Walther MPL (Video)

The Walther MP was an all-stamped submachine gun developed in the late 1950s, and available in long (MPL) and short (MPK) versions. It is an open-bolt, blowback design, but uses a somewhat innovative bolt in which most of the mass is located above and in front of the chamber, to reduce bolt travel and receiver length. I found it to be a very pleasant gun to shoot, and I suspect it was largely unsuccessful in large part due to the superior marketing skills of H&K with their MP5 submachine gun.

36 Comments

  1. Thanks Ian, excellent firearm and presentation.
    I’ve seen these but since they were not military I had little interest.
    That’s no longer my attitude.
    Yes, I also would like one now for home defense and general target shooting.
    Since it was stamped I assume the manufacturer sold these originally for not much, say US$250 each back in the day.
    However, if today, when they come up for auction what do you think one would sell for?
    My Lanchester recently sold for around US$7K but the MPL, I estimate, would be about US$5K in today’s market?
    Regards
    Pat

    • They are more expensive than the design would suggest, because there are very few transferrables in the US (if any, actually). This one, like most, is a dealer sample.

      • The timeline on their production plays a large role in their stateside obscurity: They entered production in 1963, a scant 5 years before the GCA of 1968 all but destroyed the market for imported MGs.

  2. I’m just incurably in love the 1950s SMGs: so much effort and ingenuity put into them – and all that in vain, as they were inexorably fading into background, phased off by the intermediate round rifles and carbines. Madsen 50, Luigi Franchi LF-57, Walther MPk/MPl, spaceballs like Sola Super or Rexim, or PM-440, not to mention Mauser 57 or Erma 60 PPSh-ish folder, the DUX (being an extension of the Finnish KP/-44 Petiheikka, in itself a 9 mm clone of the PPS-43), and the sole survivors like L2A3 or Uzi. The MP5 is a new kid on the block, 1964 and a closed-bolt gun – another generation, really.

    • “Petiheikka” 😀 “Peti” means “a bed” and “heikka” is an occasionally used nickname for a man with an actual Christian name of “Henri” or “Henrik”.

      The correct spelling is “Peltiheikki”. “Pelti” means sheet metal and “heikki” (or rather “Heikki”) is a Finnish language derivative of the Christian name “Henrik”, so the last part was sort of in the right direction… “Pelti-kp” (which means simply “sheet metal SMG”) was actually the more common nickname for the KP m/44, I think.

  3. Hi Ian,
    MPL’s and MPK’s were selling as DEKOWAFFEN (Dewats) in Germany 2-3 years ago for $250 (ish)’Brand New’ in the shipping boxes!!!

    I bought an example of each type and they are in my buddy’s collection in Germany right now (I visit them often)!

    Cheers,

    Vic

  4. I have seen the shortest version, MPK, in the hands of security guards/ money transfer armored truck crew here in Greece a couple of years ago. I loved the Teutonic look on these babies, but you can’t stare at them for too long or the people carying them will misunderstand your purpose!!

  5. First thing: I am not a fan of open-bolt weapons for many practical reasons, but as they go, this is apparently a very well designed and built unit. I noticed in the lead-in to the video where the muzzle area was seen in auto-fire mode that as the weapon fired the muzzle declined with each round. This is a great plus in a combat weapon in that the target is not obscured by muzzle climb. But possible this could be tuned out of the system with a small bit of refinement of the mass of the bolt assembly. This last is one of my major reasons for admiration of the Jati … no muzzle climb and therefore no necessity for “muzzle recovery/target re-acquisition” during firing. When split seconds count, this is a major plus. The rest of the weapon’s attributes are very admirable in a combat unit and it is a mystery why it did not gain more widespread acceptance. One possible reason is the timeline proximity to the M3 “Greasegun” of WWII; a great weapon for its design purpose but severely derided due to being a “stamped out tin can” design, especially by those who had never actually fired one. All-in-all, this is well designed and built and would be a useful addition to any arsenal for its intended use.

  6. I have seen these on patrol with the police in Belo Horizonte Brazil. That’s going back a few years. Even then it was most common to see police with the (Beretta copy) Taurus MT-12 which was phased out for the Taurus MT-40. When I would spot a cop with a Walther MPL it would always grab my attention. I have no idea how many of them were available for issue.

  7. I realize that most subguns are pretty easy to strip, but this is probably one of the better thought out ones I’ve seen, having seen the various guns Ian has stripped I’m amazed so few manufacturers seem to relize the value of captive pins and springs.
    Goes a long way towards reducing ‘fiddly bits’ to be easily lost.

  8. The “bolt-bounce” safety is especially interesting, as it equates to the half-cock notch on an external-hammer arm. The bolt-retraction handle setup precludes the use of a “safety lock notch” for the handle, as on most first and second-generation SMGS (Sten, MP40, etc.).

    I think the main reason the Walther failed to prosper (other than H&K’s sales department) is that whatever the reality is, closed-bolt SMGs such as the H&K, M1921/28 Thompson, etc., are perceived as being inherently more accurate than open-bolt slamfire (API) weapons. Since the main buyer of such weapons since the 1960s have been police formations rather than the military, and their primary use is in SWAT or CTW type operations where hostage situations are expected, accuracy is considered a primary requirement. It’s considered bad form to hit a hostage being used as a human shield while trying to down a tango.

    (Never mind that the potential for it, even with the MP5, is why it’s a job generally left to the long rifles.)

    cheers

    eon

    • “…closed-bolt SMGs such as the H&K, M1921/28 Thompson, etc.”
      My Thompson fires from the open bolt? 🙂

    • Chinese police frequently used plains-clothes officers to sneak up behind hostage takers and then head shoot them at knife-range with the usual service pistol. For marksmanship with pistol-caliber rounds, try a bolt-action carbine chambered in 9mm Largo with a suppressor fitted at the end or a Delisle silent carbine (whose entire .45 ACP barrel is part of the suppressor).

      Am I wrong in any of this?

      • Yes, there’s a reason M4 carbines and their derivatives have so far eclipsed 9mm subguns; accuracy and lethality are greatly enhanced, while wrapped in a still-conveniently-sized package. Hostage situations can quickly become a kinetic situation where more rounds on tap are needed, thereby precluding the use of a bolt action at close range.

        • Well, engaging bad guys from half a city block away is a different story without panicking the baddie before killing him. And not every police department will have access to the M4. Some countries will just have to use what’s on hand, and assault rifles aren’t always available.

          • You do not have to have a special weapon to take out hostage-takers. When I returned from active duty I became the designated shooter in a hostage situation for two sheriffs’ departments. My weapon of choice was a Remington Model 600. I have seven but my picks for this was a .222 Remington and a .243. In case of longer shots I would use a .308. All were rigged alike with identical scopes and stocks and all were very capable of hitting a golf ball at 150 meters CONSISTENTLY! I saw no need for a suppressor because the target would never hear the shot. I felt comfortable with these non-military weapons because I had made consistent one-shot kills on many deer over the years. One actually made it 8 yards; the rest dropped in-place. There is a misconception about sharpshooters; very seldom do you make quarter-mile shots. Most are 150-300 yards. The secret to success is to put the first shot exactly where it is needed and be able to make the shot within 3 seconds of opportunity presentation. Barretts are fine, but not often required except in special situations. Placement is everything!

        • Perhaps in the US; in Europe and many parts of Asia the HK MP5 and UMP are still going strong in the police and special forces use. They are still considerably more compact than an M4 and their accuracy is more than sufficient for the typical ranges they are used at. With expanding bullets the lethality of 9x19mm is also quite sufficient for police use.

  9. I’ve always found these interesting. I think I once saw one in a B (more like C) movie featuring the object of my childhood infatuation, France Nuyen.

    • The very similar-looking Franchi LF57 showed up in the 1978 NBC TV adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s “The Martian Chronicles” as the sidearms used by the third Mars expedition led by Rock Hudson.

      cheers

      eon

  10. The bolt bounce catch device has a second more obscure function. It prevents what is called a ‘run-away’ gun. In an open-bolt gun, if the ammo is weak or the bolt sluggish (dirty), it may not recoil back far enough to sear up normally when the trigger is released. If the bolt face has gone back far enough to pick up another cartridge in the magazine, it will then move forward and fire that cartridge by itself. It may continue to fire by itself until the magazine runs empty, or at least fire several times uncontrollably.
    The short sear up device on this gun should prevent this from happening.

  11. Ian,

    You must either be a single guy or have a very understanding girlfriend if you are allowed to disassemble a machine gun on your dining table without any sort of tablecloth! That sort of thing would get most of us chased out of town!

  12. Yugoslavia tested MPL and MP-5 together and decided on MP-5, even if those were almost double price. Accuracy was cited as primary reason for it.
    Ian, try to get Yugo M56 SMG to test, I would really like your opinion on it. 🙂

    • I’m pretty sure Sloveninan police bought some MP series SMGs, before independence – I distinctly remember the foldable wire stock of Walther MPL or MPK, despite having been 6 at the time (yes I’ve seen one from up close at that age, but outside the range of my hands).

      They aren’t used anymore, or listed anymore but I’m positive they had some.

  13. Hi Ian! Hope you enjoyed shooting the MPl. As a former Berlin (West) police officer I know that beast very well because we had both, MPl and MPk*, before we changed in the mid eighties to the MP5A3.

    What you call gutter sights was used during dusk or at a traversing target, like the first position at the G3 HK drum sight.

    I’m not really sure but let me guess why the MPl/k was not successful: it was not safe!
    The safety sear who catches the bolt (“Vorlaufsicherung”) was not propperly dimensioned. Very little wear leads to a catastrophic disfunction of this safety device.

    I remember the day at the police academy when we were introduced to the MPl. The instructor takes one out of the rack, pushes a magazine in with closed bold and hold the beast vertical. Then he pushed the folding stock hardly on the ground…

    So our manual of arms ordered
    – to load the MPl only when the bolt was locked with safety engaged
    – to unload the MPl before changing a position under fire fight/battle conditions

    SMGs are still the secondary firearm in the German police.
    Back at the days (until reunification) they were part of our (para-) military arming like the G3, MG3, Super Bazooka and 81mm mortar in Berlin.

    I would say the MPl/k was a military weapon, not a specific police one. I liked it better than the MP5 und does not understand why people call it not good as a SMG shooting from closed bolt.
    The only weak point was the bolt catch.

    * The MPk was only carried by the detective branch and our special teams SEK and MEK.

  14. I remember seeing police on the west side of the Berlin wall carrying these around the early 70s. Can’t quite remember if an MPL or MPK, but think it was the former

  15. I kind of recall that our police dept (Pa) in the 70s took tenders for subguns and this was a contender. But the bid was astronomical and a S&W Swedish K clone won. I also remember it was a minimum bid, no cases, magazines nor parts wallet. The dealer didn’t seem that interested.

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