The concept of the submachine gun or
machine pistol was first pioneered during the final bloody years of the
First World War. It dawn on the Germans that it would be quite handy to
have a light, fully automatic weapon firing the standard 9mm pistol
cartridge. This was called the Bergmann MP18. The German idea for a
submachine gun was much better than another Italian design which did not
have a stock and used a bipod to steady the weapon firing the Italian
pistol service cartridge. The MP18 was so feared the terms of the Treaty
of Versailles specifically banned German Army from possession of the
The German design proved so effective in the hands of the German Shock
Troops in making trench raids that the British High Command placed a
bounty on each submachine gun captured and turned over to the chain of
command. The British later copied a later version of the German MP18
called the MP28 and called it the Lancaster.
The inter-war years brought much research and development into the
submachine gun field by all countries. The results most notably was the
MP38/40 in Germany, the Beretta 38 in Italy, PPS in the Soviet Union and
the famous Thompson in .45 caliber in the United States. The British
after their painful defeat in Dunkirk quickly realized that they
required a cheap, rugged and quickly produced sub machine gun to make up
for their losses. The STEN was their solution which served in all
theaters and even many years after the war all over the world.
After the war the submachine gun still
found a place in most armies and police agencies in spite of the
introduction of the assault rifle. The reason for this has been the
evolution of manufacturing processes, material used to produce the
weapons and the design of the weapons itself and of course the
improvement of various 9mm ammunition. The MP5 by Heckler & Koch is a
good example of this. Designed in 1964 and is still found in service
with police and military units in almost every country in the world.
The evolution of the submachine gun did not stop with the MP5. The
industry took two directions. One direction was to develop and promote
new ammunition under the concept of the Personal Defense Weapon (PDW).
The two best known were the P90 in 5.7mm from FN Herstal and the MP7 in
4.6mm from H&K. The other direction was to stay with the tried and
proven 9mm such as Steyr with their TMP. Brügger & Thomet believed in
the 9mm direction as well and in 2001 negotiated with Steyr to acquire
all the rights, drawings, patents and spare parts for the TMP.
was completely redesigned and re-launched as the MP9.