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The Standschutze Hellriegel Submachine Gun Is a Mystery

The Standschutze Hellriegel Submachine Gun Is aMystery

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The Austro-Hungarian Standschutze Hellriegel debuted in 1915. Today the automatic, light firearm is something of a mystery.

The prototype blended pistol-caliber ammunition with the firepower of a machine gun, making it one of the first weapons which could be considered a submachine gun.

That much, we know. The rest is conjecture.

The images in this story come from an Austrian archive, where they all fall under the title Maschinengewehr des Standschtzen Hellriegel. The photos are dated 10.1915presumably meaning October 1915and show what appears to be a test-firing of the weapon at a shooting range.

The archival entry indicates that the weapon was named after someone with the second name Hellriegel.

Standschtzen may refer to the designer being a member of the Austro-Hungarian reserve force, the Standschtzen, whose mission was to defend the Austrian states of Tyrol and Vorarlberg.

The Standschutze Hellriegel may have been developed for this corps or by a member of it.

There is little public information about the Standschutze Hellriegel. Sources often describe it as a belt-fed submachine gun. However, it in fact fed from a large drum magazine that held approximately 160 rounds.

Much like the German Trommel magazine. the Standschutze Hellriegels drum appears to have a coil spring attached to a knee-jointed follower arm.

How the shooter loaded the drum is unclear. It had a hinged cover and what seems to be a removable lever that served to tense the spring. There dont appear to be any dummy rounds attached to the follower to aid feeding. The weapon may have had another coil spring projecting from the follower to feed the last rounds through the drums flexible chute.

The magazine itself was not fixed to the weapons receiver and instead linked to it via a flexible chute. This may have caused feed-reliability issues. In the photographs, the operator is depicted firing from prone with the drum resting in a cradle.

The gun also appears to have fed from box magazines, which may have held 20 or so rounds. One photo indicates that there were at least two types of box magazines. Nine-millimeter Steyr was Austro-Hungarys standard pistol ammunition, so its likely the weapon was chambered for this round.

We dont know for sure how the Standschutze Hellriegel operated, but it probably used a blow-back action. The two projections from the rear of the receiver may suggest it had dual recoil springs. The shooter aimed the weapon by way of a folding ladder sight situated on top of the receiver.

In one photo, the gunner is accompanied by an assistant gunner wearing an ammunition carrier with slots for five drums and two small draws. The gunner appears to be wearing a sort of over-shoulder brace harness with wide straps, which may have interfaced with the weapon at the gunners waistwhere a metal fitting is just visible.

This would be similar to the Browning Automatic Rifles walking-fire bracing belt cup.

Another interesting feature of the Standschutze Hellriegel was its water-cooled barrel and leather-encased barrel jacket that held the water. It had a pair of ports to fill and drain the jacket. In one photo, a tube-style hand grip is visible beneath the jacket.

How a user would have employed the drum magazines flexible chute attachment is hard to say. Maybe the box magazines were for walking fire and the drum was for stationary, sustained fire.

Unlike the Italian Villar-Perosa, which the Italians initially used as a support weapon, the Standschutze Hellriegel doesnt appear to have any provision for a bipod, which would indicate its offensive primary function.

The Standschutze Hellriegel doesnt seem to have progressed beyond the prototype stageand the reasons for this remain unclear. With refinement to the drums attachment and perhaps a substitute for the water jacket, the weapon could have been very useful.

This story originally appeared at Historical Firearms.

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