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Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie)

Light Machine Gun (LMG)

France | 1909

"The French M1909 was also adopted into service by both the British and the Americans as well as a handful of other nations."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/16/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
Design of the M1909 was brought about by a new French requirement looking to provide ground elements with a "light" automatic weapon. At this time, field machine guns were primarily heavy implements requiring the use of multiple crew and heavy-duty wheeled stands to manage their placement and function. The resulting product became the "Hotchkiss M1909 Machine Gun" which fell in line with previous Hotchkiss offerings save for a newly implemented locking mechanism. The M1909 was also known as the "Mle 09" from its basic M1909 designation but also referred to as the "Benet-Mercie" for its new locking system designed by Lawrence Benet and Henri Mercie. The Hotchkiss concern was actually established by American Benjamin B. Hotchkiss within France in 1867 and came to be known for its contributions to the field of military arms and civilian automobiles.

Design of the weapon was conventional and of gas-operation with an air-cooled barrel. The shoulder stock was a rather interesting attempt at ergonomics and integrated directly into the pistol-grip type handle. The handle was aft of the well-protected trigger group which was attached to the metal receiver containing the required internal workings of the gun. The gas cylinder was fitted under the barrel assembly while the barrel sported the familiar Hotchkiss-style cooling fins. The weapon was initially fed by 30-round "strip-magazines" and chambered for the French 8mm Lebel cartridge. Rate-of-fire was listed at approximately 400 rounds-per-minute. Overall weight of the system was 27lbs with a running length of 49 inches with a 25-inch barrel. Despite the design attempt, the M1909 proved too "weighty" to be successful in the intended light machine gun role and, as a result, the weapon was primarily used as a vehicle- or aircraft-mounted weapon or defensive-minded system.

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Beyond French Army use, the M1909 found a home in the inventories of armies overseas including that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Ireland, New Zealand, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States. In Britain, the M1909 was known as the "Gun, Machine, Hotchkiss Mark I" with production by Enfield (chambered for the .303 British cartridge) while, in the United States, it became the "Machine Rifle, Benet-Mercie, Caliber 30 M1909" (naturally chambered for the .30-06 Springfield cartridge). For the former, the weapon served alongside the established Vickers and Lewis marks while, for the latter, the weapon replaced the outgoing Gatling family of firearms so prevalent during the Civil War years and beyond. Production of US Army-bound M1909s was handled by both Colt and the Springfield Armory.

The M1909 was on hand in some number by the time of World War 1 (1914-1918) and soldiered on through the conflict, eventually seeing limited service during World War 2 (1939-1945). By this time, the weapon was certainly an outdated, though still lethal, machine gun design. M1909s were not perfect weapons by any stretch but managed a foothold in the inventory of several militaries of the world for decades since their inception. Jams were common as were fractured parts. For some of the participating armies mentioned, the M1909 was something of a "first taste" concerning automatic machine gun fire. Revisions to the system eventually saw use of belt-fed ammunition in the design over that of the limited strip-magazines initially utilized.

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Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie). Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
2,000 ft
609.6 m | 666.7 yds
2,788 ft/sec
850 m/sec
Muzzle Velocity
The physical qualities of the Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie). Information presented is strictly for general reference and should not be misconstrued as useful for hardware restoration or operation.
1,187 mm
46.73 in
O/A Length
596 mm
23.46 in
Barrel Length
27.01 lb
12.25 kg
Gas-Operated; Magazine- / Belt-Fed
8mm Lebel (France); .303 British (UK); .30-06 Springfield (USA)
30-round strip magazine; also belt-feed
Iron Front and Rear
Notable series variants as part of the Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie) Light Machine Gun (LMG) family line.
Hotchkiss M1909 - French Version firing the 8mm Lebel cartridge; French Army use.
Hotchkiss Mle 1909 - Alternative French Designation.
Benet-Mercie M1909 - Alternative French Designation.
Hotchkiss Mark I - British Version firing the .303 British cartridge; employed by cavalry forces; production by Enfield.
"US Automatic Machine Rifle, Caliber .30, Model of 1909" - American Version firing the .30-06 Springfield cartridge; produced at the Springfield Armory and through Colt.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national small arms listing.

Contractor(s): Hotchkiss et Cie - France / Enfield - UK / Springfield Armory; Colt - USA
National flag of Australia National flag of Austria National flag of the Austro-Hungarian Empire National flag of Belgium National flag of Brazil National flag of France National flag of Hungary National flag of Spain National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States

[ Austria-Hungary; Australia; Belgium; Brazil; France; Spain; United Kingdom; United States ]
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Image of the Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie)
Left side view of the Hotchkiss M1909 machine-rifle during test firing with the Americans

Going Further...
The Hotchkiss Model 1909 (Mle 1909 / Benet-Mercie) Light Machine Gun (LMG) appears in the following collections:
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