After World War II, France Had Too Many Different Pistols
The Modèle 1950 solved that problem
by MATTHEW MOSS
In the early 1950s the French army was equipped with a hodgepodge of sidearms. These included pre-war MAB Model Ds, Modèle 1935As and Modèle 1935Ss — and also Lend-Lease Colt M1911s and captured German pistols such as the P38 and P08. A logistical nightmare.
Paris decided to standardize. That was the origin of the successful Modèle 1950.
The Section Technique de l’Armée — “Army Technical Section” — formed in 1946 and, a year later, tested a number of new pistols. Among them — a derivative of the M1935S from Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Saint Étienne, a development of the M1935A from Societe Alsacienne de Constructions Mécaniques, a civilian SIG SP47/8 and entries from Merlin-Gérin and Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Tulle, both of which the army quickly rejected.
While the SIG performed excellently, it did not conform to the French military’s 1946 pistol specifications. The French didn’t want to purchase a license to manufacture a Swiss pistol when they had access to indigenous designs. The pistol that MAS developed suffered numerous failures. Cracks appeared in the slide after a gun had fired a few thousand rounds.
Despite this the French selected the MAS design on Aug. 16, 1950. The French army adopted the pistol as the Modèle 1950 and, over the next year, revised the design until the gun finally performed well in endurance trials.
The French moved away from the diminutive 7.65-by-20-millimeter Longue cartridge and standardized on the increasingly popular nine-by-19-millimeter cartridge. The new pistol is larger than its predecessors were but retains a single-stack magazine holding nine rounds.
The Modèle 1950 is easy to disassemble. It features a captive recoil spring and an easily-removable cassette containing all of the pistol’s lock work. The Modèle 1950 boasts a parkerized finish and serrated plastic grip panels.
The Modèle 1950 combines elements from earlier French service pistols — the M1935A’s more ergonomic grip profile and the slide shape of the M1935S. The newer pistol borrows the Colt 1911's short-recoil locked-breech system in place of the double-barrel links of the M1935A and the M1935S’s single link and barrel lugs for locking.
The Modèle 1950 retains the earlier pistols’ slide-mounted hammer-block safety.
Despite having designed the Modèle 1950, MAS wasn’t actually the first of France’s state-owned arsenals to manufacture the new pistol. Manufacture Nationale d’Armes de Châtellerault, which had produced M1935S pistols after the war, began production of the M1950 in March 1953 and built its last copy in 1963.
In 1961, MAS began to take over production, ultimately producing M1950s until 1978. In all, the French manufactured 342,000 Modèle 1950s.
The Modèle 1950 remains in limited service with the French military and police forces. In 1989 the French military adopted the PAMAS G1, a licensed version of the Beretta 92, to replace the Modèle 1950.
Originally published at Historical Firearms.