West Germany’s Cold War Commando Gun

While Carl Walther GmbH’s best-known product in fiction is the PPK pistol used by James Bond, Walther actually made a number of submachine guns that were the weapon of choice for real undercover agents during the Cold War.

The Walther submachine gun (MP) line – either in MP Lang (MPL) – or MP Kurz (MPK) format – was used by numerous police authorities, special forces and anti-terrorist teams during the Cold War because it was still compact and controllable Design, accuracy and light weight. But what made the Walther deputy the best of his time? Why did later SMGs like the H&K MP5 replace it?

The operating mechanism of the Walther MPs is quite conventional. Like most WWII-era submachine guns, it is an open-bolt blowback design. This means that when the trigger is pulled, the bolt moves forward, brushes a cartridge out of the magazine, chambers it, and then fires.

In contrast to the older cannons, the Walther MP uses an interesting layout in which the majority of the bolt mass is contained in a tube above the barrel and above it moves back and forth with a small block-like protrusion under the cylindrical main bolt mass that does the feeding, firing and pulling out the bolt takes over the cartridge with the actual screw surface. The result of placing this heavy bolt over the barrel was that the recoil and muzzle rise were reduced compared to other designs and the weapon was allowed to be much more compact.

Other ergonomic improvements have also been made, such as: B. a selector switch / safety function – including a semi-automatic mode – that can be easily operated with the thumb and a left cocking handle that makes it easier for the operator to cock it after an empty reload. The sights were simple but adequate, an aperture sight for long range shots and a post and notch sight for close-up shots.

The properties of the Walther MP were rounded off by a simple but robust folding stock, a fast yet controllable rate of fire of 550 rounds per minute and a low weight.

This combination of features made the Walther MP, especially the MPK, extremely attractive for covert police and military units around the world. The first SFOD “Delta Force” used Walther MPKs, particularly during Operation Eagle Claw, the failed Iranian hostage rescue attempt, and during training in the 1970s.

West German military police with MPKs. Photo via Tumblr

The other unit that took part in the raid, Division A, which had managed to infiltrate Iran before the failed Heliborne attack, also used Walther MPKs.

Division A was about as close to a true “James Bond” unit in the combination of field vehicles, direct action and surveillance capabilities as the Cold War military. Members of the department often operated in plain clothes and helped the police destroy criminals crossing the Berlin border.

In the event of war, they would try to infiltrate East Berlin, possibly through underground, water-filled tunnels. The MPK was the weapon of choice for such missions.

The German naval units, combat swimmers, who were entrusted with similar missions of underwater sabotage and infiltration in the German waterways during the Cold War, also preferred the MPK. They were also used by German police units, especially during the 1972 hostage-taking in Munich.

Although it was not a great success on the export market, it was also very well received in South Africa and equipped the Special Task Force of the South African Police Service under the name HMK. MPKs also served in small numbers in various other militaries.

While the MPK was put into operation in almost all of the units listed above by the H&K MP5, it was known that the Walther has some advantages over the MP5. James Stejskal, a Division A veteran, described the MPK as more reliable in dirty and dusty conditions than the MP5.

However, the MP5 has surpassed the accuracy of the MPK, which is likely due to the MP5 being a closed bolt design. Ultimately, the MP5 is very similar to the MPK in many design features. Both use cocking handles on the left, have ergonomic thumb selectors, and use aperture sights. The Walther MP ended his production in 1980 after he was replaced by the MP5.

This article originally appeared on The National Interest.

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