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Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian McCollum, and I’m here today at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa up in Ontario, where we are taking a look at a very cool conversion of a Ross bolt-action, straight-pull rifle into a light machine gun. This is called a Huot automatic rifle, named after its inventor, Joseph Alphonse Huot. He was born in 1868 up in Quebec. He was a blacksmith and machinist by trade and interested in firearms. And when World War One broke out, he got more interested in firearms. The Ross rifle had been in military service up in Canada up to this point. Ross rifles started started showing up in 1905. So what Huot was looking at was how can we develop something that will give some additional much needed firepower to Canadian armed forces. And he got the idea to convert a straight-pull Ross rifle into an automatic machine gun, the Huot. He and a partner worked on this project privately
… from 1914 through about the middle of 1916. And they pretty much just like
did this in a shed in the back yard. And they got it pretty well sorted out,
they got this project basically functional. And it was in September of 1916 that Huot was finally
introduced to a member of the Canadian military in Ottawa. Brought the gun, showed it to him and he was hired on the spot
to work for Canadian small arms experimental development. And this would have some repercussions
on him, but we’ll get to that in a minute. With Canadian military support he was able
to go through and really finalise the design, and it started going through testing in late 1916. So
December of 1916 this thing goes through a trial, 650 rounds. That’s not much by serious trials standards, but when
you consider an experimental firearm the first time out, take it out for an hour or two,
find some Colonel to show it to. If you can get 650 rounds through the gun without problems
you’ve got something with real potential. And it did. So there was a second extended trial
in February of 1917, also went well. And then a really serious trial up here in
Canada, an endurance test where they put 11,000 rounds through one of the guns in March
of 1917, and again the guns were performing well. The problems that the Huot had were not really
mechanical ones, this gun functioned quite nicely. It is an open-bolt firing machine gun, fires about 470
rounds per minute, uses a 25 round drum magazine. And this looked like it had some real
potential for the Canadian military. This would have filled the same role as the Lewis gun. And in fact the Lewis gun is the primary
contender against which it was tested. And the idea was … this is all based on a Ross
straight-pull rifle. There were plenty of those around. And at the time the cost was something
like $50 … to build a Ross into a Huot, as compared to the cost of something
like $1,000 for a brand new Lewis gun. So that was one of the major considerations, one of
the major potential benefits of a conversion like this. For the record this uses 33 just
straight unconverted Ross parts, it uses another 11 Ross parts that were
modified, and then 56 new production parts. So that may sound like it’s mostly a new
gun, but some of those parts that are either used straight off the Ross or only slightly modified
included important ones like the receiver and the barrel. And a lot of the parts that were added onto
this are relatively simple parts to manufacture. So there was definitely an economic …
benefit to using this instead of a Lewis. And there was of course the national pride thing of
we’re not gonna use Lewis guns designed in America and manufactured in Britain, we’re gonna design and
produce our own light machine gun. So real potential there. Well, in the spring of 1917 Huot and a partner, … a Major Robert
Blair who was the Assistant Small Arms Inspector in Quebec, they depart for England to do some actual serious testing. Because
at this point this gun is gonna have to pass British military trials if it’s going to be adopted. The British aren’t going to let it into
military standardisation if they haven’t looked at it themselves. So it went in and it would be tested against the
Lewis gun and the Farquhar-Hill light machine gun. And we’ll talk about what happened in those tests
after we take a look at what this is, and just how it works. So we’re gonna start looking at this with the magazine. It’s a light machine gun, magazines are actually
frankly one of the most important elements to it. So this is a 25 round drum magazine. And actually what’s
interesting about this, among other things, is there’s no spring. This is entirely a ratchet driven magazine. … You push this thing straight into the action. It has this rather unusual frame built
around the magazine I think just to protect it. And the magazine basically goes in
until it sits flush with that frame. So, go ahead and (this one unfortunately
the magazine spring is missing), so once I push that in I can pull
the magazine straight out the back. This is … a heavy magazine and it’s a small capacity
magazine for what it is. So let’s take a closer look at that. In order to load this you actually use a stripper clip. Unfortunately, we don’t have one here. However, there
is one of these at the Seaforth Highlanders Museum and they have a stripper clip for theirs. And if
you go over to Bloke On The Range’s channel, which I’ll link to at the end of this video, he did a video
on one where he actually shows the stripper clip in use. So that’s a cool little feature
that I can’t show you this time. However, we have a little disconnector in here.
When you put the stripper clip in it unlocks this feed spindle and allows
you to push 25 rounds in the top. The rounds will then feed out this side,
this is what locks into the receiver. To open up the magazine to show you how
it works we have a back plate that rotates just slightly. There are four little hooks around the perimeter
here. So once we rotate it we can then (there we go), lift this off, being
careful not to break that, obviously. And then inside you’ve got this cool spindle deal. So you have 25 sections for cartridges here. And then this
is actually your feed system, so you’ll see there’s no spring. This is mechanically indexed by
the gun, kind of like the Lewis gun. Different mechanism but same
idea, no spring, a mechanical index. Now looking inside the bottom of the action,
this finger pushes on that ratchet in the magazine. So when the bolt cycles you can see that finger pushes over. This is an open bolt gun, so when I pull the
trigger the bolt closes and this finger comes back. So when the bolt opens it indexes one round, when
the bolt closes it’s gonna snap back, it’s spring-loaded. And in the same process the bolt is feeding
a round out of the magazine and firing it. Now as a converted bolt action rifle,
because this is straight-pull it’s actually a pretty straightforward, I won’t say easy, but
it’s a pretty straightforward conversion. There is a gas piston that is put onto the barrel
and it’s right here. And then that piston runs back to the action. We have a big sheet metal dust cover
that we can open up so that we can see inside. So the gas piston continues all the way back here, where
it attaches to this whole assembly at the end of the bolt. It also mounts the recoil spring to pull the bolt forward. So when you fire, the gas piston gets
pushed back, that pushes the bolt back, opens, extracts the empty case. It’s going to cycle all the way back to here. There is a little spring-loaded buffer right here
on the side, it’s got a pretty heavy-duty spring in it. And when the bolt cycles all the way back the op rod impacts
on that, and that’s what buffers the deceleration of the bolt. By the way, while we’ve got this open, … the only marks on
this from its conversion are a serial number 5 right there, and the serial number 5 right here on the receiver. Other than that, the only markings are
those that were originally on the Ross. This is the original Ross safety. So ready and safe. I already mentioned that there’s one of
these that Bloke On The Range did a video on, his has an additional lever on the back
of the bolt he wasn’t sure the purpose of. I was curious to take a look at this example and see
what that lever did, but this example doesn’t have it. So a little bit of a data point for those of you who
are interested in multiple versions of the Huot. We have an interrupter here that is going to prevent rounds
from feeding up out of the magazine when they’re not supposed to. You can see that’s timed to depress
down when the bolt goes forward to feed. The handguards on here vary a bit. This one actually
has two added handguard sections on the side of the barrel jacket here, which do definitely
help give you a better grip on this. It’s interesting that they never
added a bipod to any of them, I suspect that would have been done had
they gone into military service and production. The rear sight is taken off of a Ross Mark IIIB rifle. This is basically copied off of the Pattern
1914 rifle and it’s a pretty good rear sight. Now what’s interesting is this sight was originally
meant to be back on the receiver very close to your eye. On the Huot it’s here in the middle of
the gun. So what they did is they actually changed this out from an aperture to a notch
sight. So you can see the original aperture, but they put a plate on the back
of it and cut a notch at the top. So when you have the sight down, kind of your
standard firing mode, you’ve got a notch sight. If you lift it up like this, then you’re using this aperture. And that aperture has been drilled out to be
substantially larger than on a Pattern 1914 or a Ross IIIB because it was recognised that it needed to
be larger because the sight was farther forward. So … when I first looked at this I figured that sight’s gonna
be basically useless on this gun because it’s so far forward. In reality it actually gives
you a pretty nice sight picture. The front sight is mounted onto the barrel shroud.
And it’s just a kind of a typical shielded big square post. Now this huge barrel shroud itself
is there as a cooling mechanism. It’s very much like a Lewis gun, although it doesn’t
have an internal aluminium radiator like a Lewis. So the idea here is that the barrel is
set substantially back in the shroud. So the end of the barrel is actually, … you can’t see
how far down my hand is, but four or five inches down. And the barrel’s right there in the centre. The idea
is when you fire you’re going to get muzzle blast pushing forward out of this barrel shroud. That muzzle blast is going to pull cool air
in through these two vents at the back, thus forcing a continuous flow
of cool air across the barrel. That allows you to use a relatively light barrel
and not overheat as quickly as it otherwise would. So that’s the reason for that
huge barrel shroud out there. Now one of the shortcomings of the Huot design that they
really could have fixed without too much trouble I think, is the overall handling. So what you have to do is
actually put your thumb through this narrow little section. The shroud here is added so that when
the bolt comes cycling back and forth you’re not in any danger of
being hit by it, that’s a good idea. But really this should have had a pistol grip on
it so you don’t have to try and hold this with… I can’t even do it while on camera,
but stuffing your thumb through here. The second issue is the cheek weld.
In order to get a proper line on the sights you have to put your face really kind of
back here, which is awkwardly far back. It would be much more comfortable
to put your face up this far. But up here the shape of the shroud is such that your
face is really too far offset to get a good sight picture. So the British testing on the Huot lasted
from January until August of 1918. Although it was about halfway through that
it was formally rejected by the British military. In total Huot and …. Blair took four guns,
they took three main guns and a spare gun. They took three extra sets of barrels
and they took five magazines. And it’s interesting to me that they took only five magazines, which
makes me think they had only made probably five magazines. They probably had one drum magazine for
each gun, and they took all of them along. And on the one hand that tells me that these
magazines are not particularly easy to make, or else they would have made more of them, because having to reload these all the time during
trials was certainly, you know, a time consuming task. At the same time the fact that the
magazines actually survived through the trials, these trials, by the way, over a 100,000
rounds were put through these four guns. … That’s as serious of a trial as you’ll ever see. The fact that the magazines survived and were still
functional at the end of that trial is really impressive. A typical sort of quasi-disposable box
magazine would probably not have survived that. So, the drums are well designed, they’re well made, they
needed to be lighter, which is one of the ancillary testing results. But overall the result of this trial in the UK
was first off, not accepted for service. Not sufficiently better than a Lewis gun
to justify putting in the cost and the time to start up production on another
different non-standard light machine gun. There’s probably also some political
repercussion from the Ross rifle, which had been the subject of much contentious
argument both in Canada and in England. The specific results from the trials were were both pro and
con. This didn’t totally fail trials, it did a lot of things well. It was found to be faster on snap shooting,
the idea if you’re carrying the gun, you bring it up to the shoulder and … make
a first shot. It beat the Lewis gun at that. It was easier to disassemble than a Lewis gun, which makes sense,
the Lewis gun’s not the easiest thing out there to disassemble. And one of the nice things about a conversion like
this is all the mechanical bits are on the outside. So as long as you can keep it clean, it’ll run. And then if
you have to disassemble it, stuff’s all pretty easy to access. This was also easier to clear malfunctions on
than a Lewis gun, which is really not a surprise. The Lewis gun is particularly
difficult to clear malfunctions. You get an empty case stuck inside a Lewis gun it’s got
this little tiny ejection port that clearing is very difficult. This, again because of its bolt action rifle
heritage, has the whole open top of the receiver. Very easy to pull the bolt handle back, clear out
whatever is in there, and get the gun running again. So those are the things that it did well. On the other hand,
it was criticised for having a very uncomfortable cheek weld which is absolutely the case. You have to put
your face way back here, it’s not very comfortable. The grip was also criticised. This should
have had a pistol grip from the very beginning. I suspect it didn’t just as a way to reduce the
labour and the effort involved in making them. There’s just barely enough space here
to put a hand through, but it’s not ideal. You’ll notice that there is no bipod on this. When they
did the testing they had what they called a field mount. I haven’t seen any pictures or a good description
of one, but it was some sort of tripod/bipod mount. And the test says that that needed to
be better. Really this should have had even just like a Lewis gun style of bipod
on the front. Would have been important. So that was kind of the balance. It did some things
well, it did some things not so well. And ultimately by this time we’re in the middle of 1918, … you’ve
got the money, if you need more light machine guns do you put it into starting up production of a new gun
that you know is going to have some teething issues. And going from prototypes, hand built
prototypes, to an actual production line gun that’s a tricky process and it takes time and effort. Or do you take that same amount of money
and put it into expanding Lewis gun production. And the British answer was, “If we want more machine
guns, we’ll put the money into more Lewis gun production.” So they formally rejected the gun,
Huot eventually came back home. And unfortunately for him he was kind of in a pickle,
there isn’t really a civilian market for this in Canada in 1919. He was in the hole, in debt, about
$36,000 from all the work he’d put in. He had spent four or five years
working on this gun largely on his own. When he did it funded by the Canadian
military, he simply did it on salary. He had a deal to get royalties
on the gun if it had been adopted. But it wasn’t, and when it was rejected
the Canadian military basically said, “Well, thanks for trying. You’re fired.
We don’t, you know, you’re done. Bye.” Which … left a bit of a bitter taste in Huot’s
life. He … had actually married in 1915, he went on to have several kids, ended up being the
foreman for the City Works Department in Ottawa. … He actually died in 1947.
1942 World War Two comes around he actually does … a little bit more developmental
firearms work, but nothing that went as far as this. He did file suit with the Canadian
government to try and get some recompense for the money that he had
put into the development here. And he ultimately did, he was actually paid out $25,000. So not quite
everything that he said he had spent on it, but a good portion of it. But they didn’t get around to
actually paying him until 1936, which is kind of a bummer and maybe
bureaucratically inevitable. But such is what often happens to private
inventors whose guns don’t get adopted. So, I would like to give a big thanks to the Canadian War
Museum for giving me an opportunity to take a look at this Huot. There were I believe five of these originally
manufactured, they actually have two of them here. This is the nicer of the two. If you’re in Ottawa
definitely stop in and take a look at the museum. They have some pretty cool small-arms exhibits, as well as military
vehicles and a bunch of other stuff related to Canadian military history. Thanks for watching.

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