Soviet submachine gun PPSh-41

Soviet submachine gun PPSh-41

This time I will tell you in detail about legendary Soviet submachine gun PPSh-41 caliber 7.62×25 designed by George Shpagin in 1941. This submachine gun (SMG) was used by Soviet troops throughout the World War II.


  1. History of creation
  2. PPSh-41 Construction
  3. The performance characteristics of PPSh-41
  4. General information
  5. PPSh-41 Combat Use
  6. Postwar years
  7. Countries which still use PPSh-41
  8. About the creator

History of creation

PPSh-41 is a Shpagin submachine gun caliber of 7.62 mm in 1941, developed in 1940 by designer G.S. Shpagin with a cartridge of 7.62 × 25 mm TT and adopted by the Red Army on December 21, 1940. PPSh along with PPS-43 was the main submachine gun of the Soviet armed forces in World War II.

The first PPSh was manufactured on August 26, 1940, in October 1940 a test batch was made – 25 pieces. At the end of November 1940, according to the results of field tests and technological evaluation of the samples submitted for consideration, PPSh was recommended for adoption.

The survivability of the submachine gun designed by Shpagin was checked by 30,000 shots, after which the SMG showed a satisfactory accuracy of fire and the working condition of the parts. The reliability of the automation was checked by shooting at elevation and declination angles of 85 °, with an artificially dusted mechanism, with complete absence of lubrication (all parts were washed with kerosene and wiped dry with a rag), 5000 rounds were shot without cleaning weapons. All this reflects the exceptional reliability of weapons along with high combat qualities.

December 21, 1940 a submachine gun of the Shpagin system arr. 1941 was adopted by the Red Army. Until the end of 1941, more than 90,000 pieces were manufactured. In 1942, the front received 1.5 million submachine guns.

After the war ended, by the mid-1960s, the PPSh was withdrawn from the armament of the Soviet Army and gradually replaced with a Kalashnikov assault rifle. It remained in service with the rear and auxiliary units, parts of the internal troops and the railway troops until the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It is still used by armament units of the paramilitary guard and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of a number of CIS countries. Also, in the postwar period, PPSh was supplied in huge quantities to countries friendly to the USSR, for a long time it was in service with the armies of various states, was used by irregular armed forces, and throughout the twentieth century it was used in armed conflicts around the world. At the moment, it is sold by the civilian as a hunting rifle for amateur shooting with minor modifications.

Soviet submachine gun PPSh-41

Legendary Soviet submachine gun PPSh-41 caliber 7.62×25. Photo by

PPSh-41 Construction

PPSh is an automatic handgun intended for firing bursts and single shots.

Automation works according to the scheme of using recoil with a free shutter. Fire is fired from the rear sear (the shutter is fired to the rear position before the shot, after the shutter goes forward, the cartridge is sent out, the capsule is pricked at the moment of completion of shutting), the shutter is not fixed at the moment of firing. A similar scheme is often used in the development of submachine guns. For all its simplicity, such a solution requires the use of a massive bolt, increasing the total mass of weapons. In addition, a weapon using such a reloading scheme can shoot as a result of a strong blow (for example, when falling).

Like PPD-40, PPSh-41 has a receiver fused to the barrel cover, a shutter with a fuse on the cocking handle, a selective fire switch in the trigger guard in front of the trigger, a sight and a wooden stock. But at the same time, PPSh is much more technologically advanced: only the barrel requires precise machining, the shutter was made on a lathe with subsequent rough milling, and almost all other metal parts can be made by stamping.

The muzzle brake compensator is a portion of the barrel casing protruding forward behind the muzzle cut (a beveled plate with an opening for the passage of a bullet, on the sides of which there are cooling holes). Due to the reactive action of powder gases during firing, the muzzle brake compensator significantly reduces recoil and “bulging” of the barrel up.

The stock was made of wood, mainly from birch. PPSh-41 was first equipped with drum magazines from PPD-40 with a capacity of 71 rounds. But since drum shops in combat conditions proved to be unreliable, unnecessarily heavy and expensive to manufacture, they also required manual individual adjustment for each specific submachine gun, they were replaced by sector stores developed in 1942 with a capacity of 35 rounds.

Sights at first consisted of a sector sight (shooting range from 50 to 500 m and a pitch of 50 m) and a fixed front sight. Later, a cross over L-shaped rear sight was introduced for shooting at 100 and 200 meters. Since the aiming range is an exclusively conditional subjective characteristic, the early-production PPSh, like most pre-war submachine guns, had a sector sight, marked up to 500 meters, but subsequently a simplified version was made with an aim up to 200 meters. The characteristics of the weapon itself  remained the same, but the new sight was much easier to manufacture and was fully consistent with the actual combat use of these weapons.

Design PPSh-41.

Design PPSh-41.

The cartridge disks of the PPSH-41.

The cartridge disks of the PPSH-41.

The performance characteristics of PPSh-41

Adopted in 1940;
Years of production 1940 – 1947;
Total released about 6 million;

– empty, kg 3.6;
– with a loaded drum, kg 5.3;
– with the equipped sector store, kg 4.15;

– length mm 843;
– barrel length, mm 269;

Cartridge 7.62×25 mm;
Rate of fire, rounds / min. 1,000;

Store Volume:
– sector magazine for 35 rounds, drum for 71 rounds;

The sight is unregulated, open, at 100 m, with a folding stand at 200 m;
Muzzle energy, J 508-576;
Muzzle velocity, m / s 500;
Sighting range, m 200-300;
Maximum range, m 400-600.

General information

With an aiming range of 500 m (in the early version), the actual range of bursting fire is about 200 m, an indicator that significantly exceeds the average level of weapons of this class. In addition, thanks to the use of a cartridge of 7.62 × 25 mm TT, unlike 9 × 19 mm Parabellum or .45 ACP, as well as a relatively long barrel, a significantly higher muzzle velocity of the bullet was achieved (500 m / s versus 380 m / s at the MP-40 and 280-290 m / s at the Thompson submachine gun), which gave the best trajectory flatness. This allowed a single fire to confidently hit the target at distances of up to 200-250 m, as well as firing at a greater distance – up to 300 or more meters – compensating for the decrease in accuracy with a higher rate of fire. High rate of fire, on the one hand, led to a large consumption of ammunition (for which the PPSh-41 received the nickname “cartridge eater”), and quick overheating of the barrel. On the other hand, it provided a high density of fire, which gave an advantage in close combat.

The reliability of PPSh, especially with a box magazine, is very high. A motionlessly fixed striker causes delays in firing when the shutter is soiled with soot or dust: according to the recollections of WWII veterans, when traveling in open cars or on armor along dirty roads, PPSh were almost always hidden under a raincoat. The disadvantages include the relatively large size and weight, the difficulty of replacing and equipping the drum magazine, an insufficiently reliable fuse, and the possibility of spontaneous firing when dropped onto a hard surface, which often led to accidents. The fiber shock absorber had a low survivability, mitigating the impact of the shutter on the receiver in the rear position, after the shock absorber was worn out, the shutter broke the back of the box.

The advantages of PPSh can also be attributed to the large capacity of the drum magazine (71 rounds) compared to the MP-40 (32 rounds), but a larger number of rounds significantly increased the weight and dimensions of the weapon, and the reliability of the drum magazine was relatively low. The box magazine was lighter and more reliable, however, the equipment with its cartridges was very difficult due to the rearrangement of cartridges at the exit from two rows into one: the next cartridge had to be brought down under the lips with a down-back movement. On the other hand, for example, the Schmeisser system store, used in German and English submachine guns, also had a rearrangement of cartridges from two rows into one. To facilitate the equipment of boxed shops PPSh there was a special device.

PPSh-41 is easily identified by the high rate of fire, similar to the chirping of a sewing machine, and in the dark – by the three fire tongues of the muzzle flame.

Soviet soldier with PPSh-41 in his hands.

Soviet soldier with PPSh-41 in his hands.

Wehrmacht army

The Wehrmacht army soldiers very often used trophy PPSh-41.

PPSh-41 Combat Use

The increasing of mass production, along with high combat qualities for a submachine gun predetermined the leading role of this PPSh in the small arms system of the Red Army of the military period starting from second year of the war. They supplied whole companies and battalions of machine gunners that appeared in the Red Army by the end of 1942. By the end of the war, about 55% of the Red Army soldiers were armed with these weapons, and it became an integral part of the image of a Soviet soldier of war time.

The widespread use of PPSh during the war had a significant impact on the formation of infantry combat tactics and the weapons system of the Soviet army in the post-war period. At that time the heavy automatic fire was given great importance along the entire front, to the detriment of firing accuracy, and the Kalashnikov assault rifle supplanted a more accurate, but less quick-fire Simonov’s carbine. While in the USA, for a long time (up to the mid-end of the 60s), the ideology of accurate self-loading weapons continued to develop, sometimes with the possibility of firing bursts at a critical moment of the battle, similar to Soviet pre-war developments – AVS-36 and SVT.

Read: Helmet M42 (Stalhelm M42)

Postwar years

After the Second World War, PPSh in significant quantities were delivered abroad, mainly to the Warsaw Pact countries and other USSR-friendly states. A significant amount has been shipped to China.

PPSh-41 was used in all conflicts of the second half of the 20th century, and it fights with dignity even at the beginning of the 21st:

– a certain amount was transferred to the arsenal of the people’s police and the army of the GDR, received the name MPi 41
– In 1950-1953, the Soviet, Chinese and North Korean versions of the PPSh-41 were in service with the Korean People’s Army and were intensively used during the Korean War.
– In the early 1960s, a certain amount of PPSh was received by the Cuban government, in April 1961 they were used to repel the landing of the “2506 brigade” in the Gulf of Pigs.
– In the early 1960s, PPSh-s were in service with the Vietnam People’s Army, they were used in the initial period of the Vietnam War. Later, during the war, they were gradually withdrawn from service of the units of the regular army and transferred to the arsenal of units of the territorial defense forces.

Countries which still use PPSh-41

Angola – As of November 1966, a number of PPSh were in service with the MPLA partisans in Angola

Jordan – As of 1968, a number of PPSh were in service with Palestinian militias in Jordan, used by fighters of local self-defense units in the battle of Karama.

Afghanistan – signed an agreement with the USSR on the acquisition of a batch of Soviet small arms in August 1956, the first PPSh were received from the USSR in October 1956, in the future PPSh was in service with the army units at least until 1980. Also, a significant number of PPSh-41s were in service with student “defense units of the revolution”, people’s militias and territorial self-defense units that fought with the Afghan mujahideen in 1981 and even in 1986.

Nicaragua – a number of PPSh-41s were in service with the territorial units of the Sandinista People’s Militia (“Militianos”) at least until mid-1985.

Until the 1980s, PPSh were used by army and paramilitary units in some African countries.

Ukraine – As of July 14, 2005, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine had 350,000 PPSh-s in storage.As of August 15, 2011, 300,000 units remained in the custody of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Belarus: PPSh-41 removed from service in December 2005.

PPSh-41 in Vietnam.

PPSh-41 in Vietnam.

About the creator

George Shpagin was awarded in 1945 with the title of Hero of Socialist Labor. For the creation of a number of samples of small arms, Shpagin was awarded the Order of Suvorov of the 2nd degree, three Orders of Lenin and the Order of the Red Star. In addition to the PPSh Shpagin in 1943-1945, two samples of a signal pistol were created, which were adopted for service. George also took part in the competition for the creation of an assault rifle – a weapon for an intermediate cartridge. In the post-war period, due to the stomach cancer, George had to stop  gun modelling. The creator of the legendary PPSh passed away on February 6, 1952 at the age of 54. In Vyatskiye Polyany, where more than 2 million PPSh-41s were produced during the war years, a gunsmith’s museum was opened.

Georgy Semyonovich Shpagin

George Semyonovich Shpagin (17 April 1897 – 6 February 1952) was a Russian weapons designer. He is best known as the creator of the famous PPSh-41 submachine gun, as well as working with Vasily Degtyaryov on the DShK heavy machine gun.

     By the way, I once dug PPSh-41 at the battlefield. We took this machine gun with us. After a while, we gave this PPSh to a professional for restoration. The restorer returned the machine gun to its original form. Now this relic is in the local museum. Sometimes we use this PPSh to reconstruct the battles of the Second World War.



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