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Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun)

Heavy Machine Gun (HMG)

France | 1931

"The Chatellerault Model 1931 was born from the earlier Mle 24-29 and saw extensive service in World War 2 and beyond."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 10/21/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
As the "Chauchat" machine gun of 1915 proved so unsatisfactory after its action in The Great War (1914-1918) French authorities moved to acquire a new machine gun solution heading into the 1920s. This resulted in the Chatellerault Model 24 appearing in 1926 with the French Army in an official capacity. Heavily influenced by the successful, if limited, Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), the French weapon was chambered in the new 7.5mm rifle cartridge to help reduce jamming of the internal action (common to the Chauchat) during successive firing.

The Model 24 was eventually streamlined to become the follow-up Model 24/29 infantry machine gun and it was this form that made up the Chatellerault Model 1931. Despite its origin, the Model 1931 actually held little in the way of interchangeable parts between it and the earlier gun design and, unlike the role-specific Model 24, the Model 1931 was intended from the outset as a heavier-duty support weapon and this was fleshed out under the direction of a French Commandant whose surname was Reibel - hence, the new machine gun often simply bears his surname as the "JM Reibel". Alternatively, the gun is recognized under its formal French Army designation of "Mitrailleuse modele 1931".

The general arrangement of the gun was largely conventional with the gun balanced between the rectangular receiver at rear and the forward barrel assembly. To improve its function for broader use, a heavier barrel assembly was utilized and this capped by a conical flash hider. The charging handle was set at the side of the receiver in the traditional way. The pistol grip was of note in how it curved decidedly forward, either as an ergonomic measure or for simply improve gripping of the weapon. A shoulder pad was optional for added support during sustained fire.

The gun fed 7.5x54mm rimless rifle cartridges from a 150-round "pan-style" magazine situated vertically at the side of the receiver. Alternatively, the gun could be fed from an under-receiver detachable box magazine of substantially reduced cartridge count. Rate-of-fire was 500 rounds-per-minute in the base model (though higher in some aircraft variants) and muzzle velocity reached 2,625 feet-per-second. The action centered on a gas-operated function with only full-automatic fire possible, the gas cylinder seated under the barrel.

Overall length was 41.3 inches (model dependent) and weight reached 40.7lb when fully loaded.

The gun was eventually used as an infantry-level troop suppression weapon and a tank / vehicle machine gun - indeed it armed several of the high-profile, new-generation tanks appearing for the French Army in the pre-war period. Initial tank versions were the "Model 1931C" and these could alternate their ejection and feed chutes as well as the side the charging handle sat on for customizability depending on the vehicle arrangement. The "Model 1931E" was similar in most respects though with a shortened barrel assembly for compactness.

In 1934, an aircraft machine gun variant appeared and this was showcased as the principle aerial gun of the French combat aircraft leading up to the Fall of France in 1940. The "Model 1934A" ("A" for "Ailes") was the fixed, forward-firing embedded installation with a short-recoil stroke action, lightened internals, and drum-feeding of its ammunition. The "Model 1934T" was given to turret enclosures in French combat aircraft as a trainable, defensive-minded weapon. Feeding was from drum magazines and cocking managed directly by the operator. The "Model 1934/39" was an update to the Model 1934A and introduced belt-feeding as a sounder alternative to the original drums featured. This version only saw limited production before the German invasion and subsequent collapse of France.

Before this, the gun was extensively featured across the Maginot Line of defensive forts maintained by the French military against a possible German land invasion. These examples were designated "Model 1931F" and intended mainly for static defense use while lacking shoulder pieces, seeing their ejection chutes deepened, and having their charging handles was moved more rearwards all to support a heavier ball cartridge. Some forms were equipped with water-cooling for sustained firing actions while the rest of the stock maintained simple air-cooling of the barrel.

The "Model 1931T" and "Model 1931TM" were remotely-fired weapons and, as such, lacked pistol grips and any shoulder supports common to infantry-minded / infantry-level variants.

After the German conquest of France, surviving guns were issued to German troops manning the vaunted "Atlantic Wall" protecting German-held France shorelines from invasion. Production of the machine gun was kept alive for a time longer by German authorities and ran at least into 1942.

Examples were found even beyond World War II across the many regional conflicts of the ensuing Cold War period up to the Chadian Civil War of 1965-1979).

Content ©MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
The physical qualities of the Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun). Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
1,050 mm
41.34 in
O/A Length
600 mm
23.62 in
Barrel Length
40.72 lb
18.47 kg
Gas-Operated; Full-Automatic Fire Only.
7.5x54mm French rimless
150-round drum magazine or reduced-count detachable box magazine.
Iron Front and Rear.
Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun). Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
2,625 ft/sec
800 m/sec
Muzzle Velocity
Notable series variants as part of the Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) family line.
Model 1931 - Base Series Designation; initial production model.
Model 1931C ("Char") - Vehicle (tank) form; customizable feeding/ejection ports and charging handle side; flash hider as standard.
Model 1931E - Vehicle (tank) form; shortened 480mm barrels for compactness.
Model 1931F - Fortification variant; sans shoulder support; reworked features; some with water-cooled barrels.
Model 1931T/TM - Remotely-fired variant; sans shoulder supports and pistol grips.
Model 1934A ("Ailes") - Embedded fixed, forward-firing aircraft variant; shortened recoil stroke action; drum fed; 1,200rpm capability.
Model 1934T - Aircraft gun for turret use; drum-fed; manual cocking action.
Model 1934/39 - Limited production aircraft variant; belt-feeding (metallic-link); lightened operating weight; simplified and more reliable internals.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): Manufacture d Armes de Chatellerault - France
National flag of Algeria National flag of Chad National flag of Egypt National flag of France National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany National flag of Israel National flag of Syria National flag of Vietnam

[ Algeria; Chad; Egypt; France; Nazi Germany (captured); Israel; Laos; Syria; Vietnam ]
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Image of the Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun)
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Design Qualities
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Chatellerault Model 1931 (Reibel Machine Gun) Heavy Machine Gun (HMG) appears in the following collections:
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