Top 15 Sub-Machine Guns of All Time

In today’s post, I’m sharing the top 15 sub-machine guns of all time, as I see it.

Compared to a heavy machine gun, sub-machine guns are light, easy to carry, and are a perfect secondary weapon for soldiers. These weapons were first developed in World War I (1914-1918) as close-quarter offensive weapons. The Germans developed the first sub-machine gun which is called MP18 used by the Sturmtruppen (stormtroopers) who specialize in trench combat.

In the past, sub-machine guns were mainly used in trench raiding, but today they are used by the special forces of the military and SWAT teams to effectively subdue their targets without a huge amount of damage like an assault rifle could do.

Submachine gun, lightweight automatic small-arms weapon chambered for relatively low-energy pistol cartridges and fired from the hip or shoulder. Most types utilize simple blowback actions. Using cartridges of such calibres as .45 inch or 9 mm, they usually have box-type magazines that hold from 10 to 50 cartridges, or occasionally drums holding more rounds. A short-range weapon, the submachine gun is rarely effective at more than 200 yards (180 m). It fires at rates as high as 650 or more rounds per minute and weighs 6 to 10 pounds (2.5 to 4.5 kg). ~ Britannica

TOP 15 Sub-machine guns

In the paragraphs below, I’ll provide a closer look at the top 15 sub-machine guns of all time, as I see them. This list contains all the sub-machine guns used by the military from different parts of the world.

Top 15 Sub-Machine Guns of All Time

# 15: MP 18

Let’s start with the Genesis of sub-machine guns, the MP 18. This gun was designed and manufactured by Theodor Bergmann in the year 1918, for the purpose of infiltration. The MP 18 saw some action in the final stages of World War I and was able to prove its worth. The MP-18 then became the inspiration for the creation of other sub-machine guns in the 1920s onward, just like the Tommy gun, which we will talk about next.

The MP 18 proved to be an excellent weapon. Its concept was well-proven in trench fighting. The basic design directly influenced later submachine gun designs and showed its superiority over the regular infantry rifle in urban, mobile, and guerrilla warfare. The MP 18 served with German police and paramilitary forces after the end of the war. It was widely used in combat by the Freikorps Von Epp against the Spartacus League in Bavaria and by other Freikorps in Berlin, where its efficiency in urban combat was demonstrated. ~ Wikipedia

# 14: Thompson Sub-Machine Gun

Though it was not put into action in the first world war, these guns increased their popularity because they were used by American Gangsters and the Mafia in the Prohibition era. The Thompson sub-machine gun or much known as the Tommy gun deserves a spot on this list. This sub-machine gun was designed by John T. Thompson in the year 1920. The Tommy gun has a box that holds 20 or 30 rounds or it can even use a drum that holds 50 to 100 rounds. If you are familiar with Netflix’s Peaky Blinders, you would most likely see this type of gun being held by Thomas Shelby and his brothers.

The Thompson submachine gun, known informally as the “Tommy Gun”, “Chicago Typewriter”, “Trench Broom” or simply the “Thompson”, is an American-made submachine gun chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge. Originally developed for use in World War I by John T. Thompson, the weapon arrived too late to see service in the conflict, but it subsequently gained fame for its widespread use during the Prohibition era as a signature weapon of various organized crime syndicates in the United States. ~ Fandom

thompson submachine gun

# 13: Colt 9mm

Don’t confuse yourself when you first look at its design, it may look like an M16 carbine but it is completely different. This sub-machine gun was manufactured by the famous American firearms company Colt in 1982 and its design was based on the M-16. Its accuracy is much better than an Uzi which we will talk about later on this list.

The overall aesthetics are identical to most M16 type rifles. Changes include a large plastic brass deflector protruding from the rear quarter of the ejection port, and a correspondingly shorter dust cover. Factory Colt 9mm SMGs are equipped with a 10.5 inch length barrel and have an M16 style upper receiver, which means they feature a fixed carry handle, no forward assist and A1 sights (with 50 and 100 meter settings). ~ Wikipedia


Based on the Swiss SIG SG 540 assault rifle and modeled after the famous Heckler and Koch MP5, this sub-machine gun is manufactured by FAMAE (Fábricas y Maestranzas del Ejército) in Chile (1993). It fires from a closed bolt and is operated by blowback. Although a straightforward blowback bolt has been devised to replace the revolving bolt, this sub-machine gun uses 9mm ammunition and has a fire rate of 1,280 rounds/min.

Technically, the S.A.F. is a recoil operated select fire gun, firing from closed bolt. The triger/hammer group and floating firing pin design is similar to SIG 540, but the bolt is of new design. The receiver is similar in design to SIG 540, and is of folding type (upper and lower receivers are assembled by two steel pins, much like the M16 receiver does). The S.A.F. has ambidextrous safety/fire selector switch with four settings – safe, single shot, 3 round bursts and full auto. S.A.F. ~ Modern Firearms

# 11: Beretta Mx4 Storm

Manufactured by Fabbrica d’Armi Pietro Beretta (Pietro Beretta Weapon Factory) famous for its Beretta 92 pistol, this sub-machine gun has a fire rate of 1,000 rounds per minute and a muzzle velocity of 390 meters per second. Both the Beretta Mx4 Storm and its counterpart the Beretta Cx4 Storm have a tri-rail adapter for mounting flashlights, laser sights, grips, and other accessories, as well as a Picatinny rail for installing contemporary optics on the receiver’s top.

The Mx4 Storm is designed as a submachine gun to be used by law enforcement and similar agencies. It has a compact profile which makes it easier for its users to go around tight spaces. The weapon is made of technopolymers and a rounded overall profile that is “snag free”; the weapon also features ambidextrous controls. The weapon can use 15-, 17-, 20- or 30-round magazines. ~ Fandom

# 10: Military Armament Corporation Model 10 or M-10

Popularly known as the MAC-10, this sub-machine gun emerged in the mid-1960s by American designer Gordon B. Ingram. Do not confuse yourselves with an Uzi and a Mac 10, they may look similar due to their size but their fire rate and ammunition are totally different. The Uzi uses 9mm bullets while the MAC-10 can use both 9mm and the powerful .45 ACP.

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. ~ Firearms News

# 9: APC9K

This sub-machine gun is manufactured by B&T a Swiss firearms manufacturer. It uses standard 9×19mm (APC9), .40 S&W (APC40), 10mm Auto (APC10), and .45 ACP (APC45) ammunition. Depending on its ammunition it has a fire rate of approximately 900 to 1,080 rounds per minute. The APC or Advanced Police Carbine series was designed for tactical combat and on March 29, 2019, the B&T was awarded a contract in the U.S. Army’s Sub Compact Weapon Production-Other Transaction Agreement (P-OTA).

The APC9 PRO features functional updates that include dual auto-folding, non-reciprocating charging handles, improved lower receiver ergonomics, a replaceable pistol grip, and M-LOK® accessory slots. Glock® and SIG SAUER® compatible lower receiver groups are also available. The APC9K ships as a pistol. Multiple stock and brace options are available for purchase separately. ~ B&T

# 8: Uzi

Designed by an Israeli army lieutenant named Uziel Gal, the Uzi got its name to honor its designer. This sub-machinegun was first developed in 1949 but was introduced to the Israeli special forces in 1954 then it finally became the standard issue sub-machine gun of the Israeli defense force. Armed forces and police departments all over the world frequently used the Uzi because it is cheap and easy to handle. This sub-machine gun has a manual safety switch and a fire mode selector, it can go from semi-auto or full-auto mode. With 9mm ammunition, the Uzi can have a rate of fire of 600 rounds/min.

The Uzi SMG is simple in design and technology. It is made primarily from stamped sheet metal. Also it has relatively few mowing parts. Weapon was selected by Israel’s army due to its simplicity and ease of production. This was an inexpensive weapon and its production could be easily established. This submachine gun can be easily field stripped for maintenance and repairs. In general it is a reliable weapon, however it can still jam if not cleaned regularly. ~ Military-Today

uzi machine gun

# 7: Brügger & Thomet MP9

Another product of B&T is the famous MP9. This light sub-machine gun is perfect for PDW, SWAT, CQB, and surveillance teams. We can simply say that the MP9 is the most recent development in personal defense firearms. Known users of this sub-machine gun are the Mumbai and Punjab police forces of India, as well as the Portuguese and the Swiss Army. B&T reconstructed the weapon, making over 19 engineering improvements in addition to the Austrian model, even though it is quite similar to the original Steyr TMP.

If less is more, the MP9-N is the perfect choice. Smaller, lighter and more flexible than all other submachineguns, the MP9-N is really convincing. The MP9 was refined and optimized in cooperation with special units from police and military. The MP9-N is currently in service with close protection teams as well as with SWAT teams worldwide. It is also a perfect choice as a Personal Defense Weapon (PDW). ~ D. Kopelakis & Co.

# 6: Heckler & Koch UMP

The Universale Maschinenpistole or Universal Machine Pistol in English is a versatile machine gun that can carry 9 mm x 19, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP ammunition. The famous German defense manufacturing company was responsible for bringing us the successor of their very own MP5, which we will be talking about later on. The UMP is fully ambidextrous, it has a mode selector which also acts as its safety lock.

The UMP combines top-rate performance with simple handling and high safety standards. The modular fibre-reinforced polymer receiver guarantees the necessary ruggedness with minimised overall weight. As a typical member of the HK family of weapons, the UMP is a highly-effective, economical alternative for military and law enforcement applications. ~ Heckler & Koch

# 5: CZ Scorpion EVO 3

Popularly known as Škorpion, the CZ Scorpion Evo 3 is the third generation of sub-machine guns started by the Škorpion VZ. This sub-machine gun is manufactured by Česká zbrojovka Uherský Brod of the Czech Republic and it is designed to be ambidextrous and very lightweight, so users can switch it from side-to-side with ease. The CZ Scorpion EVO 3 is exported to different countries such as Bolivia, Egypt, Indonesia, Philippines and is currently being used by the armed forces of the Czech Republic.

 It is a blowback operated weapon, which fires from a closed bolt. This weapon is chambered for a standard 9×19 mm Parabellum ammunition. There is also a version chambered for .40S&W ammunition, which is very popular as a police round in the United States. Receiver and many other components of this weapon are made of polymer materials in order to save weight. ~ Military Today

# 4: Heckler & Koch MP7

Another entry from Heckler & Koch of Germany, the MP7 is designed to do the job of both an assault rifle and a pistol. It is chambered for an armor-piercing cartridge the HK 4.6×30mm. This sub-machine gun was produced in the year 2001 and it is said to be the rival of the FN P90. It is lightweight, with minimal recoil, and it has an estimated fire rate of 950 rounds/min. It was not received by the masses compared to the MP5, but it still did its job as a handy sub-machine gun.

The MP7 should have sold incredibly well, and some users are still keen on it, but the platform never caught on the way everyone thought it would. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the weapon; if anything, it did the job too well. The main issue was the huge power of the round and lack of availability. ~ Joint Forces

# 3: Beretta PM12 or M12

PM stands for “Pistola Mitragliatice” or machine pistol. Beretta started producing this sub-machine gun in the late 1950s and it was immediately used by the Italian Carabinieri and the Italian State Police. A sheet steel sub-machine gun with exceptional toughness and simplicity is the Beretta M12 standard.

While the pistol grips and magazine housing are all one piece, the breech block is of the “overhung” type and surrounds the barrel at the time of firing. The pistol grip has a grip safety that makes sure the bolt won’t move unless the weapon is held properly in the firing position. Its fire rate is 550 rounds/min and it has great accuracy in terms of close combat encounters. This sub-machine gun saw some action during the Tet offensive in 1968 when the U.S. Marines repelled an attack by the Viet Cong forces.

Production of the new submachine gun commenced in 1959, and in 1961 it was officially adopted by the Italian Government. It was also widely exported. Manufacturing licenses were sold to Brazil and Indonesia. During the early 1980’s the basic design was improved with the introduction of the Model 12S submachine gun, which had an improved safety arrangement and several other minor changes. ~ Modern Firearms

# 2: FN P90

This sub-machine gun was originally designed for NATO in the late 1980s as a weapon of choice for defensive purposes. The new weapon is housed in a small, lightweight stock with a bullpup configuration constructed of an impact-resistant polymer by the FN designers to reduce size and weight. The P90 is manufactured by FN Herstal of Belgium, it uses SS90 rounds that have enhanced penetration and low recoil. The semi-translucent polymer used to create the high-capacity magazine carries 50 rounds in two rows. With all of its components, we can surely say that this sub-machine gun is a perfect “personal defense weapon” PDW.

The P90 is a short, compact, lightweight bullpup weapon, chambered in 5.7×28mm. It takes a 50-round magazine that feeds from the top, and fires from a closed bolt. The P90 has a 10.5-inch barrel, with a flash hider mounted on it. It uses the straight blowback mode of operation, and the weapon cycles at a rate of 900 rounds per minute. All models of the P90 can take suppressors. Spent casings eject from a port on the bottom of the weapon, eliminating ejection problems with left- and right-handed shooters. ~ Fandom

# 1: Heckler & Koch MP5

Last but not definitely least is the MP5 by Heckler & Koch. Introduced in 1964, this sub-machine gun was designed by Tilo Möller, Manfred Guhring, Georg Seidl, Helmut Baureuter, Rudolf Brandl, Herbert Doll, Paul Thevis, Helmut Danner, and Erich Weisser.

As soon as it was released, the Heckler & Koch MP5 became a bestseller. It was unarguably the best sub-machine gun of all time because of its overall attributes: low recoil, lightweight, and good range. The MP5 has a fire rate of approximately 800 rounds/min.  This weapon is used by police, military forces, and special teams all around the world.

Its exceptional traits are dependability, sturdiness, and accuracy in particular. It has a mode selector wherein the user can choose several modes of fire, semi-automatic, burst, or full auto. Its popularity is also widespread in the gaming world since it is the number one most favorite sub-machine gun of war gamers in the community.

The standard MP5 uses 9×19mm Parabellum ammunition, but there are specialized variants chambered in more powerful .40 S&W and 10mm Auto. These variants can be spotted by different, straight magazines. There are 30- and 15-round proprietary magazines for each type of ammunition. There are also variants of the MP5 that use an integrated suppressor, designated as “MP5SD”. “SD” is an abbreviation of the German word “Schalldämpfer” (literally, “sound dampener” (suppressor)). It has an integral suppressor and a vented barrel, which allows normal ammunition to be fired at subsonic speeds due to less gas pushing the projectile out of the barrel. Standard variants of the MP5 can be outfitted with suppressors as well. ~ Fandom

MP sub-machine gun


In conclusion, these are the top 15 sub-machine guns of all time, as I see it. Which one is your favorite and why? Which one did I forget to include on my list? Please share your thoughts below. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.

Below is a video you might find interesting. It discusses whether sub-machine guns are obsolete these days.

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About the Author 

Johndel Callora is a freelance writer who offers blog writing services. He works closely with website owners providing his all-around services to increase their search engine visibility.

chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)

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