The Fusil semi-automatique 7 mm 5 Modèle 49 (lit. "semi-automatic rifle 7.5 mm Model of 1949"), commonly known as the MAS 1949 or MAS 49, was a French semi-automatic rifle designed in 1936 and produced from 1949 to 1978 by the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne. The culmination of a design for a semi-automatic rifle design from 1936, the MAS 49 served as the standard service rifle for the French military until the introduction of the FA-MAS.

History[edit | edit source]

During the Indochina War, French soldiers began to discover a number of shortcomings with the MAS 44, mainly relating to ergonomics; a number of issues brought up included the inability to mount optics on the MAS 44, as well as the inability to launch rifle grenades.[1]

To do this, designers at the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne decided to modify the MAS 44 to integrate these features, such as rifle grenade attachments and optic attachment points; the first versions of these modified MAS 44s were known as MAS 44As. The development of the MAS 44A continued for some time until about 1949, when the MAS 49 was developed, essentially the final version of the MAS 44A.[1][2]

The MAS 49 was adopted in 1951 and was drafted into use as the standard French service rifle from then on; the rifle was adopted as the Fusil semi-automatique 7 mm 5 Modèle 49.[1] Immediately after the MAS 49 was adopted, the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne began to design a number of automatic battle rifles that could potentially replace the MAS 49 due to the increase in use of automatic weapons as a main service weapon; these developments included the MAS 51, 52, 53, 54 and MAS 55, none of which were particularly successful.[3]

After the French withdrawal from Indochina in 1954, the French military underwent a substantial restructuring; with financial and material support from the United States running dry, the French desired a newer universal rifle for their troops. To do this, MAS redesigned the MAS 49 once again to become the MAS 49-56 (or 49/56).[2]

The MAS 49-56 was adopted in 1956 as the Fusil semi-automatique 7 mm 5 Modèle 49-56, replacing the MAS 49 only after it had been in service for a few years. As with the MAS 49, development also continued to find a weapon that could potentially replace the MAS 49-56; these developments included the FA 56, FA 58, FA 59, AP 60 and AP 61, with all these developments culminating in the Type 62.[4] The Type 62 attempted to replace the MAS 49-56, although this never came to be due to changing NATO standards and as such the MAS 49-56 remained the standard service rifle.[5]

While the automatic battle rifles were developed, MAS came up with a backup plan if for some reason the plan for a new NATO-compliant battle rifle that could be adopted by the French Army failed; MAS' backup plan was to modernize a number of their MAS 49-56 to chamber the 7.62×51mm NATO cartridge. The first weapons were produced in 1957, although problems with the rifles began to surface, including poor extraction and broken parts, dooming the project in its entirety; the project was cancelled by 1963 with only 150 produced as it was deemed to be impractical due to these reasons, and that the rifles would require significant redesigning to allow them to accommodate the higher pressure of the 7.62mm ammunition.[6]

The MAS 49-56 ended production in 1979, and was replaced the same year by the FA-MAS assault rifle.[7] A number of MAS 49-56s were later imported into the United States during the 1990s as surplus to be converted to use 7.62mm NATO ammunition by Century Arms;[8] these conversions are noted to be poor[8] and suffer from similar, if not the same issues as the MAS-manufactured conversions.[6]

Design[edit | edit source]

In terms of design, the MAS 49 is almost identical to the MAS 44 in that they both use direct impingement gas operation with a tilting bolt. However, the MAS 49 has an optic mount and a rifle grenade launcher. The MAS 49 has the ability to mount the Modèle 1953 APX(SOM) L806 3.5× telescopic sight,[2] and also featured a grenade sight mounted on the barrel meant for use with the grenade launching attachment.[1] The launching attachment could mount NATO-compliant 22mm rifle grenades, although it could also fire the 50mm Modèle 1948 rifle grenades.[9]

The MAS 49-56 was essentially an update of the MAS 49, being shorter and lighter than the MAS 49 and also incorporating a mount for a knife bayonet. The MAS 49-56 also added a gas cutoff and new grenade launching attachments to allow it to fire rifle grenades without any issues. As with the MAS 49, the MAS 49-56 may also be fitted with the same Modèle 1953 APX(SOM) L806 3.5× optic if needed to be adapted to a designated marksman role.[7]

The 7.62mm conversions of the MAS 49-56 by MAS feature a different stock with a pistol grip;[6] a similar stock is also used on the MAS 49-56 MSE.[10]

Variants[edit | edit source]

MAS 49-56

Improved version of the MAS 49.[2]

MAS 49-56 NATO

Unofficial name for a MAS 49-56 converted to 7.62×51mm NATO by the Manufacture d'armes de Saint-Étienne. Features a pistol gripped stock. Weapon was noted to have problems and the project was quickly shelved.[6]

MAS 49-56 MSE

Competition variant of the MAS 49-56. The MSE (Modifié Saint-Étienne, lit. "modified Saint-Étienne") features finely adjusted iron sights and a longer stock. Parts for the MSE were manufactured as a drop in kit for the MAS 49-56 rifle, with no MSEs manufactured as a complete rifle.[10]

References[edit | edit source]

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