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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 11:25 am 
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Mil-Surp Shooter
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Hello!

I'm new to this board and to internet forums in general. I've been a student of WWI history since I was nine (thanks to the Young Indiana Jones series), so it seemed natural to begin collecting the rifles of that era. I have a Lee-Enfield SMLE and just purchased a Mle. 1916 Berthier infantry rifle. I wanted to ask a quick question about the serial numbers:

While shopping around for one of these, I couldn't find any with matching serial numbers. The one I finally purchased is in amazing shape. The stock has no cracks and only minor dings and scratches. About 95% of the blueing is still intact. The bore is bright and shiny with perfect rifling. However, the serial numbers do not match.

Based on the reading I've done so far, this seems to be common with this rifle. I read that the French, needing to keep their troops armed in the face of staggering losses at Verdun and around the Western Front, would cannibalize parts from battlefield-recovered weapons and use them to make new weapons or re-equip damaged ones.

My rifle is also interesting in that it does not have the Balle N proofing. I paid $575 for it.

Did I make the wrong choice? Was I ripped off? Other than the numbers, the rifle is in fantastic shape (the French know how to make a good, sturdy rifle, contrary to popular opinion in the U.S.), and the lack of Balle N proofing is rare....

Does anyone have any wisdom on this topic for me? I'd love to learn whatever you all know!


P.S: THANK YOU for being a pro-French space! I am a big time Francophile and French minor. It's good to find other people who respect the courage and honor of the French military!

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 2:56 pm 
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Did I make the wrong choice ? and Was I ripped off ?
Answer:... my theory on this is, you paid what you believe what you want to pay for the weapon to be happy with it so therefore you did not make the wrong choice.

I have quite a few Berthiers that do not match and they are fine as they are ... like I said parts were utilized over and over to make servicable weapons, it does not affect shooting them unless the weapon is seriously damaged that it comprimise it from bieng shot.
All I can say is keep reading all the topics in the forum and you will find alot of posts with answers on the weapons and much more. I see you have read the sticky's on the top of the forum =D> ... this is alot of information I have acquired over the years on the weapons and shared with you all here to help you all better understand these weapons better. I also recommend you read the French Rifles Reference Topics and Munitions section, alot more information is there as well. Maybe one day you will know as much as myself on the subject :thumb:
Patrick

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Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"

Vive le Pinard !
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axfM1sFqIK0


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 21, 2010 3:16 pm 
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Welcome to the forum. I have one MAS 36 so can't give much advice. Some of the other posters here can fill you in on the Berthiers to be sure. I am turned off by French bashing. Most of it is drivel and none of it is funny. Though sometimes the irony of it amuses me when anti French gibberish is coupled with praise for the German Army, since part of my heritage lies in the Masurian region of East Prussia.

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 1:10 pm 
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A mismatched Mle M16 that is not "N" marked, that's an indication that your rifle was most likely not anymore in French Military inventory in the 1930s when the rifles were refurbished to the number and re-throated for the 1932N cartridge.

If you handload, there is an advantage to have an original chamber, the neck of your cases will not suffer as much expansion/recalibration fatigue as those of "N" rifles.

Do not attempt to fire surplus ammunitions in your rifle, most of the surplus 8x50R being of the latest 1932N type, stay with modern ammo, safer for yourself and for your rifle.

kelt


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 2:41 pm 
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Thanks for the information!

I'm definitely pleased with my rifle, so I think the cost was more than worth it. In my opinion, Berthiers are the prettiest and most elegant of the classic battle rifles.

The fact that my specimen is in nearly perfect shape certainly makes up for the non-matching numbers. Interestingly, it came with the original, Lebel/Berthier pattern leather sling on it, another great selling point in its favor.

I heard that many of Mle. 1916 Berthiers ended up being shipped to Spain for use during the Spanish Civil War. I also know that my rifle lacks the post-1968 import markings for shipment into the United States. This means it was imported to the U.S. before the Gun Control Act of '68.

The dealer from whom I purchased the rifle told me he'd got it from a private owner who had liquidated much of his collection.

May I post pictures of the rifle on this forum? They're the pictures that I got from the dealer, and they have his website written on them. I know that pictures with hyperlinks to websites or auctions aren't allowed, but what about pictures that contain this kind of unintentional publicity?

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 3:19 pm 
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Go ahead and post the pictures, you got my permission.
Patrick

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Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"

Vive le Pinard !
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axfM1sFqIK0


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:04 pm 
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Here it is!

I've cleaned it since these pictures were taken. The bolt and receiver had a lot of old, caked oil on and around them, which in these photos has a reddish-brown color. Once I cleaned the grime out with some solvent and a good bronze brush and lubricated the action, the bolt was smooth and easy as chocolate mousse! Who needs a Mauser anyway?
Enjoy!

Attachment:
manb_0044-03.JPG.jpeg

Attachment:
manb_0044-02.JPG.jpeg

Attachment:
manb_0044-01.JPG.jpeg

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:16 pm 
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All you need now is some 5 shot clips and PPY ammo...a sling and a bayonet..

Dale

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:21 pm 
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P-14Guy wrote:
Welcome to the forum. I have one MAS 36 so can't give much advice. Some of the other posters here can fill you in on the Berthiers to be sure. I am turned off by French bashing. Most of it is drivel and none of it is funny. Though sometimes the irony of it amuses me when anti French gibberish is coupled with praise for the German Army, since part of my heritage lies in the Masurian region of East Prussia.


That makes you a relative :!: ...Mazur is the original name of my Father's Family, and all Mazurs are from Masuria in Ostpreussen... :wink:

Dale

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:53 pm 
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Vonmazur,

Thanks for looking at my baby! She's awful pretty. I think I got a great deal for the condition it's in!

I'm pricing out the charger clips online. I found some websites where they are reasonably priced, about $6 each.

I'm so excited to shoot it! Have you shot one before Vonmazur? How is the recoil? The rifle seems lighter than a Lee-Enfield, which surprised me, given its length. I imagine that would make the recoil a little worse, though the nature of the cartridge affects that too...

I definitely want to get the whole y-strap/cartridge pouch/bayonet frog apparatus so I can keep my ammunition on me when I shoot. There's a lot of this type of stuff (and some handsome bandes molletières) on Schipperfabrik. I may make the investment.

It came with its original leather sling, which was definitely part of the incentive to get this particular one.

I'm also considering getting the blueing on this Berthier professionally redone. The finish is about 95% intact, but some places are starting to turn brown, especially on the buttplate. Is this okay to do? I would never sell it, so the value doesn't worry me. I just want to make sure it stays rust-free for generations to come!

I have an 1886 epée bayonet with the original quillon that I was given when I was eleven or so, around the time I started getting hardcore into World War I and French history. However, it's the version that was shortened in 1935. I'm currently looking for a good price on one of the original long ones, hopefully with the quillon. I think they're prettier than the ones without.

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Last edited by Lt. Moreau on Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:20 pm 
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LT. Moreau: I have several bayonets....and a sling for re-enacting, to save the original would be a good idea.....I have fired these guns a lot, and in Vietnam we had some, and the notorious Balle N....I was an experience....Your rifle is not "N" marked, so you will be able to shoot it without the usual "Haematoma of the Shoulder"

The Privi Partisan 8mm is a lot less punishing than the Balle N Hotchkiss ammo!! :)

I wish someone had told me before I shot the Berthier in Nam with de-linked Hotchkiss ammo, what would ensue.... :(

Dale

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:33 pm 
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Lt.Moreau,
If you decide to get this professionally re-blued you will have dropped the price of the weapon by 75% of what you paid for it if you ever decide to sell the weapon, you said you would not but you never know when circumstance dictate otherwise. I will not tell you what to do with it as it is your weapon and you can do as you feel with it but just a friendly note. I would tell you it is better to leave it, that brown is patina which was rust that oxidized with age over the years and will not hurt the rifle as long as you keep a little oil on it and keep it clean by wiping it down after usage. The patina is part of history of the rifle, I would leave it alone but that is me.

On the bayonet .... let me tell you as a French Collector and a 'living historian' of the First World War, the correct bayonet for this is the one without the quillion ... In all of the photographic evidence seen by myself and other French Firearms Collectors the Épée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 was only really used on the Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 "Lebel" and the Épée-Baïonnette Modèle 1886 Modifié 1915 was used on both the Fusil de Infanterie Modèle 1907-1915 and Fusil de Infanterie Modèle Modifié 1916.
I know Dale will agree with this as well.

Patrick

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Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"

Vive le Pinard !
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axfM1sFqIK0


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 6:11 pm 
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Guys: First, the buttplate was polished steel, the Poles and other post French users were known to blue this part...But WW 1 French, they did not blue the part. Remember, this gun was rust blued....if one is young and not familiar with this ancient technique, it is mysterious and spooky...

Basically, today, they dip the whole thing in a hot tank of supersaturated salts, hotter than the sea level boiling point of water...This is not what the French did in WW 1 and earlier..Rust blueing is not easy, and even supposed "eggspurts" get it wrong....It is time consuming and not easy to do at home...In short. one rusts the steel with a salt solution, then boils the rusted part in water, and "scratches" the rust with an IRON bristle brush...(Only still made in France BTW!). The part is boiled again, and taken out, swabbed with salt solution, and allowed to rust again..."Tantum Sufit"..Till the desired depth of finish is attained.....This technique results in the inner parts of finshed pieces being dull white metal, or slightly stained, but not the 100% coverage of hot tank blue jobs...NB: The hot tank will melt the solder on your rear sight, so this technique is not suitable for ancient fuciles like the Berthier...Before someone foams at the mouth, remember--Mausers had the sights installed after tank blueing....

Dale

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 7:42 pm 
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Judging by what you two say, I think I'll refrain from the re-bluing. As it is, I was going to do it mostly just for the buttplate, which is where the brown is. The rest of the finish is intact and rust-free. I wonder if I can just re-polish the butt plate? I definitely don't want the brown to become rust!

Thanks for telling me about the soldering! That would have been terrible!

And I definitely don't want to destroy the rifle's history, since I bought it for my love of history. I think I'll follow your advice, Patrick.

As far as the bayonet goes, I'm willing to bend the rules a little for aesthetics. While it definitely sounds like the Berthiers mostly got the ones without the quillon, I think it's likely that they were used with the older ones sometimes, just because I imagine the stocks of bayonets were used as they were available, and I doubt the French would have taken time among the terrible casualties to make sure each soldier only got a specific style of bayonet to match his rifle. They were already mixing up rifle parts to be more efficient, so why not bayonets?

You make a good point about the photos, though. If I ever do re-enactment, I think I'd probably get the one without the quillon to be more accurate. For the moment, though, I'm just buying for my own edification. I love bayonets, so I wouldn't mind owning a few.

Patrick, do you know anywhere cheaper than Schipperfabrik to find good re-enactor's gear? I'm not looking at the full kit yet, but I'd definitely like the equipment belt set up and some leg wraps. I have some old British ones that I use when I go hiking. Great ankle support, I think.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:36 pm 
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Lt. Moreau wrote:
Judging by what you two say, I think I'll refrain from the re-bluing. As it is, I was going to do it mostly just for the buttplate, which is where the brown is. The rest of the finish is intact and rust-free. I wonder if I can just re-polish the butt plate? I definitely don't want the brown to become rust!
That is what patina is RUST that oxided already, just put some oil on the buttplate and leave it ALONE, it will not rust anymore than it did if you keep wipe in down and oil it

Patrick, do you know anywhere cheaper than Schipperfabrik to find good re-enactor's gear? I'm not looking at the full kit yet, but I'd definitely like the equipment belt set up and some leg wraps. I have some old British ones that I use when I go hiking. Great ankle support, I think.
He is the only place in the US that sells this stuff as much as I hate his stuff, long story involved I will not get into, lets say we DO NOT like each other very well. Cheaper places are not found here in the US, better quality stuff is available in France but much more expensive especially with shipping. If you place an order with him DO NOT mention my real or forum name PLEASE.

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Vive La République Française, le Lebel et le poilu
Verdun 1916: "Ils ne Passeront pas" "On les aura!"
Fusil d'Infanterie Modèle 1886 Modifié 1893 dit "Lebel"

Vive le Pinard !
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axfM1sFqIK0


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