Large-Scale Clandestine Production of Small Arms


There are a number of designs out there for “resistance” type submachine guns that circulate on the net and are available in books. Many are familiar, for example, with P.A. Luty’s Expedient Homemade Firearms: the 9mm Submachine Gun that landed Luty in hot water with Scotland Yard, or with the work of Bill Holmes (a pseudonym); many of these books date from the golden age of the survivalists in the 1970s and 1980s.

These books are not as far-fetched as you might think. In World War II, the open-bolt submachine gun was found to be well adaptable to converted automotive-part and -accessory production lines (in the form, for instance of the M3 and M3A1 submachine guns) and equally well adaptable to cottage industry (in the case of the Sten Mk II). Resistance organizations built their own submachine guns, often modeled on airdropped Stens but sometimes of indigenous design, such as the Polish Bljeskavicza (sp?).  

Resistance groups that produced Sten copies included the French, Norwegian, Yugoslav and Greek resistance, and a number of these home-grown subguns grace those nations’ museums. In an unusual twist, Germany produced its own Sten copies of several types (the most well-known being the MP 3008) during its in extremis phase.

In the 1960s, an American went to prison for supplying counterfeit Stens to Cuban exiles for their war on Castro’s socialist workers’ paradise.

One of the books that offers plans for an open-bolt submachine gun derived from Uzi, CZ 23-26 and Sten practice is Gerard Métral’s (an obvious pseudonym) Do it Yourself 9mm Submachine Gunpublished in 1985 by Paladin Press. The meat of Métral’s publication is sixty-odd dimensioned drawings of parts, which if fabricated and assembled would produce a crude 2nd/3rd generation open-bolt submachine gun, but he also addresses clandestine serial production, as opposed to the one-off manufacture of hobbyists. Here’s an extract of that bit of his book:


These basic principles can be explained by the following joke, believed to have been originated by Jews in Palestine during the last months of the British mandate.

A poor man was working in a plant named Sewing Machines, Inc. He wanted to give to his wife a sewing machine but had no money to buy one, so every evening he’d smuggle home a different piece that his factory was making.

After many days his home stock was complete, and he tried to assemble the machine for his wife. He tried many times, but he always ended up with a machine gun.

A clandestine resistance organization needs considerable quantities of weapons. The importation of complete guns may be difficult and costly, and a single police operation may undo months of effort.

Such an event happened to the Irish Republican Army, when on 30 October 1987 the Eskund II, a ship loaded with tons of Libyan weapons was intercepted by the French authorities. The method suggested here consists of a decentralized mass production of harmless metallic pieces that may be used for various purposes. All machining operations requiring heavy machine tools are completed at this stage. The parts are then dispersed in several small workshops where they can be completed without special tools or skilled labor.


The clandestine organization needs efficient cover to buy large quantities of metallic components without alarming the authorities. The only way to do this is to control at least three small or middle- sized industrial plants used for subcontracting work and with a regular output of some kind of mechanical devices.

You must have a net of interconnecting enterprises devoted to the decentralized production of mechanical devices. The idea is that the orders and movements of the gun components will be completely hidden in a stream of civilian goods.

It is also assumed that you observe all the basic rules of security for a clandestine organization.


Many components of the submachine gun could belong to any civilian mechanical device, and no one would likely suspect their final destination, at least in their half-finished state. I call these elements “general-purpose pieces.” The clandestine organization may order them from ordinary factories. The springs used in the gun are good examples of such pieces, as are the plugs and support rings.

Salami-principle sear

Other components are to be made in two steps. First a bar is machined to the correct profile in an industrial factory. The longer the bar, the better the camouflage. These bars are then dispersed to the smaller workshops, where they are cut like an Italian salami. Most of the resulting rough cuts require only a few drillings to finish the piece. I call these parts “salami-principle pieces.” The sear, the bolt, and even bolt carrier are such pieces.

The receivers and trigger mechanism housings are taken from commercial steel tubes and U iron, which appear innocuous. Once the work has begun, it will be difficult to conceal the parts’ ultimate function. Fortunately, this phase is done quickly, even in small workshops. For your security, you must remove the pieces from the workshop as soon as they are machined.

The pistol grip, either in its metallic-and-wood or plastic version, is a compromising piece. You have to build it in a secure place. Because it doesn’t require special machine tools, it is possible to manufacture it in private homes.

The barrel is the most critical part of the process. For accuracy, a gun must be rifled. As indicated above, it is possible to rifle a barrel with primitive tools, but this is inadequate for a large-scale production. You must therefore find a way to smuggle industrial barrels. I recommend importing finished barrels whose cartridge chambers have already been machined. To smuggle these components, it is wise to use the ant strategy; i.e., import a small number of pieces over and over. It will minimize loss in case of interception and deflect suspicion of a large-scale operation. Barrels can be easily concealed in metallic pipes, imported as bars, or hidden in a truck chassis.

Magazines should also be purchased from industrial sources.

Final assembly should also be done in a secure place. Since the quality of manufacture is difficult to control under clandestine conditions, only after the final assembly will it be possible to test whether the guns work or not. Therefore, you must have a place to fire the guns, without alarming the whole neighborhood, with an adjacent workshop to make the final corrections.

An important element in this production scheme is theTh distribution of jigs and tools to the various manufacturers, especially for the small pieces.

Buying barrels or magazine is not practical, of course, for truly clandestine manufacture in a denied environment. To truly have a clandestine arms factory you must be able to make these difficult parts, and you must also be able to make ammunition.

To keep such a factory in the face of a hostile intelligence or security service requires full-on tradecraft, including isolating links such as cut-outs, and clandestine communications and logistics. It’s a tough set of conditions to meet, especially behind enemy lines. But we can learn a little from the organized criminal enterprises that have done this before, and a little from the resistance organizations that have done this before, and we can apply logic and reason to the problems that might arise.

4 thoughts on “Large-Scale Clandestine Production of Small Arms

  1. One fact that makes all gun laws silly is that it’s such a simple device that anyone can make a crude gun in their basement.

    The article gives good examples of resistance fighters building firearms, but I think that as Americans, we’re lucky to have a half-billion guns floating around the country. (it’s not luck, really. It was part of our founders’ plan)

    I think that Americans need to concentrate on manufacturing (and stockpiling) bullets and bullet components, because we can’t be sure how long this war will last, or how many enemies we’ll have to kick out of here.

    And bullets may very well become our next form of currency, too.

  2. Manufacturing firearms is only for those who didn’t either have the foresight to buy one (or more) or the funds. The rest of us, who apparently have the foresight for what’s coming, as well as the funds, should be aware that while it’s great to own multiple assembled guns, we should also stockpile parts to make the guns (i.e. lower receivers, barrels, buttstocks, etc.).

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