PPSh-41 with drum magazine
Type Submachine gun
Place of origin Soviet Union
Service history
In service 1941–1960s (USSR)
1941–present (Other countries)
Used by See Users
Production history
Designer Georgy Shpagin
Designed 1941
Manufacturer Numerous
Produced 1941–1947[5]
Number built Approx. 6,000,000
Variants See Variants
Weight 3.63 kg (8.0 lb) (without magazine)
Length 843 mm (33.2 in)
Barrel length 269 mm (10.6 in)

Cartridge 7.62×25mm Tokarev
Action Blowback, open bolt
Rate of fire 900 to over 1000 rounds/min[6]
Muzzle velocity 488 m/s (1,600.6 ft/s)
Effective firing range 125 - 150 m[7]
Maximum firing range 200m - 250m[8][9]
Feed system 35-round box magazine or 71-round drum magazine
Sights Iron sights

The PPSh-41 (pistolet-pulemyot Shpagina; Russian: Пистолет-пулемёт Шпагина; "Shpagin machine pistol"); is a Soviet submachine gun designed by Georgi Shpagin as a cheap, reliable, and simplified alternative to the PPD-40. Common nicknames are "pe-pe-sha" from its three-letter prefix and "papasha" (Russian: папаша), meaning "daddy".

The PPSh is a magazine-fed selective fire submachine gun using an open-bolt, blowback action. Made largely of stamped steel, it can be loaded with either a box or drum magazine, and fires the 7.62×25mm Tokarev pistol round.

The PPSh saw extensive combat use during World War II and the Korean War. It was one of the major infantry weapons of the Soviet Armed Forces during World War II. Around six million PPSh-41s were manufactured. In the form of the Chinese Type 50 (a licensed copy), it was still being used by Vietnamese Viet Cong as late as 1970. According to the 2002 edition of the Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II the PPSh was still in use with irregular military forces.[10]


World War II

The impetus for the development of the PPSh came partly from the Winter War against Finland, where 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. A submachine gun, the PPD-40, was subsequently rushed into mass production in 1940, but it was expensive to manufacture, both in terms of materials and labor, because it used numerous milled metal parts, particularly its receiver. Shpagin's main idea for cost reduction was to use metal stamping for the production of most parts; that concept was revolutionary in the Soviet Union at the time. Shpagin created a prototype PPSh in September 1940, 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.[11]

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 3,000 units a day.[12] Soviet production figures for 1942 indicate that almost 1.5 million units were produced.[11] The PPSh-41 is a classic example of a design adapted for mass production (other examples of such wartime design are the M3 submachine gun, MP40, PPS, and the Sten). Its 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.[13][14] Barrel production was often simplified by using barrels for the 7.62mm M1891 Mosin–Nagant rifle: the rifle barrel was cut in half and two PPSh barrels were made from it after machining the chamber for the 7.62mm Soviet submachine gun cartridge.[15]

After the German Army captured large numbers of the PPSh-41 during World War II, a program was instituted to convert the weapon to the standard German submachine gun cartridge – 9×19mm Parabellum. The Wehrmacht officially adopted the converted PPSh-41 as the "MP41(r)"; unconverted PPSh-41s were designated "MP717(r)" and supplied with 7.63×25mm Mauser ammunition (which is dimensionally identical to 7.62×25mm, but slightly less powerful). German-language manuals for the use of captured PPShs were printed and distributed in the Wehrmacht.[16]

PPSh vis-à-vis PPS box magazine

As standard each PPSh-41 came with two factory fitted drum magazines that were 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.[11]

The PPS, an even simpler submachine gun, was later introduced in Soviet service in 1943, although it did not replace the PPSh-41 during the war.

The Soviet Union also experimented with the PPSh-41 in a close air support anti-personnel role, mounting dozens of the submachine guns in forward fuselage racks on the Tu-2sh variant of the Tupolev Tu-2 bomber.[17]

More than five million PPSh submachine guns were produced by the end of the war. The Soviets would often equip platoons and sometimes entire companies with the weapon, giving them excellent short-range firepower.[18] Thousands more were dropped behind enemy lines in order to equip Soviet partisans to disrupt German supply lines and communications.

Korean War

After the Second World War, the PPSh was supplied in large quantities to Soviet client states and Communist guerrilla forces. The 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, which were licensed copies of the PPSh-41 with small mechanical revisions. The weapon was widely used during the Korean War.

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 that conflict, especially at night.[19] 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.[19] As 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."[19] Other U.S. servicemen, however, felt that their M2 carbines were superior to the PPSh-41 at the typical engagement range of 100–150 meters.[20]


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 1000 rounds per minute, 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.[21]

The PPSh drum magazine holds 71 rounds. In practice, misfeeding is likely to occur with more than about 65.[22] 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.


A German soldier with the PPSh-41 amid the ruins of Stalingrad, 1942.
A Red Army soldier armed with PPSh-41 marches a German soldier into captivity after the Battle of Stalingrad, 1943
A collection of submachine guns captured from NVA forces. From top to bottom: PPS-43, MP 40, K-50M.


See also


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  2. 1 2 Raeburn, Michael. We are everywhere: Narratives from Rhodesian guerillas. pp. 1–209.
  3. http://www.rhodesia.nl/jackal.htm
  4. The Defense Of Bosnia. Studio "FLASH" Sarajevo. April 1999. Event occurs at 18:29. Retrieved 22 May 2015.
  5. Наставление по стрелковому делу. Пистолет-пулемёт обр. 1941 г. [NSD-41. PPSh-41] (in Russian). Moscow: Voenizdat. 1941.
  6. Edwards, Paul M (2006). The Korean War. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-313-33248-7.
  7. http://ww2db.com/weapon.php?q=61
  8. http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=217
  9. Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II (Illustrated ed.). Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 261. ISBN 1-58663-762-2.
  10. 1 2 3 Болотин, Давид (1995). История советского стрелкового оружия и патронов (in Russian). Полигон. pp. 109–114. ISBN 5-85503-072-5.
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  14. Pauly, Roger (2004). Firearms: the life story of a technology, Greenwood Publishing Group, p. 141 ISBN 0-313-32796-3
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  16. "Tu-2 Gunships!". Retrieved 2010-11-23.
  17. Bishop, Chris (2002). The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II. New York: MetroBooks. ISBN 9781586637620. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  18. 1 2 3 Halberstam, David (2007). The Coldest Winter. Hyperion Press. p. 447. ISBN 978-1-4013-0052-4.
  19. Leroy Thompson (2011). The M1 Carbine. Osprey Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-84908-619-6.
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  21. Mosier, The Blitzkrieg Myth, p.86.
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