How was the submachinegun utilized in WW1?

May 2019
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there were less than 20.000 MP18 made , as production ramped up by mid 1918 , a lot of the early one would have been lost in combat
Didn't they make about 14,000 Villar Perosa 1915s? Not sure how many of them were deployed to ground use though, would be interesting if anyone here knows...

machine rifle were quickly issued to troops on a formal basis while Machine pistol were seen mainly as a police weapon ,
I know the MP18s (and 1920 'overstamps') were issued to police units after the war, but I didn't know they were also used as police weapons during the war. I thought that, before the armistice, they were focused exclusively on military distribution. Or are you talking about another smg that saw police use during the war?
 

sparky

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Jan 2017
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What became known as the "sub-machine gun" had its genesis in the early 20th Century and developed around the concepts of infiltration, fire ,and movement,
specifically for the task of clearing trenches of enemy soldiers, an environment within which engagements were unlikely to occur beyond a range of a few feet.

Paul Corning observes in Machine Guns and the Great War:
It is frequently repeated as fact the Bergman Muskete had so impressed the Allies that they specifically banned its production and military issue.
In fact no such prohibition appears in the terms of the Treaty of Versailles.
Corning goes on to speculate that, far from making a great impression on the Allies, the MP18 had barely registered on the collective consciousness of the victors,
arguing that even on the eve of World War II, the former Allies remained unconvinced of the utility of this entire class of weapon.

the idea was to issue one to each officer and NCO , with six per companies , this was fantasy , Germany had severe shortage of material
At least 5,000 MP 18.1s were built and used during World War I, based upon observed serial number ranges of captured weapons
at any time it is doubtful if more than a couple of thousands were issued with only a few hundreds being fired in anger
 
May 2019
356
Earth
A bit of digging online turned up some interesting photos of the Villar Perosa 1915s in ground use.

This one shows the weapon equipped with an armoured shield for static defense: https://i0.wp.com/www.forgottenweapons.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/villarperosapic.jpg?w=499&ssl=1

This one shows a bicycle-mounted gun: http://sadefensejournal.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/wwi04.jpg

As I mentioned earlier, despite technically being within subgun specs, from what little I've seen it seems the Italians primarily used these guns in an lmg role when on the ground. I have seen people online claim that there were slings/harnesses made up for them to be used in a walking-fire role, although I haven't been able to find any photos or verifiable sources for this. If anyone could clarify, that'd be helpful.

Edit: Also found a photo with one that was modified with a wooden shoulder stock, no idea if it's authentic to WW1 though, or how many of these were so modified during the conflict if it actually was done. If anyone can shed light on this, please do: https://modernfirearms.net/userfiles/_thumbs/Images/smg/smg127/villar-perosa_1915_4.jpg
^It doesn't seem like they've replaced the button triggers, so I'm not quite sure how easily that could have been fired from the shoulder with those things still in place...

I know the OVP 1918s were basically stocked, single-barrel adaptations of the M1915s, but as far as I know these did not enter service until after WW1...
 
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sparky

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For practical purpose , machine pistol were not significant during WW1
their very limited use can lead to thinking of their deployment as "experimental" prehistory

while there was some number of model developed after the war , there was no widespread adoption by the Armies
this changed after the Soviet winter war , a study of the fighting established the fact that in assault , the quantity of fire delivered at less than 50 meters was determinant in taking a position
an US Army study of the infantry fighting during WW2 came to the same conclusion

during WW2 it was found that sub-machine guns were cheap to make , didn't require as much qualified personnel or high class material for their production
they were perfect for issue to rear echelon units , tank and artillery crew
infantry liked them for their lightness ( have you ever walked 30 miles with a full pack and a stupid big rifle which get stuck everywhere ? )
they were a massive advantage when defending and during an attack when closing within grenade throwing range
that's when marksmanship is pretty useless , the point being to suppress the other side by getting them to cower

the Soviet developed , produced and equipped whole companies with this type of weapon
especially the PPsh 41 , much beloved by everybody of every side on the eastern front
the British issued the Sten , a rather bad design but very cheap and easy to make
dissatisfied by the cost of the Thomson , the US came up with the grease gun which was quite brilliant
 
May 2019
356
Earth
For practical purpose , machine pistol were not significant during WW1
their very limited use can lead to thinking of their deployment as "experimental" prehistory
"Prehistory" or not, the fact remains that both the MP18 and the Villar Perosa 1915 fit the technical specs to be considered submachineguns, and both saw combat service. Yes, of course it was limited, but as the first of their kind to see combat service, I'm curious to learning more details about how they were employed in the field. So far, the contrast in how the Italians and Germans used their respective models is imo an interesting case study of the different approaches that armies took to this new class of weapon: some seem to have simply viewed them as lighter lmgs, while others began utilizing them in specialized units that operated along new tactical lines...
 

Nemowork

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Jan 2011
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South of the barcodes
Edit: Also found a photo with one that was modified with a wooden shoulder stock, no idea if it's authentic to WW1 though, or how many of these were so modified during the conflict if it actually was done. If anyone can shed light on this, please do: https://modernfirearms.net/userfiles/_thumbs/Images/smg/smg127/villar-perosa_1915_4.jpg
^It doesn't seem like they've replaced the button triggers, so I'm not quite sure how easily that could have been fired from the shoulder with those things still in place...
I vagually recalled one turning up in an old Christopher Lambert movie with the double barrel and a pistol grip trigger but a quick check on IMFDB shows its a replica bodged up out of two Beretta 38a's. Guess Michael Cimino wanted a cool gun for the movie.

 

sparky

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Tat is correct unfortunately , their usage was too limited , the circumstances too particular for a doctrine to be developed
it took three years of fighting for the walking fire doctrine to be validated , all combatants then developed their portable auto weapons as a matter of course
the sub-machine gun didn't have enough demonstrated use to be accepted by the victors , they kept their weapon evolution on the track they saw as successful

For the German there was an enduring interest in Sub-machine gun , they didn't see their use as a failure , just as early days
issuing S-M at six per company seems to be a bit low , to the point of being moderately useless
I think the Soviet with entire S-M squads were closer to the mark
for the Italian experience with the V-P , it get even more confusing , while its weigh proven a boon for the mountain fighting
its rate of fire made it mediocre as a suppressing weapon , while it's light bullet made distance shooting useless ( a common problem with S-M)
the numbers are hard to come by but it would seems that at 3 nominally issued per battalion and one per chosen company as a reality
its usage would have been marginal
however it received the ultimate compliment by the Austro Hungarian , imitation
 

Larrey

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Sep 2011
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It's just not what I'm interested in for this thread.
Well, OK. :)

Only the Bergman MP 18 and the Chauchat were responses to the same kind of battlefield needs – portable auto-fire for the infantry. And the SMG was a bit of a novelty item, coming late, in boutique-range numbers, while the FM served for three solid years of war, at least a quarter million made.
 
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May 2019
356
Earth
for the Italian experience with the V-P , it get even more confusing , while its weigh proven a boon for the mountain fighting
its rate of fire made it mediocre as a suppressing weapon , while it's light bullet made distance shooting useless ( a common problem with S-M)
the numbers are hard to come by but it would seems that at 3 nominally issued per battalion and one per chosen company as a reality
its usage would have been marginal
however it received the ultimate compliment by the Austro Hungarian , imitation
I had heard about the Alpini using them, and also about the Austro-Hungarians copying the design, although I don't know any details. You seem to know a bit on the topic, could you recommend any sources on the Villar Perosa in Alpini use? I believe they were the ones who would have used the sling/harness for walking fire, if it was actually used...

Well, OK. :)

Only the Bergman MP 18 and the Chauchat were responses to the same kind of battlefield needs – portable auto-fire for the infantry. And the SMG was a bit of a novelty item, coming late, in boutique-range numbers, while the FM served for three solid years of war, at least a quarter million made.
Fortunately I'm not one of those people who thinks that, just because a weapon saw limited use, it isn't worth discussing ;)
Also, slight error in your post about the MP18 and Chauchat being the "only" responses to portable auto-fire. The BAR would like to have a word with you...
 

pugsville

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Oct 2010
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I had heard about the Alpini using them, and also about the Austro-Hungarians copying the design, although I don't know any details. You seem to know a bit on the topic, could you recommend any sources on the Villar Perosa in Alpini use? I believe they were the ones who would have used the sling/harness for walking fire, if it was actually used...



Fortunately I'm not one of those people who thinks that, just because a weapon saw limited use, it isn't worth discussing ;)
Also, slight error in your post about the MP18 and Chauchat being the "only" responses to portable auto-fire. The BAR would like to have a word with you...
And the Lewis Gun.
 
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