The diminutive .380 MAC-11 is a compact and relatively inexpensive addition to the Class III stable. While a blast to shoot, rare and expensive magazines have previously hamstrung the little MAC.
By Will Dabbs, MD
The MAC-11 in .380 is one of the niftiest automatic weapons commonly encountered on the U.S market. The bizarre legal environment in which American machine gun collectors find themselves has served to foment an eclectic amalgam of weapons available to U.S. machine gun enthusiasts. For instance, the Kalashnikov assault rifles represent the most prolifically produced small arm in history. There have been more than fifty million copies of this weapon produced in dozens of countries yet original transferable versions of these guns are rare in America and command quite a premium. By contrast, the diminutive MAC series submachine guns were never employed by conventional military forces in quantity and were produced piecemeal by several manufacturers, all of which eventually went bankrupt, yet are the most inexpensive and ubiquitous automatic weapons available to American collectors.
Among the several MAC variants commonly encountered nothing else quite exudes cool like the little MAC-11 in .380. Marketed originally as a sort of Personal Defense Weapon capable of producing a prodigious volume of fire while remaining portable and compact enough for comfortable carry, the MAC-11 is the closest thing to a true machine pistol most American shooters will ever see. Oddly, as unusual as this weapon is, it remains one of the most reasonably priced machine guns in America. While these guns represent, relatively speaking, a bargain entry into machine gun collecting, magazines for the original versions were either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive until very recently.
The .380 MAC-11 was produced and marketed by several companies but for shooting purposes falls into one of two broad categories. The original guns used model-specific steel magazines known to be both robust and reliable. While carrying ammunition in a double stack fashion, these magazines taper to a single-stack presentation in the same manner as do those of the Sten and MP40 or most contemporary high-capacity handguns. Later versions of the .380 MAC-11 used the same synthetic Zytel magazine employed by the 9mm M-11/9. These later magazines work fairly well but are clearly an expedient solution and wreck the aesthetics of the little buzz gun. For those collectors trying to feed a metal mag .380 MAC-11, original magazines can run upwards of $200 per copy when they can be found. In addition to being exorbitantly expensive, most of these magazines have a good bit of mileage on them on the rare occasion when they can be located for sale.
Cheaper Than Dirt has recently begun selling aftermarket replacement steel magazines for the .380 MAC-11. These magazines appear to be made originally as high capacity replacements for an unknown .380 autoloading pistol. Quality is entirely adequate and the finish is a deep parkerized gray. The most amazing part of the equation for MAC-11 owners is that the magazines retail for a modest $19.95 each. (Catalog item MAG-214)
These replacement magazines comfortably hold thirty rounds and present the ammunition in a single stack fashion like the originals. As such, loading is much easier with a loading tool. Fit and lockup compare favorably with the originals though the fundamental design geometry differs markedly from the original MAC version. In my gun at least, the aftermarket copies fit more smoothly and comfortably than do the originals. These new magazines are slightly tighter to charge with ammunition than the originals but actually appear to represent a more robust design. The follower is made from a black synthetic material that is appropriately hearty. The only aesthetic downside is that the baseplate cants upward as though it were fitted for the butt of a handgun rather than being squared off like the original MAC magazines. To the purist, this is a significant aesthetic detriment but one that can be readily remedied with a little patience and a Dremel tool.
To square the base of one of these replacement magazines the magazine must first be completely disassembled. The baseplates are tight as shipped but can be readily removed with a little elbow grease. One can then cut the base of the magazine square using either a cutoff wheel on a table saw, a Dremel grinder, a bench grinder, or some similar tool. Careful teasing with a Dremel removes a little material on the front aspect of the magazine and slots the back corners to form side flanges that retain the baseplate. The rear portion of the magazine is left a little long to form a baseplate stop. A little careful bending with a wide pair of pliers forms the retaining flanges and the original baseplate can be cut down to form a better semblance of the original. If care is taken during this process minimal refinishing is required. The resulting magazine is a wee bit shorter than an original and carries thirty rounds rather than thirty-two but has been utterly reliable during my extensive range testing.
Just for fun, one magazine was cut down such that it protrudes only slightly from the butt of the weapon. In this configuration the magazine carries seventeen rounds and makes for a much handier package in a holster. The process is identical to the squaring off exercise described earlier with the exception of adjustment of the magazine spring. The magazine spring was cut down a single coil at a time until the right combination of capacity and lifting strength was achieved.
The availability of these replacement magazines breathes new life into the little MAC-11 .380 weapon system. Any gun that shoots between 1,200 and 1,600 rounds per minute is simply frustrating without a decent collection of reliable magazines. Considering a MAC-11 owner can now stock up on eight or more magazines for the price of a single original there is no reason not to load up while they are available. Cheaper Than Dirt is readily accessible on the internet and as of this writing these magazines were freely available in quantity.
Cheaper Than Dirt
P.O. Box 162087
Fort Worth, TX 76161
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V12N2 (November 2008)|