The Hotchkiss Type Universal, or "Transformer Gun" as its lovingly referred to by some, is a 1940s-era French submachine gun that folds up into a sweet little package. Although it never saw mainstream production as a result of its complexity and cost, this little gem is hard to beat when it comes to ultra-rare niche guns.
SUBGUNS DURING WORLD WAR II
World War II proved the effectiveness of compact submachine guns for close-quarter combat. Many countries developed their own models. The British STEN, German MP 40, and the U.S. Thompson are some of the best-known models.
The French developed the MAS-38 chambered in 7.65mmx20mm before WWII, but as the fighting ended in Europe, France launched a program in 1946 to build a new submachine gun, or Pistolet Mitrailleur, to meet post-war needs.
France called on state arsenals and civilian manufacturers alike to come up with a design. One such company was Hotchkiss et Cie. It was established in 1867 by an American gunsmith named Benjamin B. Hotchkiss who designed firearms in Connecticut for Colt and Winchester. After the Civil War, Hotchkiss moved to France because America showed little interest in funding new weapons.
In 1949, Hotchkiss et Cie presented the Type Universal, or Type 010. It was chambered in 9x19mm and was fed by MP 40 magazines. It utilized a blowback action, fired from a closed bolt, and was select-fire, with a fully automatic rate of fire of 650-rounds per minute.
Its most unique feature, however, was its ability to fold-up into a fairly small package. The stock and pistol grip folded and locked beneath the barrel. The magazine could also be tucked beneath the barrel, fitting into a u-shaped gap in the stock. The spring-loaded barrel was telescopic and locked into place. A button released it to its extended length of 10.6-inches.
The overall length of the weapon deployed was 30.6 inches. Collapsed, it was 17.25 inches. It weighed 7.6-pounds empty and had a 32-round magazine capacity.
COMPLICATED AND EXPENSIVE
While its ability to fold up made it clever, it would also prove to be its shortcoming. During testing, soldiers rarely folded the weapon, but instead carried it at the ready. This made its ability to fold up largely irrelevant.
Though it worked well and reliably, the complexity and poor ergonomics, paired with its expense resulted in the Type Universal receiving no major military contracts.
The French military instead selected the MAT-49 submachine gun designed by Tulle.
VERY RARE TODAY
Approximately 7,000 Type Universals were produced between 1948 and 1952. They were sold to the French police, Moroccan police, and the Venezuelan military. In 1950, Hotchkiss et Cie left the gun-design business, choosing instead to focus on automobiles.
Today, Type Universals are very rare. There is said to be only one transferable model available in the U.S. Fortunately, our friends at Battlefield Vegas have one. They shared it with us both on the range and in the photos for this article.
If you want to shoot it, all you have to do is visit Battlefield Vegas. Just ask to shoot the "Transformer Gun."