MP.18-I Up for Auction

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One of the (many) reasons to follow the WeaponsMan blog is that he keeps an eye out for neat auctions that, even if they cost the same as a new luxury sedan, provide great photos of rare or unique firearms. Most recently, Hognose has linked to an auction for a very rare MP.18-I, the first variant of the famous German MP.18 submachine gun (which, arguably, was the progenitor of the type):

We’ve featured an MP.18-II before, which is a later iteration of this exact same gun, with a magazine well reconfigured for straight magazines. (It led in turn to the MP.28, the Lanchester, and the Sten, by fairly direct process of derivation). But this gun, the MP.18-I, is the granddaddy of them all, and it could be yours.

MP.18-I 03It is certainly the first widely produced submachine gun, defined as a shoulder-fired infantry weapon firing a pistol cartridge with an automatic or select-fire mechanism. A blowback mechanism, it showed the way for many designs that would follow through three generations of submachine guns, until the rise of compact versions of intermediate-cartridge assault weapons would replace most of them.

Some would say it has a face only a mother could love:

MP.18-I 28

And it’s just as awkward looking from behind. MP.18-I 24

The drum magazine is so odd looking because it was already in production for the Lange P.08, the “Artillery” Luger. Rather than try to design a thirtyish-round magazine, the engineers at Theodor Bergmann in the weapons-manufacturing center Suhl, Germany, did what many later gun designers would do and borrowed a proven one.

The only real predecessor to the MP.18 was the Villar-Perosa, which in its original configuration was an aircraft automatic gun chambered for pistol rounds, but later was applied to ground warfare as a light machine gun, and eventually as a portable automatic weapon. However, the Villar-Perosa, besides not being widely issued and not being purpose-designed as a submachine gun, was also much less influential; the descendants of the MP.18 being outright copied by many nations even as late as the 1940s.

I highly recommend readers follow the link and take a look at the auction itself; more pictures are available there (unfortunately in relatively low-res).



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • Nicks87

    Reminds me of the speed boat scene from Indiana Jones and the last crusade.

  • pbla4024

    More like second widely produced SMG. Italian Beretta M1918 was issued slightly earlier.

    • Vitsaus

      Issued but not widely distributed, and aside from within Italy, it was not a widely influential design. One can look at the Lanchester (hope I spelled it right) from the UK, or the Japanese type 100, and numerous designs from eastern europe, right up to the early PPSH variants or finish Suomis and you can see the influence of the MP18

    • I mention the Villar Perosa, the M1918’s ancestor. I’m not sure in what kind of numbers the Beretta M1918 was made before the end if the war.

      • pbla4024

        I’ve found number 23,000 mentioned somewhere for M1918, but that would probably include post-Armistice manufacture. MP18/I was something like 35,000, right?

  • Tassiebush

    I could love a face like that if the govt or good fortune let me!

  • Riot

    Now that is quite a (expensive) bit of history

  • Bill

    That has a face only a mother could love, and reminds me of that girl I dated with the awkward behind.

    At least with a Sten I can make a non-functional replica out of PVC pipe and plumbing parts

  • Surprisingly, these usually do not go for as much money as you would think (when talking about transferable machine guns). People throwing around that much money generally want a Thompson or something more iconic.

  • Vitsaus

    Cool article, certainly agree that this was the SMG that set the bar for a long time. Sad to think that this gun probably got to the US from some American GI that brought it home as a war trophy, and it wasn’t a big deal, just picked up it, packed it up, and brought it back. No NFA, nothing. It was HIS gun now.

    • iksnilol

      If I was in those days I would probably need a duffle bag or two for all the guns I would pick up to bring home… Heck, that applies to even modern times.

      • It is also very likely that you would have been killed. Not insulting you personally, but WWI was hell on everyone involved.

        • iksnilol

          Statistically speaking, most likely. But what can you do? People tend to romantize everything. I believe it is some form of coping mechanism or something.

          Though my great grandfather did survive WW1, he was on the Eastern front. Got wounded in the head too (don’t know whether it was shrapnel or bullet but something hit his head real good).

          • It is neat you can trace your family history back that far. Like many Americans, my family is a bunch of newcomers to this nation and much of our history has been lost. However, being as how Swedish blood courses through my veins I doubt my brood has seen much combat.

          • iksnilol

            Always a bit sad when history is lost. But what can you do? I don’t really know much either. I know that my great grandfather survived WW1, died when my grandfather was young, I know his name, and that he was allegedly good with a rifle (had no problem with brainshots at running animals).

            Makes you wonder what will be left of us in the future. What will my great grandchildren (if I have any) know or remember about me? Will it be the bad or the good stuff, or will they know anything at all? The dilemmas of mortality I guess, then again it is better than immortality.

            Also, Scandinavian relations are really weird. According to what I understand, they all hate each other and whatnot but they stay on relatively friendly terms for some reason. Norway is usually called out for being nationalistic while Sweden is the progressive, metrosexual utopia that foreigners have ruined. Denmark… Denmark is just Denmark. A flat country that is pretty weird. For starters, zoophilia is allowed and regarding food; everything is in sandwich form. That’s Scandinavia 101 for you. I wil admit, I find their negative definition of nationalism pretty cute.

            Weird post from my perspective, managed to blend in history, philosophy and humor in one post while being serious. My English teacher would be proud.

  • Don Ward

    The other reason being to laugh at absurdly simplistic statements like “iron sights are dead and obsolete?”

    As for the MP-18, it is yet another example of gloriously anachronistic Teutonic technology. Very steam punk.

    • Bob

      Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and regard his opinions on firearms with about 50 times the credibility of yours, if you don’t mind.

      • Don Ward

        And you can go right on ahead. No one is putting something with iron sights to your head.

    • Depends what you mean by “obsolete”. Obviously, irons are still a very good value.

      Heck, I just bought a rifle I intend to use exclusively with irons for a while.