Obscure Object of Desire: Walther MPK SMG

Courtesy Joe Grine

In the summer of 1972 I was five years old. I don’t remember much from that time but I have a fairly good memory of the TV news reports of the Munich massacre, where the Palestinian group Black September killed 11 Israeli Olympic athletes. One thing that didn’t go unnoticed: the unique Walther MP series submachineguns used by first responder German Polizei units. They looked so sinister. It would take 42 years for me to actually fire one, an opportunity provided by Battlefield Vegas. Make the jump to get the G2 on this innovative historic firearm . . .

Courtesy Joe Grine

The post-World War II era saw a renaissance in submachine designs, including the UZI, the MAT-49s and Beretta Model 12. Walther saw the need for a for a more light weight design which would be controllable and reliable. The fruit of their labor, the Walther MP series of SMGs, entered production in 1963. A few years later, competitor Heckler & Koch would perfect the SMG via its roller-lock design, producing the iconic HK MP5.

Despite getting to market first, the Walther MP submachine gun would always play second fiddle to the HK MP5. Although Walther secured a fair number of contracts from West German police departments and a few military forces throughout the world, the MP’s was a disappointment commercially. Nonetheless, it remained in production for roughly twenty years.

Interestingly, U.S. special operations forces purchased a small number of MP series SMGs in the late 1960s and 1970s, including 1st SFOD-D and Navy SEALs. The photo below purportedly shows a SFOD-D operator using a Walther MP on the ill-fated Iranian hostage rescue mission:

Pic 3

The Walther MP is a select-fire, open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun that fires the 9×19 Parabellum cartridge. Rounds are fed via a 32-round box magazine that appears to be based on the Carl Gustaf “Swedish K” stick magazines. On full auto, the cyclic rate of fire is approximately 550 rounds per minute, making the weapon highly controllable. The Walther MP features a stamped steel upper and lower receiver. It’s typically found with a skeleton wire folding stock cloaked in a rubberized covering.

Walther produced two variants of the MP: the MPL (Maschinen Pistole Lange shown above) and the MPK (Maschinen Pistole Kurz shown below). The primary difference between the two is the barrel length. The MPL features a 10.2″ Barrel and the MPK sported a 6.8″ barrel. With the stock extended, the MPL is 29.5″ long (75cm), and the MPK measures 26″ (66cm) long.  The MPK was also 1/3 lb lighter than the MPL.

Courtesy Joe Grine

The Walther MP SMG is interesting from a design standpoint for a number of reasons. First, it features an L-shaped bolt which rides partially above the barrel. This design reduces the length of the receiver, as shown in the photos below.

Courtesy Joe Grine


Courtesy Joe Grine

Second, the MP doesn’t have a firing “pin” per se, but rather features a nipple-like protrusion on the bolt face.

Courtesy Joe Grine

The Walther MP’s dual purpose iron sight also deserves attention. The sight is a long-range aperture sight. A “notch” style CQB sight is etched into the top. With this combination the shooter can take precise shots at longer distances and use the notches on top for instinctive or point shooting.

My shooting experience with the Walther MPK was very pleasant and all too brief. The weapon can be fired in 2-3 round bursts without any effort. Hits were easy to obtain. My only real complaint: the three-position ambi selector switch isn’t nearly as easy to manipulate as an HK MP-5’s. Interestingly, the selector goes from “Safe” (S) to “Full Auto” (D) and then finally to “Semi-Auto” (E).

Courtesy Joe Grine

The two photos below show the barrel shroud, chamber, and the non-reciprocating bolt handle:

Courtesy Joe Grine

Courtesy Joe Grine

The next photo shows the lower receiver, highlighting the weapon’s use of a simple stamped metal design. Students of the gun will recall that the Germans pioneered the use of stamped metal in SMGs during WWII.

Courtesy Joe Grine

You can shoot 25 rounds through the Walther MP at Battlefield Vegas for $50. Fifty rounds are a relative bargain at $75. That’s a lot of coin, but for those of us who can remember that sad day in Munich, the money buys you a little insight into an interesting question: what if?

Courtesy Joe Grine


Caliber: 9×19 mm Luger
Weight unloaded: 3.0 kg
Length (unfolded / folded): 746 / 462 mm
Barrel length: 260 mm Rate of Fire: 550 rounds/min
Effective range: 200 m
Magazine capacity: 32 rounds


Caliber: 9×19 mm Luger

Weight unloaded: 2.83 kg
Length (unfolded / folded): 659 / 381 mm
Barrel length: 173 mm Rate of Fire: 550 rounds/min
Effective range: 100 m
Magazine capacity: 32 rounds



  1. avatar jwm says:

    Safe, full, semi. maybe there was a little Russian inspiration in there? I have memories of 2 Germany’s. East and West.

  2. avatar Joe R says:

    Owl Society [?] AK rebuilder crazies have parts kits? ☻

  3. avatar MurrDog says:

    You could run these things in Fallout: Tactics as well. Back when fallout games were good.

  4. avatar Art out West says:

    It is so sad that we cannot buy these fun types of firearms, due to the unconstitutional NFA, and Hughes Amendment restrictions.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      Thank Charles Rengel, NY, and 4 lines of un-voted on legislation.

  5. avatar Paul says:

    Interesting article and great photographs. Effective range of 200 meters in a 9mm, even if a NATO load and out of a less than rifle length barrel? Is that possible? My ballistics table shows a drop just short of one meter at that range even with a 100 meter zero (not the same spec round, but still.) Do the sights have distance compensation past 100 meters or would it be holdover?

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Personally, I think they would be useless beyond 100 meters for multiple reasons … regardless of whatever the manufacturer may claim.

      1. avatar Paul says:

        Yes, I realize that; also that the Short was intended for CQB/urban situations no greater than 100 meters. More a technical curiosity about the Long — what was the manufacturer’s intent.

    2. avatar Vitor says:

      Why you would want a rifle lenght barrel to shoot 9mm? A 10″ gets must of the energy a 9mm can achieve, and yes, it has enough power to kill a person at 600 meters, so 200 is a honest effective range.

  6. avatar Derek says:

    My Special Forces company had 2 of these in our foreign/obsolete weapons collection, an MPL and an MPK. Very fun guns to shoot. Would get to do that every couple years or so…along with the M1A1Thompson, M45 Swedish K, and Sten MkIII. Being a Green Beret had some nice benefits.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      In my experience the guys in the funny french hat didn’t call themselves by the color and type of head gear they wore.

      On the flip side of that. Every panhandler that tries to mooch money from me was an x green beret.

      1. avatar Derek says:

        Using “Green Beret” has come back into a little more use, mainly since so many people respond to “I was Special Forces” with “Oh, so you were a SEAL! SEAL’s are so cool, what’s it like?” So, you hear Green Beret more often these days. 🙂

  7. avatar BDub says:

    Good article. Video of it shooting would make it a great article!

    1. avatar kenneth says:

      click the link and ye shall receive:
      this is on the MPL(longer barrel) version.

  8. avatar Steve in MA (now RI) says:

    Forgotten Weapons has a great video on these.

  9. avatar marco says:

    Now we know why eagle claw failed! They weren’t all armed with MP5s! If they had had MP5s we’d be talking about Carter’s bold decision for a daring rescue and what an amazing win for the US it was…

  10. avatar James69 says:

    If ya want a watch go see the Swiss, If you want a real machingun that runs like a Swiss watch go see the Germans. It looks like a good design and looks “cost effective” Two big +’s

  11. avatar barnbwt says:

    Looks an awful lot like a dead squirrel to me…

  12. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    That’s in darn good shape for its age. Thanks Joe. That’s good stuff.

  13. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Well, it’s never going to win prizes for being pretty, but I suppose it must work.

  14. avatar 7.62x54r says:

    Am I the only one that saw a caulking gun in one of those photos?

  15. avatar Steve Clark says:

    I first discovered the MP-series Walthers in – of all places – an old GI Joe comic book. Immediately fell in love with the design and proceeded to learn everything I could about them. Hope to actually shoot one some day.

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