007’s next gadget?
While the most famous product of Carl Walther GmbH in fiction is the PPK pistol used by James Bond, Walther actually made a line of submachine guns that were the weapon of choice of real covert operatives during the Cold War. The Walther Maschinenpistole (MP) line—in either the MP Lang (MPL) or MP Kurz (MPK) format—was used by numerous police agencies, special forces units, and counterterror teams during the Cold War, due to its compact yet controllable design, accuracy and light weight. But what made the Walther MP the best of its time? Why did later SMGs like the H&K MP5 replace it?
The operating mechanism of the Walther MPs is fairly conventional. Like most submachine guns of the WWII era, it is an open bolt blowback design, meaning that upon pulling the trigger the bolt would move forwards, strip a round from the magazine, chamber it, then fire. Unlike the older guns, the Walther MP uses an interesting layout where the majority of the bolt mass is contained within a tube above the barrel, reciprocating above it with a little blocky protrusion under the main cylindrical bolt mass that handled feeding, firing and extracting the cartridge with the actual bolt face. The result of placing this heavy bolt above the barrel was that recoil and muzzle climb was reduced versus other designs, and the gun was allowed to be much more compact. It also featured other ergonomic improvements like a selector/safety (including a semi-automatic mode) that could be easily actuated by the thumb, and a left-side cocking handle making it easy for an operator to cock it after an empty reload. Sights were simple but adequate, one aperture sight for long-range shooting, and one post and notch sight for close-range work. Rounding out the features of the Walther MP was a simple but sturdy folding stock, a brisk yet controllable rate of fire at 550 rounds per minute, and light weight (6.17 lbs for an MPK, compared to 7.1 lbs for a WWII Sten Mk. II or 8.75 lbs for an MP40).