Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié machine gun

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Hotchkiss M1909 Benét–Mercié machine gun
Hotchkiss M1909.png
A Hotchkiss Mark I.
Type Light machine gun
Place of origin France
Service history
Used by See Users
Wars Border War, World War I
World War II
Production history
Designer Laurence Benét and Henri Mercié
Designed 1901
Manufacturer Hotchkiss et Cie
Produced ~1909
Number built ~700 by Springfield Armory
Variants Hotchkiss M1909 (French Army, 8×50mm Lebel)
Hotchkiss Mark I (Britain, .303)
Benét–Mercié Machine Rifle M1909 (United States, .30-06)
Weight 12 kg (26.5 lb)
Length 1.23 m (48 in)[1]
Barrel length 64 cm (25 in)[1]

Cartridge .303 British (Britain)
8mm Lebel (France)
.30-06 Springfield (U.S.)
Caliber .303 British
8mm Lebel
7.62×63mm (.30-06 Springfield)
7mm Mauser
Action Gas-operated
Rate of fire 400-600 rounds per minute[1]
Maximum firing range 3800 m
Feed system 30-round strip magazine, or belt-fed

The Hotchkiss M1909 machine gun was a French designed light machine gun of the early 20th century, developed and built by Hotchkiss et Cie. It was also known as the Hotchkiss Mark I, Hotchkiss Portative, and M1909 Benét–Mercié.

It was adopted by the French army as the Hotchkiss M1909 (or Mle 1909) in 1909, firing the 8 mm Lebel, and should not be confused with the heavier Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun.

A variant to use the .303 round was produced in Britain as the "Hotchkiss Mark I" and manufactured by Enfield. The British army employed three different types of machine gun: the Vickers medium machine gun, the Hotchkiss (for cavalry and tank use), and the Lewis Gun with the infantry.

It was adopted by the US in 1909 as the "Benét–Mercié Machine Rifle, Caliber .30 U. S. Model of 1909" firing the .30-06 cartridge. The name comes from three sources: Hotchkiss, the name of the American Benjamin B. Hotchkiss who started the company in France; the two main designers, Laurence Benét and Henri Mercié; and the US designation system at time which label arms with "Model of Year". Laurence Benét was a son of Stephen Benét,[2] a former Chief of US Army Ordnance.

It was also used by other countries, including Belgium, Spain, Brazil and Australia.


It was gas-operated and air-cooled, had a maximum range of 3,800 m (4,200 yd) and weighed 12 kg (27 lb). Initial models were fed by a 30-round strip-magazine but later models could be either strip- or belt-fed. The US types had a bipod, while some others used a small tripod. This tripod, fitted under the firearm, could be moved with the weapon, and was very different from larger tripods of the period.

The U.S. M1909 machine guns were made by Springfield Armory and by Colt's Manufacturing Company. Total production for the United States was 670.[1] This may seem small compared to the huge production runs of firearms later in the 20th century, but this was a significant number for the size of the contemporary US Army. The M1909's adoption coincided with the withdrawal of the .30-06 manually operated Gatling guns from the US Army's arsenals.


France and Britain used the Hotchkiss M1909 through World War I and on into World War II. The Australian Light Horse, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade and the Imperial Camel Corps used the Hotchkiss in the Desert Campaign in Sinai and Palestine (1915–17).[3] US forces used the Benét–Mercié at the Battle of Columbus (Pancho Villa Raid) in 1916 (4 guns fired 20,000 rounds total in the engagement) and in the subsequent Pancho Villa Expedition in Mexico of 1916–17 and initially in France. Firing pins and extractors broke frequently on the American guns. Some members of the US press derisively called the M1909 the "daylight gun" because of the difficulty in replacing broken parts at night and jams caused when loading strips were accidentally inserted upside down in darkness.[1] However, Maj. Julian Hatcher was assigned to look into the issue after Columbus and found almost all the issues were due to inadequate training. US troops during the Villa Expedition received additional training and the M1909 was considered an effective weapon.[4] It could have seen extensive use with the US in WWI but production had already ceased and only a small number were available. The US Navy still used them, however in that period.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bruce N. Canfield "The Daylight Gun": U.S. Model of 1909 Benét–Mercié Machine Gun" American Rifleman September 2010 pp.84–87
  2. ^ "Brigadier General Stephen Vincent Benét, Chief of Ordnance, 1874 - 1891, U.S. Army Ordnance Corps". 
  3. ^ Ion Idress: The Desert Column, Angus & Robertson 1944, p. 225
  4. ^ Hatcher, Julian S. (1962), Hatcher's Notebook (3rd ed.), Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books, pp. 93–101, LCCN 62-12654 

Further reading[edit]

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