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Lebel Dates

IMHO: Unless the gun has an "N" after the date on the barrel, it is an antique. I suspect that no receivers were made after 1894, but I cannot prove it. So we are guided by the serial range on the barrels. Any single letter is before 1892. The only ones I think are modern are double letters in the third series for each maker, but even then, there is no information that I can find. According to the French Military Historical web site, the production of the Lebel was complete by 1894. However my interpretation of French is poor.

I have a Lebel that is "SR" which is the third trip around the serial range, dated 1918 N. There are no assembly numbers on the receiver tang, so I suspect it is made after 1892, or even later. but as stated above, there is no firm information on this. Before the Mle 1932 SE rifle, which became the Mle 1936, the barrel was the gun, after this the receiver was the gun, which means that before the modern French Rifles, the barrel was the accountable item, and receivers were just a part. I do not know if Tulle had a stack of finished receivers, which they used as necessary to make guns, or if they finished forgings, or semi finished parts to make them. There is a list at the top of the page-sticky- that has some information on serials and the dates they were used.

The French practice at the time, 1890's, was to have a book of matriculation, which was a list of serials not yet used, and stamp the numbers on the gun at the time of acceptance. The French keep meticulous records, and the numbers of any guns lost or destroyed were also kept in a written record, which was used in the rebuild of guns as well as the practice of re-using the number of a particular weapon if it could be read from the parts on hand.

I do not know the exact method they used, so much of this is uncertain to me, perhaps the French corespondants know more about this than I.

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