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" Cleaned Up" Berthiers

Les Fusils Militaires Français, Chassepot, Gras, Lebel, Berthier et MAS 36
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butcharoot
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" Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#1 Post by butcharoot » Wed Dec 13, 2017 6:52 am

It seems like rifles that were at one time considered less collectable are being "cleaned up" with stock sanding and touched up bluing with an increased price tag by local gun show dealers and private individuals. It could also be that a lot of sporterized versions are coming out of the woodwork. I have gotten into Berthier rifles lately and learned a lesson about the "clean up' process. Especially mail order guns, as pictures just don't show enough of the details to spot it. Enough ranting, Butch

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#2 Post by retread12345678 » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:22 pm

NO EXPERT. This is what all the old time dealers like Bannerman. and Stokes Kirk. used to do, and those pieces are still floating around ! There are anonymous individuals
always looking to catch a fish.

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#3 Post by CGSteve » Sat Dec 01, 2018 12:55 am

I recently received my first Berthier Mle 16 carbine and believe it is one of these cleaned up ones. I only paid $300 (not counting shipping, etc.) for it though. The wood looks to have been refinished as it has a nice sheen on it. The finish on the metal is a very clean dark paint. I'm just starting to do research on it and read that locomotive paint was used on later guns as a finish, so that may be original. The script is from the Tulle arsenal.

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#4 Post by SWIHARTMARK » Sun Dec 02, 2018 1:13 pm

I tried to hot blue a missing barrel band on one and found the metal was so crude that it would not take bluing and had to be painted instead, which was standard practice for the French. Mine was missing its hand guard and I used an old barrel band from Numrich that didn't need a hand guard from an older model, another standard French practice. When things get damaged, you just do what you can to put it back in the field.

If your rifle is well worn, why not spruce it back up? If you disclose that when you sell it, what's the harm? This is beginning to sound strangely like the gunboard forums. I think the French spruced up loads of MAS-36 rifles for export with new barrels, new parkerizing and new stocks. What exactly is the difference? Now, reselling it as mint isn't exactly kosher though.

I do believe Bannerman conversions of old Krags aren't exactly poorly done, unlike what I've read about MAS-36's converted to 308. Bannerman also imported tons of old 1884 Mauser's, so what's the point? Without those old guys, those guns would have gone to the scrapper in Europe. I've had to strip off non-original arsenal finishes off many rifles and either applied good old boiled linseed oil when the grain took to it well, or went with my own stain when it didn't. Stripping old post war Russian shellac off an 91/30 or 98K isn't exactly a war crime. I've actually gotten compliments on my 91/30 with a BLO and Try-Oil finish as perhaps looking more like its original wartime finish than its deep storage shellac which was coming off anyways.

If you insist on owning purely mint military surplus rifles, be prepared to pay through the nose for one. If you want a great experience in turning an old worn war horse back to shape, I'd skip the retail collecting club. The old days of being able to pick and choose through mounds of cheap milsurps has come and gone and won't come back.

Best Regards,

Mark

BTW, I know of a guy who spliced a duffel bag cut on a Bertheir at the rifle band so it wouldn't show and sold it for over $500. That, I take exception to.

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#5 Post by 72 usmc » Sun Dec 02, 2018 4:53 pm

The emergency of the First World War and the long production history of the Berthier rifle has resulted in a chaotic situation for the modern Berthier owner. Armorers in the Great War would receive damaged weapons, pull parts from different weapons, and send the new weapon out to the front as soon as possible. The result has been that few Berthiers have matching numbers or even parts made in the same century. The author has seen a carbine receiver made in 1893 combined with a rifle bolt from 1917, a magazine and trigger mechanism made for a rifle in 1916, and a barrel made in 1928, combined with a stock and hardware from a weapon produced in the 1920s.

Berthier rifles entered the United States in three significant batches. First, United States soldiers returned from World War One with Berthier rifles they had been issued, and from World War Two with captured weapons liberated from German soldiers in France. These rifles where usually stolen as French weapons captured by the allies or issued to US soldiers in the Great War were suppose to be returned to French armories, and thus will not have clear paper describing their origins. A second source of French rifles was the 1950s when long arms of various models were declared surplus and sold off to arms houses in the United States. These weapons could be bought for $5 mail order or in rifle bins, and were often sporterized in a rough manner. A final batch of weapons entered the United States in the 1990s when French arsenals cleaned shop of the nearly 500,000 long guns they had in storage. Weapons from these final two eras are typically roller marked by their importer, in keeping with U.S. import laws.

French Berthier rifles and carbines in the United States should all be tested by a competent gunsmith. Only rifles marked with an "N" mark on both the receiver and the barrel should be fired with modern ammunition. Many captured WW1 weapons will never have been updated - a process that occurred in the 1930s to allow 8mm ammunition designed for machine guns to be used in ordinary rifles.
Source of Quote and some great info see: http://www.virdea.net/french/berthier.html

Also see https://forums.gunboards.com/showthread ... formation-
If you are into French Berthiers, both are necessary readings. So good, they should be printed out as part of your reference material.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ih0ISG98uTk

https://www.guns.com/news/review/gun-re ... -8mm-lebel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrKN31COHxY

https://www.milsurps.com/content.php?r= ... hier-Rifle
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#6 Post by SWIHARTMARK » Sun Dec 02, 2018 6:36 pm

I cannot say I want to stockpile any Bertheirs right now. I'm happy with just one carbine that fires well. The "N" mark is likely a must have for a French rifle firing 8mm Lebel rifle ammo. I call my carbine the French made M-44.

Best Regards,

Mark

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#7 Post by kelt » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:51 pm

The emergency of the First World War and the long production history of the Berthier rifle has resulted in a chaotic situation for the modern Berthier owner. Armorers in the Great War would receive damaged weapons, pull parts from different weapons, and send the new weapon out to the front as soon as possible. The result has been that few Berthiers have matching numbers or even parts made in the same century.
During WWI, the damaged rifles were returned to military facilities for repairs/refurbishing, the instructions for inspection/acceptance of repaired rifles were as stringent as for new products, the re-used parts had their non matching SN either erased or crossed out and restamped to the new SN before the rifles were accepted and entered in the books.

The rifles made with mismatched parts are not of military French origin, it's a seller story!



The author has seen a carbine receiver made in 1893 combined with a rifle bolt from 1917, a magazine and trigger mechanism made for a rifle in 1916, and a barrel made in 1928, combined with a stock and hardware from a weapon produced in the 1920s.
A barrel dated 1928 is a clear indication of a rifle made out of parts by unknown individuals. During the inter wars period, the French military facilities worked leisurly without any pressure to "cut corners"




Only rifles marked with an "N" mark on both the receiver and the barrel should be fired with modern ammunition. Many captured WW1 weapons will never have been updated - a process that occurred in the 1930s to allow 8mm ammunition designed for machine guns to be used in ordinary rifles.
Wrong recommendation! anyone reloading and caring for his fired brass will favour a non "N modified rifle" whose chamber will not mistreat the cases as badly as the "N chambered " one.

The modern ammunition available today in the USA are perfectly safe to be fired in a safe rifle N marked or not.

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#8 Post by 72 usmc » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:27 pm

The modern ammunition available today in the USA are perfectly safe to be fired in a safe rifle N marked or not.
I assume Prvi or PCI, Precision Cartridge Company still make it, sometimes you can find 1950s Remington 8mm Lebel ammunition. All 3 are OK?

Thank You for these clarifications. It seems there are many errors in that write up.
I assume some of this is also incorrect?
This rifle is marked with the Balle N, meaning that it was tested and updated to use the most modern version of the 8x50R Lebel. These rifles, if otherwise properly head-spaced and sound, can fire modern production 8mm Lebel ammunition if they are in good condition.

Balls N The lack of markings on the barrel and receiver of a Berthier, except for the Mle 34 (chambered for 7.5x54mm) and the Turkish Forestry Carbine (whose barrel shroud and new manufacture 1948 barrel covered up the older markings) indicates a rifle that was never converted for the Balle N. It is extremely dangerous to fire these weapons using modern ammunition, and even low power reloaded ammunition should be attempted only after a complete checkout by a competent gunsmith.

Historic weapons without the Balle N markings can still be valuable historical weapons. Since most Berthiers have had many lives and been rebuilt for use in two or even three conflicts the historic value of a weapon that remains in its original Great War configuration is considerable, even if it is no longer able to be shot.
Kelt, :idea: :idea: :idea: :idea: Too bad you can not do a paragraph by paragraph annotation on this article for other readers, there is very little on French weapons on line in English ( how would you rate its information) is it that inaccurate? : http://www.virdea.net/french/berthier.html
Please, Would it be possible to re list the article as a quote with your additions/corrections in green or orange so it would be an good edited source of information?

Do you know of any books in English written about French rifles that you can recommend ?

Kelt, Please could you add any of your thoughts, facts, comments about this post :pray: :pray: :pray: :
http://www.surplusrifleforum.com/viewto ... =12&t=2857
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#9 Post by 72 usmc » Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:35 am

Actually the few Berthiers I see maybe 2-3 a year are generally matching, some may have miss matched bolts. The stocks generally have the neat wood patch repairs and the stock number and cartouches are worn but present. I have not encountered such a mixed parts rifle, I have seen too many where someone refinished the stock. I will post last months find when I get time. On some 1907/15-M16 5 shots, the door spring is broken or the tiny follower arm platform spring at the bottom is missing. Both are hard to find. Generally those door springs and door covers have to be hand fit. French rifles in WI are a hard find. One never see parts. Due to ammo costs, most avoid the French rifles as shooters. They are still a deal price wise when you find them. But it is slim pickings.
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#10 Post by kelt » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:21 pm

I had some interactions in the past with the "expert" you mentioned and it turned nasty, what you suggest would amount to a lot of work and would require the agreement of the original writer.

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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#11 Post by 72 usmc » Tue Dec 04, 2018 4:37 pm

Sorry I did not realize that. Best to leave things as they stand. What did you think of my Berthier 1907/15-m34 ? You can correct me all you want, :dance: :dance: :dance: I would welcome any information or input you can provide on how the bolt functions and the bolt head.
Please see http://www.surplusrifleforum.com/viewto ... =12&t=2857
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#12 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:42 pm

Here are some close up views of what is an arsenal rebuilt, common Chatellerault (MAC), 5 shot, Berthier 1907/15 that is in a thin black paint, all matching, with an arsenal repaired stock with the nice small wood patches found on French rifles. This was a find at a local show and I paid too much $300, but that was due to its mint bore, nice stock, perfect metal finish, and with an original sling. NO stinking IMPORT mark. It is not N marked on the receiver. I just had to have it. It is not an example of a "messed with" rifle. I would like to see pictures of such an example.

This is a like new, arsenal repaired Berthier lacking import marks. Serial numbers are matching and found at these locations on a long rifle. The bolt and bolt head, the left side of the barrel under the hand guard wood, or as on this example it can be viewed through a small window cut into the hand guard, on left side of stock's butt, and the bottom of the trigger guard strap. Most of the small parts are marked with a stamped "P" as seen on the bands, receiver, and the trigger guard rear tang -near the screw. The butt plate is stamped "UN". The upper sight is marked with what looks like a tiny "X", not a "P". The stock is an arsenal replacement with a wood patch showing the matching serial number. The old number must have been removed during its rebuild. Note the scratches on the butt stock's surface do not continue over the wood patched area. The stock looks a we bit duller than the pictures show. Metal color is right on. The barrel is almost new, yet matches. Here are close up views of what I believe is an almost new arsenal repaired Berthier:
IMG_1702 (1).jpg
IMG_1711.jpg
IMG_1708.jpg
IMG_1713.jpg
IMG_1712.jpg
Last edited by 72 usmc on Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:16 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#13 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:43 pm

More views of the same rifle:
IMG_1703 (1).jpg
IMG_1704.jpg
IMG_1705.jpg
IMG_1706.jpg
IMG_1707.jpg
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#14 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Dec 06, 2018 12:46 pm

More views of the wood and metal finish on this Arsenal repaired/Rebuilt rifle:
IMG_1714.jpg
IMG_1715.jpg
IMG_1717.jpg
IMG_1718.jpg
IMG_1719.jpg
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Re: " Cleaned Up" Berthiers

#15 Post by 72 usmc » Thu Dec 06, 2018 1:06 pm

Here are some of the parts with a blue not black thin paint. You can see the blue tone and the UN stamp.
IMG_1721.jpg
IMG_1722.jpg
IMG_1723.jpg
This last picture is of thin black paint and the P stamp that chipped the paint. Sort of a contrast to the few blued parts.
IMG_1724.jpg
Now the French experts can tell us what this is? What are the P stamps for? How original is this arsenal rebuild? Why is such a nice rifle missing the N stamp? Just what do I have, average or some neat piece?
the picture colors and tones are real; the black is not that black and the blue is a more gray blue. The rifle exhibits little use. No scratches to the repaired stock or to the paint on the metal. The most wear is to the end of the butt plate, like it's original to the stock and was not redone after the stock was repaired and reused with a force matched wood patch serial number to match the rifle when it left the factory.
To old to fight and to old to run, a Jar head will just shoot and be done with you.

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