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Saint-Etienne Model 1907 (Mle 1907)

Belt-Fed Air-Cooled Machine Gun

France | 1907

"The Saint-Etienne Model 1907 machine gun failed to impress to the point that it was given up as soon as the close of World War I."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/19/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Alongside artillery, machine guns were a critical battlefield component during the fighting of World War I (1914-1918). These weapon systems were featured on vehicles, aircraft, and in the trenches as a lethal solution to the infantry problem by delivering on-call destruction and suppression at-range. A bevy of such designs ultimately emerged prior to - and during - the fighting including several notable designs to come out of defense powerhouse France.

The Saint-Etienne facility developed the "Model 1907" machine gun for the French Army in the middle part of the 1900s and its arrival led to issuance to French troops by 1909. The design was made to rival the ubiquitous Hotchkiss by implementing various "improvements" to make for a better, reliable field solution. Recoil was addressed as was barrel overheating (the latter by way of a replaceable barrel assembly), and a fire rate selector would give the shooter some customizability when firing. Fire rate was selectable via an external lever and an additional regulator knob offered more precise rates as needed.

The resulting weapon proved to have several inherent deficiencies when compared to the Hotchkiss which limited its widespread acceptance and use in the French ranks. At its core, it proved itself an overly complicated machine which played poorly in the grand scope of war, its metallic-strip feed cartridges were incompatible with the Hotchkiss and the receiver design prone to collecting dirt and debris.

This newly-minted machine gun was used from the period of World War I and the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and World War II (1939-1945). Some 39,700 units were ultimately produced in all and variants went on to include the Puteaux Model 1905/1907 and the Transformee Model 1916.

The resulting weapon weighed 57lb when fully equipped for fighting, restricting it to stationary, defensive-minded fire. Overall length of the unit reached 1,180mm with a barrel measuring 710mm long. The gun, as a complete system, could be transported via pack animal and the kit included the gun itself, the tripod assembly, rangefinder, and ammunition boxes. Of note is that the original 25-round metal link cartridges were not compatible with the Hotchkiss, making the Model 1907 logistically "unfriendly" in the grand scope of the war to come.

Internally, the Model 1907 utilized a gas-operated system with "blow-forward" movement inspired by the earlier American "Bang Rifle", an interesting semi-automatic, gas-operated with rotating bolt service rifle development offered in .30-06 Springfield and 6.5x55mm Swedish. Appropriately, the French interpretation relied on the French 8x51mm Lebel rimmed rifle cartridge instead. Rate-of-fire was adjustable to 600 rounds-per-minute while feeding from 25-round metal strips or, later, 300-round fabric belts and muzzle velocity was 2,375 feet-per-second.

The gun was typically seated on a metal tripod featuring two forward legs (joined by a horizontal strut) and a single rear support offering a seat for the gunner. An elevation control wheel was set under and to the left of the body. A single "spade-type" grip handle was positioned at the extreme rear of the frame with iron sighting devices set over the frame (over the action) and aft of the muzzle (over the barrel). This grip could be replaced by an optional "butt extension" piece for when deployed in the dedicated trench-defense role. The ejection port was seated at the right side of the body with feeding handled from the left.

As soon as war broke out in 1914, the Model 1907 was pressed into action with French forces. However, its combat limitations shone through to the point that, in 1916, an advanced design emerged as the Model 1907/16. This model incorporated an all-new gas-pressure regulator with revised sights and slightly modified internals. However, these changes did not necessarily make for a better machine gun under the rigors of combat which forced a continued reliance on the Hotchkiss and other available solutions.

With this, further manufacture of the Model 1907 subsided though Model 1907s were produced into 1918 (in far fewer numbers than seen at peak in the latter half of 1916). While some of the existing stock was sent overseas to foreign-based French elements in The Colonies, the remainder of Model 1907 guns were destroyed.

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Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Saint-Etienne Model 1907 (Mle 1907). Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
2,375 ft/sec
724 m/sec
Muzzle Velocity
The physical qualities of the Saint-Etienne Model 1907 (Mle 1907). Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
1,180 mm
46.46 in
O/A Length
710 mm
27.95 in
Barrel Length
57.32 lb
26.00 kg
Gas-Operated; Regulated Full-Automatic Fire Only.
8x51 Lebel Rimmed
25-round metallic-strip feed OR 300-round fabric belt.
Iron Front and Rear.
Notable series variants as part of the Saint-Etienne Model 1907 (Mle 1907) Belt-Fed Air-Cooled Machine Gun family line.
Model 1907 (Mle 07) - Base Series Designation; original model of 1907.
Model 1907/16 - Improved model of 1916; new gas regulator; revised rear sight; new firing pin design.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Saint-Etienne Model 1907 (Mle 1907). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): Saint-Etienne Ordnance Factory - France
National flag of France

[ France ]
Going Further...
The Saint-Etienne Model 1907 (Mle 1907) Belt-Fed Air-Cooled Machine Gun appears in the following collections:
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