German Mauser select-fire Schnellfeuer machine pistol. The Spanish were the first to produce a select-fire version of the broom handle design; the weapons became very popular in China. To keep up with the competition the Germans introduced the Schnellfeuer in 1931.
By Frank Iannamico
A Brief History of the Machine Pistol
The concept of a select-fire pistol is nothing new. During early development of the semiautomatic pistol in the late 19th century there were several attempts at producing pistols with a full-automatic capability. There were far more prototypes and experimental models conceived than actual production guns. The problem every designer faced was the lightweight weapons were uncontrollable and therefore inaccurate thus, before long, most designers decided to concentrate on semiautomatic-only pistols. The term “automatic” pistol is often used to describe a semiautomatic pistol. While technically inaccurate the term is widely used and accepted. “Machine pistol” is generally used to describe a pistol capable of full-automatic fire.
In the United States there were several attempts to convert the U.S. 1911 pistol into a machine pistol and for feeding a 30-round box magazine was conceived. Some variations were fitted with removable buttstocks and vertical foregrips to help control the weapon. Other innovations included extended barrels with compensators to control muzzle rise. There were also attempts at designing a machine pistol by a few U.S. inventors, but none progressed past the prototype stage. During the early part of the twentieth century there were a few “machine pistols” developed and marketed in Europe. Because of their short recoil full-automatic pistols have very fast cyclic rates. To feed their voracious appetites for ammunition large capacity magazine and even drum magazines were designed and detachable shoulder stocks were devised to assist in controlling the weapons. Germany and Spain were the leaders in the design and production of the full automatic pistols.
The Mauser Company introduced their semiautomatic pistol in 1896 and the 7.63mm weapon is generally considered by historians to be the first successful semiautomatic pistol design. Because of the pistol’s cylindrical wood pistol grip it became known as the 1896 “broom handle” Mauser. The select-fire machine pistol version, the Schnellfeuerpistole was introduced during 1931 with China being their best customer.
Spain is believed to be the first to produce a machine pistol for military use – the Beistegui Hermanos firm’s Royal line in 1927 and the Astra Model 900 series a year later. This was a few years prior to the introduction of the Mauser Schnellfeuer machine pistols. Both the Spanish pistols, the Royal and the Astra were close copies of the German Mauser 1896 broom handle design. The Spanish firm Star produced a series of machine pistols based on the Colt 1911 design. The majority of sales of the Spanish weapons were to Japan and China.
During the period from 1918 through 1949 China was in a constant state of turmoil, with conflicts occurring between warlords, the Japanese invasion and the Chinese Civil War. During the 1930s the Chinese Government sought the assistance of German military advisors for recommending arms and tactics for their army. The primary weapons suggested of course were German that included the 7.92mm Mauser rifle and the 7.63 Mauser broom handle pistols, including the Mauser Schnellfeuer machine pistol. The Chinese also procured large numbers of the Spanish Royal, Astra and Star pistols. To satisfy a growing demand, Chinese factories and arsenals began manufacturing copies of the German and Spanish pistols, which had become extremely popular among the Chinese. Most of the Chinese clones were chambered in 7.63 Mauser and a limited number were made in .45 ACP. The use of the machine pistol by China transcended use of the weapons by all other countries combined. Possession of a machine pistol became a Chinese status symbol.
Cold War Era
At the beginning of the Cold War there was renewed interest in the machine pistol concept, primarily by the Soviet Union, and to a lesser extent the Italian firm of Beretta. The Soviets developed the 9x18mm Stechkin select-fire machine pistol for military issue.
During 1951 the Italian firm Beretta introduced their Model 951A 9mm select-fire machine pistol. The weapon was conceived from the semiautomatic Model 951 Italian issue military pistol. The machine pistol model featured a folding vertical pistol grip and 10-round magazine. The cyclic rate was approximately 750 rounds per minute. The Model 951A was only produced in small numbers.
More recent developments of the machine pistol have been by Beretta of Italy, Heckler & Koch of Germany and Glock of Austria.
In 1993 Beretta introduced their M93R 9mm machine pistol (R represents Raffica that translates to burst). The weapon was based on the semiautomatic Beretta Model 92 pistol. The M93R features a foldable foregrip, muzzle compensator, detachable buttstock and a 3-round burst (1,100 rpm) feature all designed to control shot dispersion. The weapon is fed from a 20-round magazine; the M92/M9 15-round magazine can also be used.
Heckler & Koch
The German H&K VP70 is a 9mm pistol with an extremely fast cyclic rate in 3-round bursts. The selector lever is located at the front of the detachable plastic buttstock. The pistol will only function in a select-fire mode when the stock is attached, without the stock the VP70 will only fire semiautomatically.
The Glock 18
Glock introduced their select-fire 9mm Model 18 in 1986 for the military and police market.
The Glock 18 is a select-fire variant of the Glock 17, developed at the request of the Austrian counter-terrorist unit. At first glance the Glock 18 looks much like a semiautomatic Glock 17, except for its rotating lever-type fire-control selector switch, located on the left rear side of the slide. The mode of fire positions are marked with indented “dots.” One dot at the upper position is for semiautomatic fire, the lower position, full-automatic, is marked with two dots.
In an attempt to make the Glock 18 more manageable, a new version was introduced in 1996, designated as the Glock 18C (Compensated). To help control muzzle rise it has a compensator cut into the forward portion of the slide. The keyhole shaped opening provides an area to allow the four, progressively larger (from back to front) compensator slots machined in the barrel to vent the propellant gases upwards, to push the barrel down, affording more control during full-auto fire. The slide is hollowed, or dished-out, in a rectangular pattern between the rear of the ejection port and the rear sight.
The Glock 18 is basically a 9mm short recoil-operated locked breech select-fire pistol that uses a modified Browning cam-lock system adapted from the Hi-Power pistol. The firearm’s locking mechanism utilizes a link-less, vertically tilting barrel with a rectangular breech that locks in the slide. During the recoil stroke, the barrel moves rearward initially locked together with the slide approximately 3mm (0.12in) until the bullet leaves the barrel and chamber pressure drops to a safe level. A ramped lug extension at the base of the barrel then interacts with a tapered locking block integrated into the frame, forcing the barrel down and unlocking it from the slide. This camming action terminates the barrel’s movement while the slide continues back under recoil, extracting and ejecting the spent cartridge casing. In place of a conventional hammer, the Glock design uses a striker. The striker firing mechanism has a spring-loaded firing pin that is cocked in two stages, powered by the firing pin spring. When the pistol is charged, the firing pin is in the half-cock position. As the trigger is pulled, the striker becomes fully cocked. At the end of its travel, the trigger bar is tilted downward by the disconnector, releasing the striker to fire the cartridge. The disconnector resets the trigger bar so that the striker will be captured in half-cock at the end of the firing cycle. The pre-set trigger mechanism is referred to as the “Safe Action” trigger by the manufacturer. Most major components of the Model 18 are not interchangeable with other Glock models.
During the SAR test and evaluation several hundred 9mm hollow-point and full metal jacketed cartridges from a variety of manufacturers were fired. Magazines used included Glock factory 15- and 33-round magazines, Korean aftermarket 33-round magazines and a U.S. made 100-round Beta C mag. There were no malfunctions. Firing the Glock 18 on full-automatic can be a handful and those unaccustomed to shooting a machine pistol should be very closely supervised. However, the Glock 18 can be mastered with a little experience and technique. At very close range it can be a very effective weapon in the hands of an experienced shooter.
A threaded barrel was obtained in order to test the Model 18 suppressed. Several suppressors were used that included a SWR Trident 9, Octane 9 and a Gemtech Multimount. Although Glock 18 barrels are difficult/impossible to obtain, a threaded replacement barrel for a Glock 17 was tried and it fit with no problem. The Glock functioned perfectly in semiautomatic mode with a suppressor, but when switched to full-auto it would just function semiautomatic. The original spring was swapped out for a lighter 15-pound one with no success. A heavier 22-pound rated Wolff spring was installed and the test pistol began to function perfectly (quiet) in full-auto.
One disadvantage of the Glock design is that a pistol grip with an integral laser sight is unavailable except as an obtrusive add-on. The alternative is the LaserMax sight that is built into a guide rod/spring assembly that maintains a “clean” look to the pistol. The disadvantage was that the test Glock 18 would not fire full-auto with a suppressor attached with the LaserMax recoil spring assembly installed.
There have been several detachable buttstocks designed and manufactured for the Glock 18. The one that came with the test Glock was an aftermarket folding stock of unknown origin. The stock appeared well designed and made of aluminum and marked GRS USA. The stock attached by sliding up into a cavity in the grip and was secured by a spring-loaded latch. When folded, the stock’s buttplate formed a vertical foregrip.
Glock no longer offers the Model 18 or 18C in its U.S. Law Enforcement catalog. It is not known for certain when the pistol was discontinued, but it was advertised as a Third Generation model in the 2009 L.E. catalog. The Glock select-fire machine pistol was only offered in Glock’s standard size chambered for the 9mm cartridge.
The overall length of the Glock 18 is 7.28 inches, barrel length is 4.49 inches and its unloaded weight is 21.9 ounces. The Glock 18 is typically issued with a 33-round capacity magazine, although other magazines from the 9mm Glock series will fit and function. The cyclic rate in the full automatic mode is approximately 1,100-1,200 rounds per minute.
Reportedly, a Glock 18C was discovered in the underground bunker where the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was hiding when he was captured by U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers in December 2003: reportedly the weapon was not loaded. The captured Glock pistol was eventually presented to President Bush where he kept the pistol in a glass case in his White House office. After leaving the White House, Mr. Bush made arrangements for the Glock to be shipped to a National Archives warehouse. Those close to President Bush said he was proud of the Glock captured from his former adversary and that his intention was to have the weapon displayed in the Presidential Library.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V19N6 (July 2015)|