Marko Vukovik’s Prototype Machine Pistol: the V.M.18

Today we continue our series on the development of Croatian pistols towards the XD line. Last week we saw Marko Vukovic’s first design, and today we are looking at his second. This was the V.M.18, a step towards a more proven system instead of the really unusual flapper locking of the Kordun. The VM18 was heavily based on the Walther P38, but with a double-stack, double-feed magazine that held 18 rounds (of 9mm Parabellum). It also had a selective-fire switch, interestingly. This example is one of a first prototype series presented to the Yugoslav military for testing in 1987.

The VM18 was rejected by the military on account of its cost. Funds were limited and the M57 Tokarev filled the sidearm role well enough that a new pistol like Vukovic’s was not justified. So Vukovic put it on a shelf, and when Croatia delacred independence in 1991 he would bring it back to peoples’ attention. At that point it was much more favorably received, and would be the basis for the PHP – the First Croatian Pistol. But that is a story for next week…

Many thanks to HS Produkt for giving me access to prototypes like this one to film for posterity!


  1. Ian, Thanks. Another really interesting Forgotten Weapon. Very P38, and the bolt looks like it could have been manufactured by Beretta and then imported to Yugoslavia.
    But then “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
    With no rate reducer, I’ll bet this weapon emptied the mag in less than a second, and not seeing any provision for a shoulder stock, I’ll place another bet that it was nye on to uncontrollable in fully automatic.
    Still, I would love to spend some time on the range getting acquainted with this little beauty.

  2. If the answer to your problem is a full-auto pistol in 9mm… I’m not sure you’re asking the right questions.

    Having fired an original and legit Glock 18 and a Beretta 93R, I don’t think that this concept is a good idea. By the time you’re done getting yourself braced and ready for the recoil and muzzle-flip, you could have probably gotten three rounds on semi into the target while you’ve emptied most of your magazine from the full-auto versions into the ceiling. I honestly don’t get what the hell the Italians were thinking, when they issued the 93R to airport security troops, but I suspect that anyone who ever used one in a crowded terminal would have killed a bunch of people they didn’t mean to. If you’re in a VIP security element, and you want to scare the hell out of anyone attacking you? OK, fine… Maybe.

    Full-auto from a pistol just ain’t a good idea. Maybe in a much smaller caliber? I dunno; I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a production full-auto .25 Automatic pistol, or something in .22LR. Those might be controllable, but I can’t see making a 9mm handgun work in fully automatic. Not for the average person, that’s for damn sure. I honestly don’t see training really overcoming the problem, either.

    • “(…)production full-auto .25 Automatic pistol,(…)”
      Depending on your definition of production, Lercker might qualify
      between 100 to 500 were made

      “(…)something in .22LR.(…)”
      If you need 22 rim-fire machine pistol then use Trejo machine pistol however be warned that it does combine high Rate-of-Fire with low magazine capacity and this does necessity frequent magazine changes.

    • I agree completely about 9mm, but disagree on the “much smaller caliber” part, if one is willing to work with all the variables and tradeoffs to find a “sweet spot”. I’ve partially verified this already by experimentation.

      All else being equal,
      -As you wrote, reducing cartridge power reduces recoil and ROF, and increases controllability – at the cost of one-hit stop probability.
      -Increasing bolt mass and/or free recoil travel have similar effects – at the cost of weight and bulk.
      -A locked or delayed-blowback breech has similar effects, with no additional weight or bulk, but at a higher development / financial cost.

      Two real-world examples inspired my experiment:
      -The Skorpion was built on the notion that shot placement counterbalances cartridge power, and furthermore that one-shot stop% becomes less relevant when firing bursts – BUT (IMHO) involves far too much complex machining for what it delivers.
      -Conversely, all the “MACs” are notoriously uncontrollable because each has inadequate bolt mass and free recoil travel relative to its cartridge. Gunsmith Richard Lage managed to achieve a much better ROF reduction than the Vz61 in the extremely cheap, simple “MAC” SMGs simply by using a heavy tungsten bolt (obviously making the guns a little heavier in the process), making them quite controllable.

      I successfully tested that principle in reverse by putting a .380 barrel in an M-11/9 (Lage mags are compatible with both rounds). ROF and controllability were mild, similar to that of a 9mm Uzi. Of course it’s not as handy as a 93R or G18, but it is both holsterable and shoulderable. By extrapolation:
      -A hypothetical M-11/32 would be an absolute pussycat at that size and weight – which also happens to be the size and weight of the Skorp – without all its “look how clever I am and how many machinists I have under my thumb” features.
      -A locked-breech .380 could achieve similar results to mine with less mass and bulk. A FA Glock .380 with say a 6″ barrel (and full spring travel rather than using a service-length spring) would purr like a kitten, especially with a Flux chassis. So would a G19-sized .32. The question of course remains whether they would really gain anything vs. proper shot placement with their semiauto counterparts.

      • All else being equal, I think I’d prefer well-placed semi-auto shots from a full-house cartridge. The sort of shooting that is encouraged by full-auto ain’t what I want in a pistol platform; strikes me as being waaaaay too tempting the wrong sort of person I might hand one of those to.

        Full auto is something I really only want to use when its fired from something locked-down and unable to be “inadvertently” misdirected. Especially around targets I’m trying to discriminate among; if I’ve got nothing but people I want to kill, no big deal. If, however, there are noncombatant targets? Full auto=locked down only.

    • I have fired the Beretta 93r as well and it was in semi or 3 round burst only. In only a few try’s it was fairly easy to get all 3 rds in the A zone. The Glock I can see being totally useless except maybe if you need to get everyone in the elevator with you…

      • The version of the 93R I fired was one of the early ones, or otherwise modified; there was no “burst” to it, just full-auto. I have no idea about the provenance; it was just a “Hey, cool gun on the range; wanna shoot it?” kind of thing.

        You did make me wonder, though… I went and looked, and the one that I fired had a heel magazine release, much like the early versions of the 92. So… Maybe it wasn’t an actual production 93R? It’s been a long while; details are kinda fuzzy in my mind, at this point.

        OK, after writing that, I went to go refresh my memories of that, and I’m now wondering WTF I was shooting that day; either it was a Taurus-based clone, or some sort of early prototype that I can’t see getting out of Italy and to the US. The guy who had it had a side business as a Class III dealer, and it was a dealer sample, but… Now that I think about it some more, I’m not all that sure what it was. He said it was a 93R, but… Heel mag release, and full-auto? Other details on the 93R images that I find online also don’t match memory, so I’ve actually go no damn idea at this point, other than that what I shot looked a lot like an early Model 92 with a heel mag release (Taurus PT-92?) and it was full auto. Did someone have a sideline cloning 93R pistols, ever?

        Weird. Maybe I’m losing my mind, here.

        • Did it have the fold down fore grip?I’ll admit my interest and investment in Berettas have been in competition over and under shotguns but that surly was a memorable experience to say the least and it’s been many moons.

          • It had the fold-down foregrip, but I don’t remember there being enough room to get a thumb inside the trigger guard.

            I gotta admit, I was pretty much overwhelmed by the coolness of the whole thing, there were a lot of distractions on the range, and it’s entirely possible that I am not remembering details clearly. Still… Open-top Beretta slide, heel mag release, folding grip in front, told it was a 93R.

            It just occurred to me to go looking for earlier variants, and I find that there was a Beretta 951R whose features kinda-sorta match my memories, as well. I wonder if someone out there had done a conversion/modernization of a 951R, and that’s what I fired.

            Weird. I’ve always thought that was a 93R, but maybe not…? I’m unclear on the magazine, whether it was a double-stack or single-stack. I was getting two-three bursts per mag on full-auto. That was a scary gun to fire, BTW. You’d pull the trigger, and it felt like it had a mind of its own.

          • “(…)was getting two-three bursts per mag on full-auto(…)”
            This does suggest it was not 951R as claims that …even with extensive training it was impossible for the shooter to produce short and controlled bursts, and as reported by many users the shortest burst one could achieve was five-rounds.

   suggests that early production can be distinguished as Early production pistols also featured a ported barrel to decrease barrel climb, but later this feature was dropped.

    • Full-auto in handguns seems to have begun in Spain. And the objective was sales in China.

      As Ezell states in Chapter 13 of Handguns of the World, the Versailles Treaty prohibited Mauser from exporting military small arms. And a “gentlemen’s agreement” after the abortive Boxer Rebellion of 1900 meant that no major manufacturer would sell arms to the armies of China’s various “warlords”.

      One effect was of course the growth of China’s domestic arms industry for purely internal military use. The other was the various Spanish makers coming up with what amounted to gadgets to appeal to the often unstable Chinese warlords.

      Enter Astra with the Model 902. They’d begun making the Model 900, their copy of the Mauser c/96 (closer to the 1916 model but in 7.63 x 25mm) around 1920-21, along with Beistigui Hermanos and their “Royal” Broomhandle knockoff. Both the Astra 900 and the Royal sold reasonably well in China, where they were often issued to the palace guards of warlords in lieu of actual rifles.

      Around 1928, Astra introduced the 902 and BH introduced the Royal MM31. Again, Mauser 1916 types, but with selective-fire capability. The 902 had a fixed 20-round magazine that identifies it immediately;

      The MM31 looked exactly like a standard Royal. The only difference was that the safety was now also a selector. It still had the integral 10-shot magazine.

      Both fired at about 850 R/M on full-auto. Meaning, either one would exhaust its magazine almost before the shooter could let up on the trigger.

      Astra improved the 902 into the Model 903 with a detachable box magazine, still in 7.63, and then introduced the Model F, with both a detachable box magazine and a flywheel-type rate reducer in the “broomhandle” grip, an arrangement that showed up later with a different rate reducer device in the vz61. BH replied with an MM31 with the same sort of detachable magazine. 10, 20, and 30 rounds were standard.

      All of the above sold very well- in China. Chinese troops armed with them concocted a trick of holding the weapon with shoulder stock attached horizontally, so its tendency to climb would sweep the muzzle across the field of fire.

      By 1931, Mauser had taken note of all the noise in the Far East, and created the Model 712, aka the “Schnellfeuer”, which was a bulked-up M1916 with a detachable magazine and a selector switch above the grip on the left side. (There are two known variations, the Nickl, with a small rectangular lever, and the Westinger, with a larger rotating oval “button” type. The Nickl is the rarer of the two.) While known to collectors as the Model 1932, Mauser apparently never used that designation. There was also a semi-auto only variant, which may have been known as the 711 (even Ezell and W.H.B. Smith were fuzzy on that).

      The 712 was also intended for sales in China, but with one thing and another, most ended up in the hands of the Waffen SS. They issued them mostly to motorcycle scouts and dispatch riders, who couldn’t really practically carry a rifle or full-sized SMG.

      In a case like that, a full-auto capable machine pistol like the 712, or the later Polish Wz63, makes some kind of sense. The idea being not so much actual combat as keeping somebody’s heads well down while the motorcyclist gets the Hell out of Dodge.

      Star got into the game with the Model MD, a 1911 clone in 9 x 23mm Largo. It too had a shoulder stock, and was issued to the Spanish Guardia Civil. What it could do a more orthodox SMG could not do better I am unable to discern. There was also a .45 ACP version; Jeff Cooper observed that the latter could be used sensibly by simply keeping it on single-shot…until you wanted to make a lot of noise.

      Gabilondo y Compania, before it was “Llama”, made the Plus Ultra, a typical 7.65mm Browning Eibar blowback except for its long grip housing a 22-round magazine. It was made in both semiautomatic-only and selective-fire versions. Exactly what it was good for is a very good question.

      Last but by no means least was the French(!)-made Union automatic in 7.65mm Browning with a huge horseshoe-shaped 35-shot magazine. I’m not sure if there was a selective-fire version or not, but if nothing else it probably made a useful bludgeon once you ran out of ammunition.

      Spanish gunmakers have generally been considered more copycats than innovators. But in the case of the selective-fire machine pistol in the 1920s and 1930s, they led everyone else down some very odd byways.



      • “(…)Plus Ultra(…)what it was good for is a very good question(…)” claims that Many Gabilondo Plus Ultra pistols were exported to Southeast and Central Asia, most notably China and Japan. It is believed that Japanese officers made private purchases of these pistols, and so Plus Ultra pistols were quite popular among Japanese aircraft pilots from the Army and Navy during WW2.

      • “(…)Full-auto in handguns seems to have begun in Spain.(…)”
        Maschinenpistole M.12 Patrone 16 does predate that design, it did later evolved into Doppelpistole but before that was certainly machine pistol with difference from Roth Steyr being selective fire mode and bigger magazine (capacity 16, still non-detachable, accepts chargers of base weapon)

      • I gotta say that I’ve always categorized “full auto pistol” without a stock as something different than “full auto pistol with attached shoulder stock”. The latter makes a little sense; the former? None at all. Not in a typical full-house pistol cartridge, anyway…

        The stock is what takes the whole thing from “sad joke” to “OK, maybe this could work…”

        I’ve often wondered what shooting the legit VP-70 would be like, with the stock on it. The semi-auto pistol was kinda-sorta horrible, as a handgun, but as a quasi-SMG, it might not have been so bad…

        • Considering that it only fired three-shot bursts, it might have stood a decent chance of hitting something.

          I forgot the Russian Stechkin APS. It also had a shoulder stock, but it could be fired full-auto without it. OTOH, it was chambered in 9 x 18mm Makarov, so it might have been less of a beast to control on “rock’n roll” than, say, a Beretta M951R.

          Speaking of “adapted” pistols, the Beretta “machine pistols” used by Kate Beckinsale in the first Underworld movie were not M93rs. They were modified M92Fs.

          More recently, somebody came up with a selective-fire modification for the FN HP;

          If I were “adapting” an existing design to selective-fire back in the post-WW2 period, I think I would have started with the MAB PA-15. It had a rotary barrel lock similar to the Steyr M1912, so it might have had a better chance of hitting something than the blowbacks or the Colt-Browning lock types.



        • Videos from Ian as well as Royal Armouries proved VP70 is god awful in 3 round bursts, Ian failed to hit anything. Its good for inside phone booths only.

          So, only useful thing for that stock is in single fire.

  3. Full auto action seems really nounsence…

    Simply deleting the disconnector… Only causes a “ Hammer Follow”…

    For true automatic firing needs a second sear to free the cocked hammer after the locked slide and barrel reaching to “Battery on” position…

    Hammer follow lockwork may give auto firing… Should the hammer drops slower than the on closing slide… Accidentaly…

    Not a dependable lockwork… IMHO…

  4. “(…)of 9mm Parabellum(…)”
    But why? Yugoslav forces used M57 automatic pistol and M56 sub-machine gun, consuming 7,62×25 mm cartridge. Did they wished to do change from 7,62×25 mm cartridge to 9×19 mm cartridge xor V.M.18 was originally designed for export (which “made in” does suggest) and Yugoslav forces were considered to be secondary?

    • They certainly did not wish to change on their own, having shitloads of both 7.62 tokarev and .32 acp pistols.
      Vukovic is a solo designer with no backing.

      In end of 80s, circa 1989. Crvena Zastava, basicly only official yugoslavian arms producer, made CZ-99, very good sig sauer copy, which was heavily export intended (the name supposedly should have been CZ 89), but war prevented massive contracts.
      Even in yugoslavian/serbian army it was not at that time chosen as official pistol (nor they could have made it in sufficient numbers to re-equip), reasons from first sentence of this post.

  5. Carefully watching the video reveals the presence of second sear having an upward hook releasing the cocked hammer through slide impact…

    Second sear seems at both side of hammer and first sear rotating cleaance at right.

  6. My fascination with Beretta arose from competition with shotguns and underneath them, but I was also captivated by how it operates.

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