PPSH-41

PPSH-4113

The PPSh-41 (Pistolet-Pulemyot Shpagina; Russian: Пистолет-пулемёт Шпагина; “Shpagin machine pistol”) was a Soviet submachine gun designed by Georgi Shpagin as an inexpensive, simplified alternative to the PPD-40. Intended for use by minimally-trained conscript soldiers, the PPSh was a magazine-fed selective-fire submachine gun using an open-bolt, blowback action. Made largely of stamped steel, it had either a box or drum magazine, and fired the 7.62×25mm pistol round. The PPSh saw extensive combat use during World War II and the Korean War. In the form of the Chinese Type 50 (a licensed copy), it was still in use in Vietnam with the Viet Cong as late as 1970.

The impetus for the development of the PPSh came partly from the Winter War against Finland, where it was found that submachine guns were a highly effective tool for close-quarter fighting in forests or built-up urban areas. The weapon was developed in mid-1941 and was produced in a network of factories in Moscow, with high-level local Party members made directly responsible for production targets being met.

A few hundred weapons were produced in November 1941 and another 155,000 were produced over the next five months. By spring 1942, the PPSh factories were producing roughly 3,000 units a day. The PPSh-41 was a classic example of a design adapted for mass production (other examples of such wartime design were the M3 submachine gun, MP40 and the Sten). Its parts (excluding the barrel) could be produced by a relatively unskilled workforce with simple equipment available in an auto repair garage or tin shop, freeing up more skilled workers for other tasks. The PPSh-41 used 87 components compared to 95 for the PPD-40 and the PPSh could be manufactured with 7.3 machining hours compared with 13.7 hours for the PPD. Barrel production was simplified by using barrels produced for the 7.62mm M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifle: the rifle barrel was cut in half, and two PPSh barrels were made from it after machining the chamber for the 7.62mm Soviet submachine gun cartridge.

The PPSh was popular in the German armies as well, and captured examples were frequently returned to service against their former owners. Because of the very close dimensional similarities between the Soviet 7.62x25mm Tokarev and the German 7.63x25mm Mauser cartridge used in the Mauser C96 pistol, the PPSh could fire either cartridge, and was thus easily supplied with ammunition. In fact so many were captured that it became the second-most-common submachinegun used by German forces.

After the German Army captured large numbers of the PPSh-41 during World War II, a program was instituted to convert the weapon to the standard German submachine gun cartridge – 9mm Parabellum. The Wehrmacht officially adopted these converted PPSh-41s as the MP41(r); unconverted PPSh-41s were designated MP717(r) and supplied with 7.63x25mm Mauser in place of the Soviet 7.62x25mm cartridge. German-language manuals for the use of captured PPShs were printed and distributed in the Wehrmacht.
The Soviet Union also experimented with the PPSh-41 in a close air support anti-personnel role, mounting dozens of the submachine guns in forward fuselage racks on the Tu-2sh variant of the Tupolev Tu-2 bomber.

Over 6 million PPSh submachine guns were produced by the end of the war. The Soviets would often equip whole regiments and even entire divisions with the weapon, giving them unmatched short-range firepower. Thousands more were dropped behind enemy lines to equip large partisan formations to disrupt German supply lines and communications.

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