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Submachine Gun Madness: Full Auto At The Arizona State Subgun Match



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We all crave what we can’t have. And for most of us gun-nuts, full-auto guns are pretty high on that list. When we do get to shoot something full-auto, it normally is just a mag or two dumped into a paper target while a nervous RO looks over your shoulder to make sure you don’t put holes in something that should remain whole.

Full-auto in a competition? Nearly unheard of. But Arizona is built different.

But do submachineguns live up to the hype? Yes, but also no. 

SPECIAL THANKS

I got a few people to say thank you to for making this happen so they deserve their own section.

Russell Phagan of KE Arms get top billing since he put the idea in my head and provided the full-auto KP-9 for me to borrow during the match. Russell shot the match along with me, and between the two of us, we put about 1,200 rounds of full auto fire through the KP-9 in a little under 4 hours. 

A huge thank you to AmmunitionToGo.com for sending out a case of ammo for me to shoot at the match. 124gr Sellier & Bellot worked wonderfully with zero malfunctions or stoppages. 

And a big thanks to the match organizers who put on a great event. If you’re in the Phoneix area, check out the Tuesday Night Steel match, as it was their club that put this together.

THE GUN

LOWER: Post dealer sample KP-9 with a KE Arms 9” Delta-S rail and ambi full auto selector. 10oz buffer with a .308 recoil spring.

UPPER: Aero Precision EPC-9, Lead & Steel Pandora PB-3 red dot on a Scalarworks mount.

The ammo, as I mentioned, was 124gr S&B 9mm. The gun and the ammo ran wonderfully with 100-percent function. Accuracy was a bit hard to guess since it was being fired on full-auto, but targets were hit with ease.

Chamber area of the KP-9 after ~1,000 rounds of full auto

While the gun got dirty with two of us using it during the match, it didn’t require anything special. After stage 4 of 6, Russell hit the BCG with some RemOil and cleaned out the bore with a boresnake. This was after about 1,000 rounds that day when we started to feel the cyclic rate slow a bit during stage 4.

THE MATCH

This was a pretty un-serious match. Something you quickly discover in a match like this is how not very practical full-auto is, even at fairly short ranges. Instead, this match exists as an excuse to shoot full auto subguns and have a lot of fun.

A mix of paper and steel on most stages, steel just needed to fall and paper needed either 3 or 10 hits minimum. 3 hits on normal paper and 10 hits on special paper targets for a bit of mag dumping. 

Some targets were spaced close enough that you could get them with one long spray, but most of them were meant to be engaged individually. 

Clearing plate racks with full auto!

The 10-hit paper targets and some special steel targets normally gave time bonuses for completing in a single string of fire. 

Six stages with dedicated ROs for each stage made for a very smooth day. It took us a little under 4 hours to get through the match. With 6 stages and out in time for lunch is a testament to a well-run event.

THE MADNESS

Any time you do something new or step outside of your comfort zone, things will feel weird. Shooting full auto at a match is no exception. Trying to count 3 shots in a full auto burst is a little strange, but once you do it a few times, it becomes normal. Trying to count 10 or more is impossible.

Weapon control becomes most of your focus. While a normal blow-back 9mm isn’t that spicy, and the KP-9 I shot was well-tuned for recoil, kicking it into full-auto requires a lot more forceful control. Lean into the gun, aim low for the first round, and use recoil to your benefit to keep your following shots still on target.

Even something seemingly simple like the safety felt extremely weird to me, flipping past semi-auto and into full. 

Overall, the match required a different kind of shooting. It was fun, it was new, and it was different.

LESSONS LEARNED

For me, the biggest takeaway from the match was how impractical full-auto is. While it is fun to dump mags, I can’t help but look at the courses of fire objectively and say that every stage would have required 1/3rd the ammo and had a faster time with better precision if I had been shooting semi-auto. That isn’t the point of the match, though, and practicality is somewhat suspended for the day.

This match also highlighted how much full-auto is dying among firearm owners. This is the fault of the NFA and government regulation, but it is still sad to see. With prices for a pre-ban subgun at all-time highs and zero chance for those prices to ever come down, it is only a matter of time before events like this go the way of the Dodo.

LOOSE ROUNDS

If you have the chance to shoot a full-auto match, I highly recommend you do so. The entry fee and ammo cost might sting, but it is worth it. I was fortunate to get the chance myself, and I’m glad I made the trip.

While the match highlighted for me how much I’m not really missing out on by not owning a full-auto gun, it was still a really enjoyable experience that did have some training benefits. 

For some really cool video on the event, take a look at the RECOIL Instagram page and at Russell Phagan’s Instagram, Sinistralrifleman, and his YouTube channel.

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1 Comment

  • Harold Littell says:

    I always did the Knob Creek subgun matches in different divisions. Thompson Collector’s Show and Shoot, TATA, and even a big one out in Vegas. One, that’s a three gun set up, subgun match setups are way different. Two, the gun’s cycle rate is way too high. Stens and MP-40 are nice, Sterlings and Swedish Ks are fantastic. A Berretta BM-12 is another level of smooth. 1928A1 Thompsons and M3 Grease guns are sweet heavy hitters for when there’s lots of Pepper Poppers. No surprise, HK MP-5s rules the close bolts. Keep shooting, it all for fun!

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  • I always did the Knob Creek subgun matches in different divisions. Thompson Collector's Show and Shoot, TATA, and even a big one out in Vegas. One, that's a three gun set up, subgun match setups are way different. Two, the gun's cycle rate is way too high. Stens and MP-40 are nice, Sterlings and Swedish Ks are fantastic. A Berretta BM-12 is another level of smooth. 1928A1 Thompsons and M3 Grease guns are sweet heavy hitters for when there's lots of Pepper Poppers. No surprise, HK MP-5s rules the close bolts. Keep shooting, it all for fun!

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