Pistolet Mitrailleur Hotchkiss ‘Type Universal’
The odd looking weapon shown above is the Hotchkiss ‘Type Universal’, an extraordinary attempt at creating an extremely compact submachine gun. The need for compact weapons capable of being carried with ease by troops who would be getting in and out of vehicles, jumping from planes and fighting in close quarters had been proven during World War Two.
Submachine guns had become an essential weapon during the war, their small size and high rate of fire made them invaluable. By 1949 France was seeking to replace their lend-lease STEN guns and aging MAS-38s, which had been designed before the war, with a more compact submachine gun.
Chambered in 9mm Parabellum with the standard 32-round magazine, the Universal was originally designed as a solely semi-automatic compact carbine for police use. However, with the French military seeking a new compact submachine gun Hotchkiss retooled the Universal’s design giving it fully-automatic capability. The new design was select fire capable and cycled at a speedy 650-rounds per minute.
Designers went to extraordinary lengths to minimize the size of the Universal. Not only did the stock fold beneath the barrel but the magazine housing and magazine could be rotated forward to sit beneath the barrel with the magazine fitting between a U-shaped cutout in the butt stock (see image #2). The weapon’s pistol grip was also hollow and when folding up the stock the grip would fold forward to cover the trigger. The most interesting folding component however is the telescopic barrel which could be retracted several inches. These features brought the Universal’s length down from 30.60 inches (76cm) with the stock extended to 22 inches (54cm) with the stock folded to an impressive 17.25 inches (44cm). (see image #3) However, due to the nature of the pistol grip folding with the stock this meant the weapon could not be fired with it’s stock collapsed.
The Universal’s extreme compactness was both its best and worst feature, the complexity of having every protruding part fold or retract made the weapon expensive to produce. It also gave the weapon poor ergonomics with a narrow buttplate, an uncomfortable pistol grip and narrow sights which weren’t ideal for quick target acquisition. The French military eventually chose the MAT-49, which also had a folding magazine housing making it almost as compact as the Universal but without its complexities.
Sadly the Universal was only manufactures for three years between 1949 and 1952 and proved to be unsuccessful with only a handful being purchased by the French police and a moderate order from Venezuela. The Universal would be one of the last firearms produced by Hotchkiss et Cie, who had built numerous armaments for the French army including the Hotchkiss Mle 1914, before it closed its weapons manufacturing arm in the early 1950s refocusing on automobile manufacture.
Military Small Arms of the 20th Century, I.V. Hogg, (1985)
Watch a video of the Universal being folded and unfolded on ForgottenWeapons.com
The Hotchkiss Universal Submachine Gun: The Folding Frenchman (source)
The most uncomfortable gun I have ever handled.
Still really neat though.
Boberg XR-9S Claw Feeding Pocket pistol.
Note the strange mags that feed out of the back.