July 27, 2022
On July 11, 1979, a white Ford Econoline van cruised through the parking lot of Dadeland, urban Miami’s largest shopping mall. Dade-land was fifty acres of late 1970s awesome, populated with niche shops, anchor stores, and throngs of families out doing what Americans did in the years immediately prior to Ronald Reagan. Among the many shoppers enjoying the mall that day was one German Jimenez Panesso and his bodyguard, Juan Carlos Hernandez. (German was his name, not his nationality.) German Jimenez Panesso was a Colombian drug lord.
Panesso traveled in an armored Mercedes limousine befitting the stature of one of Miami’s top drug dealers. At 37, Panesso was handsome, rich, powerful, and on top of his game. At 2:30 pm on this torrid Miami afternoon, Panesso and Hernandez made their way into Crown Liquors to procure their weekly supply of Chivas Regal. Both men were sufficiently at ease for Hernandez to leave his 9mm Browning Hi-Power behind in the Mercedes.
The Ford van pulled up and parked outside the liquor store. The astute observer would have noted that one side of the van read “Happy Time Complete Party Supply.” The other declared, “Happy Time Complete Supply Party.” The question of whether the van supplied the party or was the party itself I shall leave to the philosophers.
Two men left the van and followed Panesso and Hernandez into the shop. The larger of the two then produced a .380 Beretta pistol equipped with a sound suppressor and shot Panesso four times in the face. His companion hosed the store down with a fully automatic .45ACP MAC-10 submachine gun, in the process killing Panesso’s associate, Juan Carlos Hernandez.
The two assassins returned to the van and liberally sprayed the parking lot and surrounding shops with gunfire apparently just for meanness. Authorities later found the van abandoned behind the shopping center. In addition to quarter-inch armored plate affixed around the vehicle, there were also several gun ports covered with nondescript plastic covers. Inside the van, the cops found more than twenty firearms including shotguns, handguns, and automatic weapons. Panesso and Hernandez were the 37th and 38th Miami homicides for 1979. At a time when there were untold millions to be made moving drugs into south-central Florida, the MAC-10 submachine gun found its most sinister applications.
Such sordid stuff as this makes for popular copy. Prose describing unfettered violence catches the eye, and I just crafted a bit of it myself. However, the dirty little secret is that criminal usage of legitimate automatic weapons was and is actually vanishingly rare in the United States. In fact, Thompson submachine guns and Browning Automatic Rifles could be found in Sears and Roebuck stores as well as conventional gun shops prior to the passage of the blatantly unconstitutional National Firearms Act of 1934.
Before the passage of that law, machineguns were sold over the counter and uncontrolled wherever there was money enough to purchase them. It was simply that following on the heels of the Great Depression nobody had any money. A Thompson sold for $225 back then. That’s about $4,400 today. A BAR was the equivalent of about $6,000.
Back in the 1930s, newsreels would have Americans believe that motorized gangsters lurked behind every pot and tree. However, despite literally unfettered access to these guns Thompsons and BARs still showed up at precious few crime scenes. Those that did were most commonly stolen from police stations or National Guard armories.
It is simply that sordid episodes like Al Capone’s St. Valentine’s Day massacre burn indelibly into the minds of the public. Then, as now, politicians and complicit media weaponize the narrative to suit their purposes. Criminals overwhelmingly prefer handguns to machineguns simply for their concealability.
In more modern times, of the few machineguns used during the drug wars in 1980s Miami, the MAC-10 was indeed the jewel. Tiny, generally reliable, and easy to use, this little stamped steel wonder had its origins on the blood-soaked battlefields of World War 2. After a lengthy development process, a WW2 veteran named Gordon Ingram unintentionally crafted the ultimate drug runner’s buzz gun.
The Ingram Model 10 submachine gun was its official appellation. The informal MAC-10 moniker was never an advertised term used by the company. The M-10 was, as the name implies, the tenth major weapon that Gordon Ingram designed. MAC was shorthand for the Military Armament Corporation that produced the weapon.
Ingram’s earlier Model 6 would pass for a Thompson in dim light, though it was much cheaper to build. Designed around a drawn tubular receiver and sporting some truly revolutionary features, the Model 6 launched during a time when surplus Thompsons were available for about nothing. Intended for Law Enforcement and prison use, the Model 6 incorporated a novel fire selector in the trigger. In the manner of the German Bergmann MP35 and the Austrian Steyr AUG, a partial pull on the trigger produced semiautomatic fire while a long pull enabled the gun’s fully automatic function. The Model 6 fired from the open bolt and could be had with either a horizontal foregrip or a vertical Thompson sort. Sales were tepid, and the gun died a natural death.
Birthed in 1964, the Model 10 was designed first and foremost to take advantage of modern industrial processes. The upper and lower receivers were stamped out of sheet steel. The lower frame was subsequently bent and welded to shape. The trunnion that held the barrel was little more than a steel block dressed as needed and welded in place. The earliest barrels were made under contract by Marlin and were of exceptional quality. The Ingram Model 10 was produced in both 9mm and .45ACP versions.
The bolt on the Ingram submachine guns telescopes over the barrel to produce a remarkably compact weapon. John Browning’s inimitable 1911 pistol is a good example of a handgun designed around this principle. The Czech vz-23 was the first submachine gun in common use to utilize a telescoping bolt to reduce overall length. This same design attribute drives the Israeli Uzi. Subsequent bolt travel on the Model 10 is, however, very short. This equates out to a spunky rate of fire in all the Ingram guns.
Most MAC bolts were milled steel though there was a prototype or two that were stamped. The MAC fires from the open bolt via advanced primer ignition. The firing pin is little more than a pimple milled into the bolt face. The sliding safety switch rides fore and aft just inside the trigger guard in the manner of the M1 Garand. The fire selector resides on the front left aspect of the receiver and is easily manipulated with the thumb of the left hand when the gun is fired right-handed.
The charging handle reciprocates with the bolt and also serves as a travel safety. With the bolt forward one can rotate the knob ninety degrees and lock the bolt closed. When set on safe the bolt handle also occludes the gun’s sights.
The trigger guard is a simple strip of steel welded in place, and the magazine catch is situated on the rear of the grip for easy manipulation with either hand. The sights are decidedly underwhelming. The front sight is a bent strip of steel protected by a pair of ears. The rear sight is a hole drilled in the steel flap extending above the rear of the receiver. While technically serviceable, they are fairly worthless.
The pistol grip is a stamped steel box welded to the bottom of the frame assembly. As was touted by the makers of the Uzi, in the dark it is easy to manage fresh magazines by the “hand-finds-hand” concept. A little elbow grease will get the magazines to seat with the bolt closed. However, I have found that the top round in the magazine will frequently jump out of the gun when the bolt is jacked vigorously open over a full mag.
The MAC buttstock has been enthusiastically slandered over the years and rightfully so. However, it remains mechanically novel and markedly better than nothing. Designed for compactness rather than functionality, this assembly collapses around the frame of the gun so as to remain inconspicuous when stowed. To deploy the stock one must first squeeze the butt assembly and swing it into position. You then press the stock release catch underneath the receiver to allow the stock rails to deploy. In action the stock is indeed flimsy but nonetheless adds to the stability of the weapon. If you tripped and fell onto the thing I have no doubt but that it would end up a crumpled mess.
The Model 10 was designed from the outset to be used with a sound suppressor, and the barrel is threaded accordingly. However, these threads are quite coarse, and the suppressor is notorious for working loose if proper attention is not paid. I have ruined a pair of suppressor nose caps myself through inattention and sloth. There are several aftermarket fixes for this problem. I installed spring-loaded detents in the trunnions of my guns just so I don’t have to fret about it anymore.
In 1972, Ingram shrunk the Model 10 down and chambered it for .380ACP. The subsequent Ingram Model 11 is one of the smallest submachine guns ever made. Side by side, the Model 11 is not much larger than a 1911 pistol and weighs a mere 3.5 pounds. Therein resides the problem.
These Ingram guns were so small and compact that they retained very little room for the bolts to cycle. At 6.5 pounds the larger Model 10 weighed as much as an M16 rifle. Given the abbreviated bolt travel, the bigger MAC gun still cycled in excess of 1,000 rounds per minute. The smaller M-11 zipped through .380ACP ammunition like Democrats spend money. Expect 1,300 to 1,600 rpm dependent upon the ammo. Independent of technique, this attribute alone made these little guns a handful.
Everything about the Model 11 was the same as the Model 10 only smaller. The manual of arms was identical throughout. Interestingly, the .380ACP and .45ACP versions used double stack magazines that tapered to a single feed presentation and required a magazine loader for loading. The .45ACP version actually used slightly modified M3 Grease Gun magazines. The .380ACP M-11 magazine was proprietary. The 9mm magazine was adapted from that of the Walther MPL submachine gun and was of a double stack design. As such, it could be loaded readily using nothing more advanced than a standard set of fingers.
Accessories include a front hand strap that attaches to the barrel between the upper receiver and the sound suppressor. Mine sports a tidy .38-inch hole as mute testimony to a particularly froggy day wherein I tried to shoot my M-11 one-handed. Back in the 1970s and ´80s there were more than a few cases of finger amputations resulting from the MAC’s vigorous recoil impulse pushing the gun backward far enough to allow the support hand to sweep ahead of the stubby muzzle on full auto. Ouch.
There was an operational briefcase that mounted a MAC gun covertly inside to fire through a hole in the side. A small bracket held a business card over the hole as a sort of camouflage. A mechanical linkage in the handle allowed the gun to be fired within the case, but this thing was a deathtrap.
The diminutive Ingram submachine guns were indeed designed for compactness rather than controllability. While a tiny percentage of these weapons were used for nefarious intent, the overwhelming preponderance found their way into the hands of private machinegun collectors. I purchased a 9mm MAC-10 on my 21st birthday back in 1987, and the weapon occupies a soft spot in my heart as my first machine gun. However, it is work to run the gun safely and well. Other weapons are both more comfortable and fun.
The 9mm M-10 is simple enough to learn. The controls are intuitive, and, if properly fed and maintained, the tidy little bullet hose remains at least as reliable as comparable open bolt designs. Standard velocity 9mm ammunition is naturally supersonic, so the gun is noisy even with a suppressor in place. Interestingly, this perceived bullet racket is a function of exposure. The sonic crack is loud and unpleasant when fired across a significant distance. When used on very close-range targets the effect is much less objectionable.
The .380ACP M-11 sounds like a sheet ripping when fired full auto. The original designers likened the diminutive gun to a shotgun in its capacity to saturate an area with those nasty little .380ACP bullets. With attention to technique, however, the gun is reasonably effective at close-range targets when fired in modest bursts. A full 32-round mag dump takes all of 1.2 seconds. Wow.
The Ingram guns are indeed markedly more controllable with sound suppressors in place than without, though this appendage wrecks the legendary concealability of the weapons. I have logged a lot of rounds through my MAC guns, and I can only remain reliably prickly out to about fifty meters. The standard iron sights seem about worthless at any range. Once the trigger is pulled the gun shakes around such that any sort of sight picture is an exercise in futility. However, for a target-rich environment wherein the mission is to fill an enclosed space with pain little is more effective even today. As an aside, none of my Ingram guns cares much for hollowpoint ammo.
The Rest of the Story — A Gun Nerd’s Dream
By 1974, the Military Armament Corporation was imploding. The company was top-heavy with management, and the hoped-for government contracts for tens of thousands of guns simply never materialized. Infighting resulted in no less than twenty-nine named entities and individuals litigating against and within the company to address grievances or recoup money. By December of 1975, the Military Armament Corporation filed for bankruptcy.
In April of 1976, US District Court Bankruptcy Judge A.D. Kahn ordered the remaining assets of the Military Armament Corporation be sold at auction. The sale began on June 14, 1976, and lasted two days. The auction was only open to holders of a Class 3 SOT, and only a handful showed up. The MAC auction was the largest single sale of transferable automatic weapons in US history, with roughly nine thousand machine guns being sold in the span of forty-eight hours.
Many of these MAC submachine guns were sold in bulk by the pallet. The lowest reported price for a pallet of one hundred M-10 guns was $600, and there were still few takers even at those prices. That’s just $28 apiece even adjusted for inflation. If ever I invent a time machine, the MAC auction is the first place I’m going.
After the dissolution of the Military Armament Corporation, several different entities have produced MAC guns. RPB Industries churned them out immediately afterward until that corporation was formally dissolved in 1982. Sylvia and Wayne Daniels subsequently acquired the rights to the MAC guns after RPB’s demise and began production as SWD Incorporated.
In 1984, Wayne Daniels introduced a modified version of the original MAC that was a sort of hybrid between the M-10 and M-11. The receiver was narrow like that of the smaller gun yet extended slightly in the back to allow a longer bolt travel. The M-11/9 was chambered in 9mm only.
Small lots of full auto fat-framed MACs were also produced in both New Jersey and Stephensville, Texas. Collectors refer to these guns as “Jersey MACs” and “Texas MACs” today. There was also a smattering of semi-auto and transferable long-barreled full-auto carbines produced prior to 1986. On the rare occasion, these odd guns come available for sale they cost a holy fortune.
Lage Manufacturing currently produces an array of aftermarket drop-in upper receivers that slow down the MAC’s legendary rate of fire and greatly improve the guns’ human engineering. Lage uppers turn these notorious bullet hose weapons into efficient and effective competition and defensive tools. Certain of these accessories even allow the use of drum magazines.
The original semi-auto versions of the MAC guns fired from the open bolt. These weapons were fairly easy to convert to full auto, and this was where most of the 1980’s-era South Florida drug runners’ automatic weapons originated. ATF subsequently prohibited the manufacture of open-bolt semi-auto firearms for sale to the general public in 1982. After that time, any further open-bolt semiauto guns were classified as machine guns. This ruling is what sealed the fate of RPB Industries. Those original grandfathered open-bolt semi-auto M-10 and M-11 guns command a premium nowadays as collectibles.
Ingram submachine guns represent the absolute pinnacle of utilitarian pressed steel submachine gun design. The HK UMP is a more advanced polymer contrivance, and the MP5 is as complicated as a computer printer on the inside. Ingram guns, however, were really only special purpose weapons with very narrow tactical applications. Considering its compact size and blistering rate of fire, the Ingram gun should really have been little more than a footnote in the history of firearms.
However, the MAC guns were dirt cheap to produce. Additionally, these inexpensive little homegrown buzz guns were in series production in the years before the 1986 machinegun ban. This made them available.
Back in the mid-´70s and early ´80s MAC submachine guns were liberally advertised in the gun press for sale to law-abiding American shooters. Tables full of legally transferable MAC guns were staples at major gun shows. I recall drooling over them myself back when I was too young to buy my own.
Even today, MAC submachine guns remain the entry-level machinegun of choice for most enthusiasts new to this quirky sport of ours. I paid $650 for my first MAC-10 back in 1987 and felt like I was getting robbed at the time. Nowadays you are fortunate to land one in good shape for ten times that amount.
Our own Firearms News editor Vincent DeNiro got his first MAC, an open-bolt semi-auto M-11 pistol, back in 1981. He regrettably traded the gun three years later. While many of us committed gun nerds have sad stories of this sort, this one seems to sting Vince a little deeper than most!
The MAC submachine guns spawned from a very different time in America. In the 1970s most everybody had a job, and you could still build machineguns for individual consumption. The MAC-10 adorned the covers of dozens of stylized poser mercenary magazines. However, in the grand scheme machine guns really were and are all but non-existent in the hands of criminals. The British SAS, Israeli Special Forces, and US Navy SEALs used a few M-10s operationally. However, for the most part, the MAC submachine guns came and went without making too big a splash in military circles. Nowadays, however, these nifty little niche weapons remain as archaic holdovers from a very different age.
Hunting with the MAC-10 Submachine Gun
The management of the original Military Armament Corporation was rabid to sell the M-10 and M-11 to governments both foreign and domestic. Salesmen legitimate and otherwise traveled the globe hawking these inexpensive little buzz guns to anyone who would grant them an audience. Lots of folks bought a few, but nobody bought a lot. At the time American trade restrictions prevented the export of sound suppressors to foreign countries. Many of the export MACs had their suppressor mounting threads removed as a result. As the suppressor angle was a major selling point for these weapons, this particular rule ultimately became an insurmountable impediment to foreign sales.
In Peter Capstick’s outstanding book, Africa, a Return to the Long Grass, this great adventurer relates an anecdote wherein he had somehow acquired a 9mm M-10 submachine gun along with nineteen magazines. There were and have always been a lot of guns in Africa. Capstick used the little weapon to decimate a local herd of baboons at a place called Vlackfontein after they brutally attacked local villagers and killed a child.
The man-killing baboons were based in a thick stand of trees. Capstick had his men dig a trench around the copse and douse the trench in fuel leaving but a single opening. He then posted himself overlooking this exit, his MAC at the ready. Once the trench was alight there resulted a most gratuitous slaughter. The gory tale would not play well at a PETA convention, but that story alone is worth the price of the tome.
Beset by sundry arms embargoes while they fought to defend their African colonies against well-equipped communist insurgencies, the Portuguese acquired small numbers of M-10 submachine guns. This was likely where Capstick got his. The former Portuguese colonies of Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea Bissau did ultimately fall to the Marxists, but Portugal retained some of these curious little guns. Nowadays the M-10 still sees limited service with the Portuguese Air Force Police as well as, interestingly enough, certain ceremonial guard applications.
John Wayne introduced the planet to the MAC-10 in the 1974 cop drama McQ. However, the Duke was himself nearly killed by a MAC-10 submachine gun. The movie was quite cool for its day and included such radical stuff as magazine changes at appropriate times and a veiled though flawed reference to machinegun laws. McQ was also the first movie that included a scene wherein a car was flipped while in motion via an explosive charge.
John Wayne was a wealthy man, and representatives of the original Military Armament Corporation were hungry for operating capital. They realized that Wayne might be able to lend both his money and his charisma to the struggling organization. Anxious to make a good impression on the world’s most popular movie star, company representatives met John Wayne at a shooting range near Newport Beach, California, to demo their nifty little submachine guns. Rumor has it that Mr. Wayne was already nicely lubricated with an adult beverage or three as he stood behind the firing line and the shooters arrayed with their wares.
When it was time to debut the operational briefcase something bad happened. Either the trigger linkage broke, the zippy-little monster got away from the operator, or he was inadvertently holding it backward. Regardless, the demonstrator purportedly peppered the spectator area with .45-caliber bullets at around 1,000 rounds per minute, causing most all involved to scurry for cover. Legend has it that the Duke was not unduly frazzled and never spilled his drink. He did, however, leave the range without investing in the company.
In 1981, Kurt Russel gave the MAC-10 an even bigger spotlight than John Wayne did in the John Carpenter classic Escape From New York. Editor Vincent DeNiro says he will never forget the people cheering and clapping (and a few people “rolling their eyes” saying: Aw c’mon!) in the theatre when Kurt Russel, as Snake Plissken, fires his MAC full auto at a wall in the shape of a doorway and then bursts through it.
If you are interested in buying one of these bullet hoses, please take a look at Ruben Mendiola’s company at DealerNFA.com or the Gun Spot.
M-10 Submachine Gun Specifications
- Caliber: 9mm/.45ACP
- Weight: 6.26 lbs.
- Length: 11.6 in (retracted); 21.6 in (extended)
- Barrel Length: 4.5 in
- Action: Blowback
- Rate of Fire: 1,050−1,200 rpm
- Feed System: Detachable box magazine — 32 rd. 9mm / 30 rd. .45ACP
- Sights: Fixed
- Value: $7,000-plus