North Vietnamese K-50M Submachine Gun

This is lot #545 in the upcoming RIA Premier Auction. It was scheduled for April, but has been postponed – check their web site for upcoming Online Only auctions every month, though!

The K-50M was a North Vietnamese modification of the PPSh-41 submachine gun to mimic the handling of a French MAT-49. Made from Chinese Type 50 guns (which were direct copies of the original PPSh-41) in small shops, the K-50M used a wholly new lower receiver assembly. This new lower fitted an AK pistol grip and a collapsing wire stock patterned after the MAT-49. The barrel was kept intact, but the barrel shroud was shortened, the muzzle brake/compensator removed, and a new AK (or SKS) style of front sight block added. Mechanically, the guns remained unchanged, firing from an open bolt in 7.62x25mm Tokarev caliber, with the semiauto selector switch of the original Shpagin. The K-50M is compatible with PPSh-41 drums (allowing for fitting issues), but was issued with 35-round box magazines.


  1. At least one K-50M was captured on Kosovo in 1999. from KLA. It is now in Serbian police depot/informal museum. How it came to Kosovo is unknown, but it is speculated that Chinese unloaded junk from Chinese-Vietnam war to Albania, and Albania was supposed to forward those to various left-wing groups in Europe (Albania was a big supplier for Red Brigades, hence a lot of Chinese made weapons among them).
    OFC, whole story is probably never gonna be cleared. 🙁

    • During all the wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia the various parties have baught any firearm on the market they could get their hands on. So yes it may have come from China via Albania, but any other blackmarket arms dealer may aso have sold a convolute of bangsticks by the ISO container.

  2. Paw-paw-shaw– Shpagin– “burp gun” deluxe! Very interesting look. The Viet Minh would have been using all manner of SMGs in the Indochina War: MAS-38, MAT-49 when that became available, MP40, Sten, Chi-nat copies of M3s and Thompsons, U.S. Lend Lease Thompsons and M3s and M3A1s, Soviet PPSh41s and/or Sudayev PPS43s, and some other odd stuff like ex-IJA weapons. One can see the growing “uniformity” in the captured MAT-49 9mm guns and Chi-com Type 50s modified to operate much more similarly to them.

    The Viet Minh effort greatly expanded after the PLA and Chi-coms defeated the Nationalists, with open cross-border aid, advisors, logistics, etc. etc. I’ve read that the Viet Minh actually built a factory across the border to churn out Sten MkII copies. Apparently parts for the all-important 37mm and 12.7mm AA guns were made from picks. I think it is fascinating that long before the Kalashnikov appeared in the China and East Asia, let alone in the West, that the features such as the pistol-grip and the front sight mechanisms were understood and closely copied enough to appear on these PAVN burp guns?

    Longtime visitors of Forgotten Weapons may remember that four years after Dien Bien Phu (and two years after reunification elections for Vietnam were cancelled), the North Vietnamese in 1958 shipped French 9mm MAT-49s to the FLN in Algeria:

  3. Surprising how the Vietnamese, given their scarce resources, spent time and material to modify a perfectly usable gun.

    • Oh, I forgot… look at their average male size/ weight!

      Original PPSh was too much to carry for those poor creatures. They could actually hide behind it as if it was tree.

        • This is bullshit concluding, as no soldier could throw a grenade far like a slingshot, even if he was best baseball player ever.

          But, did you know there is CIA made and published insurgent manual (improv.munitions handbook) where they described slingshot grenade launching technique? You were to rotate it over your head and let go of the rope when it was in front of you, thus flying forward.
          During my highschool me and some buddies kidded with that technique on a football field one evening, but used plastic bottles filled with water, to see how far they would fly.

          • As far as using a “rock sling” or Biblical sling or “honda” in Spanish–the Balearic islands, etc. with explosive projectiles instead of lead, stone, or clay “bullets”:

            In the mid-18th C. the Marquis Joseph de Valliere, director-general of the artillery and engineer corps advocated putting a 3-ft. cord around the neck of the French grenade so it could thrown further. Hand grenades turn up in Mexican War accounts, and it is thought some of these may have been propelled by an “honda” or rock sling. Finally, one sees this means of throwing small bombs or grenades in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, and in the Bolivian Revolution in 1952 by Andean miners!

        • They did tremendous amount of “heavy lifting”, I am aware of it. My previous note was in unduly light spirit. My apology.

          I met personally a Vietnamese man (while still in old country) who was in combat. He was visibly scarred; he was entrusted to lead others like “older brother”. They were respectful in dealing with me.

    • Here again we see demonstrated the arrogance and the idiocy passing for commentary on things people don’t understand.

      If you see something and don’t understand why someone might have done that thing, it is not a marker of intelligence to make mockery of it and denigrate the idea–Doing that tells us rather more about the commentator than about the thing they’re ignorantly criticizing.

      Vietnam is a tropical country. Try to remember that–Organic components of weapons don’t last long. Even high-grade walnut and birch on the M14 did not last long; what sort of longevity in the jungle do you suppose the WWII-era Soviet stocks managed?

      Note that the Vietnamese replaced the other organic components of the Papasha, as well–The leather buffer is gone, replaced by synthetics.

      You don’t understand something, instead of making fun of it, why don’t you try to figure out why someone might have done that to the weapon? It’s not like the Vietnamese had an extensive fiberglass industry to fall back on, for replacement stocks. Even the US had to acknowledge the inferiority of wood, and re-stock the M14 in synthetics.

      The real wonder about the Vietnam conflict’s weapons is that anyone, anyone at all tried keeping wooden-stocked weapons for general issue. I presume that the reason they kept wood for the SKS-type weapons boils down to a lack of options, and the difficulty of trying to create something like this work-around for the Papasha. Same-same with the AK-series and other weapons, although I do vaguely remember that the Chinese and Soviets did start treating the wood for the AK at some point, based on Vietnamese experience.

      Funny thing, about this–First thing I thought, looking at the first K-50M I saw, years ago: “Oh, they tropicalized a Papasha… Smart”.

      You think anything else, you might want to check your arrogance and self-certainty at the door.

      • I might point out that the Chi-com Type 56 SKS copy used a fiberglass or, more properly “phenolic” stock, which in the United States at least, was commonly marketed as a “junge stock” or “Vietnam jungle stock.”

        If one has time over the extended “mitigation break” to take time off from watching Forgotten Weapons playlists, to read _Valley of the Shadow: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu_ by Kevin Boylan & Luc Olivier, it is highly revealing about this very important battle. I confess it really disabused me of a lot of ideas floating around out there about how the battle enfolded. The use of artillery by Nguyen Vo Giap economized on ammunition expenditure compared to the French, and while carefully husbanded, was used to telling effect through bore-sighting. The emplacements broke with much of the Korean War-derived recommendations of the Chinese artillery advisors too. Viet Minh fire teams used more automatic weapons, generally, than the Fench–mostly colonial troops from SE Asia, North Africa, etc. and allied Vietnamese. Much of this weight of fire superiority was in the form of SMGs. The Viet Minh apparently read into Soviet WWII tactics the same sorts of insights that our fellow commentator eon did not too long ago about the Shpagin/PPSh.

        Not too, that while the Viet Minh were–“tropicalizing” the PPSh, they were also “Shpaginizing” the captured MAT-49s by converting a good many to use the Chinese supplied 7.62x25mm ammunition? So from a huge, bewildering array of weapons inherited from WWII–primarily Japan but also China–captured French weapons, which initially included lots of WWII-era British and U.S. weapons, to increasing use of French weapons, one sees “two tracks” to attain greater uniformity: The stock furniture of the MAT-49 clearly preferred to that of the WWII-era Shpagin, and the 7.62x25mm cartridge clearly more plentiful post Chinese Revolution than captured quantities of 9x19mm and 7.65x20mm L.

      • To the best of my knowledge, the only soldiers to hold on to M14’s with wooden furniture were the cadets at the USMA and the Honor Guard Company of the First of the Third in DC As they were never intended to serve as combat weapons or even be shot (OK, a few rounds at Arlington) they were varnished, linseaded and polished to a fair-the-well. Maybe you could have come up with an equally shiny synthetic, but the Army must have figured elbow grease was cheaper.

      • Kirk:

        I tend to agree with you. The PPSh41 was a big old piece. The North Vietnamese simplified and lightened it, without losing anything essential. It would have been far easier for a smaller statured Oriental to carry, and being more compact would have been easier to carry and use in jungle cover. Also, the pistol grip would have made it easier to control. All in all, a sensible upgrade of the base model PPSh to suit Vietnamese conditions, as you say.

        • According to Small Arms of the World 11th edition, it was folded and welded sheet metal. Which in terms of their local tech base would make perfect sense, just like the sliding wire stock that was almost certainly copied from the MAT-49 and, by extension, the American M3 “grease Gun”.

          No wood on it anywhere to cause problems in a hot, humid climate, more compact, lighter and tougher than the already pretty tough original. And selective-fire to conserve ammunition.

          They took a pretty good guerrilla weapon and turned it into an excellent guerrilla weapon.



          • I might add that even a casual perusal of Viet Minh photos and images from late in “L’Indochine” and into the early portion of the “American War” period shows ample use of bog-standard PPSh41s and Type 50s too!

   slide show/french2.html

   slide show/french6.html

            I have seen a propaganda photo taken in the early 1960s after a RVN government outpost was overrun by the NLF/VC of a combatant holding a K50(M).

          • Hence select fire, with a selector switch right in the trigger guard where the shooter can get to it easily… Especially at night, they would not hose full-auto at the French (Vietnamese, Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, and other “overseas Frenchmen” or Foreign Legionnaires) without being spotted and encountering withering return fire.

            And as for full-auto, maybe the Shpagin was something of a hand-held MG42? U.S. troops who encountered the KPA with Type 49s and Soviet-made Shpagins and Chi-com PLA with Type 50s and Sino-Soviet guns nicknamed it the “burp gun” for its high rate of fire.

  4. I have to ask: Ian mentioned that the Chi-com Type 50 had aperture sights, unlike the Soviet versions… But I note that the “hausse” on the MAT-49 is an aperture set for either 100m or 200m. I wonder if this was another Viet Minh/ PAVN modification to make the Shpagin more “MAT 49”-like… Or “Mat 49-esque.”?

    • Answer my own question: The Chinese Type 50 and North Korean Type 49 have aperture sights, just as Ian stated. So at least in that regard, the MAT-49 and Chinese Shpagins both had similar sights. I wonder if there are variants of the K50M that used the Soviet style sights?

  5. I came across some of these guns while in VN about 50 years back. A US unit I had contact with had an extensive collection of SMGs, including these plus MAT49, PPS43, Thompson, M3A1, MP40 etc. I was not all that interested in the very crude-looking K50, more interested in the MAT49 in particular. There is one of these in the Australian War Memorial, it had taken a direct hit from a 7.62 mm round, I suppose from an SLR (FAL). Made an awful mess of the K50, and I suppose also the VC carrying it at the time.

    To support what Eon said about wooden furniture on weapons, I had an AK (Type 56) which had obviously been in the boonies for a long time. The wood was badly rotted away, to the point of being unusable. As well as rust and mud throughout, but it still worked well!

  6. I wonder how well the upper casing supports the barrel?
    PPSh had a problem in this place. If you just shorten the casing and do not provide support for the barrel, it quickly loosens and the weapon breaks down.

    • Are you referring to the sheet metal upper receiver? The barrel on the Shpagin SMG is fitted into a pivoting block or trunnion made of steel. That is fixed into the upper receiver, which is pretty much a cover, a barrel shroud, and part of the bolt raceway? The perforated barrel jacket does not contact the barrel. If there is a problem “in this place” it would be in the trunnion, yes?

        • By the way, lateral swaying of the barrel was a problem both without shortening the casing and with ordinary PPSh, although to a lesser extent.
          This affected accuracy and reliability.

          • Right. The “swaying of the barrel” was due to there being no contact, let alone a “front support” of any kind for the barrel? To the degree that the hooded front sight sits on the barrel jacket close to the muzzle of the barrel and the portion of the barrel jacket at the front forms a crude muzzle brake and “compensator” it has to have a little piece of metal to add rigidity to the affair. The barrel is pinned into a solid trunnion, which is pressed/pinned into the sheet metal upper receiver, yes? Merely removing the barrel jacket and crimping it down wouldn’t add or detract from a thin barrel having problems? I could see that with such a high rate of fire the barrel would get very hot, and it could start to contact the shroud/ heat shield, which would be injurious to accuracy, as well as causing vertical stringing from being too hot? Interesting observation.

            The German MP18,I and MP28,II and some other SMGs, like the Australian F1, (and ZK-383) for example, have a barrel nut at the front of the barrel, which attaches/ screws into the front portion of the barrel jacket, leaving the barrel extending back within the receiver largely unsupported.

  7. Let’s try this
    This is taken from the PCA repair manual.

  8. If it hasn’t been mentioned already, IIRC the fitment of a ppsh drum mag, precludes the K-50m’s telescoping buttstock being collapsed.

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