Glauberyt: The Last of the Polish Submachine Guns

Glauberyt: The Last of the Polish Submachine Guns

U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Dunlap familiarizes himself with the operation of a PM-98 9mm submachine gun during a live-fire exercise on Forward Operating Base Dagger in Tikrit, Iraq, Aug. 7, 2006. Dunlap is attached to the Military Integrated Transition Team, 101st Airborne Division. (U.S. DoD photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)

But the point where police and military models parted forever was in the magazine catch design.  The military PM-84P had a magazine catch situated at the heel of the pistol grip, forcing the operator to remove the empty with a supporting hand, and only then allowing to grip a fresh magazine from the pouch.  This was perfectly OK for the shooting range but for Police it was far too slow in reloading.  The new magazine catch enabled to use the pistol magazine change method, with shooting hand releasing the magazine, allowing it to free fall from the pistol grip, while supporting hand grabs a fresh clip, ready to ram it home and hit the bolt ‘ear’ releasing it from the hold-open device.  The inevitable price of all that lightning fast reload was that there are two, almost identical yet not interchangeable types of Glauberyt magazines at the same time – one for the Police PM-98, and one for the Military PM-84P.  That wasn’t dangerous when both SMGs were used by separate services, but for a while it seemed like the Army would buy PM-98s to replace aging PM-84Ps, which were no longer manufactured after the original ZM Lucznik SA went bankrupt in 2000.  The new company, Fabryka Broni Lucznik-Radom, which was taking up traditions of the original Radom factory (opened in 1927 to manufacture Polish Mauser carbines and later on the famous Radom pistol, known in Poland as the Vis wz.), only tooled up for the PM-98 and flatly refused to retrace its steps.  This was one of the reasons behind the recent replacement of the worn-out Glauberyt in the Army with the 5.56mm Mini-Beryl.

For its virtual absence in the Polish civilian market, strictly regulated by the Police, the Glauberyt has an astounding variety of civilian-legal semiautomatic only versions.  As early as 1990, the emerging PM-84 already had a variant like that, called the PM-84 Semi-Automat.  Also the PM-84P had similar Semi-Automat version, and in 1999 a civilian-legal model of the PM-98 appeared, called the BRS-99.  This differed much from the previous semiautomatics, though.  Those earlier ones were nothing more than a military-finish SMGs with alternative trigger mechanism and words SEMI-AUTOMAT impressed on the side, while the BRS-99 was intended for the U.S. civilian market and so it sported a 16.1-inch barrel and an entirely different lower receiver to keep users from installing military selective fire ones.

Despite all this effort, the BRS did not become an export hit while a mere two dozen were sold on the civilian market in Poland.  This was due to the intervention by the Radom District Police HQ, which contrary to the level of internal changes, labeled the BRS as a reworked fully-automatic weapon, which is against Polish gun laws.  Later on, the same interpretation stifled the civilian-legal Beryl-IPSC rifle and any other attempt at manufacturing civilian versions of any AK-platform weapons.

Several of the civilian owners got into serious trouble over that matter, and thereafter only security companies were able to buy the BRS legally.  In the death throes of the former Lucznik factory, sometimes these civilian guns sold to the security companies were mixed up from everything that was on hand.  The author once shot a PM-84 Semi-Automat in 9×18, but fitted with the BRS (or PM-98) stock.  Several shooting clubs licensed to train security personnel were also able to buy some of these guns and one of Warsaw’s clubs had an even stranger combination: a PM-84P emblazoned with SEMI-AUTOMAT in block capital letters on the side of the upper receiver, which came from the factory fitted with a selective fire lower.

The BRS, as a modification of the PM-98 design, were retained in the production program of Fabryka Broni (FB).  Since 2001, FB is offering the FX Simmunition force-on-force mock combat gun, called the BRS-00, being a selective fire military and police training firearm.  Before the advent of the fixed Simmunition BRS-00-FX, the FX conversion units for the Glauberyts were made by BUOS of Warsaw and FB.  Having to convert a lethal-force weapon and using that for force-on-force training was found disconcerting by the officials responsible for training, and so an FX-only gun was introduced instead, to avoid possibly dangerous mistakes.  The BRS-00-FX has a standard receiver, marked for the FX ammunition, with a lightened bolt inside, propelled by only one (left) of the two parallel return springs – and of course a different barrel, preventing a live round from being chambered, fired and exiting the restricted bore.  All FX-specific parts are clearly marked with a coating of sky-blue paint.

PM-98S and PM-06
Soon after the PM-98 was introduced, the world has gone through a bout of Picatinny-fever, starting in 1994 with the introduction of the world’s first standardized accessory mounting rail, the Mil-Std 1913 or Picatinny Rail.  Polish police also felt the urge to festoon all firearms with endless lengths of “ribs” and demanded a mounting rail to be incorporated into the design, to enable it to choose changing tactical lights and laser sights, instead of being married once-and-for-always to a specific unit fitting into the fore-end socket.

Differences in sight design between PM-84 (right) and PM-84P.

At the turn of the century, the renewed Fabryka Broni started to develop a series of Glauberyt knock-offs for the Army and Police Special Forces.  At first it was not an unqualified success – quite the contrary in fact.  One of these early attempts was the PM-98S (like ‘Szybkostrzelny’, or Fast Firing).  This version was simplified by abolishing it’s rate of fire reducer, after which the rate of fire rose from 640 rpm to 770 rpm.  What amounted to a serious sin of wasting ammunition in regular military service was a virtue of higher firepower for the SF people.  The S variant (also known as the ‘Specjalny’, or Special) has a different front sight protector – a full enclosed ring instead of the military model’s protective wings.  One of the S version models was fitted with a 16-inch barrel (possibly a first BRS left-over) with a flash hider from the Beryl rifle.  This ‘Pinocchio’ variant, as it was mockingly known (just like with Pinocchio from the children’s tale, its nose rose from the not entirely truthful promises…) was in fact ordered by several units for evaluation, and had spawned a heir: a PM-06S with 250 mm long barrel, fitted with external thread for the B&T Impuls II muzzle suppressor.

After these experiments a second wave of SF Glauberyts came, this time with the rails.  At first, in 2002, as was the case with the first Beryl rails, these were rather of the Weaver, than true Picatinny profile.  Because of the problems with access to the cocking handle the rail itself was put on the high support bracket over the front sight, which after fitting an already high EOTech holosight gained it the nickname of “the Rhino.”  The Rhino was a disaster as it was clumsy, unbalanced, and worst of all, it made the shooter stretch his neck high, and lean forward at the same time, close to the ejection opening and – especially with a suppressor on the muzzle – the powder fumes blowing right into his eyes.  It wasn’t also healthy for the sight itself, exposing it for the knocks and muzzle blast.  In 2004, the next model was introduced, this time with the rail welded to the rear top cover, behind the ejection opening.  Most of the Rhino problems were thus solved – only to be replaced by the new ones.  This time it was hard to cock the bolt with the rail in place and again the rail made the shooter stretch his neck – but now to the rear.  The sight had to be installed on the extreme rear of the rail to clear fingers cocking the bolt, or the cocking handle itself, if the sight had a side-sticking clamping knob.  After another two years this problem was addressed by altering the cocking handle again – this time it was bent flat to the side, and a full-length rail was welded on top of the cover.

This wasn’t the end, however, as the Fabryka Broni was not relenting in their pursuit of better Glauberyt.  During the 2006 MSPO arms fair in Kielce, Poland, a new variant was unveiled, called the PM-06.  Though basic design of the submachine gun remained unchanged, many of the annoying details were put right at last.  The receiver cover was made of thicker gauge sheet metal, being stiffer and vibrating less during the shooting.  The safety-selector lever was made ambidextrous, and most importantly, the stock was redesigned to allow the optoelectronic sight as the main one.  The old model of the stock was sliding out and dropping at the hinge, after being extended fully.  This was made to allow the shooter to use the low mechanical sights placed at the level of the receiver top cover.  With the coming of the rail mounted red dot sight, the gun, and subsequently the sight’s optical axis, were far too high for comfort, forcing the operator to stretch his neck in order to see through the sight, destroying what little the extended wire stock-struts offered in the way of stock weld.  Moreover, the old style stock had to be either extended all the way, dropped and locked, or collapsed all the way and offered no rest at all.  This was no longer suiting the tactical doctrine: first, modern tactical shooting stance doctrine called for shooting on the move with a gun held directly in front of the operator, not sideways from the short stops – which was the main type of shooting at the time when the stock was designed.  As a consequence, the stock was too long for comfortable use.  Second, SWAT teams operated in bulletproof vests full-time, which made a stock all the more uncomfortably long.  As a result, a new stock was designed allowing it to lock in three positions along the stock struts.  This, coupled with extended sheet-metal guiding tubes at the sides of the PM-06 receiver gave the operators a degree of latitude in setting the length according to the tactical needs.  It can be extended all the way, beyond the guiding tubes, dropped and locked as in the old stock design for open sights shooting, but also it can be extended half-way or two-thirds length and locked in a straight line, to allow shorter straight stock compensating for red dot’s height, and front stance and/or vest shooting.

The 30-Years War
The development of the Glauberyt took more than 30 years and the end is nowhere near in sight.  The basic design is getting older and dropping more and more from contact with modern technology or tactical requirements for this kind of a weapon.  Right from the start this meant-to-be-compact PDW submachine gun had no chance to lead the way towards modernity, as it was marrying ideas taken from two designs that were respectively a quarter of a century (Uzi) and 30 years old (Skorpion).  The Glauberyt was thus at least two decades late at the time of its birth – better and more technological submachine guns were not able to shake this kind of a handicap.

Moreover, the quality of the 50,000 PM-84Ps making up a lion’s share of all Glauberyts ever manufactured, had left much to be desired.  ZM Lucznik SA was undergoing a particularly bumpy period of transition while making these – and it shows much.  The PM-98, manufactured by the re-born Fabryka Broni has gone a long way towards repairing the lost reputation of the Glauberyt, but these are only used by the Police, Border Guards and the military Special Forces.  A limited amount was exported: 3,000 were bought by the Iraqi National Police and several dozen were sold to an Indonesian Special Police Unit.  The 9×18 variant displayed at the 2005 MSPO fair was a prototype of the model offered to – rumors had it – the Ukrainian Police, but no contract was signed eventually.

Today, many of the Glauberyt SMG flaws have finally been ironed out, but ironically nobody seems to care any more, as the days of the submachine gun in both military and law enforcement service appear to be numbered – and even if they’re not, a better and more modern design should replace the Glauberyt.  The sooner, the better.