The Hotchkiss Mountain Gun

Ammunition: Fuses I

A discussion of the type and timing of introduction of Hotchkiss fuses must invoke the development of the shells that they were to fit even though this interferes with a neat organization.  I will refer to shell types as it seems necessary.  The only model designation that I have come across for Hotchkiss fuses is the Frankford Arsenal Mod. 1894.  For ease of discussion, I have chosen to develop my own numbering system which is independent of manufacturer.  That is to say that there is no “Hotchkiss” Type I as opposed to a “Frankford Arsenal” Type I.  Type I is Type I and it happens to have been made by Hotchkiss, at least no other manufacturers have come to light.  The system is, as near as I can judge, chronological.  I have identified 6 nose fuses for 1.65” shells, 4 of which I have personally examined.  These are:


1)     Hotchkiss Type I.  It appears to be the same as that patented by Benj. Hotchkiss on May 15, 1877.  It is a simple percussion fuse and fits the earliest shell which is found associated with wrapped friction primed cases of Hotchkiss, Paris manufacture.  These were in use through, at least, 1880 (Ord Rpt, 1880).  The cutaway illustration is from Hotchkiss’ patent. 


2)     Hotchkiss Type II is referenced in Dyer, 1894 and Modern Guns, 1895.  It fits two shells that are presumed to be Frankford Arsenal

   manufacture which are shown as numbers 6 and 9 in the Projectile tab.  Six being the narrow driving band model and 9 being it’s later (post  1896) replacement).. 


The following fuses were made, ostensibly, by American makers.  This information is largely taken from Fuses, 1908, (which is not entirely clear on some issues) and Ord 2, 1896.  The pages concerned will be uploaded at some point so that the reader can form his own judgments.  Also, all of these fuses use a ring to retain the firing pin as a safety precaution.  More on this clever innovation later.


3)     Frankford Arsenal Type III.  This fuse is the first of the Ring Retaining variety and is illustrated in Plate II, Figure 3 & 4 of the Fuses book.  It fits Hotchkiss shells that require the .838” thread.  This thread is the same as for the earliest fuse (Type I) and the reference is, presumably, to stores of French shells  that were imported earlier.  This fuse looks much like the later FA and Winchester fuses and the shells that it fits look much like later FA shells.  This means that it would be extremely difficult to differentiate ammunition in early photographs.  I have not come across an example of this fuse.

4)     Frankford Arsenal Type IV (F. A. Mod. 1894).  This fuse, too, was made to fit existing stores of Hotchkiss shells, again, presumably, old imports of French manufacture.  It fits the same shells as Type II, above.  So what we have is evidence for two sets of French shells.  I have only seen, unequivocally, French shells for the Type I fuse.  In Ord, 1896 it is stated that this fuse will replace the older Hotchkiss made fuse (Type II). 


 Interestingly, this fuse has been found in a shell loaded in a Frankford Arsenal case.  One would assume that the shell was old and simply loaded at the arsenal except that in the Ordnance Reports (Ord, 1896) a clear reference is made to shells produced by the arsenal.  The most simple explanation is that stores of the French material were being supplemented by shells produced at the Frankford Arsenal.  In fact, in February of 1895, it is reported that 200 rounds were produced.  We are left with the conclusion that ca. 1896 U.S. production of nose fused shells (there is no mention of base fuses) was carried on at the Frankford Arsenal substantially along the lines of prior French production with regard to projectiles and fuses.  It should be noted here that the change in driving band, from the narrow type to the wider type (which was in use from the earliest manufacture of Hotchkiss ammunition) in the US dates to about 1896 and that the Type IV fuse was fitted to it.


In summary to this point, it appears that there were two diameter fuses that came with French manufacture 1.65 shells.  The earlier one is Type I, the later, Type II.  During the 1890’s, the U.S. decided to produce their own fuses to go with existing stocks of shells (Type III replacing Type I and Type IV replacing Type II).  At the same time, a decision was reached to produce shells at the Frankford Arsenal similar to the second French variation.

 Clear?  Excellent.


During the time in question, Winchester began making, or rather, loading rounds for the Hotchkiss gun.  I say this because while the nose fused shell is well marked, the base fused version is not.  This brings us to


5)     Winchester Type V.  This is a close match to the Type IV fuse and in fact, it is referred to as having components from the Frankford arsenal.  The major difference is that this fuse has a reduced outside diameter and is thus not interchangeable with any of the fuses discussed so far.  I have not seen a marked example yet though they have been undeniably associated with Winchester marked cases.  All Winchester shells examined to this point have a narrow driving band and refer, misleadingly, to the patent date for the original fuse (Type I).  There is a reference that the “Standard Fuse” (Type VI) replaces this one. 





6)     Frankford Arsenal Type VI.  This fuse is referred to as the standard fuse.  Presumably it was mounted on a red painted, wide band shell.  I have not come across any of these.





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