Literature Review: English-Language Books on French Firearms

Since we are in the middle of a series on French rifles, I figured it would be an appropriate time to take a look at what printed reference books are out there in English on the subject of French military arms. Unfortunately, the selection is very limited, and only two of these are still in print.

There is no book covering bolt action rifles like the Lebel and Berthier, so I am working on writing one myself (which I plan to have cover rifles from the Chassepot to the the FAMAS). However, here is what can be found now:

French Military Arms by Major James Hicks. This is a reprint of a types pamphlet written in 1938, which covers rifles, pistols, machine guns, artillery, grenades, and bladed arms from 1717 to 1938. While wide-ranging, it includes very little detail beyond the names of the various items, and is not entirely accurate.

Proud Promise by Jean Huon. An outstanding reference on French semiautomatic rifles, from the earliest developments before WWI to the retirement of the MAS 49/56. Most of France’s self-loading rifle development was done in secret by military institutions without use of patents, which makes research on them very difficult (many of these records are still classified as state secrets, thanks to French bureaucracy). M. Huon has done an excellent job finding and presenting this information.

Honour Bound by Gerard Demaison and Yves Buffetaut. Another excellent work from Collector Grade Publications, this is specifically on the M1915 Chauchat machine rifle. It covers the weapon’s development, accessories, context in the French military, and wartime field usage. It is a must-have for anyone interested in World Wa rOne or French arms, and is still available from the publisher for the cover price of $40….at least at the time this video was filmed.

The Last Bolt Gun by Steve Jackson. A self-published ebook covering specifically the MAS-36. It is not a reference book with the depth of the previous two, but it is a good overview of the MAS-36 for the typical owner. Do not expect too much, and you will not be disappointed. Available in both print and electronic forms.

The French 1935 Pistols by Eugene Medlin and Colin Doane. Approximately 140 pages on the development, production, use, and accessories for the 1935A and 1935S automatic pistols, adopted by the French military to replace the half-dozen different handguns used through World War One. Quite good, and unfortunately out of print.

Military Handguns of France by Eugene Medlin and Jean Huon. Similar in size and composition to the previous book, but larger in scope, covering French military handguns form 1858 to 1958 (the Lefaucheaux pinfire to the MAC PA 1950). Also a very good reference, essential for anyone interested in French handguns. Unfortunately also out of print.