The Philippine Marines teach an old submachine gun new tricks

Philippine Naval Special Warfare Group members in 2009. The camoflaged commando at center left is carrying an M3. U.S. Navy photo

Philippine Naval Special Warfare Group members in 2009. The camouflaged commando at center left is carrying an M3. | U.S. Navy photo

War Is Boring and Historical Firearms recently posted a story about the use of suppressed M3 “Grease Gun” from World War II onward to Vietnam. U.S. forces stopped issuing the guns to troops in 1992, but at least one unit in The Philippine military believes that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it … much.”

The M3 SpecOps Generation 2 , also known as the M3 Gen2 or PN/PMC M3, is a modified, modern incarnation of the M3 grease gun built from pre-existing caches of the 1940s-era weapon. Used primarily for ship seizures and boarding operations, the weapon is the Philippine navy’s method of teaching an old dog new tricks.

Equipped with an integral suppressor and a Picatinny rail, the weapon is able to mimic some of the capabilities of modern submachine guns on a very tight budget. The weapon is chambered with the .45-caliber ACP bullet, which was itself developed as a U.S. counter to tough, close quarters jungle battles with Philippine insurgents more than a century ago.

Modern optics ranging from reflex sights to thermal imagers can be added to the weapon via the Picatinny rail, and the suppressor means that the subsonic .45 caliber bullets fired by the weapon lack both the supersonic “crack,” which occurs when high velocity rounds such as the M-16’s 5.56 breaks the sound barrier, and the notorious “blam” of igniting gunpowder.

Taken together, the weapons system provides a viable alternative to modern, hard-hitting submachine guns at a fraction of the price seen in current generation weapons.

The comparatively low cost of the PMC/PN M3, about 1/40th the cost of a modern UMP submachine gun, can not be overstated. The Philippines, while growing in terms of its economy, is by no means a rich country.

The purchase of modern firearms is often too expensive a proposition to undertake in a comprehensive manner, which has led to entire tactical elements of Philippine marines carrying unmodified, Vietnam-era M14s into major urban battles as recently as 2013.

Additionally, the PMC/PN often face security threats that can range from transnational insurgent groups to burgeoning superpowers in the space of less than a month. Every Philippine peso spent on a weapon customized for close-quarters infantry fighting is one that can’t be used on an anti-submarine helicopter, and vice versa.

This means that cheap, effective shortcuts to modern capabilities are more than just useful in The Philippines, they could be vital, and should stand as a lesson to be heeded by other countries facing war on a budget.

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