Huot Automatic Rifle

It seems that armies are always short of weaponry when major conflicts light up, and creative solutions are often the result. Canada during the First World War is a good example. They had a serious shortage of light machine guns, and a Quebecois engineer named Joseph Huot devised a way to modify existing Ross straight-pull rifles into drum-fed light machine guns.

Huot automatic rifle

He added a gas piston to operate the bolt (similar to the later Enfield conversions like the Howell, but simpler because of the straight-pull nature of the Ross), changed the box magazine to a 25-round drum, added a cooling shroud like the Lewis, and a guard at the back to protect the shooter from the cycling bolt.

The Huot automatic rifle was tested against other available light machine guns like the Lewis and Farquhar-Hill, and proved surprisingly successful. It was very reliable, even in poor conditions, and was popular with soldiers who used it.  Best of all from the government’s view, it was far cheaper to manufacture than the Lewis. An order for several thousand was requested, but the war ended before it could be filled, and the idea was dropped.

If I can get my hands of a set of Huot drawings or an original rifle to disassemble and photograph, I think this would be a terrific project to build, starting with a relatively cheap sporterized Ross rifle. Not something with much mass appeal, but it sure would be neat to be able to shoot one.

11 Comments

  1. I’m curious what made this any more reliable than the Ross in poor conditions. Perhaps it was very reliable in testing, but would have faired poorly in actual trench combat.

    And I agree that you should build one, if only to see it in action.

  2. The Huot Rifle
    May 2011 there was a short info on this rifle.
    It has intrigued me or years, as I would like to build one.
    I contacted several descendants in the Ottawa/Quebec area. I do not speak french & there seems to be some descention in the Family tree. A family member said he would help me with my quest for drawings said to be with-in the family. I received no response. Has anyone else been more successful than I?
    Hank Holm
    Calgary, Ab.,
    403-249-8383

  3. Hi,

    as my name tells I’m one of the numerous Huot in Quebec and I’ll have a talk with family members if they ever heard of this in our branch of the Huot. Never know what might come up. It was a nice find to see this. Thank you for the history peak at what some Huot’s did long ago, always interresting.

  4. Provided below is the URL to Canadian Patent #CA 193725, titled simply ‘RAPID FIRE GUN’. Included within the page is imbedded links to claims, description, and drawings. Fortunately for the non-French speaking among us, the documents were completed in English, which at the time was the sole language of the Federal government. Official recognition of our second language didn’t come until much later.

    http://brevets-patents.ic.gc.ca/opic-cipo/cpd/eng/patent/193725/summary.html?query=%28Huot%29+%3CAND%3E+%28ISD%3E%3d1910-01-01%29+%3CAND%3E+%28ISD%3C%3d1945-03-02%29&start=1&num=50&type=advanced_search

    I certainly hope this proves to be useful, as I’m very interested to see what the Hout would be like in action!

  5. I am interested if they experimented with creating purpose built machine gun based on ROSS action.
    Since conversions proved to be surprisingly successful that should have nudged them in that direction.

  6. WOW – What an incredible piece of Canadian history. I believe it should go right up there with the Avro Arrow. If only because it’s something which demonstrated our martial technical prowess yet at the same time it never became an instrument of violence.

    Which is to say, much as the Avro Arrow was such a fantastic aircraft and everything, I think people often forget it was intended to fight WWIII and might very well have been the straw on the camel’s back which triggered the tipping-point of Soviet-bloc paranoia – IF it was indeed as far advanced as we’ve so often heard.

    Well so too with this automatic rifle – if it was as effective in the field as in testing, AND as lightweight as it appears to be – for the period, relatively speaking? Just imagine the numbers they could’ve fielded and the resultant combat efficacy of Canadian shock troops overwhelming German trenches etc. Or, conversely – if it was alluring enough to convince the British generals to attempt more of the 1914-16 style “over the top” frontal infantry mass attacks…. Either which way, it would’ve killed a hell of a lot of young men for no good reason that I can understand! Then again, if Canadian troops had been better equipped at an earlier time it could very well have saved just as many lives as it might have taken. Especially when it’s about knocking out a few critical nests full of Spandau MG08s rather than a whole field full of riflemen doing the “Spandau Ballet”. Either which way, it could’ve made a critical difference on par with later examples such as the Garand or the FG42 or such not.

    I mean, what do YOU all think? Could it have been a competitor for say, the Browning M1918? And surely however, at a vastly lesser cost in terms of both gold AND steel. If they’d helped Huot out several years earlier and hastened development, it could’ve been the type of idea where they’d convert ALL of the Ross rifles in the arsenal. Considering the numbers of Lewis guns and BARs fielded, and the expense involved in all of that – this could’ve been a MASSIVELY successful automatic rifle – at least in terms of it’s production run that is – IF ONLY it had struck the right chord at some earlier time.

    And just how simple IS it to convert? Perhaps this is something to worry about TODAY – I mean in terms of putting the plans out on the interweb? Could these parts be fabricated via 3D printing / rapid prototyping etc? Bad enough the ATF has already got to squint at every AR- trigger group’s miniature internal bits, but now they’ve gotta figure out whether the junk kicking around your workshop is actually a HUOT conversionn kit components!

    Nevertheless hell YEAH I think you definitely should whip up at least a few conversion kits. Sell ’em to the antique aficionados just to fund the whole thing. And don’t worry – even if they did stage some sort of secessionist or revolutionary army, they’d start, and end, with just the museums and registries. They might make it as far as the post office but only to get more stamps for their newsletter. And the current media won’t even pick up on it ’til the whole thing’s blown over and they’ve all gone home.

    I wholeheartedly agree it’s a fantastic use for a sporterized Ross. At least it’s better than wrecking ’em to make destructive demonstration videos, firing ’em with the bolt assembled & installed improperly. Though I’m sure you’re well aware of course, it goes without saying there would be a few more test dummy casualties IF the conversion were to be fired and tested for reliability. To carry out the original tests, I’d imagine there’s a rapid fire session which would necessitate constructing a good half dozen or so drums – depending on how quickly they could be reloaded and perhaps you might have to adapt a rapid mag-loader machine for your test assistants to operate. Thing is, one has to wonder whether one of these old Ross recievers should be fired that many times in total let alone in rapid succession. However cheap a BUBBA rifle starts out, it’s not just the costs of the conversion itself but you’d need either a remote firing robot that loads it’s own mags etc OR a whole bunch of mag-fluxing & other metallurgical analysis – possibly requiring a whole slew of Bubba Ross sporters. Perhaps a viewer rifle on loan mail-in lottery, with the grand prize of a rifle being returned fully converted? Meh – I’m sure the transference paperwork & ancillary fees alone would sink the whole project. Then again a bus ticket and opportunity to FIRE the thing might be enticement enough to glean a whole slew of loaner actions etc.

    Then again maybe the whole thing could be underwritten by a screenplay sent in to the CBC? Heh-heh. Personally, I’ve always believed YOU should be the guy supplying prop weapons to the film industry. Even for Sci-Fi & speculative fiction, time travel nonsense, blah-blah-blah. Can’t even think of how many times I’ve thought of you and your collection while watching Stargate. Even for the more conventional stuff, there’s gotta be another Paul Gross Canadian Militaria film coming down the pipeline? Hopefully something about the interwar period, or the Boer Wars, or the early Cold War perhaps? However they slice it, surely there’s meat on the table for a Forgotten Weapons consultation!

    No seriously though. Move over BLADE RUNNER. Your museum could pump out rubber moulds of certain guns and sell ’em off to your viewers/fanbase AND provide ’em to the film industry, Cosplay freaks, what-have-you. Ship the more bizarre looking specimens South of the border and perhaps even prevent a few police related shooting deaths? The VIDIOT GAME people would benefit from your expertise as well! Undoubtedly there’ll be a 1920’s themed sequel to the hugely successful “Battlefield One” vidiot game…..

    Then again they’d probably just lift images from your videos and render their own 3D models thereof. But they could still use a consultant, no doubt. And would you put in a good word for me? About the nauseating jerky swinging camera effects, Good GAWD man, it makes me sick just sitting in the same room with my Vidiot-Game addicted 10yr-old twin nephews. Ugh. For sure, that whole sensory filter issue as relates to adapting to and from the camera action and motion sickness etc, has gotta be at the heart of vidiot-game addiction? You pull their myopic brains out of the bube-toob view and it’s no wonder they get so bitchy & infantile – they’re literally forced to relearn their “land legs” after all of that seasick visual stimulus. Is it any wonder then, that the industry seems incapable of fixing this “glitch”? Disgusting stuff. Just sayin’ – I’m not advocating that anybody should PLAY said vidiot-games, only that they should milk it for every dollar that can be squeezed outta dem bastids. And wring their necks while you’re about it, for my sister’s kids’ sake alone? Ugh.

    Meh. Gotta be plenty of gun-porn $$$’s in Hollywood. Hard to compete with the big bad black plastic assault rifle gun porn, no doubt. But what a refreshing change it could make!

    A CBC documentary about the Huot automatic rifle? And follow-on episodes funded by the BBC, PBS…. Maybe a few continental European nations’ public TV agencies could fund whichever obscure topics might pump up their own Nationalistic identity – heck some of ’em might be enticed via the arcane territorial claims from the period in question. Just don’t let Putin’s daughter fall from the green-screen suspension wires, whatever you do….

    -Sigh.

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