World War I Bunker Buster: M1916 37mm Infantry Gun

Published: 3 January 2023

By Tom Laemlein
via the The Armory Life web site

U.S. troops in action in the Argonne forest with an M1916 37mm gun.


U.S. troops in action in the Argonne forest with an M1916 37mm gun. The desolate landscape shows scars from of years of war. Image: NARA

The First World War saw the introduction of many new and exceedingly deadly weapon systems. The eternal suffering of the infantryman continued, made worse by the development of the machine gun. When placed in a hardened “nest” or a bunker, an enemy machine gun could dominate the battlefield, and these positions became a nightmare to assault.

In 1915, the French Army developed a comparatively lightweight 37mm gun for infantry use. Ready in early 1916, the French Model of 1916 was a 104-lb. gun and recoil mechanism that was mounted on an 84-lb. carriage with split trail legs. A 188-lb. weapon is a tremendous load by today’s standards, but for the infantry of WWI, it was an acceptable hardship to carry, within reason, based on the firepower it provided.

French modèle 1916 37mm infantry gun

The French modèle 1916 37mm infantry gun used in training during World War I. Image: NARA

The M1916 37mm gun was specifically assigned to destroy German machine gun nests and other high-value positions. Equipped with an APX telescopic sight, the 37mm gun quickly proved to be an effective bunker-buster with accurate direct fire. French troops were quite happy with their “infantry accompanying gun”, and when America joined the fight in 1917, deliveries of the M1916 were made to the Doughboys serving in France.

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