43 Comments

  1. Several accounts I’ve read or seen about Stalingrad mention that the Germans preferred the PPSH to the MP-40 since it was more reliable, held more rounds, and could be fired from the prone more easily.

  2. PSSH41, PSS43, Berretta MAB38, STEN …. etc were more reliable than the MP40. In plus, german have just few smg for NCO & officer ….

    • I am not aware of complaints about magazine reliability however it must be noted that PPSh magazine was not supposed to be interchangeable – magazine from other PPSh might work or doesn’t work. Also there was some complaint of magazine rattling, but I suppose that was only problems during silent mission.

    • It was only unreliable if you loaded more than about 60 rounds into it, and while it was slightly fragile they got the job done. You could still almost double the MP38/40’s capacity with a downloaded drum.

      • Yes, it is reported that if you loaded just 55/56 rounds into the drum magazine, it worked reliably. However, it was indeed noisy and rattled, but this seems to be a complaint shared by other SMG drum magazines from the same era.

  3. Soldier is sheltering behind a pile of mixed cast iron scrap. Suggests he is on the premises of an iron foundry or, less likely a steel mill.

  4. “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

    Everybody always thinks the other guy’s weapon is better. And in some cases, it’s true, one example being the original M-16 vs the AK-47. (The Armalite was more accurate, but the Kalashnikov was more reliable in the actual combat environment, largely due to defects in U.S. 5.56 x 45mm ammunition of the time.)

    German soldiers felt “outgunned” because of the 71-round capacity of the Russian SMGs’ drum magazines (PPD and PPSh both). One result was the semi-experimental MP40/II, which had a rather wacky arrangement holding two 32-round standard MP40 mags side-by-side so that when one was emptied you could simply slide the other one into position and keep shooting.

    More commonly, Russian SMGs were used because they could fire 7.63 x 25mm Mauser ammunition, which was already in the German supply pipeline because quite a few of their older SMGs chambered it. (The EMP in 7.63 was a common weapon with second-line and occupation troops, especially in the Balkans.)

    The Russian PPS-43 SMG, reportedly designed in Leningrad during the siege, was basically a PPSh-type action with a layout copied from the MP40. So the “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” factor applies, too.

    BTW, the Germans, especially the SS, were very envious of the U.S. .30 Carbine, particularly the selective-fire M2 version. They considered it the best “maschinenpistole” design they’d ever seen, due to its accuracy, controllability, and high velocity.

    The fact that it was what we consider a “small caliber” didn’t faze them. They understood that as with auto safety, the first rule of “stopping power” is; Speed Kills.

    cheers

    eon

    • “BTW, the Germans, especially the SS, were very envious of the U.S. .30 Carbine, particularly the selective-fire M2 version. They considered it the best “maschinenpistole” design they’d ever seen, due to its accuracy, controllability, and high velocity.”

      Did any M2’s even see service in the ETO?

      • Reportedly U.S. 101st AB had at least some in February of ’45. Probably as a result of the re-equipage after the Bulge was more-or-less concluded.

        German designation for the M1 Carbine, BTW, was Selbstladekarabiner 455(a)I.

        cheers

        eon

    • “The Russian PPS-43 SMG, reportedly designed in Leningrad during the siege, was basically a PPSh-type action with a layout copied from the MP40.”
      PPS-43 was developed from Безручко-Высоцкого sub-machine gun
      http://zonwar.ru/pp/Bezruchko-Vysotsky.html
      Inspiration of MP40 ergonomics can be easily seen. However notice that it was lighter (model 1 – 2,95kg without magazine, model 2 – 2,92kg without magazine)

      “had a rather wacky arrangement holding two 32-round standard MP40 mags side-by-side”
      Similar solution (welding two magazines together) was used in American UD42 sub-machine gun. Do you have any users opinions considering this feature?

      “PPD and PPSh both”
      In fact Wehrmacht was lacking sub-machine gun, they don’t use so many MP40 as depicted in movies and video games. On the other hand Red Army has much more sub-machine gun, so it was even used to substitute self-loading rifles.

      • As you may know this mutual “borrowing” worked both ways. Soviet partisans in period pictures are often seen with MP40s.

        It appears that stop to this Shpagin would-be-German SMG fad ended with advent of Stg43.

        • “Soviet partisans in period pictures are often seen with MP40s”
          Partisans gets any fire-arms they can. Working fire-arm is better that not working or nothing. Note that when partisans were able to produce their own sub-machine gun it was (less or more loosely) base on PPD sub-machine gun rather than PPSh sub-machine gun, because latter required stamping technology which was not available for partisans. For example see Choroszmanów submachine gun used by Polish Resistance.
          http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/PM_Choroszman%C3%B3w_2.jpg

        • Somewhere I saw a picture of regular USSR soldier with a MP40. Might have been over at the Axis History forum.

          It seems that a certain percent always think that all of the ‘enemies’ equipment is in better is some way.

          I always wonder what it would be like to have one of them as a co-worker. I’d guess that this may carry over.

    • The weapons listed above differed in purpose when designed. The MP-40 was okay, but not produced in sufficient quantities for all we care. The PPSh and PPS were meant for the masses who didn’t have time to train on a firing range, though the latter was more handy for tank-crews who didn’t want wooden furniture to jam up inside a tank. The M1 Carbine was designed for those who couldn’t bring full-sized rifles to work and required more firepower than the usual service pistols without the weight penalty and short range of a Thompson. The M16 was probably the best in performance so long as ammunition supply was consistent with the gas impingement approach (another failure on the part of the suppliers) but the AK was “decent” so long as manufacturing tolerances weren’t totally off.

      Given all the ruckus, one could imagine the development of the infantry long-arm going through this sequence:

      1. Getting a firearm that can be handled and fired by one man (matchlock, wheel-lock, flint-lock, percussion-cap)
      2. making a long-arm that is user-friendly and decently accurate at longer ranges without a five-minute reload (rifled musket)
      3. making a long-arm that can be loaded from the breech safely and meets the above two requirements (Dreyse rifle)
      4. After the above 3 are met, make a rifle that won’t require the user to fiddle in his ammo pouches every time he shoots (Winchester, Spencer, Vetterli)
      5. Ammunition capacity is good, but we need to load all the rounds quickly (Mannlicher, Mauser, Krag-Jorgensen)
      6. “Flexibility” to allow either long-ranged aimed shots or firefighting snapshots (M1 Garand)
      7. Have all-round good performance and ease of use (Sturmgewehr)

      Am I wrong at any part of the historical sequencing? Please, correct me if I’m mistaken on any of the steps.

      • “Given all the ruckus, one could imagine the development of the infantry long-arm going through this sequence”
        So basic objective is evident – to increase rate of fire. V.G.Fyodorov (of Fyodorov Avtomat Fame) in his book Эволюция стрелкового оружия presents two diagrams one is function (year,range of fire), other (year,rate-of-fire), both considering 19th century Russian long-arms.
        (range of fire in “shag” (шаг) unit – 1 шаг = 88,9cm)
        7-line flintlock, smoothbore, muzzle-loader – 1800 – 300 шагов
        7-line percussion, smoothbore, muzzle-loader – 1844 – as above
        7-line percussion, rifled, muzzle-loader – 1854 – 1200 шагов
        6-line, muzzle-loading rifle – 1856 – as above
        6-line, Karle rifle (breech-loader) – 1868 – as above
        6-line, Krnka rifle [known as “Russian Krnka” outside Russia] – 1869 – as above
        4,2-line, Berdan No. 2 rifle – 1870 – 1500 шагов
        Mosin rifle – 1891 – 2700 шагов
        Spitzer bullet for Mosin rifle – 1908 – 3200 шагов

        • Rate of fire (shots-per-minute)
          (rifles same as in above):
          1800 – 1
          1844 – 2
          1854 – 2
          1856 – 2
          1868 – 6
          1869 – 6
          1870 – 8
          1891 – 12

          • You might don’t know what Karle rifle (Russian: винтовка Карле) is. It was needle-fire rifle obtained by conversion of 6-line rifle model 1856. Short characteristics:
            Bore diameter – 15,24mm
            Mass (without bayonet) – 4,5kg
            Length (without bayonet) – 134cm
            Barrel length – 765,5mm
            Powder charge – 5,02g
            Bullet mass – 34,64g
            Muzzle velocity – 305m/s
            For more information see .djvu files available here:
            http://alex—1967.narod.ru/waffe/karle_rifle.html

    • The PPS-43 was essentially the PPSh’s action simplified and manufactured with the machinery available in Leningrad. The stick magazine was adopted because of the ease of manufacture. Which is also why they were also used later in the PPSh. It’s way easier to manufacture a box magazine than a drum type.

    • “BTW, the Germans, especially the SS, were very envious of the U.S. .30 Carbine (…)”
      The Soviets too, and they understood its potential as a PDW alternative to the SMG, to the point that they even designed a local (though more SMG-like and firing the Tokarev round) interpretation of a PDW for second echelon troops.

  5. It may be as easy as it says, but do not take it for granted. Renegade Russian general A.A.Vlasov has created Russian Liberation Army who’s objective was to rid his country of bolshevik’s power.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Liberation_Army

    His soldier donned German military gear and weapons. In extension of this thought one might consider as a reasonable, that particular unit takes on guns they are familiar with.

    BTW, as much as official line says that Prague was liberated early morning 9.May 1945 by Red Army, it is not quite true; the real liberators were mentioned RLA just day earlier, becoming turncoats one more – and last time.

  6. ALL ELSE BEING EQUAL, there is no replacement for more ammo in a “serious social situation.” If the M1A2 had been designed for a drum mag I would have gladly carried a whole back-pack full. As it were, we got metal “mag clips” that bound two 30-shot mags together (one up and one down or one up and two down but tape would do for a replacement) giving you either 60 or 90 shot capacity with rubber caps for the “down mag(s)” to keep dirt/sand/mud out. The off-set of the center mag gave you enough clearance of the stock to make a snug but usable fit. Same went for the 20-shot mags later. But the 30 round clips jacked your head up a bit high for serious work so the drum would have been more practical in my estimation. The added ammo weight would have been much lighter than a full body bag for sure and even more so if you might have been the “cargo.”

      • Well, Jungle Style is one way to overcome a small magazine capacity problem. Drum magazine design has to balance capacity against complexity and weight. The Thompson drum was heavy and could not be loaded into the magazine well with a closed bolt. Similarly, pan magazines like the ones for the Lewis, the Degtyarov, and the Vickers K had space issues and the gun sights had to be set high relative to the barrel. So given what we know, is there a better method than taping box magazines together for more firepower on the go?

        • “So given what we know, is there a better method than taping box magazines together for more firepower on the go?”
          Belt feed, like in RPD or FN Minimi

      • SAS always taught that this was a bad arrangement, because in exiting a vehicle or going to ground you could jam the upside-down magazines feed end into the pavement or dirt, damaging it and jamming your weapon if you tried to use that magazine for the reload.

        The Israeli Uzi two-magazine clamp holds the second magazine at right angles, fore-and-aft, either pointed straight forward or straight back and parallel to the bore line. This tends to reduce the chances of messing it up when firing prone.

        Best of all is probably the parallel-bracket setup on modern H&K and SIG longarms. Up to three magazines side-by-side-by-side, all properly upright.

        If you’re that serious about sustained fire, though, the HK36 “saddle drum” is probably the best overall answer. Even if it looks funny, which it does. (Rather like an MG34 setup upside-down, in fact.)

        cheers

        eon

    • The Russians have developed 60 and 50 round magazines for the AK-74. The 50 round is supposedly a replacement for the 60 round model which solves feed problems in the latter. They’re 4 column magazines which somehow narrows into a conventional 2 column magazine up near the feed lips. The 50 (and 60) round magazine is the length as the 30 round, but wider.

      This design works for an AK, but NATO standard magazines are required to fit into an AR-15 (M-16), which has a deep magazine well which makes these sorts of innovations difficult.

      • Regarding the new Russian magazines, Ian’s lecture on clips and magazines (search YouTube) touched on those and how they were supposed to work. Near the end of the presentation if I recall.

      • Surefire has quad-stack magazines for the AR platform, both 60- and 100-round capacity. They were designed by Jim Sullivan, and while the early ones had some issues the current production ones seem to run just fine.

  7. Wish I could remember a book that TRIED to explain what cartridges more or less fit firearms from all the Countries that Germany occupied!

    • Try Guns of the Reich by “George Markham” (John Walter), or Walter’s later book under his own name, Guns of the Third Reich.

      To make a long story short, from the turn of the century on, most of the smaller European armies had bought arms from DWM, Krupp, etc. And with rare exceptions, they had settled on the standard German cartridges for their small arms. As such, most of the countries in the Balkans used the 7.9 x 57 Mauser round in rifles and MGs, and a lot of them used the 7.63 x 25 Mauser (“Broomhandle”) round in SMGs. Romania, Yugoslavia, whoever; look at their armies and they were armed with 7.9 Mausers of one model or another.

      Police units bought a lot of (Reichswehr) surplus arms like P.08 pistols that had been reworked by Simson under the Versailles Treaty restrictions. They were in 7.65 Parabellum (.30 Luger), as the Treaty prohibited the 9 x 19mm cartridge for police use. Of course, all that was required to change a P.08 from one caliber to the other was changing the barrel, which screws in just like a revolver barrel.

      And of course several countries, like Poland, bought machinery from DWM, etc., for their own military arms production. Which meant in Poland’s case, their service rifle in 1939 was (once again) basically a 98 Mauser in 7.9 x 57.

      The Czechs came up with a lot of innovative MG designs, such as the ZB-26 and ZB-50. And those they made for their own army were all in 7.9 x 57 Mauser, just like their service rifle, the M24. Which was a Mauser 98 made at Ceskaslovenske Zobrojovka Brno, on German-made machinery, under a 1924 license arrangement with…DWM.

      Austria got into the act, too. They did a land-office business at Steyr in the 1920s and early ’30s converting surplus Austrian army 8 x 50R Mannlicher M/95 straight-pull bolt rifles to 7.9 x 57 for such customers as Bulgaria, Serbia, and Italy. Yugoslavia did their own conversions of M/95s to 7.9 to tide them over until their 98 Mauser copy reached IOC.

      Probably the oddest one was Greece. While 6.5 x 54 Mannlicher-Schoenauer was their “official” service rifle caliber, they bought a lot of Belgian-made M88 “Commission” rifles from Austria converted to 7.9 x 57, and converted more of those themselves, plus adopting the FN-made Mauser in 7.9 in 1930.

      Speaking of which, FN-Liege was selling 98s in 7.9, 7 x 57, and 7.65 x 53 all over the world at that time. The Belgian army preferred the 7.65; why, no one has ever been quite sure. (Naturally, after Belgium was conquered in 1940, all production was in 7.9.)

      Some countries that allied themselves with Germany in the 1930s changed over calibers. Hungary introduced a new bolt-action rifle, the M/35, in 8 x 56R Mannlicher. When they sided with the Reich in 1938, they introduced a new version chambered in, yep, 7.9 x 57. They’re easy to tell apart; the 8mm has a Mannlicher-type en bloc clip with a magazine extending below the stock like a Carcano, M88 Commission rifle, etc., while the 7.9 versions (M98/40 and M43) have a flush-mounted Mauser-type magazine that loads from a standard Mauser stripper clip.

      Other countries (like France) tried to sell their wares as well. But they often had the problem France did- namely, that their products just weren’t that reliable, or safe. (Look up the failures of the original French 7.5mm M/24 cartridge in rifles and MGs, not to mention the problems of the MAS 36 bolt-action rifle.)

      Germany managed to “impress” a lot of arms from their conquered territories and integrate them into their supply chain the second time around simply because in a lot of cases, they had made the weapons, or the machinery they were manufactured on, to begin with. Or had had a pre-war commercial agreement for licensing their wares, as with FN.

      Walter holds that a lot of it was part of a master plan by the Reichswehr. That’s as may be, but I’d never rule out the possibility that most of it was just DWM & Co., being faced with restrictions on their business “at home” by the Versailles treaty, trying to make a fast DM or two (or a few million of them) anywhere they could.

      cheers

      eon

      • “And of course several countries, like Poland, bought machinery from DWM, etc., for their own military arms production. Which meant in Poland’s case, their service rifle in 1939 was (once again) basically a 98 Mauser in 7.9 x 57.”
        No, Poland don’t bought machinery from DWM, but get it as a part of war reparations. In fact after WW1 and Polish-Soviet War Of 1920 Polish Forces used a mix of different rifles and cartridges (German Mauser, Austrian Mannlicher, Russian Mosin, French Lebel, French Berthier, Japanese Arisaka and others) and Polish Forces faced problem: which rifle and cartridge should be standarized? Getting machinery for producing Mauser rifles solved this problem.

      • [quote] eon: “Other countries (like France) tried to sell their wares as well. But they often had the problem France did- namely, that their products just weren’t that reliable, or safe. (Look up the failures of the original French 7.5mm M/24 cartridge in rifles and MGs, not to mention the problems of the MAS 36 bolt-action rifle.)” [/quote]

        France was never keen on small arms exports in the pre-War period, and their arms development was kept close to the vest.

        The problem with the original 7.5x57mm Mle. 24 round was not an issue with the cartridge or the firearm themselves, rather it was the issue of 7.92x57mm being able to be fired in the FM-24/29 automatic rifle. The problem was not at all widespread- only a handful of incidences, with no major injuries reported- but the French armament command developed a suitable remedy to be safe.

        What are the problems with the MAS Mle. 36 rifle? As far as I can recall, other than not being produced in enough quantity before WW2 started, production was trouble-free and the rifle proved to be accurate, exceedingly reliable, and very easy to maintain. The Germans even captured large numbers of the Mle. 36 and commented favorably on it. The lack of criticism of the Mle. 36- not to mention the rest of the French small arms lineup developed during or after WW2- after it was fielded in the hundreds of thousands in Indochina and Algeria (and elsewhere) is a testament to its suitability as a martial arm. [The MAS Mle. 38 SMG did fire a weak cartridge, but durability and reliability were not strikes against.]

  8. on russian front germans used massively captureds PPSH and loved it.

    andré bayle (a french wwaffen ss who died in 2010) related in an interview that they feed the “papashas” with russians captured cartridges conditioned in littles cardboard boxes.

  9. A few thoughts:

    1. In pictures of USSR troops and partisans with captured weapons, the MP40 is always very prevalent. Many of the photos look posed or staged, perhaps those in the photos were not the actual owners of those SMG’s. Perhaps it was a matter of everyone saying “let me hold that for the camera”? I’ve seen photos of groups of 6 or 8 Soviets/Partisans which each one holding an MP40. That’s the MP40 allotment for something like an entire company of Wehrmacht infantry, I think?

    2. Keep in mind that before the MP38, there was no major “all metal and plastic” long arm. All previous rifles, shotguns and SMG’s had some wooden furniture. The MP38/MP40 must have seemed really Buck-Rogers-Futuristic at the time! We cannot underestimate the “cool factor” for young men (soldiers) of all nations.

    3. I think German use of Soviet SMG’s was a very practical matter. There were way, way more of them available then their own SMG’!

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