Masterpiece Arms MAC-10 Review

| June 27, 2014 | 1 Comments

A brief history of sub machine guns

The MasterPiece Arms Defender Is the latest iteration of the Military Armament Corporation M-10 SMG. To fully appreciate the weapon some history is necessary; but trust me I won’t make you memorize dates or ancient battles. First let’s start with the different generations of Sub Machine Guns.

Gen I–The first of the breed. These guns ran the trenches at the end of World War One. They were the next step after Stocked Pistols like the Mauser Broomhandle and the Artillery Lugers with snail drum magazines. In fact that same snail drum was used on the Bergmann MP 18. This is the class that defined SMGs. They fire PISTOL cartridges, are FULL AUTO, and have a BUTTSTOCK as part of the original design (not an after thought). Generation I guns can be identified by their old world quality. They have nicely finished machined steel parts and wood stocks.

Gen II–World War Two began with armies carrying Gen I guns, Thompson’s, Lancaster’s, MP28’s Beretta M38’s, etc. The need for greater numbers, faster production, and lower cost, lead to guns being produced from steel stampings with cruder finish. Gen II guns are typified by the STEn, M3 (Grease Gun), PPSh41 and PPS43. Even though the Papa Shaw (PPSh41 has a wood stock, it is still largely made from stampings.

Gen III–The SMG largely peaked with WW2 and with the advent of Assault Rifles and Intermediate Cartridges, the world began to look past SMGs. There was still some interest and a new breed of smaller / lighter guns filled that niche. These guns continued to be built from stampings; but were generally of a better quality and built to higher standards then war time production demands permitted. This generation of guns also made use of the telescoping bolt principal, to reduce the overall length of the weapon. The Sterling is perhaps the Gold Standard of this class; but it lacks the magazine in the hand grip, so prevalent amongst its peers, such as the UZI, VZ26, and M-10

Gen IV–These guns take the quality build even further and while stamped or sometimes cast parts are used, any resemblance to war time guns is gone. The term Machine Carbine became popular as guns in this class are usually part of a greater collection of arms from the same manufacturer and hence share much of the same manual of arms and feel if not common parts. Enter the MP5 and Colt (AR) SMG

Gen V–The newest class is somewhat more than a SMG and less than a rifle. These PDWs (Personal Defense Weapons), no longer fire pistol cartridges but are still compact and less powerful than rifles. Class leaders are the FN P90 and the HK MP7.

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The M-10 (MAC-10)

With that foundation we have the M-10, a perfect example of Gen III SMGs. It was designed by Gordon Ingram who founded the Military Armament Corporation (MAC). It was generally paired with a SIONICS suppressor designed by Mitch WerBell. Rumor has it Ingram locked WerBell in a hotel room until he came up with the suppressor design; but given WerBell’s clandestine background, with the OSS and other alphabet agencies, which included dropping rats infected with Bubonic Plague over North VietNam, its more likely Ingram kept him well fed and tempted with fine scotch till he finished.

The M-10 is unique in its small size, hardly larger than handguns like the 1911, Browning P35 (High Power), or Beretta 92. In fact a belt holster was an option (and later a shoulder holster). The barrel has heavy external threads for the suppressor, which also provides a perfect hand hold for the short weapon. In lieu of the suppressor, a nylon or leather strap swiveling from the barrel provided a front grip. The motivation for the M-10 design was to make it smaller, lighter, and with less parts to fail, then previous SMGs. It is a box type, two piece receiver which utilizes a Blow Back (unlocked) action, with a single grip that doubles as the magazine well (hand finds the hand mechanics for instinctual reloading). The M-10 also has a Butt Stock that collapses into the receiver, adding to the compactness of the gun. It was available in 45acp, 9mm, and a smaller gun M-11, in 380acp. It has a top mounted cocking handle with a “U” cut for view through of the fixed iron sights. The charging handle can be rotated 180 degrees as a secondary safety. The top mounted charging handle was common in the 1970s; but today it means mounting optics is a Frankenstein affair.

Ingram and WerBell traveled the world hot spots marketing their combo, affectionately known as Whispering Death. WerBell carried the rank of Brevet General, to allow him access to war zones. They enticed US Special Forces with sales samples for operations where stealth and silence was a plus. There was even some talk of using it as a replacement for the 1911pistol. Despite favorable responses from SOG, the M-10 was never chosen for universal issue; although some still remained in inventory as late as Desert Strom (witnessed by this author) and probably through today.

There were other interested buyers on the world market, Chile, Taiwan, and others. When the US State Department announced the ban on international suppressor sales (from US companies), sales fell as the M-10 may have been good but the combination of the SMG plus the SCIONICS suppressor was something of a symbiotic paring. Still with the design being that good, it lead, to the finest of compliments—copying. Military Armament Corp, eventually failed with the loss of world military sales. The design was bought, sold and re-bought by several companies attempting to make their fortunes, RPB, SWD, etc. What the State Dept didn’t kill the various gun bans did; but yet, the design persists.

Modern Vintages

MasterPiece Arms offers the latest version. The Defender is a Semi Auto ONLY Pistol. To meet NFA regulations it fires from a closed bolt and does not have a butt stock or the ability to easily accept one. It’s available in 45acp, 9mm, and 5.7x28mm. The Defender is also available as a side cocker. The side cocking option means a top mounted rail permits optics. The flip side is that a side charging handle virtually precludes any holster carry. It’s a dual edge sword, we’ve come to expect optics on modern firearms; but the side cocker, adds width, in the worst place.

The 9mm Defender uses the cheap and readily available STEn magazines. That’s another pro / con issue. There little chance that STEn mags will ever not be available (a huge plus in my mind); but they have a less than stellar reliability history and they feed from a single position. Reliability is a factor that may have something to do with age; but more, I think, is due to the vast numbers that were made world wide for WW2 and some production tolerances exist. A greater personal issue is the single load position requires a magazine loader to reach anywhere near capacity. Other M-10 designs have used modified STEn mags or required modifications to the weapon to use STEn mags, the Defender uses them without any mods.

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I purchased my Defender sight unseen from a dealer out of state and had it shipped directly to Rifle Dynamics  to have it SBRd. Living behind the lines in the Occupied Territory of Maryland meant I couldn’t have the Defender as pistol, because its wasn’t on our approved handgun roster; but I could have a SBR–go figure??? Rifle Dynamics began working on the MasterPiece Arms guns not long after they were released. They were SBRing them by adding AK folding stocks; but this seemed clumsy to me. The MAC M-10s were trim because the stock collapsed inside the gun. The Defender will not accept the original MAC stock, so I searched for other options. A copy of the Mini Uzi stock designed for the MAC, seemed like the best option; but the last manufacturer had decided he was building anymore, despite my offer to bribe him with a shinny quarter, for just one more. I kept searching. I wanted something slim and simple and well made, then I happened upon the VZ58, side folding stock. It was available and well made, perhaps not strong enough for repeated butt strokes; but I wouldn’t want to be the crash test dummy. The best part was it was cheap and required only one hole in the Defender receiver to mount it. It’s long enough to use comfortably when extended and when folded sits flat alongside the gun, (think Beretta M12). The gun can be fired with the stock open and closed.

Rifle Dynamics did a great job installing the stock and taking care of the NFA registry, then sent it to my dealer. I accumulated STEn mags while I waited. At the time Maryland had a ban on mags over 20 rounds (now 10 rounds); but the ban only applies to in state sales, not possession, so a few road trips later and I was good to go. Another reason for choosing the Defender in 9mm was the mags are also useful for my STEn MkII and supposedly also in my Sterlings, although I haven’t gotten that desperate yet…After the usual prints and pics and fees AND intolerable wait, my Defender SBR came home to me.

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It was like Miami Vice (the TV Show) all over again. I LOVE IT! It’s everything the original was, small, light, and easy to conceal. Since it’s a side cocker, I’ve been experimenting with optics. The Trijicon T1/H1’s are nice; but my favorite thus far is the RMR series. They hardly add any size, weight, or bulk to the package, and yet they add the speed of Red Dot sighting. It’s lap top bag small, in full 9mm power. A top cocker would be flatter but at the loss of optics, so like I said a dual edge sword. The VZ58 stock is straight (unlike the Mini Uzi’s “dog leg” bent design). That means a bit a scrunching on the stock to get a good view of the irons but with a QD mount on the RMR, its perfect.

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I added the front hand strap, available from US MACHINEGUNS. It’s cheap and it’s sooooo traditional for the gun. There are hard “K” grips but they add bulk. The SCIONICS two stage suppressor with Nomex wrap was a perfect handhold in the 80s and it still is today. The beauty of a suppressor (or a faux model), is that it’s easily attached and just as easily and quickly removed. The nylon strap stays attached with or without the suppressor.

Like the original M-10 SMG, the Defender SBR is designed for Close Combat. I’d give it an effective range of 50-75 meters. That may sound short; but it’s accurate to that distance because of the stock, and yet still compact enough to carry.

The MAC 10 next to a 1911 and a Glock 17

The MAC 10 next to a 1911 and a Glock 17

Chuck Taylor once described the M-10 as the ultra-refinement of the telescoping bolt principle, made famous by Uziel Gal. He also described it as simplicity in its purest form.

Finally the M-10 SMG and the MasterPiece Arms Defender as SBR’d by Rifle Dynamics, are winners. They are compact, reliable, powerful and priced right

A few fun facts:

  1. Ingram and WerBell gave a demonstration of the M-10 and its Operational Briefcase to John Wayne. Yep the same “Duke”, who would later use it in his movie McQ.
  2. The gun was never officially called MAC 10. It was always the M-10 from Military Armament Corp.
  3. The Cobray snake insignia was never officially trademarked, even though it’s been used over and over by virtually all the manufacturers.
  4. Ingram and WerBell marked the M-10 as “the gun that made the 80’s roar”, in deference to the Thompson slogan, “The gun that made the 20’s roar”.
  5. Israeli Commandos used M-10’s with SIONICS suppressors rather than UZI’s on their famous Entebbe Raid.
  6. SIONICS is short for: Studies in the Operational Negation of Insurgents and Counter Subversion (betcha didn’t know that one)

About the Author:

B. R. Kurtz B. R. Kurtz is a former US ARMY MP Instructor, paramedic, and Special Response Team (SRT). He is currently a patrol officer, and wants to be an astronaut, or cowboy -- maybe both. Stuck in the Occupied Zone of the Not So Free State. He is also the author of Size Matters, a book about point defense weapons.
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1 Comment on "Masterpiece Arms MAC-10 Review"

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  1. P.R. Smith says:

    What a great looking M-10, a real classy SBR Job.

    I’ve got a Masterpiece Arms .45 Carbine Side-Cocking Carbine and I love it. It is a beast of a gun and though a tad on the heavy side, quite compact.

    I did not use to think much of the MAC clones because of the dubious qualities of the older Vulcan and Cobray clones that I had seen bump fired with a wanton regard for accuracy and ammo conservation at firing ranges in the past. However, I had always heard good things about the MPA models, especially after the company changed hands in 2008.

    It’s a superbly reliable gun and surprisingly accurate (or not surprising, as the carbines have a 16″ barrel and when shouldered, shoots as straight as any other carbine).

    Just glad to see more support for an interesting fire arm from the past. A time piece of a gun but still a lot of fun to shoot.

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