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1.65  Inch Hotchkiss Mountain Gun

By Doug Howser 

The 1.65 inch Hotchkiss Gun

1.65 Inch Hotchkiss Gun (Image courtesy of the Doug Howser Collection)

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The 1.65 inch Hotchkiss gun a light gun  intended to be packed on mules to accompany either a fast moving cavalry troop or an army maneuvering in rough country. During the Spanish American War they were also seeing use as an infantry close support gun. The gun and accessories could be packed on two mules, with 72 rounds on each ammunition mule. Packed with the gun was a draught pole and harness so the gun could be pulled in smooth country.


The 1.65 gun was introduced into federal service as a modern replacement for the aging 12 Pounder ML Mountain Howitzer. The U.S purchased its first gun in 1876 from the French arms firm of Hotchkiss Ordnance Co. This gun was to see combat against the Nez Perce Indians in 1877. Over the next twenty years the U.S would purchase about fifty-six of these little guns.

In Cuba these guns were fired against Spanish positions at Las Guasimas by the gun detachment of the 10th U.S. Cavalry where the unit expended 21 shells. For the attack on San Juan Hill, Lt. Hughes placed the detachment of four guns 75 yards beyond the San Juan River to shell the Spanish fortifications. These guns raked the heights as the infantry attacked. Emplaced on San Juan Hill the 10th U.S. Cavalry's guns helped repulse the Spanish counterattack on July 2nd. The guns were also employed during the general bombardment of Santiago on  July 10th, 1898.

Later the 1.65 Hotchkiss guns would see combat again in the Philippine American War


The 1.65 Inch Hotchkiss gun was well liked by the troops who used the gun. Their light weight made them extremely portable. The gun was well built and simple to operate. It was also a very accurate gun. By the time of the Philippine American War, the guns were being converted to center fire cartridge ignition with smokeless powder  used as propellant.

The gun did have one glaring deficiency. The projectile was just too small to employ a time fused shrapnel shell, so there was no way to air-burst a shell over the enemy. This fault did reduce the gun's effectiveness.


1.65 inch Hotchkiss cannon

Total Weight:
362 pounds
3500 yards (2miles)


Total length of tube:
3.83 feet
Length of bore:
3.43 feet
Travel of projectile:
3.10 feet
1.65 inches
121 pounds
Twist of Rifling, uniform:
1 in 29.83 cals.
Muzzle velocity:
1298 feet per second


Weight, complete:
241 pounds
Height of trunion axis above ground:
27.55 inches
Diameter of wheels:
37.4 inches
Track of carriage:
2.46 feet


The 1.65 Hotchkiss Mountain Gun fired two types of projectiles. A common shell, either base fused or nose fused or a canister. The common shell would explode on contact showering the enemy with jagged shell fragments. The canister would rip open at the muzzle spraying the enemy with a fan shaped pattern of hardened lead inch balls. This projectile was used at close range. The early cartridge case did not have a primer. Instead there was a hole in the center covered internally with a diaphragm. The gun was fired by a friction primer inserted into the back of the breech housing.

Shell Base for ammunition of the 1.65 inch Hotchkiss Gun

The flame would enter the case head (d) at the center vent (v) penetrating the case body (a)  lifting a diaphragm (not shown) firing the charge.

Ammuntion types (l.-r.): Nose fused common shell with early wrapped case used with friction primer; tin body canister with two piece case used with friction primer; cut-a-way base fused common  with  one piece center fire primered case; brass body canister with center fire case; late nose fused common shell with center fire case.

Shell, shrapnel, and canister rounds, 1.65 Inch Hotchkiss Gun

Weight of round (common shell):
2.62 pounds
Weight of shell, filled:
1.95 pounds
Weight of round (canister) complete):
3.47 pounds
Weight of canister:
2.8 pounds
Number of balls in canister
Powder Charge:
5.5 ounces mortar
Bursting charge of shell:
1.8 ounces
Weight of cartridge case, empty:
5.3 ounces
Weight of fuze:
1.9 ounces


Dyer, Capt. A.B., Handbook for Light Artillery, (New York:, 1896)

The Hotchkiss Ordnance Company, LTD, Descriptive Catalogue of War Material, (Factory Catalog, circa 1895)

Cashen, Herschel V. and others, Under Fire with the Tenth U.S. Cavalry, (Salem, NH, 1969)

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