Staff Writer (Updated: 7/23/2016):
Following the close of World War 1 in 1918, French authorities looked to replacing the 8mm mle 86 cartridge used throughout the conflict. The 8mm mle 86 had effectively met its day and proved ill-bred for use in the burgeoning automatic weapons market. Additionally, the French Army was on the lookout for a new light machine gun system to fill its inventory for the coming decades and the decision was made to first develop an effective cartridge for the system.
The 7.5x64mm cartridge appeared in 1924, itself based on the 7.92mm Mauser, and was accepted for service by the French Army. It was a "rimless" bullet system with potential from the start but evaluation by way of lengthy trials soon found it wanting and revisions were made necessary. The cartridge exhibited some unwanted characteristics under certain conditions and generally proved itself unsafe to field. After some modifications, a new version appeared in 1929 with a shorter overall length. After additional evaluation, the round was cleared for use and development of the aforementioned light machine gun soon followed.
With the cartridge in place and the light machine gun on its way, attention soon turned to thoughts of a new French Army frontline magazine service rifle to fire the 7.5mm round. After three more years of development, a prototype bolt-action rifle was unveiled only to suffer through more time in the requisite evaluation and testing phase. The rifle was given the designation of MAS 36 and production-ready forms were accepted and delivered to the French Army beginning in 1936. At the time of its inception, the MAS 36 became the last bolt-action rifle to be inducted into frontline service by any major world power, others instead choosing to upgrade their inventories with more modern "self-loading" types.
The MAS 36, like most any other bolt-action rifle of the time, still played heavily upon the successful Mauser system. The MAS 36 action, however, was a heavily modified version of the German design and required the bolt handle to be situated with a sharp forward angle. Unlike the Mauser, the MAS 36's bolt handle locked behind the magazine as opposed to within the breech aperture. This arrangement made for a shorter bolt stroke action but, at the same time, delivered a less powerful Mauser-style effect. Thusly, the short action necessitated the forward-angled bolt handle approach for ease of use by the operator. Like other French military service rifles, the MAS 36 was also designed and produced without any sort of safety catch to prevent accidental discharge.