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PPSh-41 with a 71-round drum magazine
TypeSubmachine gun
Place of originSoviet Union
Service history
In service1941–1950s (USSR)
1941–present (Other countries)
Used bySee Users
Production history
DesignerGeorgy Shpagin
Unit costCa. 50-80 rubles (WWII) (~161-258 USD today)
Produced1941–1947 (USSR)[13]
No. builtApprox. 6,000,000
VariantsSee Variants
Mass3.63 kg (8.0 lb) (without magazine)
Length843 mm (33.2 in)
Barrel length269 mm (10.6 in)

Cartridge7.62×25mm Tokarev

7.63×25mm Mauser

9×19mm Parabellum
ActionBlowback, open bolt
Rate of fire900-1000 RPM
Muzzle velocity488 m/s (1,600.6 ft/s)
Effective firing range150 m[14] - 200 m[15]
Feed system35-round box magazine or 71-round drum magazine
32-round box magazine (Captured German versions)
SightsIron sights

The PPSh-41 (Russian: Пистоле́т-пулемёт Шпа́гина-41, romanized: Pistolét-pulemyót Shpágina-41, lit. 'Shpagin's machine-pistol-41') is a selective-fire, open-bolt, blowback submachine gun that fires the 7.62×25mm Tokarev round. It was designed by Georgy Shpagin of the Soviet Union to be a cheaper and simplified alternative to the PPD-40.

The PPSh-41 saw extensive combat during World War II and the Korean War. It became one of the major infantry weapons of the Red Army during World War II, with about six million PPSh-41s manufactured during the period.

The firearm is made largely of stamped steel, and can be loaded with either a box or drum magazine.


World War II[edit]

A 1942 PPSh-41 with a 35-round box magazine

The impetus for the development of the PPSh came from the Winter War (November 1939 to March 1940) between the Soviet Union and Finland, when the Finnish Army employed the Suomi KP/-31 submachine gun as a highly effective tool for close-quarter fighting in forests and built-up urban areas. The Red Army's older PPD-34 had been in mass production since 1934, but it was expensive to manufacture, both in terms of material and labor, as it used numerous milled metal parts (particularly for its receiver). The firearm-designer Georgy Shpagin wanted to reduce costs by using metal stamping for the production of the parts. In September 1940 Shpagin developed a prototype PPSh which also featured a simple gas-compensator designed to prevent the muzzle from rising during bursts; this improved shot grouping by about 70% relative to the PPD.[16]

The new weapon was produced in a network of factories in Moscow, with high-level local Party members made directly responsible for meeting production-targets. A few hundred weapons were produced in November 1941 and another 155,000 were made during the next five months. By spring 1942, the PPSh factories were producing roughly 3,069 units a day.[17] Soviet production figures for 1942 indicate an output of almost 1.5 million units.[16] PPSh parts (excluding the barrel) could be produced by a relatively unskilled workforce with simple equipment available in an auto-repair garage or tin shop, freeing more skilled workers for other tasks. The PPSh-41 uses 87 components (compared to 95 for the PPD-40), and the PPSh could be manufactured with an estimated 5.6 machining hours (later revised to 7.3 hours) compared with 13.7 hours for the PPD.[18][19] Barrel production was often simplified by using barrels for the 7.62mm Mosin–Nagant: the rifle barrel was cut in half and two PPSh barrels were made from it after machining the chamber for the 7.62×25mm Tokarev cartridge.[20]

After the German Army captured large numbers of the PPSh-41 in the course of the German-Soviet War of 1941-1945, Berlin instituted a program to convert the trophy weapons to use the standard German submachine-gun cartridge – the 9×19mm Parabellum. The Wehrmacht officially adopted the converted PPSh-41 as the "MP41(r)" (as distinct from the Schmeisser MP41); unconverted PPSh-41s were designated "MP717(r)" and supplied with 7.63×25mm Mauser ammunition. German-language manuals for the use of captured PPShs were printed and distributed in the Wehrmacht.[21] In addition to barrel replacement, converted PPSh-41s also had a magazine adapter installed, allowing them to use MP 40 magazines. The less powerful 9mm round generally reduces the cyclic rate of fire from 800 to 750 RPM. (Modern aftermarket conversion-kits based on the original Wehrmacht one also exist, using a variety of magazines, including Sten magazines.)

PPSh (left) compared to PPS (right) box magazine

As standard, each PPSh-41 came with two factory-fitted drum magazines, matched to the weapon with marked serial-numbers. If drum magazines were mixed and used with different serial-numbered PPSh-41, a loose fitting could result in poor retention and failure to feed. Drum magazines were superseded by a simpler PPS-42 box-type magazine holding 35 rounds, although an improved drum magazine made from 1 mm thick steel was also introduced in 1944.[16]

In 1943 the Red Army introduced the PPS-43, which was even more basic in its design than the PPSh-41 and had a more moderate rate of fire, but it did not replace the PPSh-41 during the war.

The Soviet Union also experimented with the PPSh-41 in a close air-support antipersonnel role, mounting 88 of the submachine guns in forward fuselage racks on the Tu-2Sh variant of the Tupolev Tu-2 bomber.[22]

The USSR had produced more than five million PPSh-41 submachine guns by the end of World War II. The Red Army would often equip platoons - and sometimes entire companies - with the weapon, giving them excellent short-range firepower.[23] Thousands were dropped behind enemy lines in order to equip Soviet partisans to disrupt Axis operations, supply-lines and communications.

Korean War[edit]

Soviet PPSH-41 submachine gun, Fort Lewis Military Museum, Fort Lewis, Washington, U.S. - part of a display of the weapons of the Korean War

After the Second World War, the USSR supplied the PPSh in large quantities to Soviet-aligned states and to Communist guerrilla forces. During the Korean War of 1950 to 1953, North Korea's Korean People's Army (KPA) and the Chinese People's Volunteer Army (PVA) fighting in Korea received massive numbers of the PPSh-41, in addition to the North Korean Type 49 and the Chinese Type 50 - each licensed copies of the PPSh-41 with small mechanical revisions.[24]

Though relatively inaccurate, the Chinese PPSh has a high rate of fire and was well-suited to the close-range firefights that typically occurred in Korea, especially at night.[25] United Nations forces in defensive outposts or on patrol often had trouble returning a sufficient volume of fire when attacked by companies of infantry armed with the PPSh. Some U.S. infantry officers ranked the PPSh as the best combat-weapon of the war: while lacking the accuracy of the U.S. M1 Garand and M1 carbine, it provided more firepower at short distances.[25] Infantry captain (later general) Hal Moore, stated: "on full automatic it sprayed a lot of bullets and most of the killing in Korea was done at very close ranges and it was done quickly – a matter of who responded faster. In situations like that it outclassed and outgunned what we had. A close-in patrol fight was over very quickly and usually we lost because of it."[25] U.S. servicemen, however, felt that their M2 carbines were superior to the PPSh-41.[26]


A PPSh-41 on display

The PPSh-41 fires the standard Soviet pistol and submachine gun cartridge, the 7.62×25mm Tokarev. Weighing approximately 12 pounds (5.45 kg) with a loaded 71-round drum and 9.5 pounds (4.32 kg) with a loaded 35-round box magazine. The PPSh is capable of a rate of about 1250 rounds per minute,[27] a very high rate of fire in comparison to most other military submachine guns of World War II. It is a durable, low-maintenance weapon made of low-cost, easily obtained components, primarily stamped sheet metal and wood. The final production PPShs have top ejection and an L type rear sight that can be adjusted for ranges of 100 and 200 meters. A crude compensator is built into the barrel jacket, intended to reduce muzzle climb during automatic fire. The compensator was moderately successful in this respect, but it greatly increased the muzzle flash and report of the weapon. The PPSh also has a hinged receiver to facilitate field-stripping and cleaning the weapon.

A chrome-lined bore enables the PPSh to withstand both corrosive ammunition and long intervals between cleaning. No forward grip or forearm was provided, and the operator generally has to grasp the weapon behind the drum magazine with the supporting hand, or else hold the lower edge of the drum magazine. Though 35-round curved box magazines were available from 1942, the average Soviet infantryman in World War II carried the PPSh with the original 71-round drum magazine.[28]

Although the PPSh drum magazine holds 71 rounds, misfeeding is likely to occur with more than about 65.[29] In addition to feed issues, the drum magazine is slower and more complicated to load with ammunition than the later 35-round box magazine that increasingly supplemented the drum after 1942. While holding fewer rounds, the box magazine does have the advantage of providing a superior hold for the supporting hand. Although the PPSh is equipped with a sliding bolt safety, the weapon's open-bolt design still presents a risk of accidental discharge if the gun is dropped on a hard surface.


Wehrmacht Hauptmann Wilhelm Traub armed with a PPSh-41 scanning the view of Stalingrad in the middle of a ruined town in autumn 1942. The ruined town is now a park named after Yuri Gagarin.
A Red Army soldier armed with a PPSh-41 marches a German soldier into captivity after the Battle of Stalingrad, 1943.
A map with users of the PPSh-41 in blue and former users in red




K-50M submachine gun, captured from the NVA
  • Type 50: A Chinese-made version of the PPSh-41. A U.S. ordnance report during the Korean War stated that this version could not accept drum magazines. However, that report turned out to be mistaken.[69]
  • Type 49: A North Korean made version of the PPSh-41. This model only accepts drum-based magazines.[30]
  • K-50M: A Vietnamese-made submachine gun based on the Type 50s supplied by China during the Vietnam War. Produced between 1958 and 1964. The chief difference is that the cooling sleeve of the K-50 was truncated to three inches (76 mm), the front sight based on the AK-47's front sight.[70] Modifications include the addition of a pistol grip,[70] a steel wire-made stock[70] and the shortened barrel.[71] The changes resulted in a weight of 3.4 kg (7.5 lb), making K-50M lighter than the PPSh-41 by 500 g (1.1 lb).[72] The weapon uses a 35-round stick magazine, but the 71-round drum magazine can be used if the stock is fully extended.[71]
  • MP41(r): A captured PPSh-41 converted to 9×19mm Parabellum caliber for use by German forces.[73]
  • MP717(r): A captured, unconverted PPSh-41 placed in German service and supplied with 7.63×25mm Mauser ammunition[73]
  • M-49: A Yugoslavian produced variant of the PPSh-41 design, which utilizes a round tube for the receiver and a round bolt styled after the Beretta Model 38.[citation needed]
  • PPS-50: A semi-automatic manufactured by Pietta. A non-restricted firearm in .22LR ammunition. The box magazine holds 30 and the drum magazine holds 50. It is cosmetically similar to the PPSh-41, although the two share no other features.[citation needed]
  • VPO-135: A semi-automatic version of the PPSh-41 from Russia.[citation needed]
  • LDT PPSh-41: A semi-automatic-only clone of the PPSh-41. This variant with its fixed wooden stock is manufactured by Luxembourg Defence Technology for the civilian European sport shooting market.[citation needed]
  • SKL-41: A semi-automatic version of the PPSh-41 which became available on the German market in 2008. This version is converted to fire the 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge. Aside from replicas of its original magazines, it also accepts MP 40 magazines.[citation needed]
  • IO SR-41: A semi-automatic version of the PPSh-41 sold by American company InterOrdnance and manufactured by A. A. Arms. The barrel on this version extends past the shroud and is non-removable. Most were made of surplus PPSh parts; however, many enthusiasts criticized the gun for dubious quality.[citation needed]
  • Additional semi-auto versions for the American market made by Wiselite and TNW. They were similar to IO SR-41, but had the shroud extend along with the barrel and were much more well received quality wise.[citation needed]
  • Šokac : A Croatian version of the PPSH-41, produced in the 1990s for use in the Croatian War of Independence. Using a metal folding stock and a square receiver, it doesn't look like a PPSH-41 appearance wise, but mechanically the gun is a copy of the PPSH-41. The Šokac was produced because of the lack of arms the Croatians were facing, and turned to producing simple small arms to fix this issue.[74][unreliable source?]
  • PPSh-45 : A late war variant of PPSh-41, featuring only full auto and using early PPSh-41 production tangent sights. It had a foldable stock that could also be used as a grip, and had no wood parts.[75]


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External links[edit]