At first, I couldn't believe it. My ears just would not accept what I was hearing.
"Show what?" I said.
"Chauchat. It was a French machine gun built for World War I."
And so I endeavored to look further into this miraculous machine. My discoveries were, needless to say, a relief to my sensibilities.
Called by some "the worst machine gun ever issued by any army in history", the Chauchat (pronounced SHOW-shaw) was a failure like no other. A relatively lightweight 8mm-firing gun, the Chauchat suffered from three major setbacks:
- It could only support a single 20 round magazine at a time. This meant the wielder would fire a 5 second burst of machine gun fire, and then have to reach into his ammo bag, pull out a clip, dump the old clip, and replace the magazine, all just in the nick of time to be cut down by three of the 500 bullets screaming from the Gatling gun on the other side of the trench.
- It had many problems with actually firing, including spent shells jamming in the chamber and mud and dirt wreaking havoc on the internal mechanics.
- Its shoddy construction caused more than a few to simply break apart in people's hands, evoking a stifled "Sacre bleu!"
When the first American Expeditionary Force arrived in France to aid the Allies, they were issued Chauchats instead of their typical Brownings in a show of international solidarity. Within weeks, the Brownings were in full action, and the Chauchats had been reduced to tent poles and latrine parts.
In spite of (or due to) its engineering misfortunes, the Chauchat was the most manufactured weapon of World War I, and after the war many were donated to French colonies worldwide, where many can still be seen today, though most are not in firing condition. The Chauchat also some action during Finland's Winter War with Communist Russia shortly after, and then disappeared into the sands of time.
Today many people consider the Kalashnikov automatic rifles (the AK-47 in particular) to be modern variations on the Chauchat, with its pistol grip and detachable magazine. Whatever the case may be, the infamy of the Chauchat will surely last as long as warfare itself.
- Length: 114 cm
- Barrel: 47 cm
- Weight: 9.07 kg
- Rifling: 4 grooves, rh
- Rate Of Fire: 250 rounds / minute