Drawing board designs: Guns of Nelmo Suzano

An early 9x19mm blowback-operated submachine gun design in the bullpup configuration. Essentially, it was the LAPA SM Modelo 3 in a new outer shell.

Nelmo Suzano’s venture with the ill-fated ENARM company  in the early-to-mid 1980s was, regrettably, the last time his ideas were transformed in actual working prototypes.  However, during the 1990s, conceptions were still to reach the surface of his drawing board, this time in an improvised “design office” in a small apartment he shared with an ailing sister in the Copacabana area, in Rio de Janeiro. But his health was also becoming compromised, mainly the result of an eyesight problem that was gradually, but continuously, degrading his capacity to see. Also slowly, his walking ability was being lost. Nevertheless, he kept on designing.

Two .22LR carbine designs, a bullpup and a conventional configuration, the latter’s thumbhole grip indicating that it was probably intended for the U.S. market. Nelmo’s AR-10-inspired carry handle is there all the time.

Two .22LR carbine designs, a bullpup and a conventional configuration, the latter’s thumbhole grip indicating that it was probably intended for the U.S. market. Nelmo’s AR-10-inspired carry handle was there all the time.

Another design was this somewhat bulky 9x19mm pistol, whose markings on the fire selector indicate not only selective-fire (“1”, “3”, “32”) but also (“SA”, “DA”) single- and double-action options, something that the LAPA bullpup rifle of the 1980s had pioneered.

Another design was this somewhat bulky 9x19mm pistol, whose markings on the fire selector indicate not only selective-fire (“1”, “3”, “32”) but also (“SA”, “DA”) single- and double-action options, something that the LAPA bullpup rifle of the 1980s had pioneered.

In 1996, still having friend Luiz Gonçalves by his side, he established N.S. Projetos Termobalísticos S/C Ltda, a small concern with the objective of creating and offering for sale complete firearms designs and detailed production plans for them. Amazingly-low costs were involved. In a small stand at the 1999 LAD Defense Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, the company plans were made public. Taken for example, the earlier, compact 9x19mm MSM submachine gun project was retailing for US$3 million, but actual manufacture cost per gun was of only US$ 40.00, with a suggested sale price of US$ 250.00. The same price was offered for the previous 12-gauge Pentagun shotgun project, which would result in a production cost of US$62.00 and a suggested sales price tag of US$350.00. For the 5.56x45mm FA bullpup rifle of the early-1980s, the respective figures were US$10 million (project), US$140.00 (production cost), and US$450.00 (MSRP).

Three members of the 5.56x45mm, short-recoil-operated family (top to bottom): the rifle, the compact carbine, and the light machine gun intended for the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) role.

Three members of the 5.56x45mm, short-recoil-operated family (top to bottom): the rifle, the compact carbine, and the light machine gun intended for the SAW (Squad Automatic Weapon) role.

However, major hopes were concentrated on a family of short-recoil-operated (Nelmo was a known fan of Melvin Johnson’s ideas!) weapons employing the bullpup configuration, which included a 9x19mm submachine gun, and (all in 5.56x45mm) a selective-fire carbine, a selective-fire rifle, a light machine gun, plus a 7.62x51mm GPMG (General Purpose Machine Gun). Different .22LR carbine models and pistols of various calibers were also anticipated.

The 9x19mm subgun proposed by N.S. Projetos Termobalísticos S/C Ltda was also a bullpup-configured weapon. Unusually for an SMG, it was of short-recoil operation.

The 9x19mm subgun proposed by N.S. Projetos Termobalísticos S/C Ltda was also a bullpup-configured weapon. Unusually for an SMG, it was of short-recoil operation.

Different commercial contacts eventually emerged from all that, but concrete results never materialized. With a general health degradation, a mentally-active Nelmo Suzano passed away on September 4, 2013, at the age of 83. Though virtually unknown worldwide, his dreams and work will long be remembered by gun enthusiasts in Brazil.

Some of his earlier designs will appear now in TFB in a somewhat random sequence. Stay tuned!

With long-time, trusted friend Luiz Gonçalves behind and lasting admirer Ronaldo Olive by his side, Nelmo Suzano poses with a Tecnologia & Defesa magazine article on his work during the LAAD Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro in April 2009, his last public appearance.

With long-time, trusted friend Luiz Gonçalves behind and lasting admirer Ronaldo Olive by his side, Nelmo Suzano poses with a Tecnologia & Defesa magazine article on his work during the LAAD Exhibition in Rio de Janeiro in April 2009, his last public appearance.

R.I.P. Nelmo.

R.I.P. Nelmo.



Ronaldo Olive

Ronaldo is a long-time (starting in the 1960s) Brazilian writer on aviation, military, LE, and gun subjects, with articles published in local and international (UK, Switzerland, and U.S.) periodicals. His vast experience has made him a frequent guest lecturer and instructor in Brazil’s armed and police forces.


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  • Tyson chandler

    Good to hear of another designer. No disrespect to JMB, but it is nice to know about others.

    • tts

      Yeah you don’t hear as much about any of them, especially from South America.

      They’re all usually pretty interesting though.

  • Martin törefeldt

    A sad tale.

  • Dracon1201

    I love hearing about these designers. This is what I’m aspiring and working on doing myself right now in college. I just can only hope that I work hard enough that my work becomes well known.

    • Ronaldo Olive

      Work hard, my friend, and trust yourself!

    • Edeco

      Good luck young STEM person.

  • MPWS

    Most amazing story; I’ve never heard of Mr.Suzano before. He looks to me like man who trusted himself and carried on with his mission. Thanks for bringing it to public attention!

  • MPWS

    Have a question if it is possible to expect answer: was his short recoil mechanism involving accelerator? If yes, are any detail pictures/ models available? Thanks.

    • Ronaldo Olive

      Nope, as far as I can possibly remember, it was just a plain short recoil system. No detailed pics have survived

      • MPWS

        Thank you Ronaldo !

        I copied the pictures provided and try to make sense of it. It cannot be scaled to size where clarity would be complete, however.

  • A bearded being from beyond ti

    So he designed the hi-point?

    • Anonymoose

      And the FAMAS.

    • jay

      I was going to suggest, patrickr, read this as he’s so approving of the hi point. And it looks like this one can actually be used. ;-}

  • Anonymoose

    Those grips look like they came off an MG42. I like it!

  • valorius

    Obviously this designer was not a fan of prone firing.

    • Mr. C

      Prone doesn’t really seem necessary with SMG’s.

  • Stephen Paraski

    Exactly what I thought.

  • Mr. C

    Pal, relax. ‘Tis but a joke.

  • Edeco

    O.O

    • Brett

      It just got Real.

  • Sam Damiano

    I’d like to have a book as a bio/coffee table book of his designs.

  • RocketScientist

    I get real tired of grumpy old dudes who can’t take a f***ing joke clogging up comment sections with rants ALL IN CAPS because they can’t read the letters on the screen otherwise and terrible grammar because, I dunno, they’re dumb.

  • jay

    Does someone need a whaaa bulance?