St. Étienne Mle 1907

The French St. Étienne Mle 1907 (French: Mitrailleuse Mle 1907 T) was a gas operated air-cooled machine gun in 8mm Lebel which was widely used in the early years of the First World War.[1] The "St.Etienne Mle 1907" was not derived from the Hotchkiss machine gun. Instead it was an entirely different gas operated, blow-forward design borrowed from the semi-automatic Bang rifle of 1903. This Bang system was first transposed in 1905 to the French Puteaux APX Machine Gun which soon proved to be unsatisfactory. Then, two years later, the Mle 1907 "St-Étienne" machine gun followed as an improved redesign of the "Puteaux" machine gun. However the Mle 1907 "St-Étienne" was only a partial redesign: the original blow-forward gas piston, rack-and-pinion system, and bolt mechanism of the Mle 1905 "Puteaux" machine gun had all been kept only slightly modified inside the newer weapon. Eventually a total of over 39,700 "St-Étienne" Mle 1907 machine guns were manufactured between 1908 and late 1917. They were widely used by French infantry during the early part of World War I until their replacement by the more reliable Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun.

St. Étienne M1907
Mitrailleuse Saint-Etienne modèle 1907, Musée de l'Armée.jpg
TypeMedium machine gun
Place of originFrance
Service history
Used bySee Users
WarsWorld War I
Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922)
Warlord Era
Spanish civil war
World War II
Production history
ManufacturerManufacture d'Armes de Saint-Etienne (MAS).
No. built39,700
VariantsPuteaux Mle 1905
Mle 1907
Transformée 1916
Mass57 lb 5 oz (26.0 kg)
Length1180 mm
Barrel length710 mm

Cartridge8mm Lebel
Caliber8 mm
Rate of fireadjustable: 8 to 600 round/min
Muzzle velocity2,375 ft/s. (724 m/s)
Feed system25-round metal strips or 300-round fabric belts (1916)


The Mle 1907 was used extensively by French units during the early stages of the first world war.

Around the turn of the century the French military evaluated machine guns made by the private French firm of Hotchkiss et Cie. While the tests were technically convincing, following which Hotchkiss machine-guns were purchased for French alpine and colonial troops, it was decided for political reasons that a machine gun for French line infantry had to originate from state-owned arms manufacturers. A first attempt by a French government arsenal near Paris (APX) was the Puteaux M1905 machine gun inspired by the first gas actuated blow forward Bang rifle system of 1903. It was a deliberate attempt to develop an infantry machine gun that would be mechanically different from the patented Hotchkiss Mle 1900 machine gun design. However, the M1905 Puteaux machine gun soon proved to be unsatisfactory. Consequently, the national arsenal at Saint-Étienne (MAS) thoroughly reworked and modified the Puteaux machine gun resulting in some measure of improvement but also increased complexity—64 component parts for the St-Étienne Mle 1907 vs. only 32 parts for the Hotchkiss Mle 1914. Barrel changes on the Mle 1907 St-Étienne were much easier than on the M1905 Puteaux and its firing rate could be set at any point between eight rounds per minute and about 600 rounds per minute. Either metal strips different from those used on the Hotchkiss machine gun or else fabric belts, the latter introduced in 1916, for the 8mm Lebel ammunition could be used.

George Chinn notes about the 1907 model that: "While it was gas actuated by means of a piston, the French reversed the conventional principle. Instead of the piston thrust rearward furnishing the source of energy to operate the piece, the gas propels the piston forward to unlock the bolt. The piston is attached by a spring-loaded rod to a gear rack. This in turn engages a spur gear which is fastened to an actuating lever. When the lever is in the forward horizontal position and engages a cam slot in the bolt, the gun is locked. Upon firing, the gas drives the piston forward, compressing the spring and causing the spur gear to rotate clockwise. The actuating lever turns with the gear for a half revolution, retracting the bolt and stopping at the rear horizontal position. The driving spring then forces the piston rearward, which reverses the action and returns the bolt to battery."[2]

Nevertheless, in the muddy environment of trench warfare the mechanically complex St-Étienne Mle 1907 suffered from frequent stoppages and was difficult to maintain by front-line soldiers. A quote from a French post-war military evaluation says it all: "admirable weapon, patented clockwork, but very delicate and sparing its whims only for machine-gun virtuosos."[3] In July 1917 the Mle 1907 St-Étienne was gradually withdrawn from front line service and replaced by the distinctly simpler and more reliable Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun. Large numbers of the M1907 St-Étienne machine gun were then transferred to military units in the rear, to the French colonies, and to the Italian Army. Many also ended up in the Greek Army during the 1920s. Altogether 39,700 Mle 1907 St-Étienne machine guns had been manufactured when the decision to close down their last assembly line was taken in November 1917. The Mle 1907-T was still in service at the beginning of World War II, for instance with second-line units.[4]

German soldier examining a captured St. Étienne Mle 07 in May 1940.

Romania contracted 500 machine guns from France in July 1916; 268 were delivered until August when the war started on the Romanian front.[5]



  1. ^ Popenker, Maxim (27 October 2010). "St.Etienne M1907". Modern Firearms.
  2. ^ Chinn, George M. (1951). The Machine Gun, Vol. 1. Bureau of Ordnance. p. 194.
  3. ^ "St-Étienne Mle 1907". Revue d'Infanterie (in French). Ministère de la Guerre (487): 486. April 1933.
  4. ^ a b Segel, Robert G. (25 August 2011). "French St. Etienne Model 1907". Small Arms Defense Journal. Vol. 2, no. 2.
  5. ^ Scafeş, Cornel I. (2013). Efortul depus în vederea asigurării necesarului de armament, tehnică de luptă şi muniţii al armatei române in anii neutralităţii (1914–1916) [The effort made to ensure the necessary armament, combat equipment and ammunition of the Romanian army in the years of neutrality (1914–1916)] (in Romanian). Muzeul Municipiului București. pp. 85–86. Archived from the original on 22 December 2015.
  6. ^ Jowett, Philip (20 July 2015). Armies of the Greek-Turkish War 1919–22. Men-at-Arms 501. Osprey Publishing. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-1-47280-684-0.
  7. ^ Athanassiou, Phoebus (30 November 2017). Armies of the Greek-Italian War 1940–41. Men-at-Arms 514. Osprey Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-1-47281-917-8.
  8. ^ Nicolle, David (25 March 2003). The Italian Army of World War I. Men-at-Arms 387. Osprey Publishing. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-84176-398-9.
  9. ^ ""Une mitrailleuse en action, trois soldats vus de dos." (Image from the Romanian front, 1917)". POP : la plateforme ouverte du patrimoine (in French). Ministère de la Culture. 8 January 2020.
  10. ^ Jowett, Philip (20 November 2013). China's Wars: Rousing the Dragon 1894–1949. General Military. Osprey Publishing. p. 129. ISBN 978-1-78200-407-3.


  • Hogg, Ian V. (1982). Military Small Arms of the 20th Century. Arms & Armour Press. ISBN 0-910676-87-9.
  • Devouges, Marcel (1925). L'avenement des armes automatiques [The advent of automatic weapons] (in French). Paris: Charles-Lavauzelle. A 290 page technical review of all the automatic weapons known at the time.
  • Lombard, Claude (1987). La Manufacture Nationale de Chatellerault (in French). Poitiers: Brissaud. ISBN 2-902170-55-6.
  • Huon, Jean & Barrellier, Alain (October 2014). Les Mitrailleuses Francaises (in French). Chaumont: Crépin-Leblond. ISBN 978-2-70300-392-2. Includes the most complete and highly detailed technical review in existence of the Mle 1907 St-Etienne machine gun and all its accessories.

External linksEdit

  Media related to St. Étienne Mle 1907 machine gun at Wikimedia Commons

  • vbbsmyt (15 July 2020). "St Etienne 1907". YouTube. Animation showing the mechanism of St. Étienne model 1907.