Maschinengewehr des Standshützen Hellriegel: A WW1 Phantom

I have gotten quite a lot of questions about this experimental Austrian machine gun or submachine gun since it was included in the Battlefield One computer game. Unfortunately, the sum total of information we have on this weapon is three photographs found in an Austrian archive. Extrapolating from those photos, we can tell that it was a water-cooled, pistol caliber weapon fed by both stick magazines and drums. To the best of my knowledge, no example survives, as the weapon never went beyond an initial firing trial. For more information, I recommend Matthew Moss’s excellent article at HistoricalFirearms.info.

44 Comments

  1. It may not necessarily be the case that this gun did not work.

    Clearly, the prototype was given a trial by the Austro-Hungarian authorities. However, it was designed by a reservist who probably had no pull, so it was probably tested and then forgotten.

    It seems like a pretty decent and simple design, with little to go wrong. However, it was clearly meant to be used more like an LMG than an SMG, hence the water cooled jacket and 160 round drum magazine. The authorities might just not have seen a pistol calibre weapon as being suitable for this task, and had no other doctrinal need for an SMG, since the concept simply did not exist.

    As an aside, I seem to remember that the barrels for Vickers guns had to be sealed around the water jacket by asbestos string. I doubt that is available nowadays, so what do Vickers and Maxim owners use instead?

    • >As an aside, I seem to remember that the barrels for Vickers guns had to be sealed around the water jacket by asbestos >string. I doubt that is available nowadays, so what do Vickers and Maxim owners use instead?

      You could probably find a high-temperature O-ring to fit these days.

      • I think so, there are new materials for O-rings which are heat resisting. I also remember asbestos string (wick) used as pacing for valves.

        • I guess they would have to use something like that nowadays, as I cannot imagine many suppliers still carry asbestos string!

          • Door gaskets for a wood stove. Asbestos or not, very heat resistant, roughly 1/2 inch in diameter and loosely woven for easy reweaving.

    • I see no reason as to why a blowback 9x23mm open bolt gun wouldn’t work, it’s bolt looks fat enough if short… Alternatively, it could work for- But was it worth it – Water cooled pistol calibre lmg, or an smg which wasn’t as good or as available as an mp18 if they had invented them by then.

      What year do folk think this is from, assuming it isn’t the first smg ever invented. 1917? Or?

  2. The photo of it being shot from a prone position seems to show the drum in a cradle. The cradle possibly attaches to the gun. My gut feeling is that they must have made several. There seems to be an awful lot of accessories for a single sample. Maybe somewhere in a dusty barn in Austria…

    • I don’t think the feed chute would bend enough to allow you to load it if as inferred below; you have to side it straight back/forward to load/unload it, which seems likely. So if you could attach the cradle to the gun I assume you’d have to do it after you loaded, and detach it to unload.

  3. Heh, one of my pictures was used in this video.

    Personally, I’m beginning to wonder whether this wasn’t just some proof-of-concept design rather than a functional prototype. Obviously there’s no actual documented information on this weapon, but judging from the pictures, the design doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. I’m intrigued as to how the feeding chute would’ve worked, and it seems to link directly into the barrel rather than any kind of actual receiver. Also, those stick mags look a bit off.

    It seems like this was an early concept at scaling down a machine gun into a man-portable weapon, but whether or not it was actually successfully put into practice is another matter.

    Either way, the Italians had the right idea.

    • “this wasn’t just some proof-of-concept design rather than a functional prototype.”
      Looking at magazine on photo, I think might be also experiment in area of magazine development, stick magazine seems to have tactile indicator of how many ammunition remained inside, circular magazine seems to be testing of feasibility of high-capacity magazine. another stick magazine seems to lack such indicator, might be crafted to compare reliability with first stick.
      But then question is why they made special weapon for that?

      • One mag is on the left side, the other (although obscured by the sling shadow) seems to be on the right. No guarantee both sides are the same. I assumed the nub was was a loading aid. Friction may have been quite high in the drum, but who knows?

          • You may be right, but I would say mostly flat with a slight gap near the top. If the mag had no nub, or a smaller nub it might still be the same mag, just harder to load. The boards on the table seem wide and are at least 50/50 on being cupped up at the edges considering which way the grain runs.

  4. The flanges on the tops of the magazines and the feed chute coupled with the odd shape of the lower rear of the water jacket suggest to me that the feed devices were raised up and then pulled back to lock in place. There is a shiny bit on the back of the water jacket which could serve as the latch, to prevent the mag from moving forward during feeding.

    If the rear of the chamber starts in front of the magazine, then the bolt extends through the circular face on the receiver when the gun is in battery.

    Pure speculation, of course, but I find it amusing.

    • I also think the mags are probably “pulled back to lock in place” like you, as both the feed chute for the drum and box mags appear to have two rails extending outwards at the top of each. I imagine this is in order to side them backwards into corresponding grooves for said rails in the magwell to load.

      To unload then; you must slide them forwards, I think theres room for the box/feed chute to fit between the rear of the water jacket and the front of the mag well.

      But I think the “shiny bit on the back of the water jacket which could serve as the latch, to prevent the mag from moving forward during feeding” is actually a little “clip” well… A rotating piece attached by a pin so it can pivot above/left and to the front of the mag well. In other words the shiny thing isn’t actually attached to the water jacket.

      The “shiny thing” is like a (door knob) that may attached to a plate via a pivot, to block the path of the box mag/feed chute from coming out of said rails when rotated in front of it. It would perhaps sit at the front of the box mags rail which is wider than the mag; the part of the mag above this being inline with bolt.

      Somewhat confusingly the box mag on the table which may simply simply be showing the closed side of the open sided one shown attached to the gun, may have a (door knob) on it- shiny thing: At it’s front towards to top, and if the table is level this mag would likely be raised off the table by the protruding follower (thumb engaging piece to depress the mag spring) but it isn’t… Different mag design perhaps? If so, I don’t see how that would work as per above.

      The drums feed chute has it’s own clip, on one side which may engage with the two sort of divots that seem visable on the mag wells (which is offset slightly to the right I think I.e. The box mag wouldn’t be vertical if inserted) I reckon you can see this actually in the photo of the guy aiming the gun.

      Is the water jacket covered with a sleeve “what are the little holes around its edges at the ends, maybe they are spot welds” and is that interestingly modern looking foregrip leather “rolled up” maybe even part of the sling, seems to be threaded through sections which could facilitate this attached to the jacket.

      You can see the springs behind the bolt I think on the piccie led on a table. The possible mag release (switch) I alluded to above seems visable on the aiming piccie as a separate piece but, on the table piece it almost looks… Well it kind of doesn’t seem separate from the receiver.

      So there would be two recoil springs that would sit around guide rods which themselves sit inside the two protruding end caps visable at the rear of the weapon. These stuck me as familiar, but I can’t find the gun I was thinking about single Villa Perosa is it, well it wasn’t. It then struck me I have played Battlefield one, once- Maybe I thought of that, although I then thought I identified one gun… Which I thought was this, but actually I may have explained some info about the Mauser Seblestader to the owner of the game and remarked I didn’t know what this I.e. That SMG was, can’t remember.

      Smgs have been made with bipods, this hasn’t one, but it’s drum mag not being attached to gun suggests a role envisaged for more of a lmg role… Like bipod smgs… Then you could use it as an smg with the box mag. Maybe the water jacket could be removed in this role, I am leaning towards this being a model, a concept, perhaps a none firing one due to the unexplained differences in the photographs in my opinion… If it did fire it would appear to be in 9x23mm because the mag looks wider than 9×19, the receiver is much fatter than usual so the bolt could gain mass via that even with what appears to be a short amount of travel enabled by said spring layout.

      • Propaganda/or tactical ploy idea… Suggest to your enemy you have “advanced tech” so, logically will act in such away with it E.g. Storm troop lark, when actually you have no such thing and aren’t going to dive into anyones trenches anymore than now.

          • “was the first SMG but nobody knew what that meant at the time.”
            Term SMG was coined, if I am not mistaken, by Thompson, designer of Thompson sub-machine gun, however I would happy if someone could prove (or deny) that.

      • Good points, I also saw the shiny “door knob” on the front of the magazine, but the dark halo around it led me to believe it was merely a feature of a knot. But then again???

  5. “did not work”: not sure, we are talking about the austro hungarian empire here. a very bureaucratic antiquated administration. there was the Burstyn tank, that was not developed (for good reasons maybe) which ended up like this lmg. if you follow C&Rsenal you know how the austrians worked, and it could very well be that indeed this man was just to low in the hierarchy to achieve his goal. i am also surprised that the whole systems looks so polished with a lot of accessoires. not your typical experimental mg.

  6. The two protusions at the back of the action are probably housings for the springs. They look rather small.
    The bolt travel also looks very short compared to any 9mm simple blowback SMG.
    At least there seems to be enough room for a bolt of sufficient mass.
    Maybe they couldn’t make it work reliably and/or at a sensible fire-rate. (didn’t got the physics right)

    • “At least there seems to be enough room for a bolt of sufficient mass.”
      What is intriguing for me is actual cartridge used? Linked article suggest 9×23 Steyr, but at time Austria-Hungary used militarily also other cartridge, namely 8 mm Steyr for Repetierpistole M.7 and 7,65 mm Frommer (7,65 mm Browning [.32 Auto] with heavier powder charge) for Frommer Stop. Bot these cartridge were weaker and smaller than 9×23 Steyr, reason to use it might be one of following:
      – to allow carrying more cartridges by soldier
      – to make recoil smaller and thus more controllable

    • Having two springs gives you more area to work with if you wanted to go hammer or striker fired, as opposed to an open bolt. What is between the two spring housings on the rear endcap? A safety?

      • To me that appears to be like a rectangular block, with a hole drilled though it, which has then been cut along one side revealing a rail inside of it… Or a square, bar within it.

        If the springs guides go through the end cap, you can’t unscrew the end cap without removing the springs first… Maybe the end cap doesn’t unscrew, and the middle thing is a disassembly piece… Looks big for a safety and arkward. The stock seems scalloped for the cap to be removed.

        • Mind you the springs end caps look different from the end cap I.e. Like they may unscrew from it. In which case, you could unscrew the end cap… The bolt travel looks short, would a threaded end cap be ok as a stop… Don’t think it would be a selector switch, this is quite early. The Mp18 didn’t have a selector switch did it, did it? Did it even have a safety.

          Drop safety, in some form assuming it was open bolt. It doesn’t have a bolt handle catch thing, to stop it going forward.

          • Well here are two dumb plans for removing the end cap. Remove the bolt handle and unscrew the end cap turning the bolt inside the receiver along with the end cap. At the front of the spring guides there are rings that seem to have projections on them. Turning them 90 degrees could disconnect latches inside the receiver allowing the end cap to pull off, or be shot off by spring pressure.

          • Well being shot off sounds sub optimal, do you have another design I like your work so far; it vill kill ze Englisher piggy doggy. But…

          • I meant shot off in the sense “It is under spring pressure, so control it or it may go flying across the room.” Whatever holds the endcap on must be reasonably solid considering the mass of the bolt which is why I thought my plans were dumb. But hey, there is the other side of the gun that isn’t seen. Something holds it on.

            Ze Englisher piggy doggies might be safe for a while, the Russians might be on the Austrians minds.

          • The Mp18 had a threaded end cap, that was secured by a latch in a pivoting design. Therefore… Perhaps a threaded cap open like that wouldn’t be sufficient.. Thus the square bolt, must run through the actual bolt and be attached to the receiver above the breach, for example, then you slot the bolt end cap over it and bolt it on somehow with the rectangular thing between the springs.

            Don’t know. I do think this could be the forgotten origin of the Smg though.

  7. “recommend Matthew Moss’s excellent article at HistoricalFirearms.info.”
    Says: dated 10.1915 (presumably October 1915)
    Does their clothes match temperature of that part of year? For me it is looks to be warmer month, but I might be wrong.
    What could be said from uniform analysis? Man holding gun has paroli with three stars and gallon, this would be Feldwebel or maybe Stabsfeldwebel
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rank_insignia_of_the_Austro-Hungarian_armed_forces

    Regarding weapon itself I think it might be designed to be aviation magazine, with little payload of then used flying machines it would make sense. Support of magazine can be provided easily in that application. With introducing of proper (rifle-caliber) machine gun in that role demand for that weapon vanished. Water-cooling looks somewhat peculiar choice for aviation weapon, but it might be caused by thinking inertia (machine gun MUST have water cooling).

    What is for me mind-boggling is actual Rate-of-Fire of that weapon, maybe it worked too well having unacceptable high Rate-of-Fire (in view of people then deciding of weapons development), keep in mind that Schwarzlose MG (then default machine-gun of Austria-Hungary) was not very rapid (even by 1914 standards) firing 400 rpm.

    BTW: Is that flag proper for 1915 Austrian weapon?

  8. Also, on the topic of phantom guns, try looking for information about the British MCEM-5, the German Fest FMP, and that clip-fed Maxim SMG of an unknown make.

    The Beningfield SIVA is another interesting case, because unlike the aforementioned examples, it’s quite well-documented. The kicker is that no-one knows how the thing actually operated because the designer was a bit of a paranoid nut.

    Then there’s also the oft-debated AKMSU, a weapon which may or may not actually exist. Personally I think it’s a hoax.

    • There are some indications on the Russian gun forums that clip fed Maxim SMG was pre-ww1 actually and is not “final weapon” but a working model for something. IIRC possibly designed by Schwartzlose. Can not now find a link to a discussion… 🙁

      • The potential Schwartzlose connection is very interesting because I remember hearing that the Maxim SMG may indeed have been Austrian in origin and apparently a very limited amount, about 100 or so, may have been sold by Poland to the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.

    • You Gerry, what does the name of this rifle mean? Chop, chop there’s a good fellow. “And ask another one, three.”

  9. Hellriegel isn’t a place. Swrike him Centurion. Wery wroughly. “Throw him to the ground Sir?” What? “Throw him to the ground Sir?” Oh yes, whrow him to the ground.

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