The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal

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3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
No, this is not some Uber-cool 1980s-era Miami Vice drug lord. It is a middle-aged gun writer with diagnosable maturity issues.

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Back in the 1980’s, the Military Armament Corporation M-10 submachine gun was, well, the MAC-Daddy. The accursed machinegun ban detonated in 1986, and machinegun prices skyrocketed from there. Right after the law changed, you could land a MAC-10 for about $600. That would be about $1,700 in today’s money. A converted full-auto HK94 went for a bit north of a grand. A vintage German MG-42 was roughly twice that. My, haven’t times changed?

The MAC-series submachine guns have always been the gateway drug for this quirky little full-auto hobby. That wasn’t because the MAC was tactically awesome. It wasn’t. That was because the MAC was available.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Military Armament Corporation and subsequently RPB Industries after MAC’s demise offered an entire family of handy little inexpensive pressed steel guns in three different calibers.

Developed by Gordon Ingram in 1964, what we call the MAC-10 was actually the M-10 in the Military Armament Corporation catalog. The term MAC-10 never was used by the original company. We gun nerds dreamt that up afterward.

The Designer of the M-10

Gordon Ingram was a WW2 veteran who came back from the war intending to design guns. His first Ingram Model 6 looked a bit like a Thompson in dim light but was built around a drawn tubular steel receiver. It also included a nifty two-stage fire selector built into the trigger akin to that of the Steyr AUG assault rifle. A partial pull produced semi-auto fire. All the way back was rock and roll.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
This is the Ingram Model 6. It was offered with either a vertical or horizontal foregrip.

Alas, the world after WW2 was already awash in cheap pistol-caliber SMGs. As a result, there wasn’t a terribly vibrant market for the Model 6. The gun died a natural death after a brief three-year production run. Police Ordnance Co produced between 15,000 and 20,000 copies from 1949 to 1952. A few went to the Cubans and the Peruvians, but most were sold to American prisons and Law Enforcement agencies. Though ultimately unsuccessful, the Model 6 laid a proper foundation for greater things to come.

Ingram designed his M-10 in 1964. The gun did not go into production until 1970 and then for only three years. The weapon was designed from the outset to be cheap and easy to produce. The original sale price was $120. That’s about $880 today.

A Coveted Military Deal

Gordon Ingram and his business partners at MAC desperately wanted to sell Uncle Sam a zillion of the little MAC SMGs to replace the geriatric 1911A1 pistols in military service. Thank the Lord they failed in that regard. I cannot imagine the carnage that might ensue should you unleash a hundred Army privates on the range with such stubby little full auto mischief machines.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Without the sound suppressor, the M-10 wasn’t too much larger than a Colt 1911 pistol.

M-10 And Its Problematic Small Size

And therein lies the problem. The M-10 was indeed very small—not too much bigger than a 1911A1 pistol. However, it was quite heavy. At 6.26 pounds empty, the M-10 weighed about what an M-16A1 rifle did. While the compact size made the little gun easily portable, the short bolt travel resulted in an astronomical rate of fire.

The full-sized 9mm version ran at 1,200 rpm on full auto. The .45ACP gun used the same frame with a different upper and magwell and cycled at around 1,000 rpm. The further miniaturized .380ACP M-11 was introduced in 1972 and spewed bullets at 1,600 rpm.

As a result of this accelerated rate of fire, the thrill passes fairly quickly when running an unmodified MAC for the first time. There are lots of aftermarket kits that slow down the rate of fire and make the MAC-series guns more practical for defense and competition. However, Gordon Ingram’s compact little sub-gun is indeed a proper bullet hose.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
The M-10 submachine gun was designed from the outset to be used with a sound suppressor.

The Classic MAC-10

The MAC-10 is still the classic starter sub-gun because it is plentiful and, very relatively, cheap. An original transferable MAC-10 that cost $120 in 1972 will set you back twelve grand or so today. That’s just nuts.

Ingram didn’t design his M-10 as a general-purpose infantry weapon. The M-10, particularly with a suppressor installed, was designed to be concealable yet still put out a huge volume of fire at near-contact ranges. In short, the M-10 was really an assassin’s tool. Now hold that thought…

The Target

I recently caught the Tom Cruise movie American Made. In addition to being a fine actor, Cruise also throws his heart and soul into his film projects. He flies his own planes, rides his own parachutes, and does his own stunts. That guy is the hardest-working man in Hollywood. He also chooses some great scripts.

If you like guns and you haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow and Oblivion you have not yet lived. Those were both truly superb sci-fi action movies. American Made is a highly stylized tale originally inspired by the life story of renegade pilot Barry Seal. Though the movie narrative took some wild liberties, the real story was nonetheless quite compelling.

READ MORE: Killer Baboons: Peter Capstick’s MAC-10 Submachine Gun

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
The movie took some poetic license with Seal’s story, but reality was still plenty incredible.

In the movie, Seal had one loyal hot wife and three kids. In real life, he had three sequential wives and half a dozen children. The movie had Seal working directly for the CIA. One source I found stated that the only credible connection Seal had to a US government alphabet agency was the DEA. Others said he was a paid CIA operative from the outset. However, my source was the Internet, so take everything with a grain of salt. Regardless, he did some pretty outlandish stuff.


Alder Berriman Seal was born on 16 July 1939 and was a gifted natural aviator. His dad was a Klansman who sold candy for a living. Seal started flying as a teenager and earned his private pilot’s rating at age 17. Seal was rumored to have met Lee Harvey Oswald while in pilot training.

Seal enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard in 1962 and supposedly passed Special Forces selection though the details are murky. Seal’s wife Deborah later claimed that he flew the actual JFK shooter(s) out of Dallas on the day of the assassination. Keep in mind, however, that this is still the Internet.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Some Internet sources claimed Seal got his start flying helicopters in Vietnam, but I couldn’t independently verify that.

In 1964 Seal began flying for Trans World Airlines, eventually becoming TWA’s youngest 707 command pilot. In the summer of 1972, he took medical leave from TWA to smuggle more than a thousand pounds of C-4 plastic explosives, 7,000 feet of primer cord, and 2,600 electric blasting caps aboard a DC-4 destined for anti-Castro Cubans in Mexico. The authorities intercepted the plane in Shreveport and arrested Seal along with his accomplices. He was later cleared as the result of prosecutorial misconduct. However, this sordid debacle did cost him his job with TWA.

But It Doesn’t Stop There

Here’s where things get way weird. According to his ex-wife, Seal began running drugs in 1975. He flew private aircraft loaded with dope up from Colombia to the United States during the golden years of drug smuggling. As was depicted in the movie, he typically flew in low underneath radar coverage and then kicked the drugs out over rural Louisiana swamps to be picked up by accomplices on the ground who then drove the stuff to Miami. One of Seal’s employees drowned retrieving coke from the bayous.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Barry Seal became quite adroit at playing both sides of the law.

Along the way, Seal was arrested and spent nine months in a Central American prison, finally being released without charge. While there, however, he made some powerful friends who eventually introduced him to Jorge Ocha and Pablo Escobar. Barry Seal subsequently became one of the primary pilots for the Medellin drug cartel. In so doing he also became fabulously rich. He told friends he once made $1.5 million on a single flight. His final net worth was somewhere between $50 million and $1 billion. That kind of cash will invariably change a man.

Accusations and Allegations

There were subsequent allegations that Seal worked for the US government running arms to the Nicaraguan Contras out of his personal airfield in Mena, Arkansas. Instead of coming back with an empty plane, Seal usually just packed his machine full of drugs and doubled his money for the trip. However, as was depicted in the movie, he did eventually help the DEA gather photographic evidence of the Medellin kingpins’ involvement in drug smuggling.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Barry Seal got pictures of Pablo Escobar loading drugs onto his airplane. That double-cross is what ultimately killed him.

By 1985, Seal had been found guilty of two drug-related felonies in the US. The judge took his work for the government into account and sentenced him to six months of supervised probation at a Salvation Army halfway house in Baton Rouge. However, by now he had crossed Pablo Escobar, arguably the most ruthless drug lord in the history of the business.

Shot By a MAC-10

On 19 February 1986, Seal pulled his late model Cadillac up to the Baton Rouge Salvation Army hostel to start his obligatory evening shift. A witness said two men approached his car and that Seal apparently knew what was coming. The doomed pilot leaned his head forward against the steering wheel as the primary shooter produced a full auto .45ACP MAC-10 with a sound suppressor.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Gun magazines, movies, and men’s fiction of the era tended to portray the MAC-10 as the tool of choice for mercenaries and international assassins.

Limited Options

Back then there were three ways for a criminal to get a full auto MAC-10. One was to buy it from a Class 3 firearms dealer, pay the transfer tax, and endure the background check and waiting period. I doubt any self-respecting bad guy ever did that.

The second was to build your own from a parts kit. These kits were cheap and ubiquitous back then. However, to pull that off you had to be pretty handy with tools. There was quite a lot of bending and welding required.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
The semiauto open bolt M-10 is on the left alongside the selective fire version. The peg protruding to the right engages the disconnector to create semiautomatic fire. The BATF reclassified these guns as machine guns because all it took to convert the weapon to full auto was to remove that peg.

Lastly, you could snip the disconnector peg off of a semiauto open-bolt RPB M-10. These host guns were made from surplus MAC parts after the original Military Armament Corporation went out of business. RPB Industries subsequently sold them for a brief period as legal semiautomatic pistols. The resulting modified gun was full auto-only, but you could legitimately convert the weapon in 30 seconds with a pair of bolt cutters or a Dremel tool. There were supposedly around 200 of these converted MACs seized by Law Enforcement in South Florida during the drug wars of the 1980s. Grandfathered open-bolt semiautomatic MACs are available today, but they cost a holy fortune.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Seal’s epitaph reads, “A rebel adventurer the likes of whom in previous days made America great.” Wow.

Close to the End

The hit man triggered two bursts from the MAC-10 through Seal’s car window, striking him six times in the head and neck. Barry Seal was dead by the time the ambulance arrived. Five Colombians were later arrested for the hit. Two were deported. The other three were tried, convicted, and sentenced to life without parole.

3-Will-The MAC-10 at Work and Play: The Gory Demise of Barry Seal
Barry Seal was a larger-than-life character.

Though the story touched on Oliver North, the CIA, the Iran-Contra affair, and half a dozen other popular conspiracies, little was ever proved. The three members of Seal’s hit team–Miguel Velez, Luis Quintero-Cruz, and Bernardo Vasquez–remain in prison to this day. Check out the movie American Made. You’ll thank me later.

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  • Dur Poiguy March 4, 2024, 6:23 pm

    Seal was the real deal. I found out later in life that my mother and middle sister were his neighbors in Baton Rouge, LA back in the day. They’re called him s. Nice guy, outgoing ad neighborly, with a nice family at the time. Small world.

  • Kane March 2, 2024, 9:26 pm

    Barry Seal was just one of many dozens of Wiilie Jeff Clinton pals to die a violent death. Let try and face the truth, the US is dominated by CIA (Criminals in-Charge of America) appointed perverted, occultist, drug pushing murderers. The lowest pervees are chosen by the CIA because they are owned and easy to control Just look at the fake POTUS (genuine POS) if you are still in denial.

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