Bechowiec SMG as seen in the Museum of the Polish Army
|Type||Submachine gun / machine pistol|
|Place of origin||Poland|
|Number built||ca. 13|
|Weight||2,43 / 2,82 kg (without / with magazine)|
|Barrel length||240 mm|
|Muzzle velocity||ca. 365 m/s|
|Feed system||32-round box magazine|
Bechowiec (aka Bechowiec-1) was a Polish World War II machine pistol or submachine gun developed and produced by the underground Bataliony Chłopskie (BCh, Peasants' Battalions) resistance organisation. It was designed in 1943 by Henryk Strąpoć and was being produced in underground facilities in the area of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. Its name was coined after the Bataliony Chłopskie organization members who were informally called bechowiec (plural: bechowcy).
The guns's designer was Henryk Strąpoć (born 1922), a blacksmith and self-taught amateur gunsmith in a village of Czerwona Góra, Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship. In 1936-1939 years he illegally built four semi-automatic pistols of own design. During the German occupation of Poland he became a gunsmith of the local Bataliony Chłopskie underground organization. In spring of 1943 he completed a working prototype of his own submachine gun, later named Bechowiec. He later improved the design with a help of Jan Swat, formerly working as a mechanic in metal works in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.
A headquarters of Opatów BCh district, lacking machine guns, decided to organize a serial production of the weapon then. It was possible thanks to a clandestine production of intermediate products in a metal works in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski (under a German administration). These parts were produced there and then smuggled by workers since October 1943. A final construction was made in Strąpoć's village blacksmith shop, with primitive muscle-powered tooling. Barrels were made from scrapped WWI vintage rifles, but they had to be hand-cut and rebored to 9 mm caliber.
First two submachine guns were completed in January 1944. Until July 1944, 11 were completed in Czerwona Góra and at least two in Jan Swat's workshop in Broniszowice. Some 20 were in production, but a closing front and more intense presence of German units caused a decision to stop a production and hide unfinished parts.
The weapons were distributed among Bataliony Chłopskie and affiliated Ludowa Straż Bezpieczeństwa (People's Security Guard) partisan units, mostly in area around Opatów. There is only one gun still in existence, currently on exhibition in the Polish Army Museum in Warsaw.
A lack of experience of Strąpoć in machine guns' designing and lack of direct patterns resulted in several original construction features, similar to semi-automatic pistols, and hence the weapon is sometimes referred to as a machine pistol, in spite of a size and general layout closer to a submachine gun. The weapon had no stock and had quite compact dimensions. It used standard German 9mm Parabellum ammunition which could be easily obtained either by purchase from the German soldiers or through armed actions. Three or four last weapons used 7.62x25 mm Soviet ammunition, of growing popularity among partisans.
The weapon used a slide, much like an automatic pistol and fired from a closed breech, which added to its accuracy in single-shot mode. It also had an internal hammer and an internal safety device, preventing from shooting with not fully closed breech. A breech could be brought back by pulling a transport belt, fixed to a slide under the barrel. The gun had a three-position external safety and firing mode selector.
The weapons had a signature "S.H. w.44" on a left side (Strąpoć Henryk, pattern 1944) and "B.H" on a right side. Production guns were painted black, only the surviving exhibit was later polished.
- Erenfeicht, Krajewski, pp.24-33.
- Erenfeicht, Leszek; Krajewski, Piotr G. Bechowiec: zapomniany polski peem (Bechowiec: forgotten Polish SMG) in: Strzał Nr. 9(65)/2008 (Polish)