Another French Folding SMG

| September 5, 2012

Some time ago I wrote about the stylized and long lived MAT-49 SMG from France. But it wasn’t the only collapsing weapon to come from the minds of Gallic engineers.

The Hotchkiss Universal Type submachine gun wasn’t anything special in how it operated, a standard direct blowback weapon. But in 1949, fresh off the lessons learned from World War II, French engineers wanted to create something that could be a jack of all trades, reliable, light and compact. A weapon that could be used by vehicle crews or paratroopers.

Chambered in 9 x 19 the Hotchkiss UT was put together like a jigsaw puzzle that could go from fully deployed weapon to compact and maneuverable. Today we image a simple throw of a locking toggle or rotating a washer. The Hotchkiss UT was a bit more complicated, therefore not quite as quick deployable as designers imagined or troops could want.

The UT had an under folding tubular buttstock, pretty standard arrangement for SMGs then and now. But then the designers went further. The sheet metal pistol grip then folded forward, covering the trigger loop. The magazine well could then be disengaged and pivoted forward, with the magazine slid further back along the underside of the UT.

The final and most unusual collapsing feature on the Hotchkiss UT was its telescoping barrel. The 10 inch barrel sat in the receiver just over a latch that could be flipped allowing it to be slide back into the receiver against the bolt face.

When completely folded and collapsed, the Hotchkiss Universal Type was barely over 17 inches in length.

Compact and complicated, the Hotchkiss UT never gained much popularity outside of the French Foreign Legion paratroopers. But it showed how even once immovable components of a firearm could be flipped, folded or retracted, if a little ingenuity was applied.

S.A.M. #39: Little Red Fighter

| March 31, 2012

Probably world’s most advanced fighter in 1933, this diminutive monoplane still was a formidable opponent in 1941.

The Polikarpov I-16 is one of the most unsung aircraft in history, almost the Rodney Dangerfield of fighters, getting no respect from anyone – except its opponents. Created by designer Nikolai Nikolayevich Polikarpov, this classic airplane was a brilliant leap forward, particularly for a Soviet aviation industry that was still in its infancy. It was not only the first cantilever monoplane fighter with retractable landing gear to see squadron service in any country in the world, it also was one of the longest-lived fighters of the period, serving until as late as 1950, in Spain.

Among Polikarpov’s many designs was the U-2 (later the Po-2), a remarkably simple but efficient two-place biplane that was built in greater quantity than any other aircraft in history, with some sources citing as many as 41,000 examples being delivered. He was also responsible for the I-15 and I-153 biplanes that formed the core of Soviet fighter strength for many years. These were remarkably adaptable designs, fully equivalent to the Boeing F4B-4 or Gloster Gauntlets of the time. Some were even used for wild experiments, including pressure cabin studies and ramjets – rather unusual for fabric-covered biplanes!

But it was the I-16 that would prove to be Polikarpov’s major contribution to aviation history. Design work began in early 1933, with the first flight taking place on December 31 of that year. Although somewhat difficult to fly, the I-16’s speed, high roll-rate, and rate of climb earned it production status. The aircraft was produced from 1934 through 1941, with 7,005 single-seaters and 1,639 two-seater UTI-1, -2 & -4 trainers built (some sources insist that a total number of airframes was higher, 10,292).

Like most Soviet aircraft of the period, the Polikarpov I-16 was of mixed construction, with a fabric-covered metal wing and a plywood-covered fuselage of steel-tube construction. Its unusual shape was inspired by the record-setting Gee-Bee R1 (and not by the P-26 Peashooter, as some good people tend to think).