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France’s Final Battle Rifle Iteration: The MAS 49-56


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and today we are taking a look at the final, perfected, version of the MAS semi-automatic rifle. This is the MAS 49-56, and this would be the standard infantry rifle for the French military from 1956 all the way until 1979 with the adoption of the FAMAS. Now as we’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks, this is being published in conjunction with the
Kickstarter pre-sale launch of my book on this subject, which is “Chassepot to FAMAS,
French Military Rifles, 1866 to 2016”. If you’re interested in French rifles, or small arms
development in general, definitely check that out, order yourself a copy today. There’s lots of cool
Kickstarter only bonuses and discounts available. So check the description text for a link
over there. And without further ado, further commercialisation, let’s go
ahead and dig into this particular rifle. Now, this of course was developed from the
MAS 49, which was developed from the MAS 44, which was developed from the MAS 40, which was
originally conceptualised by the French military all the way back in 1921 right
after the end of the First World War. So this rifle is a long time coming and a long
time in development, and I point that out because successful rifles are often the ones that have had several
decades of iteration to really work out all of the problems, and all the manufacturing quirks, and figure out
exactly how to get the rifle really working right. And this is an example of a rifle that went through that whole
process, although I think it’s a pretty underrated one today. So, the main difference, well, there are two
main differences between this and the Model 49. And well, they’re all kind of from here
forward. So they shortened the barrel, they realised that the MAS 49 had
really a longer barrel than it needed. This is modern combat, like we’ve got guys in
helicopters and vehicles, and a shorter rifle really helps, and that extra barrel length doesn’t actually contribute
all that much of importance in terms of ballistics. So, cut the barrel down, and while we’re at it
we’ll cut the stock down too because really do you need a hand guard way out here?
We’re not grabbing the rifle out there. We can save some weight by cutting
that off as well, and so they did that. Around this time period (and this is the early to
mid-1950s) that they were developing this… In fact, the MAS 49 didn’t actually go into production
until 1951, and it was only in production for a few years. They had prototypes of this available or finished
in 1954, and they adopted it in May of 1956. So around this time they’re also changing
the style of rifle grenade that they used, from this small diameter one that was used on the
MAS 36 LG48 grenade launchers and the MAS 49s, to a NATO standard 22mm … internal diameter
grenade. So they have to change up the grenade launching hardware on the rifles to accommodate
that new grenade. And this is how they did it. So we’ll take a closer look at the hardware
out here, but when they made that change they also went ahead and implemented a gas
cutoff into the rifle. One of the shortcomings of the MAS 49 was that, while it was set up
to launch rifle grenades, it didn’t have a cutoff. Which means when you fired a rifle grenade
the bolt came slamming back in the action a lot faster than it was really designed to,
and they realised after a short period that, you know, this was gonna have
negative effects on the rifles over time. And so, in fact, some of the manuals for the MAS 49
will actually specifically warn you against using them to launch rifle grenades. And on some of the rifles
they actually removed the grenade launching hardware entirely. So by adding a gas cutoff what they’re doing
is preventing the launching of a rifle grenade from actually cycling the action, and that saves a
tremendous amount of wear and tear on the gun itself. So that was probably the most significant
mechanical change in the MAS 49-56. The MAS 49-56 continues this intention from the
MAS 49 of being a universal sort of infantry rifle, wherein it can be equipped with a scope for
use as a sniper or designated marksman’s rifle, as well as being able to be used
as a grenadier’s rifle or as just a rifle. So we have the common pattern, the
later pattern, of scope mount here, which is kind of pushed forward to give
you a little bit more eye relief on the scope. This is the same standard APX L806 telescope
(that APX, by the way, stands for Ateliers de Puteaux or Puteaux workshops, Puteaux starting
with a P and ending with an X in French). Scopes were manufactured by three different
companies and all serialised. It’s a 3.85 power scope, and it is basically a … functional
copy of the German ZF4. Go ahead and pull this off for the moment,
just pop that lever and then this slides off. It does retain zero when you
do that, which is pretty cool. The development of the rear sight on these rifles is
kind of funny because it sort of bounces back and forth. The original MAS 44 had no adjustment whatsoever,
if you wanted to change the zero you changed the … whole rear leaf to have a leaf with a different
location aperture in it. Then with the MAS 49 they went quite a ways in the other direction and they
added screw adjustments for windage and elevation. And then when they came back to the MAS 49-56
they decided that that was a little more adjustment than they really needed, and it was extra complexity
and fragility in the sight that they didn’t want and so they reduced it to just a windage elevation. So your elevation is adjusted simply through your
BDC here for a range from 200 out to 1200 metres, and then you do have a screw adjustable windage there. These still have the same 10 round
magazine of every other rifle in this family, and it still has this external clip which, if
you didn’t watch the video on the MAS 44, you wouldn’t know that this comes from
an original design of the rifle … having a fixed magazine and five round stripper clip feed. In fact something that I haven’t mentioned that I should
is that all of these rifles can be fed by stripper clips. So when the magazine is empty the bolt does lock open, and
you have a stripper clip guide built into the bolt face there. So you can load a pair of five round stripper clips – hence
the thumb relief right here for stripping rounds into the magazine. Moving up to the front end of the rifle, of course
the stock has been cut down as I mentioned. The gas port was actually moved forward a couple
inches from where it was located on the MAS 49. That increased the dwell time and
made the gun a little bit more reliable. And then they also added a bunch of this
hardware, so let’s take a look at how that works. This is your rear sight for using rifle grenades, and
you line this up with the tip of the grenade to aim it. And you’ll notice that you can’t lift this up to use
it as long as this is down, which is convenient, because that is the gas cutoff.
So when this is lifted up the … gas is cut off and the rifle now operates
as a single shot, manually operated gun. That means that when you fire a rifle grenade you’re
not putting all this force on the operating system. So once the gas is cut off,
then you can lift up the rear sight. And that can go into one of two different positions:
either there, or all the way elevated like that. Which position you use depends on
whether you’re going to be firing direct-fire, typically anti-tank grenades, or
indirect-fire, typically anti-personnel grenades. So for some of your grenades you will
choose which one of these notches, typically one of these three, 50, 75 or 100 [metres]. Or if you’re firing indirect-fire, what you would do is use this adjustable ring to determine the range of the grenade. So the position of this ring determines how far the grenade actually sits on the barrel which
determines how long it’s being propelled by the charge … in the barrel from the blank cartridge when
you fire. And so what we have here are range designations from 90 metres all the way out here, all the way back to … 190 metres all the way at the rear. And
that’s what this movable adjustable ring is for. I’m sure some of you noticed this
thing on the butt-stock of the rifle. This is an added recoil pad and there are actually
two different thicknesses of this that were made, and this is specifically for firing
direct-fire rifle grenades. However, it does do double duty as an
extension to the length of pull of the rifle. So I can slide this off
(there we go), this is just solid rubber, well, honeycomb in there to give it some
squishiness. They’re … marked MAS 1962. This is the long one, there is also a shorter one. And this rifle has a pretty darn short
length of pull, and that was done deliberately, in part to strengthen the stock for the firing of rifle grenades.
They did the same thing with the MAS 36 bolt-action rifles. But one of the consequences of this,
while it works OK for the aperture sights (which by the way are pretty darn good aperture sights), you have very little eye relief for using a scope.
And that’s part of the reason that they had to tweak the scope mount to kick the
scope forward, as you can see here. But it also means that it really helps if
you can extend the length of pull by throwing an extra recoil
pad onto the butt of the rifle. So this is for grenades and also makes it a lot
more comfortable to use with that optical sight. Take a quick look at the markings here, pretty
much the same pattern as on previous models. It’s MAS Model 1949-56, calibre is 7.5. And it’s a little hard to see, but we have a
square here that’s marked with a two-digit year. And this indicates that the rifle was refurbished
by one of the French depots, that’s 80 I believe. … Whenever a rifle went through that
depot servicing it would be stamped. This is why a lot of these rifles are in brand-new
shape basically, is they were arsenal refurbished, then put into storage, and then sold
as surplus to the United States. So some won’t have this, although it’s relatively
uncommon to find them without being refurbed. Some will have two, or potentially even three refurb stamps. If you have a rifle that was, you know, used extensively
in training it may have needed refurbishing several times. The serial number on here, it is going to be
printed vertically on the front of the receiver. On earlier models they printed them down
here, but for the 49-56 it’s right there. They actually started these in the G prefix block.
So normally a Saint-Étienne rifle would start in F, but they decided that since they had started the MAS 49 in
the F block they would move to the G block for the 49-56. So they made a bunch, you’ll
find G and H prefix serial numbers. And they did also mark that serial number
on the back of the receiver top cover there. As far as the mechanical internals go,
while the parts aren’t strictly interchangeable, nothing has changed fundamentally
from the very beginning, from the MAS 44s. So direct gas impingement, … tilting bolt. If you’re interested in exactly what the internals look
like, go ahead and take a look at my MAS 44 video, I pulled one all the way apart
there to show you all of that. Production of these rifles began in 1957. There
would be a total of 175,000 or 180,000 of them made, and they would serve as France’s standard infantry rifle
all the way up until the adoption of the FAMAS in 1979. And, of course, they would serve in a second
echelon use for many years after that as well while the FAMAS rifle was being built up
in quantity and distributed to army units. So when they were declared fully obsolete, a lot of
them were surplused and a lot of them were actually sold into the United States, and so it’s actually
far easier to get them here in the US today than it is to find them anywhere else in the world,
which is unfortunate for you guys in France, it’s theoretically your rifle, but they’re all over here and it’s
really a pretty cool situation for us in the United States However, there is one element as a result
of this that I want to touch on, because … compared to any other Cold War-era battle
rifle, you know, primarily .30 calibre infantry rifle, these things are a fantastic bargain. They go
for a fraction of the cost of, say, a FAL or a G3. If you think about the scarcity and the collectability
of FALs and G3s that are actually authentic military production rifles, not rebuilds
on parts kits with civilian receivers, those things are incredibly expensive
compared to something like this. Now in large part that’s because these
rifles were always only semi-automatic, which means we don’t have any sort of machine
gun issues to deal with legally with them, but it’s also because they’re just kind of
generally under-appreciated rifles here in the US. Now like I was saying because of this
there is a safety issue that I want to cover, I mentioned this on the MAS 49 video, but I
want to do it here as well because it’s important. And that is slam fires and the firing pin in the 49-56. French military ammunition was made with
primers that are a lot harder than some of our …, well particularly the Prvi Partizan PPU commercially available 7.5 French
ammunition that we can get here today. And with the softer primers in that commercial ammunition
these do absolutely have a tendency to slam fire. … When you close the bolt on a loaded magazine, the firing pin will pick up a bunch of energy
as it moves forward and, every once in a while, it’ll have enough energy that it’ll pop forward, hit
the primer, and fire a round when the bolt closes. That’s because these rifles were designed without
a firing pin spring. With the French ammunition the primers were hard enough that they didn’t need it.
And this was literally a non-issue for the French military, they got to choose what ammunition they supplied. But it is
an issue for us here in the United States commercially today. So there are a couple of solutions for this. There are
companies out there that make titanium firing pins, those can have the exact same
outer profile as a steel firing pin, but weigh less, and weigh enough
less that they won’t have this problem. There … is also a company out there
that makes a spring-loaded firing pin that is just a drop-in replacement in a 49-56.
Doesn’t require any modification of the rifle, you can swap back to the original firing pin
if you ever want to for authenticity’s sake. I highly recommend getting either one of those if you
actually want to go out and regularly shoot a MAS 49-56, because otherwise you do run the risk of double fires and
slam fires and that is absolutely a potential safety issue. So be aware of that, and as long
as you are, these are a remarkably handy, light rugged and
dependable Cold War infantry battle rifle. So hopefully you guys enjoyed the
video and you learned something today. This is of course being filmed in
conjunction, as I mentioned at the beginning, with the pre-sale of my own book on French military
rifles. You can see a picture of the cover right there, and if you take a look down in the description,
you’ll find a link over to Kickstarter where you can browse through the several different
options we have. We have a standard book, we have a signed book (woooo cool), and we have
a limited-production collector’s version of the book in a really awesome clamshell cover with gold
and extravagant details and it’s super cool looking. So head over there check out all of those different options, see if one of those books is something
that you think you’d like to have to go along with your 49-56, or any other French
rifle you have or would like to have. And, thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “France’s Final Battle Rifle Iteration: The MAS 49-56

  1. 2500+ pledges for the signature edition as of now. You’ve got a lot signaturing to do. Looking forward October.

  2. I don't know why but my FFL/gunsmith told me if I ever had a MAS come in he would discontinue services(so I had my MAS transferred through a different FFL) he feels that the MAS was poorly engineered and designed with a lot of stupid flaws. Such as the firing pin issue, the proprietary screws and total off beat designee. The only reason I own a MAS is because I got it really cheap (with all the added toys) and the dealer I got it from through in 500 rounds or ammo just to get the thing out his door. Fired it a few times, neither impressed or unimpressed. IMO a good K98 kills the MAS every time.

  3. Did they give any consideration to colonial troops, who were of smaller stature than continental French troops? I've heard that this was part of the trend toward short stocks and sight-pictures, post-war.

  4. The price of this rifle are going up and ammo supply or current production ammo will go low after this presentation. Gee thanks Ian…

  5. @13:56 : ….Soooooo……. Don't cross the streams……….. Good safety tip………….. Thanks, Gun Jesus…………………………………….

  6. I have a 36 and want one of the semi autos so bad, so many .308s conversions for sale which suck. Why can’t I find a good 7.5 semi

  7. Any 20round mags for that thing? Seems like there should be especially after the FAL came into the picture

  8. Saw 2 of these for sale in a LGS one in 7.5 and one in 7.62 nato. Slept on it and they were gone. Never saw one before or since.

  9. **Production began in 1957, and about 175,000 of the rifles were made, seeing as France's standard front-line infantry rifle until the adoption of the FAMAS in 1979.**

  10. Site graduated in yards? I think not. Dude, it’s French. They invented the metric system. I think you meant meters.

  11. Back when I sold guns, we sold MAS. They seemed very good rifle, well worth the money. You got everything with it. That chambering was a thing though. Wish I had kept one.

  12. I remember a dog i knew who served the FFL in 19xx , said:"getting ours but kicked in argelia with 'auto-mauser' while the insurgents had soviet given AK's", what a twist the worst cold war era army rifle, made the best rifle you can have in the us equalizing self defense, reliabiliry, sportmanship,
    And the level with the rest of the world whoud agree on what is reasenable to have as a civilian.

  13. I recently had a chance to buy a MAS 49-56 that had been converted to .308. I ended up turning it down because I wasn't sure it would be reliable in .308. Did I make a mistake?

  14. *sliding on and off buttpad*

    "This is for grenade, this is for gun,
    One is for fighting, the other for Hun!"

  15. Took two years, but I finally extracted one of these back to old Europe. They are usually very expensive here and it’s not uncommon to see the grenade system removed, particularly ones coming out of Germany due to legal restrictions.

  16. Ingenious rifle really. If they’re surrounded and run out of grenades, they just fire stale baguettes

  17. I actually own one of these, i got mine from a gun show one time as i was browsing though and i saw this odd looking rifle with grenade launcher spigot and sights and a funky magazine i picked it up as i never seen one before and asked the seller what it is and what was the price for it, he said its a french rifle and can be yours for 450 bucks so i brought it, he did say it was converted to 7.62 Nato by the importer but he had no issues with it, and sure enough it worked flawlessly. Now i need to find a buttpad, a scope, and a bayonet for it

  18. What are the downsides of this operating system? It looks lighter and simpler than any piston based system, there must be something that prevented it from being more commonly used?

  19. At 10:08 what you meant to say was 'quatre-vingt' (pronounced cat-tra va) and means four twenties and I only mention it because I find it strange that the nation that invented the excellent metric system does not have a word for eighty and instead has to describe a calculation.

  20. CCI #34 primers are made for guns with free floating pins. If you are a reloader and load for guns like the Garand, M1a, Mas etc. they can reduce the risk of slam fires.

    I love my Mas 49/56. One of my favorite rifles.

  21. Yes yes yes Ian, We like the appearance of your book but more importantly… Does it have that good book smell?

  22. I've always liked the way this gun looks. I've seen a few of them at gun shows and they always looked like good hunting or Ranch rifles. If they made of more of them and the ammunition was cheaper I would pick them up instead of an SKS. But that's hard to say since the SKS is such a great rifle

  23. I picked mine up 4 years ago for $300 bucks, the shop I bought it from thought it was chambered in 7.5 swiss and thus sporterized. Also, I recommend murrays guns for firing pin replacements for the MAS and the SKS.

  24. I have two 49/56's in 7.5 French: G series with no arsenal refurbished stamp. H series refurbished in 1982. Both acquired in the 1990's for about 150 bucks each. Reload .308 bullets in reformed 6.5 x55 Swedish cases, Spring loaded firing pins over the titanium due to cost. I adjust the load for the non-adjustable 49/56 gas system, which give even better handling to this vintage battle rifle. As Mae says, it sings to my soul. Waited decades for the definitive Book to come along. I am so happy for you, Ian, to see your Book project do so well.

  25. Would love to order myself a copy of the book, Ian. But with the 60$ shipping cost to Europe, you're really kicking us in the balls, friend…

  26. Could someone please explain how moving the gas port forward (6:35) would increase dwell time? I imagine there's now less distance for the projectile to travel between the gas port and the muzzle, so I'd expect lower dwell time. What am I missing?

  27. This is an amazing review Sir! Thank you for going so in depth!!!
    I actually have a MAS 49/56 that was converted to 7.62×51 (.308) with original French parts, which is rare. Its easy to tell as the gas tube is smaller and not just cut down after the barrel was reamed AND I do not get some of the headaches associated with the company that imported and modified many others. It had a very good modification. I absolutely LOVE this rife. It is a TANK! Really easy to target with the large battle sight and I also have the see through mount scope. That big bolt re ally averts jams and you cab always flip it to single fire at the grenade launcher for even more accuracy. The impingement gas system works WELL and keeps the receiver very clean even after several hundred rounds. I also have never had a slam fire probably due to the titanium firing pin it had installed.This will stay in our small family collection for sure. I shoot it as often as I can and it is a go to rifle for all around AND firing it with the night sight attachment is amazingly fun as are the grenades!!!! I also got it for $300 several years ago!!! They have gotten pricey but worth it.

  28. What's the point of iron sights adjustable to silly distances?
    for example my k31 goes to >1000m. what can you even hit and do damage to at such distances?

  29. What should be addressed here is the design flaw in all the MA'S series of rifles, as well as SMLE's, Winchester lever guns and others. And that would be the two piece stocks. If not fitted, bedded and firmly attached they have a long history of being an accuracy culprit. The French chambering is quite adequate, on par with our .308 win/ 7.62 NATO round. New ammo can be acquired from some lesser known providers as the major manufacturers like Remington, Winchester, Federal and the like don t load for it. However, one can easily reload for it as dies, components and the like can be had by searching places like Old Western Scrounger, Graff, Privi Partisan, Huntington/RCBS, Shotgun News, and many others. It's out there , I've seen it. You just have to do the leg work and research. Your not going to find it at Dicks, Wal Mart, Cabellas, Midway or any big box stores.

  30. Topped up via 5 rd stripper clip. Like the Canadian FN C1. The only FALs I'm aware of that offered that feature.

  31. I had one sold it 15 yrs ago dammit and yes it would some times slam fire I pulled the trigger and I would be empty

  32. I love how Gun Jesus can – and do – speak infinitely about french weapons.
    He should have a debate with Lindybiege who can do this but about english weapons.
    Please guys, make this happen. 🙂

  33. Peoples talking shit about other that died 80 years ago are idiots. Find numbers and facts and then open your loud mouths.

  34. I have always liked these. I think, with the grenade launcher sight removed, it is probably still kegal here in Kalifornia, assuming the muzzle device is credibly called a brake rather than a dlash suppressor. Great video as always. Thank you

  35. It was my rifle when i was in the army at the beginning in my first year of soldier ! In 1980 to 1982 it was the rifle with the MAT 49 mp i used, after i used the SIG 540 for few month before the FAMAS !!!!!!!!

  36. I have one.It is horrible.If you don't get the not easy reloadable and buyable original ammo,it bursts full auto.Not good on public range.In Germany only buyable with special allownes i own a so called “Ladenhüter“.

  37. Really enjoy mine and I didn't shoot it until I installed a firing pin with the spring. It ran flawlessly until the last two rounds in the last magazine of the day and I had a slamfire. I was using PPU ammo.
    Be very careful when shooting these.

  38. Damn it, I remember looks at a VZ58, saying "it can load from both a mag and a clip, those clever Czechs!" Turns out they just stole the idea from those stinking capitalists frogs!

  39. Something I've always wondered, why didn't the French military ever adopt a 20 round magazine for the MAS 49/56? Every other contemporary battle rifle of that era came equipped standard issue with a 20 round mag, i.e. the M14, FAL, CETME/G3, BM59. It like seems a pretty significant oversight for a service rifle that was in service until 1979.

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