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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
EDIT- ( Thank you to those who reconfirmed by original theory, I'm new to the MAS 36, and should have looked a tad deeper. )Thanks again for the help.) Hello, I was wondering if any of you might be able to help me figure something out. I had previously mistaken the block letter as a J, but on closer inspection it looks more like a I, which I've never heard of before. It had a stamp on the side for May 1940. Its attached to a H block rifle. (Probably pieced together, but I'm hoping the stock isn't some carpenter's project)
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3801613
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I Googled French cursive numerals and found an example of the letter "I" which was virtually identical to your receiver character. The example of a "J" had a crossbar near the bottom.
 

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J block. They all look like this, so I'm not sure why you are confused.

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It is J ... I was not used

Patrick
 

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Okay, let's try to make things clearer (or not that much) :
Originally, Army firearms did not have unified serial numbers. It was applied in the units (if applied).
In 1866, the Chassepot model is adopted and a very precise way to serialize firearms in arsenals is applied. Every arsenal (Châtellerault, Mutzig, Saint-Etienne and Tulle) can use only the prefix letters given to them.
U and V are used for Chassepots made outbroad.
Some letters are forbidden to avoid confusion with numbers, like I and O.
Some others because they are used with another meaning : X, drill firearm made with refused parts, Z, bayonet without a corresponding firearm.
Some others are not used because... I do not know : W and Y.
But for an unknown reason, R is the first letter used by Tulle even if the letter R is also stamped on refused firearms.
The letters are of the block type.
Model 1866 was using a paper cartridges. In 1874, a close derivative using a metallic cartridge is adopted. And of course, to save money, 1866 models are also converted to fire the metallic cartridge.
To make a distinction between converted and new rifles (and especially on the sole barrels), the prefix letters used on the new 1874 model are of the script type.
And also for an unknown reason, the letter chosen to replace the block J is not a script J, but a script I.
But when you are looking in handwritten arsenal books, this letter is still written like a J!

So, is it a I or a J? Well, it is still open to discussion.

Model 1892 revolver have used the block letter I. But have not used letter J.
To make things even more confusing, if there is not two distinct serials I and J for MAS 36, some of the very last produced with this prefix letter have received a block letter I in place of the script I or J (broken tool? The reason why "J" serial has been stopped at more or less 25,000 ?).

Whatever, when I have to write this prefix letter, I use a J, because it cannot be confused with a 1 and it looks very close to the original stamped letter.
 

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Oh yes, just to give a little bit more on the use of X letter.
Used when the same rifles and revolver models of the French Navy did not have a prefix letter. E.G. : If the drill model 1873 revolvers did not have X prefix, they could be confused with Navy 1873 revolvers without prefix letters.

Later, when the Navy will receive exactly the same firearms the Army has, without specific serials, drill firearms will receive a serial without prefix letters, like prototypes, test rifles or every firearm made with not fully interchangeable parts (e.g. : model 1907 rifles made by GG & Cie).
During the 1920s, the rule changes once again : a large X letter is applied on drill firearms, some being made with used firearms having classical serials. At the beginning, the word "Théorie" is stamped on these firearms, but not considered as sufficient or clear enough to avoid shooting with those.

The very first MAS 36 made with not fully interchangeable parts have received a serial number with... F prefix.
About French firearms, a rule is true as long as somebody decides not to do like before. Sometimes, probably by pure ignorance.
 

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Here’s one of the ‘block’ letter rifles. The receiver is the only location that received the block letter, everything else was stamped with a script letter.

The stock and everything else is matching, but there is no stock stamp indicating month/year of production. It wasn’t sanded off, it just never had one.

Pat






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Thanks a lot for these pictures. This is why I believe a breakage of the stamp that was making the larger prefix letter used on the receiver is the possible reason of the not complete I or J serial. I must say it is pure speculation, I have never seen the least document about it (just like about the stoppage during WW I of C serial with the 1892 carbine).

To come back to real facts...
At the beginning of the production of MAS 36, the then Director of the MAS has written that he will change the prefix letter each time a major change is applied on the rifle. But there is no major change between J prefix rifles and K prefix rifles. At least we know it is not the right explanation.
 

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No problem at all.

I can't address why it received a block letter, but that and the fact that it went out with a numbered but non-stamped (month/year) stock certainly suggests the kind of expediency you're suggesting.

Pat
 
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