Cal .22LR MGV 176 Submachine Gun: An Option for the military shotgun?

By Robie Kulokivi

A short and effective combat shotgun is a good tool for the police officer or the soldier in house to house operations. The effectiveness of the shotgun is due to its cartridges’ payload, delivering several projectiles instantly to the target, covering a proportionally large area. The compromise is in “bulk” due to the large construction of the weapon dictated by the recoil energy. Magazine cartridge capacity is typically limited to seven cartridges. Perhaps this small caliber submachine gun is a solution addressing this problem. A weapon firing .22 LR caliber rimfired ammunition is light, has mild recoil, a high rate of fire and a possibility for a tremendous magazine capacity.

The MGV has roots in America

Even if this special MGV 176 smg may bring to mind the Vasily Degtyarev designed machine gun 7.62 x 25 mm model 1929 with its top mounted disk magazine, the roots actually start in the USA in the 60’s.

Gun designers Richard Casull and Kerm Eskelson, made their first semiautomatic .22 caliber prototype carbine in 1960 with authority sales in mind. After project funding, testing and some technical improvements, the Western States Arms mfg. commenced marketing the patented .22 LR Casull M290 Carbine in 1965.

This self-loading rimfire rifle or carbine was slightly reminiscent of the Thompson submachinegun in profile, except for the drum magazine that was placed horizontally on top of the gun, and the magazine fit 290 rimfire cartridges. The marketing, however, did not bring the expected success and due to slight sales only 70 guns were made. The manufacturing rights were sold to the American Mining and Development Company in 1969.In 1972 the company changed its name to American International Company (AIC). They negotiated a production deal with the Austrian gun company Voere, who also made some technical changes to the design. The profile of the gun remained the same but a selector was added and the triggering mechanism offered single shots and cyclic. The magazine construction was also slightly changed and the capacity of the drum reduced to 177 cartridges.

The American marketing company, led by Mr. Charles Goff Sr. went to great lengths to promote this Austrian manufactured caliber .22 LR American 180 M-2 submachine gun to U.S. police officials and the military for special applications. The gun was constructed of steel and aluminum. The stock, grip and handguard were of wood or plastic. The magazine was made of steel stampings. Fieldstripping was easy and the smg was disassembled into three main parts: the stock, receiver and barrel. The precision cast and machined parts and the assembly was of highest quality. The manufacturer made approximately 5000 submachine guns before production was discontinued in Austria.

This special American 180 model had its next generation marketed by American Arms Incorporated by Mr. Goff Junior in the late 1980’s in the USA. This was as a self-loading rimfire rifle, as well as the smg versions. Ilarco took over production for a short period, and by the end of 1990, an Oregon based company called E&L MFG. INC continued the production and marketing of the semi-automatic version called American SAR 180. The company also improved the magazine and offered 275 cartridge capacities and transparent drum construction. Would there be a chance, with further technical changes to reawaken any police or military interest in this weapon? A submachine gun with no recoil, light report and an extraordinary cartridge capacity should lift some eyebrows.

The small caliber version from former Yugoslavia

The development of the MGV 176 submachine gun started in northern Yugoslavia by the end of 1980, in the Slovenian province. Slovenia became an independent state in 1991 out of the former Yugoslavia. The gun described in this article was made in 1989 at the Gorenje Sovd factory in the city of Velenje. Current production is unknown to this writer. The Yugoslavian government directed any internal sales and the ORBIS export company took care of foreign marketing.

It is interesting to notice that Slovenia, where this substantially modernized version of the original American 180 smg is made, is a neighboring country to Austria. Perhaps there has been a flow of technical ideas over the border? Be that as it may, the Yugoslavian manufacturer filed for patent of the Avtomat kal. 22 HV MGV 176 (patentno zasciteno). The total amount produced is unknown but the technical finish and manufacturing of the smg and serial number gives the impression that several thousand have been produced.

Perhaps the most important modernization is, when compared to the original American and Austrian guns, that the upper and lower receiver are made of polymer (plastic). This small submachine gun incorporates several other technical improvements also.

Finer details

The .22 caliber MGV 176 submachine gun is delivered with two 162 cartridge drum magazines, maintenance kit and a suppressor. Next we will study the subassemblies.

Upper receiver

The construction material for the upper receiver is impact resistant plastic. The barrel and lower receiver attach to it. On top of the rear part is a rail for the rear sight or an optional optical sight. The front sight is integrated in the front part of the receiver, which in turn forms a barrel shroud. The magazine latch is also on top. The bolt is of machined steel and has a fixed firing pin, which is more like a “ledge” (for rimfire). The bolt fits inside the inner rear part of the receiver. The cocking lever is on the left side and it has a sliding dust cover.

This submachine gun is blowback or recoil operated and fires from an open bolt, so it remains to the rear, held by the sear if cocked. The bolt can be removed for maintenance by pushing the mainspring guide in the firing direction to release it, and the lifting spring will guide the bolt out of the receiver. The ejection port is on the underside of the upper receiver.

When the stock is in its folded position, a notch on the shoulder rest fits into a recess in the floor of the barrel shroud, locking into position and making a front grip for a steadier firing position. On the left side of the receiver, both rear and aft, are fixing points for a carry sling.

Lower receiver

The lower receiver frame is also made of black plastic. It contains the complete triggering mechanism and safety features. At the rear of the pistol grip is the grip safety and to the left is the safety switch. When the switch is turned to the front and one red dot is visible, the submachine gun is ready to fire, if the grip safety is simultaneously pressed in. If the switch points to the rear, and the green dot is visible, the gun is set on “safe”.

It is not possible to cock the gun if the safety is on. To cock the gun the safety must be turned into “fire” -position and the grip safety must be pressed in with a normal grip.

The folding stock is hinged at the rear of the lower receiver. The rear part facilitates the stock locking mechanism also, which locks the folding stock into its extended position. To release the lower receiver from the upper receiver the stock must first be unlocked from its folded position. It is released by pulling the shoulder rest to the rear and releasing the locking notch from its recess in the upper receiver. With a tip of a cartridge or pin a detent must be pressed at the rear of the upper receiver. This releases the lower receiver, and the rear can be pulled downwards. The front part of the lower receiver rotates around a pin to the rear of the ejection opening and can be pulled away from the upper.

The trigger mechanism

The sturdy parts of the trigger mechanism within the lower receiver are machined of steel. The parts are fixed with axles or pins going trough the lower receiver. Both the safety switch and the grip safety lock the sear preventing any accidental discharge. A loaded and cocked gun can be dropped without hazard.

This submachine gun has a trigger selector; by pressing it against a slighter resistance the gun fires semi-automatic and by pressing it fully to the rear over a noticeable ledge it fires cyclic, or full-automatic. The cyclic firing rate is approximately 20 cartridges per second, depending on cartridge type.

The Barrel

The barrel is quick-detachable for maintenance. The barrel lock is on the underside of the upper receiver in front of the ejector opening. The barrel fits within the barrel shroud and the rear upper part of the barrel is machined to facilitate the magazine. The gun serial number and caliber is also marked on the barrel. The muzzle of the barrel protrudes from the shroud by 20 mm and is not threaded. The suppressor coupling fits over the muzzle when installed.

The suppressor is 170 mm long and when attached to the barrel prolongs the barrel length by 150 mm. The suppressor attaches by means of a clamp bushing which attaches to the smooth cylindrical muzzle when the locking nut is turned. This type of attachment does not need threads. For testing purposes the MGV 176 barrel was threaded and a Finnish-made suppressor (BR-TUOTE, Finland) was installed.

To sum up the good features of this submachine gun we should note that the user operated switches are logically placed. The safety construction is dependable and safe. Choices of material are modern, durable and easily maintained. Disassembly of the gun is simple and spare parts are easily replaced.

The horizontal drum magazine

The standard magazine fits 162 cartridges. The magazine floorplate and the inner follower parts are made of steel pressings and the magazine upper frame is made of transparent plastic. The driving force, to feed the cartridges, is given by a spring motor, or winder, which is detachable from the upper frame. The spring motor fits on top of the magazine and is attached only after the magazine is loaded. Tension is wound to the motor mainspring by turning the winder three and a half (3.5) rotations. The spring motor has a switch or brake, to lock the feed for safety or if the wound motor has to be detached from the magazine.

In a filled magazine the .22 LR cartridges are placed within in three horizontal, circular layers on top of each other. Looking down at the magazine from above shows that all bullets point to the center of the magazine. The inner wall of the magazine has small ledges in a vertical direction and the rimmed bases of the cartridges fit in between these. Due to the ledges the only feeding direction for the “stack” of cartridges is down. Pressing down on all the cartridges is the spring floor. The spring motor forces the upper frame to rotate counter-clockwise each time the bolt pushes a cartridge from the feedlips into the barrel chamber. The last cartridge is pushed to the feed lips by a cartridge shaped follower. The feedlip assembly is hinged to the bottom of the magazine floorplate and is placed on top of the floor opening to control the feed of cartridges. It also functions as an ejector forcing the cartridge cases straight down. The loaded magazine can be removed from the gun at any time without accidental spill of cartridges. The Austrian and American guns have the feedlips, or loading gate attached to the upper receiver. This technical approach made it mandatory to lock the spring motor before removing a loaded magazine, otherwise the force of the spring motor would have emptied all the cartridges from the magazine floorplate opening.

To fill the MGV 176 magazine the spring motor must be removed. It is released by pressing the locking studs protruding trough the floorplate. If tension has been wound to the motor then it must be locked before removal by turning the switch to the outer position, covering the “0” -mark. Turning the magazine upside down, it can be placed on a table. The feedlip assembly must be turned to the left. Now the opening of the floorplate and the cartridge shaped follower made of steel can be seen. By turning the floorplate slightly clockwise, the follower is withdrawn one step and the first .22 LR cartridge can be placed in the magazine. The floorplate is turned again and the next cartridge can be placed.

The cycle continues until 53 cartridges have been placed, that is the cartridge amount of the first layer. The floorplate is turned again against a ledge of slightly harder springpressure and the steel follower forces the spring floor one layer down. Now the cycle can be done again and as easy as in the first layer. As this, and the third layer, are without a follower they both take 54 cartridges. There is no spring force during the filling of the magazine other than the change of layers. After the last layer is full the feedlips must be returned to their original position on top of the opening in the floorplate. The last cartridge is placed directly between the feed lips. Now the magazine is loaded with 162 cartridges.

The spring motor, or winder, is replaced on top of the magazine so that the locking studs lock securely in place. The spring motor switch must be turned to its center position covering the “8” -mark. To give the motor mainspring enough force to feed all cartridges, the rotor must be turned 3.5 rotations. The ratchet notches that connect to the magazine frame make the typical noise while winding the rotor. The transparent frame makes it possible for the operator to see the remaining amount of ammunition in the magazine. The magazine is actually mechanically very simple and dependable. Filling of the magazine is easy and takes only 5 minutes including all tasks. Emptying it by firing takes only eight seconds.

For testing purposes a customized magazine was made out of a 275 cartridge American 180 magazine made by E&L Mfg of the USA and one original Slovenian MGV-176 magazine. Due to the different approach of the feedlip assembly, it was necessary to use parts from both magazines, the Slovenian floorplate and the American magazine frame and internal parts. There was an added bonus due to the internal plastic construction of the American parts. When this 275 cartridge customized magazine was filled and compared to a filled original 162 cartridge magazine, both tipped the scale at 0.7 kg. Total loaded weight remained the same but the amount of cartridges increased with 113.

This large capacity magazine has five layers of cartridges and must be used with the original E&L Mfg spring motor as the original Slovenian drive has power to feed only three layers and must then be rewound. For the big magazine the motor must be wound seven (7) rotations.

On the shooting range

A filled magazine is connected to the top of the gun by placing the magazine floor front lip under the ledge of the barrel and pressing the rear part against the magazine latch until it locks. If the spring motor is not wound it must be done before firing, otherwise the magazine will not feed. The latch on the spring motor must be turned towards the center, unlocked position.

The gun is cocked with the left hand by pulling the cocking lever to its rearmost position and returning it to the front. The firing hand must hold the pistol grip and press the grip safety simultaneously to facilitate movement of the bolt. The bolt remains to the rear held by the sear. The moment the firing hand is released from the grip the gun is on safe, and the bolt immobilized. If necessary the safety lever can be turned pointing rearward, on safe, locking the trigger as well.

The folding stock is turned into position by pulling the shoulder rest strongly rearward to release its locking stud in the upper receiver barrel shroud. It is swung to the rear against its locking latch at the rear of the lower receiver and locked securely in place. Depending on the firing range, one of three positions of the rear sight can be chosen: 100, 150 or 200 meters. (There is a certain optimism in the range settings when compared to the outer ballistics of the cartridge and probable combat distance). The rear sight is connected to the upper receiver via an integrated accessory rail and can be removed and replaced with an optical or optronic sight or target pointer.

When taking a steady firing position the operator must remember that the cases are ejected straight down. This means that the supporting hand must be in front of the magazine, holding the barrel shroud. Turning the safety to its forward position the gun is ready to fire. Pressing the trigger lightly against an easily felt first ledge, the gun fires single shots. The recoil is negligible and the only movement actually affecting the stance is the magazine feed and spring motor. The report of the shot is typical to a rimfire rifle so at a minimum earplugs must be worn.

With the MGV sound suppressor in place there is less muzzleflash and less blast noise to the operator and more smoke around the ejection opening. The tested Finnish suppressor was superior when firing in a confined space, keeping the blast so mild that several test shots where attempted without earplugs. This is of course never recommended during training, and is always a hazard to the operator’s or by-stander’s hearing.

The MGV 176 submachine gun fires cyclic at a rate of 20 cartridges per second if the trigger is pressed fully to the bottom. It is relatively easy to keep the burst length at 6 to 10 cartridges. The recoil and torque during full automatic fire is nonexistent, even if the gun is fired from shoulder rest. At close range it would be possible to fire simple geometrical forms of choice in the paper target. With the stock in its folded position the shoulder rest forms a front grip for the supporting hand giving a very steady position when firing from hip level.

To secure reliable function of the MGV 176, high velocity and high quality ammunition must be used. In general it can be said that the small rimfire .22 long rifle cartridge is not the best possible choice for problem free feeding during high rate cyclic fire. There are however several brands on the market that have velocities exceeding 420 m/s, bullet shapes plating for good automatic feeding. Bolt and feeding speeds are so high when firing a .22 LR rimfire submachine gun that a severe misfeed could result in dramatic bending of the cartridge and ignition out of battery. This usually ruptures the case with possible hazards to the operator.

More firepower than a combat shotgun?

To make a comparison we chose the optimal 12 gauge close combat shotgun from South-Africa, the 18,5x70mm Protecta Bulldog which weighs 3.9 kg loaded with eleven (11) cartridges and has a length of 400 mm. The typical service load has approximately 10 projectiles of .33 caliber offering muzzle velocity of 400 m/s. In comparison the caliber .22 LR MGV 176 submachine gun loaded with 275 cartridges weighs 3.4 kg with a length of 480 mm. Velocity of the high velocity .22 LR is 420 m/s. The dimensional features of both weapons are close.

Firing 10 shot bursts from the MGV’s 275 cartridge magazine, as an equivalent to the 10 projectile shot load, give us a total of 27 bursts. The same firepower from a shotgun would require a 27 cartridge magazine and would substantially increase the total weight of the loaded system.

The MGV 176’s high rate of cyclic fire produces an impact in the target not unlike several projectiles from a shot load hitting in a short time frame. The effect, however, can be regulated by adjusting the length of the burst from the submachine gun, and the area of impact is smaller. There is a substantial advantage in lack of recoil, weight and noise in favor of the .22 caliber smg in comparison to the combat shotgun.

This submachine gun, and others using the same caliber and high capacity magazines, could be a viable option for a weapon used for indoor combat and defense aboard ships or in buildings. Especially when risk of “shoot through” should be minimized and blast noise can be hazardous to the operator as in use in confined spaces. This design and caliber certainly merit further study in these applications.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V3N11 (August 2000)
and was posted online on February 6, 2015


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