M3 Grease Guns Re-issued

photo courtesy of N-11

Philippine Marine Corps and Navy personnel had a requirement for a compact automatic weapon for armored vehicle crews and maritime boarding parties. M4 "baby" Armalites, Uzi and Floro 9mm submachine guns were considered but owing to the limited availability of these weapons and limited funding for new acquisitions, N-11, the Navy's office for Weapons, Information Systems and Communications, requested the release of several hundred M3 and M3A1 submachine guns from our country's reserve weapons stockpile.

Sten Mk 2

The M3 was the United States' answer to the cheap, ugly but effective submachine guns of World War 2 such as the British Sten or the German MP40. Prior to it the standard US submachine gun was the M1 Thompson which was an excellent weapon though very expensive to produce. The M3 was constructed mainly of stampings and pressings and cost about $20 each to make. It was affectionately (or derisively) referred to by American soldiers as the "Grease Gun" owing to its resemblance to the common garage implement. It did its job effectively and reliably, which was to spray a large amount of lead from one end towards the enemy. It could only fire on automatic but it's low rate of fire (450 rounds per minute by design) made it easy to control and aim and if required, the user could actually fire off single shots with a little practice.

The M3 has a wire stock which works as a barrel-removal tool and its large hinged ejection port cover doubles as a safety mechanism by preventing the bolt's movement when closed. The weapon is cocked by a lever on the right side forward of the trigger. It fires the .45 ACP cartridge, the same as the M1911 pistol, the standard US sidearm until the 1980s and which still enjoys widespread use in the Philippines.

The M3A1 was an even simpler version. The ejection port and its cover were enlarged, the cocking lever was eliminated and a simple finger hole was drilled into the bolt for retracting it. A bracket was also added to the wire stock for use as a magazine loading tool.

Close to 700,000 M3 and M3A1s were produced by the United States and the weapons saw extensive use in World War 2, and during the Korean and Vietnam conflicts. M3s were also issued to US armor crews for personal defense up to the first Gulf War in 1990-91.

US infantryman fires an M3 during the Korean War

Evaluation of the M3/M3A1 for issue to the PN/PMC by N-11 also revealed the weapon's adaptability to Philippine Marine Corps Battallion Special Operations Platoon requirement for a silenced, cost-effective weapon. A prototype was built with a locally developed silencer and test-fired at Fort Bonifacio Naval Station in May, 2004.

Click on the image to view the clip:

(.3GP format. Requires Apple Quicktime to view)

In the video clip 5 pepper poppers (1/3 the size of a human target) were engaged at 40 meters and all targets were down in 3.5 seconds with 25 rounds expended.

Submachine gun silencers typically reduce sound by around 30-40 decibels but the silenced M3 has an advantage over silenced 9mm submachine guns currently in use since the .45 bullet travels at subsonic speed (less than 1000 fps) and does not produce an audible "crack" like a standard 9mm Parabellum round (around 1250 fps) as it breaks the sound barrier. Silenced weapons such as the British L34 Sterling used by PN-SWAG units require special subsonic rounds for more effective sound suppression.

Delivery of 25 suppressed M3 SMGsat BNS



Photos courtesy of N-11. Many thanks.

It is said that the cost of cleaning, refinishing and issuing 40 M3/M3A1s is the same as the landed cost of a single new .45 caliber H&K UMP submachine gun.


A small number of M3s were nickel-plated for use by guards at the Philippine Navy Headquarters on Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

Information courtesy of MBLT6/N-11, PN(M). Many thanks.

Please send corrections or comments to me at tcupdp@yahoo.com.

February 22, 2005