The Halcón M.L. 63 subgun from Argentina

    Argentina has had a long history as a manufacturer of submachine  guns of indigenous design, both by State-owned concerns ( and by a number of private companies. Among the latter is Fábrica de Armas Halcón SAIC (Falcon Weapons Factory), established in the capital city of Buenos Aires in December, 1941. The company was primarily focused on the design and production of “subfusiles” (submachine guns), starting with the Modelo 1943, both in .45 ACP for the local Gendarmeria Nacional (National Police)  and in 9x19mm, for the Ajército Argentino (Argentine Army). This was followed by the a shorter-barrel Modelo 1946 (a.k.a. Modelo Aeronáutica, Air Force Model), equally chambered to 9x19mm.  The next 9x19mm Halcón subguns were the Modelo Liviano 57 (Light Model 57) and the Modelo Liviano 59/60, the designation numbers, of course, referring to the year of service introduction. Most were supplied the Ejército Argentino (Argentine Army), with additional use recorded in Navy/Marine units. Not to worry: I’ll be covering these earlier Falcons in more detail in future TFB editions.

    Different members of the Halcón family: (1) .45ACP short-barrel M1946 Air Force; (2) .45ACP M1946 National Police; (3) 9x19mm M1949 Argentine Army model; (4) 9x19mm M1949 Argentine Army; (5) 9x19mm M.L. 63 light model.

    Fábrica de Armas Halcón was renamed Metalurgica Centro in the mid-1960s, and that’s when it introduced its last “subfusil”, the Modelo Liviano 63, or, simply, the M.L.63, this article’s subject. Before you ask, I’ll tell you the reason why this particular, 50-year-old-plus subgun was brought to my attention this time, long after it was generally believed to have been totally phased out of service. It just happened that I was recently sent a photo of a 2017 ceremony at an Argentine Air Force base that showed a bunch of M.L. 63s being carried by the marching troops.

    The photo that triggered this all: Argentine Air Force personnel with M.L. 63s… in 2017!

    I then went to my files to take a refreshing look at some photos and notes taken during a visit to that country back in January, 1991, when I had a chance to handle and fire the gun while it was still in use, though in limited scale, by the local Policia Federal (Federal Police). What follows is a concise description of and personal impressions about the weapon in question.

    The fixed- and retractable-stock variants of the M.L. 63. Looks like the slot for the charging handle movement is an invitation for the entrance of dirt, the large-diameter recoil spring being visible through it.

    The 9x19mm Modelo Liviano 63 is a conventional blowback operated submachine gun that fires from the closed-bolt position, a somewhat atypical mode for older buzzguns. It exists both in a fixed wooden stock configuration and in a retractable sliding wire variant. With an empty weight of 3.7kg, it has an overall length of 690mm, which comes down to 500mm when you retract the M3 “Grease Gun”-type stock. The 42-round magazine (staggered row, two-position feed) is inserted into a forward grip, a small catch at the rear end being pushed forward to release it. The cocking handle lies 90 degrees to the right side of the tubular receiver, and yours truly found no big deal actuating it with the left hand without loosening the grip with the right hand. The applied safety, which blocks the trigger action, is a sliding lever on the left side above the well-raked and comfortable pistol grip. A secondary (automatic) safety engages the hammer if, for instance, the cocking piece is accidentally released before the movement is completed. The rear sight is of the flip type, with notches for 50 and 100 meters, while the blade front sight sits on top of a compensator.

    Left side view of the fixed-stock model, 42-round magazine in place. Very austere design and construction of the gun are evident.

    A retractable-stock M.L.63 seen alongside a leather (non-standard) pouch for spare magazines.

    A canvas-and-leather carrying pouch (“funda”, in Spanish) was also available for the M.L. 63.

    Weird to me, but somehow appreciated by some, is the dual trigger mechanism: the front unit for semi-auto fire, and the rear one for rock-and-roll. Although being a straightforward mechanical solution, like everything else in life one must get used to it until the action becomes natural. When firing the M.L.63 at a Federal Police facility, I was all the time hesitating between triggers, but the local officers told me that it had become second nature to them. In full auto, the gun offers a comfortable cyclic rate of fire in the region of 600 rounds per minute. Bullets come out of the 170mm barrel at around 350 m/s. I recall the muzzle compensator apparently adding something in stability… and noise! The two longitudinal slots on top of compensator make the shooter aware that hot gases are being reflected upwards.

    All in all, the M.L. 63 was pretty liked in its country of origin, having seen actual combat actions during the Falklands/Malvinas War in 1982, being still in limited police use in the early 1990s, and surviving to these days with, at least, the Fuerza Aérea Argentina (Argentine Air Force).

    Author using the left hand to move the charging handle on the right side of gun. Not a big deal for this and other similarly-configured firearms, such as the AK and others. (Photo credit: Felipe Olive)

    The magazine catch is a small blade at the rear, bottom end of the forward grip making the mag removal a quick, one-hand operation. (Photo credit: Felipe Olive)

    With the wire stock fully retracted, the M.L. 63 was just adequate for very close-in, instinctive-fire combat. Just posing for camera, amigos… (Photo credit: Felipe Olive)

    More seriously now: about to fire the same gun, stock extended, from the shoulder at full-auto, as indicated by the finger on rear trigger. (Photo credit: Felipe Olive)

    Son/photographer Felipe with the two Halcón M.L. 63 variants at an Argentine Federal Police facility in January, 1991. (Photo credit: Dad!)

    Higher-resolution photos available:

    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.