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8x50Rmm (8 mm Lebel)
Lebel 8mm round.jpg
Type Rifle
Place of origin  France
Service history
In service 1886–1944
Used by See Users
Wars World War I, World War II
Production history
Variants Balle M, Balle D, Balle N, Balle T, Balle P
Case type Rimmed, bottlenecked
Bullet diameter 8.3 mm (0.33 in)
Neck diameter 8.9 mm (0.35 in)
Shoulder diameter 11.6 mm (0.46 in)
Base diameter 13.8 mm (0.54 in)
Rim diameter 16.0 mm (0.63 in)
Rim thickness 51 mm (2.0 in)
Case length 51 mm (2.0 in)
Overall length 70 mm (2.8 in)
Primer type Large rifle
Ballistic performance
Bullet weight/type Velocity Energy
12.8 g (198 gr) Balle D FMJ 730 m/s (2,400 ft/s) 3,364 J (2,481 ft·lbf)

The 8×50mmR French (8 mm Lebel) rifle cartridge was the first smokeless gunpowder cartridge to be made and adopted by any country. It was introduced by France in 1886. Formed by necking down the 11 mm Gras black powder cartridge, the smokeless 8 mm Lebel cartridge started a revolution in military rifle ammunition. Standard 8mm Lebel ammunition was also the first to feature a boat-tail bullet (Balle D) which was adopted in 1898. [1]



There are two 8 mm Lebel cartridges, one for the Lebel Model 1886 rifle and one for the Modèle 1892 revolver. They are entirely different cartridges and are not interchangeable.

8 mm Lebel rifle ammunition

It was originally loaded with a 15.0 g (232 grains) cupro-nickel jacketed lead-cored wadcutter-style bullet ("Balle M") which had been designed by lieutenant colonel Nicolas Lebel. It was propelled by the first practical smokeless, nitrocellulose based, (Poudre B) gunpowder as developed by Paul Vieille in 1884. The ballistic performance and range of "Balle M" eclipsed all the previous military ammunitions currently in existence at the time (1886). The "Balle M" was replaced in 1898 by a 12.8 g (198 grains) solid 90/100 brass, spitzer boat-tailed bullet ("Balle D") which provided a flatter trajectory and improved long range performance. It had been chosen after extensive tests carried out at APX (Atelier de Puteaux) on five bullet types (A, B, C, D and E) designed by a Captain Desaleux. Solid brass "Balle D" ammunition was universally in service during World War I in all the Lebel caliber weapons, including bolt-action Berthier rifles and carbines as well as automatic weapons: the Hotchkiss machine gun and the Chauchat machine rifle. In 1932 the ammunition was upgraded for the last time to the lead-cored, cupro-nickel jacketed, spitzer boat-tailed "Balle N" bullet which weighed 15.0 g (232 grains). It was held by a case which had a slightly larger neck diameter than the older "Balle D" ammunition. "Balle N" had originally been designed to improve the long range performance of the Hotchkiss machine gun. Converting Lebel caliber rifles and carbines to the "N" ammo was an attempt to standardize between those weapons and the Hotchkiss machine guns still in use just before World War II. "Balle T" tracer and "Balle P" armor-piercing rounds were also produced.

While revolutionary for its time, the 8 mm Lebel cartridge had its drawbacks. It was an odd design, with a thick rim and a rapid double taper. This made it more difficult to feed from standard magazine firearms such as the Berthier rifles and the Chauchat machine rifle. In order to safely accommodate sharply pointed "Balle D" ammunition in the tubular magazine of the Lebel rifle, a groove was machined around each primer cup and a primer cover was also inserted over the primer itself to prevent accidental discharges of ammunition waiting in the magazine. The rifles from which it was fired (Lebel, Berthier, etc.) were also nearly obsolete by the time Balle "D", let alone the Balle "N", came along.

NOTE: Balle N ammo should never be fired from any Lebel or Berthier rifle unless it has had the chamber reamed to accept the larger neck of the N cartridge. Such weapons are stamped N on top of the barrel, just in front of the receiver and behind the rear sight.

In 1929 the 7.5x54mm MAS mod. 1929 (7.5 French) cartridge was introduced. This made the 8 mm Lebel cartridge obsolete overnight but, due to post World War I financial constraints and political neglect, it was not introduced as a rifle cartridge until the adoption, just before World War II, of the MAS-36 rifle.


Balle M

Distance (m) 200 400 600 800 1000 1500 2000
Trajectory (m) 0.14 0.81 2.39 5.27 9.83 31.71 75.61
Velocity (m/s) 488 397 335 290 255 197 160

Balle D

Distance (m) 200 400 600 800 1000 1500 2000
Trajectory (m) 0.12 0.54 1.43 3.01 5.60 18.30 44.0
Velocity (m/s) 607 521 448 388 342 278 240


  •  France
  •  Italy: Saint Etienne machine-gun in 1917-18
  •  Spain: Lebel rifles obtained from France were used by Republican forces during the Spanish Civil War.
  •  United States: Hotchkiss machine-gun and Chauchat machine-rifle in 1917-18
  •  Greece Saint Etienne machine gun in 1917-1940

See also


  • Balle M, D, N, T, and P—By Conjay
  • Huon, Jean. Military Rifle and Machine Gun Cartridges. Alexandria, Va: Ironside International Publishers, 1988. ISBN 0-935554-05-X.


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