Hotchkiss Universal: The Most Folding Gun Made

The Hotchkiss Universal was a closed-bolt submachine gun submitted to French military trials in the late 1940s to replace the MAS-38. The French were looking for a compact SMG in 9mm Parabellum, and tested guns form the state arsenals as well as the Hotchkiss and Gevelot companies. The Universal (also designated the Model 010 by Hotchkiss) really doubled down on the compact elements, with a design that incorporated a folding stock, grip, magazine well, and telescoping barrel. It could fold up in to a remarkably compact package, complete with a loaded magazine in a completely safe stowed format.

A total of about 7,000 Universals were made, in what appear to be two series. The first were marked CMH (Carabine Miltrailleuse Hotchkiss) and serialized on the trigger assembly and the second marked CMH2 and serialized on small plates riveted to the stock tubes. Several variations on parts can be founds, including simplified front sight blocks and simplified rear sights – I suspect the simplified patterns were the CMH2 as an attempt to reduce the cost of the guns. Small batches were sold to Venezuela and Morocco, as well as an unidentified middle eastern nation and a few even to the French CRS security service. A small number were also tested by the Foreign Legion in Indochina in 1954.

Ultimately, of course, the MAT-49 won the military trials. The Universal was rejected for being too expensive and too complicated – both totally valid assessments. It is a gun that put all its chip on compactness, and made way too many tradeoffs in the process to be really viable.


  1. Stupid question: could anyone hide this in a briefcase and use it for guarding government big wigs?

  2. I have a parts kit that actually came with the house when I bought it. it was found in the barn that nearly burnt down. There are a few missing parts and I’d like to complete it with the semi auto conversion of course. Is there any way I can get some information, pictures, and some measurements of the parts so I can complete it? As I’m sure you know very little information can be found on the web for this gun. And now that Knob Creek was cancelled. I’m unable to get out there and look for the parts.

  3. Hotchkiss et Cie did also produced, beyond small arms, naval artillery, for example and in first half of 20th century – automobiles – interestingly they used crossed cannons logo, see 1st image from top:
    Interestingly French showed some interest in folding-magazine sub-machine gun before 1940, namely in form of Pistolet Mitrailleur Modèle 1939

    • They produced lot of mechanical things…



      One more company name which disappeared trough fusion/acquisition process.
      (Merged to become Hotchkiss-Brandt to produce weapons/sewing machines/movie projectors/cars, then merged in Thomson-Brandt (Thomson bringing electronics & communication), then in Thomson-CSF famous for communication system sold to armies and few today Thales meanwhile Technicolor is now separated as well as the now defunct Fagor-Brandt)

      History of business is sometimes complicated…

  4. Something that would have been useful to the various resistance groups of Europe during the Second World War had it existed at the time. Bit more convenient to keep the gun all in one piece when under the floorboards or hidden under the seat, I would think. Oh well

    • More convenient than what you would have to do with a traditional smg that is, I’d rather unfold this in a hurry than reassemble most guns

    • Usually, they get rid of by means of neutralization (or sale), from any trash, for which either there is no ammunition, or it is just crap.

  5. Excellent review.
    The only thing missing is shooting.
    The impression was that this SMG is not very good with firing stability.
    Wondering what Ian has to say compared to the recent competition?

    • I think the main inspiration was probably the Sten MK II. It could be quickly disassembled into three pieces plus the magazine, with the receiver being the longest bit, and could be hidden in an average-sized shoulder bag. It was a great favorite with the FFI for that reason.

      The Hotchkiss Universal just took that idea to the next level.



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