Guns of the Silver Screen: V20N9

By Kyle Shea

Sherlock Holmes’ Captured Submachine Guns

The name and image of Sherlock Holmes is synonymous with that of “The Detective.” The tall, hook-nosed man with his ever-present pipe, along with his trusty assistant Watson, were created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800s, and have been entertaining readers, moviegoers, and television audiences since then. There have been a few times when the image has changed, whether it is the new BBC “Sherlock” series in Britain, or the silly cartoon that took Sherlock to the future.

In 2009, Robert Downey, Jr. took the role of fiction’s greatest detective in the movie “Sherlock Holmes.” It was a huge success that led to a sequel, “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows.” In the sequel, Sherlock takes on his rival, Professor Moriarty, a powerful warmonger who plans to start a world war in Europe. It’s revealed throughout the film that Moriarty has been killing powerful weapon manufacturers in order to inherit their businesses so he can profit from the upcoming war.

During an escape from a weapons factory, Doctor Watson picks up a “Meinhard” submachine gun from a crate and uses it in the upcoming firefight. It is actually a Yugoslav M56 caliber 7.62x25 mm TT (Tokarev) turned upside down in a clamshell made of bronze and steel, which is impressive considering most movie prop clamshells are made of plastic. The gun itself is made to look like the Maxim 1895 lightweight machine gun- perhaps the salesman’s sample gun in 7.63mm Mauser that was used by Hiram Maxim and is in the National Firearms Centre at Leeds (The old MOD Pattern Room).

There were actually no Submachine Guns in the late 1800s. The earliest such guns were first used in World War I, with the Italian Beretta Villar Perosa of 1915 and the German MP 18i.

The M56 Submachine gun was one of Yugoslavia’s weapons for its military, the Yugoslav People’s Army. Most experts in firearms will instantly notice that it looks a lot like the German MP40, mainly because it has heritage of that famous German firearm. The M56 is longer than the MP40, uses Soviet 7.62x25mm ammunition, and has a curved 32-round magazine. In many ways, it was better than the MP40, with a longer range and the ammunition had better penetration. It was in service from 1956 to 1992, and was used in the Yugoslav wars in the 90s.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a fun movie to watch. Robert Downey, Jr, Jude Law, and Jared Harris do great jobs in their respective roles, especially Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty. It was well filmed and will keep most people on the edge of their seats. Its predecessor is probably better, with a mystery that will keep you guessing.

The “Meinhard SMG” conversions of the Yugoslav M56 were done by the armourers at Bapty, Ltd in London, one of the world’s oldest and best-known movie prop houses. Tony and Anne Watts of Bapty have been most helpful in bringing this movie gun series to our readers.

Serial Numbers: 10484, 17447, 29834, 45079. Receivers are covered by movie prop clamshell

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N9 (November 2016)
and was posted online on September 23, 2016


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