Paratroopers possess a cache and collective bond no matter the nation or service. Look at their berets, pretty much every modern airborne force, no matter the nation, don the maroon beret as a sign of distinct and honored duty as airborne infantry.
As grunts who jump from perfectly good airplanes, airborne soldiers have always sought light and effective gear, from small arms to even armored vehicles, like the Sheridan light tank. But what about those rifles that are strapped to airborne soldiers of World War II? Folding stock carbines and submachine guns could be strapped to a paratrooper more easily than a full sized battle rifle.
Interestingly the idea of a folding stock bolt action rifle, the standard shoulder arm of most of the major combatants of World War II, only gained favor in a nation that fell during Blitzkrieg. In France, the standard infantry rifle adopted in 1936 was the MAS-39, a 7.5mm bolt action rifle. Three years later, seeking a rifle to fill the armories of alpine and airborne troops, designers cut down the MAS-36 barrel and lopped off the stock to create an unusual marriage of metal and wood.
Like its larger brothers, the MAS-36 CR 39 was a simple bolt action with two lugs locking the bolt in place. It was fed from an internal box magazine, reloaded by five round stripper clip. The MAS-36 CR 39 also differed with a barrel length of just under 18 inches, roughly five inches shorter than the full-size MAS-36.
Unusually the MAS-36 had no safety lever or mechanism. The rifle was meant to be carried in what Col. Jeff Cooper would later dub, Condition Four, chamber and weapon empty.The only lever on the MAS-36 CR 39 released the folding stock.
With the aluminum stock deployed, to retract it and tuck it beneath the MAS-36, the left mounted lever was manipulated. Located at the pivot point between stock and receiver, the lever would be pushed up to disengage the stock. While some under folding stocks were skeletonized with a separately hinged butt piece, French designers chose a different route.The MAS-36 CR 39 stock was hollow, allowing it to fold up and partially cup the bottom of the rifle.
Another unusual component of the MAS-36 CR 39 was its spring loaded sling. When the stock was retracted, a spool inside the stock, near the butt, wound in the canvas sling via a flat clockwork type spring.
The MAS-36 CR 39 would not see battle during World War II, but it would arm French airborne forces for the bloody battle of Vietnam.