The American ‘Grease-Gun’ In The Pak-Afghan Region

Updated: 1 day ago

The M3 and M3A1, famously also nicknamed the ‘Grease Gun’ due to their appearance, are a straight blowback submachine gun design, chambered in the U.S. military’s then standard issue pistol round – .45 ACP cartridge, and designed in the USA. The M3 was first adopted by the U.S. military in a limited capacity in early 1943, eventually supplanting the M1 and M1A1 Thompson submachine guns. Fascinatingly, a significant number have also been seen in the Pak-Afghan Region.

Fig.1.1. A number of M3s handing in a gun shop in Darra Adamkhel, note the variation in wire stock (Source: Khyber Armoury Reference Collection)

These submachine guns have been seen for sale in some quantity within Pakistan’s tribal arms markets in the ex-FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province over the last few years, mainly in the town of Darra Adamkhel and a few in the old arms markets in Landi-Kotal close to the Pak-Afghan border. It appears that several hundred of the submachine guns are available in the region and are relatively cheap due to the scarcity of the ammunition at the current time. Both variants, the earlier M3 and the later, further simplified, M3A1 are available in used conditions ranging from rather clean to more well-used. There are some which have been refinished locally also.

Fig.1.2. An M3 and four M3A1s, discernible by the lack of a charging handle on the later guns (Source: Khyber Armoury Reference Collection)
Fig.1.3. An M3 and an M3A1, note the earlier gun’s charging handle and the later gun’s larger ejection port cover (Source: Khyber Armoury Reference Collection)

Many of these picture examples we have seen and handled ourselves, however, it isn’t certain where the dealers acquired these guns from. We can point out the supply of certain arms by non-state and state actors to the Mujahideen as a possible source, as other US made weapons such as the M16 may have been supplied to them in some numbers, not including the STINGER missiles which we know were undoubtedly supplied. We’ve seen the M16A1 5.56×45mm self-loading rifles in Mujahid hands during the Soviet-Afghan conflict in a couple of instances. That being said, the large arms dealers who acquire such large amounts of arms aren’t so forthcoming as to how they came into their possession. Whether they are from that time period or a more recent ‘import’ is unclear, so their route was into the region is just conjecture at this point.

Fig.1.4. Over 50 M3/M3A1 submachine guns seen in one location in the the Pak-Afghan Region (Source: Khyber Armoury Reference Collection)

Due to the number of these now antiquated arms floating around Pakistan today, they are sold off relatively cheap, many are left lying unwanted on shelves, sold as wall-hangers and display pieces as they can not compete with much more modern submachine gun designs of today, which as ever are sought after and widely catered to in the region.