Let's call a spade a spade...the French had their butts handed to 'em by Ho Chi Minh and the boys in Southeast Asia long before we stuck our nose in that game. We know the outcome of our involvement in that nasty war-the casualties and divisions we suffered-and we fielded some mighty fine fighting men and state-of-the-art armaments.

Not that the French didn't have some fine soldiers in Indochina. They did.

But France had a pile of surplus-World War II stuff they fielded to suppress the Southeast Asian insurgency during their involvement there in the early 1950s.

Enter AA-52, Arme Automatique Transformable Modele 1952 manufactured by MAS (Manufacture d'Armes St. Etienne), France's transformable automatic weapon.

Sounds like some kind of kid's toy.

AA-52 was one of the first French gun designs to emerge after the Second World War. This gun is chambered for the 7.5x54mm French cartridge. A later version of the gun is chambered for 7.62mm NATO to expedite France's role in that European alliance.

AA-52 is a delayed blowback operated automatic machine gun that's air-cooled.

It is belt-fed and operates from the open bolt.

AA-52 comes in light with an integral barrel and bipod at 22 pounds and a heavy version mounted on a tripod (or on a vehicle or chopper), at roughly 50 pounds.

This machine gun saw service in Indochina and the Gulf War, and if you look hard enough, you're likely to find one or two lying around today in French arsenals.

The Belgian-made Fabrique Nationale Minimi replaced the AA-52 light version, and the FN MAG replaced the heavy. Fabrique Nationale trumped MAS on both scores.

C'est la vie mon ami!

AA-52 is about 49 inches long with its telescoping butt extended (approximately 42 inches otherwise) and sports a 23.5-inch barrel. It uses a disintegrating belt feed that cycles 700 to 900 rounds per minute with a muzzle velocity of 2,700 feet per second.

The AA-52 has more friends in its 7.62 NATO chambering than 7.5mm French, and like many guns of its time, its usefulness has expired. Time for a more modern gun.