From the Chassepot rifle from the War of 1870 to the British Sten submachine gun, more than 1,500 weapons handed over to the State as part of a simplified abandonment campaign in 2022 will be given to museums, we learned from of the Ministry of the Interior. The Milipol exhibition, dedicated to internal security, exhibits some 1,100 pistols, German Lugers or American Colt 1911s, rifles and even machine guns, witnesses of the history of France. These weapons will go into the collections of the Army Museum and nearly 80 national and private museums which have expressed an interest in recovering them.
In working condition, they were recovered among the 150,000 collected during the simplified abandonment operation carried out by the Ministry of the Interior between November 25 and December 2, 2022. Some 76,000 other weapons had been declared by their owners who had been able to keep them.
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“More than 95% of the weapons that were collected are hunting weapons, very often in very poor condition” and slated for destruction, explains Philippe Couvreur, expert at the ministry’s Central Arms and Explosives Service (SCAE). But some with heritage value, such as a cavalry pistol from 1766 or the entire range of individual weapons from the First and Second World Wars, have been preserved.
In particular German Mauser rifles from 1914-1918, “we recovered 10 times more than French weapons”. “War souvenirs abandoned at the end of the war” and recovered by the Poilus, who on the other hand had to hand over their own weapons during their demobilization. Or these British Sten submachine guns, parachuted en masse into the Resistance maquis which, decades later, emerge from the cellars and barns where they remained hidden by their owners.
SCAE agents even recovered a German MG-42 machine gun in perfect condition “brought by an old gentleman to Lannion” (Côtes-d’Armor). His history ? Impossible to know, observes Philippe Couvreur, “the principle of the operation was anonymity to encourage people to hand over their weapons”.
Building on the success of this operation, the SCAE set up an experiment in the Loire, Rhône and Drôme where gun owners can hand them over anonymously to approved gunsmiths, according to Jean-Simon Mérandat, the head of the SCAE. This will be extended to the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône and Martinique, before generalization in July.