The PPSch-41 (Pistolet Pulemjot Schpagina 41 which means "machine pistol of the Schpagina type, model of 1941") was one of major infantry weapons of the Soviet troops during the Great Patriotic War (WW2) and truly an icon of the Red Army.
Two national catastrophes contributed to the Soviet enthusiasm for submachine guns. The first was the Winter War with Finland in 1939-1940 when the Finns used submachine guns with devastating effect during close combat in the forests, and the second was the German invasion of 1941 when the Soviets lost in the retreats both huge quantities of small arms and much of their engineering capability. There then arose an urgent demand for a light and simple weapon capable of a high volume of fire, and the answer to this was the PPS-41, designed by Georgii Shpagin. It was much cheaper and quicker to make than the preceding models and was finished roughly; the barrel was still chromed, however, and there was never any doubt about the weapon's effectiveness.
It featured simple blowback operated action, fired from open bolt. The striker was permanently fixed in the bolt face. The safety was integrated into the charging handle and locked the bolt in forward or rearward position. The PPSh-41 was a select-fire firearm, with fire selector switch located inside the trigger guard, ahead of trigger however on very late models there was no selector lever and the gun was capable of only automatic fire. The receiver and the barrel shroud were made from stamped steel and all PPSh-41s featured hardwood stocks. Early guns featured elevation-adjustable rear sights, later ones flip-type "L"-shaped rear sights marked for 100 and 200 meters range.
The rate of fire was high, but a rudimentary compensator helped to steady the climb of the muzzle - the front part of the barrel shroud extends beyond the muzzle and acts as a muzzle brake / muzzle flip compensator.
Stripping was simplicity itself, as the receiver hinged open to reveal the bolt and spring.
Early PPSh-41's were issued with the proved and tried 71 round Suomi drum. Such high capacity increased the firepower but the magazines were too slow to refill and not too reliable, so in 1942 a curved box magazine was developed. This magazine held 35 rounds and was much more comfortable to carry in pouches. Early magazines were made from .5 mm sheet steel and were somewhat unreliable. Later magazines were made from 1 mm steel and were completely satisfactory.
Usually, RKKA infantrymen carried one drum in the gun and some box magazines in their pouches or pockets.
The main advantage of the PPSh-41 was greater effective range (when compared to both Allies and Axis submachine guns of that era). It also was accurate enough and reliable. The main drawbacks were: heavy weight, length (too big for trench combat or for mobile operations) and the fact that the gun was sometimes prone (especially when worn enough) to unintended fire when dropped.
About 5 million PPSh-41s had been made by 1945, and the Soviets adapted their infantry tactics to take full advantage of such huge numbers - often complete units were armed with nothing else.
In the CCCP, the PPSh-41 went out of service in the late 1950s, but it has been supplied in enormous quantities to the satellite and pre-Communist countries, so that it will still be seen for many years. It has been made in various Communist countries and in Iran, there are a multitude of variants.
The German Army converted a few captured guns to 9mm (their preferred caliber for pistol ammunition) by changing the barrel and using an adapter in the magazine well to take their MP40 stick magazines. As well as logistical reasons, this was done to eliminate friendly fire incidents as the PPSh-41 has a very distinctive shape. However, on the other hand this eliminated the 71 round magazines that their German owners liked so much! In German use the PPSh-41 was designated "MP717(R)" - the "R" meaning it was a captured Russian weapon in German military typology.
Cartridge: 7.62x25 (interchangeable with 7.62 Mauser; aka- .30 Mauser)
All images and material on this website are copyright of the webmaster unless stated. Please contact him if you have any queries.