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MAS-49 Carabine Mitrailleuse: A French Prototype Lever-Delayed Assault Rifle

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When France was developing it’s new suite of small arms in the late 1940s, there was a debate over whether to adopt an intermediate-power cartridge or retain the full-power 7.5x54mm round for the infantry rifle. Initially, a French 7.65x35mm cartridge was developed and used for several years of development (the US .30 Carbine round was also used). During this time, the MAS arsenal submitted prototypes for both submachine gun and assault rifle (“carabine mitrailleuse” – machine carbine) trials. Their model 1949 system was lever-delayed blowback, and virtually the exact same design was used for both types of firearms. A number of different models were made, including folding wood stocks, collapsing wire stocks, and various fire control setups and barrel lengths. Today, we are looking at two of the MAS 49 Carabine Mitrailleuse prototypes, one long barreled with a progressive trigger and folding wood stock, and one shorter with a wire stock and full-auto-only trigger.

Ultimately, the French Army decided to keep the full-power cartridge, and adopted a different MAS-49; the 7.5x54mm semiautomatic rifle that is well known today (and was later improved to the MAS-49/56 pattern). The submachine gun selected was the MAT-49, a simple blowback design. The whole development program for lever-delayed systems at MAS was abandoned, although it would come back twenty years later with the FAMAS.

Many thanks to the IRCGN (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) for allowing me access to film these prototypes for you!

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