Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Date of Manufacture:1915-1919
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 2865
Measurements:OL:116.8CM 46" BL: 46.9CM 18 1/2" 18 lbs.

Object Description:

Manufactured in France - Standard French Model 1915 "Chauchat" machine gun. Long-recoil operated, rotating bolt. 4-groove rifling; right hand twist. Twenty-shot, single-column, detachable semi-circular magazine. Blade front; V-notch tangent rear sight. Selective-fire. Cyclic rate of fire 375 rpm. Muzzle velocity 2080 fps. Effective range of 700 yards; maximum range of 3200 yards. Weapon weighs approximately 18 lbs. unloaded and 21 lbs. loaded. Weapon complete with bipod and 20-round semi-circular detachable magazine.

Receiver: C.S.R.G. NO. 183950.
Receiver cover: C.S.R.G./183950.

Weapon transferred to the Museum on 1 March 1932. At that time weapon was appraised at $50.00.

Notes: "Nothing good ever came out of a committee." - George F. Will

"There was one good thing about it. The parts from it could be used in making a still." - US Army sergeant.

"The Chauchat was developed for the French Government between 1903 and 1915, using a method of operation based on the designs of Rudolph Frommer.
Sometimes called the C.S.R.G., the gun received its designation in recognition of the members of the French Commission which selected the arm: Chauchat, Suterre, Ribeyralle, and Gladiator.
The Chauchat was one of the first guns to be manufactured by simplified metal stamping and forming production methods of the type that have only recently reached a high state of development. The gun was designed to be quickly, cheaply, and easily manufactured in large numbers to supply the French Army in quantities to match the large-scale use of machine guns by Germany in 1914.
Placed into production in 1915, the Chauchat was fabricated of steel tubing of standard sizes and stampings. The barrel and bolt were the only parts requiring extensive matching. The unusual design and hurried construction of the gun resulted in poor reliability and worse accuracy. But in 1915, the French were in no position to be particular. Any gun was better than no gun at all; and four or five Chauchat machine guns could be produced for the time and money required to manufacture one of the more refined and reliable guns that had been tested; and quality was sacrificed for quantity.
In 1917, the United States was in the same position which France had been in, two years before -- the American Army found itself at war, with only a few hundred obsolete machine guns on hand. The only machine gun which could be obtained in quantity was the Chauchat. So while American factories tooled up for production of two outstanding machine guns designed by John Browning, the government purchased Chauchat guns from the French to arm U.S. troops are they arrived in France. The first guns used were chambered for the French Lebel rimmed cartridge. This added further difficulties to an already complicated supply problem, so arrangements were made to redesign the gun to fire the U.S. 30/06 cartridge. Some 25,000 rechambered Chauchat's were ordered in 1917, and were designated caliber .30 Model 1918. Only limited numbers of the caliber 30/06 models were issued to front-line troops before the end of the war.
A total of 34,000 Chauchat guns were purchased for the U.S. Army in France. It was the most widely used light machine gun of the American Forces. Other guns did not become available until late in 1918, and the war ended before they replaced the Chauchat.
Intended only as a wartime expedient, the Chauchat was quickly replaced by better guns after the war. The U.S. Army discarded it immediately, and France replaced it in 1926. Belgium continued to use the M1915 Chauchat as late as the 1930's, and the gun was manufactured in Greece for a short time as the 'Gladiator.' But the weapon's wartime record of poor reliability was well known, and it was never again used as a first-line military gun....
First combat use of the Chauchat was by French troops on the Western Front, in 1915. The gun was the standard light machine gun of the French Army throughout the rest of the war." - Johnson & Lockhoven

"When It is not surprising that the Americans reportedly balked at the Chauchat Mle 15 machine rifle (whose name they mangled phonetically into 'Show-Show') issued to them by the French. The guns looked remarkably crude and soon proved unreliable, inaccurate, heavy and poorly balanced. U.S. Marines were actually forced to give up their well-made, reliable Lewis guns in exchange for Chauchats.
The French Chauchat machine rifle has been the object of some of the most outspoken criticism ever heaped upon an automatic arm. Phrases such as 'undoubtedly quite the worst' and 'abysmal' crop up with alarming regularity in technical books and journals. On the other hand, there are many officially documented instances of Chauchet gunners dispatching Germans in droves to turn the tide of battle.
Between 1903 and 1910 French Army Capt. Louis Chauchat and master armourer Charles Sutter developed several semi-and full-automatic rifles as France's Atelier de Construction de Puteaux. These culminated in a promising and strikingly simple arm made from tubing and riveted sheet metal - which was far ahead of its time as an arms manufacturing technique. By 1913 this Chauchat-Sutter Fusil Mitrailleur was performing well enough to be put into production at St. Etienne. It was adopted as the Fusil Mitrailleur 1915 CSRG - named for Chauchat, Sutter, production manager Paul Ribeyrolles and the principal manufacturer, Gladiator - and issued in large numbers by the French. The Fusil Mitrailleur Modele 1915 CSRG (Chauchat) was made to the tune of some 247,000 by the Societe des Cycles Clement et Gladiator, Paris, and Forges et Acieries de la Marine a Homecourt, St. Chamond. It was long-recoil operated, capable of full and semi-automatic fire (250 r.p.m.) and was fed by a 20-round, crescent-shaped, detachable box magazine. The gun was 45" long, weighed 21 lbs. loaded, and its 17 1/2" long, four-groove barrel had a right hand twist.
The completed product was undeniably ugly and awkward, with little attention given to the finish of exposed metal parts or the wooden furniture. Although it earned some praise, two of the most impassioned criticisms of the gun were its intolerance of the pervasive mud of the battlefield, and the pathetic weakness of its magazines. The many large openings in the magazine and the gun allowed grit and moisture to penetrate every inner recess, combining into an abrasive paste that was fatal to its operation. As if this were not enough, the design of the gun left it prone to a catalogue of other malfunctions.
Despite all the negative comments, 'good' Chauchats are mentioned in citations for heroism and first-hand accounts such as Edmund L. Butts' THE KEYPOINT OF THE MARNE. 'At daylight the barrage lifted, but the fog and smoke obscured the view of the river. We could hear the Chauchats and rifles firing...the Germans were streaming across a pontoon bridge directly in front of us. Lt. Arthur S. Savage, a man among men, died at our end of the bridge, firing a Chauchat rifle after the gunners had been killed.' According to Lawrence Stalling's THE DOUGHBOYS, Pvt. Nels Wold of the U.S. 35th Infantry Division used a Chauchat during the Meuse-Argonne offensive to take out four German machine gun positions, before being killed in an attempt to get the fifth. U.S. Marine Frank Bart was recommended for the Medal of Honor after using a CSRG to kill two machine gun crews. The original Chauchat to the more powerful .30-06 cartridge was an almost guaranteed disaster. While there are good reasons for despising the 8mm Chauchat, it is speculated that these bad .30-06 cal. guns are the origin of much of the most intense derision that clings to its reputation even today. Most of the 18,000 .30 cal. guns delivered to the AEF were junked, and only a handful are known to exist today. First issues of the far superior Model 1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) were greeted with jubilation by American troops - and no wonder.
Perhaps most telling was the apparent disdain of the Germans for captured Chauchats. While the Germans highly prized captured Lewis guns - and even included the Lewis in their training course for Maxim gunners - there is no evidence that Chauchats were employed in any organized way by the Kaiser's armies." - Robert Bruce

"If there is one thing the history of firearms tells us, it is that good guns get designed by designers, not by committees, and the Chauchet simply confirms this view. It was developed hurriedly in 1915 to satisfy the French Army's insistent demands for more machine guns. A four-man committee under Col. Chauchet designed the gun and it went into mass-production. The basic design was sound enough, if unusual - it used a long recoil system of operation in which barrel and bolt, locked together, recoiled until they were well behind the magazine. The bolt was then unlocked and the barrel allowed to return forward to the firing position, after which the bolt was released to run forward, chamber a fresh round and fire. But if the design was sound, the manufacture was slipshod, the gun being made from stamped or turned parts so that it could be made in any engineering shop. Moreover, the peculiar 8-mm French cartridge, with a steeply tapering bottle-necked case with a large rim, demanded a peculiar semi-circular magazine which clipped beneath the gun. The manufacturing tolerances were large, much hand-fitting had to be done on each gun to make it work, and interchangeability of parts was impossible. It was unusual for any Chauchet gun to fire off more than two or three bursts without jamming, and due to the enclosed design, rectifying a jam meant dismantling the gun.
The American Army in France soon realized they had a problem, but was thought that most of the trouble came from the 8-mm cartridge, and that if it could be adapted to fire the US .30 cartridge, and given a simple straight box magazine, things might be better. The French were approached and were agreeable, and the purchasing commission contracted for a further 19,200 guns in .30 caliber. The French accepted, with the stipulation that French inspectors would examine the guns and, if they passed them, the American Army would accept them without further ado.
The result was even worse than the original gun. The .30 round was much more powerful that the 8-mm Lebel, and the action of the gun became violent, usually tearing the rims off the cartridges during extraction and producing even more jams. As soon as the BAR appeared the Chauchets were relegated to training use, and as soon as the war was over the entire stock was withdrawn and scrapped, apart from a handful left in museums. Yet the French continued to use it and, after the war, managed to sell it to various unsuspecting armies. It turned up again in the Spanish Civil War, and the reports of some members of the International Brigades indicate that it hadn't improved since 1918. The French still had some in store in 1939, and when the German Army occupied France the following year, they took one glance at them, and quickly offloaded the Chauchets onto auxiliaries and foreign contingents. And according to one source a number even appeared in the hands of the Viet Cong in the 1960s! Like the proverbial bad penny, the Chauchet will continue to turn up in spite of every soldier who ever sees one trying to get rid of it." - Ian V. Hogg

"Arguably the
"This is one of the most poorly constructed weapons ever developed." - Smith

Bruce, Robert. MACHINE GUNS OF WORLD WAR I. Robert Bruce Photography. Sandston, Va. 1998.
Chinn, George M. THE MACHINE GUN. Vol. I. Department of the Navy. Washington, D.C. 1951.
Hogg, Ian V. THE STORY OF THE GUN. St. Martin's Press, N.Y., N.Y. 1996.
Hogg, Ian & John Weeks. MILITARY SMALL ARMS OF THE 20TH CENTURY. 6th Ed. DBI Books Inc. Northbrook, Il.
Johnson, George B. & Hans Bert Lockhoven. INTERNATIONAL ARMAMENT. Vol. II. International Small Arms Publishers, Cologne, Germany. 1965.
Lewis, Jack. Ed. THE GUN DIGEST BOOK OF ASSAULT WEAPONS. DBI Books, Inc. Northbrook, Il. 1993.
Smith, W.H.B. A BASIC MANUAL OF MILITARY SMALL ARMS. Military Service Publishing Company. Washington, D.C. 1945.

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