Sudayev’s PPS-43: Submachine Gun Simplicity Perfected

The PPS-43, designed by Alexei Sudayev based on a previous submachine gun design by I.K. Bezruchko-Vysotsky, was the Soviet replacement for the PPSh-41. The Shpagin submachine gun was a very effective combat weapon, but was time-consuming to produce and required specialized manufacturing tools. The Soviet military wanted a weapon that was cheaper and faster to make, and which could be produced at small shops not experienced in firearms production. The Sudayev design fit these criteria extremely well, being made almost entirely of simple bent mates components.

Production of the first prototype Sudayev submachine guns begin in 1942 in the besieged city of Leningrad, where guns were quite literally taken from the factory door to the front lines and put into service. A few minor flaws were discovered and corrected, and by the time the siege was broken the gun was suitable for mass production. It was designated the PPS-43, and while it was theoretically a replacement for the PPSh-41, it never did actually replace the former weapon. It was decided to continue PPSh-41 production in the factories already tooled up for it, while making use of the PPS-43’s simplicity to put it into production as a range of new factories that did not have the technical capacity to make more complex weapons.

Mechanically, the PPS-43 was a simple blowback gun, using basically the same conceptual operating system as the PPSH-41. However, Sudayev resolved the most significant practical problem with the PPSH-41 by abandoning its unreliable drums and developing his own new double stack, double feed 35-round box magazine. The PPS-43 magazine is simpler to load, more reliable in used, and much smoother to insert and remove from the weapon that then PPSh magazines. The improvement was substantial enough to justify the use of different and incompatible magazines in the two guns. In conjunction with the discarding of the drum magazine, Sudayev also designed his gun to have a lower rate of fire than the PPSh, to better manage ammunition supply. However, the roughly 600 rpm rate of the PPS-43 is actually relatively difficult to control in that light weapon, where the PPSh-41 was substantially smoother shooting despite (or perhaps because of) firing faster.

 

65 Comments

  1. The PPS was better for tank crew usage because of mass and dimensions. I’m pretty sure that Finland copied the gun and gave some examples to Germany but chambered for 9×19 Parabellum. Thus the Dux 53… and I could be wrong.

  2. Hi Ian,

    I’ve noticed that you’re often uncomfortable pronouncing non-English words. I use Forvo.com to look up pronunciations of foreign words all the time, it’s super useful. Ex: https://forvo.com/word/%D0%BF%D0%B8%D1%81%D1%82%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%B5%D1%82-%D0%BF%D1%83%D0%BB%D0%B5%D0%BC%D1%91%D1%82/#ru

    You’ll often need to enter the word in its native alphabet, but it’s easy to find that on the Wikipedia page for whatever your topic is. You’ll have to remove grammatical artifacts from names with Russian. For example, Sudaeva -> Sudaev, Shpagina -> Shpagin, Kalashnikova -> Kalashnikov, etc.

    Cheers!

  3. Whos the Daddy? Not this. Exemplary as it is, supreme in all it’s functionality. You could cross it’s mag/magwell with a 41 to improve both. But alone, who’s the Daddy. The 41 is the Daddy without a drum, it’s still the Daddy. Who’s the Daddy.

    • Excellence exemplified, in it’s simplicity as this is. You can semi auto the Daddy… And full auto the Daddy. This isn’t the Daddy. The 41 is the Daddy.

      Mp40 whos the feckin Daddy.

    • “drum”
      The drum magazine (for PPSh) given greater capacity but at a cost of more tedious loaded procedure – cover of magazine need to be open, spring wounded and then cartridge inserted. This preferably should be executed with magazine lying on flat level area. Stick (“banana” as known by U.S. and “horn” in Soviet parlance) were much better in this regard. Also due to its shape single soldier might carry much more stick than drum magazines. Additionally due to PPSh design, having stick magazine mean that it was possible to use magazine housing as grip.
      Notice that in case Thompson sub-machine gun also stick magazines replaced drum magazine, even if “magazine housing as grip” is irrelevant, as Thompson has forward grip.

      • The Swedish 50 round box quadruple column magazine was pretty bad, though. It could be loaded only with a loading tool for anything more than 10 rounds due to extremely stiff springs, and still it was not reliable with more than 45 rounds loaded. Official Finnish recommendation was only 40 rounds. It was made out of too thin steel, which made it vulnerable to getting deformed and caused additional reliability problems. Production in Finland ended in 1943, whereas the production of the 70 round drum continued until the end of the war.

        The Swedes designed a completely new 36 round double stack magazine for the Kpist m/45 (Carl Gustav M45), which turned out to be excellent and was adopted by the Finnish Army in 1954 for both the M/31 Suomi and M/44 SMGs.

  4. Interesting that safety on PPS locks not only sear but bolt handle in both positions as well preventing accidential discharges if gun droped or bumped.

    • Might you explain how? I don’t see it. Does it force the sear lever up to hold the bolt closed? I assume it holds the sear lever up to hold the bolt locked open. Please expand on this.

      • Safety has long steel bar inside receiver, when it is set to “safe” position front part of the bar is raised (using pin under bolt handle slot as rest) and recesses in it catches bolt handle. Look 7:08 on video. At lest it will prevent closed bolt from moving backwards.

  5. “The Shpagin submachine gun was a very effective combat weapon, but was time-consuming to produce and required specialized manufacturing tools. The Soviet military wanted a weapon that was cheaper and faster to make, and which could be produced at small shops not experienced in firearms production. The Sudayev design fit these criteria extremely well, being made almost entirely of simple bent mates components.”
    I can’t agree. Both Shpagin and Sudayev designs used technology of stamping.
    That wasn’t technology available for small shops. PPS was in fact Soviet “answer” for MP 40, with folding stocking, smaller size, relatively low Rate-Of-Fire and firing only in full auto.
    PPS surely was faster to made (almost 2 times easier) and required 30% less metal to produce, but apart from Sudayev many others also were working to make new sub-machine gun, including Shpagin himself – with design named ППШ-2.
    http://warspot.ru/4083-dolgaya-doroga-korotkogo-pps
    Which was even faster to make, as it take 3,8 hours in comparison to PPS 4,23 hours (both figures for overall time needed). Both reached troop trials, both receive positive feedback, however PPS was finally chosen.
    However it should be noted that decision of PPS production was signed by П.И.Паршин not Д.Ф.Устинов (he was proponent of ППШ-2). Positions of both were respectively:
    Народный комиссар миномётного вооружения СССР (=People’s Commissar of adjective(mortar) armament USSR)
    and
    Народный комиссар вооружения СССР (=People’s Commissar of armament USSR)
    It should be noted that also PPS was never produced by plants of Народный комиссариат вооружения СССР (that is organization of which Д.Ф.Устинов was boss) but plants of:
    НКСС (Народный комиссариат станкостроения) [machine building]
    НКСП (Народный комиссариат судостроительной промышленности) [shipbuilding]
    НКПС (Народный комиссариат путей сообщения) [railroad]
    As side note, in trials for new sub-machine gun also M.T.Kalashnikov design was tested.

  6. The Hun mercilessly ravaging your land. You don’t want this, you want the 41.

    Moral. “Who’s the feckin Daddy?” Your the feckin Daddy Mein Herr.

    Exactly, now feck off back to Germany.

  7. Can the safety be engaged on this gun when the bolt is closed? Can the magazine be inserted with the bolt closed? If I understand the video correctly the safety only engages the trigger mechanism; so if a magazine is inserted with the bolt is closed what stops slam fire?

    • Just had a glance at Mr. Timothy Mullins’s book “The Fighting Submachine Gun [etc.]” in which he says, “The PPS-43 is every bit as good as the finest Thompson (except for getting too hot to hold sometimes), and when you consider the circumstances under which it was designed, made, and then fielded, it is amazing.”

      Anyway on p. 142 he praises the safety in two photo captions, and answers my own version of this question above. He shows the safety on with the bolt closed — apparently the safety is a plate extending from the trigger area forward inside the receiver and reaching toward the chamber, as well as backwards toward the sear. There are two notches in this plate, not visible when the safety is off, but when the safety is on, the forward notch catches the bolt handle if the bolt is closed and the rear notch catches the bolt handle when open, while the back end locks the trigger and sear. You can see this plate through the bolt-handle slot in the video if you freeze-frame it at 7:08 and 8:09, and see it raise and lower at 12:58.

      I can’t imagine any automatic weapon that can’t be fed a box magazine with the bolt closed, just on safety grounds: there are too many circumstances in which you’d want a full magazine and an empty chamber. I think the narrow bottom surface of the closed bolt would clear the feed lips of any installed loaded (double-stack, double feed, wide feed lip clearance) magazine, though of course the operator has to press harder if the mag is full. I’ll bet those bottleneck 7.62 x 25s fed just fine, too.

  8. In conjunction with the discarding of the drum magazine, Sudayev also designed his gun to have a lower rate of fire than the PPSh, to better manage ammunition supply. However, the roughly 600 rpm rate of the PPS-43 is actually relatively difficult to control in that light weapon, where the PPSh-41 was substantially smoother shooting despite (or perhaps because of) firing faster.

    Very likely true, as noted here:

    (The) reduction of the dispersion of a hand-held weapon firing at high rpm was well documented during the studies made for the FAMAS development, when it was discovered that due to muscular response, the lowest dispersion would be achieved for a firing frequency lower than 10 Hz (600 rpm) or higher than 20 Hz (1200 rpm), the highest dispersion of a hand-held rifle would be achieved with a firing frequency between 14 Hz (840 rpm) and 18 Hz (1080 rpm).

    Towards a “600 m” lightweight General Purpose Cartridge,v2017
    Emeric Daniau, DGA Techniques Terrestres, Bourges.

    http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/Emeric2017.pdf

    The 600 R/M RoF of most SMGs (and, later, assault rifles) was at the lower end of the Hz range that causes problems in controllability.

    By comparison, the PPSh-41, MG42, and other extremely high RoF infantry weapons were at the upper end of that range, edging into the Hz range where controllability is better simply because the RoF is now high enough that it no longer “rocks” the weapon in a way the shooter cannot effectively compensate for.

    AFAIK, the only auto weapon ever to have a RoF adjustment specifically to enhance controllability was the experimental Parker Hale PDW of about 25 years ago;

    http://guns.wikia.com/wiki/Parker_Hale_PDW

    Its Ealovega electronic rate regulator could be adjusted to the RoF appropriate for the strength and etc. of whoever was using it.

    cheers

    eon

    • Measuring rate of fire makes sense for fast fire weapons :
      At user’s level, I feel more natural to count shots per second than per minute (no conversion required).

      If ideal rate of fire have been calculated, it would be interesting to calculate the ideal short burst length depending of calibre/rate of fire ratio. I notice 3 round burst seems to be popular, but I assume they may not fit all configuration.

      • “At user’s level, I feel more natural to count shots per second than per minute (no conversion required).”
        Cyclic rate of fire, is in fact rather theoretical measurement – it might be described as so many cartridge would be fired in minute, if you would have infinity belt or magazine

        “3 round burst”
        Yet in early 1960s, ТКБ-059 (also known as Прибор-3Б) was tested:
        https://pikabu.ru/story/tryokhstvolnyiy_avtomat_zalpovogo_ognya_pribor3b_tkb059_4465552
        it fired 7,62×39, can fire 3-round burst and has Rate-Of-Fire 1400-1800 rpm, mass of weapon was 4,3 kg and magazine capacity (overall) 90.

      • Interesting !
        One more time, we are missing informations about what was made or tested because we don’t know where to look. It could be interesting one day to gather knowledge so we will spent less time trying to re-invent the wheel.

  9. This is by far the crudest and ugliest SMG I know of. In comparison, recently discussed Italian TZ-45 being labeled as “last ditch weapon” is a luxury item in comparison.

    My first encounter with this implement was while crossing Polish border in 1961 seeing it slung over border guards shoulders. It was not complete shock for me since I have seen it in pictures beforehand, but still – it was a wake up call that soviets are not far away. Our border guards carried vz.24/26 – far cry in any conceivable sense.

    • I suppose that if I were to compare the PPS-43 to the Sten, one would have a ridiculous advantage over the other in terms of being suppressor compatible but the other one has better armor penetration capabilities… Which would you grab?

      • In case of urgent need, anything that has a trigger on it, but – from choice of these two probably none. Although, as I understand the later production Stens were somewhat better. Still, I have issue with two stacks into one feed.

        One thing though which leads me to deeper thought is why there are so few 7.62×25 SMGs in West, if any (wherever Serbia belongs now)? Is it because this shot is considered of Russian domain? It is attractive one on several counts: range, penetration, low recoil.

        • By every account I have read, the PPS-43 was a lot better SMG than the Sten Mk II and III despite the similar crudeness in manufacturing. For one thing, the PPS-43 was reliable, which could not always be said about the Sten due to the much worse magazine design that would have required good quality control for reasonable reliability. The PPS-43 was also reasonably accurate with short bursts, although longer than 3 round bursts were a different matter.

          • What I like about Fins is that they took on opportunity to use arms of their enemies of the time and made best out of it (e.g. Mosin rifles). This is remarkable departure from often common, but silly parochial approach.

      • This is as “square-head” as it gests….. And now for change I expect shower of protests by Germano-files. You cannot make friends with everyone and every time, you know.
        🙂

          • Exactly, my thought. You would not believe it, but I ran during my work tenure thru being told that the appearance ought to be pretty to attract customer.

            Depends on type of customer, I guess. 🙂

      • Btw. just read and seen video on latest of Concern Kalashnikov arms production – very impressive.

        New Lebedev’s pistols and SVCh (I call it for my purposes “switch” because that’s what it is – total departure from AK series) rifles are first class. Just to show I can be appreciative too.
        🙂

      • Funny, the Germans actually decided that the prototype “primitiv-waffen”EMP-44 was so crude that it’d sap the morale of any Landser/Volksgrenadier issued the thing… Which did not dissuade the British from adopting the STEN, in spite of the “hit” to Tommy’s morale… And then, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” indeed, the Germans cooked up copies of the crude STEN MkII–Gerät Potsdam–and their own contributions to making the semi-disposable STEN MkIII even cruder to manufacture with the MP.3008 Gerät Neumünster! Truly.

        I’d flat love to have a Polish 53 version with the wood stock, even as a self-loading SBR. I suspect that the only benefit to the muzzle brake is simply to protect the muzzle crown from the ingress of dirt, rubble, mud, etc.

  10. At least one of my Uncle’s was at the Siege of Leningrad, firing shells into it. Santri make even have been heard in the world premier of Shostakovich’s 7th (Leningrad) Symphony. Performed to the sound of artillery, recorded, and played by the BBC when the tape arrived in Britain.

    The fact that the PPS-43 was designed and manufactured during this siege makes it, in my opinion, the most astonishing gun made for centuries. No anal retentive picking at the way gun works can change the fact that Leningrad designed and made one of the best ever submachine guns, so far, when people where dropping dead of hunger and hypothermia on the way to work!

    The wiki on the siege is below.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Leningrad

  11. I once saw a pic of a Russian soldier with a PPS43, stock folded, hung from his belt at the right side, very like a horse pistol with a belt hook. Picture didn’t show what he had rigged to do that; maybe a piece of stiff wire bent to go over his belt and under the trigger guard? Anyway, it looked pretty handy. He was shown helping refugees, loading and unloading trucks, and apparently not hindered by his (literally) sidearm. Try that with a Thompson!

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