Welcome to the Gun Show

Mel Chung displays French military rifles.

By Catherine Cluett

With a French flag hanging in the window and “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem, playing in the background, attendees of gunsmith Mel Chung’s latest gun show had the opportunity to examine French military rifles to their heart’s content.

French military rifles displayed at the show last Friday were used by the French and their allies in World War I, WW II, and some models were still used until the 1980’s.

“Their designs are a little quirky,” said Chung of the French. “They marched to the beat of their own drum.”

But quirky or not, they had some good ideas. The French were the first to invent and use smokeless powder in the late 1800’s, which gave them a tactical advantage, according to Chung. They were also among the first to use smaller rifle caliber: while other countries used 45 caliber, the French fired 8 millimeter ammunition.

Four weapons displayed on the counter representing a variety of French models and time periods stole the show. Visitors had the opportunity to examine each gun and rise to the challenge of finding two distinct physical features present in all four weapons. Guess them right, and you received a prize.

The common features were the same sling attachments (an economic measure, said Chung), and the type of screw used to construct the rifles, called a spanner screw. A special two-prong screw driver is needed to remove them, and Chung explained, this made it difficult for soldiers to disassemble the weapon.

“It makes them ‘idiot proof’,” he chuckled.

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