By Jean Huon

In 1858, the French Navy adopted the Lefaucheux revolver; however the more conservative Army waited until 1873to adopt a centerfire Chamelot-Delvigne design. At the end of the 19th century the excellent Model 1892 was developed, but at the beginning of World War I in 1914, this armament appeared insufficient. The French Army then turned to Spanish factories for additional handguns. As of late 1918, the Spanish had delivered 485,291 revolvers and 968,220 pistols. Most of them were of the Ruby or Star type.

After the war, 588,000 handguns remained in the stocks of the French Army. But conscious of the fact that all the material of their infantry was obsolete, the Staff launched a complete programme of renewal.

On May 9, 1921, the first program relating to the development of a new model pistol was written. The weapon was to have a long barrel to develop high energy and it must be able to receive a shoulder stock. The influence of the Mauser C 96 and Long Barrel Luger pistol is obvious.

The program was revised on July 25, 1922. The dimensions of the weapon were reduced and its energy brought back to 35 kgm. But in France, the development of new weapons was never in a hurry and it was necessary to wait fifteen years before not one but two models of automatic pistols were adopted.

In 1922 and 1923, the Versailles Experiment Commission evaluated the Colt M1911, P 08 and Long Barrel Luger, Steyr 1912, Mauser 1912, Webley & Scott, Lewis, Beretta 1915, Ruby, Browning 1903, 1910 and 1922, Lambrecht, Rochet, and various prototypes made by MAC, MAS, MAT and F.N. Browning.

None of the weapons put to test was retained and headquarters again modified the specifications of the future weapon on June 2, 1927. They had been directed at the beginning of the program towards the 9x12mm Luger cartridge but they turn now to the 7.65mm Long.

The 7.65mm Long is not well known except to specialists. It draws its origin from the .30 Pedersen tested by the Americans at the end of the World War I to transform the Springfield M1903 rifle into an automatic weapon. It is light and has low recoil, but this is to the detriment of stopping power which was surprisingly weak. This ammunition was adopted in France (and not elsewhere) for the Army pistol and the future submachine gun.

A Slow Gestation

Others weapons were tested separately and in 1933 an open competition was organized where many pistols appeared:

7.65mm long pistols
  • One Bayard blowback pistol,
  • One Browning No. 1 blowback pistol,
  • One Lepage blowback pistol,
  • Six MAS 1932 blowback pistols (three Type A and three Type B),
  • One MAT No. 2 delayed blowback pistol,
  • One Paillot blowback pistol with double action only,
  • Pieper blowback pistols,
  • Three Seytres pistols, two blowback models and another similar to the Colt M1911,
  • Two Souzy, locked breech pistols, looking like the Colt M1911,
  • Two Star pistols with removable shoulder stock,
  • One Warnant double action pistol with an external hammer.

  • One 9mm Luger, Browning 1930 pistol, calibre, evolution of the Grand Rendement,
  • One 9mm Browning long, Le Français Type Armée pistol. It works with a blowback mechanism and a double action only trigger,
  • One 7.65mm Browning Le Victorieux Type Ruby pistol,
  • Two Star locked breech pistol, one shooting the 9mm Largo cartridge and the other in .45 ACP.

The 9mm Luger Browning gun is an ancestor of the H.P. It was created in 7.65mm Long especially for the French tests, with a removable trigger mechanism as the schedule of conditions specified and it worked with a blowback slide.

Although none of the pistols in the competitive test of 1933 were adopted, the best results were obtained by the MAS 1932 Type B No. 3, Bayard, Seytres No. 3 (in fact a Star pistol), the Browning No. 1 and the MAS Type B No. 1.

But the unstated goal of this test was only to select the criteria to be retained for the development of the final weapon: short recoil locked breech, removable trigger mechanism, single action with an external hammer and a common spring for the hammer and the sear, safety on the slide and blocking the striker and simple disassembly without tools after removal of the slide hold open latch.

After new trials in 1935, only four pistols remained: the MAS, the SACM (Petter system), the F.N. Herstal (Browning) and the Spanish Star. The ultimate phase of the selection included the shooting of five thousand cartridges per weapon, with:

* Velocity measurement on ten shots.
* Test of precision on bench at fifteen meters, by four series of ten shots.
* Test of endurance on 950 shots without cleaning, oiling, nor replacement of parts.
* Long service test with 4,000 cartridges, including cleaning and maintenance.

At the conclusion of these tests, in 1937, France finally adopted an automatic pistol. Better, after all that delay, it adopted two of them. The gun developed by the Saint-Etienne factory was adopted under the name of pistol Modèle 1935 S and of the Petter gun presented by S.A.C.M., which took the name of pistol Modèle 1935 A. The 1936 Browning and Star were discarded.

At the beginning of the program, the Saint-Etienne factory had begun research for the development of a new model of pistol and several prototypes were developed:

* A 9mm MAS 1923 pistol. It was gas operated and has a vent perpendicular to the gun and an articulated slide.
* A 9mm MAS 1924 with short recoil of the barrel associated with a helicoid movement.
* A 7.65mm Long MAS 1925, with a blowback slide and a recoil spring around the barrel. The frame is made of two asymmetrical elements articulated on a hinge located at the base of the grip.

For the competition in 1933, the establishment presented six guns (3 MAS 32 Type A and 3 others of Type B) Type. These weapons were the summit of the evolution of the various prototypes constructed in the factory.

One of the models presented during the final selection was adopted by a ministerial decision of December 29, 1937, undoubtedly to compensate for the limited production capacities of S.A.C.M.

In September 1938, the MAS factory received an order for 10,000 guns and the first weapons were delivered in February 1939. But the workload of the establishment was such (rifles, machine pistols, spare parts, gas masks) that only 1,404 guns are produced before the armistice of June 1940.

The Model 1935 S pistol is not listed in the instruction manual Instruction sur l'Armement et le Matériel de Tir, edition of 1940 (National Printing Office) whereas the pistol Model 1935 A does appear. On the other hand, one still finds it in documents of instruction of years 1950/1960, whereas the Model 1935 A does not appear there any more.

Description of Model 1935 S

The frame has a trapezoidal handle with a very marked pointed busk. It supports the aluminium trigger and its bar. The handle receives Bakelite plates fixed by two screws and it carries at the base a ring for lanyard.

The magazine is retained by a catch located at the base of the trigger guard. The magazine has on the sides seven holes corresponding to the position of the cartridges in the magazine.

The slide is guided on the frame by means of grooves matching those in the frame. This solid slide has grasping grooves at the back. These grooves, vertical on the prototype, are oblique on the series version.

The ejection port is on the right and the loaded chamber indicator on the top. The safety is placed at the rear of the slide and blocks the striker. It is placed in a boss on the slide where the open U notch rears sight is cut. The front sight, a truncated half-moon, is machined at the end of the slide.

The barrel is assembled in the frame and it comprises a shoulder at the rear that locks in the ejection port. It is bored for the 7.65mm calibre (.30) with four groves, one turn on 250 mm (9.84 inches). The recoil spring with its guide rod is placed below the barrel.

The removable lock work holds also the ejector, the hammer and the firing spring. The firing pin is pushed by the hammer after the trigger is squeezed. The weapon is provided with a magazine safety and the hammer can also be half cocked. The metal parts receive a parkerized finish.


The slide carries on the left the mark MAS and on the right: MODELE 1935 S CAL. 7,65 L
The serial number is engraved on the right side of the frame, just below markings of the slide. The weapons are numbered by series of ten thousand (or more exactly from 1 to 9999) with a letter prefixes, the first of which is F.

Production ceased at the armistice in 1940 and rather curiously, it is not reactivated by the Germans when they take the control of the Southern zone in November 1942. The MAS factory became a subsidiary company of Mauser, where various spare parts and bayonets for the K98 k, which carry the code ogy, were made. Note, the MAS Model 1935 S carrying Waffenamt marks are fakes!


The manufacture of the Model 1935 S pistols started again after the departure of the Germans and the MAS factory made 1,165 pistols without letter prefixes and 4,117 guns in the series F.

Later, the MAS factory was overloaded and sub-contracted the manufacture and the assembly of the guns to the Manufacture Française d'Armes et Cycles, a private factory located in Saint-Etienne and also known as Manufrance. Manufrance machined the frame, the barrel, the slide and the lock work from parts furnished by MAS. They used 222 machines and the work was done by 58 people. The contract ended in October 1945, with production of ten thousand guns. The slide of the guns assembled by Manufrance kept the MAS mark but the serial number on the frame received the letter prefixes MF G.

Between August 1945 and May 1946, the production of the pistol Model 1935 S was gradually transferred to the Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Châtellerault (or MAC), in collaboration with the Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Saint-Etienne or MAS (frame, magazine) and the Manufacture Nationale d'Armes de Tulle or MAT (barrel, slide, various parts).

MAC re-dimensioned the parts in order to allow their complete interchangeability, which was not the case before. The firing pin and the safety were improved, now, when the lever is in the safety position, it sticks out the back of the slide beside the hammer. The weapons having received this modification are designated Model 1935 S M1. They were produced from 1946, but the marking was modified the following year and became regular only after January 12, 1950.

The magazine was also modified. The milled floor plate is replaced by one made of stamped sheet metal. The two-part follower assembled with a rivet is replaced by a single part. The floor plate is marked MLE 19 35-S (1st type) or 19 35-S (2nd type).

The weapons assembled at Châtellerault carry on the left face of the slide a MAC, MAS or MAT marking, according to origin. The frame is marked MAC before the serial number. The weapons made by MAC are blued or parkerized. Production ceased in Châtellerault in 1956 though production capacities were maintained until 1960 ensuring the production of spare parts. MAC produced 56,087 guns and the weapons were delivered per numbered series from 1 to 10000 with letters prefixes A, C, D, E, from 10001 to 20000 for the series B, and again 6,087 numbered guns from F 1 to F 6087. This last series included 70 guns assembled with parts stored by MAS, while eleven specimens were kept in store until 1964.

In addition, the production of the Model 1935 S pistol is entrusted to the Société d'Application Générales Electriques et Mécaniques (SAGEM), which manufactured them in a factory located in Argenteuil (west of Paris). The barrels were produced by the Manufacture d'Armes de Paris at Saint-Denis (north of Paris), an Hotchkiss-Brandt subsidiary.

The contract with the SAGEM was signed on September 12, 1945 and was terminated on September 12 1951. The company produced ten thousand Model 1935 S M1 pistols: 9,512 of them were in conformity with the production tables and they were dispatched to the Ordnance Center in Vincennes (east of Paris). The 488 remaining specimens had barrels outside of specifications and after a reconditioning in the MAC plant they were delivered to the security service of the arsenals.

The weapons produced by SAGEM carry the logo of the company (the initials in an oval) on the left face of the slide and the right-sided of the frame. They are numbered from 00001 to 10000 with prefix A. The barrels are marked MAP. These weapons receive a blued, parkerized or enamelled finish (baked on over parkerizing).

The cumulative production of the Models 1935 S, 1935 S M1 pistols, made by MAS, Manufrance, MAC and SAGEM, is 82.763 guns. The Models 1935 A and 1935 S were gradually withdrawn from service progressively after the arrival of a new model in the Army. The gendarmerie and the police force used them later. The motorcyclists of the Paris Police were still equipped with them up to the 1970s. Some countries in Africa also received them but now they are retired from service because of the lack of ammunition.


The Model 1935 S pistol works by short recoil of the barrel, according to the system Colt/Browning. The square notch at the rear of the barrel acts as a locking lug. The pistol has a captive spring (shorter than that of the 35 A) and removable lock work, but there are no common parts between the two weapons, not even the magazines.

Disassembly and Reassembly

The disassembly and reassembly of the model 1935 S or S M1 pistol is carried out in the following way:

  • Put the weapon on safe.
  • Remove the magazine.
  • Open the slide to check the chamber is empty.
  • Bring the slide back until its notch is opposite the slide stop.
  • The slide stop is driven out from right to left, which makes it possible to separate the slide from the frame.
  • The barrel and the spring can then be separate while the lock work is lifted from the frame.
  • Reassembly is carried out in the inverse order.

Characteristics - Model 1935 S

Caliber: 7.65mm (.30)
Ammunition: 7.65mm Long Overall length: 190 mm (7.48 inches)
Barrel length 107 mm (4.21 inches)
Height: 121 mm (4.76 inches)
Weight (empty): 800 g (1.76 lbs)
Magazine capacity: 8 rounds

Test and Evaluation

We tested a Model 1935 S pistol made by MAS in the pre-war period. It is very worn and carries the serial number F 131. The pistol feels good in the hand, but the handle is too small for a gunner having large hands and the spur would have to be a little longer to avoid pinching the space between the thumb and the forefinger by the hammer when the slide recoils. The angle of inclination of the grip is perfectly appropriate for shooting with the gun at top of a straight arm. The trigger pull is rough - it weighs 3,100 kgf (6.8 lbs) and it is two stages. The sights are clear, but a little too small. The recoil is soft. Disassembly and the reassembly are easy. The gun is accurate but the stopping power of the ammunition is poor.


A Model 35 S M 1 enlarged and chambered for the 9mm Luger was developed in 1946. This improved weapon was the predecessor of the pistol Model 1950, still in use in the Army.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V14N12 (September 2011)
and was posted online on November 1, 2011


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