This is a color photograph of a French soldiers crew manning a 1907 St. Etienne machine gun. The St. Etienne machine gun was a light infantry weapon used widely by the French army during world war 1. It was manufactured from 1908 to 1917, and over 36,000 were produced. The gun derives it name from the fact that it was designed at the French national arsenal at Saint Etienne.
It featured a variable rate of fire that could be set at between 8 to 600 rounds per minute. The mechanism was gas actuated and compared to a fine clockwork.
Despite, advanced design and engineering, the St Etienne was not a particularly good machine gun. The mud and dirt of the front lines tended to get into the mechanisms and cause frequent jams. As a result, beginning in 1917 this machine gun was removed from the front lines and replaced with the simpler and more reliable Hotchkiss 1914 machine gun. The surviving St. Etiennes were transferred for use in the French colonies, where any opponents tended to lack much firepower of their own, or sold off to Italy and other allied countries.