The Franco-Uruguayan Connection: Daudeteau and Mauser-Dovitis rifles: if you love obscure 19th century military rifles, there are few more obscure than these 6.5mm bolt guns.
Louis d'Audeteau (1845-1926) was the scion of one of France's noble families who, unlike many of his peers, was a young man of an inventive nature. He enlisted in the Regiment de Chasseurs and fought in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871). With Germany's victory, and the establishment of the new French Republic, Louis felt it wise to drop the noble particle from his name, becoming simply "Daudeteau."
In the 1880s, he left the army and entered the reserves with the rank of commandant (major). With the realization that just about every military power in the world was racing to develop new means of slaughtering its enemies, he turned his inventive nature to the development of a repeating rifle and ammunition.
By the mid-1880s, repeating rifles were already in service with the armed forces of Switzerland, Germany, Austria-Hungary and the United States, while France had been issuing the Fusil de Marine Mle. 1878 (Kropatschek) to the Troupes de Marine and colonial infantry.
All of these repeaters used tubular or box magazines that were loaded manually. The first design to break with this pattern was Mannlicher's Repetier-Gewehr M.86, which used a pre-filled metal clip holding five cartridges that was inserted into the magazine. Rifles using similar magazine systems were adopted by Germany, Italy and several other nations.
While fast and fumble free in use, Mannlicher's clip had several disadvantages. First, debris could enter the mechanism through the clip ejection hole in the magazine housing; second, a partially empty magazine could not be topped off; last, without a clip the rifle was reduced to a single-shot weapon. Inventors soon began searching for a better way.
Other means of quickly loading magazines included the aluminum/pasteboard charger used with the Swiss Infanterie-Repetier-Gewehr M.89 and Paul Mauser's revolutionary charger (stripper clip) which was first used on Belgium's Fusil d'Infanterie Mle. 1889.
As the French army was loath to admit it had made a mistake with the Lebel, it remained the standard rifle of the Armee francaise until 1918. To equip mounted troops with a handier weapon, the Carabine de Cavallerie Mle. 1890 (Berthier) was adopted which used a three-round, Mannlicher-type magazine.
The next trend in military rifles was the small(er) caliber cartridge. While France, Germany and Austria-Hungary had gone with 8mm cartridges, the Italians' new rifle fired a 6.5mm round and other countries soon followed suit while, in 1895, the U.S. Navy took a 6mm rifle into service.
These small-caliber cartridges provided flatter trajectory, improved penetration and weighed less. Many saw them as the wave of the future and when Paul Mauser developed a 6mm cartridge for German army trials, the French high command sat tip and took notice!
Daudeteau had begun work on a bolt-action, repeating rifle in 1884. A series of improvements resulted in what today is known as the "'Fusil Daudeteau Modele B." The basis of the rifle was a tubular, split bridge receiver and a two-piece, cock-on-opening bolt with a separate bolt head containing dual locking lugs and extractor.
Its forward mounted bolt handle, which turned down in front of the receiver bridge to provide emergency locking, had an odd forward angle to it. A hole in the front of the bolt would safely vent gases from a punctured primer out through a semi-circular cutout in the right receiver wall. An ejector was located at the rear of the magazine well and ran in a groove in the underside of the bolt body.
Daudeteau's rifle differed from both the Lebel and Berthier in that it had a manual safety. Located on the left rear of the receiver, it could be used to lock the bolt whether it was cocked or uncocked and did double duty as the bolt release lever.
The single column, five-round, vertical magazine was part of the trigger guard assembly and was loaded by a unique (one might say weird-looking!), and over complicated charger/stripper clip. Unlike Mauser's charger clip, it could only be introduced from one direction, and so the "'top" was painted red to lessen the chances of confusion in battle.
The magazine featured a lip that functioned as interrupter, holding down the second cartridge in the column so as to insure smooth feeding of the first. As the bolt is closed, the base of the bolt handle pushes a small catch on the right side of the receiver retracting the lip and allowing the next round to move tip into position to be loaded. With the bolt open, manually pushing the catch allows the shooter to unload any unfired cartridges from the magazine quickly and safely.
Then there are les cartouches de Daudeteau. In fact Cartouches No. 1 through No. 14, of various calibers, lengths, profiles and ballistics. With the growing interest in smallbore cartridges, Louis' military rifle was chambered for Cartouche No. 12 or, as it is better known, the 6.5x53.5SR. It consisted of a semi-rimmed, bottlenecked case 53.5mm in length topped with a 150-grain FMJ, round-nosed bullet at a velocity of approximately 2400 fps.
The French army tested Louis" rifle at Camp de Chalons in 1895 and expressed guarded interest in it. Not having the financial means to promote or produce his rifle, in 1896 Louis sold his patents to the Compagnie des Forges et Acieries de la Marine et des Chemins de Fer a Saint-Chamond, who turned the project over to their subsidiary La Soiete Francais des Armes Portative a Saint-Denis.
After further trials that year, the French navy purchased a quantity of rifles for issue to marines in Indo-China For extended field trials. Because of this, Daudeteau's rifle is often--mistakenly--referred to as the Fusil de Marine Mle. 1896 (Navy Rifle Model 1896).
The Modele B had a straight grip stock, thin forearm and a "pregnant guppy" bulge around the magazine housing. It featured a stacking rod on the muzzle band while a full-length, brass-tipped cleaning rod was carried in a groove on the left of the forearm. An epee bayonet similar to that used on the Lebel could be fitted.
Saint-Denis also produced a Daudeteau mousqueton (short rifle) with a 24-inch barrel, a turned-down bolt handle and did not take a bayonet.
Approximately 10,000 infantry rifles and 5,000 mousquetons were manufactured and, in addition to France, small numbers of trials rifles were provided to, Chile, E1 Salvador, Portugal, Rumania, and Uruguay.
With Germany's decision not to adopt a 6mm rifle, the French army lost interest in the Daudeteau. Saint Denis continued to promote the Daudeteau until 1902 when the stock of rifles was sold to Manufacture Francaise d'Armes et Cycles de Saint-Etienne (Manufrance).
Between 1905 and 1914, Manufrance offered a sporting rifle built on the Daudeteau action. Known as the "Rival" it could be had in 6.5x53SR Daudeteau, .303 British, 8x52 Rival (the 6.5x53.5 necked up to 8mm), 8mm Lebel, and .405 Win.
THE MAUSER-DOVITIS (SON OF DAUDETEAU?)
In the 1880s, the South American nation of Uruguay had purchased a quantity of Mauser Infanteriegewehre M.71 for its army. By the early 1890s, Uruguay felt it would be a good idea to keep up with the neighbors as regards small arms. But there was one small problem........ dinero! As a stopgap measure until suitable financing could be found to purchase modern rifles, in 1894 it was decided to have their M.71s re-barreled for a modern cartridge. Enter Senor Dovitis, a Greek tailor whose first name seems lost to history.
Dovitis had been supplying the Uruguayan army with uniforms and other materials. When he heard of the plan to upgrade the army's Mausers, he took advantage of business contacts in France to arrange for the work to be done by Societe Francais des Armes Portative a Saint-Denis. As the company was then promoting the Daudeteau rifle, it suggested the Cartouche No. 12 would be a wonderful choice as Uruguay's new service cartridge, allowing them to make use of existing machinery to produce the barrels, sights and other fittings necessary to convert the Mausers.
The conversion consisted of fitting a new barrel, bolt head, extractor, sights, bands and a stock. In fact, the only original Mauser parts retained were the receiver, trigger mechanism, buttplate, and brass trigger guard while the sights and bayonet were the same pattern as those used on the Lebel. Approximately 10,000 pieces were converted, including a number that were cut down to short rifle configuration.
It would appear that the "Mauser-Dovitis" was not a success due, in great part, to defective ammunition provided by Societe Francais des Munitions. Not the type to be dissuaded by mere failure, the ever-opportunistic Dovitis then offered the Uruguayans a "deal" on surplus French Mle. 1874/80 Gras rifles re-barreled for the 7x57 cartridge! Instead the Uruguayan army placed an order with Fabrique Nationale for Model 1895 Mauser rifles.
According to one of nay sources in Argentina, most of the Mauser-Dovitis rifles and their ammunition were dumped into the Rio de Plata to prevent them from falling into the hands of anti-government forces. Whether or not this is true, a number apparently survived and showed up on the U.S. market in the 1950s and "60s.
SHOOTING THE DAUDETEAU AND MAUSER-DOVITIS
I was fortunate in that two of my fellow members of the International Military Rifle Association were able to provide me with samples of the above rifles to photograph and test fire.
Noel Schott's contribution was a Daudeteau Modele B mousqueton in very nice condition bearing a two-digit serial number. At the front, left side of receiver wall is marked "L.F.A.P. St. Denis" while the signature, "L. Daudeteau" graces the rear. The receiver ring bears an S in a shield, serial number and the manufacturer's artillery piece symbol. As with most French bolt-action military rifles, the bolt works stiffly and the trigger pull was quite heavy.
My good friend Vince DiNardi contributed a Mauser-Dovitis rifle. The chamber area was marked "L.F.A.P St. Denis" with "I.G. Mod. 71" on the left receiver wall and "1878" and "82" on the opposite side. It had a very decent trigger and sights and, because of its good condition, and the fact that it was in the "white," led me to conclude that it was probably used for ceremonial purposes.
Custom reloader Bob Shell sent me semi-rimmed and rimmed versions of the No. 12 cartridge that he fabricated from highly modified .45-70 brass, loaded with 160-grain Hornady soft point bullets. (1) Vince supplied me with some of his rimmed case loads that he had assembled from reformed Lapua 7.62x54R Russian brass loaded with 140-grain Sierra MatchKing and 162-grain FMJ bullets pulled from Italian surplus 6.5mm Carcano cartridges.
Test firing was conducted on my gun club's 75-yard range. Before beginning, I checked to see if the semi-rimmed case would function in the Mauser-Dovitis and while it chambered and went "bang", it would not extract, forcing me to use the cleaning rod to remove the case from the chamber. I then proceeded to fire three 5-shot groups from a rest with each rifle, the results of which can be seen on the chart below.
The Daudeteau fed rounds smoothly from the magazine and the sights provided a decent picture, but the heavy trigger pull made shooting for group a chore. The best effort had four rounds in 2.67 inches with the fifth opening it up to 4.5 inches. Recoil was quite controllable and it proved no trouble at all to fire 30 rounds through the mousqueton in one sitting.
I then unlimbered the Mauser-Dovitis and folded the rear sight forward to expose the 200 meter battle sight. A few shots showed it grouped high so--as had the Modele B. Once I had figured out the "'Kentucky elevation," it proved to be a fine shooter. All three of the loads provided more than sufficient accuracy with honors going to the 140-grain Match-King load, which produced an almost perfectly centered group measuring 2.75 inches.
In fact my only complaint about the Mauser-Dovitis is that, as did the original Infanteriegewehr M.71, there was no ejector so after you pulled the bolt open you either had to remove the spent case manually or tip the rifle to the right and let it fall out.
In conclusion I have to admit that I was impressed with these two rifles. As did most European 6.5 mm military cartridges, the 6.5mm Daudeteau No. 12 proved very accurate and a pleasure to shoot. Although my test firing of the Mode1e B was limited, I would have to say that appears to be a far more user friendly arm than either the Lebel or Berthier. And while the Mauser-Dovitis was just plain fun to shoot it was a bastard design which was neither fish nor fowl.
Now I wonder where 1 can find some of those Gras rifles converted to 7x57 that Senor Dovitis was trying to unload?
I would like to express my appreciation to the following for providing rifles, photos, information and materials used to prepare this report: Noel Schott, Vince DiNardi, Philippe Regenstreif, Bill Woodin, Jean Huon, Russ Pastena, Bob Shell, Hunter Kirkland Lou Behling, Bill Garofalo and Dixie Gun Works.
(1) Some custom reloaders offer the Daudeteau cartridge with both semi-rimmed and rimmed cases, Some Mauser-Dovitis rifles experience extraction problems with the semi-rimmed case, no doubt due to variances in the bolt face, chamber and extractor. But while most Mauser-Dovitis rifles will function with either cartridge, the rimmed version will not chamber in the M.96 Daudeteau rifle.
(2) Smallest of three 5-shot groups fired from a rest at 75 yards.
(3) Average of five rounds chronographed 15 feet from muzzle
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION:
Shell Reloading--1485 S. Lawson, Dept. SGN, Apache Junction, Ariz. 85220 www.obsoleteammo.com
International Military Rifle Association--331 Union Hill Church Rd., Dept. SGN, Falkville, Aia. 35622
Specifications FUSIL DAUDETEAU MODELE B (FUSIL DE MARINE ML E. 1896) Caliber: 6.5mm Daudeteau No. 12 Overall length: 50.65 inches Barrel length: 32.5 inches Weight: 8.7 pounds Magazine: Five rounds, charger-loaded Sights: Front- Inverted V-blade Rear- V-notch adjustable by ramp and leaf from 200 to 2000 meters Bayonet: Epee style Specifications URUGUAYAN MAUSER-DOVITIS RIFLE Caliber: 6.5mm Daudeteau No. 12 Overall length: 50.75 inches Barrel length: 30 inches Weight: 8.3 pounds Sights: Front- Inverted V-blade Rear- V-notch adjustable by ramp and leaf from 200 to 2000 meters Bayonet: Epee style TEST FIRING RESULTS M.96 Daudeteau Group Size (2) Velocity (3) (ins.) (fps) 160-grain Hornady SP 4.5 2302 Mauser-Dovitis 160- rain Hornady SP 3.5 2405 140-grain Sierra MatchKing 2.75 2056 162-grain FMJ 4.75 2037
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|Date:||Jan 20, 2009|
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