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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I recently came into possession of a Berthier Model 1907 made at St. Etienne and I thought I would share some information on her in hopes of promoting knowledge and research into these rifles. Thanks to the information on this board, and by some google searching, I have learned she would have begun her career with French Senegalese troop.

She is peculiar in that the usual "MA * " followed by the date of make on the barrel is absent when compared to my Chassepot and Lebel rifles. The rifle also does not have an "N" marking either and the rear sight markings seem to confirm she is set up for Balle "D". Her serial number is 4248 with an stylistic "f" just in front. Her front sight is the block type with the shallow "V" trench on top. There is a shallow hole at the back of the front sight that I presume is where the radium would have been for the night sights ? There are a few inspector marks (letters) on the bottom of the barrel followed by the indexing lines for the receiver and barrel. The top of the barrel, just forward of the receiver has a "9" stamped on. The left side of the receiver wall has an inspectors letter in a circle followed by "St. Etienne Mle 1907". She is matching numbers whereas the stock is another Berthier stock that has been matched to this rifle with the older serial number lined out but mostly visible. The wood stock boasts two repairs, one to the bottom of the grip, about three inches in length and about an inch in width, and a second repair to the right side of the magazine with a rectangular patch of about one and half inches.

The stock was cut back a few inches and she is missing her front band and front band retaining spring but otherwise she is complete. The exterior metal showed some surface rust that mostly came off with some steel wool. The bore has cleaned up really nice and she has deep and clear rifling, a shooting rifle most definitely. The wood stock does have some sort of varnish finish on it, similar to that you would find on Kropatchek 1886 colonial rifles.

Based on what I have been able to learn thus far, I take it these rifles were only made as required for arming newly mustered unit from Senegal ? The sources seem to cite Chatellerault as being the primary manufacturer for these rifles but what about St. Etienne ? Would these rifles have been sent to Senegal or would the troops be shipped to France first ? Is there anyway to figure out roughly when my rifle was made or to whom she would have served with before the war ? Any thoughts on where she would have ended up after WW1 considering she is not Balle "N" marked ?

At present, I am restoring the rifle. I have a replacement upper band and band spring on the way (albeit a 1907-15 front band). As well, I will be splicing on a new fore end and fitting the front band and band spring so this rifle can be in complete trim again.

I will post pictures of my progress in restoring this rifle and getting her out to the range with some hand loaded ammunition.

I do appreciate any and all thoughts on what has been posted above. Any leads to new information about these rifles is greatly appreciated.
 

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Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) was the only armory that solely built the Fusil de Tirailleur Sénégalais Modèle 1907 and later changed to the name Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907. (The original name of this rifle was called the Fusil de Tirailleur Sénégalais Modèle 1907 as per Décret Ministerial 34117/2/3 dated August 9, 1907 but in 1908 it was then decided to widen the issuance of the weapon to other colonial troops, except those in Indochina, and Décret Ministerial 22859/2/3 of June 6, 1908 re-named the rifle to Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907 which was adopted for service on June 19,1908.)
There were only @25,000 of the rifles ever made.

What a lot of people do not understand about the name Tirailleur Sénégalais ... this was a corps of the French Army recruited from French West Africa called Afrique Occidentale Française (AOF), French Equatorial Africa called Afrique-Équatoriale Française (AEF), and French Somaliland called Côte Française des Somalis. This name was not only used for the French soldiers who come from Senegal but for the French soldiers of all West, Central and East Africa.
The AOF was a federation of eight French colonial territories in Africa: Mauritanie (Mauritania), Sénégal (Senegal), Soudan Français (French Sudan, now called Mali), Guinée Français (French Guinea, now called Guinea), Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Haute-Volta (Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now called Benin) and Niger. The capital was originally in Saint-Louis, Sénégal from 1895-1902 and moved to Dakar, Sénégal in 1902.
The AEF was the federation of French colonial possessions in Middle Africa, extending northwards from the Congo River to the Sahara Desert which composed of the following; Gabon, Moyen-Congo (Middle Congo, now called Republic of the Congo), Oubangui-Chari (Central African Republic) and Tchad (Chad). The capital was based at Brazzaville, Moyen-Congo.
Côte Française des Somalis (French Somaliland, now called Djibouti) capital was based at city of Djibouti.
Within each of the 'colonies' there were different groups of Tirailleur Sénégalais raised and named for the areas they came from such as: Tirailleurs Sénégalais, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Cameroun, Tirailleurs Sénégalais de la Côte Française des Somalis, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Haoussas au Dahomey, Tirailleurs Sénégalais de Guinée, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Levant, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Maroc, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Niger, Tirailleurs Sénégalais de l'Oubangui-Chari, Tirailleurs Sénégalais de Renfort, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Soudan, Tirailleurs Sénégalais du Tchad, Tirailleurs de Brazzaville, Tirailleurs du Congo-Gabon, etc..

Other Colonial Troops ...
Tirailleur Malgaches was a corps of the French Army recruited from the island of Madagascar and several small islands near the main island of Madagascar.
These troops were mainly armed prior to the war with the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1874 'Gras' and during the war with the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915. The vast majority of the troops up to WWII on the islands retained the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1874 'Gras' right up to Invasion of Madagascar by the British in 1942. (Operation Ironclad and Operation Streamline Jane)

Tirailleurs Indochinois were from Indochine Française which were broken down from the region they were from such as Tirailleurs Annamites, Tirailleurs Tonkinois and Tirailleurs Cambodgiens. Tonkin is the northernmost part of Indochine, south of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces, east of northern Laos, and west of the Gulf of Tonkin whose principal city is Hanoi. Annam encompasses the central region of Indochine which surrounds the city of Hanoi and runs from the Gulf of Tonkin to the mountains which surround the plains of the Red River, confusingly, "Annam" was also used to refer to Indochine as a whole and Cochinchina is a region encompassing the southern third of Indochine whose principal city is Saigon. Cambodge is basically modern day Cambodia. During WWI these troops were mostly one of the 15 Bataillons d' Etapes (Labor Service Troops) but there were four battalions that were combatant forces, the 1er, 2e, 7e, and 21e. The 1ère and 2ème served in the Greece and the 7ème and 21ème in France. These troops used their own specialized rifle called the Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902.

There was also a Tirailleurs Canaques et Polynésiens later know as Bataillon Mixte du Pacifique that came from the Pacific Islands of New Caledonia and Polynesia.

You also had then had the Armée d’Afrique which was from French North Africa: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia. These were technically part of the French Metropolitan Army but was really a whole seperate army corps designated as the 19e Corps d'Armee.
These consisted of Tirailleurs Algériens, Tirailleurs Marocains, Tirailleurs Tunisiens, Spahis Algériens & Tunisiens, Spahis Marocains, Spahis du Sénégal, Goumiers, Tabors, Compagnies Sahariennes, Compagnies Méharistes, Zouaves, Chasseurs d'Afrique, Légion Étrangère (Foreign Legion) and the Infanterie Légère d'Afrique (African Light Infantry) which was made up of convicted military criminals from all branches of the French Army who had finished their sentences in military prisons but still had time to serve before their terms of engagement were completed. These troops would have been issued the regulation rifle such as the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 'Lebel' and latter both the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 and Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 Modifié 1916.



From your description of the rifle, it seems that your rifle is a re-built rifle due to missing letter and date on the right side of the barrel but they seemed to utilize a previous serial prefix letter and number of one that was removed.
The front sight you describe is one that the French Military started to use in August of 1916 and again in March 1917 that was developed by Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) as "night sights” for the as-issued front and rear sights. The modification consisted of placing a small amount of fluorescent radium in a small 1/8" deep rounded hole on the front sight facing the shooter and two on the back of the rear sight leaf , one on each side of the sight notch.

The left side of the receiver wall has an inspectors letter in a circle followed by "St. Etienne Mle 1907" ... I have a feeling the numbers '-15' were scrubbed off during its re-build as stated before Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) was the only armory who made the true Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907.

To answer where was this rifle after WWI ... well after the war many of these were sold to Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland, sent to Spain to arm the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War. Most of the ones sent to Greece, Yugoslavia, Poland never got the up-date to the Modèle 1932N (Nouveau) cartridge and therefore do not have the "N" stamped on them to reflect this.

If you want to learn more please read this post ... http://forums.gunboards.com/showthread.php?86602-*-Berthier-Carbine-and-Rifle-Information-*

Patrick
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hello Patrick,

thank you for the very detailed reply. I will try to post some pictures tomorrow to add to my description.

The side line "St Etienne Mle 1907" is quite crisp and clear, there does not appear to have been polished or buffed. A rebuild makes sense but why wouldn't the rebuilding arsenal have their mark on the barrel (ie MAP 16) ? The bolt, bolt head, and magazine have matching numbers and interestingly are not re matched to the rifle like the stock is.

I will say that the action is quite smooth to operate and the trigger has a nice double stage. She did clean up quite nicely with some TLC.

Thank you again for your help, it is much appreciated.
 

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You have to understand that sometimes rifles got away without the stampings if they were needed immediately or if they were put together by a civilian company such as ManuFrance. The military had many spare barrels made, when they needed a new one they grabbed one, stamped it with a C, S or T, put a date on it and applied the left side serial numbers and inspectors markings of those armories. Most of the time, barrels that are missing those stamps were ones that were done by civilian contractors to the armories.

I will await the pictures of the receiver and its markings as to why the -15 is missing. The French were really good at scrubbing those marks when they did do it, you can barely tell it was done, they were excellently done.

Patrick
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Hi Patrick,

Here are the pictures of the Berither as she is right now. I took pictures of all the markings I could find. Please let me know if you require any more pictures of any areas. Thank you for your help and assistance in figuring out this rifle's past.















































 

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The receiver was scrubbed for some reason, you can barely see where the -15 was though if you look closely.
The little markings are the different Contrôleurs de 1ème Classe, 2ème Classe and 3ème Classe (1st, 2nd and 3rd Class Controllers)
The two big E's are the barrel proofs called Eprouve, this one was had its final proof done in March.
The numbers on the left side of rear sight are the ranges ... 400 to 800 meters

Patrick
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Hello again Patrick,

Thank you for your speedy and informative replies.

I took another close look at the "Mle 1907" and I cannot see any hint of a "-15". The metal is relatively uniform when compared to the rest of the side markings.

I'm going to throw out a long shot, could this have been a left over 1907 receiver that was used by St- Etienne in later production, possibly when 1907-15s were being made ? That may explain a lack of markings, including the "-15" considering the need for arms.

Any additional thoughts on who may have made and/or installed the barrel ?

Here is another close up of the "Mle 1907" area for your reference:

 

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We have seen a handful of Berthier rifles Mle 1907 "Sénégalais" similar to yours, with a Saint Etienne receiver with a F prefix letter 4 digit Serial Number and lacking the barrel manufacturer marking and date.

The overall length of the 1907 is 1.305mm while the 07/15 is 1.306mm the stock being 1mm shorter (barrel length being identical), there is no groove for the clearing/cleaning rod on the 1907, another recognizeable item is the front band with a bayonet attachment point similar to the Musketoon, sadly missing here.

kelt
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Kelt, thank you for sharing your information, it is reassuring to know that other examples are out there. With these other examples, we can assume St-Etienne provided some of the 1907 rifles to the "Senegalais", perhaps because they were not the principal supplier, they built rifles from provided parts ?

Would you by chance have any pictures of these rifles ? It would be nice to see what she looked like in full trim and to see some of her sister rifles.

Thankfully, the barrel was left untouched and is full length with the bayonet lug attachments on the bottom. The stock has no provision for a cleaning rod but I suspect it could be a 1907-15 stock that was re-matched to this particular rifle.
 

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Since the barrel has the lugs for the bayonet, it was a Mle.1907-1915 barrel as the original Mle. 1907 did not use these for the bayonet.
As kelt pointed out, the Épée-Baïonnette Modèle 1907 utilized a bayonet bar that was used on the Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle 1892.
The Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907 was the first full length rifle to be adopted and never had a clearing rod (not cleaning) built into the left side of the stock as had other previous designed Berthier Carabines and Mousquetons did.

Kelt,
can you direct me to the link or page where MAS made Mle.1907 receiver and rifles, si vous plait.
I just thought of this ... could these have been made as the basis for the Mle.1907 - 1915's as we do know that MAC did this with the Mle.1907's that were to be made in 1914 and 1915 ... could it be ?

Patrick
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
The bayonet lug setup on the the barrel is the same as on my 1886 lebel, also a St Etienne rifle from 1890. Is the bayonet "bar" similar to, say a Chassepot ?

One thing is for sure, this rifle is turning into an oddball the more we dig.
 

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Patrick, as you mentionned, the official fabrication of Berthier Mle 1907 "Colonial" rifles was carried out by MAC (A1 to A23847) and completed in 1915.

The few 1907 rifles observed with MAS receiver had unmarked 07/15 barrels according to "fusils et carabines de collection" (Crépin-Leblond), one is described # 175 page 109.

kelt
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Hi kelt,

that does make sense as Patrick has identified some features on my example that correspond with what we see on 1907-15 variations. Is it safe to say she was made in 1915 before the actual start of 1907-15 production ?

As I do not have the reference material, are you able to provide any additional information on the example in the book ? Is there, perhaps, a known serial number range for the MAS assembled pieces ?
 

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The Mle.1907-1915 used the same bayonet set up as the Mle.1886's.

The Carabine de Gendarmerie Modèle 1890, Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle 1892, Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle 1892 Modifié 1916, Fusil de Tirailleur Indochinois Modèle 1902 and Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907 all used a bayonet bar in the front of the stock below the barrel for locking it to the firearm.

Épée-Baïonnette Modèle 1907 ... you will see the difference of bayonet attachment


Patrick
 

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As France had suffered a large amounts of staggering defeats, with massive losses of men and material at the outbreak of the war during the crushing defeat of "Plan 17" and the "Battle of the Frontiers", which brought the Germans within striking distance of Paris, the French victory at the "1st Battle of the Marne", which staved off a potential German victory, nearly brought the country to its knees. French forces were desperately short of weapons to equip the replacements for the tens of thousands of casualties suffered before the end of 1914, one answer, as determined by the Ministre de La Guerre in November of 1914, was to increase production of the Berthier system and tasked Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (MAC) to find a solution. The easiest solution MAC found was to slightly alter the Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907, as it could be pushed into mass production with an absolute minimal number of changes into a new model full-length rifle. This new model was to be called the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915, which was adopted for service on February 26,1915. This weapon was almost identical with the following exceptions: The upper barrel band was redesigned with a semi-circular base, with a straight ball-tipped stacking hook, and the front sight was changed from a blade type to a square block with a small shallow V groove in it to allow for pin-pointing a target, the rear sight was modified to conform to this new pattern front sight. The very first production, 80,000, did have a bent bolt handle but in November it was determined that this should be changed to a beefed-up straight type bolt handle with a rounded bolt-knob for easier opening of the bolt in combat and all production after the 15th of December followed this recommendation.

In 1914 an order was placed for 2,400 of the Fusil Colonial Modèle 1907 but due to the outbreak of The Great War in August only 722 were completed (A 23848 - A 24569). The rest of the 1,678 weapons were made after the war had started but were converted to use an upper barrel band that had a semi-circular base and adding a one piece bayonet guide under the barrel allowed the standard Epée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 to be utilized, this modification was to become the basis for the latter produced Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915.
NOTE: Some of these weapons utilized the standard serial number range found after A24569 but it is not known to what number they went to as many of the remaining ones started with a new serial number range of it own with adoption of the produced Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 on February 26, 1915. There is also possibility that the 722 weapons were converted to the 1915 pattern in January of 1916, the records are very sketchy on these details though.
 

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Patrick, as you mentionned, the official fabrication of Berthier Mle 1907 "Colonial" rifles was carried out by MAC (A1 to A23847) and completed in 1915.

The few 1907 rifles observed with MAS receiver had unmarked 07/15 barrels according to "fusils et carabines de collection" (Crépin-Leblond), one is described # 175 page 109.

kelt
Can you send me an email with a scan of this page si vous plait, I do not have this book :(

Patrick
 

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Hi kelt,

that does make sense as Patrick has identified some features on my example that correspond with what we see on 1907-15 variations. Is it safe to say she was made in 1915 before the actual start of 1907-15 production ?

As I do not have the reference material, are you able to provide any additional information on the example in the book ? Is there, perhaps, a known serial number range for the MAS assembled pieces ?
There are no archives available from MAS about the actual fabrication, all we have is the succesive instructions to build batches of rifles 07/15 and Mle 16.
The rifles with Saint Etienne 1907 receivers are oddballs, not listed in any documents availables, some have small SN with F prefix letter , one is an instruction rifle (X prefix letter) others have no SN and since the barrels have no détails of origin/year of fabrication it's all guesswork.

kelt
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Wow, this is turning out to be very informative, I have certainly learned alot about this rifle thanks to you two gentlemen.

Based on what we have been able to piece together so far, it appears the MAS 1907 marked rifles were built in late 1914 and/or early 1915 before the official start of the 1907-15 production. They incorporated, nonetheless, features that we see on the 1907-15s (bayonet lug setup for example). For whatever reason, the barrel markings seem to have been omitted, perhaps to speed up output for the war effort after the devastating losses that the French army had taken up to the end of 1914.

With all this in mind, it makes me wonder if these rifles actually went to colonial troops or if they were issued out to any soldier that required a firearm. My gut tells me it is the latter but I am no expert.
 

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Wow, this is turning out to be very informative, I have certainly learned alot about this rifle thanks to you two gentlemen.

Based on what we have been able to piece together so far, it appears the MAS 1907 marked rifles were built in late 1914 and/or early 1915 before the official start of the 1907-15 production. They incorporated, nonetheless, features that we see on the 1907-15s (bayonet lug setup for example). For whatever reason, the barrel markings seem to have been omitted, perhaps to speed up output for the war effort after the devastating losses that the French army had taken up to the end of 1914.

With all this in mind, it makes me wonder if these rifles actually went to colonial troops or if they were issued out to any soldier that required a firearm. My gut tells me it is the latter but I am no expert.
- The men recruited from the Colonies and sent to France during WWI were mostly dedicated to work behind the lines. These men did not travel with their weapons and kit.

- There is no information at hand to confirm a fabrication run by MAS of Mle 1907 "Colonial" rifles, the observation of the very few rifles with a Saint Etienne 1907 receiver and replacement barrels seen in France would indicate a post WWII assembly of available parts by unknown parties.

- There is no indication in all the literature available on French WWI industrial effort to supply weapons to the Military that the fabrication of rifles was rushed during WWI.

According to the various writers, the quality controls and methods of recept by Military personnel based full time at the factories was never relaxed during WWI.

The need to keep track of weapons was deeply ingrained in the military establishment and the proper identification of rifles and barrels was maintained throughout the War, repaired rifles with mismatched parts were overstamped/renumbered as necessary.

The origin of French military rifles with mismatched/unmarked components is usually the work of foreign "end users".

Lastly, the pure Berthier 1907 had the short rifle bent bolt handle.

Here is a link to an old thread on the same subject:
http://forums.gunboards.com/showthr...d-of-Berthier-is-this-Marked-1907-not-1907-15

kelt
 
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