Object Title

Hotchkiss Modèle 1914 machine gun

Hotchkiss Modèle 1914 machine gun


Most nations participating in the First World War adopted a version of the superb Maxim gun of the 1880s. Some purchased direct from Vickers, Sons & Maxim in Britain, others, like Germany and Russia, licenced the design and produced their own variant. France did not, instead choosing to avoid Maxim's patents entirely and develop an indigenous design. Laurence Benét and Henri Mercié of the commercially successful Hotchkiss company produced a series of guns based on patents from Captain Baron Adolph von Odkolek of the Austrian Army. This series, which began with the Modèle 1897, became almost the opposite of the Maxim; gas rather than recoil operated, air rather than water-cooled, and strip-fed rather than belt-fed. Whilst all of these things made the Maxim the success that it was, Hotchkiss were somewhat successful at using these differences to best advantage. Being gas operated and equipped with an adjustable gas regulator, the gun could be kept working as it became dirty simply by opening up the regulator to allow more propellant gas to drive the gun. Lack of a water jacket meant no water, condenser tube or can to deal with, and eased issues in the French African colonies with water supply. The Modèle 1914 instead featured a distinctive large brass radiator around the breech end of the barrel to create enough surface area to effectively cool the gun. Finally, rather than Maxim's cloth belt of ammunition, the Hotchkiss used stamped metal strips fed left to right through the gun and replaced when empty.

Use and effect

The simplified M1914 Hotchkiss was reliable and tough, although this toughness made for an excessively heavy gun by comparison with others of its class. It served throughout the First World War, becoming instrumental in holding back the overwhelming German assault upon Verdun in 1916. One infantry section near Hill 304 was able to hold its position for ten days using only two of these guns by employing teams of soldiers and officers to hand-load feed strips from loose cartridges for the Lebel and Berthier infantry rifles. More than 150,000 rounds were fired; 75,000 rounds per gun. The Belgian army also used the gun, rechambered for their own service calibre. Lacking a heavy machine gun of their own during the War, the American Expeditionary Force also made it their primary machine gun. Some examples were still in use with the French army at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. The weak points of the design in terms of effective modern use of machine guns were the strip ammunition feed and air-cooled barrel, both of which limited the gun's usefulness in sustained fire; the ability to put large quantities of bullets where they were needed, for as long as they were needed. Unlike true magazine feed systems like that of the Lewis gun, strip-feeding could not make the gun more portable due to the inherent weight of the basic design. Whereas their British counterparts had to blister their hands by loading almost every Vickers gun belt by hand, French gunners received Hotchkiss strips pre-loaded. From 1915, belt-fed modifications were also made available.


Action / Operating system Gas
Barrel length 78.5 cm (31 in)
Calibre / Bore 8x50mmR (.315 in) or 6.5x55mm (.26 in)
Capacity (rounds) 30
Country of manufacture France
Crew 3
Date entered service 1914
Effective range 1600 m (1750 yd)
Feed Strip
Manufacturer Hotchkiss
Maximum range 3800 m (4150 yd)
Muzzle velocity 724 m/s (2375 fps)
Other operators Belgium
Other operators USA
Overall length 1.4 m (55 in)
Primary operator France
Rate of fire (rounds per minute) 550
Weight 47.5 kg (105 lb) (with mount)


Jonathan Ferguson