The MAS-36 is a short, carbine-style rifle with a two-piece stock and slab-sided receiver. It is chambered for the modern, rimless 7.5x54 French cartridge, a shortened version of the 7.5x57mm MAS mod. 1924 cartridge that had been introduced in 1924 (then modified in 1929), for France's FM 24/29 light machine gun. The rifle was developed based on French experience in WW1 and combines the best features of other rifles used, like the British SMLE rifle (rear locking lugs resistant to dirt), the US M1917 rifle (turned down bolt, peep sight), and the German Mauser (five-round box-magazine), to produce an extremely rugged and capable design.
The MAS-36 carries a spike bayonet, reversed, in a tube below the barrel. To use the bayonet, it is pulled out, turned around, and plugged back into its receptacle. The MAS-36 has a relatively short barrel and is fitted with large aperture (rear) and post (front) sights designed for typical combat ranges. It has a five-round, Mauser-style double-column magazine with a removable floorplate. The rifle is somewhat unusual in that the locking lugs are found at the rear of the bolt rather than the front, resulting in a distinctive-looking forward cant of the bolt handle. Typical for French rifles of the period, the MAS-36 has no safety. It was normally carried with a loaded magazine and empty chamber until the soldier was engaged in combat, though the rifle's firing mechanism could be blocked by raising the bolt handle.
Though intended to replace the Lebel and Berthier rifles as well as Berthier carbines, budget constraints limited MAS-36 production, and it served along with the former rifles in many French army and colonial units. In World War II, the MAS-36 was often reserved to front-line infantry units, with other troops and reservists often receiving elderly Berthier and Lebel-type rifles. The Germans took over a number of MAS36s with the designation Gewehr 242(f) for service with their own garrison units based in occupied France.
The MAS-36 was extensively used by French Army and colonial defense forces during France's postwar counterinsurgency operations in the First Indochina War and the Algerian War, as well as in the Suez Crisis. During the Suez Crisis, French paratroop marksmen of the 2ème RPC (Régiment Parachutiste Colonial), employed telescope-sighted MAS-36 rifles to eliminate enemy snipers. The MAS-36 remained in service into the early 1960s as an infantry rifle, often serving with indigenous colonial units. It was officially a substitute-standard rifle after France adopted the semi-automatic MAS-49 rifle series in 1949, though it lives on in a dedicated sniper version of the rifle, the Fusil Modèle F1 (now chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO).
After the war, civilian hunting rifle versions were made by MAS and by the gunsmith Jean Fournier. These half-stocked rifles were chambered for the 7x54mm MAS-Fournier (common, 7.5x54mm necked down to 7mm), 7x57mm (very rare), 8x60mm S (less common), and 10,75x68mm (rare). Hunting rifles in the two latter calibers had integral muzzle brakes. Also imported into the United States were a few surplus rifles converted to 7.62mm NATO from 7.5x54mm by an firearms importer. These rifles were modified to chamber the NATO round and also had a SKS rifle safety fitted to them. These rifles are few in number and considered by some to be a "wallhanger" type of firearm to own.
- MAS 36 CR39 - A MAS 36 equipped with a folding hollow aluminum stock designed for use by airborne forces.
- MAS 36 LG48 - A MAS 36 equipped with a 48 mm rifle grenade launcher used in the First Indochina War.
- MAS 36/51 - A MAS 36 equipped with a 22 mm NATO standard rifle grenade launcher.
- Fusil modèle FR-G2 - A highly-modified MAS-36 rifle action equipped with a Match barrel with harmonic compensator and telescopic sight for use by designated marksmen (the FRF1 & FRF2 Rifles have not same action than the MAS36)
Type Bolt-action rifle
Place of origin France
In service 1936-1978
Used by France
Wars World War II, Algerian War, First Indochina War, Suez Crisis
Manufacturer Manufacture d'Armes de Saint-Etienne
Weight 3.7 kg (Empty)
Length 1,020 mm
Barrel length 575 mm (22.6 in.)
Cartridge 7.5 x 54 mm
Muzzle velocity 2800 ft/s (853.6 m/s)
Effective range est. 350-400 yards w/open sights
Feed system 5 round internal box magazine,clip fed