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PPSh-41 (Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina 41) Submachine Gun (1941)

Authored By Dan Alex | Last Updated: 8/29/2014

The World War 2-era Soviet PPSh-41 submachine is still being encountered on the battlefields of today.

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The Soviet Army began experimentation of submachine gun class weapons in the latter half of the 1920s. By the time of World War 2, they had a small stable of such weapons and these were naturally of expensive quality - having been designed, developed and produced during peacetime. As such, the Red Army solder lacked the intermediate weapon that played well within the gap created by the standard service bolt-action rifle and the machine gun of the time. This came to dreadful focus during the Winter War against Finland where the Finns utilized submachine guns to good effect and subsequently dealt embarrassing defeats upon the Red Army before an interim peace was met. To encompass the scope of the fighting, Finnish dead and missing totaled 26,000 to the Soviet 127,000.

However, everything changed on June 22nd, 1941 when Hitler and his grand Axis army of German, Romanian, Italian, Hungarian and Slovakian soldiers launched overwhelming campaigns against the Soviet West through Operation Barbarossa. The one-time allies were now mortal enemies as the Soviet Union was put on its heels. The Soviet response was discombobulated and much territory was lost in the fighting as the Axis forces reached the outskirts of the capital of Moscow. However, the brutal Soviet winter had set in and the Germans dug in, allowing the Red Army the respite it so desperately needed. During the preceding fighting, the Soviet Army had lost many men to death and capture and thousands of tanks, military vehicles and artillery. To compound matters, many small arms stores and manufacturing facilities were now in German-held lands - taking away much of the Soviet war-production infrastructure. With a break in the fighting, new factories were opened in the Soviet East and design and development of new weapons frantically ensued.

Expedient development of such weaponry went on to produce the "PPSh-41" of 1941, a crude yet effective high-volume fire submachine gun chambered in the 7.62x25mm Tokarev pistol caliber. This weapon would go on to become the iconic symbol of the Soviet struggle against German might during its dark days of World War 2, also becoming the standardized Soviet submachine gun of the entire war in the process. Design of the weapon was attributed to Georgi Shpagin and production began earnestly in 1941 to help stock the inventory of the Red Army. At its core, the weapon featured a rifle-style wooden stock and integrated lower receiver. The stock was ergonomically shaped to form a pistol grip and not unlike the stock of bolt-action service rifles of the time, thusly simplifying production. The upper receiver was metal and embedded within the lower wooden section. Metal works extended forward to house the magazine well and critical internal working components. The barrel protruded forwards and was shrouded over in a perforated tubular cover. There was a rear iron sight over the receiver with the forward sight aft of the muzzle. The trigger system was slung under the wooden section of the receiver. Magazine types included the standard 71-round drum or a 35-round detachable box magazine though the former proved much popular in combat. Either way, the weapon was designed to put voluminous fire into a single target area and in this way the weapon did not disappoint its operators. The firing action was of blowback with an open bolt arrangement. To maintain the weapon in-the-field, the operator merely managed the hinged receiver which gave access to both bolt and spring for cleaning and repair.

Outward construction quality was a bare minimum considering its desperate war time production nature. The barrel was of course chrome-lined for the rigors of battle. A selector switch allowed for semi-automatic and full-automatic modes of fire for ammunition control though late-war models simply featured full-automatic fire for simplicity's sake. Rate-of-fire was approximately 900 rounds-per-minute with a 1,600 feet-per-second muzzle velocity. Muzzle climb was very apparent in full-automatic fire but this was offset to an extent by the addition of a basic muzzle compensator. Range was out to 820 feet depending on environment and conditions but the inherent nature of the submachine gun was short-to-medium ranges. The ammunition counts available were also very prized when compared to its contemporaries in the West, ensuring the Red Army soldier would be properly stocked when going to war.


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Specifications for the
PPSh-41 (Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina 41)
Submachine Gun


Country of Origin: Soviet Union
Manufacturer: State Factories - Soviet Union / China / North Korea / Yugoslavia
Initial Year of Service: 1941


Overall Length: 843mm (33.19in)
Barrel Length: 269.00mm (10.59in)
Weight (Empty): 8.02lbs (3.64kg)


Caliber: 7.62x25mm Tokarev
Action: Blowback; Open Bolt
Feed: 35-Round Detachable Box or 71-Round Drum Magazine
Muzzle Velocity: 1,600ft/sec (488m/sec)
Rate-of-Fire: 900 rounds per minute
Range: 820ft (250m; 273yds)
Sights: Iron Front and Rear


Variants:
PPSh-41 - Base Production Model Designation


PPS-50 - Canadian civilian market semi-automatic variant; production by Pietta; chambered for .22LR cartridge; drum and box magazine versions.

Type 49 - North Korean license production copy; drum magazine support only.

Type 50 - Chinese license production copy; detachable box magazine support only.

K-50M - Vietnamese production of Chinese Type 50.

SKL-41 - Semi-automatic version; chambered for 9mm Parabellum cartridge; accepts MP40 smg magazine.

M-49 - Yugoslavia locally-produced variant of the PPSh-41; internally different but support for Soviet-style PPSh-41 magazines.

M-49/57 - Yugoslavian upgrade of the M-49.

MP41(r) - German Army designation of samples converted to fire the 9mm Parabellum cartridge.

MP717(r) - German Army designation of captured uncoverted samples firing the 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge.


Operators:
Albania; Benin; Cambodia; China; Cuba; Guinea; Hungary; Iran; Laos; Morocco; Nazi Germany; Nicaragua; North Korea; Poland; Soviet Union; Vietnam; Mozambique; United States; Yugoslavia