RIA: Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon Reproduction

The Hotchkiss Revolving Cannon was developed in the 1870s as a competitor to the other manually-operated machine guns of the era, guns like the Gatling, Gardner, and Nordenfelt to name a few. What made the Hotchkiss stand out is that while the other guns were mostly built in rifle calibers, with larger options available, the smallest caliber Hotchkiss offered was 37mm. This was done because one of the primary applications for this sort of gun at the time was naval mounts to combat small torpedo boats. In that role, explosive projectiles were a major advantage, and international agreement restricted explosive projectiles to shells no smaller than 37mm.

The Hotchkiss has a cluster of 5 rotating barrels, but only a single bolt. It would chamber, fire, extract, and eject once with each full rotation of the hand crank, and it would hold the barrels stationary while the round was fired. The multiple barrels allowed a manual action to fire at a high rate, and also prevented barrels from overheating during extended firing.

This particular Hotchkiss is a modern-made reproduction, scaled down to use .50 BMG brass. However, the action of the Hotchkiss is not strong enough to use modern smokeless powder, so this can only be fired with black powder .50 BMG handloads.


  1. I like this gun design alot, https://www.forgottenweapons.com/manual-machine-guns/hotchkiss-revolving-cannon/
    and the replica is very cool.

    You could probably use the same action, but with a 5 chambered cylinder being operated by the crank in the same manner which fires through a single barrel in the manner of a revolver when it is aligned with the correct chamber.

    For the purposes of commercial sales in the U.S given it’s “Gatling” type action, a single barrel would make it cheaper to produce and reduce weight.

    Not a particularly quick firer, but in a large calibre like this albeit B.p it might have appeal via it’s novelty if affordable- Wouldn’t need to be a historical replica externally, or internally, it could be housed in an aluminum tube, with the barrel protruding and incorporate Polymer working parts etc.

    Fed from a larger detachable hopper “like a magazine” that feeds it’s feeding chamber rack thing, gravity fed still for simplicity.

    • Looking at a picture of it’s firing pin mechanism, if this projected through a solid steel area to engage the cartridge which sat solidly behind the particular chamber within the cylinder being fired you might well get away with using normal .50 Bmg, given said revolver type layout interesting blast through the cylinder gap to keep everyone entertained.

      • It’s not firing fast, a M2 type barrel should cope. .50Bmg is probably “cooler” than 37mm anyway, B.p or otherwise.

        • Suppose the cylinder would get hot… Lewis gun type shroud, over it instead of the barrel working from cylinder blast as oppose muzzle.

          • Actually, the mechanism could be slimmed down increasing cyclic speed due to it only operating a cylinder which would be lighter than five barrels probably. One day, I will write what I want to say down, then type it in it’s entirety.

            Wants to be significantly cheaper than a semi auto M2 or semi auto Barrett for example thousand bucks, that’ll sell. Make a suitable, but simplified “cheap” German Mg08 type, sled mount for it.

          • Wouldn’t even need to be a solid cylinder, just the chamber area of each barrel in the same configuration as now… The barrel attached to the cylinder axis pin, and in turn this is the mounting area for the sled mount I.e. It’s a block with a hole in it for a pin. The cylinder slots over the pin from the rear onto a washer, then the back plate “three holes in it one of which is for the firing pin” action,sleeve, and a rear stop which holds it all together this screws onto the axis pins rear which is threaded- Alot. Attach the cycling handle via a cut out in the sleeve,thats more or less it. Up to 200rpm .50Bmg, what’s not to like.

          • It is smaller than the others, but it’s still quite big. I like the flywheel gun, and it might have potential for hand cranking… I think there’s a potentially undeveloped market for handcranking, in the states. Is the Yurchenko any relation to the AN94 out of interest, no?

          • “Is the Yurchenko any relation to the AN94 out of interest, no?”
            So far I know there is no connection between AN-94 and Yurchenko, former is designed to able to fire two cartridge in short time, but when fired in full auto mode it fires 600 rpm, which is normal RoF. Yurchenko machine gun fire 5000 rpm as long as belt is not depleted or barrel melted down. Yurchenko also designed 12.7mm version which fire 2000 rpm and weight 24 kg.
            This method of operation was used once more by Грязев (Gryazev) and Шипунов (Shipunov) – designers of GSh-23 auto-cannon – in ТКБ-513 (other designation: АО-7) cannon firing 23x152mm rounds (VYa-23 round) at 2300 rpm (for comparison VYa-23 fire 550…650 rpm which is quite high number for such big cartridge)

    • It sounds like you are talking about a manually operated revolver cannon. Automatic ones are a common modern weapon, and Mauser for example makes the popular BK-27 (27mm). They’re mostly used in aircraft, but some are used in shipboard mounts.

      • I am talking about a manually operated cannon, this one, but with five chambers revolving in order to fire out of a single stationary barrel hypothetically.

      • I just think, this design is simple so could be brought back to life in a new hand cranked form relatively easily. This replica was done in .50Bmg but with B.p loads, instead of 37mm so it was a reincarnation, I am suggesting a further incarnation.

    • Hi Pdb, I often ponder the idea of a psuedo Nordenfeldt LMG. Basically some sort of straightpull/pumpaction hybrid that is a top feeding bottom ejecting volley gun capable of slam firing. Most likely this’d be something like a 5 barrel rimfire or similar. shoot it as a pumpaction offhand or use a bipod prone and work the bolt handle. Possibly install an “auto” setting on it like the Mendoza straightpull rifle that was reviewed a while ago. Could even have a firing pin block option for specific boltfaces to be able to operate it on reduced barrels without damaging the firing pins.

      • Very interesting, those computer generated things are awesome aren’t they… I saw the Maxim ones, I did think about combining this Hotchkiss but with a revolver cylinder and the belt feed of a Maxim once, in a strange arrangement that had six chambers and three barrels that fired twice per revolution but the barrels counter rotated to the cylinder and slipped a turn per alternate revolution- I gave up, it was complicated “Had potential though”

  2. Great work I think reproductions are truly inspirational For folks from all walks of life
    I myself working on reproduction of the oerlikon mounts navy type
    The 37 mm hotchkiss is a fascinating peice of history thank you for a great posting

  3. Pardon the digression, but this video may inspire some curiosity about Hotchkiss’ lesser-known 37mm gas-operated pom-pom, perhaps best known for its use in the Mexican Revolution.
    Very hard to find information on this, but if you Google “Revue d’Artillerie” and “Hotchkiss”, you’ll find a detailed, French-language article on the Hotchkiss pom-pom, with photos. A truly forgotten weapon.

  4. Why not train robbers ? Seems to me I recall a 1968 spaghetti western where our hero (?) used a Schwarzlose. …” I know what yer thinking pardoner… did he pom six times or was it only five…”

    • As long as the bad guys never brought explosives with them, I think you were safe with the gold in the big safe. As a tip for the machine gunner’s survival, have a friend or two with a rifle or carbine pick off any train robber who looks like he’s about to light up some dynamite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.