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German Weapons

> Sub-machine Guns

MP 18

MG 34

MP 18

Basic Information
Type Submachine gun
Place of Origin German Empire
In service 1918 - 1945
Used by German Empire, Nazi Germany, Republic of China, Weimar Republic, and others
Wars World War I, Second Sino-Japanese War, Chinese Civil War, World War II
Designer Hugo Schmeisser
Manufacturer Bergmann Waffenfabrik, Quingdao Iron Works
Designed in 1916
Produced 1918-1920s
Technical Specifications
Length 832mm
Weight 4.18 kg
Barrel Length 200mm
Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum, 7.92x57mm Mauser
Action Open bolt blowback
Muzzle Velocity 380 m/s (1247 ft/s)
Feed System 32 detachable drum magazine TM 08 (World War I); 20, 30 and 50 round detachable box (post-World War I)
Rate of fire about 500 rounds per minute

The MP 18 was the first practical submachine gun used in combat, introduced into service in 1918 by the German Army during World War I. Although production ended in the 1920s, its design formed hte basis of most submachine guns manufactured between 1920 and 1960. The firepower of this new class of weapons made such an impression on the Allies that the Treaty of Versailles specifically banned further study and manufacture of such light automatic firearms by Germany.


In 1915, the German Rifle Testing Commission at Spandau decided to develop a new weapon for trench warfare. An attempt to modify existing semi-automatic pistols, specifically the Luger and C96 Mauser failed, as accurate aimed fire in full automatic mode was impossible due to their light weight and high rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute. The Commission determined that a completely new kind of weapon was needed. Hugo Schmeisser, working for the Bergmann Waffenfabrik was part of a team composed of Theodor Bergmann, Louis Schmeisser and a few other technicians. They designed a new type of weapon to fulfill the requirements, which was designated the Maschinenpistole 18/I. It is not clear what the "I" designation is intended to indicate.

Full scale production did not begin until early 1918. Though technically not the world's first submachine gun, being beaten by the Italian Villar-Perosa of 1915, in modern usage of the term the MP18 is considered the world's first submachine gun since the Villar Perosa had been designed to be used as a light machine gun on aircraft before it was adapted to infantry use.


The MP18 was a heavy weapon, weighing over 5 kg when fully loaded. The receiver tube was very thick (~3mm), compared with later World War II submachine guns with half that thickness or less, such as the Sten gun or MP40. Though Schmeisser designed a conventional 20 round capacity "box" magazine for the weapon, the Testing Commission, for practical reasons, insisted that the MP18 be adapted to use the 32 round TM 08 Luger "snail" drum magazines that was widely used with the long barreled version of the P 08 pistol known as Artillery model.

The open bolt design had one drawback: if the buttstock were given a hard knock while the bolt was fully forward while a loaded magazine was inserted, the gun could accidentally fire because of the bolt overcoming the action spring resistance and moving rearward enough to pick up a round and chambering it. Soldiers liked to leave the bolt of their firearm in the closed or forward position so dirt and debris would not enter into the barrel and chamber. This 'Bolt-closure' practice prevented a malfunction from occurring when the firearm needed to be fired.

The German police asked for an external safety on its MP18 and a universal bolt locking safety was added on all the submachine guns used by the police. Later sub-machine gun designs like the Sten or the MP40 were modified to allow the cocking handle to be pushed inwards to lock the closed bolt to the tubular receiver casing. This design change prevented accidental discharges when the bolt was left forward and a loaded magazine was inserted.

The original MP18 was designed to use the snail drum magazine of the Luger Artillery model pistol. This rotary design type of magazine holds 32 rounds of 9 mm Parabellum, the user having to load the magazine with a proprietary loading tool. A special sleeve was required when the snail drum was used on the MP18 to stop the snail drum from being inserted too far in the magazinewell.

After 1920, the MP18 was modified to use a straight magazine similar to those used in the later developed MP40 submachine gun. The MP18 could only fire in the fully automatic mode. Its successor, the MP28/2, received a modified mechanism with a selector for single shot or fully automatic fire.

Britain directly copied the MP28 at the beginning of World War 2. The result was the Lanchester submachine gun, which saw service with the Royal Navy. The British Sten used the side-mounted magazine configuration and a simplified version of the open bolt firing operating system of the MP28.

Combat Use

The MP18 primarily served in final stages of World War I in 1918, especially in the Kaiserschlacht offensive. At least 5,000 MP18.1 were built and used during World War I, based on observed serial number ranges of captured weapons. But it is possible that up to 10,000 were built for the war. Production was outlawed by the Treaty of Versailles, but manufacture was continued secretly into the early 1920s. Final production total ended at around 35,000.

In 1919 during the German revolutionary period, MP 18 were used successfully in house to house fights to regain control of a city in Berlin and Munich in what was more police type counter insurgency than a military operation.

Between 1920 and 1940, this new class of weapons saw increasing use. First in South America during the Chaco war, then in Europe during the Spanish Civil War, and in China during the Japanese invasion where its use by well trained Chinese troops was costly for the invaders as in the battle of Shanghai, where fierce street fights prefigured World War II urban combat of Stalingrad, Warsaw, Vienna and Berlin.

The MP18 continued in use with German police forces after the end of the war.

Photo gallery (4)

See also

  • MP18 Bergmann series replica products at store

  • References

  • "MP 18." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 06 Aug. 2010. .

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