MP-28: Hugo Schmeisser Improves the MP18

The MP28,II was Hugo Schmeisser’s improved take on the original World War One MP18,I design. It used a simple box magazine in place of the Luger drum magazines, and this magazine would form the basis for a long series of military SMG magazines. It was a double-stack, single feed design because Schmeisser thought this would prevent some malfunctions that were possible with double-feed magazines (and because Mauser probably had a patent on the double feed box magazine at the time). This magazine would be used in conversions of MP18 guns, and would also be the model for the MP-38/40 subsequent British Sten gun magazines.

The MP28 also introduced a semiautomatic selector switch, where the MP18 had been a fully automatic only design. It is the presence of this selector button over the trigger, along with a tangent sight instead of a simple flip-up notch that can be used to distinguish between and updated MP18 and an MP28.

While the MP28 was not formally adopted by the German military, it was used by police and SS units, as well as being adopted or copied by a wide selection of other nations, including Portugal, Spain, China, Japan, and Ethiopia.


  1. “including Portugal, Spain, China, Japan, and Ethiopia.”
    Now, I am wondering about MP-28,II adverts or booklet. Does anyone have such thing and if yes – in which language?

    • I have a Madsen brochure in Portuguese for the “sub-metralhadora 9m/m Suomi-Madsen.”

      Initial Portuguese SMGs, as Ian noted briefly in this presentation, were 7.63mm Luger caliber.
      9x19mm SMGs used by Portugal included the Steyr as m/942, the Sten as m/943 (the Estado Novo adopted German Dreyse M13 LMGs and Mauser 98k rifles in 1937, but by 1943 leased bases in the Azores to the Allies, which netted British artillery, armored cars, and things like Sten guns. A recent Portuguese-langauge article denies that any small arms were transferred from the UK, and that it was only heavy weapons and equipment.)
      By 1948, the Fabrica Braço de Prata was turning out the FBP m/948 combining features of the American M3 and German MP40.
      Some Madsens, as m/955.
      By the early 1960s, India had seized Goa, and in Africa the Colonial War in Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Moçambique was on against various National Liberation Movements and ethnic-tribal formations.
      Belgian Vigneron from nearby Congo/Zaïre became the m/961.
      Confusingly, NCOs and some officers began carrying Uzi 9mm SMGs as the m/961. It remains unclear whether the provenance was West German MP2s, Israel, or both. The former seems likely given the amount of weapons and equipment from the Bundesrepublik used by Nato-ally Portugal.
      A somewhat safer and updated FBP m/963 was also differentiated from the FBP m/948,
      Finally, after the April 1974 Revolution overthrew Caetano and the EN, followed by the Alvor accords and civil war in Angola, the FBP went through a final iteration of the m/976. Portugal was to build the MP5 under license, but then opted for the “LUSA” combining features of the MP5 and U.S. M3 and earlier FBP, but that fell apart, and after various takeovers, the Lusa was acquired by Atlantic Arms, and remained largely stillborn. Portuguese army and law enforcement purchased quantities of MP5s direct from West Germany.

    • I own commercial brochures in both German and French. Also I do own several manuals in German French and Spanish. Never heard of Portuguese MP28II manuals.

  2. I think the British Lanchester was an MP28 copy, used mainly by the Royal Navy and so did not see a lot of action. I remember seeing comments that the quality of manufacture of the Lanchester was very high.

    • That’s true. Many British soldiers would have gladly tossed the Sten for a Lanchester. To them, the Sten was nothing more than a cheap insult of a weapon that easily malfunctioned and put their own lives at risk more so than the lives of the intended victims. British commandoes usually tossed the Sten for the MP-40 and the Beretta MAB-38. Did I mess up here?

      • “British commandoes usually tossed the Sten for the MP-40 and the Beretta MAB-38.”
        Although this might be also caused by fact that, if such weapon must be disposed, it would cause less attention.

    • I’m persuaded by Dr. Dale Clark that the Lanchester is a copy of a copy of the MP.28,11.

      The Spanish version, another “naranjero” with a brass magazine housing was apparently the actual version used for the copying that resulted in the Lanchester with its Royal Navy approved spiffy-looking brass. The problem, aside from expense to manufacture, for the Lanchester was its enormous 50-rd. magazine, which did not fit the UK’s 1937 webbing pouches, which were designed so that “squaddies” could port a few Bren magazines for the squad LMG… The 32-round Sten/MP40 magazines on the other hand, did fit.

      As for British commandoes, they used whatever automatic weapons were on offer, but they retained the M1928 Thompson SMG while other machine carbine users got the Stens. The Thompson was even part of the distinctive patches worn by commandoes. Ian has elsewhere posted a photo of a commando–a Canadian, if my memory serves–armed with the Lanchester!

      • The Lanchester was based on production drawings made by Major Turpin and Mr Shepherd (the S and T of STEN) from a couple of MP28s acquired from Adis Adaba pre-war. So the MP28 most likely influenced the design of the sten.

        As the drawings were to hand it was easier and quicker to start making an MP28 copy than design an SMG from scratch.

        • Ps – there was difficulty in machining the steel magazine housing of the MP28 so a brass/bronze version was used in the Lanchester, which added to the weight.

          • So, it looks that lack of any production of sub-machine guns for British forces in inter-war period, backfired.
            Surely, most other countries did not produce sub-machine guns in great numbers, but often have small-scale production or bought foreign designs and using them gained some experience (what sub-machine gun can and can not?). For example Estonia has Arsenali püstolkuulipilduja
            it was produced in low numbers (~600), however interestingly it was selective-fire. Now I am not sure about chronology Arsenali püstolkuulipilduja was put into production in around 1927, when 28 in MP 28 suggest 1928. If that assumptions are true that might mean is selective fire was copied from Arsenali püstolkuulipilduja which itself was copy of MP 18.
            However there is always possibility that is selective fire was implemented independently, or my chronology is broken.

          • Wait, no. Now I found more precise description of Arsenali püstolkuulipilduja but in Eesti:
            I don’t know Eesti (does someone can help?) but what I deduce from what translator produced, points marked with [?] mean that I have big doubts if I understand correctly:
            Arsenali püstolkuulipilduja was developed from SIG Model 1920 Brevet Bergmann
            – unlike that weapon it was selective fire
            – has two-stage trigger (squeeze partly = single, fully = full-auto)[?]
            – there was not one and only one true name, various names were used for this weapon: PK (PüstolKuulipilduja), E.P. (Eesti Püstolkuulipilduja), A.T. (Arsenal Tallinn), last most commonly
            – cartridge was 9×20 mm SR (9×20 Browning Long)
            – magazine capacity was 40
            – all held by Estonia, were sold during Spanish Civil War to Spain
            – money acquired from action from above point were intended to bought new sub-machine guns. SUOMI was chosen after extensive[?] trials of available sub-machine guns, it was version for 9×19 Parabellum cartridge
            – answer of Estonian factory was redesign[?] of their sub-machine gun for 9×19 cartridge, magazine were also redesigned, available were shorter 30-35 capacity and long [same capacity as previous?] with improved reliability[?]
            – anyway it was too late, as SUOMI was already chosen
            – nonetheless 1[?] example was tested using same[?] test as for SUOMI, which this weapon passed even surpassing SUOMI in some respects
            – that 9×19 sub-machine gun has Rate-of-Fire 700 900 [selectable? or this mean between 700 and 900?], used retarded[?] blow-back, sights adjustable[?] for windage, has muzzle device [compensator? brake?], length of barrel was 350 mm, muzzle velocity 415 m/s
            – anyway as SUOMI were already bought and delivered
            – some funds were planed for buying[?] these sub-machine guns, but before that Soviet occupation occurred

      • Dale Clark’s thesis has been published as a book – looking forward to reading it, thanks for mentioning it.

      • I had Calke`s thesis “Arming the British Home Guard, 1940-1944” but never read it. It’s very interesting this cue about why Lanchester used brass pieces. Normally it was attributed to the fact that it was for navy use, but this was not the case (though finally they ended in the R.N.). They were copied form Spanish MP-28 that used brass to facilitate production, it was easier to be machined but also heavier.

        • The Lanchester used the stock of the SMLE which had a brass butt plate which had a neat little flap that opened up to reveal a storage compartment for an oil bottle and pull- through, later models had a steel butt plate and then a Zamac alloy butt plate. The sling swivels, bayonet fixings (for the awesome 1907 pattern bayonet) and sights (at least for the Mk 1) were also from the SMLE.

          Sorry I’m getting to be a Lanchester bore – but I am attempting to write a brief history of British SMGs

  3. Looking at this weapon, one would think it is about as optimised as possible for such early times. This said, the question of magazine location may be subject to disagreement as discussed in case of Bergmann SMG. Later some designs (primarily of Czech origin) solved magazine location by rotating magazine sleeve.

    • After some thinking I conclude that, from ergonomic point of view, top-mounted pan magazine for sub-machine gun, might be good solution. It was used rarely, for example in experimental Degtyaryov sub-machine gun from 1929, see photo here:
      or much later in MGV-176 .22 rim-fire sub-machine gun.
      That Degtyaryov design capacity was either 22 or 44 depending on source (maybe two different magazine were developed?). Such arrangement with top-mounted pan-magazine has several advantages:
      – capacity might be increased by increase thickness rather than diameter, even decrease in diameter and increase in thickness might give enhanced capacity – just browse for photos of DP – 47 “single-floor” pan magazine and DT – 63 “three-floor” pan magazine
      – harder to stop top-feed design, which use stick magazine (cf. Owen)
      – magazine with diameter x, would stick away roughly as far as box magazine of length 0.5*x (however box only stick to one side)
      – magazine of diameter x, should be less snag-prone than box magazine of length 0.5*x, simply because circle has no edges
      – unlike top-fed box it would allow (if not enforce) symmetrical sights placement
      But everything has also disadvantage:
      – creating high-capacity should be relatively easy to craft (as MGV-176 shows), in case of smaller capacity it might be overkill (unnecessary complicated) – this probably might be solved by accepting also box, but what with sights?
      – pan (and drum) magazines are less “wearable” (carrying replacement magazines is less comfortable) – possible special piece of clothing could solve this?
      – sights must be elevated over magazine (both front and end), however this problem might be avoided, if you abandon normal sights in favor or reflex or similar (no need for front sight, needs only end post, which might be placed in proximity of magazine, thus reducing chance to snag)

      • is: “(…)– harder to stop top-feed design, which use stick magazine (cf. Owen)(…)”
        should be: “(…)– harder to spot than top-feed design, which use stick magazine (cf. Owen)(…)”

  4. By the way, staggered row & single position feed box magazine:
    “In 1916, German Hugo Schmeisser found an answer to the problem. He blended both ideas into what we now call a ‘staggered row-single position feed’ magazine. It was a simple arrangement whereby the staggered row portion of the magazine that holds the ammunition fed to the chamber via a single row. These are connected by a so-called ‘Schmeisser’s Cone’, forcing the two rows of cartridges into a single one. Schmeisser’s magazine was much better than the snail drums he was forced to use with his MP18.I during 1918, but they were only introduced after World War One ended. At the same time an American, Oscar V. Payne, had at last solved the problem of a ‘staggered row-two position feed’ magazine, designing his XX (20-round) stick magazine for the Thompson submachine gun. Both systems were then at each other’s throat for years, each with avid supporters.” []

  5. I suppose that single feed magazine was determinated by the fact that MP-18’s Parabellum drum magazine was also single feed and this simplified conversions.

    • Same for PPSh – it is single-feed, because designed for drum magazine, earlier PPD-34 has double-feed and later PPS-43 has double feed.

  6. Before the Civil War (1936-39) Spain imported from Belgium a small quantity of Pieper made MP-28 for police use, and several thousands copies of this gun were made during the Civil War in factories sited in Barcelona and Valencia (main production) for the Republican Army in 9 mm Largo (9x23mm).

    The Nationalist Army only imported 170 sub machine-guns from Germany (MP-28 and possibly Bergmann MP-35), so they relied mainly in captured republican guns.

  7. The spring arrangement, in regards the firing pin. Might have been some sort of “booster” ergo, similar to thw Erma idea.

    • If any so called advanced primer ignition exists in smg, than it could be by some degree in this arrangement, since I suspect firing pin detonates the primer and the bolt is independent of it so it moves slightly still forward, but in really few tenths of millimeter.
      This should be tested in mp40 with original fp and one machined on the boltface and see if theres any difference perceived in shooting.

  8. In 9mm Largo would the bolt have to be lightened
    or the recoil spring changed to compensate for a (slightly) lighter load?

    • Spanish military load of 9 mm Largo was slightly more powerful than 9mm Parabellum, but the differences between the two cartridges were small. Spain had purchased the Belgian MP-28 for the Guardia Civil (gendarmerie), so Pieper made guns were in 9mm Largo.

  9. I am not sure if british troops would have preferred the lanchester over the sten. the lanchester was heavy, prone to misfires like the sten, had the same problems with the magazine, plus problems with the firing pin breaking which did not affect the sten as it had a fixed pin.

    According to the excellent book”’The Guns of Dagenham’ these faults were.partly due to the designer, George Lanchester being told to copy the MP 28, without modification, Mr Lanchester was a skilled engineer but not a gunsmith, which may also led to these inherent design faults.

  10. The reason for the two parts bolt/striker is fairly easy in german military logic – as I know:
    Changing a broken striker is just replacing a part, which could be done (and was allowed to be done) by the soldier.
    Replacing a Bolt is a repair, which HAS to be done at least by the “Waffenmeister-Gehilfe” of the Unit (depending on yery much factors, but at the best there is one per Batallion or mostly one per Regiment. That means, the weapon is away for some time, at least two days or maybe for ever).
    This regulation was set up with the intruduction of the Dreyse Zündnadelgewehr (and made really sense) and has been never changed later on.

  11. What I’m curious about is the Ethiopian bit. I know the Ethiopian army had other submachine guns in use: Italian OVP 1918s (either captured or purchased from Italy before the invasion), and both German Bergmann MP-35s and Steyr MP-34s (probably purchased exports, but also potentially part of the shipment of weapons and ammo given by Nazi Germany), and in hindsight it’s easy to see how Ethiopia might also buy MP-28s seeing as they had German SMGs, but I’ve never heard about these used by Ethiopia before now.

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