|Rifle||Modèle 1935||Manufacturers||FN, MAE|
|Action||Rotation Bolt||Barrel Length||22.8″|
|Magazine||5 rnds, stripper clip||Weight||9 lbs|
Despite a rich history of arms manufacture, the Belgians were a neutral nation and did not always put much into modernizing their military. With German re-armament they finally got the ball moving on a new standard short rifle in 1935.
Back during the Franco-Prussian War, Belgians lived in fear of being drawn into the conflict directly. In reviewing their military massive deficiencies were found. They learned a lesson without paying a heavy price and soon rearmed with the then-modern Mauser Model 1889 rifle. However, old habits die hard and by the mid 1930’s the standard rifle of the Belgians was still the Model 1889.
In a bit of irony, the Belgian arms manufacturers were some of the best and busiest of the times. Germany’s defeat in WWI and the punitive Treaty halted major commercial exports of weapons. With conflict or expectation of conflict across the globe, FN was supplying modern bolt action Mausers in every direction but at home. With rapid German militarization and aggression suddenly a new rifle was a more pressing matter. But, as usual, there would be a nod to thrift.
We’ve had a bit of trouble finding any details about the Belgian Model 1935 and while we usually reach for two sources we’re running a bit light on those this time. So forgive us if the facts change as more study is revealed.
Working from the standard Mauser Model 1889 platform, the Mle.1935 was assembled from new made receivers provided by FN. Receivers were also produced from MAE, which we have not had much chance to examine, and several sources disagree on whether they were new or refurbished components. New production by MAE could be questionable as they were usually a repair facility, however they did have the ability to manufacture parts. Bolts and many of the small parts are apparently built from reparation guns, or perhaps contract overflow parts from other orders. The matching example here displays a few Serbian marked bolt components by example. It has been said the stocks were taken and modified from Turkish Model 1903’s but this is unconfirmed.
The Belgians retained the curved extension on their bolt release lever. The front sight protector is sturdy like the Polish wz.29, with a projection in the base to help retain the cleaning rod (sadly missing on our example). The barrel band is a unique top hinged design and the handguard is shaped to protect the hinge from impact and keep it from the line of sight. Bayonets from the original 1889 were modified along with new made replacements so the Mle.1935 features a lowered lug to allow for the old pattern. These rifles were provided with new barrels still chambered in 7.65x53mm but now fitted with a pointed spitzer cartridge. The metal is finished in a heavy black lacquer-like finish, somewhat similar to British arms. FN’s receivers bear the mark of King Leopold the III.
Nearly as soon as they were in place the Belgian 1935’s were put to use defending the country during the German invasion of 1940. Sadly they were too little too late in the face of modern Blitzkrieg warfare. Because of their scarcity they are uncommon rifles in the US and so should be given extra attention when encountered.