The Soviet PPSH 41

The Soviet PPSH 41


The PPSh was fed from a 71-round drum magazine, and except for the feed lip design, was similar to that used in the PPD 40 (PPD 40 drums have one straight feed lip).  However, the drum magazines were difficult to carry, hard to load in the field, and often caused the weapon to jam.  The drums were also time consuming to manufacture, and caused a delay in getting the PPSh weapons into the field.  As a result, in 1943, a curved 35-round double stack, single feed magazine was designed for the PPSh.  Thin steel used in early production of the box magazines caused many problems, which were easily solved by using thicker sheet metal in their construction.  The single feed design of the box magazine made them hard to load to full capacity by hand.

Soviet PPSh 41 submachine guns manufactured during World War II. From left: 1. Factory markings are a number 4 inside a letter C: the Cyrillic C translates to a letter S representing the Scetmach Factory, Moscow. 2. Star in a Shield trademark of the Vyatskie Polyany factory, the most commonly encountered manufacturer. 3. The factory mark on this example appears as a number 3 inside a circle. The 3 is a Cyrillic character that translates to a letter Z representing the Moscow Automotive Factory Zavod imeni Stalin (ZIS). 4. The two letters that appear as a B are Cyrillic characters for the Roman letter V for what appears to represent the Voskov Instrument Plant in Leningrad. 5. The markings on this 1945 example are unknown. The rectangular tab protruding from the top of the receiver is used to secure the barrel trunnion.

Early production PPSh 41 submachine guns were fitted with a tangent style rear sight calibrated out to a range of 500 meters.  To simplify manufacture, the tangent sight was replaced by a simple U-notch, two-leaf flip sight with one leaf marked 10 for 100 meters and the second marked 20 for 200 meters.  The front sight was a threaded post adjustable for elevation and the sight could also be drifted left or right to adjust for windage. Another change was to replace the detachable front sight hood, which was often lost in the field.  The removable front sight hood (which is missing from most examples) was replaced by a fixed hood permanently welded to the barrel shroud.  The early production hinged receiver used a one-piece front receiver pin that had a circular groove in the center and was retained in place by a round piece of spring steel.  The early style pin was replaced by an improved two-piece pin that was easier to remove.  During late 1942, the trigger frame magazine well was reinforced by extending the frame upward partially enveloping the sides of the receiver.  Another problem that arose in the field was the buffer, which could not stand up to hard use, and was in short supply.  Some of the PPSh submachine guns studied had a reinforcing bolt through the wrist area of the stock to keep it from breaking.

Over five million PPSh 41 submachine guns were manufactured during World War II.  In 1943, Iran made an agreement with the Soviets and received drawings and tooling to manufacture a copy of the PPSh 41 under license at the Mosalsalsasi factory near Teheran, Iran.  The submachine gun was designated as the Model 22.  A number of the Iranian made submachine guns were issued to the Red Army during the war.  Manufacture of the Model 22 continued after the war ended.  During World War II many captured PPSh submachine guns were fielded by the Germans; some were converted to 9mm using MP40 magazines.  Post war variants were made in China as the Type 50, Hungary as the Model 48, North Korea as the Type 49, and in Poland.

An early 1943 Soviet PPSh (top of photo) and a 1950s Chinese Type 50. Note that the Chinese rear sight is positioned slightly forward and the protecting side ears are a different shape than on the Soviet weapon. The sight leaves on the Chinese Type 50 are the aperture type, while the Soviet leaves have a U-shape notch. The receiver pivot pin on the Chinese example is slightly larger in diameter. The Chinese Type 50s do not have the magazine well reinforcing tabs on the trigger frame common on post 1942 Soviet production. (National Museum of the Marine Corps)

The Chinese manufactured the Type 50 in at least three factories in China.  Different arsenal markings include: the circular gear symbol of the Communist 90th Arsenal, Factory 626, and an unknown facility using star with three horizontal lines on the left side and two lines on the right.  The rear flip sight leaves on the Chinese Type 50 has apertures instead of U-notches as on Soviet models, and is attached with counter-sunk rivets, while Soviet rear sights were attached with round head rivets.  Some Chinese Type 50 submachine guns had wooden stocks that were made in two pieces.  The two-piece stocks were joined together with glue, but during hard use in the field the stocks often split apart at the joint.  It has often been reported that the Chinese version will not accept a drum magazine.  That bit of misinformation was first published in a U.S. Ordnance report.  Because the dimensions of the drums vary to some degree, some drums will fit in the Type 50, while others may not; this was also true of the Soviet PPSh 41.  The Soviets addressed the problem by selecting drums that fit in a particular submachine gun and then etching the host weapon’s serial number on the drums that fit.

The North Korean Type 49 can be identified by a star inside of a single or double circle stamped on the top of the receiver, along with the serial number and year of manufacture.  The Type 49 has features of both Chinese and Soviet models.  The rear sight is a two leaf type with 100 and 200 meter apertures, the ejection port is rectangular shaped and the trigger frame has the late Soviet style receiver reinforcing tabs.  The receiver pivot pin is solid and staked in place.  The weapon was manufactured from 1949 to approximately 1955.  The plant producing the submachine guns was located in Pyongyang.  The factory was overrun by UN and South Korean troops during the conflict, but could only be held a few days before it was retaken by North Korean troops.  The factory was relocated further north by the enemy and was back in production in just a few weeks.

A U.S. representative holds up a PPSh 41-type submachine gun at a United Nations meeting to illustrate proof of Soviet and Chinese involvement in supporting North Korea in the Korean War. Although it was true that the Soviets and Chinese were involved, what was apparently unknown (or ignored) at the time was the North Koreans began manufacturing their Type 49 copy of the Soviet PPSh 41 in 1949.

Hungary adopted and manufactured a copy of the Soviet 7.62x25mm PPSh M1941 as the 48 Minta. The 48M was manufactured by Fémáru Fegyver és Gépgyár (FÉG), Budapest, from 1949 to 1955.  The date of manufacture was stamped on top of the receiver along with the FEG arsenal logo and the numbers 01 inside of a circle.  The trigger frame has the receiver reinforcement tabs at the top; the two-leaf rear sight has U notches for sighting.

The post World War II Polish copy of the PPSh 41, the PM wz.41, was manufactured at the Zaklady Metalowe Lucznik plant located in the city of Radom, Poland. The factory logo was a number 11 inside of a horizontally placed oval stamped on top of the receiver.  The trigger frame has the receiver reinforcement tabs at the top, and the two-leaf rear sight has U notches for sighting. The ejection port has a rectangular shape.

In addition to Russia’s use in World War II, the PPSh and its variants saw widespread use during the Korean War by the North Korean and Chinese troops.  The submachine gun was also fielded by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong (K50) during the Vietnam War.  Weapons captured during the aforementioned conflicts were from every country that produced them.

The Polish version of the PPSh 41 with a 71-round drum. This weapon is in unissued condition. (Dan Lyons)

During the 1950s, the Austrian Army designed a plastic replacement stock for the PPSh 41.  The plastic stocks were a light or dark maroon color.

The 7.62x25mm Cartridge
The 7.62x25mm round was originally developed for Fedor Tokarev’s prototype pistols in 1929.  The dimensions of the Soviet round are nearly identical to that of the German 7.63 Mauser cartridge, but most sources warn that the Tokarev round not be used in pistols intended for the Mauser cartridge. The bottleneck Tokarev cartridge was also used in Soviet submachine guns, and there were many types produced specifically for submachine gun use.  Early Soviet production used brass cases, however because of brass being a critical material in wartime, around 1942 the case material was changed to painted or copper washed steel.  Early bullets had a lead core; later production used a combination of a steel core inside a lead envelope.  The steel-lead bullets had a slightly longer overall length to retain the weight of the lead core bullets.  The bullet jackets were steel clad with gilding metal.  There were a number of specialty loadings that included: tracer, armor-piercing, armor-piercing-incendiary, flame-thrower igniter, blank and dummy.  Bullet weight of the standard ball round nose bullet was approximately 85.8 grains with a muzzle velocity of 1,492 feet per second.  The round generates very little recoil in a PPSh 41 submachine gun, making the weapon extremely controllable during full-automatic fire.