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View Full Version : Berthier M16 Mousqueton - Help Identify Unique Features



mosinbuckeye
03-31-2012, 04:33 PM
I had a pretty successful gun show today, picking up two rifles on my list, one being the first French firearm to be added to my collection. I did some light reading, and what I have deduced is that it is a 1917 Chatellerault made M16 Mousqueton. It's an early type with no handguard and the bottom sling swivel. It appears to be in excellent shape. The one thing I can't find information on, is a stock marking. LI. is stamped on the butt. No other markings appear anywhere on the stock. Any insight as to what that might mean would be appreciated!

mosinbuckeye
04-01-2012, 07:31 AM
After a little more research, I am stumped as to what I have, so I've decided to post some photos. The lack of serial numbers and markings on the receiver (I don't see a faint outline of anything that may have been scrubbed over) and the absence of any French markings on the stock have raised some questions for this new French firearm owner. Any help is appreciated from the experts!

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1886lebel
04-01-2012, 10:20 AM
I have never seen this before like this ... could it have been an Instruction or some sort of Sample carbine ... not quite sure.
Usually a letter X was used on rifles rejected for service or live fire but used for instruction purposes only.
One point though is the stock ... it does not have the provision or even where it was filled in with wood for the clearing rod on the left side, which tells me that it had to be put together post 1927.
Maybe one of our other members will know for sure.

Patrick

mosinbuckeye
04-01-2012, 10:29 AM
I hope the mystery can be solved. It doesn't appear like It would be unsafe to shoot, no markings to speak of other than what is pictured. Any idea what that LI. mark would mean?

1886lebel
04-01-2012, 10:40 AM
Any idea what that LI. mark would mean ? ... I have no clue
When I was refering to a Instruction weapon it was usually marked with an X to denote it as such so it would not be fired, most of the time the firing pin was ground down so they could not fire a 'live' cartridge. These were used in a classroom to show how they worked or what they looked like.

Patrick

mosinbuckeye
04-01-2012, 10:51 AM
Thanks again. I should research more before buying. I was looking for a nice French WWI example rifle and now I have an enigma with unknown provenance! Hopefully someone can shed some light on this for me.

1886lebel
04-01-2012, 02:41 PM
If you are looking for an example WWI 'rifle' what you want is either a Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 "Lebel" or Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 (3 shot model) ... Very few of the 5 shot model, Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916, were used during the war. These new rifles and carbines did not start to be distributed until very late 1917 and very few of these replaced the Berthiers already in service during The Great War, it was not until after the war that these were to become the standard issue.
If you are wanting a Carbine a Mousqueton d'Artillerie Modèle 1892 would be an excellent WWI representative piece, once again the 5 shot, Mousqueton de Artillerie Modèle Modifié 1916 really came into use after the war.

Patrick

mosinbuckeye
04-01-2012, 02:54 PM
Would these have been in service at the start of WWII?

1886lebel
04-01-2012, 04:21 PM
Yes they would have been especially the reserves and territorial reserves.

Patrick

mosinbuckeye
04-01-2012, 07:07 PM
Yes they would have been especially the reserves and territorial reserves.

Patrick

That's good, it can fill my French spot in WWII firearms until a MAS 36 comes along.

I disassembled the Berthier for some cleaning and to look for any other markings. A few findings. The front barrel band is recessed for a cleaning rod. Under the wood line the only markings I could find that were not inspection stamps was the date 1917 on the trigger/magazine group at the tang end. Firing pin was present and accounted for.

Could this have been a late replacement stock? I have tried looking for French words relevant to firearms/military that would start with an L and have had no luck (for the stock marking). The rifles bore shows some use as to having been fired as does the bolt head (ring around firing pin hole from the primer).

1886lebel
04-01-2012, 07:34 PM
The front barrel band is recessed for a cleaning rod ... the vast majority of them were, why make a new part when you had a perfectly good barrel band to re-use :)
The stock could be a replacement but it lacks a letter prefix and serial number just as does the rest of the weapon, so I venture to say it was made this way for unknown reasons at this time.

Patrick

NY50/70
04-01-2012, 07:59 PM
Great find.

If you only have one French 'rifle', having one that Patrick can't figure out is the place to start.

Thanks for the pictures.

orcmastiffs
04-01-2012, 09:17 PM
mosinbuckeye:

The admixture of parts and its sterile nature, sets it on something of an undefinable path. What I will hazzard is that the receiver and barrel were scrubbed in preparation for re-blueing. If that is the original 1917 receiver, and there is not reason to think otherwise, it would have been of Continsouza's manufacture. The distinct "Et ts Continsouza Mle-M-16" maker's mark with the hyphens rather than the near-standard "M.16" that was then in use, lend something to this speculation. Also, Continsouza receivers mated with MAC barrels were known from 1917. The seemless removal of markings was common and inadvertent.

So where are we? The assembly of such a rifle could be from pre-Armistice 1940. The lack of the "N" mark, and the non-standard stock lend themselves to having come from rejected or secondary stores. Whether your carbine was assembled in desparate times and perhaps un-serialized due to late completion, or thrown together by a second party, is a matter for conjecture. I tend toward the former, but would not put any money on it.

Edit: Pictures of 1917 Continsouza, (vendor markings), and standard St Etienne model designation.

mosinbuckeye
04-01-2012, 09:17 PM
The number '44' is on the bolt head which I believe would be the last two digits of a serial, so that might be a replacement part. Couldn't find any other numbers on the bolt but I didn't fully disassemble it.


orcmastiffs: thanks for your insights!

1886lebel
04-01-2012, 09:23 PM
The number '44' is on the bolt head which I believe would be the last two digits of a serial, so that might be a replacement part. Couldn't find any other numbers on the bolt but I didn't fully disassemble it.

That would be correct, last digits of a serial number, this part was a replacement to the weapon.
No other part on the bolt except the bolt handle would have been serialized.

Patrick

mosinbuckeye
04-02-2012, 07:35 AM
orcmastiffs: Thank you for posting those photos, that gives me an idea at least on who made the receiver. It appears this Berthier M.16 is in a category all its own.

orcmastiffs
04-02-2012, 06:31 PM
mosinbuckeye:

Where the following is a bit off-topic I shall try to tie it in. Where it is muddled, it is only an expression of my thinking.

As above, the exigencies of 1917 produced some anomalies. Below is a non-reworked/matching Mle 1892 accepted in April of that year. It has a Continsouza provided receiver upon a MAC barrel. But look at the model designation, for it is marked as a Mle 1907-15 rifle. Your carbine obviously suffered much from later random rework and assemblage, but it may have begun as one of the firearms MAC pushed out of its doors with all niceties forgotten.

mosinbuckeye
04-02-2012, 07:42 PM
Would the absence of the 'N' chamber upgrade indicate that the carbine left France prior to when that program was started or could it have just missed that upgrade?

The sights are 'A' marked so it received that upgrade.

orcmastiffs
04-02-2012, 08:55 PM
mosinbuckeye:

Your carbine is such an aberration of nonspecific origin, (other than for its parts), that I would be surprised if much else could be said about it with any certainty. If one knew from whence came that stock, the puzzle might be solved. Best of luck.

mosinbuckeye
04-03-2012, 06:38 AM
mosinbuckeye:

Your carbine is such an aberration of nonspecific origin, (other than for its parts), that I would be surprised if much else could be said about it with any certainty. If one knew from whence came that stock, the puzzle might be solved. Best of luck.

If I can stumble across the meaning of 'LI.' I might find an answer.

I think this carbine is going to remain in my collection for the time being as an example of a French WWII firearm. Thanks to the experts for their insights! I know next to nothing about French arms. I have learned, and now I am intrigued. Off to find a true French WWI rifle.

mosinbuckeye
04-26-2013, 08:40 AM
I can't believe a year has passed since I picked this up, but maybe a year will bring a fresh round of thoughts on the 'LI.' marking on the stock, or maybe not. Photos are still attached above. I am still looking for a French long rifle of WWI vintage and a wartime MAS36, in the meantime this mysterious Berthier remains the loan French piece in my collection.

orcmastiffs
04-26-2013, 11:02 AM
mosinbuckeye:

Why or how it stayed in the system long enough to be snagged as a souvenir during or after the second War, I have no idea. It might be something after the fashion of the "Mystery" sterile MAS Mle 1936, which are only Mle 36 because of their parts. Upon review of the thread, I believe that I have discovered two things. First is that the "LI" mark looks to be carved rather than stamped, (some GIs initials, perhaps), and secondly, my writing has gotten no better, (for it still comes across as written by a know-it-all). Well I do not, and unless another contributor comes to the rescue, I am stuck. I have never encountered such a carbine. However, if you can acquire a Remington Mle 1907-15, and one of those "Mystery" MASs, you would have a collection that proved the French were so law abiding that their firearms did not require serial numbers. Actually, when I was a kid, the only French rifles in the extended family were the Remington and the Mystery. I was not the only one that believed it was French practice.

A unique example, (I doubt it is, but until another surfaces we must treat it as such), and our conjecture can look from the intrepid 'armies of the night' to enterprising souvenir providers. Truely a puzzle, with the scrubbed master serial number and all. Best of luck, and please let use know, as your search progresses.

mosinbuckeye
04-28-2013, 10:34 AM
ormastiffs, thanks again for your comments! After looking at that LI mark again I agree with you, it does indeed look carved rather than stamped. That kind of limits the ability to research based on that mark alone, I'll just keep my eyes open for any other Berthier carbines lacking serial numbers on any parts.

orcmastiffs
04-28-2013, 02:41 PM
Question to the Members at large:

When military firearms were passed to civilian shooting programs, were they scrubbed/sterilized?

LVSteve
04-28-2013, 03:26 PM
Question to the Members at large:

When military firearms were passed to civilian shooting programs, were they scrubbed/sterilized?

The CMP certainly don't do that, and I am pretty sure the rifles passed over to the cadet forces in the UK and Australia were untouched.

1886lebel
04-28-2013, 04:39 PM
The CMP certainly don't do that, and I am pretty sure the rifles passed over to the cadet forces in the UK and Australia were untouched.

That is here and there, we are talking France ... I am sure someone there will know if they did or did not sterilize markings when transfered to the different civilian shooting programs.

Patrick