What’s your ideal cyclic rate of fire?

The Stechkin APS (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

After reading our founder’s article, “What would you buy, if there were no restrictions whatsoever”, I’ve really thought a lot about one of his questions:

Would Glock start designing fully automatic machine pistols? Would people start buying machine pistols for self-defense rather than just for fun at the range?

It is technically legal to carry full-auto or select fire firearms for self-defense in my area (I’ve personally known those that do), yet highly impractical due to the cost and rarity of such pieces. Were there no restrictions, however, I certainly would carry a select-fire machine pistol.  The only problem is that as of right now, most have cyclic rates of fire that are very rapid.

I’ve found submachine guns such as the MP5K, P90, and the PPSH to be comically controllable at high cyclic rates of 900-1000rpm, but I’ve come to conclusion that for a machine pistol, my ideal rate of fire would be in the 350-400 rounds per minute range a la the M3 submachine gun. That’s about as rapidly as I can fire while still aiming my shots and retaining a sight picture with a handgun.  Given that I can’t think of any such handgun that exists as of yet, I’d probably settle for a Stechkin APS which has a rate of fire of 750rpm due to a rate reducer.  How about you, readers?  Political/legal implications aside, would you use full-auto for everyday carry, home defense, or sports?  If so, what would your ideal rate of fire be?

Rusty S.

Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


  • Max Popenker

    anything between 500 and 700 rpm, roughly

  • cs

    Anything slower than a Minigun is too slow for my tastes.

  • noob

    isn’t this like asking “What is your preferred speed for travelling in motorized transportation?”

    Driving a lamborghini at high speed is doable because the engineering makes the human factors manageable, and the cost of the machine means that you don’t care too much about the cost of consumables on top. Likewise a minigun can shoot thousands of rounds a minute and still be useful as a weapon because of the many design decisions that allow you to optimize your hit probability and barrel life at that rate against very specific distant and fleeting targets.

    at the same time, you wouldn’t use a minigun for room clearing, just like you wouldn’t take a golf cart to le mans. Or a lambo to the putting green.

    what is your ideal rate of fire? what is your intended use?

    • Drunk Possum

      Succinct. Good reply.

    • Tritro29

      Who in their right mind would use an M134 for room clearing. Everybody knows that you use a m256 for that. One room at a time.

  • cwp

    For sports? Possibly; if there were fewer or no legal issues, there might very well be the full-auto equivalent of 3-gun, and that could be a lot of fun. I could totally see myself trying that, probably using something with a very low cyclic rate to make it as controllable as possible.

    For home defense or self-defense? I don’t see it. “Controllable” is a relative term, and it’s difficult enough, under the extreme stress of a defensive situation, to hit your target with one round at a time. Any time I have to use a gun defensively, but especially at home, I want to be really damn sure that as few of my shots as possible go off-target, both for safety and effectiveness reasons. Full-auto seems likely to make that more difficult.

    Maybe if I had extensive training with full-auto I might change my mind? Even if the weapons themselves became much more affordable, though, ammunition costs are going to make that degree of training a problem for most shooters.

    • Cynic

      There are smg comps setup like 3 gun but the cost of entry is HIGH because of the cost of the guns.

      I want to see a squad style comp for belt feds using the service popup rang sort of setup but is hard to do.

      As for self defence idk something like an mp5 with 3 round burst could work well I think

  • I think a 2-3 round burst ala Colt SCAMP or Beretta 93r is the way to go.

    It’s possible to fire short bursts with a G18 when practicing at a controlled range, but I don’t think it would hold up well under stress/ surprise when the tendency is to mash the trigger. I’d suggest trying a G18 airsoft pistol during a duel to simulate that effect.

  • Nicholas C

    I agree. High ROF are fun for a mag or two. But a slow rate of fire like a Grease Gun or FN BAR Model D are very nice.

  • me

    Grand Power K 105 😉

  • 15 rounds per minute. Those new fangled no. 5 rolling blocks are fast!

    • Paul

      Depends on how quickly you can reach reloads. Slower if you need to pull them out of loops on a bandoleer. Rate of fire with a #5 Rolling Block is not much slower than with some repeaters that take precious seconds to reload.

    • Tassiebush

      You could shave off some precious time by using a really worn out one. I have read that some become auto ejecting due to a weak hammer spring… A face shield may be required.

    • Major Tom

      15? I’ve done 20-25 cyclic with a Nugget. (Actual rate of fire close to 10 rpm owing to the fact I don’t have any stripper clips.)

  • Don Ward


    If you’re doing your job right, all you need is One.

    • TheNotoriousIUD


    • Swarf

      If only we were all as masterfully skilled as you.

    • Amanofdragons

      If it took more than one shot, you weren’t using a Jakobs.

    • Bill

      And when you learn to reset the trigger well quarter second splits are eminently doable, which gives a cyclic rate of 240 rpm.

  • GPSrulz

    With my vast Call of Duty and Battlefield experience the optimal rate of fire is….

    • DW

      JOHN CENA!!!!!

  • ProLiberty82

    It depends on the platform and use, but for an assault rifle shooting on the move I would say 500-600 RPM. My favorite 5.56 gun to shot full auto to date is the SCAR-L, it’s more controllable than an MP5 for me and prints fist sized group at 15 meters standing in 3-4 round bursts, I never lose sight tracking in full auto with that gun and RPM is around 500-600. Could see that gun being used to great effect in IPSC.

    Home defense? A high capacity semi auto pistol with a flash light since there is a high possibility that it can transition to a hand to hand ground fight and a rifle/shotgun would be to unwieldy. Second choice would be something like a HK MP7 or a B&T MP9, but they still require to be shouldered to be effective in full auto and that will hinder your movement vs a pistol. If you live in a country where home defense is a real concern, I would suggest you buy an airsoft rifle and pistol plus some of those BB gun bullet traps and set up courses in your home to try out scenarios, I think you will be surprised to see how unwieldy a rifle and even a SBR (or any shoulder fired weapon) is in those conditions and gain more confidence in pistols.

    EDC, a semi auto Glock 19 (or similar in size pistol) with a Surefire XC1, full auto pistols without a stock has been proven time and time again to be too uncontrollable for practical use and as an EDC you have a very limited mag capacity as well.

    TL;DR: 500-600 RPM rifles, yes please and would IPSC. Every thing else: no thanks I’m good.

  • Major Tom

    For anything in rifle caliber: No higher than 750. Ideally I’d be going for lower end 300-650 stuff.

    For pistol and PDW caliber, nothing lower than 750.

    For shotguns, single fire only (pump action or semi), full auto has no place there.

    Everything else depends on the weapon and what it’s used for.

  • Giolli Joker

    Jerry Miculek

    • Jerry is too damn big to carry and conceal.

    • SP mclaughlin

  • Henrik Bergdahl

    Whatever the GAU8 has :v

  • Jwedel1231

    I would opt for a slower rate of fire for anything over a .22LR. I’m not a fan of blowing my entire mag in 2 seconds. I would spend more time reloading than even having a mag in the gun!

  • Pete M

    If I’m expecting trouble, a PDW like the MP5K on burst.

    “Normal” everyday personal defense, semi auto.

    Great post.

  • Ivan

    .22lr, 50 rounds mag, 1000rpm, make a “Frrrrr-Frrrrr” in what direction and get off the X.

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    Glock 18.
    Id trade every gun I own for one of those bad boys.

    • iksnilol

      But you have an M16. Which is like at least 10 times better than any Glock.

      • TheNotoriousIUD

        I know man I’m torn.
        Not like it’s an option but there’s just something about a full auto pistol…
        I probably wouldn’t trade since it’s been in my family since 85 and the 16 is just a better weapon.
        You’re right I should be happy to be fortunate enough to have what I have.

  • vwVwwVwv

    the rate of fireing we know as bumpfire would do the job.
    if you would have the burst option of 3 shots, as fast as possible.

  • Dr. Longfellow Buchenrad

    I’d like a very high rate of fire in 3 shot burst. Other than that I am quite content with semi auto. I like to try to place my shots.

    It would be interesting to shoot an auto that does one round per second though. Not because of the volume of ammo that you can put out but because each follow up shot will have time to be placed but you don’t have to deal with the potential poi shift from pulling the trigger. (I know theoretically if you’re skilled that shouldn’t be an issue but this is reality not theory)

  • iksnilol

    About 300 would be a dream on full auto.

    Easy to control whilst still pretty fast.

  • bull

    a american 180 @ 1200+ would be fun!

  • Justin Roney

    There’s a lawyer attached to every bullet. For EDC, no way.

    For combat or TEOTWAWKI, absolutely.

  • FightFireJay

    “Would Glock start designing fully automatic machine pistols? ”

    They could call it the Glock 18.

    • buzzman1

      Yeah and they would have designed it over 25 years ago.

  • Xanderbach

    PM-63… Low recoil, 650rpm. Holsterable too- A stechkin is probably better, but I kinda like the Polish “Dentist” for its compact size and useability.

  • Lance

    Depends on type of weapon. Heavier weapon the better. Enjoyed the M-60 rate when I shot it.

  • Paul

    Long ago, I acquired a pistol which had a defective disconnector. With one pull of the trigger it would empty it’s magazine. Sounded like a loud fart. This was great fun until realizing I had quickly used up my entire ammo supply. Accuracy was dismal; only the first one or two shots would hit the target. Without the possibility of a quick follow up shot this would not have been a very good defensive weapon. Result: I fixed the disconnector and it worked correctly.

    • gusto

      nevermind the quick follow up

      where does those extra rounds go?

      what good is a righteous self defense shooting if you get a couple of bystanders with straybullets?

      • Cynic

        Oh idk you could get a job with NYPD

  • Xtorin O’hern

    a PMR-30 machine pistol with a muzzle brake of some kind, that’s about the biggest gun i can conceal and the light weight would make it not such a chore, combine the full auto 950 rpm plus pretty much no recoil makes for death by 30 bee stings to whoever or whatever is coming at me.

  • HH

    Some guns have better cadence and are smoother at higher ROF. Think Mini Uzi vs full size chugga-chug Uzis…or a Full size Uzi with a Blackjack buffer in it to amp up the ROF…yields a smoother gun…one where its easier to keep on target. Of course I’m referring to a SMG and not nec. a machine pistol (micro Uzi). G18s with autosear are WAY too fast. So without much experience in the machine pistol arena …I’ll instead tghrow out that 600-700 is a good general ROF for a SMG….

  • Goody

    I’d like an AR SBR in pistol caliber, or 20 practical, capped at around 900. The 20 would have a can. Same idea as a P90, multiple hits on target by using a smaller round.

    In a pistol, I’d look for the same. 380 in a full size gun would be a bit strange, so maybe I’d want something more like 30 luger/mauser/tokarev. I don’t shoot a lot of pistol but I guess 500rpm would be doable.

  • Jim_Macklin

    GLOCK Model 19, 1200 rpm/33 round magazine.
    I’d like 1800 rpm with a 2 or 3 shot burst and then a reset required.

  • Tassiebush

    Probably something cheap and light at a hyperburst setting.

  • oldman

    The best way to shoot fast and accurately is to make haste slowly. The second steep is to practice…practice…practice.

  • Allan

    The astra model F , a copy of the broomhandle had a rate reducer built in and a cyclic rate of fire of 450 rpm.

    • Rusty S.

      Great point! That ROF reducer is like a watch, incredibly interesting.

  • jerry young

    I’m all for concealed carry as a matter of fact I help teach classes, I’m prior military and have some experience with full auto weapons from the M16 to the M60 and up, I don’t think carrying a full auto weapon for self defense is a good idea, if you do have the need to use your gun you want to be in complete control of it and where every round ends up, a full auto for those who have never shot one only hits the exact aimed mark on the first shot after that while the grouping can be close it usually is not, I’ve seen some pretty good displays of accuracy and some to say the least some pretty comical and dangerous displays by trained personnel in my opinion you could be putting innocent bystanders at risk, it’s not like having a full auto in the movies where secret agents and bad guys battle it out with machine guns, if you’re in a defensive situation you better be damn sure where each round goes or you may end up in court facing manslaughter charges, that being said I do feel if you want to own a full auto weapon for the sake of collecting it and or shooting it you should be allowed to, if you’ve never fired a full auto by all means do so they are a blast

  • Sam Luckey

    Full auto PMR 30, lotta rounds no recoil

  • smartacus

    my favorite cyclic rate is between 1300RPM and 1400RPM
    because GLOCK 18 and M10/M11

  • JuvieRecord

    Lercker Machine Pistol, 20 rounds of 6.35 Browning (.25acp) at 1200rpm.