French or Belgian cadet trainer?

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  • mawkie

    C&R Whisperer
    Sep 28, 2007
    -Only twice have I ever bid on a lot that was unidentified by the auction house. And only once did I bid on a lot that I couldn't positively identify. The first encounter was in a large Howard County auction filled with Garands and 1903 Springfields. Buried in this pile was lot 155, marked "Rifle, Unknown". When the lot came to the auction block the auctioneer made light of it and most of the 300 attendees were laughing. Me, not so much at that moment. Only after the hammer fell and I had bought a Finn 28/30 for $175, did I laugh.
    -Last week I was fishing in a VA auction and buried at the end of the auction, where all the cast-offs were listed, was this little gem. I knew it was a European cadet training rifle, either French or Belgian. Mysteriously there were no SN, manuf., inspector or proof marks. Only ".22lr". But the construction was sublime. A beautiful piece of wood, deep bluing and case hardened bolt, sight, trigger guard and trigger. I gem that looks like someone pulled it from the production line before it went to the proof house. So of course I started a deep dive to try and find the manuf. The closest I came was the French Scolaire Populaire Cadet rifle, made by MAS. But there were enough differences to convince me that it wasn't the handiwork of MAS. Perhaps I'll never know.
    -Anyway, bidding was crazy weak and it went home to me for just over $200 OTD. The auction house photos didn't do it justice. Just beautiful. And I love the lack of a metal buttplate, just machined ribs in the buttstock. While it might have been built with a cadet in mind it's obvious that no youth got his hands on this one. Not a scratch anywhere.









    Staff member
    Apr 11, 2008
    I'll tell you that it's an amazing looking rifle, but you already know that. Nicely done Sir.


    MDS Supporter
    Dec 23, 2015
    Very nice! Some day you'll have to take me along with you, I'd love to watch the auctions.


    C&R Whisperer
    Sep 28, 2007
    Dug out Bob Simpson's book on German training rifles as I remembered he has a section on trainers of other countries and added another piece to the puzzle. Turns out both FN and nearly 80 French manufacturers built versions of this rifle in the years after the Franco-Prussian War. For the French the goal was to encourage youth marksmanship after their embarrassing loss to Prussia (Prussia made France pay 4 billion Francs in reparations and give up the regions Alsace and Lorraine as part of the peace treaty).
    This rifle is very similar but has enough differences to convince me it's one of the French manufacturers who built it, not FN. But I seriously doubt I'll ever know for certain whom.
    Photo taken from Bob's book as, try as I might, I couldn't find a photo online.
    BTW, the Berthier M16 also shown in the photo is one of those converted by Lebanese forces Post WW2 to .22lr for training. I was lucky enough to find one when Century bought and imported a huge batch of French arms from the Middle East, including Syria. So many of the MAS 49s, 36s and 36-51s came into the US at that time. In that huge import were some of these Berthier .22 trainers. Most have the Tree of Lebanon mark on the receiver ring. Somehow mine avoided getting that mark.


    C&R Whisperer
    Sep 28, 2007
    Is it worth taking it apart to see if there are markings under the wood?
    I've been mulling over just that. I believe it's just a matter of removing the bands and the king screw. Just need to be very careful, don't want to bugger what's a perfect set of screws.

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