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 is not to be confused with the heavier Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun.
As the Hotchkiss M1909 (or Mle 1909), firing the 8 mm Lebel, it was adopted by the French military in 1909 but not issued as an infantry weapon. The 700 examples manufactured were used in the fortresses at Verdun in a defensive capacity, on some fighter aircraft, and in Mark V* tanks acquired from Great Britain.
A variant to use the .303 round was produced in Britain at a Hotchkiss factory in Coventry as the "Hotchkiss Mark I". It was issued to some cavalry regiments. The MkI* variant, with the wooden stock replaced with a pistol grip, was widely used in British tanks during World War I.
It was adopted by the United States 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 U.S. designation system at time which label arms with "Model of Year". Laurence Benét was a son of Stephen Benét, a former Chief of U.S. 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 U.S. 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. 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 U.S. Army. The M1909's adoption coincided with the withdrawal of the .30-06 manually operated Gatling guns from the U.S. 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 Sinai and Palestine Campaign (1915–17). U.S. 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 U.S. 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. However, Major Julian Hatcher was assigned to look into the issue after Columbus and found almost all the issues were due to inadequate training. U.S. troops during the Villa Expedition received additional training and the M1909 was considered an effective weapon. It could have seen extensive use with the U.S. in World War I but production had already ceased and only a small number were available. The U.S. Navy still used them, however in that period. Austria-Hungary
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