Encyclopedia - Hotchkiss Guns

Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun The French army's standard heavy tripod mounted machine gun throughout the war was the Hotchkiss 8mm M1914 machine gun.  Although it proved reliable in use it was unquestionably heavy at 23kg (40kg with its mounting).  Initially adopted in 1900 a number of models were produced until a gas-powered, air-cooled model was unveiled in 1914.

Although the gun was generally well regarded Hotchkiss' metal magazine strip - which fired 8mm Lebel rounds - was considered a notable design flaw, holding a maximum of 30 cartridges.  This was corrected the following year when a 249-cartridge belt was introduced in 1915.

Even with the increased belt the gun was unable (for obvious reasons) to meet the theoretical cyclic rate of 600 rounds per minute.  The gun's maximum effective range was approximately 3,800 metres.

As the war progressed the major powers began a shift away from heavier machine guns - which were never designed with rapid mobility in mind - towards newer, lighter machine guns (LMGs).  This did not imply a particular dissatisfaction with the Hotchkiss gun however, simply a preference for lighter models such as the Chauchat.  Even so the Hotchkiss M1914 remained in French use until the end of the Second World War.

A measure of the popularity of the model can be found in the willingness of the US to adopt the weapon, along with Allied nations in the Balkans.  It was even deployed as an anti-aircraft weapon.

Belgian light cavalry firing the Hotchkiss M1909 machine gunAlthough a lighter 12kg model of the Hotchkiss, also 8mm - the Hotchkiss M1909 - had been available since 1909 it was still deemed too bulky for use as an infantry assault model.

There were also concerns with the reliability of the gun's magazine feed; it was not deemed a particularly reliable weapon for use in the trenches.

Variations of the Hotchkiss M1909 were however popular when fitted onto aircraft and tanks, where they were generally fired in short bursts.  The M1909 was produced by the U.S. as the Benet-Mercie Machine Rifle (adopted in 1909) where they were used during the 1916 expedition to Mexico; and by the British as the .303 Hotchkiss Machine Gun Mark I.

'Whippet' was a term used to describe any light tank.

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