MAS-49/56 rifle – view on the receiver. Bolt is retracted to the rear and is locked by the bolt stop; clearly seen are the diopter rear sight, the stripper clip guides machined in to the bolt carrier and the gas tube end (at the right, above the barrel breech opening).
image by Jean Plamondon
|Caliber||7.5×54 mm Mle.1929|
|Action||Gas operated, tilting bolt|
|Overall length||1100 mm||1020 mm|
|Barrel length||580 mm||525 mm|
|Weight with empty magazine||4.70 kg||4.10 kg|
|Magazine capacity||10 rounds in detachable box magazine|
The MAS-49 rifle, developed by the French state arms factory Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de St-Etienne (MAS), was a logical development of many earlier prototypes, based on the direct gas impingement system, developed by the French designer Rossignol early in the XX century. The same (or very similar) gas system was later used in Swedish Ljungman AG-42 rifle and in Eugene Stoner AR-15 / M16 rifles. France was a major player in the field of automatic rifles since the very beginning, but due to deep secrecy less is commonly known about French developments in this field. In any way, after the end of the 2nd World war the liberated France found itself in the need of rearming its infantry with semi-automatic rifle. Starting with Rossignol's gas system and some prototypes built during the 1920s and 1930s, MAS developed a semi-automatic rifle which was produced in very limited numbers in 1944 as MAS-44. It was later improved to accept new, detachable magazines and modified to be able to launch rifle grenades, and then became the MAS-49, or "Fusil Automatique MAS Modele 1949". MAS-1949 (as it was stamped on the receiver), seen heavy combat use in the French Indo-China and Algeria and proved itself accurate and reliable. In 1956, an improved pattern rifle was adopted by Armee de Terre (French Army) as a MAS-1949/56. The MAS-49/56 was lightened, had shorter barrel and forend, different grenade launcher sights and was able to be fitted with spike-shaped bayonet, while MAS-1949 could not be equipped with bayonet. MAS-49/56 served as a first-line weapon with French army until 1979, when it was replaced by the 5.56mm FAMAS assault rifle. The MAS-49 was exported in small numbers to Syria in 1950s, and still can be found in some ex-France territories around the world.
MAS-1949 is a gas operated, semi-automatic, magazine fed rifle. It uses a direct gas impingement system with no gas piston. Instead of the gas piston, the powder gases are fed from the barrel through the gas tube directly to the front face of the bolt carrier. The bolt carrier operates the tilting bolt, which is cammed down to lock into the slot in the receiver floor. The dual stack, box magazine is detachable and rifle can be reloaded with replacement magazines, but it also featured a stripper clips guides, machined into the front of the bolt carrier, so magazine could be reloaded by using two 5-round stripper clips without removal from the rifle. MAS-1949 has a bolt catch, which is engaged by the magazine follower as soon as the last round from magazine is fired. The gas system has a gas cutoff device, which is required to fire the rifle grenades from the muzzle. Special grenade sights are located at the left side of the rifle stock. Standard open sights had a hooded front sight on the front stock band and an aperture (diopter) rear sight on the receiver, which is adjustable for range from 200 to 1200 meters and for windage. All MAS-1949 rifles featured a side rail at the left side of the receiver that allows the telescopic sights to be mounted on every rifle. The safety switch in the form of the cross-bolt push-button is located at the right side of the rifle, at the front of the triggerguard. The large plastic charging handle is attached to the bolt carrier at the right side. Magazine catch built on the side of the detachable box magazine, instead of being mounted on the rifle itself, which is more usual practice. MAS-1949 has no provisions for bayonet mount, but has a stacking hook at the muzzle.
The MAS-1949/56 has shorter barrel and shorter handguards to save weight and made weapon more maneuverable. The grenade launching sights were moved to the barrel, and the gas cutoff switch is mounted at the front of the handguards above the barrel and cannot be engaged when grenade sight is lowered out of use. The barrel is equipped with combination muzzle brake / grenade launching device. Like the MAS-1949, all MAS-1949/56 rifles have the scope rails on the left side of the receiver, and thus could be used as a designated marksmen rifles at the distances up to 600 meters or so. The standard optical sight was APX L Modele 1953 telescope with 3.85X magnification.