Bechowiec: Polish Teenager Makes a Resistance SMG

Bechowiec: Polish Teenager Makes a Resistance SMG

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The Bechowiec (or Beha) is a fascinating SMG produced in small numbers in southern Poland under German occupation during World War Two. It was made for use by the Bataliony Chłopskie (Peasant Battalions) by a young man named Henryk Strąpoć.

Henryk built his first (quite illegal) gun at the age of 15 in 1937, and was promptly arrested for it. He avoided prison only on account of being a minor, and promised not to do it again. Well, at least he promised not to get caught again – he built three more guns (two semiauto pistols and a revolver) by the time Germany invaded Poland in 1939. During the occupation he joined the the resistance and set to work doing what he must have fantasized about; building clandestine small arms.

Being more or less familiar with pistols but having never handled a submachine gun, he made some creative design choices. His SMG is basically a scaled-up Ruby-type action – chambered for 9x19mm with a simple blowback slide, it is hammer fired from a closed bolt. He designed a complex but effective selective-fire trigger system, complete with a correct auto sear. The first gun was ready in the spring of 1943, and he had a makeshift production going by early 1944. A total of 11 of the guns were made by July 1944, some in 9mm (using bored-out WW1 Mauser barrels) and some in 7.62x25mm Tokarev (using Mosin Nagant barrels).

Only one example survives today, and it is housed in the Polish Army Museum (and sadly, deactivated). Many thanks to the Museum for giving me access to film it for you! Check them out at: http://www.muzeumwp.pl/?language=EN

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