Staying power of the evergreen MP34

Ivo Dimitrov

The MP34 (Maschinenpistole 34, literally ‘Machine Pistol 34’) is a submachine gun (SMG) which was manufactured by Waffenfabrik Steyr as Steyr-Solothurn S1-100 and used by the Austrian Army and Austrian Gendarmerie then subsequently by units of the German Army and Waffen SS during World War Two. A fully machined and exceptionally well-made firearm, it was used well into the 1970s. The MP34 was made from the very best materials available and finished to the highest possible standard, hence it was eventually nicknamed the ‘Rolls-Royce of submachine guns’.

The MP34 started life as the S1-100 when development began in Germany in 1924 at the Rheinmetall factory. An employee of the company by the name of Louis Stange (who went on to develop the famous FG42) produced the first set of blueprints, his design similar to the MP18 which was the world’s first SMG to see service in the final year of World War One by the German Army. Restrictions on the manufacture of armaments by the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany from making certain types of weapons such as SMGs, so to circumvent the restrictions of the treaty, Rheinmetall acquired large shares in Swiss munitions firm Waffenfabrik Solothurn in 1928.

A year later, Stange took the blueprints to Solothurn and oversaw construction of the first prototype models, Solothurn essentially used as a proxy under which Rheinmetall could develop the gun legally outside of Germany. But Solothurn was small and didn’t have the appropriate facilities in place to mass-produce the S1-100, so entered into a merger with Austrian firm Waffenfabrik Steyr which resulted in the establishment of a Zürich-based sales outlet known as Steyr-Solothurn. The gun was then sold to both the commercial and military markets.

Full production of the S1-100 began at the Steyr factories in 1930 with the first iteration – known as the Model 1930 – produced until 1935, after which it was replaced by the slightly modified Model 1934. It was offered for export sale in a variety of calibres (including .45ACP) to South America and in 1934 the Austrian Army adopted the Model 1934 in 9x25mm Mauser and designated it the MP34. The Austrian Gendarmerie also adopted it but in the 9x23mm Steyr cartridge.

Portugal bought in small quantities of the .45ACP version in 1935 and embraced it as the Pistola-metralhadora 11,43mm m/935. They also purchased a small amount of the S1-100 in 7.65x21mm Luger in 1938 and this was adopted as the Pistola-metralhadora 7,65mm m/938 Steyer submachine gun. In 1941 and 1942, larger numbers of 9mm Luger MP34 guns were delivered to Portugal by Germany and in Portuguese service the 9mm MP34 was known as the Pistola-metralhadora 9mm m/942 Steyer.

The m/942 guns carry a Portuguese crest just forward of the safety mechanism as well as on the stock in combination with Waffenamt markings. The m/942 remained in service with the Portuguese Army into the 1950s and was used until the 1970s by paramilitary and security forces in Portugal’s African colonies during the Portuguese Colonial Wars. During the late 1930s Japan also imported a number of MP34s in 7.65x21mm.

When Germany annexed Austria in 1938 the MP34 entered into the Wehrmacht and Waffen SS inventory under the designation MP 34(ö) (ö for Österreich or Austria) and it saw limited use by German troops, particularly in the early stages of World War Two. Being a labour intensive, fully machined and high cost product to manufacture, meant outlay for German use finished by mid-1940 and the manufacturing lines at Steyr were moved over to the MP40.

The MP34 is a select fire (single-shot or full auto) blowback-operated submachine gun which fires from an open bolt. It uses a loose firing pin and the return spring is unusually located in the wooden stock and linked to the bolt by a long push rod attached via a pivot to the rear of the bolt. Easy access to the bolt and trigger assembly is by a hinged top cover which opens up and forward by pressing two release catches.

On the left of the stock is a sliding fire selector switch, marked by the letters E and D for the German contract guns and T and S for Portuguese versions. Early production runs had a Schmeisser-type bolt-locking safety (similar to the MP40) in the form of a hook-shaped cut-out used to engage the bolt handle when the bolt was cocked. Later models included a manual safety on the top cover, just in front of the rear sight which could lock the gun in both cocked or closed position. The safety features a latch which engages one of two recesses on top of the bolt in either the forward or retracted position.

A 32-round single-stack box magazine is fed horizontally from the left side and the magazine well is angled slightly forward to improve cartridge feed and prevent jams. Additionally, the same magazine housing incorporates a quick-load refilling feature – an empty magazine could be inserted vertically from beneath and locked into place, while stripper clips of eight rounds each could be fed from above. Consequently the mag well features two releases, one to free the magazine from the horizontal normal feeding position and one to discharge it from the vertical stripper clip loading berth.

All MP34s were fitted with a walnut stock and semi-pistol grip, the barrel enclosed into a perforated cooling jacket and with a bayonet lug on the right-hand side. The barrel screws into the upper part of the cooling jacket and the gunner’s kit includes a spanner for barrel removal. The rear sight is graduated from 100m to 500m. The example featured here is a 1942 Portuguese contract gun, one of the last MP34s made when the contract finished at the end of that year. It comes with a full set of accessories – bayonet, magazine pouch with three spare magazines, oil bottle, spare recoil spring and cleaning kit with barrel disassembly spanner.

All News