Bushman IDW: One of the smallest submachine gun in the world

Eric Sof

The Bushman IDW is described as Individual Defense Weapon (IDW) and is exceptionally small, no more than 10.8 inches (276 mm) long. It can be easily concealed and carried, though it is rather heavier than might be expected from its size. It is much smaller than regular submachine guns like Heckler and Koch MP5, AKSU-74, and similar.


The Bushman introduced an entirely new idea into automatic weapons. Hitherto, it has been usual to build a weapon and then find out how fast it fires; if the rate of fire is too high or too low, then adjustments are made to the weight of the bolt, the strength of the return spring, and other features in order to approach the desired figure.

But the desired figure was no more than a figure which the designer felt was right; it had no scientific or technical origin. As a result, most submachine guns are difficult to keep on target since the vibration of the weapon and the muzzle blast combine to lift the muzzle during automatic fire, and the shots fly harmlessly into the air.

Soldier featuring Bushman IDW
Soldier featuring Bushman IDW (Photo: XY)

The designer of the Bushman IDW reasoned that like most mechanical devices, a submachine gun would have a ‘natural frequency’ at which it would fire smoothly, without vibration and without the muzzle climbing. He developed an electronic control unit that arrested the bolt for a fraction of a second as it recoiled and then released it. Being electronic, this device could be adjusted from infinitely slow to the full natural speed of the weapon, and it was simply a question of experimenting to find the natural frequency once the weapon had been designed.

Smallest submachine gun in the world

The result is one of the smallest submachine guns in existence, a little larger than an automatic pistol, which can be fired one-handed at a fully automatic rate of 450 rounds a minute and which puts all the bullets into the target area. The weapon does not jump; it merely rocks slightly in the hand.

The Bushman IDW is heavy for its size, being machined from forged steel, using modern computer-controlled machine tools. It is a blowback weapon, and without the delaying mechanism would have a natural rate of fire of about 1400 rounds per minute, at which rate it would be almost uncontrollable and certainly incapable of being fired one-handed. But the regulator arrests the bolt momentarily after each shot and then, instructed by a micro-chip, releases it at the correct time to give the desired rate of fire.

The electronic control principle has also been applied to some existing submachine gun designs, with equally good effect. At the time of writing the Bushman has just entered production, and it will be interesting to see where it will be adopted.

Technical specifications

Manufacturer: Bushman Ltd, Frogmore, St. Albans, England
Type: blowback, regulated
Caliber: 9mm Parabellum
Barrel: 3.25in (82.5mm)
Weight: 6.4lbs (2.92kg)
Magazine capacity: 20, 28, or 32 rounds
Cyclic rate of fire: 450 rounds/minute
Effective firing range: 50–100 m sight adjustments

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