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Thread: Are French Firearms Popular in the UK?

  1. #1

    Are French Firearms Popular in the UK?

    I don't see much reference to French rifles or guns on this forum. No mentions of Chapuis challengers, the chapuis doubles or shotguns, nothing on Darne or Charlin. Nothing on Verney-Carron. I've seen more threads on Australian and American Forums than here and yet the blighters are only a Eurostar coffee away.

    Why?
    Blaser K95 Stutzen - the ultimate deer stalking rifle

  2. #2
    Chapuis is quite well known for its' double rifles, but there are precious few double rifle users in this country. In the past year or so adverts and gun tests of their over and under shotguns have started to appear in the press. Once in a while, it looks like the Verney-Carron importers try a half-hearted push on the over and under shotguns too. But it doesn't seem to stick. As for the Darne/Charlin sliding block systems, they don't catch on either. Even in France, they have a cult following but aren't really mainstream, a bit like the Baby Bretton in the cheaper over and under segment.

    I think there are two main factors behind this lack of success. The UK shotgun buyer is by and large spectacularly conservative. A sizeable chunk of them, if not most, still hold the English traditional shotgun as the pinnacle so there is a gigantic second hand market for these, as no-one can afford the new ones (although there's a niche "affordable" high-en sector emerging). Regarding over and unders, the market is very crowded especially in the entry level end. In the midrange, tried and trusted brands like Beretta, Browning and Miroku rule the roost, and again the second hand market is healthy. That's also where VC and Chapuis are going (with VC being more entry level and looking a bit weird) so it's tough for them.

    Verney-Carron in particular has evolved to service the French hunting landscape, which has been very different from the UK one, being all collective, quite low-key, low-cost hunting (this is all falling apart now, but it takes a long time). So it stepped in where Manufrance left off. It's noticeable that when it comes to guns and other hunting kit, most French hunters are primarily looking for stuff that's cheap, although less so in the rapidly growing rifle market, same as here. And again, French guns made for driven large game have almost no use here. The semi-auto rifles are illegal.

    Finally, as regards export opportunities, the UK's not a very attractive market for French manufacturers. It's small, expensive, restrictively regulated compared to the rest of the EU, and hunting practices are different. One ammunition manufacturer I know told me he gave up on the UK as it was just too hard. And if you think about it, we use very little rifle ammunition compared to places where they hold large game drives.

  3. #3
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    I have a Fusil Robust Model 28E which is a 16 bore easy-opening boxlock ejector. And did have a Unique X51bis which is a takedown .22LR with extras. I sold that to buy a BRNO Model 5 as that, being a bolt action, is better for indoor range stalking practice.

    I also had a MAB P-15 9mm pistol that I bought from Cogswell and Harrison when they were at 168 The Strand, Picadilly, or whatever the exact address was. Must have been late 1970s or early 1980s.

    After WWII the Walther factory was in the French zone of occupied Germany so you'll see 'French' Walther P38, PP and PPK pistols under the Manhurin marking. Again Manhurin were another French military arms maker.

    Worth a thread on its own is France's modern revolver the Manhurin MR73. In fact it had a film named after it and was 'almost legendary'. You still see some in France in .38 or .357. I'd say it's more Ruger rugged quality that Smith & Wesson quality.
    French guns tend to be 'quirky' for the same of it. Some good ideas but a lot of doing it that way 'just to be different'. I also saw and handled the best Paris stuff of Faure le Page and Gastinne Rennette when they both still had shops in Paris. Gastinne was gone by 2001 Faure le Page was gone by 2010.

    Holland's were before they too went on Avenue Victor Hugo...not far from the Nigerian Embassy in fact and on the same side of the street. They left for good in 2004 or 2006 or so.

    The big houses were Manufrance at St Etienne...think like Webley as an 'all around' maker and Unique at Hendaye...again an 'all around' maker. The Manufrance factory was massive! As big as the old BSA in Birmingham was in its pomp.

    As PM infers French top end shot guns are 'knock offs' in effect of Holland and Holland style sidelock guns. Nowadays I think only Grainger exists? Before WWI many of the British houses, Cogswell and Harrison had a presence in France. Coggies being at 8 Avenue de l'Opera, I think?

    But remember France also inflicted the Chauchaut on its Army! And the US Expeditionary Force. French guns are the odd good, brilliant, idea or system in a sea of 'quirky' ideas. Good French guns are excellent. A lot is just 'quirky'!

    Two of my club members have 8mm 1892 revolvers on s7 as firearms of technical./historic interest. I have a number of original French Army training manuals with their pistol courses of fire.

    French military arms are few as until recently such things were prohibited, effectively, in France. So you don't see them, 1892 revolvers, MAB P-15 pistols, Model 1950 9mm pistols very often. Nor their military bolt action rifles.

    A lot of the pre-1940 French stuff 'went East' to equip Germany's vassal ersatz truppen of Nazi sympathetic Eastern European, Baltic State, auxiliary police units. So there's no great pool as we had in UK of Webley Mk Vi, Enfield No2 .380, Inglis Hi-Power hanguns of SMLE or No4.

    What the Germans after 1940 didn't divert to their own use was destroyed. Most that the Germans after 1940 diverted I'm guessing lingers in a sarehouse somewhere in Russia. If it still survives.
    Last edited by enfieldspares; 09-03-2016 at 10:40.

  4. #4
    Chapuis doubles have been for sale In the UK for many years but never been pushed much. I hunt with a lot of English who now have purchased a double for driven hunts. You can buy a Chapuis single trigger ejector for around 2500 which is cheaper than a new Blaser or Sauer nowadays.

    The shotguns made by Chapuis are nice and main dealer of them is a shop in Somerset, and he has some nice new models.

  5. #5
    Until recently when a thread about them came up on Express rifles site I wa sunaware that there was sporting or hunting versions of the MAS36 made. Some look very interesting but even when i was shooting surplus rilfes like the Mosin nagant and Lee Enfields I never saw a MSA36. Coupe of fellows had Berthier rifles but that was it and we only ever met up with them at Bisley for some historical shoots.

    There is no doubt the French are different with a different life style even today then the English. Their cars are also different and so us may seem quirky ( Oh how I dislike that word) but that surely does not mean that they are bad or worse just different. I never did get the hang of peaking French at school so perhaps it is time to try learning it again.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Conure View Post
    Their cars are also different and so us may seem quirky ( Oh how I dislike that word) but that surely does not mean that they are bad or worse just different.
    Same sort of reason actually. Apart from the high-end, luxury cars, the French car industry was set up to produce affordable cars like the Citroen 2CV and Renault 4L that were affordable and just about adequate for what the end-user needed. The spirit behind them is comparable to the Manufrance Robust if you like. Even now, if you think of a British car, you're thinking of an Aston, or an E-type, or an MG coupé, a two-seater sports car for dirty weekends. The French equivalent is a Renault Espace, a big box for putting a family of six and their luggage in for the annual summer trek to the South on crammed motorways whilst reading Super Picsou Géant in the back.

  7. #7
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    The MAS 36 gets a bad press. But it is unfairly compared to other contemporary bolt action battle front line rifles and little fares well side by side to our No4.

    It was, of course, a second line concept. Like the Russian Moisin Nagant 1944 carbine. Or its earlier model without the folding bayonet.

    The fear of second line troops running out of ammunition, or being in melee, with a then useless club must have been thought important to the French in 1936. So in that 'idea' they were ahead of Russian thinking of an integral bayonet as 'part' of a second line carbine.

    Late WWII it falls short of the other 'cooks' rifle' the .30 M1 Carbine. So by the end of WWII, the 'cooks' rifle' or reserve unit bolt action short carbine instead of an SMG or M1 Carbine this concept was also obsolete.

    Thus the quirky integral under barrel bayonet. But the whole scheme of a 7.5mm self-loading rifle for front line troops and the MAS 36 for second line troops, for gunners, for fortress troops, horseholders, wagon drivers, cooks and dogsbodys never came to pass.

    So the MAS 36 is more fairly compared against the Moisin Nagant pattern carbines. And the Italian bolt action second line unit issued carbines. And against those, even if quirky, it compares favourably and in fact bests them in many respects. Quirky as it is!

    Adolf Hitler had the final decision on that in May 1940. So the only part of the scheme to bear fruit was the MAS 36 pre WWIi. The 'Self Loading Rifle 1940' never being widespread...if at all until its resurrection from the dead as the Rifle Model 1949.
    Last edited by enfieldspares; 09-03-2016 at 11:08.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by enfieldspares View Post
    The big houses were Manufrance at St Etienne...think like Webley as an 'all around' maker and Unique at Hendaye...again an 'all around' maker. The Manufrance factory was massive! As big as the old BSA in Birmingham was in its pomp.
    The first picture of "Astérix et les Normands" (1967) gives you an idea of the scale as the guy carrying a pile of engraved marble slabs on the right is exclitedly shouting "Darling! I've finally received the catalogue from the Arms and Chariots Factory!".

    Click image for larger version. 

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    It isn't necessary at the time to specify which factory. It's THE Factory and the reader would know that, and the mail order catalogue was ubiquitous. As an aside, Le Chasseur Francais, which remains by far the largest hunting magazine in France, started out as Manufrance's in-house magazine, and this is how its' circulation was built.

    Quote Originally Posted by enfieldspares View Post
    The MAS 36 gets a bad press. But it is unfairly compared to other contemporary bolt action battle front line rifles and little fares well side by side to our No4.
    When I started out voraciously reading everything I could on hunting and kit, years before I could actually become involved, the MAS 36 made by Arcom was pretty much the cheapest hunting rifle on the French market, available exclusively in 7mm-08 presumably adapted from 7,62 NATO which was prohibited. I probably still have the details somewhere.
    Last edited by Pine Marten; 09-03-2016 at 11:04.

  9. #9
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    Mais oui!

    My Fusil Robust is in Birmingham at the moment. But indeed on the barrels it doesn't say 'Manufrance' but 'Manufacture Francaise des Armes et Cycles St Etienne'.

    Indeed THE factory as PM says. Think like our Army & Navy catalogue in Britain. Everything for hunting, shooting, outdoors...and other stuff too besides.

    Attachment 67541

    Makes any Parker Hale catalogue and the Parker Hale 'factory' look like a cheap flyer from a small and insignificant corner shop concern in comparison.

    But for Asterix 'arms and chariots' not 'arms and cycles'.
    Last edited by enfieldspares; 09-03-2016 at 12:36.

  10. #10
    Would have thought the Arcom (a name I am unfamilar with) was adapted from the 7x54 French Military round?

    I also saw in an Edward Kettner catalogue they had Mosins converted to 300 Norma Magnum to get around the military cartridge ban of the time.

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