Standschütze Hellriegel: The Strangest Submachine Gun You’ve Never Heard of

By Austrian National Library - http://www.europeana1914-1918.eu/en/europeana/record/9200291/BibliographicResource_3000073518130, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40394113
January 24, 2021 Topic: History Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Austria-HungarySubmachine GunStandschütze HellriegelWorld War I

Standschütze Hellriegel: The Strangest Submachine Gun You’ve Never Heard of

This may be one of the weirdest—and impractical—submachine guns ever made.

The world of submachine guns is full of high-capacity, fast-firing rifles, from strange, double-barreled oddities, to the fast-firing Soviet workhorses of the Second World War, or homemade Polish resistance weapons that peppered Nazi Wehrmacht troops. One of the submachine guns you’ve probably never heard of however, was designed and built by an empire that no longer exists: Austria-Hungary.

Standschütze Hellriegel Submachine Gun

Austria-Hungary’s Standschütze Hellriegel submachine gun is a very distinct, if somewhat mysterious gun that exists only in a few photographs in the Austrian National Library, presumably from when the weapon went through development and testing.

The relatively long firearm sat in a wooden stock that ended just forward of the trigger and was carbine length. It was presumably chambered in the 9×23mm Steyr, then the standard pistol service cartridge for the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The cartridge was slightly longer than the now ubiquitous 9x19mm Parabellumpistol cartridge, and is said to have been high-velocity and robust.

Interestingly, the Standschütze Hellriegel fed from a unique, high-capacity drum magazine. Rather than attached to the firearm itself, the drum mag is connected via a flexible metallic sleeve through which ammunition is fed. Capacity was probably around 150 rounds. Other photographs show the weapon fed with traditional box magazines, likely with a 20 to 30-round capacity.

But it gets weirder: the Standschütze Hellriegel was water-cooled.

The submachine gun’s barrel was almost fully encased by a water container, not unlike John Browning’s M1917 machine gun. Though this may have aided cooling somewhat, it would have dramatically increased the weight of the weapon, and impractical to use when on the move. In any event, the water case appears to have a leather jacket sewn around it to protect the user’s hands. The barrel case also had a sort of curved tube handle below it that allowed for a two finger grip to steady the weapon, and may have doubled as a carry handle.

The weird weapon was probably intended to be served by two men, the gunner, and an ammunition bearer. A photograph of the gun shows a man, presumed to be the ammunition bearer, with a kind of ammunition backpack that could vertically store five or six drum magazines as well as a drawer space underneath, perhaps for box magazines or maintenance equipment.

Like the American Browning Automatic Rifle, the Standschütze Hellriegel may have been intended as an infantry support weapon, shot from the hip while walking to keep the enemy’s head down. One possibility is that when in a fixed position, the Standschütze Hellriegel’s gunner would opt for the awkward, but higher capacity drum magazines, and when on the move, would switch to much more manageable, though lower-capacity stick magazines.

Postscript

Aside from some photographic evidence, no Standschütze Hellriegel prototypes are known to exist and it is entirely possible, if not likely, that the weapon never progressed passed the prototype stage. 

Caleb Larson is a Defense Writer with The National Interest. He holds a Master of Public Policy and covers U.S. and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.

Image: Wikimedia.