The Berthier was originally introduced as a partial replacement for the French 1886 Lebel rifle. The Lebel, a revolutionary concept at the time of its introduction because of its smokeless high-velocity, small-caliber cartridge, still used a tube-fed magazine and other details carried over from black-powder designs. By 1900, the Lebel was already obsolete in comparison to other newer magazine-fed rifles introduced by Mauser, Lee, and Mannlicher. With its tube-fed magazine, the Lebel was long, ungainly and distinctly muzzle-heavy when loaded, difficult to manufacture, and overly complex in construction. Most notably, the Lebel proved very slow in reloading compared to newer rifle designs. On horseback, carbine versions of the Lebel proved almost impossible to reload while on the move, while shortening the barrel to carbine length resulted in feeding problems due to an unreliable tube magazine that were never resolved. Mounted security forces, cavalry units, and artillery units in colonial services were forced to use single shot Mle 1874 carbines, most not even converted to fire the modern 8mm Lebel ammunition, against insurrectionist forces who were sometimes better armed than government forces. A replacement for the Lebel was clearly required, at least for mounted troops.
A new design was introduced by inventor André Virgile Paul Marie Berthier, a French civilian engineer in the Algerian railways. The Berthier's utilized a three-shot vertical-feed Mannlicher-type en bloc magazine could be loaded by clips, greatly increasing reloading speed, a particular convenience for cavalry and other mounted troops. A spring loaded arm fed cartridges to the breech, and when all cartridges had been loaded, the empty clip fell out by gravity through an opening in the bottom of the magazine.
Berthier's design for the original carbine was adopted in 1890 as the Mle 1890, utilizing a 3-round en-bloc clip. The first Berthier carbine came into production as the "Carabine de Cavalerie Modèle 1890", which was officially adopted for service on March 14, 1890. The main production facilities were the Manufacture d'Armes de St Etienne or MAS and the Manufacture d'Armes de Chatellerault or MAC. The search for a suitable small arm for mounted troops was given greater urgency by the Germans' development of the Karabiner Modell 1888, a carbine variant of the Gewehr 1888. It was issued to essentially all French artillery and cavalry troops. As the high Command appreciated the performance of the Mle 1890 Berthier carbine, a second version was specifically produced for artillery service, the " Mousqueton Mle 1892" which could mount a short blade bayonet and thus had a re-designed forend stock. However it continued to feature the 3-round En-bloc clip of the Model 1890 carbine. During the First World War it became obvious that the 3-round clip was a handicap compared to German short weapons such as the German Kar98AZ which had a 5-round clip. As a result, the majority of the Mle 1892 carbines were converted started in 1916 to accept a larger 5 round enbloc clip, complete with a spring-loaded trapdoor in the bottom of the magazine to help keep dirt and mud out of the action. These guns were designated "Mle 1892 M16" carbines and served through the remainder of WWI and into WWII.
This particular carbine is a Mle 1892 M16, and features an enclosed magazine set up for an enbloc clip designed to hold 5 rounds of 8mm Lebel ammunition. This Berthier carbine was made by the prolific French arsenal Manufacture d'Armes de Chatellerault . The receiver shows some evidence of refinishing and the markings are partially obscured.
Overall, this Mle 1892 M16 is all correct and original It features a beautiful stock with no damage and beautifully crisp edges; indicating that it has never been sanded or refinished.
The Berthier series of rifles were famously smooth and well made, and this gun is no exemption. The action of the bolt is smooth and crisp with no wear or damage to the lugs.
The magazine is intact and functional; with a crisp magazine spring.
The bluing is largely intact and has turned a pleasing "plum" color with age.
The barrel is full length with a good bore. The rifling is good and shows some wear to the rifling with no major rust or pitting damage.
*This weapon was made after 1899 and MUST be shipped to Federal Firearms License holder for transfer. Never bought a gun through an FFL before? Give us a call at (262) 473-5444 and we'd be glad to walk you through this simple process