The .32ACP Dreyse Light Carbine

Manufactured by Rheinmetall and designed by Louis Stange, this light .32ACP (7.65mm Browning) carbine is a bit of a mysterious item. Very little written information exists about it, but we know it was sold on the commercial market as it appears in several firearms sale catalogs and it is, frankly, and wonderfully handy little small game rifle. It is a simple blowback action with a 6-round detachable magazine, sharing a number of elements with the Dreyse 1907 pistol from the same company (Johann von Dreyse died in 1867, but the brand name was owned by the Rheinmetall company). One feature of the rifle that is likely to be overlooked given today’s cultural insistence on eye and ear protection is that the Dreyse carbine’s small .32 caliber cartridge and long barrel made for a relatively very quiet report when firing. Not quiet enough to be considered hearing safe today, but much less unpleasant than many other firearms using higher pressure cartridges.

Thanks to H. in Sweden for letting me shoot this handy little carbine!


  1. No need to worry about those pesky rabbits stealing your vegetables, since 7.65 Browning is more than enough for the job. And there’s no need for a suppressor on this quiet carbine, so one does not need to worry about terrifying the neighbors. Detachable magazines are a plus. I just don’t understand why we haven’t gotten a modern equivalent that isn’t “police issue only” or unnecessarily “tactical” by appearance. Are there any “sporting” models that can double as home defense without looking like science-fiction ion blasters or cheap AR-15 knock-offs? And no, I will not accept “just get an M1 Carbine” as an answer, because it is NOT chambered for side-arm ammunition!

    Ian, did you make a few typos in the description, by the way?

    • “no, I will not accept “just get an M1 Carbine” as an answer, because it is NOT chambered for side-arm ammunition”
      Weapon known as Chiappa M1-9 Carbine:
      seems to fit to your requirement, it is chambered for 9×19 Parabellum cartridge so no problem with getting automatic pistol for that.

      “no need for a suppressor on this quiet carbine”
      Mainly depend on M1-9 ability to use sub-sonic ammunition. If it will work as intended then it should be only bit louder than .32 Auto and more silent than say .30-06 for same barrels lengths.

      “without looking like science-fiction ion blasters”
      Done, wooden stock.

      “cheap AR-15 knock-offs”
      Done, no pistol grip standing alone, stock not black.

      • I have no measurements, but my gut feeling is that even subsonic 9mm Para is still a good deal louder than (subsonic) .32 ACP. Also, subsonic 147 grain 9×19mm is often actually supersonic when fired from a rifle length barrel. .32 ACP in general does not have that problem, although really hot loadings such as Cor-Bon and Fiocchi can become subsonic from a long barrel.

      • yes the Chiappa M1-9 sounds like a good idea… In Practice not so much. The QC/finish is awful. The knock-off Beretta 92 mag it comes with is literally junk (as in drop it in the garbage without even looking at it junk). Worst $400 I ever spent. It is the only gun I wish I hadn’t bought.

        More importantly, what is the Barrel Length on these? As a Subject of Soviet Canuckistan I would be VERY interested in finding on of these if the barrel is at least 470mm (or 18.6″). My thanks in advance for the information!

        • “yes the Chiappa M1-9 sounds like a good idea… In Practice not so much.”
          Now I am wondering about altering M1 Carbine (.30-cal) to fire .32 Auto, in fact .32 Auto and .30 Carbine have similar base diameter, if semi-rimmed nature and shorter overall length of .32 Auto wouldn’t be unsolvable problem it might work

    • I HIGHLY recommend the Marlin camp gun. Straight blowback, simple action, chambered in a variety of pistol calibers including 9×19 and .45ACP. Huge bonus is that they’re also compatible with S&W M59 series mags, as well as the equivalent Daewoo pistol. 1911 mags if you get the .45 version.

      • Ruger was recently (was being the operative word there) making a 9mm or 40-cal carbine that was somewhat along the Marlin Camp design. Being as they’re not making them any more, presumably a sufficient market does not exist.

        I mean to have one when I stumble across one, but haven’t seen any in quite some time, possibly indicating either they didn’t make very many of them, or those that were made are generally kept by their owners. Or maybe both.

        • It also occurs to me that a reasonably handy person could take one of the semi-auto Skorpion pistols sold recently and with a longer barrel and shoulder stock, make up an approximation of a 96 Mauser carbine.

    • I am an old retired cop, and I can tell you, I would have loved to have one of those in my squad car, perhaps in a case in the trunk. You see, in a small town, one of the duties of police officers used to be the disposal of unwanted pets, you know the occasional sick cat, or dog that grew to big for the family. We usually used our duty weapon for such purposes, late at night in the City dump, but that was loud and a bright flash in the dark area some mile or so out of the City Limits, so as to curtail the stench that comes from such a place. Then, of course the animal was dumped in the dead animal pit. The carbine would make a great firearm for such disposals, and would, in fact make a nice little gun for the disposal of a cat or dog that was too smart to be caught, 3 AM in an alley off main street, an alley cat that is disturbing the garbage cans and keeping residents awake with howling, pffft one dead kitty, toss in the trunk in a garbage bag, quick trip to the dump and no one is the wiser!

  2. Oh Man, I NEEEEEEEED ONE!!! It would go great with all my 32ACP pistols. I’ll probably have to build one, since I have never seen one for sale. Thanks Ian!!!!

  3. Louis Schmeisser or Louis Stange? It must be Schmeisser because Strang was a bit young to be a gun designer in 1906 and the 1906 Dreyse pistol was his design.

  4. I don’t know if I need one of those little irons, but I do want one. Creating such a weapon might be possible as a toolroom project, using a scrap .30 cal barrel and probably an existing .32 auto mag. I’d engineer it a lot like the Dreyse, remembering to add an open-work Ian Shroud around that striker extension.

  5. Has the Marlin Camp Carbine (9mm and .45) joined the ranks of Forgotten Weapons? While not as quiet, they are less likely to bite the shooter.

    There were a number of lever action rifles manufactured in handgun calibers and several companies still make these traditional action carbines because there is a market for them, but most are in .357 and .44 Magnum (most of the .357 handle light-loaded .38 Special easily). Several Stevens and Remington single shots were chambered in revolver cartridges in the past, and the Savage Model 24 did have a .357 offering. There were several bolt action repeating police carbines used in Europe between 1900 and 1950 such as the Destroyer in 9mm Largo.

    In the last half of the 20th Century the American market hasn’t been friendly to traditionally-styled long guns in pistol calibers for a number of reasons–but if a gun maker chambered the “toy” in .22 LR it would sell, someone would buy them. Center-fire rifles in pistol calibers used “expensive” ammunition compared to the rim fire small bore and there was a very limited market for them–hunters preferred to either use the inexpensive small bore .22 Long Rifle or more powerful rim fire magnums on small game or use “real guns” on big game. Twenty-two rim fire rifles can be made much cheaper than a similar center-fire rifle.

    The market for traditionally styled pistol-caliber carbines is very limited.

    Pistol caliber carbines styled like submachine guns–that’s another story.

    Speaking of another story, how about the Sterling Police Carbine in a future episode of Forgotten Weapons? This is a semi-auto variant of the select fire Sterling submachine gun and thousands were sold in Europe and Asia. In the USA these would be classified as “machine guns” due to their open-bolt firing (some were made for the US market with closed bolt firing mechanisms and with long barrels) and then there is the NFA “short barrel rifle” ban (actually, the left-over attempt to ban concealable “handgun substitutes”–NFA 34 was aimed at handguns, the gangster’s weapon of choice, but could only stick because of the sexy Tommy Gun). There was even a semi-auto version of the Tommy Gun (Model 1927) made up in small batches during the late 1930’s along with the Reising Model 60 of 1942–these failed because of cost and image. The riot shotgun was both far less expensive and remains less of a political liability than issuing AR-15 clones; witness the hysterical rage over police “machine guns” during the many US “demonstrations” during the last president’s administration.

    The 7.65mm Dreyse Light Carbine may have been aimed at the police market–and missed. Police in the 1890’s and early 20th Century were still distrusted by the Establishment as “civilians” and unarmed police still are favored in Europe and Asia. When police HAVE to be armed (mostly to enforce their authority) the sidearm is more suited for police work. At the time, if police were unable to control an unruly mob, the army was called out–often cavalry with lances and sabers, but infantry with fixed bayonets (and no ammo) would suffice. One of the early uses of the Maxim machine gun was to quell riots. Police were just not trustworthy in the eyes of their political masters and even today in “gun friendly America” armed police are regarded as a problem, but the lesser of many evils. The .32 ACP in a six shot carbine would have been an answer to a non-existent question: arming police with firearms when a pistol or revolver was regarded as inappropriate. Today’s police are “heavily armed” world-wide because soldiers are no longer regarded as back-up for police when the situation gets dire. Back then, police had a silly little stick (and some carried swords) and a whistle and numbers–having a pistol or revolver with just five live cartridges was heavy firepower. “More appropriate” than a sidearm may have been a police carbine–the Shanghai Municipal Police armed Sikh officers with carbines at first because pistols were “inappropriate” and carbines were “controllable.” Us gun-happy Americans would normally take that to mean “more gun” but there’s the opposite tack. Pistols can be hidden more easily than carbines–and then there’s the difference in training required to hit a man-sized target at 25 meters (difficult with a pistol, easy with a carbine). The featured Dreyse carbine had virtually no police market despite being chambered in what would become the standard European armed police side arm cartridge later in the 20th Century. From the rarity of this Dreyse, there wasn’t a civilian “garden gun” market, either.

    What happened to the remaining, unsold carbines?

    • “Center-fire rifles in pistol calibers used “expensive” ammunition compared to the rim fire small bore and there was a very limited market for them–hunters preferred to either use the inexpensive small bore .22 Long Rifle or more powerful rim fire magnums on small game or use “real guns” on big game. Twenty-two rim fire rifles can be made much cheaper than a similar center-fire rifle.”
      As side note there exist .221 Askins center-fire cartridge. Apparently .22 long rifle rim-fire weapons could be relatively reworked to use it, example of such weapon:

  6. The Dreyse who died in 1867 was Nikolaus von Dreyse, the inventor of the needle gun. (Johann was his father, totally unconnected to his sons later activities.)
    His son was Franz, who died in 1894 when the rifle factory already was in deep trouble. His eldest son, another Nikolaus, eventually sold it to Rheinmetall in 1900.

    Note that the other Dreyse factory in Sömmerda, Dreyse & Collenbusch, predated the rifle factory substantially, was totally separate, and as Selve-Kronbiegel-Dornheim AG existed as the prominent German primer manufacturer up to 1945.

  7. What a nifty little carbine. Sometimes bigger is not better.

    Back in the late ’70s or early ’80s, someone (the name escapes me, but I recall the adverts) put out a semi-auto AR knockoff in .32 ACP. IIRC, it came with 25 round magazines.

    I don’t think it sold well…..

    Anyway, personally I love small caliber carbines. They recall the old European “Rook Rifles” and still have a place in lieu of boring .22 rimfires. I have a T/C Contender carbine with a few different caliber barrels. Custom shops can chamber them in almost any caliber you want. My favorites are one in .32 H&R Magnum and one in .25 ACP 🙂

  8. Probably not even remotely connected, still nice story.

    “There’s one of the .25 ACP boxes from the group that the .32 CLMR box came from, showing a lesser amount of bug damage. This box with its split UMC and Remington logos dates from around 1913. What is interesting about this otherwise common box is that the side-sealing label is marked in large letters on one side ‘RIFLE CARTRIDGES’, as are the ends. While the label might indicate otherwise, there was no rifle that I’m aware of that was chambered to fire the .25 ACP cartridge, not even the Model 1885 Winchester single shot, which was chambered for just about every other cartridge. This odd labeling was used by a number of ammunition makers for the purpose of circumventing taxes and regulations on rimfire and centerfire pistol ammunition in a number of southeastern states from the 1880s until sometime in the 1920s. That this deceptive labeling was used over such a long period of time would suggest that it was a successful ploy.”

    • “(..)That this deceptive labeling was used over such a long period of time would suggest that it was a successful ploy.””
      Considering that Americans often go to court, I wouldn’t be surprised if there would be case: which cartridge are pistol ammunition and which are not?

  9. As John Ross related in his novel Unintended Consequences, firing a standard .22 Short in a full-length rifle barrel makes about as much noise as an air rifle firing.

    Considering that .32 ACP loads are generally determinedly subsonic, the lack of muzzle signature from this item doesn’t really surprise me.

    One thing you notice when firing a genuinely suppressed self-loading weapon (the original MAC-10 with Sionics suppressor in .45 ACP in my case), is how much racket the action working makes, that you are usually distracted from by the muzzle signature. A MAC, firing at about 1000 R/M in .45, sounds rather like a berserk carriage return on an old-fashioned teletype printer.



  10. Cute little plinker; definitely not suited to anything military (or maybe discrete behind the backs sniping?). .32ACP can be deadly from this long barrel up to 100m, easy.
    Interestingly, as cleverly as it is designed, today’s ‘holly grail’ being the ERGONOMY was not a priority then.

  11. A semi automatic hunting rifle would be rather uncommon in europe, even more back in the days and for “small game” I would say.

  12. If you want to test out the ballistic properties of the Dreyse .32 ACP here’s a way to do so for under $50 using your own .30/30, .308 Winchester or .30/06 rifle:

    Optimum for this role might be an H&R break action rifle in .30/30 Winchester with either replacement rear sight (for precise, repeatable adjustments) or a telescopic sight. The sights can be dialed in exactly for the .32 ACP.

    When I did this with my .308 rifle I noted that the .32 ACP shot considerably below the point of impact of the full bore rifle cartridge. More testing would tell me how practical the chamber insert idea is in the field–but I got to check ballistics. Unfortunately I cannot find my chronograph readings at the moment.

  13. My conjecture, or fantasy: the Chairman of Rheinmetall takes one of these off the production line, brings it home to his beloved school-age son to pot rabbits in the back of the estate. The darling boy comes home bawling with no potential Hassenpfeffer and a busted thumbnail. Chairman, outraged, cancels all further production and orders the existing rifles sold to the police of Saxony, as the Prussians consider all Saxons Yokels who will swallow anything. Better yet, he orders them melted down and spreads the rumor they were sold to the police of Saxony, the better to smear the Saxons as Yokels.

    I wonder how few pfennigs and man-hours it would have taken to fabricate some kind of thumb-guard (shaped like a corner brace, or an angle-iron?) and screw it to the top of each stock behind the receiver? A little ergonomic thought might have made this arm a winner ….

    • How many mice did you want dead without resorting to toxic bait? This would make a very handy gun for exterminators.

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