Berthier 1890 et al

Berthier model 1890 cavalry carbine


Berthier model 1892 artillery carbine


Berthier model 1902 colonial rifle for Indo-Chinese troops


Berthier model 1907/15 ifle

Berthier model 1916 rifle


Berthier model 1916 carbine


Berthier model 1907/15/34 rifle


Berthier model 1892 carbine, close-up view


Berthier model 1892 carbine, diagram


loaded clips for Berthier rifles and carbines up to M1907/15 (left) and for M1916 (right)



Mle.1892 carbine

Mle.1902 rifle

Mle.1916 rifle

Mle.1916 carbine






Overall length

945 mm / 37,2”

1125 mm / 44,3”

1306 mm / 51,4”

945 mm / 37,2”

Barrel length

450 mm / 17,7”

635 mm / 25”

803 mm / 31,6”

450 mm / 17,7”

Weight, empty

3,1 kg / 6,83 lbs

3,6 kg / 7,93 lbs

4,19 kg / 9,23 lbs

3,25 kg / 7,16 lbs

Magazine capacity

3 rounds

3 rounds

5 rounds

5 rounds


History of Berthier rifles began in around 1887, when French cavalry demanded a compact, magazine fed carbine firing then-new 8x50R smokeless ammunition. The new Lebel M1886 rifle was too heavy and too cumbersome to load while on horseback, and French cavalrymen turned instead to a handy carbine, developed by Emile Berthier, an engineer for the Algerian Railway System. This weapon had its action broadly based on the Mle.1886 rifle, although its bolt head had lugs that locked vertically in receiver rather than horizontally. The new carbine also employed a modified Mannlicher-type en-block clip loading system, with symmetric clip that could be inserted into the rifle either way up. It was more convenient to load compared to original Mannlicher system, but it came at the cost of increased size of the clip (and magazine to hold it), which limited its capacity to three rounds. First Berthier weapons to be adopted were model 1890 Cavalry, Cuirassier and Gendarmerie carbines, with Artillery carbine following in 1892. After initial success with carbines, in 1902 Berthier system was lengthened into rifle, to be used by colonial troops in Indo-China. The Berthier rifle was more preferable for smaller-statute Asian troops than larger and heavier Lebel. In 1908, similar but slightly longer rifle was adopted as Model 1907 for use by Senegalese and other African colonial troops. Both M1902 and M1907 rifles were produced on a rather limited scale.

Things changed when WW1 broke out. Starting 1915, significant amount of the slightly modified M1907/15 rifles was manufactured in France and USA (by Remington) for French troops fighting in Europe. These rifles still have had 3-round magazines, which put French soldiers at disadvantage when fighting against Germans armed with 5-shot Mauser rifles. As a result of front-line experience, year of 1916 saw adoption of the M1916 Berthier rifles and carbines, which featured 5-round en-block clips and enlarged magazines with steel covers protruding from the bottom of the stock. After the war, French infantry usually carried a mix of Berthier and Lebel rifles, using the latter for grenade-launching and sniping roles. In 1934, small number of Berthier carbines was adapted for the new 7.5mm M1929 rimless ammunition, using Mauser-type magazines. Berthier rifles, like the Lebel, became formally obsolete in 1936, with the introduction of the 7.5mm MAS-36 rifle. The longest-living version of the Berthier was the M1916 carbine, which remained in use by French police forces until about 1960, if not longer.


Berthier rifles and carbines are manually operated, rotary bolt action weapons. It has multi-part bolt with bolt head that is attached to the body by the cross screw. Bolt is locked to the receiver with dual locking lugs, located at the front of the bolt head. Prior to 1915 modifications, all Berthier rifles and carbines had bolt handles bend down; M1907/15 and M1916 rifles had straight bolt handles. Feed is from integral box magazine, completely hidden inside the wooden stock. Magazine is loading using ‘en block’ clips with 3-round capacity that remain inside the magazine until last round is chambered. Once the magazine is empty, clip is free to fall out of the magazine through the large square opening in its base. Model 1916 rifles and carbines employed larger, 5-round clips and necessarily longer magazines, which projected below from the stock. The clip ejection opening at the base of the M1916 weapons had hinged steel cover to provide protection from mud and dirt, typical for the WW1 trench warfare. All Berthier rifles and carbines featured single piece wooden stock. On all models prior to M1916 upper portion of the barrel was unprotected, Model 1916 rifles and carbines had a short wooden handguard added in front of the receiver. No manual safety was provided on the weapon, as it was intended to be carried with empty chamber until commence of actual fighting. Cavalry and Cuirassier carbines had no provisions to mount a bayonet; Gendarmerie and Artillery carbines, as well as long rifles, had provisions to mount various bayonets.

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