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Steyr M.12/P16

Steyr M.12/P16 machine pistol

Steyr M.12/P16

The Steyr M.12/P16 was probably the very first machine-pistol, introduced in during World War I for the Austrian Army. It was developed after the Austrians encountered the Italian "machine-pistol" - the Villar Perosa - on the Alpine Front, and desired an equivalent weapon. The approach taken here seems to have been a very literal one, to convert the standard Steyr M.12 service pistol into an automatic weapon, rather than develop a new gun from scratch. This was achieved through screwing a two-armed fire selector switch through the upper section of the trigger. The long "arm" of this switch would engage the trigger sear whilst the short "arm" was attached to the lower portion of the trigger itself. When the long arm was flipped, it would hold down the sear and allow for uninterrupted repeating shots. The internal 8-round magazine of the M.12 was extended to 16 rounds. Other than these modifications, the M.12/P16 was operationally identical to the original semi-automatic model.

As further evidence of the Villar Perosa's influence, a contraption was developed for the M.12/P16 known as the "Doppelpistole". This was simply a double mount that fitted two M.12/P16s to a central wooden buttstock in an attempt to make it "double-barreled". A wooden carrying case, similar to that issued with the Villar Perosa, was also made for the Doppelpistole, although the idea seems to have been experimental and never came into wide issue.

The M.12/P16 was employed on the Italian Front in 1916 and 1917 but did not last long in Austrian service. It was much too inaccurate and uncontrollable to be used effectively at range. The user could only fire off about two short bursts before the 16-round magazine was completely expended, and quick reloading was not possible due to the lack of a removable magazine - like the standard M.12, these guns were loaded by stripper clips. By the latter part of 1917, Steyr decided to simply produce a direct copy of the Villar Perosa known as the Sturm-Pistole. Only about 900 M.12/P16s were ever produced. It is sometimes claimed that these machine-pistols were built in 9x19mm Parabellum for the Germans during World War II, which as far as I know is totally untrue.

Gallery (click to enlarge)

Steyr M.12/P16


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