St. Étienne Mle 1907
|St. Étienne M1907|
German soldier examining a captured St. Étienne Mle 07.
|Type||Medium machine gun|
|Place of origin||France|
|Used by||See Users|
|Wars||World War I
World War II
|Manufacturer||Manufacture d'Armes de Saint-Etienne (MAS).|
|Variants||Puteaux Mle 1905
|Weight||57 lb 5 oz (26.0 kg)|
|Barrel length||710 mm|
|Rate of fire||adjustable: 80 to 650 round/min|
|Muzzle velocity||2,375 ft/s. (724 m/s)|
|Feed system||25-round metal strips or 300-round fabric belts (1916)|
The French St. Étienne Mle 1907 (French: Mitrailleuse Mle 1907 T) was a gas operated air-cooled machine gun in 8mm Lebel which was widely used in the early years of the First World War. The "St.Etienne Mle 1907" was not derived from the Hotchkiss machine gun. Instead it was an entirely different gas operated blow-forward design borrowed from the semi-automatic Bang rifle of 1903. This Bang system was first transposed in 1905 to the French Puteaux APX Machine Gun which soon proved to be unsatisfactory. Then, two years later, the Mle 1907 "St-Etienne" machine gun followed as an improved redesign of the "Puteaux" machine gun. However the Mle 1907 "Saint Etienne" was only a partial redesign : the original blow-forward gas piston, rack-and-pinion system, and bolt mechanism of the Mle 1905 " Puteaux" machine gun had all been kept only slightly modified inside the newer weapon. Eventually a total of over 39,700 "St-Etienne" Mle 1907 machine guns were manufactured between 1908 and late 1917. They were widely used by French infantry during the early part of World War I until their replacement by the distinctly more reliable Hotchkiss M1914 machine-gun.
Around the turn of the century the French military evaluated machine guns made by the private French firm of Hotchkiss et Cie. While the tests were technically convincing, following which Hotchkiss machine-guns were purchased for French alpine and colonial troops, it was decided for political reasons that a machine gun for French line infantry had to originate from state-owned arms manufacturers. A first attempt by a French government arsenal near Paris (APX) was the Puteaux M1905 machine gun inspired by the first gas actuated blow forward Bang rifle system of 1903. It was a deliberate attempt to develop an infantry machine gun that would be mechanically different from the patented Hotchkiss Mle 1900 machine gun design. However, the M1905 Puteaux machine gun soon proved to be unsatisfactory. Consequently, the national arsenal at Saint Étienne (MAS) thoroughly reworked and modified the Puteaux machine gun resulting in some measure of improvement but also increased complexity—64 component parts for the St. Etienne Mle 1907 vs. only 32 parts for the Hotchkiss Mle 1914. Barrel changes on the Mle 1907 St. Etienne were much easier than on the M1905 Puteaux and its firing rate could be set at any point between eight rounds per minute and about 600 rounds per minute. Either metal strips different from those used on the Hotchkiss machine gun or else fabric belts, the latter introduced in 1916, for the 8mm Lebel ammunition could be used.
George Chinn notes about the 1907 model that: "While it was gas actuated by means of a piston, the French reversed the conventional principle. Instead of the piston thrust rearward furnishing the source of energy to operate the piece, the gas propels the piston forward to unlock the bolt. The piston is attached by a spring-loaded rod to a gear rack. This in turn engages a spur gear which is fastened to an actuating lever. When the lever is in the forward horizontal position and engages a cam slot in the bolt, the gun is locked. Upon firing, the gas drives the piston forward, compressing the spring and causing the spur gear to rotate clockwise. The actuating lever turns with the gear for a half revolution, retracting the bolt and stopping at the rear horizontal position. The driving spring then forces the piston rearward, which reverses the action and returns the bolt to battery."
Nevertheless, in the muddy environment of trench warfare the mechanically complex St Étienne Mle 1907 suffered from frequent stoppages and was difficult to maintain by front-line soldiers. A quote from a French post-war military evaluation says it all: "admirable weapon, patented clockwork, but very delicate and sparing its whims only for machine-gun virtuosos." In July 1917 the Mle 1907 St Etienne was gradually withdrawn from front line service and replaced by the distinctly simpler and more reliable Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun. Large numbers of the M1907 St Etienne machine gun were then transferred to military units in the rear, to the French colonies, and to the Italian Army. Many also ended up in the Greek Army during the 1920s. Altogether 39,700 Mle 1907 St. Etienne machine guns had been manufactured when the decision to close down their last assembly line was taken in November 1917.
Notes and references
- George Chinn (1951), The Machine Gun, vol. 1, p. 194, web version
- Revue d'Infanterie No 487, p. 486, April 1933
- Cornel I. Scafeş (2013). Efortul depus în vederea asigurării necesarului de armament, tehnică de luptă şi muniţii al armatei române in anii neutralităţii (1914-1916) (in Romanian). Muzeul Municipiului Bucureşti. pp. 85–86.
- http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/memoire_fr?ACTION=RETROUVER&FIELD_98=AUTP&VALUE_98=%20Romania&NUMBER=50&GRP=18&REQ=%28%28Romania%29%20%3aAUTP%20%29&USRNAME=nobody&USRPWD=4%24%2534P&SPEC=3&SYN=1&IMLY=&MAX1=1&MAX2=1&MAX3=50&DOM=Tous%7C Image from the Romanian front, 1917
- Ian V. Hogg (1982) (in German), Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, Arms & Armour Press, ISBN 0-910676-87-9
- Marcel Devouges, "L'avenement des armes automatiques",1925, Charles-Lavauzelle, Paris, (in French). A 290 pages technical review of all the automatic weapons known at the time
- Claude Lombard, " La Manufacture Nationale de Chatellerault", 1987, Librairie Brissaud a Poitiers, ISBN 2-902170-55-6
- Jean Huon-Alain Barrellier,"Les Mitrailleuses Francaises", Oct.2014, Crepin-Leblond,( in French ), ISBN 978 27030 0392 2.Includes the most complete and highly detailed technical review in existence of the Mle 1907 St-Etienne machine gun and all its accessories.
- Robert G. Segel (25 August 2011) French St. Etienne Model 1907, Small Arms Defense Journal
Media related to St. Étienne Mle 1907 machine gun at Wikimedia Commons