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View Full Version : Why is a MAS-49 type action not more popular?


raftman
September 18, 2012, 12:15 AM
Owned a French MAS-49/56 semi-auto rifle and found to be a beautifully simple design. Uses a DI gas system yet is so simple that it makes the AR look like a Rube Goldberg machine by comparison. Seems like it's something that could match the accuracy of an AR, and at the same time have the simplicity of an AK. With more modern ergonomics, and scaled to something like 5.56, it could result in a rifle that would compare favorably against the AR, AK, Ruger Mini, Kel-Tec SU-16, and on and on... so is there some reason it never seemed to catch on the same extent?

Here's a disassembly video of the MAS-49/56 just to show the design.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL7AvIS0atw

BlueTrain
September 18, 2012, 06:26 AM
That's a fair question. I have examined a few, though not stripped. I did own an FN-1949, another rifle from the same period. Any idea how the design compares? I'm not sure which design is older but the difference would only be a couple of years but the Armalite series came along not all that much later.

I've never read anything much about the development of the French rifle but I wonder if there was any consideration to using an intermediate cartridge. Supposedly the original FN light auto rifle was intended for use with the 7.92 short cartridge but that was too radical for some people, as were all the smaller caliber British experimental cartridges (not all of which were chambered in bullpups). There is such a thing as being ahead of the times, as well as behind the times, too, I suppose.

Of course, changing the ergonomics and scaling to suit a new cartridge would mean a whole new design and when the French got around to adopting the NATO cartridges, they really adopted something new. It isn't talked about much around here, possibly just because it's French, so what users think about it is not exactly common knowledge.

But it has to do more than compare favorably. It has to be better, at least in some ways, and cost no more than the competition. The design has a lot of catching up to do. On the other hand, the M1A hasn't gone away, has it?

doofus47
September 18, 2012, 10:27 AM
Very Hakim-ish in its simplicity. It looks ridiculously simple: as a battle rifle should.
I think that if the century .308 conversions had gone well you would have seen many more of them.

James K
September 18, 2012, 11:24 AM
The French were actually first. MAS made a semi-auto rifle of gas impingement design in 1940 and there was some limited production as the Mle 40 before the German invasion. The Mle 40 used a fixed box magazine like the Mle 36 and was loaded with a stripper clip. In late 1944, after the Germans were driven out, MAS revised the design to use a detachable magazine, and it was adopted as the Mle 44, but only some 6200 were produced. After a few more revisions, the rifle was adopted and widely issued in 1949, becoming the more familiar Mle 49, of which 20,600 were produced.

The rifle was again revised in 1956 and the Mle 49-56 adopted. It is that rifle that made up the bulk of imports into the U.S.

See http://www.carbinesforcollectors.com/frenchriflepage1.html for more info on French rifles of the cartridge era.

The Swedish AG-42b (the Ljungmann*) was early also; I don't know if Ljungmann was inspired by the MAS or worked out the idea independently, but the design is quite similar to the French. I don't recall any FN impingement design; theirs all were short/intermediate stroke piston systems.

Stoner came along later, but where the earlier impingement designs opened at the top to vent exhausted gas into the open air, the Stoner designs channel it through the bolt carrier and out the ejection port. The design has been subject to considerable criticism, but certainly appears to work well enough.

*The Hakim is a licensed copy of the Ljungmann, made in Egypt in 8mm Mauser caliber; the Rasheed is a carbine, in 7.62x39, which uses the Ljungmann gas system but has features of the SKS.

Jim

shaunpain
September 18, 2012, 12:47 PM
I own a 49/56 as well, love the rifle and the way it looks, but I'm okay with it not being very popular as I would have paid far too much for it! Mine is a CAI conversion, but it's been in the hands of many others before me (including an FFL who owned it for ten years) and since I haven't shot it yet I'll just take the guy's word for it that it runs. Stick to the steel case stuff, he said.

Sadly, there aren't many aftermarket parts around for this rifle and we all know the 7,5 french stuff is difficult to find and expensive when you do. I agree with doofus47 in that this rifle would have been immensely popular on the milsurp market had the man behind Century decided to bore and chamber the rifles correctly. I understand that the design shoots minute of man, and that's good enough for me. Still tracking down the perfect optic for it...

raftman
September 18, 2012, 01:13 PM
But it has to do more than compare favorably. It has to be better, at least in some ways, and cost no more than the competition. The design has a lot of catching up to do. On the other hand, the M1A hasn't gone away, has it?

In theory, you are correct, it does need to compare cost-wise and offer advantages (of course one can think of all sorts of exceptions, like Kimber 1911's shooting no better than RIA 1911's yet the former costing 3x as much). But I would suspect that would be the case. For instance the 49/56 was in its day simpler, lighter, more compact than the Garand or M14 (yet shooting a ballistically equivalent cartridge), and its relative simplicity would likely have made it cheaper to manufacture as well.

I guess to sum it up, I think there would definitely be market potential for something that can rival both the simplicity of an AK and the accuracy of an AR, so I can't really think of any good reason the action essentially went extinct.

shaunpain
September 18, 2012, 01:38 PM
All things being equal, there are definitely some aesthetic challenges of the 49/56. Not crazy about the big white charging knob. Also, I'm sure some people have quips about the alligator clip magazine release. Now, we know all things are NOT equal. That's where price comes into play. I don't see any intrinsic benefit of a Garand or Stoner design over the MAS action. As a matter of fact, I'm sure the 49/56s were probably quite costly considering the robustness of the receiver and the nicely milled rail on the left side. All things considered, I think the 49/56 is relatively light and very handy. The length is pretty much perfect for a battle rifle.

I have a feeling that if someone figured out how to turn it into an EBR, the demand would greatly exceed the supply.

raftman
September 18, 2012, 02:30 PM
I would suspect the mag release is the product of a time when mags on such rifles were meant to be removed primarily for cleaning and the weapon was to be loaded using stripper clips.

In any case, one could without difficulty design a weapon with essentially the same action without the odd-looking plastic knob and with a more conventional mag release. Scaled to an intermediate caliber, the receiver would not need to be quite so beefy (though as has been mentioned, despite the robust receiver, the 49/56 was actually still considerably lighter than its counterparts). The style of rail on the 49/56 isn't necessary to the action either.

In much the same way that the M14 had its basis in the Garand but did away with the outdated 8-round enbloc in favor of a higher capacity detachable magazine. Or in much the same way that the Mini-14, given its scaling down for .223 needed no longer weigh 10 pounds or be 44 inches long.

I don't see any intrinsic benefit of a Garand or Stoner design over the MAS action.

Precisely! I admit I'm not a gun guru, but I just don't see anything the Garand/M1A/Mini-14/etc, or AR15/M16 actions do better than the MAS action that justifies their relative complexity.

BlueTrain
September 18, 2012, 02:42 PM
Actually, the M49/56 is no lighter than any similiar rifle (M1, M14, FAL or FN 1949) and may be a little heavier than some. As far as simplicity, the M14 always struck me as being surprisingly simple, although that does not translate into something that's easy to make. It also doesn't have a breakdown style like both the FAL and all the Armalite designs, or the British SA-80. However, the one I handled balanced very nicely but then, so does an M14.

Cost is a difficult thing to work around, because of several factors. One thing is, you can't produce just any firearm you wish, unless you don't mind producing an outright copy. International agreements being what they have been, that doesn't happen except in wartime, when practically all treaties are ignored. You have to have the plans to begin with and set up everything you need for production and by then, you might as well design your own rifle. And what it costs in one place will often as not have no bearing at all on what it costs to produce somewhere else. And smaller military establishments may either rely on someone else to manufacture guns for them to buy or buy them on the international second-hand armaments market, which comes and goes as the years go by until ultimately things wind up being sold to American gun enthusiasts. Current conditions for a given army also enter into the matter, too. A country like Switzerland seems to be willing to pay a high price for their armaments but then they've usually never been hard pressed about having to actually fight a war, unlike just about everyone else.

MJ1
September 18, 2012, 06:02 PM
It's been around a long time in different guises from bolt guns Like the 6mm Navy to modern rifles and AW's like the MP44, SKS, several infantry support guns and a slew of pre and post WW2 arms. I never really thought about it till I was in school at the Armaments Command Center in the mid 60's. Either hand cranked like the German 75mm infantry gun, direct impingement, short or long gas piston or tappet system used to move carrier/bolt a viable system. If your not turning the bolt 1/8th in the first 5/8" dwell you have to have case heads that will take the extraction energy without ripping a rim or head leaving a front case or mouth side stuck in the chamber to receive the next round from the magazine. Several medium and heavy MG's in both world wars and other actions have proved it works as well as some modified wedge systems like DP and RPD have proven it works very well. :rolleyes: Only draw back I know of is not having primary extraction other wise depending on the quality of manufacturing of munitions was and is a fast production method. ;) Wish I still had some of the class hand outs from that time. I also wish the classes had not been shortened from 16 to 12 weeks during my cycle,,LOL.

Handy rifles with a good punch for their size.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v130/montereyjack/94f7eb47.jpg

raftman
September 18, 2012, 06:30 PM
BlueTrain, you may be thinking of just the MAS-49, the 49/56 apparently weighs in at 8.5 lb's, placing it well under the M1, M14, FN49.
As far as international agreements go, I doubt the French are too attached to the design as they themselves are no longer using it and "borrowing" design elements that work isn't unheard of in the industry. It doesn't seem terribly different than what other makers have done with other designs, Ruger took it upon themselves to essentially adapt the M14 to .223 and later to other cartridges as well. The R&D aspect is all there, just a matter of changing the scale and adding modern features I would speculate.

10mmAuto
September 18, 2012, 08:24 PM
accuracy of an AR, and at the same time have the simplicity of an AK
I feel pretty strongly that the Stoner and Kalashnikov operation methods are both about equally "simple", not that there is a metric measuring that sort of thing.

HKFan9
September 18, 2012, 08:33 PM
For one its FRENCH :eek:

raftman
September 18, 2012, 11:06 PM
I feel pretty strongly that the Stoner and Kalashnikov operation methods are both about equally "simple", not that there is a metric measuring that sort of thing.

Sure there are ways to measure simplicity, particularly from an end-user perspective; for example which one field strips in the fewest operations or into the fewest parts, or doesn't require tools.

HKFan9
September 18, 2012, 11:54 PM
You use a tool to field strip an AR? That's news to me.

Field stripping and dis-assembly are generally two different things.

raftman
September 19, 2012, 01:06 AM
You use a tool to field strip an AR? That's news to me.

Maybe you've just never done it right :D

But seriously, that's just one example of a few things that can be used to "measure" simplicity, but not necessarily one that can be applied to the AR.

Pilot
September 19, 2012, 02:20 AM
I have an MAS 49/56 in 7.5 french, that I reload for using trimmed 6.5x55 Swedish Mauser brass. It really is easy to do, and yes the rifle has a nice, simple design. Mine is very reliable, and accurate. The LOP is really short for me, so I have to put a rubber baseplate on it to extend the reach.

Regolith
September 19, 2012, 04:57 AM
The biggest issue with a tilt bolt is that it requires a fairly beefy receiver, since the bolt locks to the receiver instead of the barrel. With a rotating bolt, you don't need a very strong receiver - even a plastic one will do if it's designed right, like with the AR-15 - as the bolt locks directly to the barrel. If an AR-15 were to have a tilt bolt instead of a rotating one, you couldn't build the receiver out of aluminum or plastic, and you wouldn't be able to swap out the uppers.

Master Blaster 2
September 19, 2012, 05:34 AM
Not that many were imported.Dated design. Not a popular caliber. Could be of interest to a collector .

http://picturearchive.gunauction.com/661688/10220576/dscn2541.jpg_thumbnail0.jpg

BlueTrain
September 19, 2012, 05:38 AM
What does French have to do with it? Virtually all of our tube artillery for land use is either of French or British origin. Even more remarkably, during WWI the French managed to supply US forces with all the artillery up to 155mm, the British supplying the 8-inch stuff, which is why for decades later, we had guns that were both designated in either millimeters or inches. In fact, for a few decades, it was the WWI equipment itself.

tulsamal
September 19, 2012, 09:58 AM
I like mine. I agree that the design could have been refined into something better. As it stands, the magazine release is well, weird to say the least. The trigger isn't the best. As mentioned, the stock is quite short and the design itself is odd, two piece wood?

I find 7.5 French to be very easy to reload. I've got lots of brass and use standard .308 projectiles. The one issue you have to watch out for is the same as the SKS. It will slam fire if you use soft primers. So I special buy the CCI military primers just for it. And those have worked just fine.

It is nice that it has the scope rail built in on the side. Except for the fact that you can't just order something that will fit it. If there was a $50-$100 mount that would put a standard mount right on top, I would have done it long ago. A short little scope or red dot on top and it would make a dandy little woods rifle. My son would probably claim it for his deer stand rifle.

And I hate to "sporterize" C&R rifles. So I've left mine the way it came. But it sure would be handier without all that stuff on the end of the barrel. Take the FH off and the grenade sight and you would lose weight and stuff that snags in the woods.

Gregg

shaunpain
September 19, 2012, 11:29 AM
I love the LOP, actually, but I am a smaller framed guy myself. I have a perfect cheek weld on it. Perfect for Frenchmen, of which I am half.

raftman
September 19, 2012, 01:55 PM
The biggest issue with a tilt bolt is that it requires a fairly beefy receiver, since the bolt locks to the receiver instead of the barrel. With a rotating bolt, you don't need a very strong receiver - even a plastic one will do if it's designed right, like with the AR-15 - as the bolt locks directly to the barrel. If an AR-15 were to have a tilt bolt instead of a rotating one, you couldn't build the receiver out of aluminum or plastic, and you wouldn't be able to swap out the uppers.

This is largely true, but many people seem to think of a robust receiver as a good thing.

madcratebuilder
September 21, 2012, 09:24 AM
Not that many were imported.Dated design. Not a popular caliber. Could be of interest to a collector .

+1
Imported in very low numbers compared to other mil-surps. You need to search out ammo. Nice rifles.

http://i32.photobucket.com/albums/d37/madcratebuilder/French%20MAS/mas315302.jpg