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Old 02-10-2019, 06:03 PM
Vespers War Vespers War is offline
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Originally Posted by pmulcahy11b View Post
Weapons-wise, we have the horrible Chauchat light machinegun, called by many who had to use it The Worst Weapon Ever Inflicted Upon the Infantry. The mechanism jammed regularly, often to the point where it had to be field-stripped to get it running again; it was prone to double-feeds, the magazine has large open slots, meant to allow the gunner to see how much ammo he had left; in the trenches of France, the slots merely meant that the ammo inside got very dirty and muddy and fed this dirt into the chamber, leading to more stoppages, and the 8mm Lebel magazines were large, heavy, clumsy, and difficult to load into the weapon due to their pronounced curve. The US Marines used them, since the BAR was not ready and would not be until near the very end of the war, but theirs were rechambered for .30-06. The Chauchat did not react well to the new ammo and this caused frequent failures to feed and extract; in addition, the new magazines did not fit well. Most gunners simply threw them away in disgust or used some of the newer French designs which were beginning to make their appearance late in the war. The unit armorers were always pissed trying to fix the Chauchats. I'm sure many gunners died due to failures at the wrong moment. All in all, a bad joke for the infantry.
From what I've heard from people who have fired them, the 8mm Chauchat is a slightly below average gun with odd recoil (due to using a long recoil system) and that nasty tendency to get clogged with gunk from the open magazine that you noted (75% of stoppages were magazine problems). Closed magazines were made in mid-1918, but didn't make it to the front before the end of the war. They'd also jam if overheated because the heat would cause parts to swell and the recoil system would get stuck at full recoil. The ones built by Gladiator mostly had defective sights; SIDARME built much better (but far fewer) guns.

The .30-06 version is the true disaster. All of them were made by Gladiator, and many had poorly reamed chambers and out-of-tolerance machined parts. At least 40% were rejected by inspectors, and even those that passed inspection sometimes had chamber dimensions that caused extraction problems (on top of the dirt and overheating and sights issues).

The Belgians and Poles, who converted their Chauchats to 7.65mm and 7.92mm Mauser (the FM 15/27 and RKM wz 15/27 respectively), kept them until the 1930s because when it was converted for use with rimless rounds, the Chauchat was mostly reliable.

What's really horrifying is the monstrosity that is the Chauchat-Ribeyrolles, a cut-down Chauchat intended for use as a PDW. Luckily, the war ended before it finished trials.

In the end, the Chauchat's flaws do leave one to wonder what would have happened if the French had converted over to (rimless) 7x59mm Meunier before the war. They had planned to replace the Lebel with the STA A6, a semi-automatic rifle fed from stripper clips, but delays in development of the ammunition meant they had just completed the first batch of 1,000 rifles when war broke out and France decided not to switch calibers mid-war. With an easier-to-stack round that could be put in a straight, closed box magazine, at least some of the flaws in the Chauchat could have been mitigated like they were with the switch to Mauser rounds.
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