Forgotten Weapons: The RSC M1917 in World War One – France’s Semi-Automatic Rifle (Watch)

As tensions rose throughout Europe, many nations were racing to develop the weaponry they believed would be needed in the event of a major conflict. Many new technologies were researched and produced in the run-up to, and during, the First World War, and perhaps one of the most sought-after was a functional self-loading rifle.

The French tried out numerous different prototypes and designs, and ended up creating the Fusil Automatique Modèle 1917, also known as the RSC M1917. This was a powerful semi-automatic rifle, and despite the fact that it only saw action in the later years of the war, almost 100,000 units were produced by 1918. Improving on previous similar weapons, the RSC M1917 was officially adopted by the French military in 1916, two years into the conflict.

It was cheaper to manufacture than other French rifles, and it was well designed, so it should have been a positive addition to the army. However, when soldiers were equipped with the rifle during the final year of the war, they felt that it was oversized and cumbersome. Its weight made it difficult to maneuver, and cleaning and maintaining it proved troublesome in the poor conditions of the trenches.

An updated model superseded it, tackling the design flaws and making it more portable. These improvements, combined with the fact that the new model was more accurate when firing, led to the RSC M1917 becoming largely obsolete. Today, very few examples of this gun can still be found intact.

In this video, the Forgotten Weapons YouTube channel takes a closer look at the rifle, on display at the Rock Island Auction House. Looking at both the historical context and technical specifications of the gun, this is an in-depth exploration of one of the First World War’s lesser-known firearms.

The channel has posted a wide variety of interesting content, looking at obscure and unusual weapons from across the centuries. If you’re interested in the First World War in particular, or are just a firearms enthusiast in general, Forgotten Weapons is well worth a closer look.

Malcolm Higgins

Malcolm Higgins is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE