Firearm Infobox
Name, Image, type, origin
Name MP18
Image Bergmann MP 18.1
Bergmann MP 18
Type Submachine gun
Place of origin Flag of German Empire German Empire
Service history
In service 1918-1945
Used by Germany
Wars World War I, World War II
Production history
Designer Hugo Schmeisser
Designed 1916
Manufacturer Bergmann Waffenfabrik
Produced 1918 to 1920s
Number {{{number}}}
Variants {{{variants}}}
Weight 4.18 kg (9.2 lb)
Length 832 mm (32.8 in)
Width {{{width}}}
Height {{{height}}}
Barrel length 200 mm (7.9 in)
Diameter {{{diameter}}}
Crew {{{crew}}}
Cartridge 9x19mm Parabellum
Caliber {{{caliber}}}
Action open bolt blowback
Muzzle velocity 380 m/s (1,247
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Effective range {{{range}}}
Maximum range {{{max_range}}}
Other identifying characteristics
Wood parts (Y/N) {{{wood}}}
Common color {{{color}}}
Imprint {{{imprint}}}

The MP18.1 manufactured by Theodor Bergmann Waffenbau Abteilung was the first practical submachine gun used in combat. It was introduced in service in 1918 by the German Army during World War I as the primary weapon of the Stosstruppen, assault groups specialized in trench combat. While MP18 production ended in the 1920s, its design was the base of most of the submachine guns between 1920 and 1960.

The firepower of this new class of weapons made such an impression on the Allies that the Treaty of Versailles banned further study and manufacture of such light automatic firearms.


File:Shoot'in MP18 theodor-Bergmann-Waffenbau.jpg
File:Th. Bergmann WB inhaber.jpg
File:MP 18 Northern France 1918.jpg
File:Freikorp Ritter von Epp Munich, May1919.jpg
File:MP 18 Berlin 1919.jpg

What became known as the "submachine gun" had its genesis 90 years ago developed around the concepts of infiltration, fire and movement, specifically for the desire to clear trenches of enemy soldiers when engagements were unlikely to occur beyond a range of a few feet within this environment.

In 1915 the German Rifle Testing Commission at Spandau decided to develop a new weapon for trench warfare. An attempt to modify existing semi-automatic pistols, specifically the Luger and C96 Mauser failed, as accurate aimed fire in full automatic mode was impossible due to their light weight and high rate of fire of 1,200 rounds per minute. The Commission determined that a completely new kind of weapon was needed. Hugo Schmeisser, working for the Bergmann Waffenfabrik was part of a team composed of Theodor Bergmann, Louis Schmeisser and a few other technicians. They designed a new type of weapon to fulfill the requirements, which was designated the Maschinenpistole 18/I. It is not clear what the "I" designation is intended to indicate.

A soundly engineered piece of equipment with near commercial grade fittings and finish, the MP18 was a heavy weapon, weighing over 5 kg (11 lb) when fully loaded. The receiver tube was very thick (~3 mm), compared with later World War II submachine guns with half that thickness or less, such as the Sten gun or MP40.

Though Schmeisser designed a conventional 20 round capacity "box" magazine for the weapon, the Testing Commission, for practical reasons, insisted that the MP18 be adapted to use the 32 round TM 08 Luger "snail" drum magazines that was widely used with the long barreled version of the P 08 pistol known as Artillery model.

Full scale production did not begin until early 1918. [1] Though technically not the world's first submachine gun, being beaten by the Italian Villar-Perosa of 1915, in modern usage of the term the MP18 is considered the world's first submachine gun since the Villar Perosa had been designed to be used as a light machine gun.

The MP18 primarily served in final stages of World War I in 1918, especially in the so-called Kaiserschlacht offensive. At least 5,000 MP18.1 were built and used during World War I, based upon observed serial number ranges of captured weapons. However, it is possible that up to 10,000 were built for the war. Though production was outlawed by the Treaty of Versailles, manufacture continued in secret into the early 1920s, as the final production total (again, based upon observed serial numbers) ended at around 35,000.

The MP18 continued in use with German police forces after the end of the war. It was widely used in combat by the Freikorps Von Epp against the Spartakists in Bavaria and by some other Freikorps in Berlin where its efficiency in urban combat was demonstrated. Since the Treaty of Versailles prohibited the use and manufacture of pistols with a barrel over 4-inch and/or a magazine capacity over 8 rounds, all Trommel Magazines TM 08 were destroyed. Since the Treaty allowed the Weimar Republic to keep a small quantity of submachine guns for police use, a few hundred MP18.1 were modified to accept Schmeisser's original 20 round magazine design. This modification, conducted by Haenel Waffenfabrik, required removal of the existing magazine well collar, and replacement with a different one. These weapons were overstamped with the date "1920" on receiver and magazine well to show they were legitimate weapons owned by the Weimar Republic and not war bringbacks or clandestine weapons.

Bergmann sold the license of the MP 18. 1 to SIG Switzerland; the Swiss made model was known as SIG Bergmann 1920. It existed in .30 luger, 9mm Parabellum and 7.63 mm Mauser.

The Bergmann MP 18.1 represents a milestone both in terms of armament technology and warfare tactics. It opened the way for a whole new class of weapons and triggered the research for lighter automatic firearms to be used by mobile troops. Its first direct competitors did not see service in WW1 but most of them saw use in all the limited conflict taking place between the two world wars.

File:Tsing Tao MP 18.jpg

The Chinese produced a modified MP 18 in Tsing Tao with the assistance of Heinrich Vollmer. The Japanese acquired a number of MP 18s and MP 28s before producing their own Type 100, which used a similar configuration to the MP 18/28. The French despite being moderately interested by this class of armament because they had designed and introduced in service many semi-automatic and automatic weapons, immediately launched studies based on captured MP 18s. The design of the STA 1922 was adopted and the MAS 1924[2] entered service and was used in colonial war. The French MAS 35 and MAS 38 derived from one of the many prototypes of the immediate post war.

The MP 28 was produced by Haenel under the supervision of Hugo Schmeisser, it was copied by the Spanish Republican under the codename Naranjero.

The Austrian Steyr MP34 was created by a team of technicians led by Louis Stange who designed a submachine gun for Rheinmetall in 1919 and used Bergmann's MG15 to design the MG 30.

The SIG Bergmann 1920 was used by Finland and Estonia, it was the inspiration for the Finnish Suomi model 31, which in turn inspired Degtyarev for his PPD 34.

Emil Bergmannn, Theodor Bergmann's son designed the MP 32 that evolved into the MP 34 as adopted by Denmark before to receive the MP 35 name when adopted by nascent Wehrmacht in 1935. This SMG is often mistaken with the Mitraillette 34, a MP 28 made in Belgium by Pieper Bayard, former Bergmann licensed manufacturer or with the MP 34 made by Steyr. It is easy to identify the Bergmann MP 32/34/35 or its final version 35/1 since the cocking lever works exactly like a rifle bolt.

In 1940 with a pressing need for individual automatic weapons the British copied the MP 28 and developed the Lanchester submachine gun for the Royal Navy. Solidly built with the use of brassfor the magazine well and a bayonet mount it entered service in 1940. The magazine and the bolt of the MP 28 could be used in the Lanchester. The Sten is an evolution of the Lanchester to allow mass production at a much lower cost.

The OVP 1918 an offspring of Revelli's Villar Perosa 1915 inspired Heinrich Vollmer for his telescopic bolt used in the VPM 1930, EMP, MP 38, MP 40 and MP 41.


File:TM 08.jpg
File:Trommel Magazin laden.jpg

The original MP18.1 was designed to use the snail drum magazine of the Luger Artillery model pistol. This rotary design type of magazine holds 32 rounds of 9 mm Parabellum, the user having to load the magazine with a proprietary loading tool. A special sleeve was required when the snail drum was used on the MP18 to stop the snail drum from being inserted too far in the magazinewell.

After 1920, the MP18 was modified to use a straight magazine similar to those used in the later developed MP40 submachine gun. The MP18 could only fire in the fully automatic mode. Its successor the MP 28/2 received a modified mechanism with a selector for single shot or fully automatic fire.


The MP18 proved to be an excellent weapon. Its concept was well proven in trench fights. Its basic design influenced directly later submachine gun designs and would show its superiority vs the regular infantry rifle in urban combat and mobile warfare as well as in guerrilla warfare. In 1919 during the German revolutionary period, MP 18 were used successfully in house to house fights to regain control of a city in Berlin and Munich in what was more police type counter insurgency than a military operation.

All the limited conflicts between 1920 and 1940 saw an increasing use of this new class of weapons, first in South America during the Chaco war, then in Europe during the Spanish civil war, and in China during the Japanese invasion where its use by well trained Chinese troops was costly for the invaders as in the battle of Shanghai, where fierce street fights prefigured World War II urban combat of Stalingrad, Warsaw, Vienna and Berlin.

The open bolt design left one problem: if the buttstock was given a hard knock while the bolt was fully forward while a loaded magazine is inserted, the gun could accidentally fire because of the bolt overcoming the action spring resistance and moving rearward enough to pick up a round and chambering it. Soldiers liked to leave the bolt of their firearm forward so dirt and debris would not enter into the barrel and chamber that could cause a malfunction to occur when the firearm needed to be fired. The German police asked for an external safety on its MP 18 and an universal bolt locking safety was added on all the submachine guns used by the police. Later sub-machine gun designs like the Sten or the MP 40 were modified to allow the cocking handle to be pushed inwards to lock the closed bolt to the tubular receiver casing. This design change prevented accidental discharges when the bolt was left forward and a loaded magazine was inserted.



  • Gotz, Hans Dieter, German Military Rifles and Machine Pistols, 1871-1945, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. West Chester, Pennsylvania, 1990. OCLC 24416255
  • G. de Vries, B.J. Martens: The MP 38, 40, 40/1 and 41 Submachine gun, Propaganda Photos Series, Volume 2, Special Interest Publicaties BV, Arnhem, The Netherlands.First Edition 2001
  • Smith, W.H.B, Small arms of the world : the basic manual of military small arms, Harrisburg, Pa. : Stackpole Books, 1955. OCLC 3773343
  • Günter Wollert; Reiner Lidschun; Wilfried Kopenhagen, Illustrierte Enzyklopädie der Schützenwaffen aus aller Welt : Schützenwaffen heute (1945-1985), Berlin : Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik, 1988. OCLC 19630248
  • CLINTON EZELL, EDWARD Small arms of the world,Eleventh Edition,Arms & Armour Press, London, 1977
  • Deutsches Waffen Journal
  • Visier
  • Schweizer Waffen Magazin
  • Internationales Waffen Magazin
  • Cibles
  • AMI
  • Gazette des Armes
  • Action Guns
  • Guns & Ammo
  • American Handgunner
  • SWAT Magazine
  • Diana Armi
  • Armi & Tiro

External linksEdit


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