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The Berthier was adopted in 1890 as a new repeating rifle for the French cavalry, who were at that time still using single shot Gras carbines. The Lebel rifle had been adopted in 1886 for the infantry, but because of its tube magazine it was not conducive to being shortened into carbine form. Andre Berthier devised a way to combine the basic action of the Lebel with the Mannlicher clip system, resulting in a light and handy repeating carbine.
The majority of these carbines were made in 1890 and 1891, and have full length stocks without any provision for bayonets (since the cavalry already had their sabers). A few more were made between 1900 and 1904, and a final order for 40,000 was placed in 1905, but it is unknown if they were actually built. Total production was either 160,000 or 200,000, depending on that last order.
It was not long into World War One when it became clear that cavalry were not suited to trench warfare, and the French cavalry units were repurposed as infantry. As a result, these cavalry carbines were rebuilt in the 1892 infantry pattern when damaged, and after the war all the surviving examples in original configuration were rebuilt as well. This makes them quite rare today in original form.
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