The Hotchkiss Portative was a variant of the Hotchkiss medium machine gun designed for use in the LMG role. It used the same long-stroke gas system and interrupted-thread locking system as the earlier Hotchkiss, but had the feed system inverted to save space and the gun significantly lightened. Developed in 1907, it was one of the early light machine guns available on the market, and purchased by several countries. They were used by the US (in .30-06, designated the M1909 Benet-Mercie), Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden, Mexico, and others.


Disassembly and operation of a British Hotchkiss Portative in .303 caliber:


English (click to download in PDF format):

M1909 Benet-Mercie manual

News Articles:

In 1916, the New York Times published a short column commenting on the impending replacement of the M1909 with a new Vickers-type machine gun:

Benet-Mercier NYT column, March 23 1916

Vintage Photos:

A number of photos of US troops training with M1909 Benet Mercie machine guns (download the gallery as a zip archive)



  1. Smart move, armour the gunner, but not the driver! The NYT article reads like a press release of the army. What happened to critical journalism?

  2. The “armoured” sidecar was intended to be detatched from the motorcycle. See Hatcher’s “Machine Guns”.

  3. A Hotchkiss weapon would make this French…did it see service by the French military? If so, what cartridge did it use? I thought the 8x50R Lebel was the primary French cartridge at the time, and a gun firing a regular .303 or .30-06 round seems quite incompatible with the unique characteristics of the 8x50R.
    Thanks to anyone who knows and replies to help clear up my lack of understanding.

    • It was made by Hotchkiss, but adopted by the British Army in .303 caliber (the US Benet-Mercie 1909 is basically the same gun, in .30-06). Setting up production in different calibers is generally not a big deal with machine guns, as long as the cartridges have reasonably similar muzzle energy.

      • So it was an export gun only and not used by the French military?
        My impression was that it was also used by France, but I know that round that time they tended to use the 8x50R lebel, which is such a strangely shaped cartridge that it would seem like almost every component would have to be changed to go between the 8x50R and the .303 or .30-06
        Wikipedia says that it used the 8x50R lebel, but having never handled that particular cartridge, all I can say is it looks to be far larger and far more oddly shaped than the .303 or .30-06
        But anyways, thanks for clearing that up a bit. That is really a neat gun.

    • Hi Nyaman
      The Benet Mercier was actually a French design, and saw active service during WW1 with the French army under the name of: “mitrailleuse portative modele 1908/13”. I would translate that by “portable Hotchkiss MG model 08/13”. They fired the standard Lebel 8×51, were fed by metallic strips holding 24 rounds (sometimes joined together by sets of four strips). Aviation examples had 75 rounds belds, made of 25 articulated 3-rounds strips.
      The users were cavalry; some Alpine chasseurs units (mountain troops), and aviation. The very first aerial victory in history was scored by airmen Frantz ans Quenault, flying a Voisin 3 race aircraft, firing a Hotchkiss 08/13, on 5 October 1914.
      Later on, O8/13 were used in tanks.
      The French Lebel cartridge, the first one to use smokeless powder, was oddly shaped and therefore badly suited for use in automatic weapons; but this problem was solved by use of rigid strips on which the rounds were held firmly by clips. Hotchkiss MG performed well during WW1 and even WW2; however, rigid strips were definitely not handly enough for aviation use, and as soon as 1915, Lewis and Vickers became standard on board of planes.

    • Hotchkiss was actually and American ,who was contracted by the French,the m1921/22 was also chambered in the 8mm lebel and Mauser rounds,as with the earlier type the first design had a finned barrel for cooling but also had a barrel with a far thicker chamber for sustained fire.
      Hotchkiss had developed a mechanism almost identical to the browning and there was some controversy to who actually developed it first,however browning won the contract,hotchkiss accepted the offer from the Frech,this is why most people think he was a French designer,he was more famous for his 37mm revolving cannon design.
      I have a m1921/22 LMG which is very similar and is chambered for 8mm Mauser.
      If you need any more information pm me.

  4. In relation to the Hotchkiss guns we are trying to determine exactly which models were used by the Belgian Army at the Battle of Halen 12 August 1914. Was there a difference in the Belgian model? We are getting the impression that some were used with and others without a tripod. How does one should it without the tripod? Thank you in advance.


  5. Very belated response to Joe Robinson.

    Many different pods were used with the Hotchkiss. Here’s an Australian site with some manual pages from 1917, clearly showing a monopod prefiguring the Johnson M1944’s.

    The Benet-Mercie or Benet Gun as it was called in US service, had a bipod although the terminology of the time called it a “barrel rest.” It had two fairly long legs and the end of each leg had one end of a latigo strap that ran to the other leg through the trigger guard. These guns did not go forward with the AEF as far as I know.

    Here’s a facebook page with some pictures, including some shots of the tripod, a very small one that fits under the forearm, and some of a partial, completely different, mounting system.

    Here’s a brief Bruce Canfield article on the US version, the 1909 Benet-Mercie.

  6. Ian, do you think that the portative could technically be called a GPMG, being used in most machine gun roles throughout its history (lmg, hmg, AA guns, and vehicle mounted), being air cooled,and also being able to use belts of ammo. The only real thing that wouldn’t make the portative a GPMG is the fact that it does not have a quick detattch barrel.

  7. The Hotchkiss Portative was used by the Australian Light Horse in WW1. They were mounted infantry at the beginning of WW1, and had served as dismounted infantry at was to become known as Anzac Cove at Gallipoli in Turkey. The Gallipoli Campaign was a failure, not because it was dumb idea, but executed dumbly, by first using battle-ships, heavy cruisers and at least one battle cruiser to bombard the Turk’s forts along both sides of the channel.

    Forewarned is fore-armed and the Turks were ready for the landings, thanks to the bombardment attempts for some time before – by one or two modern ‘dreadnought type’ battle cruisers and pre-dreadnought battleships from the Royal Navy and French pre-dreadnought ships. Dumb idea.
    Anti-ship shore batteries properly installed with ferro-concrete and armour plate are very accurate against ships. ? They barely move, while ships do when they fire their big guns, even in a dead calm, and the sea-waters of the Dardanelle passage do move, as it’s a passage!
    Going up against properly installed – (armoured / buried avec hydraulic-ally mounted coastal guns – with any kind of ship – can be very expensive to the ships and sailors attempting it.
    There were at least two landings. At the mouth of the pass and later at what to become known as ANZAC cove. After the Corp’s name Australian & New-Zealand Army Corps.

    Thus forewarned the Army landings that followed became famous (infamous) stand-stills.

    Noting that the initial landings near the mouth of the passage by British and French soldiers also failed.

    The northern landings by Australian and New Zealand soldiers did at least make such soldiers – ‘the Anzacs’ – famous, for their dashing courage and endurance, and their personally maintained discipline.

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