Object Title

CSRG Modèle 1915 'Chauchat' machine rifle

CSRG Modèle 1915 'Chauchat' machine rifle


Dubbed a machine rifle, but in practical use one of the earliest light machine guns, the Chauchat was the only machine gun ever to use the 'long recoil' system of operation. Unlike the short recoil of more successful designs like the Maxim gun, this requires that the barrel recoils the full length of the cartridge. This makes for a very long and heavy weapon with some severe recoil. Without a tripod mount, the firer acts as part of the recoil system; if he moves too much, the mechanism will not function properly, and the gun stops. The Chauchat was pioneering in terms of industrial design. Unlike its contemporaries in blued machined steel and walnut, the Chauchat was made from stamped steel and lathe-turned parts. Like the later British Sten submachine gun, the idea was to allow large quantities of guns to be made quickly and cheaply in factories not set up for traditional firearms manufacture. Around 250,000 were made thanks to this approach. However, the compromises made in the design process resulted in some issues that limited the effectiveness of the weapon in the field.

Use and effect

The 'Chauchat' has a reputation as the worst machine gun ever fielded, one not entirely deserved. Manageable problems with reliability were compounded by conversion for US service to .30-06 calibre as the Model of 1918 machine rifle. The weapon was also prone to jamming due to the expansion of parts as they heated up, and would not fire until sufficiently cooled. It does have the distinction of being the first light machine gun to feature a magazine feed, useful given the more dynamic nature of that role. However, the original curved magazine was dangerously open to the elements for trench use. The Chauchat also had a very low rate of fire, less than half that of the definitive LMG of the era, the Lewis gun. Coupled with low capacity, this seriously limited its effectiveness as a machine gun, as it could not sustain a suitable effective rate of fire. This would in theory at least make it controllable for the shooter, were it not for the brutal recoil and unreliability caused by its mechanism. This necessitated a special firing technique not only to keep the gun working reliably, but to prevent bruising. Finally, the gun's short barrel compromised the effective range of the already lower-velocity Lebel cartridge. Though an essential stop-gap weapon for the Allies, it is perhaps noteworthy that nothing of the Chauchat design carried over into later weapon designs, save for the more successful inter-war Belgian derivative, the M1915/27.


Action / Operating system Long recoil
Barrel length 45 cm (17.7 in)
Calibre / Bore 7.65x54mm (Belgian)
Calibre / Bore 8x50mmR (.30-06) (USA)
Capacity (rounds) 20
Country of manufacture France
Crew 2
Date entered service 1915
Effective range 366 m (400 yd)
Feed Box magazine
Manufacturer Gladiator Sidarme
Muzzle velocity 700 m/s (2300 fps)
Other operators France
Other operators USA
Overall length 1.17 m (46 in)
Primary operator Belgium
Rate of fire (rounds per minute) 240
Weight 9.5 kg (21 lb)


Jonathan Ferguson