The Iconic “Burp Gun” – Shooting the PPSh-41


The Soviet PPSh-41 submachine gun is most distinctive for its very high rate of fire – approximately 1250 rounds/minute – and large drum magazine. What may come as a surprise to those who have not tried it is how this very high rate of fire does not actually make the weapon difficult to control or hold on target. In fact, the PPSh-41 is an easier SMG to shoot effectively than the later PPS-43, at leas tin my opinion.

The Soviets and the Germans make quite different choices in magazines and rate of fire with the PPSh and the MP40, but both turned out to be very good submachine guns. The glaring weak point of the PPSh are its magazines, and the difficulty in finding a drum that would run reliably in this particular example is why today’s shooting session is done with one of the 35-round stock magazines instead.

Thanks to Marstar for letting me examine and shoot their PPSh-41!


  1. Considering practical effective range of 7.62 Tok. round out to 200m I consider this gun superior to German SMGs and even to Thompson (past 100m). This design is simply masterstroke by Mr.Shpagin and on top of it in wartime.

    Advantages of slow motion video are evident: lots of extra motion is going on and it reveals loosely guided bolt and loose fit of other major parts. Same loose fit which proved detrimental to magazine function.

    It reminds me J.L.Lewis’ hit: “all kinds of shakin’ going on”.

    • The opening sequence shows round 2 to be much more shaking than round 1. I interpret this to mean that the bolt velocity is much higher coming off the recoil buffer than off the sear, and that the bolt hitting the barrel is what causes the shaking.

      • I also observed an erratic fire right at start. I suspect you are right, there is different response while bolt is hitting buffer. Also, the pronounced muzzle flash seem to suggest that there is gas blow-by as result of worn out bore; this length of barrel should prevent it. Lets assume that this gun is not in tip-top shape; for one I am actually surprised and impressed that war product of 1943 vintage can be that ‘good’.

        • Good points, the high speed video is great. As American baseball player Yogi Berra once said, “you can observe a lot just by looking”. The hard part is knowing what it means.

  2. Did you have a device to count the rounds fired p/minute? 1250 seems very high. Funny, but you consider both the Suomi and its Soviet ppsh “copy” more controllable than the pps and its Finnish copy. Funny part 2: if even a ppsh is too expensive to build, than you know you are short on money! Could you add target results so we know what, for instance, a ppsh burst can do?

    • To speak it terms of “cost” during Great Patriotic War in USSSR is not a fitting concept. There was greatly reduced meaning of money during the war in USSR, and more so because it was society based on concept of societal equity to begin with. I believe it was merely matter of allocation of resources and capabilities of society as whole. By resources we should understand all what was to government disposal – land, raw materials and people. Of course as it proved to be the case, the biggest resource of all was the Russian soul. Witnesses of war who heard Russians, will tell you: “nas mnogo” (there is lots of us), as they used to say.

      There was even point when frustrated Hitler complained to Stalin that he had hidden “previously undisclosed masses of people” as if it was something ‘unfair’; yet it was Hitler who declared “total war” on Russia. I remember hearing some witnesses in east parts of our country (it was just 20 years after the war) who told us that Russians advanced against German MG fire with sticks in their hand, waiting when soldier next to him falls so he can take his rifle. This is well beyond what many of us understand and are ready accept today.

      • Actually, Soviets had more than enough rifles and ammo, so that story about wooden sticks is not truth. But anyway, that story reflects another thing and that is the spirit of Soviet people during the WW2.

        • That was in Carpathian operation area (east Slovakia) where Germans put up real resistance. It is possible that people we spoke to exaggerated (they also spoke of vodka…); now nobody can tell for sure. There are plenty of war memorials there.

      • “A man who believes he has nothing more to lose but his life will fight harder than the one who worries about having too much to lose.” Do you think this statement applied to the Russians?

        • Psychology of conflict is complex one. On my personal side I started to think about it sometime around 1968 and cannot say I grasp it fully to this day. One concept which I believe is prevalent in guiding individuals to pull together into the team is what I call “tribalism” (belonging to tribe); it goes down to beginning of human kind. You may be right or wrong with your motivations (in conflict there is no entirely “right” or “wrong” side), but when chips are down you will fight to your full potential.

          It is certainly of huge advantage to be on “moral high”. In that case your cause is a ‘holly one’. In spite of technological changes, it comes down to basic instinct. Yes, instinct to survive crosses all bounds.

          • “Psychology of conflict is complex one”
            The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.
            George S. Patton

        • In particular case of Russians (and it is not entirely fair to single them out because there were many other nationalities of USSR, as they are today’s RF), there was one peculiar psychological-political shift. When you look closely as to what they have written on tanks turrets, you will find more likely it says: “Za Rodinu” (for motherland) rather than “Za communism”. The latter was put on back burner for time being. In accordance with previous, I believe it was the ‘tribal’ feel which hugely prevailed.

          At the same time, as evil as Germans were and are painted, they were also showing acts of dedication to their cause and even bravery. This is where my fascination with conflict lies. It comes to a belief – very noble and honorable one. At the end you come to conclusion that this is what unities us as peoples; wars are actually only a temporary trial. Unfortunately, we have to go thru this nonsense over and over.

          • ““Za Rodinu” (for motherland) rather than “Za communism””
            “(…)Was permission required for installing camouflage? Did you need someone’s authorization for painting any kind of slogans on the tank, for example, “Za rodinu” (For the Motherland), and so on?

            – No, no kind of permission was required. This was your choice -you want to paint, you paint. If you didn’t want to paint camouflage, you didn’t paint. As far as the inscriptions are concerned, I believe that they had to be approved by the political representative. It was a sort of propaganda, a political statement.(…)

      • There was even formal name for that “soul” thing, that is Директива Ставки ВГК №001919(not that it was only solution).

        As for painting “За Родину” etc., it was “spontaneous” action – of a politruks…

        • I have no illusion the ‘political guidance’ was in place. At the same time I have no doubt about spontaneous undercurrent which was prevalent in hearts of Soviet people. To achieve what they did cannot be by mere order or directive.

          You may also know that there were people of other nationalities (volunteers) such as Romanians, Czechs-Slovaks and Poles who fought within framework of Red army. The town where I lived before my departure was liberated by Polish units of gen. Swierczewski

  3. About “Funny part 2”, maybe one gun is inexpensive, but when you need 6 million of it, you will pay a lot of money. And it is not only about money, there is logistics, work hours etc, etc… Many factories was in occupied cities, some was heavily bombed, railroads was under bombings and shellings and many workers was fighting at frontlines. War time weapon must be as cheap and simple as possible for both, worker at factory and soldier at frontlines.

    • Exactly; they had to ration the resources they had, by any means possible. It was not just production of small arms they had to consider. One new effective weapons of the time was “Katyusha” rocket launcher, also known as Stalin’s organ (today’s more developed version is called Grad). Those were very effective weapons, but only part of overall scheme in the total effort. Apparently production of tanks was priority and there were mostly women involved in their production. Certainly, war time production was marked with low quality in general.

      Men were on front, women in factories, making weapons and sometimes fighting too. Not just as snipers but also in some “rough & tumble” roles as tank drivers. There was even one all female wing in Red army air force flying Il-2 Shturmoviks; they had apparently huge loss ratio among them. It was done for only one purpose – nation’s survival.

      • “Grad”
        To avoid any possible confusion, which one you mean [choose exactly 1]:
        «Град» 9К51 – quadragintuple launcher on 6×6 chassis
        «Град-В» 9К54 – duodecuple launcher on 4×4 chassis

        “Katyusha” rocket launcher also named Stalinorgel and officially classified as Гвардейский реактивный миномёт (roughly: Guard’ Reactive Mortar) has tremendous psychological effect.
        While not often said Katyusha was created as mean of chemical warfare.
        “(…)В феврале 1938 года в НИИ-3 под руководством Андрея Григорьевича Костикова были начаты работы по созданию средств для залпового огня или стрельбы очередями реактивных снарядов с химическими боеголовками.(…)”
        In February in НИИ-3 [Scientific Research Institute No. 3, Moscow] under leadership of А. Г. Костиков works started to develop means for barraging fire or fire of series of reactive shells [i.e. rockets] with chemical warheads.

        In that it make sense – delivering big quantity of chemical agent in short span of time, not necessarily accurately.

  4. If rifle attrition led the Czar to import just about anything that could go ‘bang,’ it would be amazing if the Red Army didn’t have a critical shortage of firearms after Barbarossa was launched. The ‘AK47 Story’ (if I’m remembering the right title) spent a lot of space on the enormous industrial/logistical problems of arming a ‘whole continent’ army when weapons were being lost 2-4 times as quickly as men…during a time when human losses were numbered in the millions.

    • If I’m not mistaken, Russian partisans and regular soldiers of the Red Army would sometimes get German guns and ammunition whenever there weren’t enough Russian guns to go around. It was a matter of looting corpses or taking the guns from German prisoners. Assuming there was no Commissar around to chide people for not using Russian weapons exclusively, any serviceable weapon with ammunition was better than a sack of rocks.

      Interestingly, the Germans suffered the same problem: logistical failures to timely supply replacement weapons and ammunition led to tons of German soldiers looting weapons from dead Russians on the Eastern Front (and no doubt they would have gladly taken American and British weapons had they been stationed in France during the autumn of 1944). I could be wrong.

      • This is what material testimonies/ documents confirm – there was mutual “harvesting” of large proportion. Partisans were keen on German SMGs and pistols because their compact size and reliability, Germans liked Russian weapons ruggedness and performance. From previous Ian’s lectures we learned that there were some attempts by Germans to mimic Stens and Garands. Of course, ammunition availability was major hurdle. I’d called it period of ‘cross-pollination’.

    • This is valid information. Indeed, Soviet military marked huge losses on materiel during initial stages of war. Some was destroyed during air-raids (e.g. airplanes and trucks), some was collected as trophy materiel (e.g. artillery and infantry weapons). Soviets certainly had lots to do to replace these losses. Amazingly, as previous explanation by Daweo shows, they managed to prepare new prototypes, trial them and introduce them into inventory. And all this under daily bombardment.

  5. Mr. McCollum/ audience et al,

    If say: stamped metal 9mm version of the M3 Grease gun was produced but added the PPS-41 muzzle break adapted for M3 would it similarly be controllable at such high rates of fire? In 9mm caliber.

    Cheap SMGs could come back into style of course.
    In many ways best solution for medics, truckers, tankers, logistical troops that need lightweight, reduced length and even the option of 1 handed firing – spray and pray suppression.

    BTW the M3 .45 caliber was used in combat as late as Desert Storm – by Tankers.

    • What if that PPS-43 or m/44 or Sten Mk.III/MK.3008 was made by an automobile factory like the GM-produced M3A1? First, fix the magazine, then combine the desirable features of each system… It’d be cheap!

  6. A late friend who did 19 months in-country 68-70 with 5th Comm Marines told me one time that the mortars weren’t that big a deal, but those “122 rockets” scared the **** out of him.

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