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Madsen M50: Looking to make the leap into machine guns? Kokalis, who's owned hundreds in his time, says you can't go wrong with this reliable and low - priced SMG from Denmark.

A substantial number of young firearms enthusiasts would like to own a machine gun. Most people enter into the world of Title II firearms and selective-fire weaponry through the purchase of either an assault rifle or a pistol-caliber submachine gun. I purchased my first machine gun more than 40 years ago. It was a Smith & Wesson Model 76 and I paid $140 for it, plus a S200 transfer tax.

In the world of machine gun collecting, 40 years is more than several lifetimes and the value of these fire-arms has incredibly increased by at least fiftyfold. This is principally a consequence of the "McClure-Volkmer" Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, which effectively froze the number of "transferable" machine guns in the NFA (National Firearms Act of 1934) logbook and terminated the domestic manufacture of new machine guns that could be purchased by civilians.


As of 1995 there were slightly more than 240,000 machine guns on the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record. It's reported that only about half of these are owned by civilian collectors and that the remainder reside in police departments and other government agencies.

Thus, the inventory pool of about 120,000 machine guns potentially available for transfer to individuals is quite low. Furthermore, the mystique of owning a fully automatic firearm has been sufficiently high enough to cause the demand to far exceed the supply, which is quite likely to remain frozen well into the foreseeable future.

As a result, few people of modest income can either afford, or morally justify, paying more than $20,000 for a selective-fire weapon such as an Ml6. But the allure of rapid-fire rattle guns remains high and there are actually a few out there that most of us could afford to buy, if we wipe the cold sweat from our brows, fight hard to restrain the trembling in our hands, and resist all logical thought processes.

Let's examine closely one rather intriguing, but little-known submachine gun that has been largely ignored by collectors and thus is available for far less than the Heckler & Koch MP5 sear gun you have been lusting for, and dreaming about, but that will make just as much noise when you pull the trigger.

The first submachine gun produced by the large and well-known Danish small arms manufacturer Dansk Industri Syndikat, Compagnie Madsen A-S in Copenhagen, subsequent to its licensed production of the Finnish Suomi submachine gun during World War II, was the Madsen Model 1945, which was a complete failure as it was overly complex and expensive to produce. This was at a time when pistol-caliber submachine guns were striving to justify their continued existence by virtue of simplicity and low manufacturing cost.






It was designed at the end of World War II when the predominant submachine guns of the war, the British Sten, German MP40 and Soviet PPSh41, had demonstrated some deficiencies in the area of safety. Specifically, there was a distinct possibility of an accidental discharge if any of them were dropped on the butt with the bolt fully forward and a loaded magazine in place.

This potential was eliminated on the Madsen Model 1945 by means of a pivoting hammer at the rear end of the bolt body and a spring-loaded, inertia-type firing pin. Unless the trigger was pulled completely to the rear, a movable abutment in the receiver would block the hammer and prevent it from impinging on the firing pin.

Two versions of the gun were offered, one with a wooden, rifle-type buttstock and the other with a wire-type, skeletonized folding stock. This weapon uses the Swedish Suomi 50-round magazine, which was also too complex and not totally reliable. There are no known examples of the Madsen Model 1945 in the United States and it was sold in very limited numbers only to El Salvador and Mexico.

Learning quickly from the total financial failure of the Model 1945, only one year later Madsen introduced the Model 1946, which stressed simplicity of design and a minimum cost of production. This model and future models of this series were all chambered for the prevailing submachine gun and pistol cartridge of this era in Western Europe, the 9x19mm Parabellum round, with the one exception noted below.

The first magazine for the Madsen Model 1946 was a sheet metal, staggered-column, two-position-feed, detachable box-type holding 32 rounds. This remains the best and most reliable configuration for a submachine gun magazine. However, for reasons never made clear, shortly alter its introduction, the Model 1946 magazine was changed to a somewhat less reliable single-position-feed-type.

This particular magazine has the shortest front-to-rear dimensions of any 9mm submachine gun feed system. It was retained for use on the subsequent Madsen Model 1950, the main subject of our discussion.

Maintaining the emphasis placed on safety designed into the failed Model 1945, the Model 1946 and subsequent Model 1950 have two completely separate safety systems. The first safety system on the Models 1946 and 1950 is a sliding button on the left side of the receiver body just above the trigger. Sliding it rearward to the "S" position causes a small projection on the safety button inside the receiver to block the downward rotation of the sear and prevent it from releasing the retracted bolt.

Sliding the knurled button forward to the "F" position permits the sear to rotate downward when the trigger is pulled and release the retracted bolt, which then flies forward because of the compressed recoil spring.

The second safety system is in the form of a spring-loaded, sheet metal lever in back of the magazine well and the spring-loaded, sheet metal, flapper-type magazine catch/release. If the trigger is pulled without pressing this safety lever forward with the support hand grasping the magazine well, the bolt will fly forward, but come to a dead stop over the rear one-third of the top of the magazine without stripping a round.

Pressing this safety lever fully forward while pulling the trigger will allow the bolt to strip a round from the magazine and travel fully forward to impinge against the rear end of the barrel chamber and fire a round. The Israeli Uzi submachine gun also has a grip safety, albeit with a different configuration.

Some self-styled authorities have recommended taping these grip safeties so they are inoperative. This is a very bad idea. First of all, because the designers were attempting to solve a safety problem that became all too apparent during World War II: the distinct and very real possibility of an accidental discharge if the weapon was dropped, or even jarred by troops jumping out of vehicles or aircraft. Secondly, law enforcement personnel taping the grip safety of an Uzi or Madsen M50 open their agency to a litigation in the event of an accidental discharge.

The Madsen Models 1946 and 1950 are unique in both their configuration and method of fabrication. They were stamped and formed from two pieces of sheet metal flats that are almost mirror images of each other and were shaped with an integral pistol grip at the rear of the receiver and a magazine housing at the front end of the receiver body. When placed together, they become the complete receiver body with two hinges at the rear, which are also the pivot points for the folding buttstock. The two halves are held together by the eight-splined, barrel-locking nut (which is similar to the concept used to hold the Uzi's barrel to the receiver)

Stored inside the receiver at the bottom of the pistol grip, is a relatively simple, but exceptionally reliable magazine loader. Storing the magazine loader inside the receiver greatly diminishes the chance of its loss. The pistol grip surface of the Model 1946 receiver is completely flat and thus a firm grip was not always possible.

This was corrected on the Model 1950, as each side of the pistol grip has nine very pronounced horizontal ribs that provide the operator with a firm gripping surface.

And, from this receiver configuration comes a major criticism from some end users and the gun's uncomplimentary nickname--"The Banana Peel Gun," the term given to me by the late Jim Leatherwood, who developed his famous Automatic Ranging and Trajectory (ART) scope for the M14 during his service in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968.

Leatherwood was exposed to the Madsen M50 SMG in Vietnam by some clandestine CIA personnel, who fielded it as a "sterile" weapon since the ever-hypocritical Swedish government refused to sell the Swedish "K" (for Kpist, and abbreviation for Kulpruta Pistol), aka M45B submachine gun, to the U.S. military.

If, during firing, the M50 barrel-locking nut loosens and slides forward, the two receiver halves will swing open and dump the internal parts on the ground. While this is not too likely, it has apparently happened at some most inopportune times.

Going in one year from the over-complexity and high cost of manufacture of the Madsen Model 1945 to the Model 1946 represents one of the most astounding design and engineering turnarounds in the history of small arms. In addition to its two-piece, sheet-metal receiver body, wherever possible sheet metal stampings were used for the gun's other components. Examples of this include the rear sight, flapper-type magazine catch/release, grip safety lever, trigger, sear, trigger guard, extractor, sling assemblies, all of the magazine's components except the follower spring, and the sheet metal tubing used to fabricate the folding buttstock.

In addition, punch welding was used to attach components such as the trigger guard to the receiver shell. Parts machined as simply as possible from either forgings or bar stock include the barrel, barrel-locking nut, bolt body, and retracting handle.

The Madsen Model 1950 is dimensionally unexceptional. The overall length with the buttstock extended is 31.25 inches (780mm). When the stock is folded, the overall length is reduced to only 20.8 inches (530mm). Although it can be fired with the stock folded, this is not recommended, as the hit probability is seriously diminished.

The barrel length is 7.8 inches (200mm) and the barrel has four grooves with a 1:9.84 right hand twist. The weight, empty, is only 6.95 pounds (3.15kg). With a loaded magazine, the total weight increases to 8.25 pounds (3.74kg). The only markings that appear on the Model 1950 are on the right side of the receiver, where is found the serial number, followed by "MADSEN M50 9MM" over "MADE IN DENMARK".

Like the overwhelming majority of pistol-caliber submachine guns, the Madsen Models 1946 and 1950 operate by means of unlocked, pure blowback. Firing in the conventional open-bolt manner with advanced primer ignition, the fixed firing pin was press-fit into an appropriate size hole in the center of the breech face. The sheet metal, spring steel, and exceptionally long, extractor slides into a slot on the right side of the rectangular bolt body, where it's retained by a small steel pin. It matches the location of the receiver's ejection port, which is also on the right side.




A fixed ejector is attached to the left receiver wall by two rectangular pins that are integral with steel ejector, which rides in a slot on the left side of the bolt body.

These submachine guns have no provision for semiautomatic fire. The cyclic rate of the Model 1946 was a very slow 480 rpm (rounds per minute), almost as low as that of the U.S. M3/M3A1 "Grease Gun." The cyclic rate of the Model 1950 was increased to 550 rpm because the bolt with its simplified retracting handle was somewhat lighter. The Model 1946 retracting handle was quite different from all subsequent models in this series.

The Model 1946 retracting handle has a plug, which extends downward through the top of the receiver between the two receiver halves and within the slot on top of the receiver, along which the top portion of the retracting unit--a rectangular knob with grasping serrations on each side and just below the top of the receiver, reciprocates during the recoil and counter-recoil strokes. This plug enters a hole on top of the bolt body. From the Model 1950 on, this was simplified to a circular knob, which unfortunately under stress can be difficult to retract because of its small size.

The buttstock is made of tubular steel with a stitched brown leather cover. The stock folds to the right, and its top hinge is spring-loaded. The stock is held open by means of small projection that mates with a notch in the washer below the stock spring. To fold, it must be struck sharply to the right and it will pop out of its retaining notch.



When folded, the locking projection mates with another notch on the opposite side of the stock washer. To extend the stock, it must be pulled smartly and away from the right side of the receiver. Nothing could be simpler, but it works and I have never seen a Madsen M50 stock collapse while it was being fired.

The sights are equally simple and utilitarian. The rear sight is nothing more than a single aperture with no range marking, in a heavy piece of sheet metal bent into an "L"-shape, the bottom portion of which has a hole through which the stock spring's axis pin passes. The long portion of the "L" has the peep aperture at its top and is attached to the left receiver half by two rivets.

The fixed front sight, a half-moon-shaped blade, is attached to a dovetail in its base, which in turn has been punch-welded to the left receiver half.

The small features on the Madsen Model 1946 and 1950 offer insights into the designers' largely successful attempts at cost-effective production through simplification. The sling mounting points on the left receiver half, at the very rear toward the front, clearly demonstrate this.

The rear sling mount point is part of the same sheet metal pressing that forms the rear sight and the pivot point for the top buttstock hinge. Thus, three small, but essential, components were formed from a single sheet metal stamping.

The front sling mounting point is a sheet metal stamping attached to the receiver by two rivets. The sling, made of green cotton webbing, has spring hooks at each end that are similar to those of the US.30 Ml Garand rifle.

In 1953, Dansk Industri Syndikat, Compagnie Madsen A-S introduced the M53, which is quite similar to the Models 1946 and 1950, but with several significant modifications. Most apparent is the magazine, which was curved to improve feeding. The Heckler & Koch MP5 magazine was also, at first, a straight box but subsequently changed to a curved configuration for the same reason.

An equally significant change was the barrel-locking nut, which now threads to the barrel, not the front of the receiver, and thus the chance of the gun "banana peeling" was significantly diminished.

Shortly thereafter, Madsen introduced the Mark II, the selector lever of which now provided the option of semiautomatic fire. In addition, the Mark II grip frame had wood or other heat-insulating panels and an optional removable ventilated barrel jacket, to which a dedicated short knife-type bayonet could be attached.

During the early 1950s Madsen licensed the manufacture of the Model 1950 to Industria National de Armas S.A. in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Designated as the "M.B.-50", its most significant characteristic was its chambering for the.45 ACP (11.25mm) cartridge, which has always been far more popular in Latin America than the 9x19mm Parabellum round.

The retracting handle was moved from the top of the receiver to a slot on the right side. The 30-round magazine was taken from the US M3/M3A1 "Grease Gun" series of submachine guns. Most of the guns were issued to the Brazilian army and carried a large Brazilian crest on the left side of the receiver with the inscription, "Exercito' Brasileiro", although some were issued to the National Police and marked "Policia Civil". In 1953 minor modifications were made to the design and the designation changed to Model 953.

No collections that I know of in the United States have specimens of the Madsen Model 1946, M53 or Mark II or the Brazilian M.B.-50 or Model 953. From a production standpoint the most popular model in this series was the Model 1950(a.k.a. M50).

In addition to the law enforcement and military forces of Denmark, the M50 was fielded by police and military units in Guatemala, Indonesia and Thailand. In Guatemala, the anti-communist forces led by Lt. Col. Carlos Armas used substantial numbers of the M50 in their successful fight to overthrow the communist government of Jacobo Arbenz Guzman from 18 to 29 June of 1954. During the civil war in El Salvador, I examined several Madsen M50 submachine guns captured from the FMLN communist terrorists that most likely came from Guatemala. The Thai army fielded the Madsen M50 during its involvement in the Korean War as part of the United Nations contingent.

During the late 1950s and the decade of the 1960s, a substantial number of Madsen M50 submachine guns were imported to the United States. Some of them were among those purportedly used by CIA field operatives early on during the. Vietnam War. As they were all imported prior to enactment of the "McClure-Volkmer" Firearms Owners Protection Act of 1986, all of them are "transferable" Title II machine guns.

A number were obtained by Hollywood armament rental companies and studios themselves, such as MGM. During that time, they appeared in a number of large budget movies, such as the 1968 blockbuster Ice Station Zebra with Rock Hudson.

The original finish on the Madsen M50 was a semigloss, black, baked enamel over phosphate. Some specimens were imported in almost new condition, as was the first one I owned, which I foolishly sold to obtain a different machine gun. Black enamel, no matter how it's applied, is not a very durable finish, and many were veritable "beaters," with badly chipped enamel finishes and leather stock covers in very bad condition.

Many, including the one that I now own, have been refurbished by stripping the enamel finish and rephosphating the gun, without repainting it, and replacing the rotted leather stock cover with black rubber tubing. I am in the process of having a black enamel coating applied that matches the black enamel finish on the magazine loader stored inside the receiver halves.

The Madsen M50 submachine gun, and its predecessor the Model 1946, were incredibly innovative at the time of their introduction. An exceptionally simple and totally reliable design, their innovation was not in the area of operation, as they are conventional pure blowback, open-bolt-firing guns.

Rather, their uniqueness laid in the extensive use of sheet metal pressings, riveting and punch welding combined with single small stampings that served several functions. However, by the mid-1960s, cost-effective submachine guns like the Madsen series were overshadowed by the racier Heckler & Koch MP5, which at admittedly much greater cost, provided a supposedly more advanced closed-bolt method of operation and thus theoretically greater accuracy potential, together with the allure of a cornucopia of stocks, trigger packs, forearms and accessories, cleverly marketed by using British ex-SAS personnel.

As a consequence, the Madsen M50 was downgraded to class B movies in Hollywood and underfunded revolutions in Third World countries. This, quite naturally affected its value on the collectors' market. Every machine gun newbie wants an MP5 (which will be no more than a "registered sear gun," as Heckler & Koch never imported any transferable MP5s) and an M16 for which they will pay $18,000 to $24,000 apiece, while Belgian FNC assault rifles and Danish Madsen M50 submachine guns go begging for $7,000.

Both of these latter fine, reliable selective-fire firearms represent "best buys" for those just stepping into the minefield of machine gun collecting. I have one of each.



Caliber: 9 x 19mm Parabellum.

Method of operation: Pure, unlocked blowback, fires from the open-bolt position with is advanced primer ignition. Two safety systems: a sliding button on the left side of the receiver that blocks the sear's downward rotation and a grip-type, spring-loaded, sheet metal lever that prevents the bolt from traveling fully forward unless the safety lever compressed. Full-auto fire only.

Cyclic rate: 550 rpm.

Feed system: 32-round, staggered-column, single position-feed, detachable box-type magazine.

Overall length: With the buttstock extended-31.25 inches (780mm); with the stock "folded--20.8 inches (530mm).

Weight: Empty-6.95 pounds (3.15 kg); with a loaded magazine--8.25 pounds (3.74 kg).

Barrel length: 7.8 inches (200mm).

Barrel: Four grooves with a right hand twist of one turn in 9.84 inches (250mm).

Sights: Fixed--single, peep aperture rear sight with no range marking; half-moon-shaped blade-type front sight.

Finish: Black; semi-gloss enamel over phosphate.

Accessories: Spare magazines, magazine loader and small spare parts stored inside the receiver, and sling.

Manufacturer: Dansk Industri Syndikat, Compagnie Madsen A-S in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Price: $6,500 to $7,500 for "transferable" specimens in excellent condition.

Status: No longer in production or service.

T&E summary: Cost-effective design using stamped, sheet metal components wherever possible, assembled by riveting and punch welding; very innovative at the time of its introduction shortly after World War II. Sturdy and reliable. Neglected by collectors seeking more svelte, racier designs and thus very much a "best buy."

Text and photos by Peter G. Kokalis
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Author:Kokalis, Peter G.
Publication:Shotgun News
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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