Spanish MP41/44 – A Copy of the Erma EMP

The Spanish-made MP41/44 is a licensed copy of the Erma EMP submachine gun. The development begins with Heinrich Vollmer in 1925, designing a submachine gun for German military testing. The military trials showed a number of flaws in the gun, and Vollmer updated the design to fix them – but by the time he had it perfected his main source of funding (the German government) dried up because of the Great Depression. Vollmer had not been able to get a substantial contract for his guns, so he sold the rights to the design to the Erma company in 1930. Erma was able to market the guns much more widely and effectively, and was able to sell more than 20,000 of them worldwide.

Mechanically, the EMP is not a strict copy of any other guns that were then on the market. It used a double-feed magazine (unlike the Schmeisser-designed guns like the MP18 and MP28), a pretty typical open bolt blowback operating mechanism, and a simple disassembly system which would be copied in principle for the MP38 and MP40 submachine guns.

The Spanish use of the EMP dates back to the Spanish Civil War, when both the Republican and Nationalist forces purchased them.The design was well enough liked that after Franco’s victory, the La Coruna arsenal arranged a license to produce them in 9mm Largo for Spanish military use. This was designated the MP41/44, and that’s what we are looking at today. The main mechanical difference between the Spanish and German guns is a plunger type safety located between the trigger guard and front grip.



  1. In Spain this pattern of submachinegun since the first Ermas were called “naranjeros”, but sources differ on what originated it: from “using orange tree wood” (highly doubtful) to having been made in Valencia close to an orange orchard.

    According to military lore, that “safety plunger” (and later obsessions with redundant inertia safeties in SMGs) comes from an event (actually another myth/propaganda) during the civil war, when a famous anarchist got himself killed, suposedly when he was getting out of a car, and his SMG fell and shot him in the head (the reality, though…). Of course, dates don’t quite match in, and a safety in a firearm for a conscript army is always a good idea, so take it as just another legend.

    Now, people from “both sides” will probably flood this comments section with a lot of complains and their opinions about anything about the war, propaganda and revisionism (it seems some people from both political extremes want to repeat it again). So better watch out anything unconnected to these guns, or it will get out of hand (as usual) 😉

    • I don’t think anyone has ever made an idiot-proof weapon. Anyone who has never held a gun before can do something stupid after getting the safety turned off and wind up shooting his squad mate in the kidney. Did I mess up?

      • There is no substitute for just plain good gun handling and discipline, a lesson that was driven home to me when I saw a shooter get drilled right through the posterior at a range in Memphis, all because some kid with an SKS “forgot” the notorious already chambered round (i.e. he didn’t clear his weapon). No safety in the world can be a substitute for common sense.


        • That’s true, but SMG are notoriously unsafe when they have only the slot, like the MP-18. In Spain, may be by Durruti accident o another reason, SMG designers were concerned about this. The La Coruña factory added a safety to the EMP and Star implemented clever safety mechanism to his Star Z-45 and Z-62/Z-70.

    • It appears that the famous anarcho-sindicalist pistolero turned militia leader for the CNT/FAI of the Iberian Anarchist movement Buenaventura Durruti is the person you describe. The current thinking is that he was indeed shot on accident by one of his comrades. A lot of people in armed situations, particularly the Guerra Civil were amateurs with little regard for basic safety practices or a keen appreciation of the dangers of various weapons.

      You are correct that when a renowned person dies in a humble or even somewhat ridiculous manner, very many folks get very heavily emotionally invested in it. For example, that John F. Kennedy could really have been killed by one or more marksmen like the presumed assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, or Lady Diana in a car wreck, or any of a number of overdoses or what have you … Amy Winehouse and alcohol poisoning … Brandon Lee killed on a movie set by a non-blank … etc.

      • A safety really matters in an open bolt SMG, as much as conscious handling:
        Durruti received a shot across his torso coming from a SMG he was manipulating while he was entering the back seat of a Packard. He have just had a furious argument with some anarchyst comrades he saw walking away from their position near University City front, towards he was heading after being informed of their men trying to flee. He persuaded them to go back, but was so really pissed off that it seems that either he bump the gun against the car, or he throw it to the back seat, or the bolt handle hooked inside the car while he was seating. He was taken to the Hospital enabled at the Palace Hotel, where he died some hours after. During his agony, he murmured several times “El jodío subfusil” (The damn SMG) when he was asked about what has happened. Not a very glorious ending to such an important figured at that time, so the actual facts of his death were covered with confusion to avoid demoralising his followers.

        • From memoirs of Путинцев Василий Иванович available here:

          In hand-to-hand combat one must not use our automatons [during Great Patriotic War that terms was used for sub-machine guns, in this case – PPD and PPSh] as you can kill himself. If you struck with stock, it is possible to unintentionally fire – bolt under gravity force compress spring, ram cartridge into chambers and shot occurs (…) safety rarely save. (…) In our dug out soldier come, lay down automaton, struck stock against clay, bolt was not in safe position. Bolt goes, shot happen into temple and lad is killed. There is not bayonet so you can’t use it for hand-to-hand combat. They issued knifes, [we carry] on belt or boot-top, but separately [from sub-machine guns] .

          • I read or watched an account of a U.S. soldier being mercilessly clubbed by Chinese during the Korean War after he was captured and made prisoner. One of the Chinese hit him so hard with the butt of his “avtomat” PPSh41 that it fired a shot, killing him. The enraged Chinese did something terrible to him, although I can’t quite recall… I think they stuffed him into a small safe and closed it or something. In any case, I think he survived captivity somehow.

        • Muchísimas gracias! I’ve got several books on my shelf about the Iberian anarchist movement and about Buenaventura Durruti, but I still though it was pretty vague about how he met his end.
          Here is Antony Beevor, _The Battle for Spain_ (Penguin, 2006), 180:
          “The anarchists, for reasons of morale and propaganda, claimed that he had been killed by a sniper’s bullet when in fact his death had really been an accident. The cocking handle of a compaion’s ‘naranjero’ machine pistol caught on a car door, firing a bullet into his chest. …” From there of course, it describes the funeral in Barcelona with 1/2 million mourners and various attempts from the non-libertarian or wholly illiberal right and left to “claim him” as secretly harboring one or another side’s politics!

          Again, thanks.

        • That’s why I mentioned the several myth/propaganda theories.
          But you are right in that no explanation satisfies everybody (prejudices, political options, war situation, etc.).
          And due to circunstances, explanations and theories started popping out, probably since minute one
          “sniper bullet (a coward killed him)”, “killed by the NKVD (the soviets hated anarchists)”, “shot himself getting out of the car (accidents happen)”, “shot by the guy next to him when the car hit a bump in the road (tragic accident/negligence)”, “accidentally shot during an argument with some guy from other faction (conspiracy maybe?)”…

          And these are only the ones I recall (and I tend to avoid our civil war history since it’s too politically charged to find unbiased information).

          But the most common one seems to be the “SMG fell to the ground and shot itself”, so it’s what was most often repeated as an excuse for some inertia safeties in SMGs here.

      • Excellent point. We as a society sometimes have a great deal of difficulty accepting that extraordinary people can fall victim to ordinary (even mundane and preventable) circumstances. The list is almost endless but the examples given are good ones.


  2. The German made gun also uses a smaller diameter receiver tube. I have a nice EMP (MP35 E) with German Police markings and is in 7.63 x 25 Mauser. Another with no markings other than the serial number that is in the standard 9mm. Plus three of these MP41/44’s that were originally 9mm Largo. The Spanish guns are nicely made but the bolts and barrels are destroyed according to the European law, since I am now in the USA the receivers were also cut. I will be remanufacturing at least one into a semi-auto. Interesting the Police marked EMP has the new style safety at the right front that locks the bolt in the forward position. Harry

  3. <> I brief comment about this asseveration:

    Only Republicans purchased Ermas EMP. More than 3.000 were imported from Poland. In addition a factory (Fábrica de Armamento nº 13) was settled in Alberic (Valencia) by the Republican Government. Several thousand were made before the end of the world (perhaps 18.000). In fact the republicans valued specially the SMGs and made several models. The Nationalist Government never imported SMGs, so Nationalist troops never were issued with this kind of weapons and they used only captured ones, which were highly appreciated.

    Alberic factory was occupied in March 1939 and the machine-tools were carried to the Fábrica Nacional de Armas de La Coruña (La Coruña Arsenal), and were, almost certainly, the origin of the subfusil ametrallador cal. 9mm largo model 1942 or Erma-Coruña SMG.

    “Pistolas y subfusiles de la República. Producción de guerra”.
    “Fábrica de Armas de A Coruña. Seis décadas de historia”

    • ««when both the Republican and Nationalist forces purchased them» I brief comment about this asseveration:

  4. Do not drop your smg even on crusty snow. I was out winter fox hunting with my legal sten mk111 in canada when I was 17.The bolt was forward and only 5 shells in the clip. I dropped it on hard crusted snow and all 5 shells went off as the bolt did not catch on the sear.
    My dad had a friend garding german solders who jumped out of a deuce and a half and dropped his sten.
    The resulting burst nearly cut off his leg and his life was saved by the prisoners he was garding
    Perhaps Ian could do a video on smg accidents including drop tests although
    finding someone who would let you drop their 10.000 dollar gun is questionable Perhaps a dealer with some non transferable dealer samples might help

  5. Following with the comment, the Erma EMP was widely used by Republican Army, apart from those imported from Poland, the above mentioned Spanish factory, a modern one, produced an unknown number of copies. High serial number known was over 18.000, but a former worker spoke of 50.000 produced, but this figure was probably exaggerated. They were chambered for 9mm Parabellum (as were imported guns).

    The Nationalist Army only obtained 170 sub machine-guns from Germany (according to records). These were mainly MP-28 and perhaps Bergmann MP-35, so their supply was mainly from captured republican guns.

  6. The Erma EMP is featured prominently in the 1996 Spanish historical drama Libertarias. The movie is centered around the exploits of group of women anarcho-syndicalists associated with Mujeres Libres (Free Women) as they confront both the nationalist enemy across the lines and the sexism of the anarchist ‘milicanos’ on their own side. One extended scene in particular features several Erma EMP’s being used to great effect in a raid against a nationalist trench.

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