Madsen M50 SMG (Video)

The Madsen M50 was one of a series of submachine guns developed and marketed by the Danish Madsen company after World War II. The first was the M46 (1946), followed by M50 and the M53. Each version was progressively a bit better than the last, but they never sold particularly well because of the easy and cheap availability of war surplus arms.


  1. Thanks Ian, always wanted to see a split-receiver. What would be the point of a barrel shroud when your hand always has to be on the mag housing, depressing the grip safety?

  2. Unfortunately they are known as the “banana gun” for the terrible habit of the nut holding everything together loosening while firing leaving you with a pile of parts from a firearm that splits open like peeling a banana.

    Other than that a nice piece to own and the slow rate of fire lets an experienced operator get off 1-2 rounds bursts with some time behind the trigger.

    • And to make matters Wiese on the M53 and onwards you could warp the entire gun if you tightened the nut too hard. A lockomg mechanism of some sort would have been quite useful.

  3. The first time I ever saw the Madsen was in the 1965 spy movie spoof The Silencers starring Dean Martin. I’ve never quite forgiven Hollywood for what they did to Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm.

    Like the Ingram MAC-10, I suspect more Madsens ended up in “civilian” use (filming, etc.) than military. Which is a shame, as it was probably the best mass-production designed SMG in history. Practically any business which could stamp out cookware could manufacture its receiver.

    There was also a .45 ACP version made by INA in Brazil for the Brazilian army and police. I suspect it may have been made in greater numbers than the 9mm version.



  4. It appears to be the submachine gun used at the end of the first Godfather movie to shoot one of the mob bosses, in the scene leading up to it one can see the two halves of the gun split open while the hit man assembles it.

    A neat design, reminds me of an account I read somewhere: post WWII a guy draws up the plans for an innovative submachine gun and goes to a gun company to sell it. The person he talks to looks at it then points to a safe behind him and tells him that the safe is already full of innovative submachine gun designs.

  5. I’ve shot the Madsen M50 but never field stripped it. Is there a notch or tab of some sort to keep the barrel oriented in the same way or is it like the S&W 76 where it just ends up where it ends up after stripping it?

    • Yes, there is. I’ve field and detail stripped Madsens 1,000 times (it used to be on the light weapons MOS Skill Qualification Test) and probably have only fired four or five mags from the things. Not a fan.

  6. Great stuff as always, Ian, but you missed your chance to mention the place where we’ve all seen the Madsens. Well, at least all of us of a certain age. 😉 The Madsen SMGs were frequently seen, sometimes disguised with fake wood stocks over most of the gun, in the “Planet of the Apes” films and TV shows.

  7. I remember the M50 from the ABC Movie of the Week “The Challenge”, in which the U.S. and some unnamed Asian country are fighting over a downed satellite. Rather than go to war, the two agree to each drop a challenger on the island where the satellite landed, winner take all.

    Darren McGavin as the American has two M50s attached side by side, one firing ball, the other birdshot. Mako as the enemy has (I think) a Beretta M38.

    In “Diamonds are Forever” Jill St. John fires one on an oil rig and the “recoil” causes her to fall into the ocean.

  8. Madsen submachine guns, along with the Carl Gustav, were issued to various Laotian, Vietnamese, and Montagnard forces by the CIA during the Vietnam War; and were used by American sneaky-petes attempting to pretend they weren’t actually Americans.

    They also showed up several times in “Mission Impossible” episodes.

    I think the Brazilian BOPE police still use them, in the version built by INA in .45 caliber. Those are the same guys using Madsen light machine guns.

    IMFDB has a long listing of films to see the Madsen SMG in:

    • Karl Gustavs were popular as deactivated specimens in Ireland. The Irish military having used them after the “emergency” (WWii to the rest of us).

  9. My experience with Madsens was not favorable.

    The metal of the receiver is very light. I never measured it, but it’s quite light.

    So it is possible for someone to misalign the barrel’s aligning pin and still start tightening the barrel nut. This will spring the recievers. There will now be a gap between the two halves (it will still work, until the spring is so great the sear no longer meets the notch, so it fails safe at least). Reliability of the Madsens we had was very poor, but they were weapons used by generations of students in mechanical training. Compared to a Sten or M45/B, it’s unnecessarily complex, IMHO. But it is lighter than either of those.

    The grip safety was Madsen’s way to address the problem with open-bolt SMG safety. Dropped SMGS and SMGs whose bolt handle gets caught on something have killed a lot of people over the years. Beretta used a grip safety on the M12S also, for example. Erma changed the bolt handle on the MP.38/40 so that it could be locked in place, open or closed. (Safest is locked closed on an empty chamber).

    • They actually ended up abandoning the forward mag well safety in favour of a more traditional grip safety on at least some of the last batches.
      There’s a picture on the Modern Firearms page.

    • That trigger mechanism amuses me, when I think of some of my attempts to design one. Mine went back to front, upside down and around the houses to achieve what this one achieves he he!

      Seems obvious now…

      Hmmm, I should probably try and do it sober 🙂

  10. What simplicity! I don’t see anything that serves as an extractor or an ejector. The manual doesn’t show anything I recognize as such, either. Am I missing something? No extractor would seriously complicate clearing a dud round.

      • There’s a long, spring-steel extractor on the right side of the bolt, much like that of the Marlin lever-action rifles. It’s held in by a vertical pin much like the external extractor on post-1960 FN High Powers. My guess is it breaks easily if the heat treatment is the least bit “off”.

        Ejector is a flat “rib” spot-welded to the inside of the left receiver half just above the magazine feed lips. It has a “notched” profile rather like this (seen from above):

        | |_____________|
        |_____________| (—> muzzle)

        In recoil, the “notch” catches the case head of the extracted round and “kicks” it out the ejection port.

        I suppose the “notch” of the ejector could wear down and “round off” with time, but if you’ve fired an M50 that much, I’d imagine something else more important has probably already gone wrong, like a cracked or sprung receiver, etc.

        The Madsen is more complicated than a Sten, Swedish K, etc., but less so than an MP.38/40, Sterling/Patchett, or other contemporary SMGS. It comes pretty close to the “sweet spot” of being too mule-stupid to malfunction unless very badly worn or abused.

        At that point, the material quality becomes the critical factor in durability. And the Madsen apparently had some problems in that department.



  11. Yes, this brings back memories of movies and TV back in the ’60s. The Madsen was 1 of the big 3 at that time, the other 2 being the Sterling and the Thompson.

    Drive-ins were great fun! It might have taken me decades to unlearn much of what I saw there, but it was still great fun.

    Usually, if there was a Sterling visible, it was a good movie.

  12. Ian, what loads were you doing the full auto slow motion with?

    The cocking handle travel is well short of what its slot suggests is available, it looks as though bolt travel is just enough to allow the sear to re-set.

    I’m not sure what 1950s Danish SMG loads were like, but I suspect that British and Czech SMG loads from around that time would give you a very different shooting experience.

    Subjectively, I think the lighter loads that you were firing probably give a better optimum of controllability and recovery, though they were only powering a clean and well oiled action.

  13. I might be mistaken, but for some reason I seem to recall that Madsen M50’s or M53’s were used in some numbers by the Indonesian Armed Forces in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

    • You are right, Earl. The Indonesian military did use the Madsen SMG (possibly both the M50 and M53). Besides being among the very last customers of the venerable Madsen LMG (acquired in the mid/late 50s, I think), Indonesia was also the sole buyer of the Madsen-Saetter belt-fed GPMG, an interesting but ultimately ill-fated attempt by DISA to carve a market niche and regain preponderance in the competitive early Cold War era after the demise of their flagship product.

      Another early official customer of the Madsen SMG (in the M53 version) was the Portuguese Guarda Fiscal, a law enforcement agency with military status with border control and custom duties, under the authority of the Ministry of Finance, who adopted it as the m/955.

  14. I’ve read somewhere that it was pa contender as a weapon for drivers, weapons crew etc if the BNritish Army adopted the EM2 rifle. Having just sold a deactivated one I’m glad it never did. Give me a Sterling anyday over that.

      • From “Brassey’s Infantry Weapons of the World 1950-1975”,

        So good memory, Ian Roberts! Brassey’s editors of course don’t give the source of their comment.

        Michael B.

        • Silly HTML usage by me. The quote is:

          “The Madsen was given close scrutiny in the United Kingdom and the results of extensive trials were favourable. Indeed, it is often considered that the gun would have entered service in British forces had the EM2 rifle been adopted.”

          Michael B.

  15. I reckon the original cocking method, the “racking” version, was intended to prevent accidentally cocking the weapon by a cocking handle snagging on stuff.

    Given the magazine well/grip safety, and safety it seems they wanted to make this open bolt weapon as safe as possible.

    It’s interesting to go through the modifications, from 46-53 to see the improvements, the threads on the barrel for example with hindsight I can see that idea as being an improvement for the reasons Ian outlined.

    I quite like it, it looks like it shoots well.

    • I quite like it, for what it is, which is a perhaps something better suited to WW2. Simple to make, but not crude sort of thing.

  16. I am a retired cop and worked as a firearms instructor for the dept. for a while. We had a Danish Madsen that had been found in a dumpster. It had exactly no exterior markings and I always thought it was something some vet had snuck home from Vietnam, got scared and abandoned it. (Also found at the same time was an M-16 which furthered my thoughts on how it got there.)The Madsen only differed in that it had a much shorter barrel, if memory served it was only about 5 or 6 inches long. Some speculated that due to no exterior markings it was “sanitized” by the CIA but who knows.

  17. I have a copy of “Brassey’s Infantry Weapons of the World 1950-1975”. There’s an entry for the M46, M50, and M53. Besides some technical info on weight, etc., there’s some interesting stuff:

    * “A very necessary magazine loading-tool is issued with each gun.” Did you notice this, or perhaps the lack of it, Ian?
    * The M53 was issued with a curved magazine, dunno if it was otherwise compatible with the older straight mags.
    * The M53 Mk II had the slotted barrel-jacket, with a bayonet lug; and “a change lever for selective fire is also fitted, and the gun is turned out with a better finish than previous models.”
    * “In service with the Brazilian (INA 953), Columbian, El Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Indonesian, Paraguayan, Thai and Venezuelan forces and the Danish police”
    * The Brazilian .45 ACP version: “Originally designated as the MB50, the weapon was improved later, and is now known as the INA 953. The main modification apart from the change in calibre was the addition of a metal loop to the lower end of the magazine housing to ensure tightness. The retracting handle was also relocated to the right-hand side of the receiver.” I notice Cornell Publications has a reprinted Portuguese flyer for these.

    Michael B.

    • Ah, you mentioned in the video “pain in the butt to load.” Heh, gotta get your mag loading tool.

      Michael B.

    • I have not handled a 46 or 53 model, and I’m not sure if the curved mags are usable in the earlier guns. We did have a mag loading tool, but I didn’t realize at the time that it actually fits into the grip for storage.

      I have a great article on the INA 953, written by Ronaldo Olive:

      And yeah, Cornell got that INA manual from here – you can download it for free at the bottom of Ronaldo’s piece.

      • INA smg in Brazil:

        “The Urban Guerrilla’s Weapons”
        [snip] “Experience has shown that the basic weapon of the urban guerrilla is the light submachine gun. This weapon, in addition to being efficient and easy to shoot in an urban area, has the advantage of being greatly respected by the enemy. The guerrilla must thoroughly know how to handle the submachine gun, now so popular and indispensible to the Brazilian urban guerrillas.

        The ideal submachine gun for the urban guerrilla is the INA .45 caliber. Other types of submachine guns of different calibers can also be used—understanding of course, the problem of ammunition. Thus, it is preferable that the manufacturing capabilities of the urban guerrillas be used for the production of one type of submachine gun, so that the ammunition to be used can be standardized. Each firing group of urban guerrillas must have a submachine gun handled by a good marksman. The other members of the group must be armed with .38 revolvers, our standard weapon. The .32 is also useful for those who want to participate. But the .38 is preferable since its impact usually puts the enemy out of action.[snip]”

    • Among the arms provided by the U.S. CIA to Col. Castillo Armas’s men in the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala was the Danish M50 9mm smg. There are even some pictures in Life magazine.

  18. Danish boss: “Guess what our firm is going to sell to the people of Europe, young Rasmussen, in exchange for their non-existent hard currency.”
    Underling: “Easy! Food, housing, vehicles, gas, machinery and tools, medicine, coffee, chocolate, nylons, any kind of consumer goods!”
    Boss: [clearing throat] “Er, those are very nice ideas, but nobody between Dublin and Kamchatka has those things, including us. So… we’re going to go long on small arms!”
    Underling: “Huzzah, sir! Brilliant! We’ll be rich.”

    • Supplied lots and lots of pork to the Third Reich during WWII…

      Everyone in the postwar era was looking for a “wirtschaftwunder” to give industry a boost and put everyone back to work… No one was going to by a Danish car!

  19. Interesting how short the bolt handle goes beyond the point where the bolt is held by the sear. The bolts stops only against its spring. Not an amateur home made gun.

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