Without a doubt, it was a bit awkward and the side-mounted magazine didn’t help its balance any. But none of that mattered to me. The MP-28 submachine gun I was holding was an important step in the development of modern automatic weapons.
Patrick Sweeney and I took turns running magazines through it on full-automatic. A relatively slow cyclic rate of approximately 500 rpm combined with its hefty 9-pound weight made for a very controllable piece. Short bursts and single rounds were easy to kick out and if you held the trigger down the piece simply chugged away until it ran dry.
I have to say Pat in particular did some admirable shooting with it, keeping an entire magazine fired in one long burst on the chest of a silhouette at 50+ yards.
The MP-28 is a classic first generation submachine gun that was an improvement on the groundbreaking Great War vintage MP-18. The 9x19mm MP-18 was designed by Hugo Schmeisser and built by the Bergmann plant. While it’s considered the first “practical:” submachine gun, there will always be some argument over whether Beretta’s OVP or Model 1918 was fielded first.
What no one argues about is the impact the design had. Suddenly German Stosstrupp (Stormtroopers) had a fairly light and maneuverable weapon capable of putting out a large amount of effective fire at close range. As such it proved well suited for the infiltration and fire and movement tactics of the day.
Prior to the fielding of the MP-18, C96 and P08 pistols equipped with shoulder stocks and extended magazines had been tested and fielded. These proved less than satisfactory and the MP-18 was developed as an alternative. The result offered a real improvement in performance over both the infantry rifles and stocked pistols of the day.
While a huge step forward, it was not quite perfect. The weak point of the design was its method of feed. The MP-18 was designed to feed from the existing 32-round Trommel (snail) drum magazine developed for the P08 Luger pistol. It was available, but was not especially reliable and it required a special magazine tool for loading.
Even though fielded in relatively small numbers near the end of the war, the MP-18 left its mark.
After the war Hugo Schmeisser took the MP-18 and refined it to become the MP-28. The new model offered some improvements to the basic design and added the ability to fire semi-automatic.
The biggest and most noticeable change was its method of feed. Gone was the Luger Trommel drum, set at a weird angle. In its place was a conventional single-position feed detachable box magazine of 20, 32 or 50 round capacity. This was enough of an improvement that many original MP-18s were also converted to use MP-28 magazines.
The MP-28 is very much a child of the Golden Age of firearms. It featured an attractive wooden stock, finely machined metalwork and a handsome finish. Build quality was far beyond what was required, and held to typically high German standards.
In profile it somewhat resembles the carbines of the day, but with a ventilated metal handguard surrounding the barrel. The tangent rear sight is calibrated all the way out to 1,000 meters. This is more than a bit optimistic considering the standard German model was chambered in 9x19mm. Method of operation was simple advanced primer ignition blowback and the weapon fired from the open bolt position.
Controls consist of a selector located above the trigger, a magazine release located on the top of the magazine well and a safety cut-out into which the bolt-handle can be turned. To operate, place the piece in the desired mode of fire, either semi-auto or full-auto.
Retract the bolt all the way and turn its handle up into the safety cutout. Insert a loaded magazine until it locks securely in place. When you are ready to fire, carefully remove the bolt handle from the safety cutout and ease it forward so it is held by the sear. The piece is now ready to fire.
The MP-28 was produced by C.G. Haenel Waffenfabrik of Suhl, and under license by Anciens Etablissement Pieper SA of Herstal Belgium and an unknown firm in Spain. The MP-28 saw extensive use outside Germany, and was produced in a number of calibers in addition to 9x19mm.
It saw heavy use during the Spanish Civil War and the Second Sino-Japanese War. It went on to be fielded by German forces throughout World War II. Heavy combat proved the MP-28 to be a tough and reliable piece: one of the best first generation submachine guns.
The downside to the MP-28 was simply how it was made and production costs. Expensive and time-consuming to produce, it was superseded by more modern designs developed with an eye towards manufacturing.
Even so it was copied by the British to become the Lanchester and its influence can be clearly seen in the Patchett/Sterling L2A1/L2A2 submachine guns. I thoroughly enjoyed my time behind the MP-28. Beautifully machined, robust, reliable and effective, it is a true classic.