Springfield Armory Museum - Collection Record

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Maker/Manufacturer:CHAUCHAT, COLONEL, ET AL.
Date of Manufacture:1917-1918
Eminent Figure:
Catalog Number:SPAR 1106
Measurements:OL:114.3CM 45" BL: 46.4CM 18 3/8" 18 lbs.

Object Description:

Made in France - Basically a French Model 1915 "Chauchat" altered with straight box magazine to accept .30-06 cartridge and magazine capacity cut from 16 to 20-rounds. Long recoil-operated, air-cooled, fed by detachable box magazine. 4-groove rifling; left hand twist. Selective fire. Blade front, V-notch tangent rear sight. Cyclic rate of fire 350 rpm. Effective range of 700 yards, maximum range of 3200 yards. Wood butt, pistol grips, foregrip. Weapon has an overall length of 45" and a barrel length of 18 3/8" and weighs approximately 18 lbs.

Receiver: C.S.R.G. A NO 1196. (Select switch: S and G.)
Bolt cover: C.S.R.G. A 1196.

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

"At the time the United States entered the conflict, the country did not possess anything comparable even to the Chauchat, and when the A.E.F. landed overseas, the Government contracted with the French for enough of these weapons to arm each division as it arrived. While the American troops read glowing accounts of production feats at home with the superior Browning automatic machine guns, they were compelled to fight the war to the end armed with Chauchats. It is a matter of record that their issue to American troops was nearly twice what was anticipated as they were almost invariably thrown away in action.
The use of a weapon designed for the French cartridge made it necessary for our supply department to carry two kinds of rifle ammunition as all combat units had guns with both calibers. This situation was undesirable for a logistic viewpoint. It was found that with little difficulty and few changes the 8-mm Chauchat could be rechambered to take our caliber .30 service cartridge. On 17 August 1917, 5 months after we were in the war, an order was placed with the French commission to alter 25,000 weapons in such a manner. The revised gun was to be known as the caliber .30 Model 1918, with the reworking to be carried out by the original producers of the basic mechanism. As a result it was practically the same arm as before, except for the chamber. The magazine was cut form 20- to 16-cartridge capacity and there was a slight increase in the rate of fire. The modified gun did not even approach expectations, being more unreliable than the original. The most prevalent malfunctions were parts breakage, feed jams, and cartridges sticking in the chamber as soon as the barrel became slightly hot.
Despite many requests from the field for certain changes, it was impossible to incorporate them because of the way the contract with the French was drawn. All modifications and inspection was placed in their hands and the guns, as soon as passed by the French inspectors, were shipped to this country to arm divisions about to go overseas.
From 31 December 1917 to 3 April 1918, 37,864 Chauchats were purchased in 8-mm or altered to caliber .30, and nine American combat divisions were armed with then in the United States before sailing for Europe.
The gun gots its name from Colonel Chauchat, chairman of the French commission that adopted it. It was customary in European countries, for some reason that can only be surmised, to name a weapon for a high government official, particularly if the said person showed an especial interest in the adoption of the piece under consideration. By the same token, this machine rifle is sometimes called the C.S.R.G., paying tribute to all members of the board that selected the automatic rifle for the French Army. The board was composed of Messrs. Chauchat, Suterre, Ribeyrolle, and Gladiator.
The last named member of the board at a late date went to Greece and manufactured the identical weapon with his own name on the piece in lieu of that of Chauchat. From the character of the gun's reputation, one can only marvel that anyone cared to have his name so implicated." - Chinn

"France has a history of being slightly out of step with the rest
"There is a hoary old joke about the camel who wanted to be a racehorse, but got designed by a committee, and the same sort of thing tends to happen in the firearms world when committees begin designing weapons. But rarely has any committee ever come up with anything so abysmal as the 'Chauchat' machine-gun of 1915." - Ian Hogg

"The Chauchat was a machine rifle, not a true light machine gun and had the distinction of being the worst machine gun available. Poorly made and unreliable, its heavy long-recoil action jarred the gun off target so badly when it did function that any sort of accuracy beyond submachine gun range was impossible, regardless of the skill of the gunner. American troops went into battle without a light machine gun and probably thousands died for lack of it. American troops that managed to get Lewis guns into combat offered glowing reports. Those on the Chauchat were damning." - Jim Dickson

"The CSRG light machine-gun was designed by a commission of French designers towards the end of 1915 and like most commission-instigated weapons, the result was nothing to be admired; it has been described as the worst design of machine-gun ever formulated and it was universally execrated by those who use it....In spite of the poor combat showing, the CSRG was briefly adopted by Greece and by Belgium (both in 8mm). The Greeks listed the weapon as the 'Gladiator' and the calibre as 7.8mm but, as this was their term for the French 8mm cartridge, the weapons were neither rechambered nor rebarrelled." - Ian Hogg & John Weeks

"...Back in France in 1917, the BAR was a desirable property but, of course, production was slow to get underway and meanwhile US troops were desperate for a light machine gun. 'No problem,' said their allies the French. 'We have an excellent model in production. Voila, the Chauchat machine gun!' The American purchasing commission, I regret to say, fell for it and brought no less than 12,800 of the wretched guns, after which things got worse.
If there is one thing which the history of firearms tells us, it is that good guns get designed by designers, not by committees, and the Chauchat amply 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. Chauchat designed the gun and it went into mass-production. The basic design was sound enough, if unusual - it used the 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 for 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 Chauchat 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 it was thought that most of the trouble came from the 8-mm cartridge, and that if it could be adapted to fire the U.S. .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 passeThe result was even worse than the original gun. The .30 round was much more powerful than the 8-mm Lebel, and the action of the gun became more violent, usually tearing the rims off the cartridges during extraction and producing even more jams. As soon as the BAR appeared the Chauchats 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 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 Chauchats 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 Chauchat will continue to turn up in spite of every soldier who ever sees one trying to get rid of it." - Ian Hogg

"The French made Chauchat (pronounced "show-show") was a miserable weapon, perhaps the worst it has ever been the misfortune of U.S. soldiers to have to use, and that includes some awful junk acquired in Europe at the beginning of the Civil War.
Although the U.S. Army designated the Chauchat as an automatic rifle it was actually a light machine gun. It was developed by the French in 1915 in a gosh-awful hurry to fill their pressing need for light machine guns. It was designed by a committee, and not a single good designer had much to do with it. The 8mm Chauchat was, to put it mildly, something less than an ideal weapon, however it would often work in a more or less satisfactory manner, and it could be built quickly, easily, and very cheaply.
The original Chauchat used by the U.S. Army was the standard French 8mm Model 1915. The gun was recoil-operated, air-cooled, and fed by a 'C' shaped box magazine. The 8mm Chauchat was issued to the first 18 U.S. division that went to France, and a large number of the guns were sent to the U.S. for use in training. Troops who had to use the gun in combat found it barely adequate, and they did not like it. However it would work after a fashion, and the Army had nothing else to issue in its place. In all the Army got 12,864 of the 8mm Chauchats, and, although absolutely nobody liked the gun, it remained in service in a few units until the end of the war.
Once the 8mm Chauchat was in service the Army decided it would be a good idea to try and have the gun manufactured in U.S. Cal. .30 to simplify design to begin with, the conversion was easy, and the French manufacturer was more than willing to build it. Making the conversion function with any degree of reliability proved to be impossible. The 8mm French cartridge has a very sharp body taper and a thick, heavy rim which makes it easy to extract. The French ammunition is also relatively low powered. The U.S. cal..30 cartridge has a very straight case and light rim and can be very difficult to extract, and it is also very powerful. The cal..30 Chauchat had such a violent action that it tore up the .30 cartridges instead of extracting them. Then it heated up it and froze, and it would not shoot again until it had cooled off. To make it even worse the enclosed design of the gun made it very difficult to clear jams, and the design couldn't be changed to eliminate any of the problems.
The U.S. Government paid for 25,000 of the cal..30 Chauchats, and 2,200 of them were shipped to the U.S. for use as training weapons. U.S. soldiers who fired the cal..30 Chauchat developed a deep and instant hate of it, and they would frequently refuse to have anything further to do with the gun. Everyone in the Army from private to general condemned the gun as soon as they saw it try to fire. The cal..30 Chauchat had been procured by a citizen soldier purchasiAs soon as the war ended the Army did the only merciful thing: it ordered all its Chauchats junked. They did such a thorough job of getting rid of the cal..30 model that only a very few museum specimens have survived, and all reference to the gun was omitted from the official history of ordnance activities during the war.
Although the French Army officially dropped the Chauchat as soon after the war as they could, they still had some in service when World War II began. A few Chauchats even turned up in the hands of the Viet Cong in Vietnam as late as 1965." - Konrad F. Schreier

"The best that can be said for the Chauchat is that it was available in great numbers and may have taught our troops much about machine-gun tactics. One of the main things they needed to know was to have plenty of them available since the odds were that a good percentage would not function....
This is one of the few guns whose de-activation (a constant bone of contention with American collectors) does not seem to trouble most enthusiasts at all. In fact, these guns should probably be welded on principle." - Jim Thompson

"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 Model 1915 Chauchat as late as the 1930s, 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." - Johnson & Lockhoven

Chinn, George M. THE MACHINE GUN. Vol. I. Department of the Navy. Washington, D.C. 1951.
Hogg, Ian. THE COMPLETE MACHINE GUN, 1885 TO THE PRESENT. Exeter Books, N.Y., N.Y. 1979.
Hogg, Ian. THE STORY OF THE GUN. St. Martin's Press. N.Y., N.Y. 1996.
Hogg, Ian & John Weeks. MILITARY SMALL ARMS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Digest Books, Inc. Northfield, Il. 1973.
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.
Myrer, Anton. ONCE AN EAGLE. HarperCollins Publishers. N.Y., N.Y. 2000.
Schreier, Konrad F. GUIDE TO UNITED STATES MACHINE GUNS. Normount Technical Publications. Wickenburg, Az. 1975.
Thompson, Jim. MACHINE GUNS: A PICTORIAL, TACTICAL AND PRACTICAL HISTORY. Greenhill Books. Lionel Leventhal Ltd. London, England. 1990.

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