Real Live Machinegun Crime: Roger Waller and his Full Auto .380ACP MAC-11

If movies are to be believed (they shouldn’t), then every street corner youth gang is tearing about the neighborhood armed with state of the art military weaponry. Reality is that actual criminal use of machineguns in America is and always has been vanishingly rare.

If you shape your worldview at the local cineplex, and, distressingly, many do, then you might expect gangs of bank robbers wielding full auto HK G36 assault rifles to be lurking behind every parking meter in whatever little metropolis you call home. However, I have it on reliable information that movies are not technically real. The reality, by contrast, paints a very different picture.

Rare professional criminals like John Dillinger with his Thompson and Clyde Barrow with his BAR had an outsized influence on American culture.

Automatic weapons (not to be confused with “semiautomatic assault weapons,” whatever they actually are) have been heavily regulated in the United States since 1934. Thompson submachine guns and Browning Automatic Rifles were really the only automatic weapons in circulation back then, and they were used precious few times in actual crimes. However, then as now blood and sex sell newspapers, so the public became convinced that machinegun-related crime was an existential threat to our American way of life.

The Constitution is actually fairly specific about the limited powers granted to the US Congress.

As a result, legislators did what legislators do. Interestingly, back in 1934 lawmakers actually read the document they were sworn to support and defend. They appreciated that they lacked the constitutional power to ban anything. What they subsequently did was to simply tax machineguns out of existence. As $200 in 1934 is about $3,000 today, levying a $200 tax on the transfer of machineguns effectively shut down commerce in these items.

Transferable machineguns are now insanely expensive. This cherry example of a Colt M16A1 is listed at $28k.

Now fast forward to the 1980s and $200 was not the lofty sum it once was. Private ownership of automatic weapons, therefore, began to accumulate a proper following. In 1986 a Democratically-controlled congress slipped the Hughes Amendment into the ironically-titled Firearms Owners Protection Act. President Reagan daftly signed the thing, and the new production of automatic weapons for sale to civilians was gone never to return. Resulting market forces pushed prices of transferable automatic weapons into the stratosphere. The M16 I bought for $600 in 1987 would cost twenty grand to replace today.

There was a time in America when legal machineguns were both plentiful and cheap.

As of 2016, the BATF reported that there were 175,977 transferable automatic weapons in the National Firearms Registry and Transfer Record. A few of these guns are still in Law Enforcement arms rooms or museums, but most of them are owned by folks like us. Since 1934 there have been two cases wherein the legal owner of a registered machinegun committed a crime with his weapon. Only one is well documented.

The Shooter

Officer Roger Waller ran a gun shop, served with the Dayton Police Department, and was a fixture among the local paintball set.

In 1988 Roger Waller was a thirteen-year veteran of the Dayton, Ohio, police department. He also owned a gun shop and was active in paintball. His Law Enforcement job was to manage the Drug Hotline Volunteer Program. His duties included training and scheduling volunteers to man a telephone hotline wherein local citizens could call in tips about suspected drug dealers. Officer Waller would correlate the information and occasionally travel to the locations reported to observe for evidence of trafficking.

The war on drugs has cost billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

If Officer Waller saw something suspicious his mandate was to report it for further investigation. Waller was not to speak with anyone at these locations or attempt to buy drugs. Though he carried a 9mm handgun, Officer Waller’s duties were administrative in nature.

Wow, Just Wow

This sordid episode began with the installation of a new furnace in a police officer’s home.

On September 15th 1988, Officer Waller was spending his day off having a new furnace installed by an HVAC specialist named Dennis Michael. Waller told Michael that he was a police officer who investigated drug dealers. Michael informed Waller that there was a house in his neighborhood that he suspected of harboring drug activity. Once the furnace was installed Waller and Michael drove to Michael’s neighborhood for a look-see.

For whatever reason, Officer Waller was packing his legally-registered MAC-11 submachine gun on the day he and a buddy embarked on his little off-duty counter-drug operation.

Despite being off duty, Waller carried his 9mm service pistol and badge along with his legally registered .380ACP MAC-11 submachine gun in a shoulder holster. His new buddy the furnace installer also brought along a shotgun. Once Michael identified the dwelling the two men kept it under surveillance for about half an hour. Observing nothing out of the ordinary Officer Waller announced that he had “decided to go down and try to make a buy at the door.”

Officer Waller identified himself as Law Enforcement as he approached the suspected drug dealer’s home.

As he approached the home a young girl emerged. Waller flashed his badge and advised her to leave as he “was going to bust this house.” Waller then walked to the screen door and addressed the two men inside.

Crack cocaine was a scourge across the country in the 1980s.

Lawrence Eugene Hileman and Jerry L. Smith were inside the home. When Officer Waller announced that he was there to buy crack cocaine Hileman and Smith laughed. They then invited Waller and Michael inside stating that they didn’t sell crack cocaine. Waller and Michael entered the house and Waller identified himself as “drug enforcement.” Officer Waller then announced, “You know, somebody is going to go to jail here if we don’t find out where the drugs are.”

At close range, the MAC-series submachine guns are undeniably effective.

The details are fuzzy, but at this point apparently something bad happened. Officer Waller shot Hileman in the chest with a long burst from his submachine gun. Waller later claimed it was an accident, but I read that the guy was hit thirty times. Dennis Michael, the furnace repairman, then shot Jerry Smith twice with his shotgun. Hileman died in short order. Smith was grievously wounded.

The Gun

Gordon Ingram (center) mastered the art of combining modern mass-production techniques with a simple and reliable submachine gun design.

Gordon Ingram was born in California in 1924. A World War 2 veteran, he returned home from the war and began the design of his first submachine gun.

The M6 was Gordon Ingram’s first successful SMG.

The result, the Ingram Model 6, was a .45ACP weapon built around a tubular receiver. The Model 6 was designed as an inexpensive replacement for the Thompson that was both heavy and spendy to produce. The Model 6 was available with either a horizontal or vertical foregrip and included a novel fire selector in the trigger, not unlike that of the Steyr AUG. A short pull produced semiauto fire, while a long pull produced full auto. Alas, in 1949 the world was awash in submachine guns, so after a run of 20,000 copies, the Model 6 died a natural death.

The M10 was Gordon Ingram’s most popular design. This one is chambered for 9mm Parabellum.

In 1964 Ingram designed his masterpiece. The M10 submachine gun was available in either 9mm or .45ACP chamberings and was produced predominantly via steel stampings. These guns were less than a foot long with their flimsy wire stocks retracted and weighed 6.26 pounds. However, the M10’s diminutive dimensions produced an abbreviated bolt travel and subsequent breathtaking rate of fire in excess of 1,000 rpm.

Mitch WerBell III was an undeniably larger than life character.

In 1969 Ingram joined SIONICS, an American arms-producing company founded by the flamboyant former OSS/CIA officer Mitch Werbell III.

The M10 was designed from the outset to be used with a sound suppressor.

SIONICS stood for “Studies in the Operational Negation of Insurgents and Counter-Subversion.” This has got to be the coolest acronym ever contrived by man.

WerBell’s innovative two-stage suppressor design actually used tennis shoe eyelets in the first stage to help mitigate the gun’s racket.

Ingram joined his tiny subgun to a novel two-stage sound suppressor designed by WerBell and proceeded to try to sell the combination to everybody in the free world.

The .380ACP M11 (right) is a scaled-down version of the larger 9mm M10.

In 1972 Ingram and WerBell, now under the mantle of the Military Armaments Corporation (MAC, the second coolest acronym in human history) released the M11. This was a scaled-down version of the M10 chambered in .380ACP. The M11 was not much larger than a 1911 pistol and weighed a paltry 3.5 pounds. This spunky little bullet hose cycled at between 1,200 and 1,600 rpm and fed from either 16 or 32-round magazines. This was the weapon Officer Waller used to kill the unfortunate Mr. Hileman. Though both guns are frequently referred to as either the MAC-10 or MAC-11, this designation was never formally endorsed by the company.

How Do They Run?

The tiny little 9mm M10 actually weighs about as much as an M16A1 rifle.

The M10 weighs almost as much as an M16A1, but it is undeniably compact. With a sound suppressor installed and the stock extended I can keep my bursts from a 9mm M10 inside a paper plate at fifteen meters. Without the can and with the stock collapsed the gun looks undeniably cool but becomes an area weapon system.

The .380ACP M11 isn’t much larger than a 1911 pistol.

The M11 is more controllable, though trigger discipline becomes an even greater issue given the profligate rate of fire. You can actually hold a tuned M11 sideways at head height, squeeze the trigger, and empty the gun before the first case hits the ground. That’s a dandy parlor trick but doesn’t have much practical application. Great care must be exercised with both guns in the absence of a sound suppressor to avoid the errant inadvertent defingering.

The Rest of the Story

WerBell and Ingram tried to sell their little submachine guns to the US Army as a replacement for the 1911 pistol.

Ingram and WerBell wanted desperately to convince Uncle Sam to replace all of his 1911 pistols with MAC submachine guns. The mind boggles at the number of shot-off digits that might litter military firing ranges today had they been successful. As it was they did sell a smattering around the globe at about $120 apiece back in the seventies but eventually gave up and quit. Semiauto variants of Ingram’s guns are still in production today.

MAC submachine guns are designed for just such close-range across-the-room engagements. John Wayne debuted the diminutive little gun in his 1970’s cop thriller McQ. Mind that trigger finger, Duke.

Officer Waller and his furnace-installing civilian deputy Dennis Michael both pled guilty and were sentenced to eighteen years in prison. The deceased Mr. Hileman had served as a past police drug informant and was indeed apparently a pretty vile guy. There were even rumors that Waller had killed him intentionally, perhaps as a contract hit. The details are lost to time.

Converting semiauto weapons to full auto was legal in America before 1986. The tools required for such an enterprise are fairly simple.

Prior to 1986, anybody with $200 and a Dremel tool could file a BATF Form 1 and legally build a machinegun in their basement. 175,977 machineguns ended up in private hands under this system. With the exception of Officer Waller and one other guy, in 86 years nobody criminally misused any of those weapons.

The MAC submachine guns were studies in mechanical simplicity.

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About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Thomas July 1, 2020, 12:24 am

    Bought the 10 back in the 80s a suppressor a few years later when I got enough money the suppressor cost twice as much as the 10. Really didn’t enjoy shooting with the barrel extension because it would warp with the heat from a mag of shooting when I got the suppressor it became a really enjoyable toy Coca-Cola cans at Twenty to thirty yards my favorite target. But talking price the combination cost two months pay back then now the same combo would cost about six weeks pay, or less. Including tax.

  • Lance June 30, 2020, 5:22 pm

    I could be wrong, but I think the picture of the soldier with the MAC is former Navy Seal and author Matthew Bracken.

  • D Dunbar June 29, 2020, 10:33 pm

    What a great article!! The combo of history, technical details, and the pacing is just fantastic! Please write more articles!! Thank you!

  • RC June 29, 2020, 7:11 pm

    I have fired both the 9mm M10 and .380 M11, albeit sans suppressor. The M10 was hard to keep on target but might be useful for spraying a room. The M11 was easier to keep on target but the rate of fire was such that even a brief pull of the trigger emptied the magazine. I have no problem believing that Mr. Waller put 30 rounds into Mr. Hileman’s chest.

    Both weapons control would doubtless be much improved given a suppressor to hold on to, but my conclusion was the MACs were mostly useful for rapidly unloading large quantities of ammo and not something I’d want to carry into a fight. I have also shot Thompsons and Uzis; with their slower rates of fire both were very easy to shoot accurately.

  • Mike in a Truck June 29, 2020, 10:42 am

    I got to fire a suppressed M10 in the Army. How it ended up in our arms room was a mystery. Cool describes it looks. Sucks describes its handling characteristics. ( my opinion). If you gave me one I’d trade it for an M16 A1 in a heartbeat. As far as replacing the M1911 that’s just plain nitwittery. As it was ,anyone issued a 1911 was forbidden to have a chambered round while in the cantonment area or even the TOC. Imagine this little monster of a sub gun in an armored vehicle ( M60 tank,M109 SP howitzer, M113 APC)bouncing and jostling over hill and dale in the hands of some 18 year old tent peg. No thanks!

  • JC June 29, 2020, 8:45 am

    Waller, the former officer, is still in an Ohio prison, having served 30 years so far, and having been turned down several times for parole. He received a life sentence for the murder. The family of the dead man alleged Waller was a drug dealer himself, and the murder was intentional. The evidence as presented in court documents might suggest an accidental discharge after Waller went there to scare or frighten the dealer, except that there was possibly not a single miss.. According to court records, after Waller killed the one dealer, he walked outside and the friend shot the other twice but failed to kill him. His friend’s young daughter had been walking in the neighborhood and stepped on a used syringe, and Waller and the friend may have intended for a little payback. Certainly a strange tale…

  • Wyze Wildfire June 29, 2020, 6:37 am

    Great article 👏 I couldn’t have written a better one. Now how do we get the government to honor the constitutional bill of rights and repeal the 1934 NFA and every other 2nd amendment circumventing antiAmerican law these low IQ freedom hating liberals have managed to get passed?

    • Rob Hunter June 29, 2020, 1:59 pm

      We get the repeals when the dollar goes to zero and gov belly up because of it. Hopefully after the reset we build a more constitutional gov with no fed, income tax, or drag asses. If you work hard you get stuff. Don’t work and get fukd! That goes for people as well as all the zombie banks and corporations dragging this country down. Get ready for the suck!

  • Jimboecv June 28, 2020, 3:39 pm

    Love these, Will – thanks.

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