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MP 40

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MP 40
Maschinenpistole 40
Type Submachine gun
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1938–1945 (Nazi Germany)
Used by See Operators
Production history
Designer Heinrich Vollmer
Designed 1938
Produced 1940–1945
No. built 1,100,000 (estimated)
  • MP 36
  • MP 38
  • MP 40
  • MP 40/1
  • MP 41
Weight 3.97 kg (8.75 lb)[2][3]
Length 833 mm (32.8 in) stock extended / 630 mm (24.8 in) stock folded[4]
Barrel length 251 mm (9.9 in)[4]

Cartridge 9×19mm Parabellum[4]
Action Straight blowback, open bolt[3]
Rate of fire 500–550 rounds/min[4]
Muzzle velocity 400 m/s (1,312 ft/s)[4]
Effective firing range 100 – 200 m[3]
Maximum firing range 250m[3]
Feed system 32-round detachable box magazine, 64-round with dual magazines[3]
Sights Hooded front blade

The MP 40 (Maschinenpistole 40) was a submachine gun chambered for the 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge. It was developed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Axis powers during the Second World War.

Designed in 1938 by Heinrich Vollmer with inspiration from its predecessor the MP 38, it was heavily used by infantrymen (particularly platoon and squad leaders), and by paratroopers, on the Eastern and Western Fronts. Its advanced and modern features made it a favorite among soldiers and popular in countries from various parts of the world after the war. It was often erroneously called "Schmeisser" by the Allies, despite Hugo Schmeisser's non-involvement in the weapon's design and production. From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.1 million were produced by Erma Werke.


German soldier with an MP 40 on the Eastern Front, 1944.

The Maschinenpistole 40 ("Machine pistol 40") descended from its predecessor the MP 38, which was in turn based on the MP 36, a prototype made of machined steel.[5] The MP 36 was developed independently by Erma Werke's Berthold Geipel with funding from the German Army. It took design elements from Heinrich Vollmer's VPM 1930 and EMP. Vollmer then worked on Berthold Geipel's MP 36 and in 1938 submitted a prototype to answer a request from the Heereswaffenamt (Army Weapons Office) for a new submachine gun, which was adopted as MP 38. The MP 38 was a simplification of the MP 36, and the MP 40 was a further simplification of the MP 38, with certain cost-saving alterations, most notably in the more extensive use of stamped steel rather than machined parts.[5]

The MP 40 was often called the "Schmeisser" by the Allies, after the weapon designer Hugo Schmeisser. Schmeisser had designed the MP 18, which was the first mass-produced submachine gun in the world, and carried some resemblance to the MP 40. He did not, however, have anything to do with the design or development of the MP 40, although he held a patent on the magazine.[6]


The MP 40 submachine guns are open-bolt, blowback-operated automatic arms. The only mode of fire was fully automatic, but the relatively low rate of fire enabled single shots with controlled trigger pulls.[7] The bolt features a telescoping return spring guide which serves as a pneumatic recoil buffer.[7] The cocking handle was permanently attached to the bolt on early MP 38s, but on late production MP 38s and MP 40s, the bolt handle was made as a separate part.[8] It also served as a safety by pushing the head of handle into one of two separate notches above the main opening; this action locked the bolt either in the cocked (rear) or uncocked (forward) position.[8] The absence of this feature on early MP 38s resulted in field expedients such as leather harnesses with a small loop, used to hold the bolt in forward position.[9]

The MP 38 receiver was made of machined steel, but this was a time-consuming and expensive process.[10] To save time and materials, and thus increase production, construction of the MP 40 receiver was simplified by using stamped steel and electro-spot welding as much as possible. [10] The MP 38 also features longitudinal grooving on the receiver and bolt, as well as a circular opening on the magazine housing. These features were eliminated on the MP 40.[10]

A soldier of the Russian Liberation Army with an MP 38, 1943.

One unique feature found on most MP 38 and MP 40 submachine guns was an aluminum, steel, or bakelite resting bar or support under the barrel. This was used to steady the weapon when firing over the side of open-top armored personnel carriers such as the Sdkfz 251 half-track. A handguard, made of a synthetic material derived from bakelite, was located between the magazine housing and the pistol grip.[11] The barrel lacked any form of insulation, which often resulted in burns on the supporting hand if it was incorrectly positioned.[11] The MP 40 also had a forward-folding metal stock, the first for a submachine gun, resulting in a shorter overall weapon when folded.[12] However, this stock design was at times insufficiently durable for hard combat use.[12]

Although the MP 40 was generally reliable, a major weakness was its 32-round magazine.[13] Unlike the double-column, dual-feed magazine insert found on the Thompson M1921-28 variants, the MP 40 used a double-column, single-feed insert.[13] The single-feed insert resulted in increased friction against the remaining cartridges moving upwards towards the feed lips, occasionally resulting in feed failures; this problem was exacerbated by the presence of dirt or other debris.[13] Another problem was that the magazine was also sometimes misused as a handhold.[14] This could cause the weapon to malfunction when hand pressure on the magazine body caused the magazine lips to move out of the line of feed, since the magazine well did not keep the magazine firmly locked.[14] German soldiers were trained to grasp either the handhold on the underside of the weapon or the magazine housing with the supporting hand to avoid feed malfunctions.[14]


Simone Segouin, a French Partisan who captured 25 Germans in the Chartres area, in addition to executing others, poses with a German MP 40, with which she was most proficient.

At the outbreak of World War II, the majority of German soldiers carried either Karabiner 98k rifles or MP 40s, both of which were regarded as the standard weapons of choice for an infantryman.[15]

However, later experience with Soviet tactics, such as the Battle of Stalingrad where entire Russian units armed with submachine guns outgunned their German counterparts in short range urban combat, caused a shift in tactics, and by the end of the war the MP 40 and its derivatives were being issued to entire assault platoons on a limited basis.[16] Starting in 1943, the German Army moved to replace both the Karabiner 98k rifle and MP 40 with the new, revolutionary StG 44.[16][15] By the end of World War II (which ended in 1945), an estimated 1.1 million MP 40s had been produced of all variants.[17]

Post-war usage[edit]

During and after the end of World War II, many MP 40s were captured or surrendered (upwards of 200,000) to the Allies and were then redistributed to the paramilitary and irregular forces of some developing countries.[18] The Norwegian army withdrew the MP 38 in 1975, MP 40 was used for some years more, the territorials (Heimevernet) used it until about 1990, when it was replaced by Heckler & Koch MP5.[9]



After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British Armed Forces wanted to adopt a submachine gun similar to the MP 40.[19] The Royal Air Force sent a request to the Ministry of Supply for 10,000 British-made copies of the MP 40, but eventually they settled on a copy of the MP 28, known as the Lanchester.[19]

MP 40/I[edit]

A modified version of the standard MP 40 (sometimes erroneously called MP 40/II) with a dual side-by-side magazine holder (for a theoretical ammunition total of 64 rounds), designed for special operations troops on the Eastern Front to compensate for the enemies' PPSh-41 larger magazine capacity. However, the design proved unsuccessful due to weight and reliability issues.

MP 41[edit]

MP 41 with wooden stock

In 1941, Schmeisser designed the MP 41, which was in reality an MP 40 with a wooden rifle stock and a selector, identical to those found on the earlier MP 28 submachine gun. It saw limited service, however, and was issued only to SS and police units in 1944. The MP 41 was also supplied to Germany's Axis ally Romania.[20]


1st East Surreys reconnaissance patrol in Italy, 1943. Man in the back is armed with a MP40

During World War II, anti-Nazi resistance fighters and Allied soldiers sometimes captured MP40s to replace or supplement their own weapons.[21][22][23]

The MP 40 was used for several decades following World War II by many countries around the world in armed conflicts. Captured MP40s found their way into guerrilla groups such as the Viet Cong or African guerrillas. Also, the MP 40 was used in the 2011 Libyan Civil War and the Syrian Civil War.[24][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Used in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and afterwards by Unit 101 until replaced by the Uzi.[24]


  1. ^ Medal Net.
  2. ^ Hogg 2001, p. 16.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fowler 2005, p. 98.
  4. ^ a b c d e Myatt & Ridefort 1992, p. 107.
  5. ^ a b de Quesada 2014, p. 13.
  6. ^ Rottman 2012, p. 9.
  7. ^ a b Peterson 2011, p. 314.
  8. ^ a b Bishop 2002, p. 259.
  9. ^ a b c World Guns.
  10. ^ a b c de Quesada 2014, p. 17.
  11. ^ a b Hobart 1975, pp. 95–98.
  12. ^ a b Hogg & Weeks 1977, p. 90.
  13. ^ a b c Hogg & Weeks 1977, p. 33.
  14. ^ a b c Dunlap 1966, pp. 80–81.
  15. ^ a b Neil 2015, p. 65.
  16. ^ a b Priestley & Cavatore 2014, pp. 105–108.
  17. ^ Willbanks 2004, p. 82.
  18. ^ Ingram 2001, p. 75.
  19. ^ a b Hobart 1975, pp. 80–81.
  20. ^ Axworthy 1991, p. 42.
  21. ^ a b Henry Sakaida (2003). Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45. p. 59. ISBN 1841765988. 
  22. ^ a b Nik Cornish (2014). Soviet Partisan 1941-45. Andrei Karachtchouk. p. 29. 
  23. ^ Leon Weckstein (2014). 200,000 Heroes: Italian Partisans and the American OSS in WWII. 
  24. ^ a b c Katz 1988, p. 9.
  25. ^ a b c d e f de Quesada 2014, p. 66.
  26. ^ a b c d e f de Quesada 2014, p. 77.
  27. ^ Vladimir Brnardic. World War II Croation Legionaries: Croation Troops Under Axis Command 1941—45. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-4728-1767-9. 
  28. ^ Tibor, Rada (2001). "Német gyalogsági fegyverek magyar kézben" [German infantry weapons in Hungarian hands]. A Magyar Királyi Honvéd Ludovika Akadémia és a Testvérintézetek Összefoglalt Története (1830-1945) (in Hungarian). II. Budapest: Gálos Nyomdász Kft. p. 1114. ISBN 963-85764-3-X. 
  29. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 20.
  30. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 56.
  31. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 23.
  32. ^ Anthony G. Williams (2012). Sub-Machine Gun: The Development of Sub-Machine Guns and their Ammunition from World War 1 to the Present Day. The Crowood Press UK. p. 15. ISBN 1847972934. 
  33. ^
  34. ^ a b de Quesada 2014, p. 64.
  35. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 67.



  • Axworthy, Mark (1991). The Romanian Army of World War II. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1855321694. 
  • Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. ISBN 978-1586637620. 
  • Dunlap, Roy (1966). Ordnance Went Up Front. R & R Books. ISBN 978-1884849091. 
  • Fowler, William (2005). Stalingrad, the Vital Seven Days. Spellmount. ISBN 978-1862272781. 
  • Hobart, Frank (1975). Pictorial History of the Sub-machine Gun. Scribner Publishing. ISBN 978-0684141862. 
  • Hogg, Ian; Weeks, John, eds. (1977). Military Small Arms of the 20th Century. Arms & Armour Press. ISBN 0-85368-301-8. 
  • Hogg, Ian (2001). Submachine Guns. Greenhill Books. ISBN 978-1853674488. 
  • Ingram, Mike (2001). The MP40 Submachine Gun. Zenith Imprint. ISBN 0-7603-1014-9. 
  • Katz, Samuel (1988). Israeli Elite Units Since 1948. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-85045-8374. 
  • Myatt, Frederick; Ridefort, Gerard, eds. (1992). New Illustrated Guide to Modern Rifles & Sub-Machine Guns. Smithmark Publishing. ISBN 978-0831750558. 
  • Neil, Grant (2015). Mauser Military Rifles. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1472805942. 
  • Peterson, Philip (2011). Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector's Price and Reference Guide. F+W Media, Inc. ISBN 978-1440228810. 
  • Priestley, Rick; Cavatore, Alessio, eds. (2014). Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1782009702. 
  • de Quesada, Alejandro (2014). MP 38 and MP 40 Submachine Guns. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1780963884. 
  • Rottman, Gordon L (2012). The AK-47: Kalashnikov-series Assault Rifles. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84908-835-0. 
  • Willbanks, James (2004). Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1851094806. 


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