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View Full Version : Difference between Sub-Machinegun and a Machine gun


czmatt
October 13, 2004, 08:43 AM
Alot of you might think this is a silly question, But I was wondering if someone could fill me in on the difference between a sub-machine gun, and a machine gun. I havnt had any exposure to these types of gun.

If I had to guess, Sub being a prefix for small or below, I would say that a sub machine gun is smaller than a machine gun, but that doesnt sound right. Or maybe it shoots slower than a machine gun. but, i have no clue. Thanks!

User Name
October 13, 2004, 09:04 AM
I may be wrong but I always assumed (and we not what that'll get ya) that they followed the same criteria as a short barrelled weapon. Now I know the barrel length law came out way after SMG's were produced but I'm just saying that it's along the same lines and an SMG is shorter than XX inches...I'm jst not sure what that measurement may be....

Double Naught Spy
October 13, 2004, 09:18 AM
Sub guns are typically pistol caliber machine guns. Of course, they also tend to be cabine or smaller as well.

Johnny Guest
October 13, 2004, 10:49 AM
The line has become a litle blurred since Colt began calling the short, full auto M16 (XM177E2, etc.) a submachine gun.

Trivia - - the Brits used to call their examples "machine carbines." Then they began using the terminology "Sub-machinegun," as opposed to the US useage, "Submachine gun." I'll go with the term used by Col. Thompson, arguably the inventor. He had a working example, the Model 1919, which was so marked. Yup, the Germans had their limited-production MP18, a "machine pistol" in their lexicon, and the Brits followed with the Lanchester "machine carbine."

I don't think barrel length really has that much to do with the SMG terminology (Colt's nomenclature notwithstanding. :p )

Best,
Johnny

Casp_A
October 13, 2004, 06:20 PM
The line has become a litle blurred since Colt began calling the short, full auto M16 (XM177E2, etc.) a submachine gun.
The HK53 doesn't help that problem any, either.

Double Naught Spy
October 13, 2004, 11:01 PM
Right , barrel length really doesn't have anything to do with SMG terminology. With that said, however, since most are primary pistol calibers and those calibers designed and loaded for short barrels, SMGs tend to have the shorter barrels. For many calibers, extra barrel length often adds little to the velocity and in some cases can result in reduced velocity as compared to short barrels. So the reference to shorter barrels/carbine setups was meant as a correlating attribute, not defining terminology.

CQBArms
October 15, 2004, 11:00 PM
typically sub= pistol caliber
machine gun can be almost any full auto gun as a "common" term
a real machine gun would be qualified by Light, medium, or heavy...plus there are all kinds of variations...

it's like a "subset" problem..

All full auto that shoots rifle or pistol, or sub caliber rounds are machine guns...
then there are the machien guns based on mount type, crew, capability "normally a "weight" issue heavy, medium, light, then the rifle caliber battle rifles, assault rifles, sub guns, pdw guns, machine pistols....

Solidsheep
October 16, 2004, 05:10 AM
Here (http://world.guns.ru/main-e.htm) is an intersting link ( very famous in fact ) talking about military Handgun, SMG, Assault Rifle, Machine Gun,... :)

Dave Haven
October 16, 2004, 11:39 PM
In general, a submachine gun fires a pistol cartridge; and is supported by hand. A machine gun fires a rifle cartridge.
A light machine gun fires a rifle cartridge, and is supported by a bipod. A heavy machine gun fires a rifle cartridge, and is supported by a tripod or electrically powered mechanical mount.
By BATFE definitions, they are ALL machine guns. :)

TheGunslinger
October 22, 2004, 04:03 PM
A light machine gun fires a rifle cartridge, and is supported by a bipod. A heavy machine gun fires a rifle cartridge, and is supported by a tripod or electrically powered mechanical mount.

Sort of...
A m249 SAW is a light machine gun, 5.56mm and is generally shot from a bipod, however it can easily be mounted to the same tripod a m240G uses.
The 240G is a medium machinegun 7.62X51mm. It has a built in bipod, but for better results it is used with a tripod. The M-2 .50BMG is a heavy MG that is fired from a tripod or mount.
Notice that almost all military MG are crew served. The exception of course would be SF, door gunners, and such. Subguns are obviously not crew served.

Dark_Learner
October 22, 2004, 05:44 PM
I always thought that a SMG shot somthing with less range and power. A machine gun is one with the range of a rifle and the rate of fire over per say 500 rpm.

TheGunslinger
October 22, 2004, 11:16 PM
It has nothing to do with RPM.

4V50 Gary
October 25, 2004, 08:43 PM
SMGs are generally pistol caliber short barrel weapons capable of selective fire.

Machine guns are generally rifle caliber weapons capable of full auto fire.

Like Johnny said, the distinction became blurred. With the introduction of the full automatic rifle (sturmgewehr) and the intermediate cartridge guns have evolved greatly since the 29" barrel (or so) rifles of WW I. Still the predominant definition for SMG is selective fire weapon that is chambered for a pistol caliber cartridge.

CzarShel
October 27, 2004, 04:02 AM
My always assumed definition

Machine gun: Fully automatic

Sub Machine gun: Fully automatic in pistol caliber

Light Machine gun: Fully automatic in Rifle caliber

Heavy Machine gun: Fully automatic in .50 BMG or larger caliber

However I can find an example and an exception to every one of these definitions,

So I just want this SUV and gun and I'll be Happy, LMFAO!
I love this:
For best results right click and select "Save Target As..." then just put it on your desktop or something and play, it plays much better that way.

http://www.bsg-dornier.de/schiessen/filme/discovery/minigun.wmv

Notice theirs no recoil, his hands aren't even moving, be sure to keep watching they reload and keep going till there's no rubber left on that car!
Now thats My
Definition of a Machine gun!!!!!

Michael Grote
November 29, 2004, 02:19 AM
A machine gun is what is commonly called a heavy machine gun these days. An M-60 or SAW is a machine gun. An M-16, Ak, or MP5 are all sub-machine guns.

Michael Grote

Double Naught Spy
November 29, 2004, 06:42 AM
The M-16 is not a submachine gun. It fires a rifle caliber.

How is it that select fire is a defining criterion for submachine guns?

Michael Grote
December 3, 2004, 01:06 AM
Yeah, I don't know what I was thinking. I submachine gun uses pistol ammo.

Michael Grote

Dark_Learner
December 3, 2004, 08:02 PM
Ak isn't a sub gun either. It is also a rifle and a d&nm good one too.

DarkKnight01
December 3, 2004, 08:59 PM
Sub Machine gun = da littler ones...

Machine gun = da big ones

:D

alan
December 8, 2004, 01:40 AM
Sub machine gun, full automatic or selective fire weapon chambered for a pistol round.

Machinegun, a full automatic weapon, perhaps selective fire, chambered for the full power service rifle round, or in the case of the U.S. M2, a larger caliber round.

abelew
December 23, 2004, 06:07 PM
M249's are "crew-served" but in reality they aren't. In the Air Force, we used them with the 200 round box that mounted under the reciever, and the only "crew support" was the poor soul that had to lug his extra ammo boxes/spare barrel. They have been fired from the standing position, but that was in a training CQB situation (and quite cool, btw). Its a versatile weapon, thats for sure. It even has a magazine slot for m-16 mags (highly advised against, jam-o-matic). I just never really understood the reason for having a SAW and then making someone carry a spare barrel, and also have M240s (we did), as the m240 is a "heavier weapon" not in the sense of being weighty, but because it fired 7.62. They are quite heavy, btw (29 lb, unloaded I believe). In my experience, SAWs come into their own for quick suppression fire, and times when large volumes of continueous fire are needed, but mobility is paramount. Neithor of these situations really give time for barrel changes, etc.

MeekAndMild
December 23, 2004, 06:41 PM
The line has become a litle blurred since Colt began calling the short, full auto M16 (XM177E2, etc.) a submachine gun. A short, light fully automatic rifle is an 'assault rifle'. I think that an SMG has to shoot pistol cartridges.

TheGunslinger
December 24, 2004, 06:28 PM
The "official weight" fluctuates between 24.6 and 25.4 lbs. on the M-240G

alan
December 24, 2004, 07:49 PM
Meek and Mild:

A SMG is an automatic weapon, chambered for a pistol cartridge, you got that right.

As to the following, "A short, light fully automatic rifle is an 'assault rifle'", boo. The proper definition is as follows. Assault Weapon: Selective fire weapon, usually of rifle configuration, chambered for an intermediate power cartridge.

Intermediate power cartridge being less powerful than the full power service rifle round, but more powerful than the service pistol cartridge. In it's day, the M-1 or M-2 Carbine round, same thing, was that Intermediate Power Cartridge, and the M-2 Carbine could properly been described as an Assault Rifle, in that it was a selective fire weapon, chambered for that intermediate power round. It was not so described, as I recall.

Greenfurniture
December 25, 2004, 10:44 AM
The term "Sub-Machine Gun" was first coined by Thompson, meaning an automatic weapon firing cartridges less than .30 caliber. This is still the basic rule of thumb, with the cut off for the "sub" being 5.56mm. Of course there have been many new weapons developed and new definitions created or broadened including terms such as "light machine gun."

I'll stick with the original entry into the lexicon.

alan
December 25, 2004, 07:38 PM
Greenfurniture:

Others might know better than I but I had the impression that a "light machine gun" was BIPOD mounted, whereas a heavy machine gunwas TRIPOD mounted.

Of course, re this definition, there is the "problem" of the U.S. Caliber 30 LIGHT MACHINE GUN, of WW 2, which was TRIPOD mounted.

It could be, and here would enter those "others", people who know more than I do, that light machine guns were generally air cooled weapoins, while the heavy maching gun was usually water cooled. There are problems with that also, as with the aircraft machine guns, the U.S. military used, in particular the 50 caliber BMG, which was aircooled. So many questions, so few answers. I think however, that re sub machine guns, the genre was composed of automatic, perhaps selectivefire weapons that fired the pistol cartridge, without regard to caliber. For instance, re the Thompason Sub Machine Gun, it was always chambered for the 45 ACP round. I think that there might have been a small number chambered for the 9mm Parabellun round, but that they were quite rare.

Hkmp5sd
December 25, 2004, 11:30 PM
A "Light Machinegun" is generally defined as a machinegun firing a rifle caliber cartridge and capable of being carried by a single person. It has somewhat morphed into the "Squad Automatic Weapon" or SAW. A "Heavy Machinegun" is commonly any machinegun over 12.7mm caliber.

There are some crossover weapons. A "General Purpose Machinegun" or GPM is a machinegun that can be used as a bipod-mounted squad automatic weapon or with a tripod for sustained fire. Kind of a marriage between a LMG and a HMG.

freedumblover
December 26, 2004, 12:32 AM
For instance, re the Thompason Sub Machine Gun, it was always chambered for the 45 ACP round. I think that there might have been a small number chambered for the 9mm Parabellun round, but that they were quite rare.
I don't know about 9x19, but I do know there were a few Thompsons made in .38 Super.

alan
December 26, 2004, 11:34 PM
freedumblover wrote:

I don't know about 9x19, but I do know there were a few Thompsons made in .38 Super.

********

Curious note the above. Might they have been made for the FBI, which I believe used or issued Government Model Pistols in that caliber at one point in time.

I believe that the Thompsons in 9mm would have been WW2 items, unless I'm confusing them with the M-3 "Greasegun", for which there was a 9mm "conversion kit".

By the bye, re Thompsons in 38 Super, if you could furnish documentary backup or reference, that could turn out to be a real "bar room bettor".

SSgt Aston
December 26, 2004, 11:49 PM
There was an article in one of the Gun Digests a few years back about experimental Thompsons, including one in 30-06. Unfortunately I don't have access to my collection of Firearm related reading material or I'd let you know which issue it was in.

Tamara
December 27, 2004, 09:46 AM
Y'know, a 10mm Thompson would just rock the house... :cool:

Edmond
January 13, 2008, 05:20 PM
Just look at what is written on it :p

http://i192.photobucket.com/albums/z69/Quickload/SMG635ML2.jpg
http://i192.photobucket.com/albums/z69/Quickload/SMG635-Copie.jpg
http://i192.photobucket.com/albums/z69/Quickload/German%20SMGs/TOP.jpg
http://i192.photobucket.com/albums/z69/Quickload/German%20SMGs/DSC00956.jpg

alan
January 13, 2008, 11:43 PM
SSgt Aston wrote:

There was an article in one of the Gun Digests a few years back about experimental Thompsons, including one in 30-06. Unfortunately I don't have access to my collection of Firearm related reading material or I'd let you know which issue it was in.

-------------------

Interesting but I do not think I'd be really interested in firing one, even in semi-automatic mode, if there was such.

44 AMP
January 17, 2008, 11:53 PM
Was a term coined by Thompson, referring to their gun. it came to be generally accepted that Americans called all pistol caliber automatic weapons "submachine guns". The Germans called theirs "maschinenpistole" (machinepistols) or MP, no matter if they had a stock or not.

Thompson SMGs were made in .45 ACP, with a reported handful in .38 Super and in .45 Thompson (which was a longer cased hotter .45auto round) Also there was supposed to have been a Thompson (prototype?) in .30-06!

FYI, the German designation of MP was used to allow the production of the first practical assault rifles, the MP 43 & MP 44, later known as the Stg 44. Hitler had forbidden work on new rifles (not needed), but allowed developement of new submachineguns (MPs). Even though firing a shortened rifle round (and therefore not technically an MP) the guns were called MPs to allow their developement in spite of Hitler's orders. After small numbers were fielded, requests from the front clamoring for more of the new "rifles", Hitler relented, and authorised them as "Sturmgewehr" (assault rifle).

So, traditionally, submachine guns fire pistol ammo, 9mm and .45ACP being the most common. Machine guns fire full power rifle ammo (judged by WW II standards), and are determined to be light, medium, or heavy machineguns by their size, weight, capacity for sustained fire, and method of mounting. Water cooled machine guns are considered heavy, as are some air cooled designs. Other air cooled designs are considerd medium or light, depending on several factors. Machine guns firing rounds larger than standard rifle are automatically considered heavy machineguns.

Assault rifles WERE defined after the German Sturmgewehr set the standard, and are air cooled, magazine fed, selective fire and fire a round greater than a pistol and less than the traditional full power rifle round (WWII standard - .303 British, 8mm Mauser, .30-06, etc.)

After the "assault weapon" hysteria of the late 80s and early 90s, the definition of assault rifle has become somewhat blurred, as a great number of people incorrectly call anything that looks like a modern military rifle an "assault rifle/weapon", and modern dictionaries include the incorrect defintions because they are in "popular usage".

SDC
January 18, 2008, 09:30 AM
Thompson ended up dropping the idea for his .30-06 "Auto-Rifle" after the BAR was adopted, but he DID keep using the name for some of his designs; here's a picture of a few of them (chambered in 9mm, 7.63 Mauser, and .45 Auto) that were built by BSA for sale in the UK, but they never caught on:

http://i124.photobucket.com/albums/p22/StaceyC123/BSAThompsons.jpg