Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I am here today at the Musée d’Armes in Liège, Belgium. Part of … they have a central museum complex in Liège that includes an arms museum. And the Arms Museum has a Belgian Model of 1927 Chauchat. And when I saw that they had this, I knew that I had to do some video on it because this is the most perfected version of the Chauchat light machine gun. The best version of the worst gun you might say. Now during World War One the Belgians … were the
second country to adopt the Chauchat after the French. Of course Belgium managed to manage to maintain
control of just a little tiny corner of the country. While most of Belgium remained under
German occupation throughout World War One, including all the big industrial areas that
would be capable of doing arms production. So the Belgians became a bit
dependent on the French for small arms. So in the spring of 1916, in April of 1916, they started working with the Chauchat light
machine gun, or automatic rifle, from the French. Experimenting with it, testing it, making
sure that they were satisfied with it. December of 1916 they formally adopted it. And in the spring of 1917
Belgian engineers started working with the engineers at Gladiator to convert this gun, to adapt it to the Belgian
7.65mm Mauser cartridge, which is a straight wall, … bottle necked but not a heavily
tapered cartridge, and a rimless cartridge. Which allowed them to make a much better
magazine for the Belgian version of the gun. So … between the spring of 1917 and the end of the war the
Belgians converted almost all of their Chauchats to 7.65. Of course this made for a better gun, frankly, and it also
meant that logistics were much easier with Belgian units. Their rifles and their automatic rifles, or light
machine guns, would use the same ammunition. At the end of the war they had
apparently 3,250 of these in service, plus at least a few additional ones in reserve. And that by the way, that’s not
this version, this is the 1927 pattern. What the Belgians used at the end of the
war was a standard French Chauchat simply refitted to use these magazines in 7.65 calibre. What they would do in the 1920s is start
working on some improvements to the gun. So this would remain the standard Belgian automatic
rifle, or light machine gun, during the interwar period. And they recognised that the Chauchat had some significant
flaws, it had obviously been developed very quickly during the war. And the French didn’t have
time to perfect it. They just needed a gun, now. Well, once the war is over the
Belgians are able to spend the time making the Chauchat a little more like what
it ideally would have been from the beginning. So they add about a zillion dust covers
and a couple other cool features. Let’s take a look at those. So the first thing that the Belgians did, and they did this
before they adopted the rest of the changes to this gun, is they re-chambered it for 7.65 Mauser,
which means they needed a new magazine. And they made a properly good magazine. The original French 8mm magazines
are made of very thin sheet metal. Aside from the viewing holes in them, which were
a problem, they were just very fragile magazines. And the American .30-06 guns
are really not much different. They’re corrugated to give them a little more
strength, but they’re still very thin and very flimsy. The Belgian magazine here is much better. I would say this is
on par with kind of any sort of normal traditional rifle magazine. You can see we’ve got a nice thick
overlaps. This was made in two parts put together and then folded. You can see the seam
there where this is folded over, it’s a good strong seam. They have actually reinforced the feed
area with a second layer here, riveted on. They have a good heavy-duty set of front magazine catches
and a nice lug in the back. This is a strong magazine. Now the resources I’ve found say that this holds 20. I don’t have ammunition available on hand to actually
load it up and test it out, but I suspect this is actually 15. I don’t think this is long enough to hold 20 rounds. The three viewing holes also to me
suggest 15 rounds, three stripper clips worth. Now the guns that the Belgians used
were initially purchased from the French, and then for the 1927 pattern they were
modified from French production guns. So the Belgians never manufactured a brand-new gun. One of the results of that is that they still have the
carry handle back here where the French one was. Because of course the French gun had a
magazine that came all the way through here, so you couldn’t put a handle in the front. The American guns were redesigned and built from the factory
in .30-06, and so they moved the handle up to the front. The Belgians couldn’t do that. They do, however, have a nice nose in, rock back
magazine locking system. It’s nice and stable, excellent. As part of this calibre conversion they
were also able to simplify the feed system, and they no longer have to have the track here
connected to a bar on the front of the charging handle. So the French Chauchats have a bar out here
that has a couple of cams in it to help operate the feed ramp in the gun. With the
Belgian cartridge that wasn’t necessary. They were able to make those
pieces just simple spring-loaded parts. Which … for one thing makes disassembly a lot easier. And it
also means you don’t have this extra part on the outside of the gun. The Belgians would then go and add dust covers to virtually
every open orifice. In fact, literally every open orifice on the gun. So we have one here on the bottom which has this rolled-up spring to hold it in place. And this
comes back and it locks in using the magazine catch. So that locks in right there. That’s going to seal up the
magazine opening on the bottom of the gun. We then have the ventilation holes in the
barrel shroud which run all the way around. So they added a rotating dust cover there to seal
those up, so that fixes that potential problem. They have a sliding dust cover
right here that comes back to cover the ejection port. Unfortunately, this one is stuck on something, and I’m not
sure exactly what’s catching it there. But I don’t want to break it. And this one is in
fantastic condition and I don’t want to mess that up. So you get the idea. This is just a sliding sheet metal
cover that’s going to come back and close up that opening. That leaves just the opening for the charging
handle, and so they put a sliding block on that. So now (if we had that moving), you now
have literally every hole in the gun covered up. There are no more witness holes, no
more major witness holes in the magazine. So this pretty well protects the Chauchat from its biggest two
vulnerabilities, weak magazines and mud getting into the gun. But the Belgians didn’t stop there. One of the potential issues with the Chauchat in the
original French design is that these takedown levers at the back and the front were just
held in place with kind of spring detents. The body of the lever itself acted is a little bit
of a sheet spring and there was a little dimple, and if you wanted to disassemble the
gun you just rotated the lever around. Well, those could potentially get bumped
while you were carrying the gun around, move into the disassembly position and cause
problems. So the Belgians added an extra set of detents, where this now … you have to pull the
button out and then you can rotate it. So once it snaps into position, like so,
you can’t just push it out of alignment. That makes the takedown more secure. They did the same thing to the front takedown pin, you
have to pull this out and then you can rotate it around. In another very important step
they replaced the bipod completely. The original Chauchat just had two very simple,
… not necessarily flimsy but very floppy, bipod legs. It was also a very tall bipod and it
had only very narrow diameter feet, so it was very easy for the
bipod to sink into the ground. What they’ve replaced this with here is a bipod
that’s very similar to what the French would have on the Châtellerault light machine guns, and what
the Belgians would use on their version of the BAR. So this locks in position here. It’s shorter, it
has much larger feet to stay up on the ground. And to stow it you pull this together. Once the bipod is pulled together it
can then rotate rearward, and originally there was a leather strap under this plaque, and
you would use the leather strap to tie the bipod up. Unfortunately the leather has come off of this one. While we are looking at this, I do want to point
out this is the Belgian serial number, 2340. “MAE” is Manufacture d’Armes de L’État … or State Arms Factory, which is the Belgian,
well, state arms factory that did this conversion work. The guns themselves retain French serial
numbers, so this is in the 105,000 – 106,000 range. Which is way higher than any actual Belgian production. Got a serial number back there
on the upper assembly as well. And the Belgians went through and added
serial numbers to a whole bunch of other parts. They put the last three digits on the rear sight, which of course has been recalibrated for 7.65 calibre.
Goes out to 1,200 yards [metres]. … They would just replace this rear sight leaf. We have a serial number added to
the dust cover up on the barrel jacket. You can only see the front half of it, but
they put a serial number on the bipod stud. Now there’s one more feature to point out, and
this is really exciting to me in a extremely nerdy way. There is this latch on the side of the gun. And it’s kind of a mystery latch
because it doesn’t do anything specific. The book that I have says that this was
done to make takedown quicker and simpler. But the takedown is actually exactly
the same as the standard French gun. You’ve got your two pins in front
to separate the upper and the lower. (By the way, if you’re interested
in the mechanics of the Chauchat, check out my other video on the standard French
pattern, because this is mechanically identical.) What this does is this tensions the connection
between the upper tube and the lower box. And one of the things that we discovered over the
course of Project Lightening with C&Rsenal is that the sear is in the lower assembly here, and the
sear catch on the bolt is in the upper assembly. And the two pins that hold them
together, especially this one at the back, these pins are going through sheet metal that
wasn’t hardened, because it didn’t need to be. And so over time, and given the heavy recoil impulse of
this gun, these holes could get ovalled out just a little bit, and that would allow the upper and the
lower to start coming apart just slightly. And if … the upper and lower didn’t
have a very nice tight precise fit the trigger would stop properly interacting
with the bolt, and the gun would stop firing. So if you watched Project Lightening you
saw that at one point we actually zip-tied the upper and lower of one of the guns, one of the
Chauchats, together which allowed it to keep running. The Belgians recognised that
problem and that is what this latch is for. This locks the upper onto the lower and guarantees that even if
the disassembly holes get worn the guns will continue to be held tightly together at the … point where the sear is interacting with
the … bolt and the guns will continue to run properly. So that is a really cool feature I think. And by the way, that is an example of something that is very
difficult to recognise, to understand the purpose of that, if you don’t actually have the opportunity
to get out and shoot some of these guns. As it was ultimately adopted in 1927
as the Fusil Mitrailleur Modèle 1915/27, this would be the standard Belgian light machine gun,
and it would remain in service until the mid-1930s when it was officially replaced by the first Belgian
versions of the FN BAR, the Browning Automatic Rifle. And the Belgians had a really good version of the BAR, however, it didn’t fully replace the Chauchats
by the time World War Two had started. It became the new official standard weapon,
but reserve units still had some of these guys when World War Two broke out in [1939]. And it wouldn’t be until after World War Two
that they were completely taken out of service. So what we have here really is a much
improved version of a wartime expedient firearm. I think it’s really cool what the Belgians went through
and did. They did in fact successfully address most of the real problems, all the ones that could be
addressed without fundamentally changing the gun. So a big thank you to the Arms Museum in Liège for giving
me the opportunity to bring this one out and show it to you guys. At the time of this filming they are
building their military display hall, by the time you see this hopefully
it will be up and open to the public. The Arms Museum here is really quite
fantastic, they have a lot of guns on display. … Everything from swords and arms and armour
through an entire hall of sporting and civilian arms, which include an awful lot of very unusual cool, weird
stuff. And then a tremendous hall of military firearms. So if you’re ever in the city don’t hesitate to stop and
check out the museum. It is part of the Grand Curtius museum complex (so kind of like the Cody
Arms Museum). There are other museums here on architecture and art and various other
things that are associated with Liège, for the folks who you might be travelling with
who might not be interested in the gun museum. Anyway, a fun destination, great museum to
check out. Hopefully you guys enjoyed the video. Thanks for watching.