French Lebel Model 1886 (Fusil Modèle 1886/M93) Rifles leaning against a tree.
The Lebel was the main French battle rifle during World War One, it was sturdy, reliable and accurate although it’s under-barrel tube magazine meant it was slower to load than a clip fed rifle. The Lebel was the first service French rifle to fire smokeless cartridges giving the rifle the ability to be used for long-range shooting with the manual magazine cut off encouraging aimed fire.
It’s long length of over 4ft meant that it was difficult to use in the close-quarters of trench warfare, especially when compared the the British SMLE or American M1903 Springfield rifle. The French Army’s failure to modernize between the World Wars meant that in 1939 the Lebel was still the main battle rifle, long after it had become outdated.
It should have been replaced by the MAS-36, a shorter, smoother actioned rifle and a semi-automatic rifle that later became the MAS-49 but budget restraints and heavy spending on the ill-fated Maginot Line meant it remained in service.
Military Small Arms, G Smith, (1994)
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