The MAS-49/56 (Manufacture d'Armes St. Etienne) was introduced in 1957. Its design improvements over previous French combat rifles came from combat experience in Algeria and against the Viet Minh in Vietnam. The rifle became shorter and lighter to improve mobility for armor, airborne and jungle troops. The MAS-49/56 ended production in 1978. The MAS 49/56 was withdrawn from service in 1990. 275,240 MAS 49/56 rifles were produced between 1957 and 1978.
The MAS 49/56 firing 7.5 x 54mm ammo was an accurate battle rifle for its time. Recoil is very light for a full-power rifle which allows the sight to stay on target. Its overall handling is excellent. The 49/56 is well balanced and swings faster than WWII-era rifles including the M1 Garand. The MAS 49/56 weighs about 8.5 lbs. The Garand is heavier at 10 lbs. The MAS is also four inches shorter than M1 and most of its weight is centerd in the action. Internal parts are heavy duty, forged and machined--not stamped. The build quality and detail are superior to most but not all WWII rifles.
Using the iron sights and high-quality surplus French military ball, the MAS will average, 1.75 to 2.5 MOA five-shot groups at 100 yards. The MAS is as accurate as any other semi-auto military rifle during and post WWII-this includes a comparison with FN FAL, HK G3/CETME, or stock M1 Garand. It is more accurate than FN 49, SVT-40, AK-47 or SKS.
Advanced features for the time
The MAS detachable magazine could be topped off or reloaded during combat. Garand shooters had to wait until the ammo clip was expended with a loud clang, which was dangerous in fighting lulls. The MAS 49/56 has fewer parts and field strips faster than the M1. The MAS disassembles into just seven largish pieces; the beefy firing pin is the smallest one.
The MAS 49/56 is considered by knowledgeable, unbiased folk to be the pinnacle of semi-automatic main battle rifles of the WWll period. Today a decent M-1 Garand sells for $1000 give or take. The MAS 49/56 is a bargain for a lightweight, compact, hard-hitting rifle--they sell for about $500. The MAS should be an important and inexpensive addition to your arsenal. Some gun people consider the 49/56 rather ugly and I agree. But in its ugliness is beauty if you consider its practical design or can appreciate the unusual.