Lebel Rifle Videos

There are two awesome videos posted on YouTube that depict the 1886 Lebel rifle in action.  The first is the best.  It gives a bit of history about the rifle and very clearly shows the bolt action and loading procedures of the weapon.  The primary “magazine” for the Lebel runs under the barrel and stores 8 rounds.  Once the magazine is expended the rifle can continue to be loaded by hand with individual rounds from ones ammo case.  This was the primary rifle used by the “classic” French Foreign Legion (and of course millions of other soldiers in many armies during the Great War). The second video shows the shooter hitting targets out to 420 yards which is some good shooting for any rifle using iron sights. It’s report sounds quite powerful but actually the Lebel fires an 8mm round which was one of the smaller caliber military bullets of that time.  The Lebel replaced the old Chassepot bolt action rifle used in the latter half of the 1800’s (although the Legion’s training depots usually used old chassepots or it’s improved variant the Fusil Gras).  (Please note:  The person who made this video, “mag30th” has many, many other videos of military weapons in use.)

I read an account (I believe in Our Friends Beneath the Sands by Martin Windrow), of Legionnaires using measured and adjusted volley fire out to 1,000 yards to drive off some harassing tribesmen.  The officer adjusted fire as if he was calling in fire support–correcting the volley angles and aim of his men until he started to see horsemen and camels start dropping.  Another anecdote from the same book noted that the tubular magazine was prone to a rare but catastrophic mishap if the weapon was mishandled. It seems that with the pointed end of each round in the magazine directly touching the primer of the round ahead of it one could have an accidental discharge inside the magazine if the weapon hit something with enough force. This might ruin your day.

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About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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