colonel Hatcher, the Lewis gun was in fact much worse than the CSRG. And the Benet-Mercie was incredibly complicated and fired from big floppy sideways metal sheets.
Look how cool this thing is in action (animation by the brilliantly talented vbbsmyt):
So what is our friend getting for the ridiculously low price of $13,800? First of all, try finding any other C&R Transferable machine gun for that money. You’ll pull it off, but it won’t be a classic World War I gun (okay, maybe an MG08/15 but don’t start with me). And it won’t have U.S. history. And it won’t be .30-06. And it won’t be nearly this rare. And it won’t be even remotely rangeworthy.
I understand – Ian was the high bidder. My institution didn’t bid higher (although, yes, I told them they should). And whomever bid against Ian and lost didn’t think it was worth $14,950 (the price it would have required after buyer’s premium on the next bid). So by definition the entire market disagrees with me. Well, they’re wrong. And in a few months when he publishes the videos of this beautiful monstrosity, you’ll see why I was right.