OSS Burp Gun

By Frank Iannamico

The UD M42 was one of many submachine gun designs to emerge from the Second World War. It was considered by many to be one of the finest weapons of the era, and the documented performance of the .45 caliber prototype model in the Ordnance Departments submachine gun trials certainly backs up that claim. Its major draw back was its expensive all-milled steel construction, which was quickly becoming obsolete in the new era of sheet-metal weapons.

The UD M42 was a robust weapon that had no stamped parts; its loaded weight was slightly over 10 pounds. The gun was select-fire and fired from the open-bolt position. A rotating fire mode selector marked SEMI-AUTO - SAFE - FIRE was located on the right side of the trigger frame. The cocking handle was located on the right side of the receiver. Once the handle was used to cock the bolt it remained stationary during firing. An interesting feature of the gun was that when the operator retracted the bolt to the rear position, the fire selector would automatically move from the safe to the semi-automatic position.

The large cylindrical bolt housed a spring-loaded firing pin and a triangular hammer that pivoted when contacting a surface on the receiver, in turn striking the head of the firing pin. This firing pin/hammer arrangement was very similar to that of the used in 1921/28 Thompson submachine gun design. A large takedown lever for disassembly of the weapon was also located on the right side of the trigger frame. The weapon was easily field stripped without the use of tools. All production models of the UD M42 were made in 9x19mm Parabellum caliber.

The 11-inch barrel of the UD M42 had six right-hand grooves. The front sight was a simple fixed blade while the aperture style rear sight was fully adjustable for windage and elevation. The cyclic rate in the full automatic mode of fire was 700 rpm. The weapon’s magazine was also quite similar to that of the Thompson being of a two-position-feed design and having a “T” shaped rib at the rear for guiding and securing it in the weapon. The sheet metal magazine was available in a 20-round and a 40-round configuration. The 40-round magazine consisted of two 20-round magazines attached back-to-back in opposite directions. The follower of the magazine activated a spring-loaded lug that held the bolt in the rearward position when the magazine was emptied. The large magazine release lever was positioned at the bottom of the magazine guide, and could be easily manipulated with either hand. Another of the weapon’s features borrowed from the Thompson design was its vertical foregrip. A trap door was provided in the steel buttplate for storage of a cleaning kit. The weapon proved to be reliable, well balanced and accurate.

The weapon was roll marked:



Carl G. Swebilius of the High Standard Manufacturing Company designed the High Standard submachine gun in 1940. The patents of the design were assigned to The High Standard Company. High Standard hired Frank Jonas as a commissioned agent to try to interest, and sell the weapon to a foreign government. Although the Dutch showed interest in the gun, repeated attempts to sell the High Standard submachine gun to the Netherlands Government were unsuccessful. The Dutch hesitated in purchasing the weapon due in part to its lack of formal testing by any military organization.

In November of 1940, the High Standard Company accepted the monumental task of manufacturing 12,000 U.S. 50 caliber machine guns for the British. The contract was to be completed within a ten-month period, resulting in the High Standard Company focusing all of its resources on the project. This placed the High Standard submachine gun project on the back burner.

The exclusive rights to manufacture the High Standard submachine gun were eventually turned over to Mr. Pope and Mr. Jackson then of the British Purchasing Commission. Part of that agreement was that High Standard would receive a royalty payment on any guns they produced and sold. Pope and Jackson then formed their own corporation named United Defense Supply (not to be confused with the United States’ World War II government entity The Defense Supplies Corporation). High Standard’s 9mm submachine gun was now renamed the United Defense M42 or the UD M42. Through Mr. Jackson’s connections with the British military he was able to obtain a written report on the UD M42 from General Henderson of the British Army, stating that the weapon was suitable for military adoption. With the endorsement of the weapon by the British, the Dutch ordered 7,500 9mm UD M42 submachine guns. The first order was soon followed by a second order for another 7,500 guns. Pope and Jackson planned to have the parts manufactured by subcontractors and then be assembled into weapons by United Defense Supply in Wallingford, England. When the Dutch order was finalized, High Standard attempted to delay the production of the gun by the United Defense Corporation, by not supplying the prints or drawings of the weapon. The United Defense Supply Corporation had no engineers or any type of manufacturing facilities. Eventually the Marlin Firearms Company of New Haven Connecticut was subcontracted to manufacture the weapon for the United Defense Corporation. Many problems were encountered with the initial manufacture of the weapon because of poor and incomplete drawings supplied by High Standard. The original tolerances also did not allow for fully interchangeable parts. Marlin had to put forth a considerable amount of re-engineering effort to make manufacture of the weapon possible.

The United States Ordnance Department became quite interested in the 9mm UD M42 submachine gun and requested that a variation of the gun in .45 caliber be submitted for the Ordnance submachine gun trials. Five of the weapons were made by High Standard in .45 caliber, and were delivered to the Ordnance Department. Referred to as the High Standard submachine gun in the trials, the weapon excelled in all areas of performance. The War Department was interested in possibly procuring the M42 weapon, but problems arose when contract negotiations between United Defense and the U.S. Government began. The situation that the surrounded the UD M42 submachine gun was quite complicated. The High Standard Company had released the manufacturing rights to United Defense, but a royalty fee was to be paid to High Standard for any of the guns that were sold. The fee for any government contracts was 10% of the selling price with a minimum fee of $7.50 per unit. The War Department was interested in the weapon but was not willing to pay any royalty fees. Since United Defense Supply had no factory it had subcontracted with Marlin to manufacture the weapon. The government felt that the United Defense was simply nothing but an unnecessary middleman in the deal. The U.S. Government had preferred to bypass both United Defense and High Standard and deal directly Marlin who was already manufacturing the gun for the Dutch contract. The United States suggested that High Standard and United Defense get together to arrange elimination of the royalty fee, which the government adamantly refused to pay.

Several conferences were held and several proposals made, all of which stated that consideration to United Defense Supply for relinquishing their rights back to High Standard, would be the placing of a substantial order for the guns by the United States with United Defense. In February of 1942 the United States requested a price quote from United Defense on 96,000 to 150,000 UD M42 submachine guns in .45 caliber. On February 24, 1942 United Defense supplied a quote on the proposed contract of $46.43 per weapon with an added royalty fee of $7.50, but there was no mention in the proposal of United Defense relinquishing the manufacturing rights back to High Standard after the initial production run.

At a meeting held by the War Department on March 2, 1942, a frustrated Colonel René Studler stated that the United States would only deal with High Standard for the acquisition of the complete manufacturing rights for the gun. Thus requiring United Defense to give up all manufacturing rights claimed by them. The War Department was not going to make any commitments to United Defense. United Defense did not consider itself a “middle man” in the deal, and stated that they were the sole manufacturer of the gun. Eventually the Hyde-Inland M2 submachine gun was selected to replace the Thompson. Ironically enough Marlin Firearms Company was selected to manufacture the .45 caliber M2 submachine gun. Many production problems and delays getting the M2 into production resulted in the eventual cancellation of the M2 project, when the M3 submachine gun was adopted.

Eventually 15,000 UD M42 9mm submachine guns were delivered to the Netherlands Commission, these in turn were sold to the United States Government. A large number of them were supplied to the Office of Strategic Services, better known as the OSS. The U.S. Navy delivered some of the weapons to China in 1943. In 1944 Marlin inquired about supplying spare parts for the UD M42’s that were in service. The government told the Marlin Company that a large number of the UD M42 weapons had been air dropped into France where they immediately fell into the hands of the Germans.

Stated in the contract between United Defense and High Standard was that if less than 1,000 UD M42’s were sold in any one year following the agreement, the manufacturing rights would be returned to High Standard. No additional orders for the UD M42 were received after 1942. On March 18, 1948 High Standard and The Marlin Firearms Company signed a formal agreement that Marlin would have the exclusive rights to manufacture the UD M42. Royalty payments to High Standard were provided for in the contract. Argentina and the Netherlands showed some interest in purchasing the weapon, but no contracts for the weapon were forthcoming, and the project was dropped in 1952.

The UD M42 was arguably one of the finest submachine guns to emerge from World War II. However, a series of unfortunate events caused it to slip quietly into obscurity.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V6N11 (August 2003)
and was posted online on October 25, 2013


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