Are Submachine Guns Obsolete?

This is a topic I was pondering the other day. I thought to myself “is there any one role where a submachine gun stands out among the rest as the best firearm for any given situation?”

And I couldn’t think of one. Not one. They are much bigger than a pistol, and thus too big to conceal yet they use the same ammunition. The barrel lengths are often comparable as well so the performance increase of the round from an SMG is negligible (in most cases). They do not have the effective range of an assault rifle, and their cyclic rate is comparable. I believe they are not as efficient as a shotgun in close quarters for some type of entry type situation either, albeit I guess this is somewhat debatable.

In the early part of the 20th Century, an era where small arms issued to troops consisted mainly of breech loading magazine fed rifles that required manual cycling after each shot, the submachine gun was a Godsend; Instead of hauling around that Maxim or Vickers gun to get some suppressing fire you could equip a man with a pistol caliber automatic weapon that was light, compact, mobile, and the sub-gun was used with great success almost immediately upon its introduction. On into World War II, both sides used sub-guns alongside their standard infantry rifles and out of this conflict the Germans realized that they had a problem that needed addressing; The era of trench warfare was over and most engagements now occurred within 300 meters… so they arrived at a solution. After the advent of the assault rifle however (an idea that those crafty Germans came up with; Small arms firing an intermediate cartridge and thus bridging the gap between rifle and pistol rounds and that are capable of both semi and fully automatic fire) the beginning of the end of the SMG was near. The assault rifle concept took a while to really catch on in the West, and sub-guns hung on for a while longer as NATO stuck with hard hitting battle rifles like the M1, M14, G3, and FAL rifles until 5.56 was standardized. Even during the battle rifle era, it made sense to supplement the battlefield with some SMGs. However in the East, the Kalashnikov rifle was quickly adopted and the Russians were the first to really utilize and field assault rifles on such a massive scale. Indeed it took the West a while to catch up. It wasn’t until well into the Vietnam War that the Pentagon decided to allow the proliferation of the M16 rifle. Now I don’t want to get into an AK versus M16 debate here (there are plenty of those on the internet already), but the fact of the matter is that the M16 being newly adopted was plagued with a few problems not limited to the lack of cleaning kits being issued and a magazine capacity of twenty rounds compared to the AK’s thirty (Eugene Stoner was asked to correct this “error”).

One by one the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (and some non-members) began to field rifles firing the 5.56x45mm round. The most popular ones out there include the American M16/M4, German G36, Belgian FNC, Israeli Galil, British SA-80, Austrian AUG, and many more. It was during this era that the world began to see the SMG being utilized less and less by armies across the globe. It seemed that the assault rifle had eliminated the need for pistol caliber automatic weapons and rifles firing a full powered cartridge by compromising and finding the middle ground.

Now I have quite a lot of experience with submachine guns. I bought my first selective fire Powder Springs M10 .45acp at the age of 21 for the price of $3,000. The photo you see above is one of me punching some holes in paper with it equipped with a Lage Max-10 slowfire upper. This gun made me fall in love with pistol caliber long guns, and it has been my go-to hog eradicator since I bought it. Let me tell you, there is nothing like spotlighting hogs from the back of a truck on a warm Texas night and letting a few magazines rip into the pack (**graphic image of a slain hog here**). After a few years I also bought a registered receiver Vector Uzi as well, and I must say that both guns are incredibly fun to shoot. I have also built a few semi automatic only pistol caliber SBRs, including my little UMP and an SP89:


Now what I can tell you based on my experience about the benefits of an SMG are that they are generally compact, light, have low recoil, are easier to suppress, may produce less penetration/collateral damage, and are easier to stay on target with than an assault rifle. However shortened assault rifles such as an M16 or g36 variant will be comparably light, produce marginally more recoil, produce an incredible amount of sound (even when suppressed, as most suppressor companies will void warranties if your barrel is too short), and whip a new shooter around a little more. From a logistical standpoint however it makes sense to ditch the SMG; If your Colt Commando can run the same magazines and ammunition as any other guy in your unit then that is a definite plus. The manual of arms also carries over so you need not train your soldiers on more than one weapon system.

It really is a bit sad that the SMG is going away. I have a friend involved in base security who said he used to see a lot of MP5s in use with military PSD teams moving in up-armored SUVs and such, but that was mostly back in 2006-2008. It seems that the SMG is also slowly leaving police armories as the AR15/M16 variants trickle in and replace the aging MP5s. So is that it for the SMG? Is the SMG a concept of a bygone era or does it still fill a niche roll in certain situations? You be the judge in the comments section!

Alex C.

Alex is a Senior Writer for The Firearm Blog and Director of TFBTV.


  • The SMG just has been re-visioned as the PDW. However, the calibers that it is chambered in may need to change. .22 TCM, 9×23 winchester, or 9×23 dillon, or perhaps even a .38 casull would be more in order. The real trick is to figure out barrel length and then determine what cartridge is optimized for that. AND the design must have the magazine inserted through the griip rather than ahead of it.

    • I think magazine in front of the grip is pretty much obsolete, but there’s valid reason to keep the options open as to what replaces it. The P90 shows that a magazine running along the top is quite valid, and along with it the idea of bullpup SMGs. Helical magazines have been holding on, first with the Calico and Bizon and now with the Chang Feng, and they’re certainly very high capacity.

      The problems with pistol grip magazines are that they dictate a poor ergonomic pistol grip and very short overall cartridge length, and that’s pretty much left us with the current scheme. The MP7 isn’t terrible, but it’s cartridge is disturbingly weak and other than that I can’t think of anything that’s notably improved over the aging telescoped bolt designs like the UZI and MAC-10.

      • The MP5s with bolt hold open devices seem like the perfect SMG.

        • I was issued the MP5 SD for use on our SRU team. I had a lot of faith in the MP5 for entry work, It’s just an excellent weapon even now. We did switch to the P90 several years ago. I liked it but no more so than the MP5.

          • noob

            i know that this may be a difficult question to ask, but i have to ask it:

            as a p90 user, are the rounds you were issued effective? are there any caviatsto be had with the p90 or five seven pistol? and can a civilian with civilian ammo options be comfortable with choosing a 5.7mm weapon such as a ps90, ar57 or a fiveseven pictol for defense?

          • Mazryonh

            Pardon me, is there a reason why the MP5SD was designed for use with supersonic 9mm ammo only? Why not a conventional suppressor with subsonic 9mm rounds?

          • that guy

            I think the idea was that a military that already had a bazillion regular 9×19 in stock would be more likely to buy it if they didn’t have to buy special ammo to.

          • Mazryonh

            We have plenty of subsonic 9mm ammo now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the MP5SD variants were phased out (since lightweight supersonic 9mm rounds are slowed down to subsonic speed by the MP5SD model) so that the better stopping power/penetration by the heavier purpose-made subsonic 9mm rounds can be used instead.

          • Kivaari

            An issue with the MP5SD is it has a very short barrel with ports added and it drops ~400 FPS, making it very quiet, very under powered and more likely to malfunctions. They are fun toys, but I would rather have a reliable noisy gun with more power.

      • Dale

        I’ve been quite concerned with the trend towards exceedingly small calibers (4.6x30mm) for defense applications for some time, even though they do have merit in certain limited cases. It seems that HK and FN believe that putting multiple high-velocity projectiles into a closed system (AKA living tissue) very quickly will incapacitate the target; research does show that they are right; these calibers cause a good deal of hydrostatic shock when multiple rounds impact center mass. They’re also able to penetrate ballistic protection pretty effectively, which is another advantage to them, as well as their diminutive size, which allows for greater magazine capacity whilst retaining a weight and size advantage.

        The problem with these cartridges, at least in theory with the 5.7x28mm is that for civilian use, the “good” (read terminally effective and AP) ammunition isn’t available, and the effectiveness of the weapon to rapidly score hits on center mass of the intended target is greatly diminished without the select-fire capability found on the MP7 and P90.

        Multiple hits on soft targets will definitely do a lot of damage and create incapacitation, but for the civilian market I don’t think that there is a solid case to choose a cartridge that small over widely available pistol calibers that will consistently cause a larger permanent wound cavity than some zippy round that fails to tumble, fragment or expand and penetrate deeply enough.

        • Kivaari

          AND the FiveseveN is too large for many people and has a silly manual safety dictated by ATF. If it was the size of a Glock 17 it would be a fun gun. At $1000 it just oozes being a waste of money for most people I know. At least for self defense. I put it in the same category as a Glock21SF, too big to use well.

      • Pistol grip magazines don’t have to dictate poor ergonomics. The common semi-automatic pistol has ergonomics that are more than adequate. It is a false assumption that the magazine must protrude in exactly a 90 degree angle from the firearm.

    • What about small Magnum rounds like the .357 or the .44, will it work in an SMG platform or fail?

      • Not as such, no. Both have rims, and that means a reliable double stack magazine isn’t really workable. And since revolvers aren’t particular about loadings, you’re never going to get a semi-auto to cycle most of the off the shelf ammunition.

        However, there are equivalent cartridges which would work. 9×25 Dillon is a reasonable replacement for .357 magnum, and it’s based on the 10mm auto case, and should be usable in any SMG which has been made in that caliber. And .460 Rowland isn’t precisely the same as .44 magnum, but there’s overlap between the Rowland and the lighter .44 magnum loadings. There have already been MAC-10 style pistols/carbines made in it, and it’s likely they’re compatible with a standard .45 SMG lower receiver. Presumably you’d want some sort of rate reducer, as the typical rounds per minute of a MAC-10 style SMG is already ridiculously fast and would only get faster and more likely to fail with the higher power rounds.

      • Komrad

        .357 and .44 mag would never be really practical since you’d have to use either overly long or small capacity single stack magazines. Like Paul said, 10mm, 9x25mm Dillon, and .460 Rowland can match lighter .41 mag, .357 mag, and .44 mag loadings respectively.
        If you wanted to, cartridges like .44 AMP, .45 Winchester Magnum, 475 Wildey, and .50 AE could be used with larger capacity double stack mags.

        The things with all this is the recoil associated with the bigger rimless magnums would approach or be on par with various short intermediate caliber carbines. and even the smaller rimless magnums (10mm, 9mm DIllon, and .460 Rowland) have more recoil than an SMG.

      • Kivaari

        A +P+ 9x19mm or .357 Sig gives good performance in a frame size that fits most.

  • kamerad

    PDW, SRM. These are the places where a sub-machine gun can excel.

  • See the B&T MP-9 with the 6.5x25mm caliber conversion. The SMG is no more really. It’s been, just as Saint said, re-envisioned in what is now the Personal Defense Weapon. Same old SMG-platform you love with new flavors and a lot more flavors. Run-down this piece by Anthony G Williams for more information on that, and the comparison between the MP-9 and other SMGs:

    • Dale

      The B&T MP-9 is a really awesome platform, and fills a niche in the sense that it is so small and yet very effective. They are also a ton of fun to shoot! The 6.5×25 caliber conversion is very, very interesting for use against armored targets, and I think that eventually sabots will become more standardized.

  • Kyle

    They’re cheaper for police departments to feed. Instead of PDW’s with boutique rounds like 4.6x30mm or 5.7×28, you have 9mm, .40, and .45 which are easily bought off the shelves. The big SMG’s are lighter recoiling and if you’d extend the barrel a bit, you have a noticeable gain in muzzle velocity. Having handled a 10 inch AR before, I can say that it’s still very handy in close quarters (The H&K UMP’s barrel is 8 inches. Would two or three more inches of barrel length be too unreasonable?). Not to mention you can fit more magazines on your person for a submachine gun than rifle magazines.

  • Devon

    High rate of fire, low recoil, easily suppressed, low weight (both from weapon size/material and ammo weight), low chance of over penetration all equal a great breaching and CQB weapon. The military is moving away from many different types of weapons to fewer from the logistical stand point that it saves money.

    • Military hardball in an SMG will most definitely NOT have less overpenetration than a fragmenting 5.56 load.

  • “is there any one roll where a submachine gun stands out among the rest as the best firearm for any given situation?”

    Maybe Pizza Rolls.

  • JD

    This is why I have taken fancy to the 300 Blackout in a 9′ PDW

    • 300 blk was my first thought as well. It defeats the “easy to suppress” advantage of pistol caliber SMGs and also offers the advantage of utilizing existing equipment (no need for new magazines, lower receivers, or other accessories if AR platform is already in use). Full auto is probably not as easy to control as something like the MP7, but I suspect it would be easy enough to master for the applications in which it would be most needed.

    • Dale

      300 BLK is a very interesting cartridge for a PDW, and provides almost all of the advantages of a submachine gun while retaining a logistical edge through parts commonality with the AR15 platform. The only thing that would make it more interesting and versatile would be a saboted 5.56 round loaded into a 300BLK cartridge, which would bridge the gap between long range performance and short range knockdown power, depending on the ammunition used.

      Obviously sabot design would be a major factor in this to allow it to run suppressed or with a muzzle break and not suffer major issues

      • noob

        also, what is the “danger area” where the discarding sabot fragments can still cause injury ahead of the muzzle? in hostage rescue it may be too much of a risk to have a magazine of sabot potentially in your weapon.

        • Dale

          Okay, my main concern with 300 BLK is actually for long range use for the average joe concerning hit-probability; it’s not a flat-shooting cartridge(one of the reasons that the military liked the 5.56 was that you get very little drop out to 500 meters with a 25 meter zero). This isn’t the case with the 300 BLK as it’s a slower moving bullet and has a lower Ballistic Coefficient (BC) than the 5.56 comparatively (interestingly enough as Travis Haley has pointed out in one of his videos, the 300 BLK delivers a wallop compared to 5.56 at a distance).

          Saboted rounds help to address the problem of velocity by firing a smaller projectile in a larger case with noticeable gains in velocity, thus creating a flatter shooting projectile. I was initially thinking that for CQB you load 300 BLK ball ammo, and then for longer-range applications you load sabots: the reason that this theoretically makes sense is that your average soldier will have a higher probability of hitting a target with a round that doesn’t drop or become affected by wind as much as a larger round (the 300BLK) Using a saboted round milks more velocity out of the same caliber, making it more versatile.

          As for distance for saboted rounds separating from the sabot, it depends on the construction, and most likely at CQB distances the sabot would still hit the intended target tenths of a second behind the projectile fired from the rifle. If you’re using fragmenting ball ammo and sabots I doubt that overpenetration or collateral damage would be a considerable factor.

          That being said, the trick is finding a substance that is cheap enough, reliable enough and heat-resistant enough to use as a base for the sabot itself; sustained firing will bring temperatures up to levels where plastic and polymers will melt, and completely destroy the purpose and advantage of using a saboted round.

        • Komrad

          I think that the distance would be minimal. The sabot is rather un-aerodynamic by design, lightweight, and soft. Even if one did impact a person, it would likely not penetrate the skin.
          It would probably be comparable to getting hit with a shotgun wad.

      • hikerguy

        Here it is

        • Dale

          I’m assuming that the projectile is in 5.56?

    • n0truscotsman


      300 Black FTW.

      In close quarters combat or when suppressors are very advantageous, where sub guns are typically useful, 300 blackout is very hard to beat.

      Very amazing cartridge. Ive been utterly impressed with mine and wish I would have bought it sooner.

    • Komrad

      Random thought.
      There are sabots that allow a handloader to use .224″ bullets (intended for 5.56/.223) with a .308″ cartridge.
      Has anyone tried this with .300 BLK?
      Could it match 5.56 velocities?

      • Dale

        Interesting… I was thinking the same thing; there are sabots for handloaders, and people have experimented with this concept, but under high-volume fire it remains to be seen weather or not the sabot material melts and becomes useless at high chamber temperatures.

        I know that out of shorter barreled rifles with the right powder, it would be possible to come close. Here’s a good read:

  • P90. Nuff said

    • Mike Knox

      Because you read about it on the internet or you played wit it in video games?

  • Still good for suppression fire in confined spaces so that you or team members can advance on barracaded positions while keeping the targets head down. And, like you say, they’re a hoot to shoot!

  • A modern design .45acp SMG is what’s needed. I’ve never been a fan of carbine length AR’s…the 5.56 was not designed to be used that way, which has brought other cartridges into play in the AR world to maintain the punch needed in a SBR.

    • Jabari

      Isn’t that what the Kriss Vector is?

      • Yes it is. I do like the KRISS and found it to be very suitable for close range work.

        • Renato H. M. de Oliveira

          460 Rowland begs for KRISS. Although I would made a newer, SAAMI std (non prop) round by making a ‘.50 GI’-like case, at .460 Rowland-like pressures, slightly lenghtened as to avoid lawsuits, and going on from there. Neck down to .45/.44/.40/.357/etc. should be easy enough as to generate a family of rounds. Pick one and you are good to go.

    • Komrad

      .45 ACP really isn’t much more powerful than 9x19mm +p+.

      Buffalo Bore lists a 115gr +p+ 9mm load with a muzzle energy of 500 ft-lbs.

      The highest muzzle energy .45 ACP +p loads they list are 543 ft-lbs and just under 500 ft-lbs for standard pressure.

      9mm has similar energy in +p+ loadings, but has greater velocity, flatter trajectory, higher capacity, and reduced recoil compared to .45 ACP.

      There’s nothing wrong with .45 ACP. It works. But it isn’t magically better and it falls short in many areas.

  • Peter Andersen

    For police use, 9 mm offers a lot. Less chance of overpenetration, a lot of good ammo types, easy to shoot.

    I’ve had some range time with a HK MP5 SD, and that is a impressive weapon.

  • SvenOrtmann

    The HK MP5 concept of an accurate SMG for use by police/LE is still as viable as ever.
    Its great advantage is that you do not get very strong overpenetration if you choose the ammunition accordingly. You won’t get a good .223 bullet that doesn’t overpenetrate.

    The M4 Spectre’s approach for a bodyguard SMG makes just as much sense, albeit a quicker switch between non-overpenetrating and vest-piercing cartridges would be desirable (maybe using the sliding MP 38/40 dual magazine approach).

    Finally there’s the Russian approach (AS Val etc.) using submachineguns with extremely heavy 9 mm bullets specifically for low signatures (subsonic, yet very powerful bullet). Low noise signatures are not only important for maintaining surprise a bit longer, but also for combat in confined spaces such as sewers, caves.

    The Russians call the AS VAL an assault rifle, but it is really are heavy bullet SMG. The bullet weight is actually a problem if you need much ammo (army applications in the field), though.

    So basically there are four niches

    * ~SWAT teams
    * bodyguards
    * silenced and no muzzle flash for (para)military niches
    * military PDW with use of subcalibre ammo

    That’s actually more than the original trenchsweeper niche.

    • snmp

      The 9×39 (in fact 9,3x39mm) is base on the 7,62×39 brass

      • Clodboy

        Still, in terms of kinetic energy, it is closer to a high-powered .45, so I guess the SMG comparison holds some merit. What’s interesting about the Val/Vintorez is how short the actual barrels are under the suppressor – just about 8 inches. In fact, the shortest variant, the Vikhr, originally used a 6 inch barrel.

        • snmp

          The 9×39 is build to defeat many bulletproof vest, have an effective lethal range of 300 to 400 meters.

          • SvenOrtmann

            “effective lethal range” – never heard that metric before.

            Pistol bullets are lethal at much longer ranges, and 9×39 as well, for sure.

            The problem is that a man can run with equipment at 15 km/h easily. That equals about 4 m/s. A 9×39 mm bullet will take about 1.5 sec to 400 m, so you would aim with a lead of up to about 6 m. You would also need to compensate for a huge bullet drop.

            Such ranges are realistic for VSS, not practical for AS Val. Then again, you can also snipe at such ranges with a 9 mm carbine if you use a suitable sight.

    • n0truscotsman

      “You won’t get a good .223 bullet that doesn’t overpenetrate.”

      Throw in a polymer tipped 5.56 with a 10.5″ Mk18 and lets compare penetration in dry wall. I promise your SMG is going to lose. Every time.

  • Guest


  • Chris B

    oh you americans always want to upsize stuff.

    the AR mechanism is after 50 years is still prone to stoppages / breakage unlike most SMG’s.

    An smg can be shot until its bore is a drainpipe – 10,000rd and an AR need parts replaced as per schedual.

    .223 is not a rabbit rifle but you will have shit loads of over penetration.

    Most average users cannot hit a target at 25yards with a service pistol.

    Even a cook can “scare the butter” from an attacker with a 30rd magazine.

    Sorry but it was the Americans who proved “volume over precision” in 2 world wars 🙂

    The AR design is great, its taken 50 years to get a pig of a design to work properly and it still needs work as its an alloy and plastic carbine, NOT A RIFLE.

    Whilst security forces still need to shoot civilians and minimise weapons training rather than use pistols, the SMG is an easier simpler weapon ( but i admit a bitch to reload on the finger tips).

    • If the 5.56 is doing its job, then you will get much less overpenetration than an SMG with hardball ammo. 5.56 is made to turn and then fragment in soft tissue. It tends to pierce less walls than a handgun even if it misses entirely. A 9mm will sail right through and hit whatever is behind the bad guy. A compact assault rifle with fragmenting rounds is better than an SMG in almost every way except for size.

      • Avery

        Also, most LEOs are going to be former military veterans and using a short-barreled AR is going to be something similar to what they used in their time in the armed forces.

        Also, military-wise, I think SBRs are going to be better choice than either a pistol-caliber SMG or some hard-to-get high-velocity sub-caliber-chambered PDW.

      • n0truscotsman

        yup and a 10.5″ barrel from a AR platform is going to have far less penetration than the round would otherwise have. Certainly less than a 9mm hollow point or FMJ.

    • n0truscotsman

      Youre wrong on all levels.

      1.) The AR internal pistol design is utterly reliable. It is simple and has mild recoil.
      2.) ARs can go past the 10,000 parts replacement interval as well with proper lubrication. and SMGs DO need parts replaced at the proper intervals.
      3.) 223/5.56 actually has similar, if not less, in many cases with modern ammunition, penetration than pistol calibers.
      4.) Submachine guns are only effective up to 50 meters. SBRs? especially in the case of the Mk 18? 300 meters.
      5.) “volume over precision” was the Soviet doctrine unfortunately. the American one was air support and creeping artillery.
      6.) The AR is utterly reliable. Hands down. Take some time to research Filthy 14.

      SMGs weigh similarly (especially in the case of the MP5), hold only 30 rounds typically, have the same profile (especially with the MP5), but are less accurate, have less kinetic energy, and are only effective up to 50 meters. The only advantage I can see is that SMGs are less noisy when suppressed, which can be a advantage in very niche specific operations.

      In short, modern SBRs have pretty much made SMGs obsolete. No soldier/PSD/Police Officer would ever reach for a MP5 or a Uzi when he can reach for a Colt Mk 18 or G36C.

      • El Duderingo

        MP5 is effective well past 50m, hits are no problem at 200m and probably more. Maybe you are thinking of the MAC-10.

        • n0truscotsman

          Have you ever fired a MP5?

          the 9mm round loses its effectiveness significantly past 50 meters. Any other pistol cartridge does too.

          200 meters is rifle range sorry. The MP5 doesnt even have the adequate sights for a 200 meter engagement.

          • Kivaari

            Using +P+ ammo the Uzi’s and MP5 are easy to hit with at 100m. On the mini Uzi if you are properly zeroed at 100m and you need to hit at 200, simply flip the 200m sight up, hold on and hit.

        • Kivaari

          You are right about the MP5 having a longer effective range than 50m. I’ve run close to 50,000 rounds through them. It is easy to hit at 100m -EASY.
          Same with the Mini Uzi. At about 90m, firing tracers you will see it take a sudden nose dive. Holding at shoulder level on the target means you should hit center mass with no trouble.

  • SMGs are cheaper and debatably more fun to shoot than assault rifles, but their time as tactical weapons are fading fast.

    • Fading? It’s already gone. It left about the time the assault rifle became popular, the late fifties.
      Don’t forget the submachine gun in the second world war was an alternative to a shotgun or a bolt action rifle that, when bayonet fixed, was often taller than yourself. Especially in Russia, where they couldn’t guarantee supply of newer self-loading rifles, and made do with doling out PPSh weapons to entire Divisions.

      • zardinuk

        It may be worth differentiating between a SMG like the MP5, and a “machine pistol” like the m11 or glock 18. The picture is a max-11, which is longer and heavier and slower rate of fire.

        I notice that the secret service uses SMGs still. Lot of firepower in a small package.

        • When you consider the P90 and PS90, both fairly widely used in US LEO, you could have carbine rifles for similar size and weight and greatly increased lethality. The Magpul PDR, for example, were it ever to be built, would probably render the use of SMGs obsolete.

  • Ben Branam

    The SMG isn’t dead just becoming more and more specialized. The fad is towards 5.56 but that could change.

  • gbtw

    Wouldn’t the future for smgs actually be piledriving near zero recoil large volume of fire weapons like the American 180.

  • Geo

    In dense urban areas the SMG is a helpful tool in the law enforcement kit. .223 rifles are a liability in highly populated areas due to over-penetration and range. In 2009 the national guard tried to give Boston Police surplus m16s but Mayor Mumbles Menino shot it down.

  • 2wheels

    Not totally obsolete, but the introduction of the assault rifle, and then the compact assault rifle, and finally the modern PDW (really just SMGs in fancy calibers) pretty much eliminated the pistol caliber SMG from military service.

    As for cops, isn’t dealing with a body armor wearing bad guy is one of the major reasons behind them stuffing ARs into more and more cruisers? A 9mm MP5 wouldn’t cut it there. Plus don’t they get free/cheap ARs from the military anyways?

    Not to mention, with so many cops nowadays having military experience, I’d expect them to gravitate towards the AR.

    • Suburban

      Yes. The North Hollywood Bank shoot-out has a lot to do with why many police departments have at least partly replaced shotguns with AR carbines. The bank robbers were wearing body armor, and the shotguns and pistols that the police had were ineffective. The shoot-out didn’t end until S.W.A.T. showed up rifles..

  • Man pippy

    Saw picture of Australian boarding party use smg pistols (MP5K), that seems to be their niche now, to be used as machine pistols with better ergonomics in extremely confined areas. By and large SMG’s with stocks have been supplanted by short barreled rifles.

    • digher

      They’re using M4 variants now.

  • -V-

    I would say that the SMG concept is on its way out. There are two reasons for this, in my view: One, short-barreled/commando length rifles such as 10″ ar-15’s, G36C’s and others taking over the role of the SMG. Using military ball ammo, these rounds will fragment out to 30 yards reliably, and still show some fragmentation at extended ranges. When used in police applications using better ammunition, and also closer ranges, the issue of range and fragmentation becomes totally moot.

    Plus, as has been demonstrated by Box of Truth and others, high velocity rounds tend to fragment rapidly when encountering interior walls, versus the plugging of the hollow point cavity of most JHP’s with gypsum turning them into FMJ rounds with up to a meter of penetration potential.

    The second reason I see SMGs on the way out is the increased proliferation of bull-pup style rifles. No longer do you need to make a choice between the long effective range of a long rifle or a more maneuverable SMG/SBR at the expense of reach. When the Tavor or the FS2000 can put a 16″ barrel in a packaged that’s 26.5″ from flash hider to butt-pad, I see that as taking away the last advantage of SMGs – compact size.

  • Hedd Wyn

    I’m surprised the USSR/Russia abandoned 7.62mmx25, the round really gave Russian SMGs excellent range and penetration.

  • Mike Knox

    And to think the pinnacle of pistol calibre automatics came around the same time as auto-loading pistols showed up. People are still going around in basket weaves trying to come up with the best sub-machine guns..

  • snmp

    That’s why so manies compagnies build new SMG for many LE departements over the world.

    * B&T MP9
    * B&T APC
    * CZ (Breno) Scorpion EVO3
    * HK UMP 9mm/40mm/.45ACP
    * HK MP7 PDW
    * MP5 clone Build by MKE (Tuk), POF (Pakistant), Norinco (china) …..
    * PP19-01 Vityaz 9x19mm, 7,62TT, 9mm Mak ..
    * Kriss Arms / Sphinx – Vector
    * QCW-05 – china
    * Chang Feng
    * FAMAE SAF 2000 in 9x19mm Parabellum .40 S&W
    * FN P90 PDW
    * Beretta Cx4 Storm
    * ST Kinetics CPW
    * Steyr AUG Para 9mm
    * Colt M4 in 9mm Submachine Gun
    * IWI Tavor X95
    * IWI /IMI UZI Pro
    * Taurus MT in 9x19mm Parabellum .40 S&W
    * IOF MSMC (India)
    * Radom PM06 (Poland)

    • Esh325

      some of those are more “pdw’s” than “smgs”. And some of these you listed aren’t really popular at all. I don’t think remember Colt M4 in 9mm ever being popular with police and military.

  • jamezb

    In the case of most police work, historically doccumentable poor accuracy under fire on the officers part makes the increased penetration and range of a rifle a liability, not an asset. This is where the reduced range and penetration, not to mention supressability, of the subgun shine. Police work is not combat, and any long shots are to be avoided due to the possibility of mistaken target identification at long distances, and if undertaken at all, should be the job of a dedicated sniper/spotter team.

    • That’s not necessarily so. Yes we had poor shooters with little interest in guns. This is to their detriment considering it’s a vital tool. Those officers using SMG’s are very good shots. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be on the team. Most shots taken by police officers maxes out at 75–100 yards.

      • Mazryonh

        I’ve heard it argued that the poor ergonomics of a handgun make it difficult to aim accurately in stressful situations; what about something like the B&T MP9 or a rechambered MP7A1 with red dot optics? Would giving LEOs compact platforms with rifle ergonomics make them more accurate in stressful conditions?

  • gbailey814

    Sig Sauer just released a new SMG and it looks awesome!

    • That they have. I was able to handle it at shot. The ergonomics are very good. It seems to be a good choice but without range time I can’t be sure.

      • Mazryonh

        I’m confused; why didn’t they make it load from the pistol grip? Was it because it wouldn’t have worked with their caliber modularity design goal?

  • .30 cal dude

    One advantage of a submachine gun is they are easy to mass produce the Russians made millions of ppsh 41 and 43’s in WW2.

    • El Duderino

      Open bolt guns, for sure. Closed bolt guns are pretty close to rifles in manufacturing steps. I am pretty sure the days of the open bolt subgun are done.

      • Entropy

        Maybe, if the world was to see another war as desperate and drawn-out as the Second World War, they could come back into production for the same reason the PPSh, MP and Sten type guns were churned out by the million to arm large armies cheaply and quickly. A Kalashnikov type design (mass produceable assault rifle) would still be favoured in my opinion; if you are going to the trouble to set up factories to produce such stamped steel guns you might as well produce medium-ranged ones.

        In any case, let us hope that this never comes to pass.

  • big daddy

    The concept isn’t outdated the ammunition is in some cases. If you are forced into using pure pistol type ammo your SMG is outdated. Although some of the newer designs might help, like a .357 SIG or the 9×25 Dillon (that looks real interesting for a SMG), 10mm, .40 and maybe something can be done with the .45 it’s so big there is room for specialized metallurgy. And that’s the issue, metallurgy, combining new technical advances in bullet construction with the older designs may make it more of a useful weapon. But once you start using ammunition that cannot be used in your handguns it loses the economic advantages it had going for it in the first place. I think a lot more research has to go into it. The new gas piston SIG MPX SMG might be a move in the right direction making the weapon more accurate and reliable. I wonder how it performs with the .357 SIG round as compared to other pistol rounds and the 5.56mm in PDW form. But the barrel lengths are short and much of the advantages might be lost. I’d like to see one with a 10″ barrel and firing that high velocity .357 round. The Russians went with the 9×39 for a reason and maybe the best choice for a SMG/PDW is the .300 ACC, it certainly has so many good points going for it from a weapon commonality standpoint and lethality. Plus it’s ability to send a large round subsonic down range. The Russian 7.65×25 certainly proved itself in some situations and that interests me. I have read about the new bullet designs with penetrators at the back of the bullet with a small hole at the top (Not hollow point). These rounds have excellent penetration not over penetration and are designed to go through vests yet cause major tissue damage after penetration. So it’s all about the bullet design combined with the correct brass in the correct weapon platform. Maybe using more rifle like bullets in the shorter handgun cases or using handgun bullets in the larger intermediate rifle cases. But if you can’t shoot it out of a handgun again it looses all that gave it advantages over using the larger intermediate rifle round. Or does it do enough things well to have it’s own niche? I’m beginning to think the US DOD should look into the .300 ACC if it refuses to go with the 6.8mm. The .300 has so many uses for special forces and other things, like making a very short but effective weapon for drivers and heavy weapons sections. Go back to the full 18-20 inch barrels for the 5.56mm (Where it works best) and use the .300 for short weapons. Or go with the .40 handgun and issue the SMG in that round for personal that do not need a rifle, like cooks, drivers, REMFs, officers. That’s what they did in WWII with the Carbine and M3 grease gun and it worked out very well. It was IMPOSSIBLE to get a M16A1 out of the drivers hatch of a M113 to fire it. As for police work I do not have any experience with that, they have a completely different set of criteria.

  • n0truscotsman

    Leave subguns where they belong: on class III ranges.

    let the suppressed, CQB heavy lifting be conducted by a short barreled rifle and 300 blackout.

    The Tavor in 300 blackout. Yes, i went there.

    • noob

      one fun historical perspective:

      the 300blk is designed to slightly exceed the 7.62×39. in russia, i’m told that the akm and ak74u are both designated “submachine guns” because they’re automatic weapons that are smaller than a machine gun.

      maybe the whole pdw/sbr/subgun distinction is clouding a simpler dichotomy: when you want lethality, do you want a rifle bullet from a short barrel or a pistol bullet from a long barrel?

      • n0truscotsman

        rifle bullet.

        more kinetic energy.

        thats my opinion though.

        I havent heard that about AKs. I know the “U” is known as the “little bitch” 😀

      • Lolinski

        Not really we just call all automatic weapons “automat” which means it fires multiple rounds when squeezing the trigger. A machinegun( i.e PKM) is “puskomitraljez”. At least thats the way here in Bosnia.

  • Jean Luc Picard

    I think Ingram style SMG is the way to go you can have very long mags on these and they stay perfectly balanced I believe that a longer barrel might help in giving a bit more power on these.
    and yes high capacity mags should be used more and I believe there is more unexplored ways to feed a such weapon with a lot of bullets.
    I know a few weapons like the american 180 with a lot of .22s, and weapons mentioned here and there with quite innovative systems that should be used more often I think

  • MOG

    If recoil from a 5.56 is a problem, then best not have any firearm, it’s a varmint round, a hot .22. Never had an M16 whip me around, or much else either. An SMG, not sure I need one, or, want one. But, that’s just me. (Do like the idea of a semi-auto only drum fed Thompson. But, that would be wrong). Police Armies might need SMG. You know how many times legal gun owners have revolted en masse.

    • markm

      Maybe it’s just me, but the few times the Air Force let me fire an M16 with real ammo (rather than .22 LR with an adapter), I noticed more recoil from the bolt cycling than from the shot. Perhaps that’s because in my limited experience, I’d fired long guns with much more recoil (bolt-action deer rifles and a 12-guage pump), but never anything that had parts moving _after_ the bullet exited the muzzle, but the recoil was definitely light. And it wasn’t because I was large or strong; I was 5’9″ and only 120 pounds at this time, pretty much staying skin and bones on even 5,000 calories a day. As an electronics tech, my ability to get into tight spaces was an asset, but anyone that scrawny doesn’t belong in a combat job, let alone a police force where you’re generally supposed to physically restrain an unarmed suspect rather than shooting him.

      There are petite women and elderly people that couldn’t handle recoil that I could hardly feel, but now we’re talking about a personal self-defense weapon, and one that only qualifies on the grounds that any gun is much better than no gun. (Most criminals will start running as soon as their intended victim hauls out any sort of gun – as they ought to, since the .22 LR cartridge has probably killed more people in peace time than any other cartridge since smokeless powder. Predators need to be cautious, if not outright cowardly; a predator has to win every fight, but prey just has to win _this_ one. Most of the ones stupid enough to keep coming will be rolling on the floor and crying for their mama if you just graze them with a .22. There are a few that will only be stopped by hand-held artillery or an axe to the head, but fortunately the odds are very much against you or I coming up against such a person.)

  • Jacob Kenworthy

    I’d take an SMG over a shotgun any day.

    • Renato H. M. de Oliveira

      As a good scientist, I would first make a question: what is the job? Depending on the job, the choice would be different.

  • orly?

    Thank you for the history lesson.

    Seems many forgot.

  • Esh325

    I don’t unfortunally have any experience with SMG’s, so some of what I’m saying might be a bit theoretical. I think short assault rifles are pretty much better than a SMG in most situations, however I don’t think they completely do everything better than a SMG. Squeezing a 5.56×45 which was designed for a longer and heavier operating system into a short and compact design is not always ideal, and there is where a PDW comes in. The blast and noise like you mentioned can be excessive with rounds like the 5.56×45 in short barrels, and this is probably even worst indoors, especially with no hearing protection. Where less powerful PDW rounds like the 6x35mm KAC are designed to burn fully in short barrels, hence the low blast and noise. I think reliability is also another concern when they try to fit rifle rounds into short systems. The AKS-74U has the gas port so close to the barrel, that there’s no barely any room for the gas to expand, so they need to put “band aids” in place to help reliability. Short AR15’s also weren’t known for their reliability.

  • Dave

    Your shoulder will know the difference firing a shotgun from a SMG.

  • Renato H. M. de Oliveira

    I think the 6x35mm from Knight’s is a good choice for rifles. Ammo is scarce, but born to be wild from SBR.

    For those complaining about 300BLK at longer ranges, there’s a good substitute: 6.8SPC. Load it with heavy projos for subsonic job, and lighter projos for long range work. Color-code the mags and you’re done.

    As for shotgun vs. SMG, get the 1216 (or shorter) as your shotgun, loaded with 3′ shells with 00 buckshot, plus something like the LaserLyte Kryptonyte plus a red dot sight. Very deadly for CQB. There are also other choices for mag-loaded shotguns.

    For an SMG, a good starting point would be the KRISS. the calibre is open to discussion, but as I posted elsewhere, something like a ‘SAAMI-.50GI’ or ‘SAAMI-.460Rowland’ would be nice.

    All in all, I would pick an SBR over a shotgun and/or SMG, if I had to choose only one wep.

  • Doug

    My rural department has an HK UMP in .40 S&W. It’s currently reserved for the tactical unit (which is currently in limbo). The only time I’d probably be allowed to patrol with it in the trunk is if all the other rifles are in use (i.e. a really bad day). My chief is also hoping to trade it in for EOtech sights for our ARs.
    I personally feel that in a LE role, the SMG is not dead, or at least shouldn’t be. When they utilize the same ammunition that their sidearms use, they’re trustworthy by default because officers trust that their primary gun, the pistol, is already trusted to save their lives. The SMG merely offers more velocity through a much more stable platform.
    I think the lack of armor defeating capabilities of pistol ammo is a moot point for the most part. Sure, there ARE instances where badguys are using armor, but I would say the vast majority of LE shootings don’t involve armored suspects. If SMGs are used along side rifles, I’d say you have the best of both worlds.

    • Mazryonh

      What about the MP5/10 (chambered for 10mm Auto), once dubbed “the most interesting and effective SMG ever made” by Gary Roberts? I hear some examples are still poking around, and since the 10mm Auto’s recoil is greatly reduced in an SMG platform, why not go the extra bit?

  • Mazryonh

    That’s a nice modernized M10 SMG you have there in the photos. I wonder if the price of such converting an older weapon like that would be cheaper than buying something like a UMP from HK for LE agencies or the like, and how favourably a MAX-10 with all the customization options would compare to an HK UMP.

    I’m probably going to be alone on this, but I believe that there’s been a distinct lack of imagination with regards to the potential of SMGs. This class of weaponry has the ability to be more compact and efficient than ultracompact carbines (rifles with 11 inches or less of barrel length), and more reliable stoppers than PDWs, along with the ability to be loaded in effective subsonic rounds for maximum suppressor effectiveness.

    PDWs (a term I think is too broad because anything from an M4 carbine to a crowbar can be a “Personal Defense Weapon”) aren’t really the answer to the SMG’s niche, despite their compactness and lessened sound signature compared to compact NATO-chambered carbines. For one thing, their armour-piercing abilities come from their small bullet diameters, which introduces some real problems with stopping power. Dr. Gary Roberts, a terminal ballistics expert, has posted a rather illuminating piece on the questionable effectiveness of small-caliber-high-velocity PDW rounds here:

    Ultracompact carbines have their own problems. First, barrel lengths on rifles can’t be shortened without consequences. Small Arms Defense Journal published an article examining the reliability, pressure, and sound problems introduced with increasingly short barrel lengths. In their words, sound and flash from (ultra)compact carbines can reach the intensity of flash-bang grenade. You can find the article here:

    Firearm noise, especially around unprepared/unaccustomed civilians with these increasingly compact carbines used in enclosed areas or for carry inside cramped vehicles, is NOT a non-issue. Take a look at the Noveske Diplomat; with a 7-inch barrel and the Noveske “flaming pig” suppressor. If you fired that in a “Gabby Giffords” type situation to stop an active shooter in an enclosed building, can you imagine the panic that might result if civilians were on the scene, or how many civilians would be unable to respond to verbal LEO orders because of being (temporarily) deafened? How many civilians might try to sue an LEO agency for the permanent hearing damage they incurred?

    If you had to fire the Noveske Diplomat or the Noveske Leonidas (a 7.62mm NATO platform with a 12.5-inch barrel and fully-automatic firing capability) in the confines of a structure with great echo chamber properties (such as a ship with metal architecture), how much would your own concentration be affected with all that extreme noise going everywhere? How much hearing damage would you yourself endure even with hearing protection? And before you tell me that one can just stick a suppressor on the barrel, ultracompact carbines lose most of their compactness once you put an effective suppressor on them, and you still run into the pressure problems I mentioned earlier, which become worse the shorter the barrel is on a rifle-cartridge-firing weapon.

    Now to the advantages of SMGs. For those interested in compactness, SMGs can more easily load from the pistol grip due to how short their rounds are. This way, they can get a better ratio of barrel length to overall length (without going into the issues associated with bullpups). They can also use folding or fully-telescoping stocks (think of the telescoping stocks seen on some MP5 models) for maximum compactness when put into storage, or carried in a vehicle, unlike many AR-15-based rifles which require a buffer tube and therefore can’t use a folding stock or fully-telescoping stock.

    For those interested in minimizing sound, most pistol calibers can use heavy bullets fairly easily for subsonic performance. There are a few companies producing subsonic 5.56mm NATO that will reliably cycle semi- or fully-automatic weapons, but those are nowhere near as common or as available as subsonic pistol rounds. Pistol-caliber suppressors are also more compact than rifle-caliber suppressors, so you don’t end up adding as much overall length to a suppressed weapon as you might for a rifle-caliber weapon.

    The short effective range of pistol calibers depends on the round in question. I know there used to be fans of the 10mm Auto caliber here on this blog when it came to pistols; you can go on youtube and see people hitting targets at 250+ yards distance regularly with unmodified Glock 20 handguns (some enterprising individuals have managed to push that further). Such a task would be undoubtedly easier in an SMG format, as you could get longer barrel lengths, better optics, and rifle ergonomics (buttstock, cheek weld, trigger hand, off hand on handguard or foregrip) to help users make those distant shots more easily. Pistol bullets also don’t run into the velocity-dependent nature of 5.56mm NATO fragmentation abilities, and don’t shrink even if JHP versions don’t expand.

    As for the “pistol bullets can’t penetrate Level IIIA armour!” problem, go look at the recent Russian overpressure loadings of the 9x19mm round, which use an APCR bullet with a steel penetrator meant to penetrate Level IIIA armour. Imagine what we could do with the 10mm Auto round since it can carry more smokeless powder and a larger penetrator than the 9x19mm round can. Even in an LEO situation where the active shooter is discovered to be wearing body armour, you can make sure that securely stored AP rounds for an SMG or pistol-caliber carbine are available, along with the usual shotgun with AP slugs.

    As for the “manual of arms” problem, that’s just a matter of training. This isn’t the age of muzzle-loading muskets that required up to a minute to reload, involving several complicated actions, anymore. The familiarization period for SMGs shouldn’t take very long, and indeed more frequent qualifications (perhaps with bonuses to pay depending on user performance) could be used to motivate users into learning the ropes faster.

    (As a side note, the Russians clearly have the Americans beat right now when it comes to breaking new ground for SMGs. Look at their PP-19 Bizon SMG; when loaded with their armour-piercing 9x19mm rounds, you end up with 53 rounds in a fully-automatic-firing and quite compact platform, thanks to the helical magazine. The PP-2000 is even more compact and can still use the Russian 9mm AP rounds.)

    If someone really wanted to make an effective SMG with sidearm magazine commonality (which is really just a design problem) that would make for a good close-quarters/vehicle-stowed weapon while still retaining credible mid-range abilities, you could do worse than a KRISS SMG chambered in 10mm Auto, with a Glock 20 issued as the backup weapon (since the KRISS SMG takes Glock magazines). I personally would be interested in a MP7-style platform with a redesigned magwell that would allow it to take magazines from an issued handgun (again, possibly the Glock 20), because of its compactness and ability to be holstered while still retaining rifle ergonomics. If the AR-15-style platform is what’s preferred, you could go to a select-fire, short-barrelled variant of the Mechtech Carbine (which uses AR-15-style ergonomics and iron sights, but is loaded from the pistol grip and has a different charging handle) built from a Glock 20, and then issue Glock 29 handguns as backup weapons. Depending on the barrel length you might even be able to mount an underslung weapon like an FN 303, or M26 MASS to this hypothetical weapon for greater versatility.

    There’s one more ancillary benefit for SMGs, which is that pistol-caliber rounds use less smokeless powder (which can then be diverted to weapons that need it more). Bullets and casings from fired rounds can often be recycled; smokeless powder from fired rounds can never be.

    Again, I realize I’m probably going to be alone on this, but there’s a lot of opportunity here that I feel just isn’t being noticed. A little imagination can take you quite far.

  • Lance

    Depends. For regular army yes SMG are history for assault rifles. BUt in the spec ops world no. In hostage rescue and maritime ops where you dont need over penetration of a Assault rifle a SMG is far prefered. SEALs still have MP-5 and MP-7s in use.

    • Dale

      Another reason is noise signature. If you’ve ever fired an SBR indoors, suppressor or not, it’s deafening… Now think of your last time on board a large maritime vessel and the dimensions that you’re dealing with.

  • El Duderino

    I think a submachinegun in 6.5x25mm CBJ (using the sabots) as referenced here on TFB, with, say, a 50rnd quad-stack magazine just might be the ultimate CQB to intermediate range PDW. Virtually no recoil impulse and can punch through a Russian APC. Switch barrel to 9mm for suppressor use.

    I am so not a fan of short barreled rifles in 5.56mm. It is NOT designed for short barrels, if the barrel length doesn’t start with a “2” you’re giving up a lot of velocity. You don’t shoot .45 ACP out of a 26″ sniper rifle either. 7.62x51mm fares better (loses less velocity) as the barrels get shorter but I don’t see many folks jumping to own 10″ .308s.

  • Michael Pham

    In my mind its like when experts predicted the end of the tank. In theory their job could be done just as well by PDW’s or compact rifles, but submachine guns (as many other commenters have noted) have some distinct advantages; and in the life or death of combat those advantages may be difficult to give up for some operators.

    Its a perennial question. When the FW 190 came out, it was in far more ways superior to the Bf 109 it replaced in the Nazi Luftwaffe. Yet many pilots preferred the latter because it performed better at altitude; essential to the dastardly tactic of “bouncing” allied pilots out of the sky by diving from out of the sun.

    PDW’s and compact rifles may have more pros than cons relative to SMGs, but how you weigh those is up to the situation and the user in question.

  • sam

    yeah i think while for military purposes, the middleground between smg and battlerifle was the best, the middleground between pistol and rifle, i.e. the smg is more than adequate for most law enforcement situations, compare mp5 to mk18 style m4 and youll find while they have the same approximate size, the mp5 feels like a toy in comparison and for instance for female officers, they can turn a door knob or manipulate something with one hand, while having the weapon shouldered and in firing position one handed much easier. Here in Denmark the mp5 sees alot of use in law enforcement, its however worth noting that during the recent gang war where alot of perps are using body armor, the g36 has been seen in the hands of the raid teams.

  • molk

    The spread of the AK since the 1980s and 90s has meant a SMG is going to be outgunned in most places.

  • PLK

    Although it wouldn’t be technically a sub-“machine gun,” I think pistol caliber carbines are certainly relevant in the civilian, non-LEO world. There is the obvious benefit of having a long gun and a pistol with common calibers and I personally think the best home defense gun is a pistol caliber SBR loaded with .45 JHP. It’d be simple, controllable, easier to aim than a pistol.

    Beyond that, actual submachine guns I think are mostly done for in military use. I can see it in law enforcement, in PSD, and in private contractor use where logistics vs performance isn’t as big of a concern.

    • snmp

      Many countries have chose pistol carbines or Semi version of SMG for LE, simply cause that’s controllable, easier to aim than a pistol.
      * MP7A1 Semi for UK MOD police
      * MP5 Semi for UK Armed police (guards duties)
      * UZI Semi for belgian Police
      * Berretta Cx4 for indian border guards

  • Hunter57dor

    they are good in instances where the extra punch of an intermediate rifle round would be harmful to the situation, such as in airplanes, densely packed population areas like apartment buildings, etc. they are typically much smaller and lighter than any ar variant as well.

  • Nathaniel

    SMGs don’t really have a role. This may change if pistol ammunition gets a shot in the arm (think calibers like 5.7×28), but right now, almost all submachine guns are simply worse than short barrel carbines.

    Also ponder the same question for combat shotguns. Besides breeching, what does the shotgun do that rifles do not? Nothing, comes the answer. Some will argue that at close ranges, shotguns provide a level of stopping power that a 5.56 carbine can’t match, but few of those people have shot anyone with a shotgun before.

    It would be a mischaracterization to say that the Germans “came up with” the idea of the assault rifle. The French, Russians, and Italians all came up with the idea of an intermediate caliber automatic rifle previously, and the idea of handheld machine gun had been around since the first time someone ever had to carry a Gatling.

  • Suburban

    SWD M11/9 with MAX-11 upper is easier to get hits with than a 10.5″ AR-15 in full-auto. I believe the M11/9 is still smaller even with stock unfolded, and is definitely not as loud, and I didn’t notice any muzzle flash at all. The SBR AR with A2 flash-hider throws a pretty big fireball, noticable even with decent lighting. You can put a suppressor on the SBR, but then you are increasing length on what’s supposed to be a CQB gun. I would not say that subguns are obsolete. There are benefits to both.

  • Sigivald

    Jeff Cooper said the SMG was only useful for room-clearing (and for being a blast to play around with).

    I expect he was right, as he usually was.

  • Aaron

    There will probably be a market for the SMG in dignitary protection units like the Secret Service for quite some time. Being lightweight, compact, having select fire, and carrying a large capacity of ammunition are all good reasons for these units to keep some SMG’s in use. These assignments are more likely going to involve close quarter engagements where a pistol caliber will work just fine.

    However, units that are more aligned with tactical missions, like SWAT and Special Forces, have been moving towards a rifle caliber weapon system for some time for obvious justifications. In a military setting you must be able to effectively engage a target at 300 meters, just has well as 3 meters. A pistol caliber SMG just can’t provide that confidence. Same goes for SWAT. Although most thoughts are about the entry where an SMG could do the job, there are times on approach or barricaded subjects from distance, that a rifle would be a better choice. Since the rifle can also do entry work it makes sense to have a weapon that is more versatile.

    • Aaron

      I’ve shot an Army Ivan course with an MP-5. After 200 meters you can pretty much call it quits, even with your buddy trying to walk you in like an artillery spotter. Shooting the same course with an AR-15 with 10.5″ barrel was like night and day. The only “struggle” was to find aiming point for the 300 meter target to allow for bullet drop – all others were pretty much point and shoot to hit.

      • Mazryonh

        If you ever get your hands on an MP5/10, which is chambered in 10mm Auto, (or even a Pistol-Caliber Carbine chambered in that caliber, like the Mechtech Carbine), you might want to rethink that assertion. There are some vids on youtube showing people with unmodified Glock 20s reliably hitting targets at 200+ yards distance. It would be easier with the ergonomics and optics an SMG or a PCC could provide.

  • Avid1911

    FYI – Ballistic studies have revealed conclusively that a .223 when fired from a short barrel (10 inches) will penetrate significantly more than a full sized barrel as a result of the lower velocity. .223 bullet construction relies on a high velocity to fragment rapidly and when those velocities drop the bullet fails to fragment or expand. The opposite is also true of the 9mm. Bullets designed to fragment rapidly at standard pistol barrel lengths will fragment more reliably at higher velocities found in a typical SMG barrel (10 inches).

  • Player_L

    Among the many virtues of a submachinegun mentioned in the comments, there are three notable omissions:

    First, they are incredibly cheap and easy to manufacture (even without access to sophisticated tools).

    Second, the use of widespread civilian and police ammunition (9mm being the gold standard) guarantees it´s supply, even on an insurgent/occupation scenario.
    Third and last, anyone (children, the elderly, the wounded) could fire it, and anyone could be trained to field strip it in a matter of minutes.
    This combination, which made it a weapon of choice for large civilian armies (think Red Army circa 1942), now makes it a quite interesting tool for unconventional warfare.

    Also, submachineguns can be made to fire quite fast, which is very useful for “attack and flee” guerrilla tactics. And since SMG´s are so compact, they can be used inside cramped spaces.

    As a police weapon, on the other side, it clearly advantages a pistol or a shotgun on the accuracy and firepower department, while avoiding the overpenetration characteristic to rifle ammunition. Also, using ammunition compatible with the standard sidearm is a big selling point. It´s not like most crooks wear body armor anyway.

    So, no. Submachineguns are not going anywhere, nor are they obsolete in any way.
    Revolvers, for instance, may have some shortcomings compared to pistols, yet nobody would dare say they are an obsolete weapon for home defense.

    5,56 carbines, while undoubtedly superior as an infantry weapon, make more sense for a professional, affluent and well supplied army, fighting an unarmored (read: poor) enemy at less than 400 meters, on a clear terrain.

    Oh, and that army better be allied to NATO, or it will be hard pressed to procure ammunition.

  • will

    I have a question. What is the advantage of fullyautomatic fire to begin with? I’ve never fired a machinegun but I’ve been told they’re a lot less accurate than semi automatic fire because they’re hard to control.

    • gunslinger

      you can sling more lead down range. more of a suppressive mode. but the more bullets down field, the better chance of hitting something.

      now, it is true that with rapid recoil you’ll get muzzle drift. but the point is not to spray and pray (just hold the trigger till empty). you try to squeeze 3-5 rounds off at a time. and a guy with a semi auto will have to take # of seconds, while the auto guy is usually <# of seconds.

    • gunslinger

      oh, and for sporting purposes…they are just fun to shoot. can’t describe it. just the fact you can unload 30 rounds in 10 seconds (or w/e) is an adrenaline rush. much like a roller coaster, sky divings, motorcycle.. etc.

  • Kosh75287

    I can think of one or two applications for which SMGs might be ideal weapons:
    1.) For a soldier walking point position on a patrol in heavy vegetation, emptying the magazine on the bad guys would likely suppress their intentions long enough for him to find cover, and for the patrol to bring heavier weapons to bear.
    2.) For someone piloting an automobile (or boat, or light plane/helicopter), seeking to keep the enemy at bay long enough to resolve the encounter/crisis through vehicular maneuver (especially in low-light conditions, the SMG affords portability, REASONABLE incapacitation, controllability, and not nearly as much muzzle flash (devastating to night vision) as, say, a CAR-15, or an abbreviated AK/AKM.
    3.) For CQB conditions in which over-penetration could have dire consequences (hostage situations, operating near flammables (meth labs come to mind)), a cartridge in the pistol range of power, launching a flat-pointed projectile is probably a better answer than a 5.56 or .30-AK.
    4.) If I’m tasked with arming a group of combatants having no real marksmanship skills or weapons training, I’m thinking there’s no sense in arming them with expensive weapons. The SMG provides good short-range efficacy, and can be produced for a fraction of the cost of an AR/AKM/AKS. The M3/M3A1, the Sten, Madsen, and Walther MPK/MPL platforms, composed mainly of sheet metal, held together by spot-welds and rivets, come to mind. While there is no upper-limit on production costs for SMGs, they CAN be made very cheaply, and in any shop capable of fixing a lawnmower engine. And despite representations to the contrary, even the utilitarian AK requires one or two certain production means not found in a lawn & garden shop.

    5.) Expensive SMGs are not always contradictions in mission, as locked-breech weapons can be made cheaply enough, and may afford accuracy sufficient for head-shots in CQB situations (Okay, this may be a reiteration of #3, but it deserves repeating). Not ALL locked breech SMGs need be based the excellent roller-locked mechanism of the MP5.
    The Bergmann-Bayard or Petersen mechanisms would be quite sufficient.
    6.) Increasing the SMG round’s power engenders greater versatility. There are plenty of SMGs running on 9mm Largo. Making them in .38 Super, 10mm, 9×23 Win, or even .460 Rowland could probably happen. And let’s not dismiss .357 Magnum-like cartridges as possible chamberings. Penal/Correctional agencies were armed for nearly a half-century with carbines chambered for .351 Winchester SL, which easily achieves .357 ballistics. In these days and times, a round having ballistics intermediate to the 2 can likely be made and kept quite small. At shorter ranges, I have more faith in a .357 than in a 5.7×28. Remember, if arming our troops with a 5.56 is wrong, then arming them with a 90-round .22 Hornet isn’t a stellar improvement.

    Other reasons occur to me, but I’ll stop here.

  • Shaw

    Dont quote me on this but I do believe that boarding parites in the Navy still use MP5’s. This being that they are better for that enviornment, close quarters, small entry points, metal rooms (using frangiable rounds). I know some Seal Teams train with them purely for boarding container ships so it makes sense that regular Navy boarding parties would also, a rifle round is not ideal for that enviornment.

    But I think the main place for sub guns is in the civilian market. I dont know of many sub gun matches but it seems a little more viable of an option when it comes to price than a AR 15 platform or an SBR version does. Yes a rifle cartridge will do more damage but most self defense situations happen with in 25m and never really extend past 100m. If I were to find a modern sub gun for a decent price it would seem like a better option to keep with me than my AR because it is less likely to penetrate my target and any light cover bystanders may be hiding behind. Ammo is cheaper and easy to reload as opposed to 556, even with ammo being low in supply I can still find 9mm, 40cal, and 45acp. I would love to have a sub gun just cant find a modern one for a decent price at the moment.

  • Kivaari

    In a military setting perhaps the carbine, like an M4, makes sense. I like the MP5 having used one for work for 12 years. We replaced them with M4s as I retired. The biggest disadvantage of the M4 was the noise and flash. We did not issue suppressors. The MP5 needed a better located selector and a hold open device – but it was “easier to teach” to people that had little exposure to any kind of long gun. The MP5 or M4 are superior to the shotgun. Once we transitioned to the MP5 or M4 we turned the M870s into dedicated less lethal guns, using only rubber baton loads. We stopped buying buck shot and slugs, so no mix up would be made in the field. Fitted with a suppressor an M4 would surely be a magnet for me. They just get a little more awkward.

  • Guest

    In counter-insurgencies and urban combat, which the US and its allies have been encountering on a frequent basis since 9/11, most enemies don’t have body armor.

    When you’re fighting in built-up areas against insurgents who generally don’t have body armor, a lightweight weapon with low recoil and low risk of overpenetration is ideal.

    Against a modern military however, SMGs are more or less useless.

  • Kivaari

    I still like the SMG. Old WW2 era guns are not worth using today, except for fun. But an HK MP5A2 is a great weapon. It’s biggest issue is like other HKs, is the selector is not as easy to use as the M4-type. No bolt hold open is another area needing to be addressed. Muzzle blast is less than the 5.56mm carbines. Control is easy.
    I like the M4 as well. Both have a place.