8mm Lebel Rifle ammo question

I need to ask a question regarding 8mm Lebel rifle ammo. I bought some military ammo that was on machine gun clips. The clips are rectangular in shape and apparently fed into the gun that way.
The problem is that the ammo won’t go all the way into the chamber of my rifle. After making a chamber casting I found out that the neck of the cartridges are about 1mm too long for the chamber!
This lead me to question if this ammo is safe to shoot in a Label rifle. If it is safe, I seem to have two options: ream the neck area of the chamber deeper or remove about a millimeter or two off of each round in the lathe. Obviously, the first is the more attractive of the two.
What do you folks think (I am not doing anything stupid until I get some more information)?

I’m not sure what rifle you have, but 8 Lebel ammo is 8 Lebel ammo, there is no different rifle and MG ammunition. Perhaps your chamber is dirty or has an obstruction.

I can’t address the question of the apparent difference in the length of your rifle’s chamber and your ammunition, but there is evidence here your ammo is of the 1932 N type which has a larger effective bullet diameter than the earlier 8 m/m Lebel types. If the cartridges bear the date “48” in their headstamp they are of the N type and shouldn’t be fired in any Lebel caliber rifle or carbine lacking a prominent “N” stamp on the receiver ring or breech end of the barrel. Jack


Welcome to the IAA forum.

The ‘clips’ you are describing are typically called feed strips and usually hold 24 rds of ammunition. The feed strips you have may indeed contain 8mm Lebel cartridges as one of the main French MG’s from WW1 to shortly after WW2 was the Hotchkiss M1914 MG which used feed strips. But other MG’s in different calibers from other countries also used feed strips so you need to verify that what you have is indeed 8mm Lebel ammunition. A picture of the feed strip with ammunition in place would help to verify what you have. There are a number of folks on the IAA forum who can provide lots of detailed info on 8mm Lebel ammunition and feed strips used by the French and other countries.

As Jack points out in his post the French modified the Lebel bullet in 1932 so you need to know what type of rifle you have and the year of production. The IAA forum deals primarily with collector ammunition and I have no doughty there are plenty of forum members here who are very very knowledgeable on military firearms, gunsmithing etc. but typically involved discussions on subjects of this nature are left to other forums setup specifically to handle such questions and discussions. As far as altering your rifle and verifying the model/make and year of production I would suggest you try the Gun Boards forum, sub forum French Firearms Board @ forums.gunboards.com/forumdispla … arms-Board.


I would not say the bullet diameter was expanded.
The balle D is 8.3 mm like the balle N. The difference is that balle D sits in a mushroom-fashion on the mouth of the case. The large diameter part is outside the case. The rear part of the bullet has a smaller diameter like the old flat nose bullet.

Later, to accomodate the N bullet this arrangement was dropped and the case neck expanded. So the 8.3 mm of the balle N could go into the case. To be able to handle this new neck diameter, the neck part of the chamber was reamed out on all rifles still in the inventory and these were marked N. This ensured rifles could fire machine gun cartridges in an emergency.

So, was I wrong? I’m a bit confused.

Jon: JPeelen’s description is accurate. The actual measured max diameter of the balle D and the N bullet are similar, but in the balle D this diameter is only a narrow skirt immediately in front of the case mouth, whereas in the N bullet the diameter of the cylindrical section of the bullet between the crimping cannelure and the beginning of the boattail is something on the order of five thousandths or so larger than the balle D at that point. As a result the balle N cartridge, measured over the neck portion of the case, is fatter than the balle D and its use in an arm intended for the balle D will likely produce excessive pressure. Many, but not all, Lebel carbines and rifles were reamed with use of this ammunition in mind and so marked. And, of course, all Lebels out of French service before 1932 were never intended to fire the N bullet. Jack

OK, got that. But are there any Lebel MG-only loadings?

Jon: Since the balle N ammo was issued in the 8-round paper packets in the late 1930s I have to assume it was intended these be fired in Lebel rifles suitably altered and marked for this cartridge. On the other hand, I don’t know if the French army regarded the balle N as standard issue or limited standard for these arms. Jack

The balle N cartridge 32N was intended for machine gun use at long ranges only. Balle D (cartridge 86D) was fired from rifle and machine gun. I have seen a machine gun firing table for balle D. Rifle use of balle N would have been only done in an emergency. As I wrote in my previous post, to cater for such an emergency the rifles were modified to be able to chamber a 32N cartridge.

You could compare this situation with the Soviet 7.62x54R model D (yellow tip) for long range machine gun fire, while the normal L wille be used in machine guns as well as rifles. Before someone asks: no, the soviet D never was a sniper cartridge, only machine gun. The accuracy requirements were less strict than for normal L cartridge.

I’m learning a lot. I’ll take a closer look at the gun and ammo tomorrow. Thanks to all those knowledgeable folks who have replied.

As a late comer here, I can but add that personally, I would NOT shoot any of the 32N ammo loaded for the Hotchkiss MG in any rifle or carbine, even with the “N” alteration. Why? It is tough on the old gun and your shoulder- ears too in the carbine. I shot some of it (some 48 rounds) in a Mle. 16 Berthier carbine and it wasn’t a happy experience. Emergency, maybe- plinking- NO!


I purchased a standard WWI Lebel Rifle M1896/93 that was brought back from Afghanistan. Got a bunch of the Lebel N cartridges at SLICS. My Lebel Rifle was NOT modified withe the “N” stamped on the receiver. At the time, I did not know the difference and that N cartridges should not/could not be fired in an unmodified Lebel Rifle. Sooooo, I loaded and chambered; I noticed that the cartridge fit tight and the bolt handle was hard to turn down. Soooo, pull the trigger I did. Of the thirty or so French M1932 N Cartridges I tried to fire only one worked and that one was a “hang-Fire.” That is, after I pulled the trigger, there was about a 3 to 5 second delay after I brought it down from my shoulder before it fired. Lucky for me, my head was not in line with the muzzle. There does not seem to be any damage to the rifle, but I can’t see inside the chamber to know for sure. My recommendation to anyone, be very careful with the French Model 1932 N Cartridge, mine were head stamped 1948 and probably came off of the machine gun strips. Most of the primers in these cartridges are dead or capable of the dangerous “hang-fire.”

“That is, after I pulled the trigger, there was about a 3 to 5 second delay after I brought it down from my shoulder before it fired.”

I’ve never had a hang-fire duration anywhere nearly that long. I’ve experienced lots of click-bangs (usually with old ammunition), but no more than a small fraction of a second delay.

Firtstrly, the 1948 dated ammo in Hotchkiss steel 24 round strips is almost certainly “Balle M1932 (N)” N being for “Normale” or standard.

ASA mentioned, the .326" diameter of the projectile is from the cannelure down to the beginning of the Boat tail…the opposite of the Swaged and turned solid "Machining Bronze ( 90/10 brass) used in the “Balle D”. The Balle D had the “contact surface " at .326” in front of the Cannelure, and so didn’t 8interferew with the final Neck dimensions of the loaded round.

From 1932 onwards, all Rifles, Carbines and of course, Gs still in French Service for the Lebel cartridge were chamber-modi8fied by reaming out the neck to clear the new neck dimension of the "Balle “N”…and these firearms had their chambers/receivers stamped with a large “N” in Block style.

Balle “N” in 8 round packets…for use in Both Lebel M1886 /93 “N” rifles, and for reloading Hot5chkiss Strips in the Field ( 24 rounds == 3 Packets of 8).

There were also Packets of 3 round Berthier clips and 5 round M16 clips, with “N” cartrtidges in them.

The Only French rifles NOT to receive the “N” modification were those outside French Control in the 1930s ( ie, those which went to Poland in 1919, those to Greece from 1917-1920, etc. and any sold as “Milsurp” in the late 1920s (Ethiopia, Afghanistan, etc).

Balle “N” ammo "primers dead or HF…all the 8mm Hotchkiss strip ammo o9n the US market came out of Syria and Algeria in the 1970s…and both these countries are notorious for bad ammo storage and subsequent Primer Failure…Syrian 7,5x54 MAS ammo, (made by Syrian Defence Industry) and French made 8mm Lebel ammo, all suffers from "Kaputt Primer Syndrome"
which means almost total non-firing or the occasional hang fire, some quite (and dangerously) Long.

I have some 50,000 rounds of Syrian 7,5, and it is almost all( 95%) nonfiring…I can spend half an hour at the range bench, and fire over 100 cartridges, of which about 4-5 will go off and accurately hit the target, whilst the rest are “Hold over practice” or “dry fire practice”…these do get recycled (New Berdan primer, original Powder and Bullet.).

Doc AV

OK, OK, maybe it wasn’t 3 to 5 seconds before the “hang-fire” shot. Yes, as I remember, it was as I was bring it down from my shoulder. Nevertheless, be careful if you shot them. On that day, after the “hang-fire”, with the rest of the cartridges I attempted to fire, I held the rifle on target for thirty seconds after pulling the trigger.

Don’t knock you time sense. I have had 7.62x45 Czech SHE and some old Spanish Santa Barbera 7x57 that would do that. The Czech stuff had rust on the cases and some was fine, and most never fired, but here and there, you’d get the click…bang, or click…bang, or click…bang. Anyone who thinks it can’t happen hasn’t shot enough old ammo.
The Spanish also split the cases in one out of 5 (more than one all the way from the mouth of the case to the extractor groove) and stung my face with powder gas and oil out of the bolt a few times. I shot the 100 rnd carton and never again!