At the last gun show here in town, I happened to come across an old French MAS-36 that had been converted to .308 by Century Arms International. In the past I bought a French MAS-49/56 that also had been rechambered to .308 and thought this would make a nice addition to my automatic MAS or at least a good truck gun. It might be something to arm friends or neighbors if the day ever came that might be needed. The price tag on this rifle was a deal at $125 and came with 50 rounds of CAVIM ammunition since it would cost me at least the same amount to order one, pay for the shipping and the FFL fee. So I walked out of the show with my new rifle.
One of the questions I have always had about the MAS-36 that had been rechambered centered on the safety they installed when they converted it. Originally, the MAS-36 was never issued with a safety of any kind. If the French thought it best to rely on a heavier trigger than those on rifles at the time, or if they were trained to carry the rifle without any rounds in their chambers, I don't know. In this case though, the safety lever of the .308 MAS is very similar to the SKS in its design, function and location. Taking the trigger guard and rear buttstock off, I examined this safety and the only real difference between the MAS and an SKS is the spring it uses. Taking off the buttstock first involved removing the bolt, which is fairly straightforward and easy to do. Squeezing the trigger while retracting the bolt removes it from the receiver and a simple inward push on the head of the bolt and a slight turn removed the rear cap, allowing the firing pin and mainspring to be removed.
The sights required some getting used to though. At first glance there is no windage adjustment at all to the sights. However if you take off the front nose cap you will find that the front sight is drifted into a dovetail that can be moved in its slot. Getting there isn't all that easy though. The French for some reason figured that a normal slot head screw wasn't good enough so they made a screw head that has 2 opposing notches on each side of the screw head. An old screwdriver was sacrificed and after a little grinding with the dremel tool, a new tool was made to take this screw out. I do have to admit that I liked the reversible spike bayonet in the front. Nothing that would ever see much use but still when it was extended, it gave the MAS a long and needle like appearance.
Now it was off to the range. The first setting on the rear sight is calibrated to 200 meters. Not sure where my rounds would impact, I started instead at 100 yards. My range would never be farther. Setting up the rifle on my beanbag rest, I carefully fired a 3-round group. At this point another thing about this rifle became apparent. When they made the conversion, it was done by removing the barrel, cutting it down then reaming out the chamber to .308 and reassembled. I'm not sure if this was due to this type of conversion or if this is typical of all MAS-36 rifles but there was nothing holding the fore end to the receiver. Matter of fact, the only thing keeping the fore end from sliding off the end of the barrel is the handguard that butts up against the front sight. It's kept from moving on the fore end by the barrel band. Now with every shot, the fore end would move back and forth pinching either glove or skin. Another problem was that with the recoil of the rifle, it would force the fore end and handguard forward only to be stopped by the front sight. The stock however with it's momentum had a way of trying to split the wood around the barrel band when that was drove back and forth by the recoil and momentum for the stock. Be that as it may, I went down range to check my groups. Well, I wouldn't call it a group as much as I would call it a pattern. Out of 3 rounds onto an FBI B-27 full size human silhouette target, only 1 round was on the black. The second was to the left on the paper and the third was at the bottom barely on the paper. Thinking this was a fluke, I went back to the firing line and this time fired a 5-round group. This time 2 rounds were in the black but again, the other 3 rounds were in the white and nothing that would even slightly resemble a group. Again after several more attempts with different ammunition and the bayonet both extended and reversed into the hand guard, nothing really improved the groups this rifle was shooting. Finally with my last 10 rounds of Cavim ammunition, I fired them all at the target and checked to see how many actually hit. The total number was 7 out of 10. Then just for fun, I fired another 10 round group out of my AKU-94 that I also had along with me but this time without the rest I was using with the MAS-36. Here, 10 out of 10 were on the target with all the rounds in the black and this was with a rifle with AK accuracy and a trigger that could best be described as a cross between a squirt gun and a 50 year old, cheap import .22 revolver.
To say I was disappointed in this rifle is an understatement.
While it did fire every time I pulled the trigger, it was questionable
where the rounds would hit on the target or if they would even hit anything
at all. Because it was rechambered into .308, there is no real collector
value to this rifle either. As soon as I get a chance, it's going
down the road either to the next gun show or to the pawnshop. I wish
there were some good news about this rifle other than it was cheap and
it went bang, but other than that, there really are no saving graces to
it. For the survivalist first starting out on a budget or maybe someone
wanting a rifle that they can stash away, you would be far better off to
keep looking for a better rifle for this use. The rechambered MAS-36
just is not a good weapon to choose.
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