|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|Used by||See Operators|
|Wars||World War II Cold War Korean War Vietnam War|
|Number built||1.1 million (estimated)|
|Variants||MP 36, MP 38, MP 40, MP 40/1, MP 41|
|Weight||3.97 kg (8.75 lb)|
|Length||833 mm (32.8 in) stock extended / 630 mm (24.8 in) stock folded|
|Barrel length||251 mm (9.9 in)|
|Action||Straight blowback, open bolt|
|Rate of fire||500–550 rounds/min|
|Muzzle velocity||400 m/s (1,312 ft/s)|
|Effective firing range||100 – 200 m|
|Maximum firing range||200 m|
|Feed system||32-round detachable box magazine 64-round with dual magazines|
|Sights||Hooded front blade|
Designed in 1938 by Heinrich Vollmer with inspiration from its predecessor the MP 38, it was heavily used by infantrymen, paratroopers, platoon and squad leaders on the Eastern and Western Front. 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.
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. 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.
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.
The MP 40 profoundly influenced the British Sten and the US M3 “grease gun” as well as postwar weapons such as the Spanish Star Modelo Z-45 and the Yugoslav M56.
The MP 40 submachine guns are open-bolt, blowback-operated automatic arms. Fully automatic fire was the only setting, but the relatively low rate of fire allowed for single shots with controlled trigger pulls. The bolt features a telescoping return spring guide which serves as a pneumatic recoil buffer. 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. 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. 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.
The MP 38 receiver was made of machined steel, but this was a time-consuming and expensive process. 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.  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.
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. The barrel lacked any form of insulation, which often resulted in burns on the supporting hand if it was incorrectly positioned. The MP 40 also had a forward-folding metal stock, the first for a submachine gun, resulting in a shorter overall weapon when folded. However, this stock design was at times insufficiently durable for hard combat use.
Although the MP 40 was generally reliable, a major weakness was its 32-round magazine. 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. 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. Another problem was that the magazine was also sometimes misused as a handhold. 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. 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.
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. Starting in 1943, the German Army moved to replace both the Karabiner 98k rifle and MP 40 with the new, revolutionary StG 44. By the end of World War II (which ended in 1945), an estimated 1.1 million MP 40s had been produced of all variants.
After the end of World War II, many MP 40s captured by the Allies were redistributed to the paramilitary and irregular forces of some developing countries. 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.
After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British Armed Forces wanted to adopt a submachine gun similar to the MP 40. 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.
In 1943, 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 only issued to SS and police units in 1944.
Many resistance fighters and also British and American Officers and NCOs took captured MP40s to replace their guns. Its accuracy, high rate of fire and 32-round magazine could put out more hurt than the M1A1 Thompson and other SMGs. Besides this, MP40 was much lighter and easier to use than a Thompson.
The use of MP40s was quite common in Allied special forces for many practical reasons. Russian scouts preferred using captured MP40s because of its lightness and compactness. Also, using MP40s camouflaged the fact they were Soviet forces.
Although a weapon designed and manufactured in the 1930s, the MP 40 would be used for several more decades 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.
- South Korea
- Nazi Germany
- West Germany
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to MP40.|
- List of common World War II infantry weapons
- List of submachine guns
- List of World War II firearms of Germany
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