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1884 Kropatschek: Groundwork for the Lebel

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After the adoption of the single-shot Gras rifle in 1874, attitudes towards repeating rifles began to shift in the French military. The Battle of Plevna had shown that regardless of their hypothetic detriments, repeating rifles could substantially magnify a force’s firepower and allow a smaller force to defeat a larger one. In 1878 the French Navy had adopted a tube-magazine Kropatschek rifle, and the head of the Chatellerault Arsenal tool shop, Albert Close, spent several years improving it and adapting it for French production.

He presented his completed rifle in 1883, and it was adopted and put into mass production. Both the Chatellerault and St Etienne arsenals would build Mle 1884 rifles, although they both ceased in 1886 when the Lebel and its smokeless powder changed the whole face of military small arms. A total of about 83,000 Model 1884 rifles were made, and they would serve as the basis for the 1885 and by extension the Lebel itself.

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