This is an early SMG of an unusual design,
dating to around the World War I period. It is currently held in the Canadian War Museum in Ottowa. The maker is unknown, as there
are no markings, although all the available evidence points to Austrian
origin. It is chambered in the 9x23mm Steyr cartridge, the standard pistol
cartridge of the Austrian Army of the time, and has shows obvious design
influence from the standard Austrian service pistol, the Steyr M.12. It is
built around the recoil action, with a reciprocating spring-loaded barrel
that is designed to rotate against a cam slot on the barrel extension. The
barrel extension engages a set of locking lugs on the bolt face. The
recoil spring runs from the bolt through into the stock; note the partial
in-line section of the stock through which the spring is housed. The gun
is designed to fire from an open bolt and the cocking handle is a
retractable tab located just underneath the adjustable rear sight.
This SMG is also significant in that it is the first known submachine gun
to feed magazines from the pistol grip. Although the magazine itself is
now missing, the magazine housing can be observed in the grip, with a mag
catch located at the bottom. There is also an open ejector at the top of
the receiver in which it seems possible to feed stripper clips, probably
of the type used by the Steyr M.12 pistol. The intended magazine capacity
is not known. On the left side of the receiver is a rotating fire selector
switch, marked "D-E-S", standing for the German words "Dauerfeuer",
"Einzelfeuer", and "Sicherung" - full-auto, single-fire, and safety
respectively. This feature in and of itself was quite forward-thinking for
the time period, as the most successful WWI SMG, the Bergmann, did not
feature a fire selector at all and fired in full-auto only. The earlier
Fiat-Revelli SMG prototype from Italy did also have a similar selector.
The disassembled 9x23mm machine pistol.
The question is: was this gun made during the war, or just afterward?
Given that the majority of post-war SMGs used a straight blowback action
patterned after the Bergmann, it is more likely that this gun dates to the
late WWI period, as it would have already been an outdated design by the
1920s. It would certainly seem that the designers of this gun had little
to no knowledge of other SMGs and were working to build a weapon based on
the principles of a Steyr pistol, rather than anything like the Bergmann
or Thompson guns. It is also unlikely that there would have been any
demand for such a weapon in post-war Austria, especially since the
country's domestic arms industry was heavily restricted by the Treaty of
R.K. Wilson wrote in 1943 that the Austrians had actually established the
tooling equipment at Steyr to produce a submachine gun in late 1918, but
that the war ended before full production could begin and all the
prototypes and associated documentation were destroyed by the Inter-Allied
Commission of Control. Thomas B. Nelson also attested to this in The
World's Submachine Guns
and it seems likely, given
Austria-Hungary's interest in the SMG concept, that it is probably true.
With this information, it can be reasonably assumed that this unidentified
prototype is, in fact, a surviving example - perhaps the sole
example - of the mystery Steyr 1918 SMG, and was confiscated by
the Allies after the war.