France’s effort after World War I to develop an effective light machine-gun led to a weapon whose action was based on that od the BAR but altered to suit the new French 7.5-mm cartridge. The first model was the Fusil Mitrailleur model 1924. The design was modern and used an overhead 25- 26- round boy magazine. Separate triggers provided single shot or automatic fire.

Teething problems

Neither the gun nor the cartridge was fully developed before introduction to service, resulting in barrel explosions. The solution was found in reducing the power of the cartridge and beefing up some of the weapon’s parts to create the Fusil Mitrailleur model 1924/29.

A special variants of the model 1924/29 was produced, initially for use in the Maginot Line defences but then also dog tanks and other AFVs, as the Mitrailleuse model 1931. The model 1931 had a peculiarly shaped butt and a prominent side-mounted 150-round drum magazine. The internal arrangements were the same as those of the model 1924/29, even if the overall length and barrel length were increased. In static defences, the increased weight was no handicap and the model 1931 was produced in large numbers.

German service

France’s defeat in June 1940 yielded large numbers of model 1924/29 and model 1931 weapons that the Germans used as the leicht MG 116 (f) and Kpfw MG 331(f) respectively. Only a relatively few remained in French hands in the Middle East and North Africa. After 1945, te modele 1924/29 was returned to production and remained in service for many years.

The German booty of 1940 meant that many model 1924/29s and model 1931 machine-gun were later incorporated into the defences od the Atlantic Wall, and the model 1931 was especially favoured by the Germans as an anti-aircraft weapon. But for all this widespread use the model 1924/29 and model 1931 were never entirely trouble-free,and their cartridge was generally underpowered and lacking in range: maximum useful range was only 500 to 550 m instead of the 600 m or more of many contemporary designs.

Technical specification of Fusil Mitrailleur model 1924/29

Fusil Mitrailleur model 1924/29
Calibre: 7.5 mm (0.295-in)
Weight: 8.93 kg (19.7 lb)
Length overall: 1007 mm (39.6 in)
Length of barrel: 500 mm (19.69 in)
Feed: 25-round box
Muzzle velocity: 820 m per second
Rate of fire, cyclic: 450-500 rpm

Technical specification of Fusil Mitrailleuse model 1931

Mitrailleuse model 1931
Caliber: 7.5 mm (0.295-in)
Weight: 11.8 kg (25 lb)
Length overall: 1030 mm (40.55 in)
Length of barrel: 600 mm (23.6 in)
Feed: 150-round box
Muzzle velocity: 850 m per second
Rate of fire, cyclic: 750 rpm


John Moses Browning started design work on a machine-gun as early as 1889, at a time when the American forces were still using the hand-operated Gatling gun and Maxim had already patented his recoil-operated machine gun.

Browning was thus directed towards a gas-operated mechanism, which he gradually refined to the point at which the Colt company built some prototypes, one of the which was demonstrated to the US Navy decided to purchase a batch chambered for the Krag-Jorgensen 0.3-in cartridge, but later this was altered to the -30-06 cartridge that was to remain in use for two world wars.

‘Potato digger’

The Colt-Browning Model 1895 was a gas operated weapon that used gases tapped off from the barrel to push down a piston. This in turn pushed down a long lever that swung bellow the gun body to operate the gun mechanism. It was this lever that gave the weapon the nickname of ‘potato digger’ for if the gun was mounted close to the ground, a small pit had to be dug into which the lever could move, otherwise it would hit the ground and cause stoppages. This drawback was partially offset by the fact that, being based on a mechanical operation, the movements were very definite and precise, and so able to provide a smooth and trouble-free action. Ammunition was fed into the weapon in 300-round belts.

Action in 1898

The Colt-Browning Model 1895 first went into action with the US Marine Corps during the Cuban campaign of 1898. The US Army took over a few, and some sales were made to Belgium and Russia. By the time World War I started the Model 1895 was already obsolete, but since as the US Army was largely starved of funds for more modern weapons the Model 1895s were all that were available and were retained for training. Some did make the journey to France in 1917 and 1918, but few were used in action, the Americans instead taking over numbers of French and British machine-gun.

The Model 1895 did remain in production for a while World War I: production was switched to the Marling-Rockwell Corporation, which modified the weapon by designing out the lever action and replacing it by a more orthodox gas piston system. The result was known as the Marlin Gun. It resembled the Model 1895 but was much lighter and was a better weapon overall. Many were produced for the US Army’s air elements as aircraft weapons, and the weapon also became the standard for tanks produced in America.In the event the war ended before many of the Marlin guns could reach the front in sizeable numbers, and the bulk of the production run was stockpiled, only to be sold to the United Kindom for home defence in 1940.

The Belgian and Tsarist Russian armies used the Model 1895 machine-gun throughout World War I, some of the Russian weapons being prominent during the political upheavals of 1917. A few of the Russian Model 1895 were still in service as late as 1941.

Technical specifications of Colt-Browning Model 1895

Colt-Browning Model 1895,
Caliber: 7.62-mm (0.3-in)
Weight: gun 16.78 kg (37 lb)
Length overall: 1200 mm (47.25 in)
Length of barrel: 721 mm (28.4 in)
Feed: 300-round belt
Muzzle velocity: 838 m (2.750 ft) per second
Rate of fire, cyclic: 450-500 rpm


The UK was among the first to adopt the Maxim gun following demonstrations held in the country as early as 1887. A production line for various models was set up at Crayford in Kent by a company that came to be known as Vickers’ Sons & Maxim Ltd, and from this factory Maxim guns went to the British armed forces and to those of many other countries. The Vickers engineers realised the virtues of the Maxim gun but considered that some weight savings could be made by a redesign, and by careful stress studies much of the mechanism was gradually lightened and the basic action inverted so that the toggle lock invented by Maxim could be made lighter.

Slow acceptance

The result came to be known as the Vickers Gun. In relative terms, it was not all that much lighter than a comparable Maxim machinegun, but the operating principles were much refined, making the weapon more efficient. It was approved for British army service in November 1912 as the Gun, Machine, Vickers, 0.303-in, Mk1, and all production initially went to the British army, by which the machine-gun was still regarded with such suspicion that the rate of issue was only two such weapons per infantry battalion.

Once World War, I started that allotment changed drastically. New production centres were soon opened, some of them in Royal Ordnance Factories, but the basic design was unchanged throughout its long production life even though there were detail changes.

Special drills

Like most machine-gun of its period, the Vickers was subject to jams, most of them induced by the ammunition, and a series od of drills was devised to clear the weapon rapidly. These drills took a bit of learning, and in time a new Machine Gun Corps was formed withing the British army so that experience and skills could be confined within a relatively small body and not spread throughout all the regiments of the expanding arms. The Machine Gun Corps developed its own esprit de corps, and its cap badge was two crossed Vickers machine-gun.

Total reliability

In action, a Vickers could be kept firing for as long as ammunition could be fed into it. The water in the cooling jacket also had to be topped up, and after early experiences where steam from the jacket gave away the gun’s position, a special condenser system (using a hose fed into a water can) was introduced to conceal the steam. After a while, the water could be replaced in the jacket.

The Vickers machine-gun was usually mounted on a heavy tripod. Variations on the basic gun included air-cooled versions for use on aircraft, usually on fixed installations only. Many more variations were produced between the two world wars, and the Vickers is still in service with some armed forces to this day; it did not pass from British service until the 1970s.

The Vickers machine-gun was, in the opinion of many authorities, one of the best of all the World War I machine-guns, and would still be a very useful weapon today.

Technical specifications of Vickers gun

Vickers Gun
Calibre: 7.7-mm (0.303 in)
Weight: Gun 18.14 kg (40 lb); tripod 22 kg (48.5 lb)
Length overall: 1156 mm (45.5 in)
Length of barrel: 721 mm (28.4 in)
Feed: 250-round fabric belt
Muzzle velocity: 744 m (2.440 ft) per second
Rate of fire, cyclic: 450-500 rpm



The Lewis machine gun, generally called just the Lewis gun, was an international weapon, for though its origins were American, it was first produced and manufactured in Europe. Its inventor was an American, one Samuel Maclean, but the basic concept was developed further and ‘sold’ by Colonel Isaac Lewis, another American. The US military authorities were unenthusiastic about the new fun, so Lewis took the design to Belgium, where it was put into production for the Belgian army. That was in 1913, and in the following year production was switched to the UK BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) taking over the programme.

The British takeover

The Lewis Gun was put into production at BSA as the Lewis Gun Mk! For the British army for the simple reason that five or six Lewis Guns could be produced in the time, it took to produce a single Vickers machine-gun. The fact that the Lewis was light and portable was secondary at that time, but once in service the Lewis proved to be a very popular front-line weapon with a host of mobile tactical users. The Lewis Gun was one of the first of the true light machine-guns, and with its distinctive overhead drum magazine it was soon a common sight on the British-manned sector of the Western Front.

Gas operation

The Lewis Gun was a gas-operated weapon, gas being tapped from the barrel on firing to push a piston to the rear, the piston pushed back the breech block and mechanism and compressed the coil spring under the gun that then return everything to the start position. The mechanism was rather complex and took careful maintenance, but even then was still prone to jams and stoppages, some of them introduced by the overhead drum magazine, which was a constant cause of trouble, especially when only slightly damaged. The barrel was enclosed in a special air cooling jacket that was supposed to use forced draught system of cooling, but experience showed that the jacket’s efficiency had been over-rated and the gun worked quite well without it. Aircraft-mounted Lewis Guns had no jacket.

Return to the USA

Only after large numbers of Lewis Guns had been produced in Europe then USA finally realise the weapon’s potential and order it into production for the US Army chambered in the American 0.3-in (7.62-mm) calibre.

Some Lewis Guns were used on the early tenks and more were used by naval vessels. A similar role cropped up again in World War II when stockpiled Lewis Guns were distributed for the defence of merchant shipping and for Home Defence in the hands of the Home Guard and Royal Air Force airfield defence units.

Technical specifications of Lewis Light Machine Gun

Lewis Gun Mk 1
Calibre: 7.7-mm (0.303 in)
Weight: 12,25 kg (27 lb)
Length overall: 1250 mm (49.2 in)
Length of barrel: 661 mm (26 in)
Feed: 47 or 97- round overhead drum magazine
Muzzle velocity: 744 m (2.441 ft) per second
Rate of fire, cyclic: 450-500 rpm



The Hotchkiss was a commercial design and the French military authorities wanted to have their own design of machine-gun to match. Unfortunately, their efforts were not a success and indeed were not helped by the fact that the gas-operated mechanism devised by Hotchkiss was protected by a long list of patents that were almost impossible to circumvent.

Pig-headed design

Not deterred, the French attempted to produce a model known as the Model 1905 or Puteaux. It was so unsuccessful that it was withdrawn from use within two years, the basic design being used for another attempt that was known as the Mitrailleuse Model 1907 or Saint Etienne, after the arsenal at which it was manufactured.

The designers decided to use a gas mechanism based on that od the Hotchkiss, but with the process reversed. Instead  of tapped gases pushing back a piston, the Saint Etienne used a system in which the gases were tapped forward, where the piston compressed a spring. The compressed spring was then released to power the rest of the operation. This system worked, but only at the cost of complication and of the sum of more pieces that could break or go wrong. Thus in practice the whole idea was simply not worth the trouble involved. The Model 1907 had an inherent source of ammunition and other games, and the return spring that was supposed to do all the work got so hot that it either lost its tempering and ceased to operate or else simply broke. In the end, the designers could do nothing more than leaving the spring exposed to the elements, which aided cooling but also allowed dust and dirt to enter the workings and so produce more jams.

Forced service

Despite all these inherent troubles, the Model 1907 guns were used during World War I for the simple reason that the French army because so desperate for weapons that it used anything it could obtain. The tribulations of the Model 1907 simply had to be born, and as late as 1916 attempts were made to eradicate some of the more obvious faults. None of the modifications was of any use, and gradually the Model 1907s were phased out in favour of the far more reliable Hotchkiss guns. The Model 1907s were shunted off to the French colonies, where they were used to arm local levies and police units. Others were issued to fortress units.

All in all, the Saint Etienne was not a success; indeed, it even carried over the failings from other models. The Model 1905 Peuteaux had already indicated the impracticality of some of the Model 1907’s features, and the troublesome ammunition feed strip method of the Hotchkiss guns was adopted even when, it was known that it should have been phased out in favour of a better method. The result was that in the dreadful conditions of the Western Front trenches the Saint Etienne often failed.

Technical specification of Mitrailleuse St Etienne model 1907

Mitrailleuse St Etienne model 1907
Calibre: 8-MM (0.315 –IN)
Weight: 25,4 kg (56 lb)
Length overall: 1160 mm (16,16 in)
Length of barrel: 710 mm (28 in)
Feed: 24- or 30 – round metal strip
Muzzle velocity: 700 m (2,297 ft) per second
Rate of fire: 400-600 rpm


The Belgian Fusil FN-Mauser model 1889 was something of an international weapon, for although it was designed in Belgium its action was a direct copy of the Mauser bolt action. It was accepted as the standard Belgian service rifle in 1889 and although some of the rifles came from the Belgian state arsenal, most were produced by an entirely new concern established specifically to manufacture the Model 1889. The Fabrique Nationale, now more commonly know as FN, is one of the largest arms manufacturing establishments in the world.

Matched rifle/carbine

As was than usual, the model 1889 was accompanied in production by a carbine variant, the Carbine FN-Mauser Model 1889, some of which were intended to be used in conjunction with a sword-like bayonet known as a ‘Yatagan’, most of these were issued to fortress troops and others to Gendarmerie units. In its rifle from the model 1889 was a very well-made weapon with some unusual features. One was that over its entire length the barrel was encased in a metal tube. This was intended to ensure that the barrel would not come into contact with any of the woodwork, which was prone ti warping and could thus impair accuracy. While this feature had some advantages, such as the ability to mount the sights on the tube and not on the barrel, it was rather an expensive manufacture and under some conditions rust could accumulate between the barrel and the tube. But this was a long-term condition and during World War II caused few problems.

Long service

When it entered service, the Model 1889 was set for a long life, for it remained in use until 1940, and even after that date the type was taken in German garrison use. Some examples were manufactured for export to Abyssinia and a few nations in South America, but, generally speaking, Model 1889 was manufactured for the Belgian army. When the Germans overran much of Belgium in 1914 the requirements of the remaining Belgian forces were met by switching production to Hopkins&Allen in the USA. For much of the war the small Belgian army was stationed on the far left of the Allied trench lines along the River Lys, when conditions were not suitable for large-scale troop movements, and accordingly the Belgian positions remained static for much of World War II.

Distinctive magazine

The Model 1889 may be distinguished from other Mauser weapons by the magazine, which had a distinctive bulge on its forward edge. This bulge accommodated the hinge of the magazine platform that fed the rounds upwards into the bolt mechanism under the control of a leaf spring. The box magazine held fine rounds fed into the box from charger clip, and unlike the practice in later Mauser magazines, the rounds were held in a vertical stack. Another recognition point was a barrel jacket, which extended to some way behind the muzzle. The usually used cleaning rod was present and a long bayonet could be fitted.


Heavy mortars are weapons with a calibre greater than 102-mm (4-in) and firing a bomb heavier than 7 kg (15.4 lb) to a range of more than 6000 m (6,560 yards). Such weapons hit hard at long battlefield ranges and yet are comparatively mobile in the tactical sense. In Austria, the SMI organization produces a large assortment or mortars in all sizes, and the largest of these is the 120-mm (4.72-in= M12 designed for the Austrian army but also offered for export. Like many other weapons of this calibre, the design is based on that of the Soviet 120-HM 38, but much use is made of special metals both to lighten the weight and to enable larger charges to be fired for increased range. The M12 is relatively easy to use in action as a result of a special bipod design with recoil absorbers. Once again a special bomb is produced: this the HE-78, which weighs 14.5 kg (31.97 lb) including 2.2 kg (4.85 lb) of explosive ray log and can be fired to a range of 8500 m (9,295 yards)

French lead

In France, the Brandt company produces conventional light and medium mortars in 60- and 81,4- mm calibre, but as an organisation it is  best known for its 120-mm heavy mortars. It is in this calibre that the mortar can become a highly versatile adjunct to conventional artillery, and many armies use 120-mm mortars in place of artillery- The smooth-bore models in this range are conventional mortars that can be used in exactly the same way as smaller calibre models, but the rifled mortars are much more complex and in many ways resemble conventional high-angle guns. The rifled weapons fire pre-rifled projectiles whose range can be enhanced by the use of an auxiliary rocket until that cuts in only when the bomb is at the top of its trajectory. A typical range with this rocket assistance is 13000 m (14,215 yards) for an HE bomb weighing 18.7 kg (41.23 lb). Despite their size and weight, the Brandr rifled mortars can thus have a very useful performance and key weapons on the series include the Mortier MO-120-60 light mortar, Mortier MO-120-M65 strengthened mortar, Mortier MO-120-AM50 heavy mortar, Mortier MO-120-LT mortar and Mortier MO-120-RT-61 rifled mortar. The American 106.7-mm (4.2-in) mortars have been around for a long time as they were first developed to fire smoke bomb before World War II. Since then they have been the subject of many improvement programmes and general updating of weapon and ammunition to the point where the present-day  version is no longer known as a 4.2-in mortar (except to the soldiers who use them), but instead as the 107-mm Mortar M30. This is the fired mortar that fires a spin stabilised projectile. In it present form the M30 uses not the original rectangular baseplate but rather a heavy circular unit with the barrel supported on a single column. The barrel can rotate on the base plate and it is fitted with a recoil system to  absorb what can be quite considerable firing forces. All this adds up to a considerable degree so that the complete weapon weighs no less than 305 kg (672 lb). This is quite a lot to get in and out of action in a hurry, o the size of the mortar crew and its carrying vehicle are correspondingly large. Many M30s are in fact not ground-mounted at all but are carried on special mounting inside M113 APCs to fire through roof hatches.

Capable bomb

The ammunition used on the M30 more closely resembles an artillery round than a mortar bomb. It is of the type known as semi-fixed, for components of the charge can be added or removed as required. The range of projectile type has gradually been increased over he years and there are now no less than three HE, two smoke, on illuminating and two chemical rounds. In Israel, Soltam produces  a full range of mortars but it I with its heavy mortars that the company has made its name. Soltam produces two 120-mm models and one of a massive 160-mm (6.3-in)calibre. All these are large enough to warrant their own wheeled traveling carriages, although of the 120-mm mortars one is described as the Light Mortar and the other as the M-65 Standard Mortar. The light model is designed for infantry use, is carried into action on its wheeled carriage and can be towed by manpower alone. The standard model is much more substantial and is towed into action. In range terms, there is little to choose between this two Ultram 120-mm models, although the standard model has a slight edge. They both are the same bombs and both can be mounted in APCs if required. The Soltam 120-mm bomb weighs 12.9 kg(28.44 lb), of which 2.3 k (5.07 lb) is the HE payload.

Super-heavy mortar

With the Ultram 160-mm M-66 weapon, mortars cross the line from infantry support to artillery. Each M-66 has a crew of six to eight men, and as the barrel is too long for the muzzle-loading system has to be used. The M-66 fires a 40 kg (88.18 lb) bomb to a range of 9300 m (10,170 yards), and the 1700-kg (3,748-lb) overall weight of the M-66 means that the type is often carried by a converted tank. The Soviet army and its successors have made extensive use of heavy mortars, including the 107-mm 107-PBHM 38, 120-m 120-HM 38 and 120-mm Model 43, and 160-mm Model 1943 dating from before or during World War II. The large 160-mm weapon is used by divisional support batteries instead of conventional artillery. It is a breech-loaded weapon of great length and weight, and the latest model is known as the M-160. The 240-mm (9,45-in) M-240 is a genuinely formidable weapon that was first revealed in public 1953. In travelling configuration, the M-240 is 6.51 m (21 ft 4 in) long and is towed on a two-wheeled carriage. The m-240 is in many respects similar to the 160-mm M-160. Thu the M-240 is a breech loaded weapon, the barrel being hinged around its support point so that the muzzle can be lowered and thereby reveal the breach into which the bomb and its propellant charges are inserted before the muzzle is raised and the breech closed before bein locked. The M-240 is a massive item of equipment with a barrel that is 5.34 m (210.24 in) long, and in firing position the M-240 turn the scales at 3610 kg (7,959 lb). Such size and mass are reflected in the M-240 capabilities, which including the firing of a 100-kg (220.46-lb= HE bomb out to a maximum range of 9700 m(10,610 yards after leaving the muzzle at a velocity of 362 m per second). This behemoth battlefield weapon is operated by a crew of nine men, and its maximum rate of fire is one round per minute. Other countries that have produced heavy mortar include Finland, whose Tampella company created the 120-mm M-40 and 160-mm M-58; Spain, whose ECIA organisation developed the 105-mm (4.13-in) Model L, 120-mm Model L and Model SL; Swedeen, in which Bofors made the 120-mm M/41C; and Switzerland, where the Waffen Fabrik manufactured the 120-mm Model 64 and Model 74.

Technical specifications of some heavy mortars

Calibre 120-mm (4.72-in)
Lengths Barrel 2.015 m (79.33 in)
Weights mortar 305 kg (672,4 lb); HE bomb 14.5 kg (31.97 lb)
Maximum range 8500 m (9,285 yards)


  Brandt Mortier MO-120-RT-61 
Calibre 120-mm (4.72-in)
Lengths Barrel 2.08 m (81.9 in)
Weights mortar 582 kg (1,283 lb); HE bomb 18.7 kg (41,23 lb)
Maximum range 13000  m (14,215yards) with rocket-assisted bomb


  Mortar M30 
Calibre 107.7-mm (4.2-in)
Lengths Barrel 1.524 m (60 in)
Weights mortar 305 kg (672,4 lb); He bomb 12,2 kg (26,9 lb); smoke bomb 11.32 kg (24,95 lb)
Maximum range 6800 m (7,435 yards)


  Soltam 120-mm Standard 
Calibre 120-mm (4.72-in)
Lengths Barrel 2.154 m (84.8 in)
Weights mortar 245 kg (540lb) in action ; HE bomb 12.9 kg (28,44 lb)
Maximum range 8500  m (8,925 yards)


  Soltam M-60 
Calibre 160-mm (6.3-in)
Lengths Barrel 3.066 m (120.7 in)
Weights mortar 51700 kg (3,748lb)in action ; HE bomb 40 kg (88,18 lb)
Maximum range 9600 m (10,500 yards)


  120-mm Model 1943 
Calibre 120-mm (4.72-in)
Lengths Barrel 1.854 m (73 in)
Weights mortar 275 kg (606,3 lb)in action ; HE fragmentation bomb 16 kg (35,27 lb)
Maximum range 5700 m (6, 235 yards )


Staff Sgt. James C. Sanchez aims in with the M-32 Multiple shot Grenade Launcher, an experimental six-barreled weapn that can deliver six 40 mm grenades in under three seconds. Marines are fielding the new rapid-fire weapon to troops to boost small-team capabilities to deliver greater indirect firepower.

Riot control grenades take two basic forms, chemical and kinetic. Chemical grenades are designed to emit fumes that irritate or disable to the extent that they prevent persons from carrying out a chosen course of action, i.e. they quell rioters. The primary requirement demanded of such agents is that they irritate or disable, but also that they do no permanent damage. For many years, the chosen irritant agent in riot control  was tear gas, a relatively harmless substance that des little more than bring tears to the eyes and impart a general feeling of choking and helplessness. Tear gas  is now generally known as CN, but its proper chemical name is alpha chloroacetophenone.

Easily dispersed

The most significant failing of tear gas soon discovered once it had entered service as a riot.control agent was found to be that in the open area its vapour cloud generally dispersed so readily and so quickly that the tear gas  mist easily lost its disabling properties. Tear gas was also relatively easy to tolerate, especially after some experience of the substance and many fit young people could, therefore, carry on their disorderly activities after exposure to CN with only a minimum of inconvenience. Inside a building it was often another matter entirely as the wall, roof and floor of the building helped to contain the tear gas mist at a concentration that was still incapacitating, but in the open tear gas east soon seen to be relatively inefficient in its primary task as an anti-riot weapon. During the early 1950s, therefore, a new and more effective and persistent agent was demanded as a successor to tear gas. This led to the suggestion that e new chemical, rejoicing in the chemical name of orthocklorobenzalmalononltrile, be employed as an alternative to tearing gas with superior disabling capabilities. It was not long before this new substance was given the handier appellation CS. CS is normally a solid substance, but on contact with air forms a white or light grey vapour cloud with a general odour od pepper, and for this reason CS is sometimes known as pepper gas. He vapour can induce the usual tears, but with the addition of a general choking  sensation and a difficulty in breathing. The effect is distinctly unpleasant and experience has revealed that high concentrations of CS  can cause nausea and vomiting. To add to its effects, CS can be persistent, especially if vapour droplets adhere to clothing. CS is not totally disabling, however, and there are no long-term physical effects. CS was first used during the late 1950s and was soon found to be remarkably efficient method of breaking up mobs. At first the prime method of delivering the agent was the hand grenade, in exactly the same fashion that had been used previously for tear gas and smoke. While these grenades were easy to manufacture and use, they suffered from the same drawbacks as the earlier grenades: it took time for the vapour cloud to build up, range was limited by the strength of the thrower (who thereby came well into missile range of the offending crowd), and the grenades could readily be picked up by an adventurous rioter and thrown back. A redesign of the basic CS grenade has therefore taken place.

New grenade design

Modern CS grenades nearly all contain small multiple containers or pellets to emit the CS fumes. As it lands, the grenade body scatters these small containers or pellets (the British L11A1 grenade releases 23 pellets, for example) over a wide area, and the emission period is usually short so that any container or pellet thrown back by a rioter has little or no effect. The other design point is that it is now very rare for CS grenades to be thrown, for they are generally projected using a small propellant charge from a launcher to a range of 100 m (110 yards) or more the launcher usually being some type  of riot gun. When riot guns are used, the usual diameter of the grenade is 37-mm (1.456-in) but this is now generally regarded as being too small and the British army has opted for a grenade diameter of 66-mm (2.6-in) and uses a specialised launcher, the Grenade Discharger L1A1, rather than a riot gun to fire the grenade. CS is not the only modern form of the irritant agent, but it is certainly the type that is most widely used. Other irritant agents include mild hallucinogenic agents that impart a temporary feeling of panic or fear, but the use of such agent is disapproved by many on humanitarian grounds, and such weapons may thus be of the double-edged type, generating adverse publicity of more significance than any real advantage gained on basic riot-control terms. Moreover, some of these ‘mind’ agents have a nasty habit of being just as effective on their users as on their intended targets, even when a respirator is being used. Most police and para-military respirators are limited in their effectiveness, providing protection only against CS and CN, and some powerful modern agents could overcome the protective properties of such  equipment.

Kinetic grenades

Humanitarian considerations also come to the fore when kinetic grenades are considered. These are usually the baton rounds or the infamous ‘rubber bullets’ that are used to disable by stunning. Kinetic projectiles of this type were first mooted during the 1950s, when it started to become clear to authorities in several countries that the last-ditch but yet effective control of riots demanded not conventional firearms, whose use would lead to severe wounds and deaths, and therefore to a mass of adverse publicity, but rather something that was more powerful than the standard irritant agents in use at that time. At first disabling missiles of several types were considered,  these ranging from lead shot in thick bags to heavy rubber rings. Such munitions were usually fired from ordinary riot guns, but  it was  not long before the baton round is its present form appeared. At first wooden projectiles were used, but these were soon discarded as they were prone to splintering and causing the type of nasty wounds that drew adverse publicity. Then for some time rubber was used before it was discovered that under certain circumstances rubber was also likely to cause injuries that were too severe. The current baton rounds are flat-ended PVC slugs that are not as heavy as rubber but are nonetheless likely to impart a powerful blow on the recipient.

Occasional lethality

It cannot be denied that baton rounds can and indeed to cause serius injuries if used at very close ranges, and have also caused a nnumber of deaths. They are also very inaccurate and often have to be used as area weapons rather than as point target weapons. But round of this type can prove effective in breaking up hostile crowds, and when used with extreme care they can even disable ringleaders of a riot or other troublesome individuals. They can certainly keep crowds out of hand-thrown missile range. Espite this, the use of baton rounds has often resulted in a great public outery against their employment. But in the absence of anything better the baton round is an established anti-riot munition.



France introduced a bullpup rifle in 5.56-mm (0.256-in) calibre as the FAMAS in the course of the early 1980s after being formally adopted in 1978 following a development programme launched in 1972. The weapon’s designation stands for Fusil s’Assaut de la Manufacture d’Armes de St Etienne (assault rifle from MAS), this last being a division of the state-owned GIAT  Industries armaments organisations. Dubbed le clairon (the bugle) by the troops because of its unusual appearance, having a general similarity to this musical instrument much favoured by the armed forces, the FAMAS has gained a considerable  measure of popular and operational success. This is in marked and dramatic contrast to the dismal reputation of the British SA80 (more formally the L85), which has somehow contrived to be as heavy as the 7.62-mm (0.3-in) semi-automatic rifle it replaced. Unlike the SA80, the FAMAS can easily be switched to fire from either shoulder (the cheekpiece and ejector mechanism being switchable from one side to the other), and its integral folding bipod makes a long-range shot a rather more practical proposition. It is recommended that the change from left to right-hand use, or vice versa, should not be attempted in the field as the process requires the removal and later the reinstallation of several small components that could well be lost and thereby render the weapon inoperative. The latest version of this useful French weapon, which operates on  the delayed blowback principle not commonly used for assault rifles and the like, is the FAMAS G2. Thi features a number of incremental improvements over the original FAMAS F1 and FAMAS F2 standards. Similar to the original FAMAS,  the FAMAS G2 is designed with single shot, three-round burst (for one pull of the trigger= and fully automatic firing capabilities controlled by a combined safety switch and selector inside the trigger guard with safe, single-shot and automatic  positions. The selection between three-round burst and fully automatic fire modes is controlled by an automatic fire mode selector located beyond the magazine housing on the bottom of the stock. Other changes incorporated in this weapon include the replacement of the folding bipod (which can be reattached) by sling swivels, the omission  of the inbuilt grenade launcher, the extension of the trigger guard to cover the whole of the grip, the modification of the magazine housing to accept NATO standard 30-round M12-type box magazines as well as the FAMAS’s own particular 25-round magazine, and provision for the installation under the barrel of the M203 40-mm (1.575-in) grenade launcher. The FAMAS G2 can still be used to launch the 400-g (14.1-oz) rifle grenade, a type of weapon for which the French have shown great enthusiasm since World War I. The weapon’s cyclic rate of fire is also adjustable in the range between 1,000 to 1,100 round per minute.

Recent developments

The FAMAS FELIN is a modified FAMAS F1 currently undergoing trials as part of France’s future infantryman programme. The weapon is known by the acronym PAPOP (Polyarme Polyprojectiles) and the FAMAS FELIN is similar in concept to the US Army’s ‘Land Warrior’, the  Australian  Army’s LAND 125 System and Britain’ ‘FIST’. The French programme involves GIAT Industrie, Thomson-CSF Texen and six other companies. It also follows the basic requirements laid down in NATO Document AC 225. This involves the development of the infantryman into a virtual ‘weapon system’ that must be able to operate at night with considerably greater efficiency and capability than are currently accepted for the infantryman: make extensive and effective use of a wide range of visual aids for the assimilation and exploitation of tactical information; and provide a considerably superior capability in the engagement of targets behind cover than the current generation of conventional infantry armed with current in-service weapons of the rifle, machine-gun and grenade launcher types.


The FAMAS FELIN rifle thus carries equipment to facilitate day and night firing, offset firing using data received from another member of the team, range-finding, instinctive aiming and firing, and combat identification friend or foe. The weapon also carries the controls for the infantryman-s communication system (radio, data and image). This combination of attributes is designed to provide a day-night  90 percent hit probability on a standing and stationary man at 300 m (330 yards), declining to 50 percent at 5000m (545 yards), and by night the same hit probabilities against the same type of target at 200 and 400 m (220 and 440 yards) respectively. Ultimately this ‘weapon system’ concept will require a specialised and dedicated weapon that combine rifle and grenade launcher capabilities of an advanced order. The intention is to develop and manufacture a weapon that provides its fire with significantly enhanced reach and a mush higher level of lethality than the current range of personal weapons. Another feature that is required is improved NBC protection providing full level of protection against the effects of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons together with far greater user ‘friendliness’ than is provided by today’s protective outfits. This is designed to ensure that the wearer has greater mobility (through  reduced weight and greater flexibility, among other features) without any sacrifice in levels of protection. It is hoped that this integrated system will begin to enter service with the troops of the French army by the beginning of 2010, but this may be an overly optimistic date given the complexity of the tasks facing designers and also manufacturers.

Weapon configuration

The current PAPOP combines a rifle, firing the now-standard 5.56-mm (0.219-in) x 45 cartridge, with a grenade launcher that fires a grenade with a diameter of 35-mm (1.38-in) rather than 40-mm as featured in current American weapons as well as on the OICW. The reduction in calibre reduces weight and thereby improves portability and range, but care is being taken to ensure that the reductions in diameter and weight do not compromise operational capability. Like the OICW, the French weapon has a digital ‘support system’. This is designed to provide the facility for the detection of targets, by night as well as day, at ranges of up to 300 m (330 yards) and, importantly, for the discrimination between ‘friendly’ and ‘hostile’ troops. The French weapon utilises a remote sighting system to fire from cover, and can designate targets for other weapons. Video data are transmitted to a head-up display on the soldier’s  visor in a fashion similar to that employed by modern warplanes to provide the pilot with tactically important information in a readily assimilated fashion that does nott require the user’s eyes to be taken off the target or terrain ahead of him or her. In the land-baed system, the data can be transmitted so that commanders can literally ‘see’ what their men are seeing.

Grenade programming

The French 35-mm grenade can be programmd at the oment of firing to optimise its fragmentation pattern for maximum effect on a specific target; in a fashion analogous to the adjsutiment of the choke of a shotgun, the fragmentation pattern of the grenade can be concentrated or dispersed. The 35-mm grenade weighs 200 g (7.055 oz) and is of the smallet size and mass that the French believ will achieve the intended task effectively.

Technical specifications of FAMAS G2 assault rifle

Calibre 5.56-mm (0.219-in)
Length overall 757 mm (29.8-in)
Weight Empty 3.5 kg (7.7 lb); 3.97 kg (8.8 lb) loaded with 30-round magazine
Feed 20- or 30-round box magazine
Length of barrel 488 mm (19.2-in)



FN Herstal offered a succession of 5.56-mm assault rifles to replace magnificent 7.62-mm FN FAL (known to the British Army as the SR-Self Loading Rifle) that made the company’s post-war reputation. None of them achieved great success: in a crowded market, most armies either bought American (the M16) or developed their own (the French FA MAS, the Italian Berettas, the quixotic British SA 80).

So Belgian equivalents like the 5.56-mm FNC had limited impact. Whether the FN 2000 will achieve major export sales is too early to tell, but it is an interesting design from a company with an eye for innovation- its P90 personal weapon certainly caught the world’s attention when touted in the late 1980s. One look at the Fn 2000 suggests that the ergonomic lessons of the P90 have not been forgotten. The Fn 2000 is a very easy weapon to learn shoot, and its construction lends itself to a quick and simple field-strip.

Weapon design

The FN 2000 is a ‘bullpup’ design- the magazine is located behind the trigger group to reduce the overall length of the gun to under 700 mm. This is useful for troops who will go to war in armored personnel carriers who, when they dismount for battle, will often find themselves fighting in built-up areas.

The FN 2000 addresses on of the most serious drawbacks of the British bull pup rifle, the SA 80. The latter can only be fired from the right shoulder: if you try to fire it from the left, the spent cases will fly straight into your face. Since on in 20 soldiers are left-handed, this is not terribly helpful. More critically, when fighting in built-up areas, soldiers often need to be able to shoot around a left hand corner. To do so with an SA 80 forces you to expo far more of your body to return fire than is necessary.

The FN 2000 has a unique ejection system that funnels the ejected case along a tunnel, sending it forwards rather than sideways. A soldier can shoot left-handed without the risk of cases, gas or other debris striking the face. In addition, the fire selector, safety catch and magazine release are all positioned to they can be operated without difficulty with either hand. Chambered for 5.56-mm x 45 NATO rounds, the FN 2000 is a conventional gas-operated, rotating bolt design. The high cyclic rate (over 800 per minute) produces accurate short bursts.

The weapon is of modular construction. This enables users to quickly and easily modify the weapon for specific requirements. (In truth, this is more relevant to law enforcement usage than the military, but with the growth of ‘peacekeeping’ missions, there is increasing crossover between the two.) The stock is a tough polymer and the sighting rail can be fitted with whatever sighting system the user prefers (or army can afford).

The standard option is a x1.6 optical sight: enough to make an aimed shot easier but not so strong that both eyes need to be closed to aim. There  is a mounting point ahead of the trigger guard so it can carry a grenade launcher, torch or other useful  ‘add on’ designs, the FN2000  has a pistol grip designed from the beginning to be equally comfortable when firing either rifle rounds or grenades. With a not to developments across the Atlantic, FN do offer a computerized fire control module with laser rangefinder to calculate the point of aim and set the sights for the 40-mm grenade launcher. All such devices are open to the criticism that they are not truly ‘soldier proof’ i.e. robust enough for hard service in the field, as opposed to demonstration shoots for visiting media. They also require power sources. Batteries- that do not last long and the whole thing add up to yet more weight for troops to carry. The fate of the famous SAS patrol ’Bravo Two Zero’ should stand as a warning to even the fittest troops who attempt to go into action carrying extremely heavy loads.

Grenade launcher

The grenade launcher is a pump action, rotary locking weapon. It fires a wide range of 40-mm munitions: the basic high explosive round is fired with a muzzle velocity of 76 meters per second (249 ft/sec). The grenade launcher barrel is 230mm (9.05 in) long and it increases the overall length of the weapon to 727 mm (28.6 in). This is still handy enough, especially compared to the older generation of 7.62-mm rifles that exceeded a meter in length.

Future prospects

Like all of today’s advanced infantry weapons, the FN 2000’s prospect depend on the willingness of western governments to invest large sums of money on their infantry units. Whether any defense ministry will conclude the FN 2000 offers such a significant advantage over the M16 (or similar) that it can persuade its political masters to supply the necessary funds remains to be seen. The other store in the road ahead is the continued commitment to 5.56-mm caliber: both the 1991 Gulf War and recent operations in Afghanistan have highlighted its limitations in a combat environment where long range fire-fights are the rule rather than the exception. Some soldiers would like to see a return to 7.62-mm weapon; all armies involved in these actions have increased the number of 5.56-mm machine guns in their infantry companies.

Technical specifications for FN 2000 assault rifle

  FN 2000
Caliber: 5.56 x 45 mm NATO
Length overall: 694 mm
Barrel length: 400 mm
Magazine capacity: 30 rounds
Weights: 3.6 kg emtpy; 4.6 kg with 40 mm grenade launcher