Kiraly 43M: Hungary’s Overpowered Submachine Gun

The 43M submachine gun was developed by Pal Kiraly, based on the MKMO and MKPS series of submachine guns he had worked on for SIG in Switzerland before returning to Hungary (we would go on to make the San Cristobal carbines for the Dominican Republic after WW2). The initial version of the gun was the 1939 39M, with a 3” longer barrel and fixed buttstock. This was adopted by the Hungarian military, but only ordered in small numbers (about 600), which led the FEG factory to delay production until they could get enough other orders to economically justify tooling up. That finally happened in 1942, and in the meantime Kiraly and the factory had nearly finished the improved and shortened 43M version.

Ultimately about 13,000 39M SMGs were made from 1942 to 1944, and about 5,000 43M SMGs in 1944. At that point Allied bombing ended production, and the tooling was eventually confiscated during Russian occupation of Hungary.

Mechanically the 43M (and 39M) are lever-delayed blowback actions, firing the 9x25mm Mauser Export cartridge – the most powerful submachine gun cartridge in use at the time. The 43M stock feels very flimsy and uncomfortable, and it folds under the action of the gun. In addition, the 40-round magazine folds forward into the stock (much like the SIG MK series guns) to make it a much more compact gun to transport. Note that the 39M and 43M use different magazines!

Thanks to the Institute of Military Technology for allowing me to have access to this magnificent piece and bring it to you!


  1. I know this weapon is overpowering and overkill for the intended users (platoon leaders) but at a distance it is nearly indistinguishable from an infantry rifle. And thus targeting the lieutenant is a bit more difficult, since he is not wearing lots of bling in the field! Or am I wrong?

  2. Is there any safety mechanism that would prevent the gun from firing if the bolt’s delay lever is not installed ?

  3. That huge bayonet might come in handy when FISHing (Fighting In Someone’s House) or if you have more bad guys than bullets …..

    • And there are more noncombatant uses for bayonets than you think. Nobody opens crates with bullets or cuts through underbrush with a grenade. Plus, the bayonet should serve as a quiet means of making enemy sentries disappear… I could be wrong.

      • “And there are more noncombatant uses for bayonets than you think.”
        When AK was introduced, no bayonet for it was adopted. When enlightened version was introduced (1953) bayonet 6Х2 was adopted:Х2
        though AK didn’t receive proper bayonet mount – instead 6Х2 has peculiar grip, so it is quite awkward to use as knife.

      • No, you’re not.

        Going back eighty years before the 43M, the biggest complaint everybody on both sides in the American Civil War had with their rifle-muskets (other than their not being breechloaders and/or repeating rifles) was that the standard epee’ bayonet was pretty much useless as a camp tool.

        However intimidating it looked on the business end of the rifle (and NB, bayonet wounds or kills were extremely rare), it was absolutely useless for the various plebeian but necessary chores around a camp, from cutting firewood to opening preserved-fruit cans, for which a strong, sharp, and preferably heavy fixed-blade sheath knife was utterly indispensable.

        One of my ancestors (1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry) wrote home to the folks to say that new recruits should equip themselves with a good strong sheath knife with at least a 6″ (15cm) blade, a pocketknife with a straight blade, pen blade, and can and bottle opener, and if possible a camper’s type knife/fork/spoon combination.

        He further stated that the 18″ (46cm), triangular-bladed epee’ bayonet for the Springfield Model 1861 .58 rifle Musket had exactly three practical uses in camp. As a candle holder, a roasting spit, or a tent peg.

        Not exactly what you need when you’re “roughing it”.

        The Hungarian Army at least used a sensible knife bayonet. You’d be amazed how many armies were still using epee’ pattern ones even during WW 2.



      • Cherndog the first word I knew for bayonet was poker because that’s what we used. It was years before I learned that object might have a different purpose than tending the fire.

  4. “most powerful submachine gun cartridge in use at the time”
    According to
    (…)the 39.M round is less powerful than the domestic pistol round [7,62×25], as with an equivalent barrel length (55-56 calibers), the 39.M barrel provides the bullet with 72.3 kgm of energy, while the domestic pistol bullet achieves 87.0 kgm, or 20.03% greater.

    From above linked site:
    (…)barrel length of 500 mm [of 39.M] is excessive(…)

  5. Sterling built a prototype LMG/ rifle heavily based on its SMG with a lever delayed bolt, in 7.62 NATO. I’m guessing they were inspired by this weapons bolt group, both being a simple tube body.

  6. This is extremely unusual and valued opportunity so see Kiralyi’s work prior to legendary San Cristobal carbine. The mechanism on this carbine-smg is on first glance different than the one employed on later carbine. Perhaps it was necessitated by more powerful 30 US carbine cartridge.

    In spite of some visual quirkiness, the designer had it done right.

  7. The 43M is less a submachine gun than a selective-fire carbine. Like the American M1 .30 Carbine, it bridged the gap between the true pistol-caliber SMG and the machine carbine (aka “assault rifle”) firing a true intermediate-power cartridge.

    Assuming it really was putting that 128 grain FMJ out the muzzle at 1,650 F/S, it was generating 773 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. By comparison, the standard U.S .30 Carbine load (110-grain FMJ at 1,975) generated 955 FPE.

    Either one would have retained energy at 200 meters of about 450 FPE plus, so they would be hitting as hard out there as a 9 x 19mm or .45 ACP SMG would at the muzzle.

    Considering the way the 43M folds up (just right for slipping into a drop case) and its hard-hitting power, it would have been nearly ideal as a paratroop weapon. Just like the M1A1 carbine.

    I can see why the Dominican army wanted Mr. Kiraly to design their carbine for them. He obviously knew what he was doing.



    • “bridged the gap between the true pistol-caliber SMG and the machine carbine (aka “assault rifle”)”
      Which true pistol-caliber SMG did Hungarian Army used when 39.M was introduced?

      • From all available sources, the answer seems to be…none. The Hungarian Army used the Madsen LMG before WW2, and the police may have made some use of the Erma MPE (which also chambered the 9 x 25mm Mauser export round), but the Kiraly Model 37 and 43M seem to have been the Army’s very first SMGs.



        • As Ian intimated in the sudden urgency in 1942…

          The Royal Hungarian Army of the Horthy regime was pretty roughly handled on the Eastern Front… Counter-partisan operations and so on forced a major rethink of infantry armament, and now it seemed important to have some SMGs. By 1944, Romania and FInland made separate peace agreements with the USSR, and Bulgaria, which had never declared war on Russia, but was a minor Axis power hiving off territory from its neighbors Yugoslavia, Greece… and even Romania, also belatedly switched sides. Some Romanian and Bulgarian troops participated in the Soviet offensives at least as far as Austria and the end of the war. To prevent Horthy from doing same, Otto Skorzeny, by then something of a Nazi fireman rushing from one conflagration to another, assisted German forces and the local Hunarian fascist Arrow Cross movement to overthrow the regime and install a pro-German regime. 1944 thus was when the large Jewish community was destroyed in the Holocaust, with very many being shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

          • “Grim reading.”
            Keep in mind that situation of Hungary in World War II was complicated. There is anecdotal story, that somewhere in South America Hungarian ambassador met ambassador of some South American country at party, they start to talk, soon South American ask:
            – What country you are representing?
            – Hungary
            – Sorry to ask, but where it is…?
            – In Europe
            – Ah, it is one of Slavic countries…
            – No, we are scions of Huns
            – It is republic or monarchy?
            – Kingdom
            – Can you say current king’s name?
            – We don’t have. Boss is admiral Horthy.
            – So you have great fleet
            – We don’t have. We don’t have access to sea.
            – Weird country, kingless kingdom, fleetless admiral. Have you any territorial claims?
            – Yes, against Romania
            – You are at war?
            – Not, we fight back to back with Romania, against Soviet Union
            – What territorial claims against Soviet Union have you?
            – None
            – Better we stop talking about Hungary

    • “machine carbine (…) firing a true intermediate-power cartridge.”
      Municion has entry about 7.65×40 Xpl Húngaro:
      with single example dated circa 1936, other name is 7.65×30 Xpl Hungarian for machine gun which imply it usage in smg-like weapon, though no weapon is named/described in text, or I don’t understand it fully.

        • You’ve got it, basically:
          It is a very rare cartridge with only 5 or 6 extant examples. One was disassembled and revealed 1930s era markings showing FÉG manufacture. The bullet weight is akin to the Norwegian Nagant revolvers, but appears too large to be used in a pistol. So, speculatively, it may have been a proposal for use in Kiraly’s 39.Minta, but instead the 9x25mm Mauser export was adopted for the role.

  8. Mentioned in Alan Furst’s first WWII spy novel Night Soldiers. I’ve always wanted to see one. Thanks.

  9. Lots of the San Cristóbal carbines made it to Cuba under the Batistato, particularly after the U.S. arms cut-off in early 1958 when arms were ordered from Belgium and the U.K. The images very helpfully posted by Daweo above show mostly the Dominican Republic, but also Cuba. Some of the Cuban images show it in use during the consolidation of the Fidelato, particularly to arm and equip the CDRs, or “committees of defense of the revolution.”

    If one has a taste for an exquisitely well-filmed but über-Soviet agit-prop, the Mikhail Kolotozov film “I am Cuba,” which was rescued from obscurity by Martin Scorcese some decades ago has several scenes in which the San Cristóbal carbine appears. Particularly at the end, which portrays the M-26-7 rebels.

    Many of the images above show the “OAS” intervention by the U.S. in the Dominican Republic in 1964 against the forces under Caamaño, with a veneer of Latin American participation to “prevent another Cuba” provided by the armed forces of Castelo Branco’s Brazil, Somoza’s Nicaragua, and Stroessner/Strößner’s Paraguay.

  10. I was just at the Hungarian National Museum a few weeks ago. They have both a 39M and 43M on display. The 39M is displayed next to a bolt-action rifle, and the 43M is mis-labeled as a 39M. Still cool as they are the only ones I have seen in person.

    The 9x25mm Mauser export was a very interesting cartridge and while Mauser stopped making C96s in that caliber before WWI, it was used in several submachine gun designs in the 1930s. I wonder if there were any 1920s designs that used it. Anyone have any more info?

    • “started life as a project by Birmingham Small Arms in the UK”
      Does it fire 9×25 cartridge or some other?

      • Yes, it did. From my research I contributed the following to Wikipedia in 2014:
        In 1938, BSA in the United Kingdom acquired the blueprints for Pál Király’s submachine gun/machine carbine as well as the rights to manufacture it. Examples were produced in 9mm Mauser Export caliber according to Kiraly’s design. BSA estimated that these arms would only cost 5 pounds each to manufacture. However, in the UK, military officials viewed submachine guns as “gangster weapons” and therefore inappropriate for regular troops. Plans to manufacture it were shelved.

  11. Hey Ian, I really enjoy the great information that is always on forgottenweapons and have followed and enjoyed all the videos in the series. I’m part Hungarian, so I like to learn about their small arms. I was especially surprised a few days ago when you posted a video on the Kiraly 43M. I am currently searching through various forums and archives for WWII pictures featuring G43 rifles, since there seem to be relatively few. I just now i found an image of what i believe is a 39M, but with the mag angle of a 43M. I give credit where it is due, so here is a link

  12. I found this piece most interesting, as I have never been quite able to envisage how Kiraly’s lever delay system worked before, but I think I can see it now. Somewhat marginal for 7.62mm, as you say, but that’s the French for you. A piece on the AAT52 one day would be very welcome.

    His name is pronounced “keer-eye”, by the way, and his name translates into English as “Paul King”.

  13. You should read Soós Péter’s article: Király Pál and the Hungarian Submachine Guns. [] (Yes, he and his co-authors, Hatala András and Eötvös Péter, wrote an excellent book about the Király submachine guns, unfortunately only the summary is English.)

    In my opinion, suggested by the original manual of Király 1939 M., Király’s submachine guns are PDWs, like the M1 carbines.

    @Ian McCollum: “Danuvia Motorcycle Company”

    Danuvia only made motorcycles after the WW2.

    “the magazines are actually not interchangeable between the two, which is unusual and as far as I can tell they’re actually no markings on the magazine to indicate which it is”

    You can see on this picture [] the remains of an 1939 M. Király and a magazine of 1943 M. Király. They can be distinguished by their shape of the feed lips area.

    “That number and then M is the standard way Hungary designated it’s firearm models”

    …and other military and police equipments. M stands for “minta”=sample, pattern in English.

    @Cherndog: “at a distance it is nearly indistinguishable from an infantry rifle. And thus targeting the lieutenant is a bit more difficult, since he is not wearing lots of bling in the field! Or am I wrong?”

    As far as I know, the Hungarian Gendarmerie wanted that, it should look like a rifle, and have bayonet attachment point. I don’t know why, maybe a tradition, the Hungarian Gendarmerie always used to patrol with rifles with attached bayonet.

  14. The accelerator lever cut out from flat plate, and a separate axis pin, look like a lot simpler manufacturing proposition compared to the one piece accelerators in the San Cristobal, and the FAMAS.

    I’ve not had a close enough look at them yet to determine whether there were likely to be any stress issues with the two piece design.

    I’m initially suspecting that the one piece design is due to concerns about incorrect assembly, and possibly also bureaucrapic ideas about a smaller number of parts.

    Operating pressure of the .30 carbine and 9x19P are virtually indistinguishable, the difference in muzzle energy in equal length barrels is not much at all, a what there is, is due to the larger volumetric capacity of the .30 carbine case. 9mm Mauser export probably gives the accelerator slightly more stress than .30 carbine, due to the larger head diameter of the 9mm case.

    Comparing these to 5.56,. Case head diameters are near enough the same, but 5.56 operates at >50% higher peak pressure.

    All semi and full autos are fussy about ammunition, I’ve lost count of the number of variables that Ian quoted for H&K roller accelerated bolt heads and bolt rears, in order to tune those rifles to differing loads.

    There’s no intrinsic reason why lever accelerators should be any more or any less fussy about case material than any other accelerator/delay, such as roller accelerated, or toggle linkage like Schwarzelose or Pedersen.

  15. Always wished the 9×25 cartridge had stuck around; .38 Super deserves a metric competitor. Mauser made Broomhandle carbines, and maybe a few pistols, in that caliber, what if the Schnellfeuer had been offered firing this cartridge? Send those 9mm Largo Spanish copies a fright! Anyway, in modern loadings with deformable bullets it might have made an excellent high-capacity police and self-defense load.

    • It’s never too late to try! The case is longer than 9×19, so any new handgun designs that incorporate grip magazines would have to be long enough to fit them. It’s slightly shorter than 7.63/7.62x25mm, so maybe someone could take a TT33 with its strong action and see if it that works out.

      I would think 9x25mm might be a bit hard on the old C96s, although I have read that Mauser beefed up the metal around the chamber on the Export models.

      Mauser refurbisher Tom Thurman of the Broom Closet in Starke, Fla. who has refinished a few of mine told me it is relatively simple to rechamber a C96 to the Export caliber – but then again, one would have to be very careful with the loads. If I had the money, time and reloading materials, I would commission one to be done.

  16. Very intresting video Ian, two days before this video was put up we found a SIG MKMS, not knowing what it was I searched the internet and finally found some info about it, and then Ian appears with the Kiraly 43M video….

    The SIG MKMS was a very close copy. But the sig was produced in far less quantaties, 1.800?

    282 ex. of the SIG MKMS was ordered by Finland during the winter war in 1939 when trying to get hold of any automatic weapon that could be purchased. They arrived just after the war and during the continuing war it was issued to misc. troops like coastal defence. Where many swedish speaking Finns from the coastal region served.

    Does anyone knows if there is any SIG MKMS on the market and what the pricetag might be.

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