The “R9 Arms” Machine Pistol

By request of more than a few readers, I am doing a post on this – although there really isn’t much information I can contribute on the subject. These things got a lot of attention a few days ago when TFB ran a piece about them (which is where I snagged all the photos, BTW). The gun below is a machine pistol of a somewhat interesting type. What makes it unusual is that is was not actually made by the “R9 Arms Corp”, as there is no such company in the US. Instead, those slide markings are a decoy. Where this gun actually was made is anyone’s guess (I have heard Croatia and South Africa suggested, but nobody in public appears to have any evidence; just guesses).

"R9 Arms" machine pistol
“R9 Arms” machine pistol

One of these guns was recovered from a truck driver smuggling drugs into the Netherlands (back in 2012), and a bunch more have been recovered by police in Croatia. They appear to be an interesting hybrid – apparently pretty well made, and yet also entirely underground. Usually the black market guns of this type really look like they were cobbled together from gas pipe and caulking gun parts, but these things were definitely made in a machine shop. Apparently someone, somewhere has decided to make an entrepreneurial leap into high-end illegal gun manufacture. The “US” markings would seem to be a nice attempt to grab credibility, just like Spanish and Chinese pistols have often done with counterfeit or closely-duplicated markings.

Mechanically, the gun does seem to be of a reasonably clever design, too – and not a copy of anything else that I’m aware of. It’s chambered for 9x19mm, feeding from Uzi magazines, and is a simple blowback action. Rather than being striker fired like most modern pistols, it uses a shrouded hammer, and the hammer looks to have been deliberately made quite massive. This would add a bit of delay to the opening of the slide, as it would have to push back the mass of the hammer first before opening, thus adding inertia to the system. Here are some internal photos (swiped from TFB, as I mentioned above):

tumblr_nbpr5xKCG21qdzr9to3_r1_540
Looking down at the top of the frame, slide removed
tumblr_nbpr5xKCG21qdzr9to2_r1_540
Slide by itself. Note the half-round lug on the barrel – that locks around the takedown pin, keeping the barrel fixed in place. This is what tells us it is a blowback action.
Hammer, big and heavy. The sear surfaces appear to have been hand-filed…perhaps these are not fully interchangeable, or are being made on manual machines rather than CNCs?
Hammer and rear of the frame, seen from directly above. The wedge extending from the middle of the hammer is probably the ejector.

Pretty simple gun, really, and seems to be well thought out. And apparently, someone is able to make them cheaper than stolen or otherwise acquired existing guns can be purchased, somewhere. Interesting.

 

81 Comments

  1. I just think there’s no big black market in full-auto capable small machine guns. In the US the value of even the cheapest legal full auto is high enough that people have them securely locked up, and in Europe there’s no police or military force that carries them and would be a source for theft.
    The most interesting feature seems to me that the gun lacks a safety position on the selector. That’s a lot of trust into your customer’s trigger discipline.

    • I suspect theres a separate safety blocking the trigger (quess crossbolt in the hole above trigger), and the selector lever just select fire modes, an setup commonly found on bullpups.

    • Maybe they thought to just carry it unchambered and wrack it quickly to use. It’s not an uncommon way to carry a submachine gun and the slide gives a good big part to grab hold of rather than a fiddly charging handle.

    • I don’t think it’s a hammer now, that would explain the lack of a safety position on the selector, I think it’s like a Rak 63, this big hammer holds the slide back, and retards the rearward movement of the slide somewhat during firing.

      • That front lug on the underside of the slide is it’s stop I think, you can see a channel for it in the frame which ends with a upwards facing lug that would act as a stop.

        • And I think you can see a protruding lip on the underside of what would be the firing pin channel, that appears to fit inside the cut out in the middle of the hammer, which looks to be in the correct position to catch the slide and hold it open at that point.

  2. Interesting. Not so much for the design (though that is always of interest), but for contemplating the “market forces” behind this.

  3. This looks quite neat and pretty well made.

    Is the frame/slide steel or aluminium?

    The Croats have a lot of form for making black-market subguns though so probably it came from there. There are a lot of very dodgy “businessmen” from the Balkans who would have need of something full auto, more compact than an AK and more gangsta than a Makarov or PP. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these start to turn up in Syria at some point.

    Hey Ian, how about getting a semi-only one made as a Gun Lab project.

    • This is a hit and run gun for executions of rival gangsters. Perfect for the job! Here in Sweden the gangs (mafias) make what is called “rattlare” – simple blowback subguns from pipe and sheetmetal. This is just one very much more sophisticated version of that concept.

    • Looks like it. I gather from reading they were well set-up; long going family business. I like his confident look – my kind of man; doesn’t ask anyone what he can or cannot.

      • Not Croatian, formally Serbian (through I have Croatian and a lot of other relatives from various ethnic groups in Balkans)… 🙂

        semi-auto – poluautomatski.
        auto – automatski
        single (fire) – jedinacna (vatra), lit. single fire.
        single (shot rifle) – jednometna (puska) (lit. single bullet rifle)
        SMG – automat (Serbian), kratka strojnica (Croatian, lit. short machinegun, through just strojnica (which is also term for machinegun) is often used.
        Pistol – pistolj (S), samokres (C) – lit. self-firing. Most people in Croatia use pistolj however.

        Serbian has more foreign words in general (especially a lot of German and French technical terms) , while there was an attempt to eliminate foreign words from Croatian, especially during WW2 and 1990s. Some of those changes were accepted (generally where there was original word), some were laughed upon by population (since they were often quite clumsy). “Samokres” (pistol) being a good example, almost none will say samokres in common talk.

        • Thanks, hey it’s good being able to talk with folk around the world isn’t it. On a Croatian weapon that has the capacity for fully automatic fire, would they put poluautomatski i.e. P for semi auto, or J for Jedinacna i.e. Single, Bojan? In regards this SMG’s designation. I am just wondering why they didn’t put semi, rather than single in English. So I thought, perhaps it is something to do with the language used by it’s creator i.e. Maybe they use single in there own language rather than semi, so they used the English translation of there word for single. Which was a mistake in away, as in English we would probably have used semi.

          Anyone know if the Chinese use the term single to desribe semi auto fire?

          • For example on this Polish weapon,
            http://www.weapon.ge/index.php?sel=1&id=394&man=&coun=&cat=4&l=en
            a ZM Lucznik Mp06 has P C and Z as it’s selector switch designation…

            Actually you know, this guns slide is the bolt isn’t it, sort of like a Rak 63 most open bolt machine pistols put the bolt inside a receiver, p c and z presumably designate what in English denotes safe semi and full but in Polish so in regards using the term single as oppose semi that’s what I am alluding to, in Polish or whatever language if there designation is actually single in there own language this could identify the origin of this “R9”

          • Some European translations might be single also though, I don’t know yet.

            Single as oppose semi see, it would make sense to translate what you knew it as into English, even though in English we wouldn’t have written single.

          • The more I look at it, the more Chinese it looks, well that would be a laugh, mind you everything else is from there.

          • Bdb, very nice find!
            Our local weapons (liek Zastava M70 being best known example), have J marking semi-auto mode…
            Polu-automatski je used to describe action (like Polu-Automatska Puska aka PAP aka M59/66 SKS) , Jedinacna (paljba) is used to describe firing a gun in semi-auto mode.
            So someone well versed with weapons, but at poor to average knowledge of English would most likely put “Single” instead of most common “Semi”…

          • Zavasta, Yugoslav… Croatia then probably, all things considered. The Chinese wouldn’t risk selling SMG’s in Europe, although there’s private enterprise it’s still very state run, and I suspect you’d be in serious trouble for fecking with their monopoly.

        • Very interesting contribution Bojan!

          This is one of the strengts of this forum – the international contents, not just weaponry – but mainly readers. I had introduction to Serbo-Croatian, as they called that language at the time, many years ago. But I am sure I would not be able to hold on common conversation by now.

  4. In overall layout, it reminds me very much of the Polish wz.63 machine pistol in 9 x 18. Minus the folding shoulder stock, of course, and firing from a closed slide rather than the 63’s APR firing system. The space needed for the hammer and sear assembly on this one is taken up by the retarder/rate reducer on the 63.

    As for its “commercial” niche, I’d say it’s pretty obvious. There has been a sharp falloff in availability of compact full-auto weapons as various militaries have moved on to rifle-caliber replacements, and criminal groups (notably drug gangs) like full-auto hardware for the “image”. (Plus making up for lousy marksmanship.)

    The tactical niche of this gun is roughly that of the old Skorpion machine pistol, and everyone from the PLO to the Cali cartel loved that thing. Like it, this one is made to order for a drive-by, even on the back of a motor scooter.

    I expect to see a lot more of them around. In the hands of the ungodly, most likely, as Leslie Charteris would say.

    cheers

    eon

  5. So much for the belief that anything can be successfully banned. If people want something bad enough they’ll find a way to get it.

  6. I cannot say I am surprised at this, a blowback pistol or SMG is the easiest sort of improvised firearm to make, and machine tools are not exactly hard to some by. Gun banners in the USA may care to consider that the war on drugs has hardly led to an end to the drugs trade, and the sort of gun bans they would like in America would only lead to a profitable criminal trade in well made black market guns.

    I wonder if this piece is rifled? That is one of the hardest operations for a black market gun maker to perform, and most do not bother. At the ranges they are used, it usually does not matter too much.

  7. Reminds me of J. Jefferson Parker’s series of novels featuring LASD Deputy Charlie Hood. One continuing plot line was a former L.A. gun manufacturer secretly re-starting his manufacturing business to produce .32 machine pistols for a Mexican drug cartel.

    I’ll also point out the fine job Forgotten Weapons always does in giving credit for source material.

    • I LOVE those books – “LA Outlaws” is a classic, and the series turns into a pretty neat take on norteamericano magic realism.

  8. Well Made it is, with its Uzi Magazine, Uzi or Polish type Grip, heavy slide, fixed barrel, and easy dismantling arrangement. The filing marks on the Hammer look like some “final fettling” ( read Hand fitting) which usually occurs on Basic Milled Parts with traditional Machines.

    I can barely see what looks like a “Walther’ banner on the forward grip? is that correct? ( another “Bought in” part.)

    As to the Barrel being rifled, spare Barrels can be modified or Made up as required. A broaching tool can be used instead of old style “hook” rifling. Any good Toolmaker can make a short length Broaching tool.. it does not need a Beretta Multi-Broach machine to do pistol length Barrels ( PB uses one which makes five or ten M92 barrels at a time.)

    Nice article…will have to make a few as Movie Guns–Blank fire, no need for rifling, and I can use Modified Owen mags (as I do for Uzis (all Models)to increase fire volume. My Micro Uzi (FA) really rattles along with a 30 round Mag.

    Doc AV
    AV Ballistics Film Ordnance Services

    • that may in fact be the case, there appears to be two hooks on the back of the hammer, one for the trigger sear and one for the disconecter sear, so if you pushed the hammer over far enough you would move the trigger sear over to the other side and the disconecter sear would not be in line with the hammer and unable to catch the hammer thus facilitating Full Auto fire.

    • That makes more sense if it isn’t a hammer, if the selector switch pushed the “hammer” sideways it’s central groove wouldn’t catch on the wee nub that protrudes from the underside of the frame, which I think holds the slide back in the open bolt position for full auto.

        • The selector switch has a fair amount of movement in it though between single and auto, suggesting said amount of movement may have some mechanical function, one of the “hammers” hooks might engage with that other piece above it which has wear marks on it, it’s kind of rounded and looks to be attached to like a housing around said hammer thing, which when it was down if the hammer moved towards it, it may well be inline to catch it.

        • “the spring doesn’t seem to pivot…” Just a guess, but I don’t think the spring is actually attached to the hammer. For it to be compressed enough to give reliable ignition, the geometry seems wrong to have the hammer push it back. There appears to be a rectangular piece (with notched corners) beneath the hammer that slides front and back and is the actual attachment for the spring. The hammer pushes this piece straight back which in turn compresses the spring.

          • They’ve removed the selector switch on that photograph though, it might have dropped as a consequence by gravity.

            I honestly think it functions and is based on the Rak 63 now, I don’t think that thing is a hammer, I reckon it fires from a open bolt/slide.

  9. I personally would prefer a Glock 19C fully automatic as seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5T77oVIRcVg. I do remember that several (like maybe 15-20) years ago there were reports of a fully automatic machine pistol originating out of Poland if memory serves that never really caught on in the international market. The problem with most machine pistols is controlability, in that they ain’t got none! The best practice is 2-3 round bursts at most much like the Glock shown at the above site. But that being said, I sire would like to have one just to waste ammo with! And the intimidation factor would be out of sight! But the effectiveness would be questionable at best. And the erequired length of the magazine …..

  10. “…hammer big and heavy”… yes, it makes sense; it adds to blowback resistance. This would not be possible in slim profiled pistol.

    Well friends, what to think about it? Probably someone’s initiative outside of government approved and certified system. Some people out there have all kinds of capabilities and let’s hope just in form of this low yield device. Who needs to be certified to make arms, btw? It makes cash flow I suppose.

    • Just looking at it again…. and more in detail. I wish the hammer was also in cock position engaging sear and trigger bar made visible. All of main mechanism occupies small space behind mag well. This is one efficient design!

  11. In terms of manufacture, the frame and slide look like investment castings with final-stage machine finishing. Ruger began using this technique with the original Speed-Six and Police Service-Six .357 DA revolvers in the early 1970s, and it’s a very practical method for mass-production. Its use would imply a factory production line with fairly up-to-date assembly-line equipment and methods.

    The firing mechanism is similar to the vz.61 Skorpion, but the hammer acting as a delay to breech opening obviates the need for the separate rate reducer found in the Skorpion’s pistol grip (which would have nowhere to “live” in the Mini Uzi-like profile of this weapon). Also, a hammer that heavy propelled by a decently-powerful mainspring should set off even the hardest primers; this gun was meant to fire any 9 x 19mm that was handy.

    As Ian states, the “U.S.A.” mark is probably camouflage. If taken at face value, it could leave LEO hunting for a factory in CONUS that isn’t there. Then again, it could be a joking reference to the Union of Serbia and Armenia, too.(!)

    (During the 1947-48 Israeli War of Independence, the “Davidka” spigot mortars built by the Haganah in Jerusalem were marked USA for “Unserer Stickl Arbeit”- “Our Bit of Work” in Yiddish.)

    As for the barrel, a piece of 3/8″ nominal Schedule 80 seamless heavy gauge steel or stainless steel tubing (wall thickness 3.2mm, OD 17.5mm), with a chambering reamer run into it and a 9mm nominal rifling button driven through it, would probably suffice.

    cheers

    eon

    • “the “U.S.A.” mark is probably camouflage”
      Interesting fact:
      Faked trademark can be found also on ~9th century swords:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlfberht
      Blacksmiths (which doesn’t know alphabet) copy +VLFBERH+T inscription, sometimes with errors (+VLFBERHT+ for example) so users believed in high quality of swords.

      • That was interesting Daweo, there’s been a sword in the British library on display recently that had a “nonsensical” insription on it.

    • Or for a barrel gun drills(the bits) for a 9mm are readily available, as are the reamers. They can be used on almost any lathe. Once set up, converting bar stock into a piece of metal ready for rifling is considered an entry level task.

      A book by a guy named Hoffman(?) on how to make barrels is worth reading. It even covers how to make rifling buttons and the equipment to use it.

      The only craftsmanship task in making utility grade barrels is straighting them. The average guy is likely to break a few eggs learning it.

  12. Looks like the hammer spring strut would act as a cocking indicator too. There are some neat features in this weapon, too bad it’s pedigree and purpose are so dark…

    • Still finding details, is the barrel possibly screwed into the hood/chamber piece? Looks like the end of the barrel is crenelated for a wrench or socket? Is that possibly a FAL hammer spring?

      • This is very mysterious thing, that crenelation on the apparently muzzle attachment, that protects the threads for suppressor,
        is that for some special tool,
        or maybe some kind of simple gas diverting means of reducing the muzzle climb,
        or even purposedly made to augment the muzzle flash (scaring and blinding the shot victim that was aimed at close range)?
        just a speculation, but who knows, never seen anything like it on any other firearm

  13. The mag well looks like it is tack welded in place. An Allen-head bolt holds on the trigger guard. But, the fit and finish looks good.

    It would be interesting to do some hardness testing and spectrometer tests to see what type of steel and what the of heat treating it had.

    It looks too good to be a cheap gun for drug gangs. My wild guess is that some quasi-governmental group somewhere had a need for “sanitized” guns. Something that would not point back to any government. Crate fulls of the things for a coup or an uprising where agents in civilian clothes could use the machine pistols to great effect in hit and runs. But if one was captured, it would not point to the country of origin. Maybe there was a grand plan to use these, then the opportunity was lost and having nothing better to do with them they were sold to the black market.

  14. I read the books “Spooks” by a reporter in the 1970’s that investigated all sorts of governmental and corporate dodginess. One of the items he discussed was the setting up of a factory to make MAC 10/11’s in the Dominican republic which had an official shift and at night an unofficial shift, the unofficial shift would bring in extra materials to make SMG’s using the production equipment then clean everything up, reset the equipment and go home. Apparently there were a lot of Ingrams made after hours which had fake, duplicate or no serial numbers many of which did end up being supplied to CIA proxies world wide.

  15. Good grief. So much for gun politics. I suppose the only way to “really enforce” the gun ban is by “summary execution.” In other words, if the cops catch you shooting people with this during a drug raid, you die on the spot.

  16. Interesting find, looking forward to the rest of the story, if it’s ever known.

    Would that be NFA Class 3 legal as its apparently made in the ‘USA’?

    • No, as the receiver is post-1986 cutoff date under McClure-Volkmer.

      That said, it could probably be sold in the U.S. if the receiver were not included, but a program to 3D “print” one or CAM it were available separately.

      cheers

      eon

  17. After looking at it some more, it looks like maybe the fire control group is modular / detachable. Maybe it is held in place with a cross-pin in the frame. If true that could indicate that production was split up or the fire control group was subbed out. If the frame is a casting, using such an insert could reduce machining.

    The big question is, why not just whip up a batch of MAC’s? It looks like there was a need for these things and someone at the shop had a design they had wanted to try for a long time.

  18. South Africa has probably been mentioned because of the R designation, I think it’s more likely to be of European origin though given it turned up in Holland. Thinking it’s Chinese is probably down to it using dodgy labels i.e. inferering it’s from the U.S but I don’t think illegal smgs are one of there many exports. Croatians have made various domestically produced weapons, commercially and otherwise such as http://weapon.at.ua/photo/10-0-3340-3 and http://topguns.ru/ne-ot-horoshej-zhizni/?n=45
    They would probably make it look “Western” and they’ve come up with novel designs that Springfield XD for example, and the 20mm recoiless rifle amongst other things. If it was produced in the U.S it would probably have said semi rather than single, so perhaps that’s a nomenclature used in Croatia or single is a transliteration of whatever they do say. That’s a clue it is foreign though probably…

    • It says it’s probably from Croatia on TFB, because there’s lots been seized there. And it turned up here, with a Dutch lorry driver apparently – Well anyone trying to steal his diesel would have of been in for a shock.

    • Croatian “War of Liberation” of 1991 was apparently a heyday of freshly pawned, indigenous arms production. After territorial gains were made and war formally ended (partly due to NATO war on Serbia in 1999) the new industries (often just budding shops) had plenty of inertia to continue and this is logical and understandable.

      Thru this process company such as HS (Hrvatski Samokres) were born. Some were allowed to grow, others were suppressed. Guess what was the inhibiting factors while deciding future in either case. Connections, influence, money… what else? You can say – they “passed thru certification process” – sure. It is same world like anywhere else; that is also a by-product of social change.

      • I’m sure it was, so they’ll still be plenty of tools etc around. I once bought a Chinese machete in Africa that had “Made for children” etched on the blade from the factory, presumably it was a mistake due to translation and should have read not for children.

      • War in Croatia and Bosnia&Herzegovina ended in 1995, and NATO campaign in 1999 ended Serbian territorial expansion (for now, the idea is far from dead).

        “Thru this process company such as HS (Hrvatski Samokres) were born. Some were allowed to grow, others were suppressed”

        HS Produkt, former IM Metal,
        but you got that very right- out of nearly all croatian manufacturors, only they achieved fame and growth, imho thanks to the troubled PHP Pistol they made in solid numbers (about 5-6k) for the Army, or better said, to be awards for army veterans. Other companies had their own designs that were never adapted, after spending lots of money on research and production facilities (for example APS95 rifle from ARMA) leading to their bankrupt. Also, Ministry of Defence of the time was notorious for delay of payments to the domestic firms, probably as all the cash was going to the international (black) market arms sales.
        One of the competitors for the pistol were Vugrek brothers and their (supposedly extremely high quality) copy of cz-75, but they never got the contract, which infuriated them and turned to back markets.

  19. Looking at it some more, it looks like the hole behind the word “auto” might be for a wire shoulder stock. Whoever designed it, they must have had the design in their head for a long time and spent a lot of energy getting it just right. They are probably upset that they can not publicly take credit for their creation.

    The opposite side of the safety even has a place for a serial number. It would be interesting if they have sequential serial numbers or if they are random numbers.

    The verbiage for the selector is interesting, “single” would not likely show up on a US-made arm, more likely it would be “semi.” Not that having been made in the US is a remote possibility. Someone suggested that they are probably eastern European in origin and the US markings were to point in the wrong direction to slow down an investigation. But, the US has one agency to call (the ATF) about such things. It would seem that very quickly investigators could establish that lead as a dead end. A more promising tactic would have been to give it an origin from one of the more populous central or south American countries. Mexico for instance–they have produced arms before and it really could take a while to determine that there was no such arms manufacturer, and how to prove that they were not being produced by one of the cartels in Mexico? Or how about Koren markings, pointing to North Korea–I doubt their national police are quick to return phone calls from Western European detectives. What that could point to (unless “Made in USA” is as prestigious in gun making today as it was sixty or more years ago and is therefore a selling point) is a political situation where the US would likely complain about the intervention of a group or a country, where that intervention included using these arms in a coup or in a rash of assassinations, etc. They (the other group or country) could then indignantly point out that it was the US that was providing the weapons to the rebels / assassins / et al, the markings prove it! Even if it did not fool any neutral observer, it would provide plausible deny-ability. It goes with my pet theory that these were made by a state-sponsored arsenal for a coup or what have you, that never happened, and now they are dumped on the black market.

    • “Looking at it some more, it looks like the hole behind the word “auto” might be for a wire shoulder stock.”

      Looks more like the attachment point for single point sling, the whole upper slide is too short for wire shoulder stock, as the whole construction is like oversized pistol, unless they planned to use some kind of variation on UZI stock.

  20. Even before I got to the part about police finding some of these in Croatia, that seemed like a more likely source than South Africa to me.

  21. The whole construction looks very similar (on the outside and in the idea) to Zoraki 925 blank gun, that is supposedly fairly conversion-friendly, so maybe somebody had a thought, why buy these zamak thingies when we can make way better real-steel gun.

    The region where these were confiscated in the beginning of 2015 in Cro. was famous for similar designs in former 15-20 years, most notably by Vugrek bros.
    But since their ordeal (their old pops having heart attack and dying when the numerous police forces stormed their house and cracked the production in the beg. in 2000s, after the international EU police protests) they settled down.

    One in some legal business, and other (after exiting prison) had new troubles with law, trying recently to sell some kind of keychain .22lr covert gun, which is a far cry from these refined designs, so I don’t think they are stupid enough to build again these mystery guns by themselves in their workshop.

    The region also houses a fairly great number of small machinist shops that could potentially make these guns, if it is the source at all, which could be misleading preconclusion.

  22. I’m stealing this design and going into gun manufacture. If they’re making it illegally, that means they have no patents and no legal protection. PROFIT!

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