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French OTAN M51 Helmet

Article about: Nice Rene, been meaning to pick one up for a while but something else always comes up. Going to start working on it today. I like them a lot. Thanks, John

  1. #61

    Default Re: French OTAN M51 Helmet


    Just to comment on the dents on french helmets.

    As for the explaination, it lyes in the technology of the helmets

    You have 2 main technologies:
    - Hard materials like for US or german helmets that are suppose to stop the bullet (to some extend)
    - Soft materials which are aimed at absorbing the shock and diverte the bullet. French helmets pertains to this category.

    That said, I much appreciated the story that is, in a way, hilarious.

    At least nothing of what I saw or eard of before but who knows... : )


  2. #62

    Default Re: French OTAN M51 Helmet

    im sorry bruno if i provide the wrong information but glad it made you giggle ,my brain has been slowly simmering in red wine for years ,maybe i got my wires crossed ,thank you for your reasons to the causing of the dents ,regards james

  3. #63

    Default Re: French OTAN M51 Helmet

    Hi James,,

    No problem. Who knows, maybe some soldiers that were so upset by their maniac sergeant had to use this express way of communicating : D

    In some instance they might not have been to blame for this ; )


  4. #64


    Ahh Wifey scored me this ZA helmet from a family friend that was involved in many actions during the Border Wars. These are shot she's taken for me as she is still over there! so not in hand. And bugger I forgot how badly I cook! that's Wifey's dig

  5. #65


    well that sure is one well battered example rene'
    well done wifey on a nice find now there is a thing i didnt realise ,my otan has swivel bails yet yours has fixed ,does that mean yours is a former TAP with the rear bail removed but going off the pics it doesnt seem to be the case ,these french lids arent my strongest field of expertise so maybe you can explain further mate ,thinking on i do have a gendarmerie otan with a pair of fixed bails only

  6. #66


    James - the helmet reneblacky has shown is a South African - locally made - version of the mle 51. Clue being (apart from anything else) the CJ Fuchs makers mark. These were modelled on the third, last, variant of the mle 51 which has fixed bails. It also has no nape-strap in the liner, just a simple sliding adjustment strap at the rear of the headband, as was the case with the later-production mle51 liners.

    There are also other variations from the norm of the mle 51 (as if there was any real 'norm', that is...) like for example the adjustment loops on the chinstrap which are absent the the original French model (OK, except for the paratroop version you mention which has a three-point strap). Its worth remembering that neither the SA or the Portuguese (M964) versions of the mle51 are identical to *any* version of the French original.

    I posted this about the French version a while back, it gives some very simple pointers to where your helmet may be in the range -

    There are three main visible variations of the shell;
    1 - early models, with chinstrap bails fixed at a 90degree angle to the rim
    2 - middle period, with swivel bails similar to the later US M1
    3 - late period, back to fixed bails, but the bails are fixed parallel to the rim

    Chinstraps - early models have rivetted chinstraps, later production is sewn.

    At least two paint finishes, granulated for early, smooth for late, but multiple variants of both.

    And for the liner, the most visible variation is in the nape strap -
    1 - early - fixed with press-studs/poppers
    2 - middle - fixed, sewn
    3 - late - no nape strap, but a sliding strap at rear of headband.

    Also the liners are made of several different materials, with at least one change in rivet pattern.

  7. #67


    greg ,superb information im always willing to learn about the differances between all the models ,they really are quite complex ,imagine trying to collect every variation ,more than my shelves could take im sure my otan is early 50's ,i think off hand 1952 was the change over to swivel bails done in the first year of production or was there staggered introduction

  8. #68


    Well, yeah, you could easily end up with a *LOT* of these if you really gave in to completism. I have around 25 (including the Portuguese and SA variants) and that's a good representative collection but barely half of the Complete Set. Now, I just happen to have my copy of Roland Hennequin's CASQUES MILITAIRES FRANCAIS DU XXe SIECLE Vol 2 to hand (mainly because Catherine has just given me a copy of Vol 1 as an early birthday gift...does she think I'm going to die before the end of November, or what?) and here we find that the shell chinstrap bails of the first series (the fixed ones that look like an inverted U) are only on the earliest production runs, and were gradually replaced from 1952 onwards by the flexible bails. (Worth noting there were a lot of variants of these flex bales according to manufacturer - something for the REAL fanatic to collect!)

    The flex bales were then in turn replaced by a return to a fixed bail - which is aligned parallel to the helmet edge - from 1959. This type remained unchanged until the end of production in 1976 (though some shells for the gendarmerie willl have dates going into the 1980s). Fascinating, really, isn't it. No, really, it is!

  9. #69


    25 examples greg and half way there my word , thanks for clarification on the timescale of the bail fixtures it ties in nicely with my sole example early birthday gifts are great ,especially if they involve headgear in some way ,thanks again

  10. #70


    Hi Greg,

    Thanks for this very good summary. The early models, with chinstrap bails fixed at a 90degree angle to the rim can only be found for the Model produced in 51 (end of the year) and begining of 1952.
    Not that comon to find


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