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.30-06 M1918 American Chauchat – Doughboys Go to France

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When the US entered World War One, the country had a grand total of 1,453 machine guns, split between 4 different models. This was not a useful inventory to equip even a single division headed for France, and so the US had to look to France for automatic weapons. In June 1917 Springfield Armory tested a French CSRG Chauchat automatic rifle, and found it good enough to inquire about making an American version chambered for the .30-06 cartridge. This happened quickly, and after testing in August 1917, a batch of 25,000 was ordered. Of these, 18,000 were delivered and they were used to arm several divisions of American troops on the Continent.

Unfortunately, the American Chauchat was beset by extraction problems. These have today be traced to incorrectly cut chambers, which were slightly too short and caused stuck cases when the guns got hot. It is unclear exactly what caused the problem, but the result was that most of the guns were restricted to training use (as best we can tell today), and exchanged for French 8mm Chauchats when units deployed to the front. Today, American Chauchats are extremely rare, but also very much under appreciated for their role as significant American WWI small arms.

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