|Brügger & Thomet USW|
Every cop who is into guns (a lot aren’t) would probably be tickled to death to get a machine pistol of some sort and theoretically, they can. I mean, who wouldn’t? We all giggle and drool over full auto Glock conversion videos and itsy-bitsy submachine guns that look like a blast to shoot. But machine pistols are not quite practical for law enforcement or for anyone, really. For patrol officer/average gun owner purposes, these compromise class of weapons don’t lend much.
Range toys, for sure, but short of CQB combat what can you and I get out of it? Not much more than a street cop would. Civilians* and patrol cops face similar threats and situations, if the way the unfold and come up differ widely (and most people will only be in these situations when and where the world falls apart). Plus, no one seriously wants to holster a large, heavy monstrosity like a B&T USW on their hip. If danger is that likely and also likely enough to require a fight at a distance, get a rifle or don’t go there.
So what is a machine pistol? A machine pistol is a fully automatic handgun, generally intended to be fired one-handed and carried holstered. Shoulder stocks can be added, like the Mauser M1932 Schnellfeuer, the Mac-10, or on a Brügger & Thomet MP 9. The Glock 18 also has this compatibility. As the guns get larger, we cross over into submachine guns. I would define a submachine gun as a fully automatic weapon designed to be fired primarily from the shoulder and using pistol cartridges.
In the middle, we have large guns that aren’t pistols, but are too small to be your traditional submachine gun. Many have forward vertical grips. Here we have the B&T MP 9, Mac-10, Micro Uzi, MP-7, and the Škorpion vz. 61, to name a few. Now we have a cross-over problem with Personal Defense Weapons, PDWs. One of the original PDWs was the M1 carbine, designed to be a better weapon than an M1911A1 for rear-echelon troops and non-infantry combatants. None of these are great terms, so I’m going to define my own.
Machine pistol: fully automatic handgun—no stock, no foregrip
PDW: fully automatic capable—optional collapsing/folding stock, optional foregrip
Submachine gun: fully automatic capable—designed to be fired from the shoulder like a carbine
Carbine: long arm shorter than a rifle that fires a high-powered cartridge, either rifle caliber or greater than a pistol cartridge
The Glock 18 is every fanboy’s dream. Flip the switch and convert 33 rounds into noise at 1200 RPM (typical theoretical rate of fire for most semi-auto handguns). It’s actually fairly controllable too, if you can stand the ammunition waste. The Beretta 93R and the HK VP70 each had provision for three-round bursts. None are all that popular. Utility is one question and having such an efficient ammo-to-noise converter scares most people who are in charge of things like ordering ammunition. Smacking bystanders with bullets out of an out of control pistol typically isn’t well thought of by the public, politicians, and police chiefs either.
PDWs like the H&K MP-7 or the purpose-designed FN P90 are more ideal for police, but aren’t practical to wear on a belt (certainly not the P90). Some police officers, particularly motorcycle cops, carry MP-7s on their bikes in deference to a folding stock shotgun or compact AR, etc. Helicopter pilots in the Warsaw pact were known to carry the Czech Škorpions (or Stechkins, but those are true machine pistols) while police bodyguards often conceal Mini Uzis, Mac 10s, or cross-over MP-5Ks.
Police will carry submachine guns here and there, but often only on SWAT and more and more, those are being replaced by AR-15s. Even shotguns are being replaced by patrol rifles. It definitely can be said that police need an accurate bullet firing weapon. Police shotguns almost always fire slugs, but slugs don’t have quite the range or accuracy that a proper carbine or rifle will have. M1 carbines were once considered an ideal choice for police, given their less-threatening appearance among other characteristics, but much better choices are now on the market. Like the ubiquitous AR-15.
So what does this mean for the average gun owner and cop? Let’s look at practical scenarios for each.
Glock 18: Police officer gets ambushed on a traffic stop as he walks up to the car. Suspects are firing from behind the cover of their car. Short bursts of full-auto would work well here. Targets are generally confined and due to time constraints, the officer can fire approximately 2-4 times more rounds in full-auto than he can by pulling the trigger for each shot (best rate of fire for average shooter is around 300 RPM). Higher ROF means higher hit percentage, as long as the weapon is controlled. The return with automatic fire may disorient or demoralize the attackers. Same scenario (but different how’s and why’s) for a civilian.
MP-7: ATV rider gets set upon by a band of backwoods meth makers. Rider has no cover to safely escape on wheels, so he has to fight it out, but the distances are too long for a pistol shot. Stock, vertical foregrip, and red dot sight make it possible to fight back at 50-100 yards. Meanwhile, the cop shooting at bank robbers wishes he turned down the H&K experiment and had his 10.5” AR.
Submachine gun/pistol caliber carbine: Road trip when EMP/Godzilla strikes. As you are pushing your shopping cart along the highway, the couple who needs help turns out to be the vanguard of a gang of bandits. You shoot the couple and return fire with your Glock as you run for the ditch. Then you unlimber your Keltec SUB 2000 that conveniently shares mags with your Glocks. Now you can fight in the 50-100 yard range with just one type of ammo and magazine. More realistically, this is a good truck gun or for police departments that don’t want ARs or shotguns.
Neither weapon is perfect for what it needs to do, but is a compromise of some sort. An MP-7 makes a great weapon that can be holstered if need be. Pistol caliber carbines are excellent choices for civilians who don’t want to be burdened with a bunch of crap in their vehicle or want a contingency weapon if they don’t have a true rifle. Machine pistols are kind of iffy. The idea of a downed pilot holding off the enemy with bursts from his trusty wire stocked pistol and three 20 round magazines is a little more far-fetched. So I’d suppose that full-auto in these cases adds mostly confidence by having a little extra something up your sleeve.
Nothing can beat a rifle, but those are for when you know you’re expecting trouble. For cops, aside from perhaps rural deputies and highway patrolmen in very wild places, machine pistols aren’t good choices and anything other than a proper rifle is either out of place. PDW sized weapons are just compromises in virtually every case, so the gain from the compromise should better be worth it. In private hands, the pistol caliber carbine is the best choice. What are your thoughts?
*I know what you’re thinking and shut-up, I don’t care.