It set a precedent for several subsequent 20th-century firearm projects, being a portable, yet full-power automatic weapon built inexpensively and in very large numbers.
The Chauchat combined a pistol grip, an in-line stock, a detachable magazine, and a selective fire capability in a compact package of manageable weight (20 pounds) for a single soldier.
The Chauchat machine rifle in 8mm Lebel was also extensively used in 1917–18 by the American Expeditionary Forces (A. F), where it was officially designated as the "Automatic Rifle, Model 1915 (Chauchat)".
A total of 262,000 Chauchat machine rifles were manufactured between December 1915 and November 1918, including 244,000 chambered for the 8mm Lebel service cartridge, making it the most widely manufactured automatic weapon of World War I.
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The Chauchat, named after Colonel Louis Chauchat, the main contributor to its design, was the standard machine rifle or light machine gun of the French Army during World War I (1914–18).
The Chauchat machine rifle project was initiated between 19 in a French Army weapon research facility located near Paris: the "Atelier de Construction de Puteaux (APX)".
This development was aiming at creating a very light, portable automatic weapon served by one man only, yet firing the 8 mm Lebel service ammunition.
It was mass manufactured during World War I by two reconverted civilian plants: "Gladiator" and "Sidarme". The Belgian military did not experience difficulties with their Chauchats in 7.65mm Mauser and kept them in service into the early 1930s. Within the context of the times it was an effective, useful and reasonably reliable weapon that was available at low cost and in large numbers.
Besides the 8mm Lebel version, the Chauchat machine rifle was also manufactured in U. .30-06 Springfield and in 7.65×53mm Argentine Mauser caliber to arm the American Expeditionary Forces (A. The design of the Chauchat dates back to 1903, and its long recoil operation is based on the John Browning-designed Remington Model 8 semi-automatic rifle of 1906, not (as so often repeated in the past) on the later designs (1910) of Rudolf Frommer, the Hungarian inventor of the commercial Frommer Stop pistol.