Bergmann’s MP35 Submachine Gun: It Feeds From the Wrong Side

Guns in this video: Pre-War MP35 and wartime MP35/1

The MP35 submachine gun was designed by Theodore Emil Bergmann, the son of the Theodore Bergmann who had manufactured the turn of the century line of Bergmann pistols. Unlike his father, Emil was a firearms designer, and not just a manufacturer. This design was submitted for German military testing in the early 1930s, as the German military began to seriously look for a new SMG. They were initially known as the BMP-32 and BMK-32 (Bergmann Maschinen Pistole and Karabiner; there was both a short barrel and a long barrel version made), and they were produced by Schutz & Larsen of Denmark. In 1934, production moved to the Walther company as the MP34 and MP35, and a number of commercial and international military sales were made, although the German military did not adopt them.

Once World War Two broke out, Walther production capacity was fully occupied with making military arms, and so a license was granted to the Junkers & Ruh company to produce MP35 submachine guns for non-military buyers. These included police units as well as the SS, which was forced to acquire arms from outside the standard Wehrmacht production channels.

Mechanically, the MP35 has a number of interesting features. Most obviously, it feeds from the right side and ejects out the left – virtually all other submachine guns with side-mounted magazines feed from the left. There is no documentation suggesting why Bergmann made this decision, but it was probably due to a different theory of how to most efficiently operate the gun. The MP35 also sort of has a progressive trigger. Firing semiautomatic shots is done by simply pulling the trigger. Firing in fully automatic requires depressing the second lever at the bottom of the trigger, which then allows the trigger to be pulled farther back and full auto fire results. Lastly, the charging handle is set up to replicate the manual of arms of a Mauser bolt action rifle (it is similar in this way to the Mauser G41). While somewhat awkward to use, this does have the benefit of removing the need for an open charging handle slot in the side of the receiver where dirt might enter the action.



    • I don’t know, but remember that the SS were technically political police (also partially responsible for state-sponsored terrorism)! Bergmann was certainly catering to right-handed people who preferred not to change the drill book just to accommodate a new pistol-caliber automatic weapon.

      Let’s think about it. The left hand is holding the MP-35 at the stock almost all the time whenever the user isn’t on a long march, whether during normal combat readiness phase, shooting-at-hostile-partisans/bank-robbers-phase, and during reloading time. It stands to reason that the stock and shroud made the MP-35 muzzle-heavy, so holding it with the right hand at the semi-pistol grip alone (without the left hand at the stock) isn’t very comfortable. And most European police prior to the Great Depression were NOT trained on automatic weapons. They were issued bolt-action rifles, small caliber semiautomatic pistols, and revolvers along with their truncheons. Semiautomatic Beretta carbines were present in Italy, but elsewhere the usual police did NOT have such items.

      Did I mess up or miss anything?

      • Cherndog: You are a the first person to touch on a subject that has always been dear to me, that is, personality profiling when selecting police officers. I have said it for years that the Police selection trends to linear thinkers making each generation of police officer just a little more rigid in thought-processes. I am sure it will not go over well, though, this kind of thinking makes people nervous.

  1. Interesting firing pin design. Technically it fires from an open bolt, but the firing pin is NOT fixed. The ATF doesn’t like open bolt semi-autos with a fixed firing pin.

    Do you suppose this would be legally acceptable in semi-auto design and have other weapons ever used anything like this been before?

  2. The pivoted lever that acts on the firing pin is similar to earlier Thompsons. It actually accelerates the firing pin forward in relation to the bolt to make ignition energy higher. Open-bolt fixed-firing pin guns depend on high bolt velocity to set off the primers, and if the gun gets dirty or the recoil spring weakens it can cause problems.
    On the down side the accelerator system requires more parts and tighter tolerances to work correctly.
    Nice job again Ian,
    Thanks much!

  3. “It Feeds From the Wrong Side”
    Herr Bergmann probably would say that other sub-machine guns feed from wrong side.
    You can download advert (in Deutsch) for Bergmann from here:
    just click link under Bergmann-Maschinen-Pistole Modell 1932.djvu
    Title page name this weapon as Kleinmaschinenwaffe, it explain advantage of having magazine sticking to right in point 7 of advantages (Magazinwechsel), it also points similarity to Gewehr 98 – beyond handle it is also safety. It also state that magazine can be easily loaded even without tool.
    Following technical data are given:
    -weapon itself: 4 kg
    -empty magazine: 250 g
    -magazine with 32 cartridge, caliber 9 mm: 634 g
    Weapon length (200 mm barrel): 820 mm
    Available barrel length: 200 and 320 mm
    Sight: from 50 to 1000 m
    Theoretic Rate-Of-Fire: ~ 700 – 800 rpm
    Practical Rate-Of-Fire, full-auto with magazine changing: ~ 350 – 400 rpm
    Practical Rate-Of-Fire, single with magazine changing: ~ 60 – 65 rpm
    Munition*: Parabellum Fullmetaljacketed bullet, cal. 9 mm
    Muzzle velocity with Parabellum-cartridge: ~327 m/s
    Muzzle energy with Parabellum-cartridge: ~ 43 mkg
    * also available: Bergmann 9 mm [that is cartridge now known as 9 mm Largo], Mauser 7,63 mm, Browning 9 mm lg. [that is 9×20 SR Browning Long] Colt 0,45.

      • I’m not sure about “mass produced” but you are right, certainly about the sheer expense and overcomplication. I do believe that when these Swiss toggle-locked SMGs were aired here at Forgotten Weapons previously there was mention made that they were reserved for use in fortresses by fortress/festung troops. The Swiss rather more sensibly used Hispano-Suiza produced copies of the Suomi konepistooli m/31. Somewhere online I got to watch an old Cold War-era training film where the “home team” [go Switzerland!] had the 1918 style helmets (also used by Argentina, and quite close to a U.S. prototype for WWI), the alpenflage camo uniforms, and the huge Stgw. 57s with all the trimmings. Meanwhile the “away team” appeared to be a thinly veiled ersatz Warsaw Pact: sporting odd coveralls in lieu of uniforms per se, and wearing the brand spanking new 1971-style steel helmet, and carrying Hispano-Suiza/Suomi SMGs!

    • Something odd with the muzzle velocity. 327 m/s is subsonic and less than the quoted numbers for Beretta MAB 18 (in 9mm Glisenti) I have seen. Definitely not a standard pressure 9mm Parabellum, or the MV measurement is way off. Perhaps it was originally 372 m/s and somebody mixed up the last two digits.

    • Remnant of pre-war production. Instead of updating the expensive basic design, they shut down production completely and probably started to produce something else.

      Similarly the M/31 Suomi was produced with a tangent side to the end. Simplified version with a shorter barrel, three position flip-up sights and other small simplifications was developed in 1942, but they did not reduce the production costs enough to justify disruption of production in 1942. Instead in 1944 it was decided to switch production over to the much cheaper M/44 SMG (modified copy of PPS-43 in 9×19mm) completely, but end of the war came first.

  4. This appears to me like cleverly designed gun and on several levels.

    First level: magazine location – excellent idea. Right hand/arm is in 90% of cases the strong one; let it then do all the important functions. If you hand is off trigger you are completely safe changing magazine and cannot screw up even if you fumbled. Further, if you take cover (as right handed) behind left corner, you cannot, upon advance snag with magazine on an obstacle.

    Second level: charging handle – again, excellent idea.
    Third level: inadvertent bolt safety – worth of medal!
    This designer knew what he was doing, as opposed to Sten and many others.

    • Good that you’ve noticed the dexterity ergonomics. The MP-35 was designed for right-handed people trained to use bolt-action rifles. This infers that most of the operations are right-handed (loading, charging, and operation of safety catch). And as you said, changing the magazine does NOT risk a twitchy trigger finger setting off the first round once the new magazine is inserted, unlike some cases with the Sten which does left-handed reloads (not a good idea to do under combat stress). With the charging handle inserted at the rear instead of through a slot, fat chance of mud getting into the works. Very little retraining is required, making this particular sub-machine gun okay with rifle-oriented police.

      Did I miss anything?

      • You are spot on. I am glad to have here someone who thinks alike.
        Besides, holding any weapon by magazine is not wise since it may affect feeding (many mags are wiggly).

    • “This designer knew what he was doing, as opposed to Sten and many others.”
      STEN was answer to totally different requirement – ability to produce it fast and cheaply, was much more important.

      • Paratrooper Gabchik could tell you something about it…. he should have gotten himself an MP40; they were available from resistance.

        • If you want to compare to British sub-machine gun, I would say comparison with Lanchester Mk.I would be more fair. I agree that STEN that have its disadvantages, but I want to note that it should be remembered that STEN was developed as fast as possible – Shepard and Turpin have not years for refining their sub-machine gun, also sub-machine gun was something new at that time in British forces, so they can’t have users opinion unlike Bergmann, which could benefit from experiences of MP 18 users. Also at that time 9×19 cartridge was neither yet “familiarized” by British forces nor producers.

          • Lancaster? No way. Where do you see 2 lbs of Naval brass on Bergmann? Besides, British small arms excel only if they are of foreign origin.

          • Webley revolvers? (Debatable, yes, but so is almost everything). Sterling SMG? Vickers HMG? (yes, based on the Maxim, but greatly improved)

          • Lanchester (sub-machine gun) not Lancaster (4-engine bomber aeroplane).
            Both Lanchester and Bergmann were made to high (“pre-war”) standard of finish, as well wooden rifle-like stocks.

    • “This designer knew what he was doing, as opposed to Sten and many others.”
      I am wondering if 32 rounds can be loaded as easily as advert claim, without usage of any tool? If true that would be advantage over STEN’s 32 round magazine which need quite big force when loading 32nd round.

  5. Another possible reason for right-side magazine: the user isn’t tempted to hold onto the magazine with his left hand. Holding by the magazine can cause feed problems in some guns.

    • That much is true for the Sten and the MP-40. And the magazine should not be a grip in the first place. Holding onto the magazine well is a better idea, but who would think about that during a fight?

      • “who would think about that during a fight?”
        Probably simplest solution is best here – make grip, so you don’t have to use magazine housing in its role – examples are French MAT-49 and Argentinian MEMS M-67

  6. To feed the gun from the right makes sense. If you are right-handed, and you are shouldering the weapon, to push the magazine into the receiver far ahead of the hand that holds the trigger means that you have a bad leverage to keep the weapon in line, and you are working with the wrong hand.
    Instead, if you insert the magazine with your right hand, you are working with the most able hand, and you are pushing directly towards the left hand, so with no leverage at all.

  7. Some Brazilian state para-police forces adopted these. I think some were even used during the repression of “cangaçeiro” bandits like the notorious Lampião and his band in the 1930s. I don’t know about the Brazilian armed forces, however. Certainly the Luger pistol was in use. My understanding is that Portugal adopted the Steyr-Solothurn in 7.63mm Luger caliber.

  8. Which direction to stick the magazine in from was a major debate in the early days of box magazine design that continued into the early automatic era.

    Early on, top-mounted magazines, often at an angle, were favored to give the spring a gravity assist. Some, like the Mannlicher M.82, dispensed with the spring and relied on a hopper-type feed as seen on the Hotchkiss revolving cannon of the time.

    Later on, such experimental arms as the Madsen automatic rifle, the Winchester machine rifle, and the Pedersen Device had top-mounted magazines, with the Winchester’s and the Pedersen’s canted over 45 degrees to clear the sights. Top-mounted box magazines were to become standard on LMGs in the Twenties and Thirties, and persisted on some designs (Stoner 63) into the 1960s.

    The side-mounted magazine on the MP-18 was probably adopted because the Trommelmagazine 08/13 it was designed around was a PITA to deal with hanging down from a P.08, even with the stock attached. On the firestep of a trench it would have been a major handicap in that position. Also, sticking it out the left side meant that the “snail” part was above the straight part, which might have helped feeding a bit.

    The other major motivation for side-mounted magazines was that prone firing with one sticking straight down is an even bigger pain in the backside, as well as giving you a fair chance to get your head blown off by being up too far. German soldiers tended to have some pithy things to say about this attribute of the MP40 and MKb families, especially the Sturmgewehre.

    The Australian Owen SMG’s top-mounted magazine seemed to solve most of the problems, well enough that its replacement, the X3/F1 SMG, retained that feature on a gun that was otherwise mostly a Sterling (aka Patchett aka “stamped-metal Lanchester/MP-28 clone”). The one objection was that the magazine could give away your position in concealment, an attribute of LMGS with similar setups as well. (Spotting the Japanese LMG gunner by the magazine of his Type 99 was SOP with Allied forces in the PTO.)

    Probably the best, if most complex, solution was that of the Canadian Small Arms Ltd. Rosciszewski Model 2 experimental SMG of 1945;

    It used a magazine and feed system very similar in principle, if not exact setup, to the modern-day FN P-90.

    One problem with it apparently was that people used to conventional SMGS would try to insert the magazine up through the (solid) forward grip.

    Another was that they would pull back on the tab ahead of the trigger guard, assuming it was a Garand-type safety; it was actually the self-sprung magazine catch, and they’d end up dropping the magazine.

    It would be accurate to say that the “best” arrangement for an auto-weapon magazine remains to be discovered. Something like the Calico magazine, perhaps inserted on the underside of a fixed stock on something like the trendy “bullpup” arrangement, might be the optimum solution.

    If nothing else, it would be out of the way, and wouldn’t make the weapon nose-heavy, or cause it to “list” to one side or the other.



    • Interesting solution of sticking magazine might be found in ZB47 sub-machine, here is, Czech-language, manual:
      don’t bother if you don’t know – solution will be clear just from drawings, just see 8th page of pdf for general layout and 14th page for more detailed explanation of feed mechanism. Notice that magazine capacity was 72 round.
      Technical data (excerpt from 26th page of pdf):
      Caliber 9mm, capacity 72
      Mass of weapon (without magazine and without sling): 3 300 g
      Length: 740 mm
      Barrel length: 265 mm
      Magazine mass, empty: 360 g
      Magazine mass, full: 1200 g
      Cartridge: 9×19
      Rate-of-Fire: 550 rpm
      BTW: Even if you don’t know Czech language, I suggest to look at this page as it is illustration-rich

    • “Something like the Calico magazine”
      Some helical-magazine sub-machine guns were developed in Russia in 1990s:
      ПП-19 «Бизон» (PP-19 Bison), helical magazine holding 64 or 53 depending on cartridge (64 – for 9×18, 9×17, 9×19; 53 – for 7,62×25), it is no longer in production as it was replaced by box-magazine variant ПП-19-01 «Витязь» – this is 9×19 only weapon with box (“banana”) magazine for 35 rounds
      ПП-90М1 which feeds either from 64 round helical magazine or 32 round box (adapter is required for usage with box magazine):

    • ““best” arrangement for an auto-weapon magazine remains to be discovered.”
      Or maybe just something ergonomic-wise like Beretta M12, but with shorter and fatter several-column magazine, something like that 50-round magazine for Kpist m/37-39, but shorter.

  9. I had seen the curious Holek prototype with an über-long magazineloaded into the underside, with the reciprocating bolt operating a rotating lever to extract the 9mm cartridges and flip them, porpoise like into the chamber, but for whatever reason, I failed to put it together with the Rosciszewski prototype? My confusion! So the magazine goes into the underside, yes? I wonder how it was both designers came up with the same idea at about the same time, more or less.

    I still think the Owen and F1 SMGs were onto something… I do believe that the Russians and the Chinese have worked with helical Calico-type magazines… “Bizon” SMG prototypes and so on.

    And of course, there is always the Czech samopal CZ247 SMG used in Bolivia and Biafra and not much of anyplace else where the user could operate it from the prone position like the Sten, MP18,1, MP28, naranjero and its copy, the Lanchester, etc. etc., or like the German MP38/40 and very, very many others, all depending on circumstances and tactical vagaries… Perhaps a third position for the magazine could have been contrived by an engineer!

  10. “best” arrangement for an auto-weapon magazine remains to be discovered.”
    What about rotating magazine housing like in CZ 247 allowing choice between magazine sticking down and magazine sticking left:
    Possibly with modern technology it might be done with all 4 directions, but without needed to rotate more than 90° – there would be 2 magazine well – one would become “true” magazine well after insertion, second would become ejection port.

  11. Could someone explain how the safety works? Does it lock the bolt both when open, or closed or either Can it be cocked with the safety on? Good location, I think: finger on trigger, left thumb unsafes the gun. Are there user accounts published?

    • Timothy J. Mullin, _The Fighting Submachine Gun, Machine Pistol, and Shotgun: A Hands-On Evaluation_ (Boulder, 1990), pp. 80-2.

      Pros: magazine, ability to fire from prone without difficulty, very well made, action sealed from elements by use of non-reciprocating bolt handle. accurate, with repeated gong hits at fully 300 yards.
      Cons: Heavy, disliked the safety on the left side, somewhat ill-balanced.

      Succinctly: MP40<MP35, or, MP35=Suomi kp/31.

  12. Saw two of these last night watching a special theater showing of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Also used an MP18 I.

    Sort of makes up for the anachronistic MP40s.

    • The 2008 Indiana Jones movie Crystal Skull featuring Transformers actor Shia LaBeouf flash-forwards the time setting to the late 1950s Cold War era where only the Soviets have changed over to assault rifles while the Western countries were still in the experimental phase such as the CEAM-1950 made in France.

  13. Definitely designed for shooting off Motorcycles of the period with their long angled back steering handles. How do I know this? Well….I don’t really, I am just making it up. Just looks like something the bizarre Germans would think about.

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