The Hotchkiss Mle 1914
During World War I the Hotchkiss Mle 1914 was the primary heavy machine gun of the French Army, and had many unique features which made it stand out from other heavy machine guns typical of the era. Chambered in 8mm Lebel, the Mle 1914 utilized a gas operated mechanism, whereas as most heavy machine guns of the war used recoil operated systems, such as the Maxim, Vickers, and similar copies. Gas from each round discharged would be siphoned from the barrel, which would actuate a piston located below the barrel, thus working the action. The weapon fired from an open bolt, which forced air into the action and chamber thus increasing reliability. Cooling was also assisted by five large annular rings which lined the barrel. Instead of firing from traditional belts, the Mle 1914 used sticks containing 30 rounds of ammunition, the same mechanism which was used by the earlier Hotchkiss Mle 1909.
Later, models were produced which used regular belt ammunition for use on airplanes and tanks. Overall, the weapon’s tripod and the gun weighed around 110lbs, and was typically operated by a crew of three.
During World War I the Mle 1914 would replace older French heavy machine guns which were less reliable and utilized flawed designs, such as the St. Etienne Model 1907. Because of the Mle 1914′s reliability, the weapon became popular not only with France, but with various other nations as well. During World War I, the American Expeditionary Force purchased 7,000 for use. Spain produced their own models, which were used up to and during the Spanish Civil War. Latin American nations such as Mexico, Chile, and Brazil also purchased the weapons chambered for 7X57mm Mauser. During the 1920′s in warlord era China, many Chinese factions produced their own copies in 8X57mm Mauser. In addition, Poland purchased a number of the guns in 1919 during the Polish Bolshevik War, and purchased a number more in the 1920′s. Overall 100,000 would be produced, half for domestic French use, the rest being exports.
One of the most enthusiastic users of the Mle 1914 were the Japanese, who purchased several thousand guns during World War I in 8mm Lebel. After the war, the Japanese would manufacture their own modified models under license, called the Type 3 Heavy Machine gun in 6.5mm Arisaka and the Type 92 Heavy machine gun in 7.7 Arisaka, the later of which would serve as the primary heavy machine of Japanese forces during World War II.