Rare and Experimental Versions of Soviet PPSh Submachine Gun

PPSh-41 submachine gun was the main SMG of the Soviet Union during the WW2. It was cheap to make and was deployed in large numbers. It was also chambered in 7.62x25mm Tokarev, which means it shared the same ammunition as the handgun and the same caliber/bore as pretty much all the WW2 small arms of Soviet Union. The relatively controllable high rate of fire (about 1000 rpm) coupled with the 71-round drum magazine and high-velocity cartridge proved to be pretty successful on the battlefields of the war. In this article, we’ll take a look at some rare, prototype and experimental versions of the PPSh SMG. The list below goes in no particular order.

1. Experimental PPSh with a Detachable Stock

Along with designing the PPSh-41, Shpagin was also working on a version which could be more compact. To reach that goal, he came up with a detachable stock mechanism. Once the stock was removed the gun still had a pistol grip. This design was considered hard to manufacture and was ultimately canceled.

2. PPSh-45

In 1945 Shpagin came back to the idea of creating a more compact version of his SMG. At that point, he probably had more time to dedicate to the project and came up with a more refined design. He made a pretty interesting metal folding stock. As you can see in the images, when folded, this stock formed a pistol grip. When extended, the stock became more like a rifle style one with no distinct pistol grip. He also included some changes to the safety mechanism and receiver design to make it even easier and cheaper to manufacture.

Shpagin designed two versions of this gun. First one (top image), had a possibility to use the existing PPSh-41 magazines (both box magazines and drums). The second version (bottom image) had a new magazine well design and was to be used with different box magazines. The overall length with the stock extended was 830mm (about 33″) and with the stock folded – 575mm (23″). The weight with a loaded 71 round drum magazine was 4,4 kg (9 lbs 11oz).

This version of PPSh was never mass produced or adopted. Possibly, the post-war tendency of development of intermediate cartridges and assault rifles rendered this SMG obsolete.

3. PPSh-2

In 1942 there was another trial held in the Soviet Union for a lighter and more compact SMG to be adopted and used along with the PPSh-41. A number of designers submitted their versions of the new gun among whom also was Shpagin. His new design was called PPSh-2.

This SMG was a simple blowback operated firearm with a fixed firing pin and firing from an open bolt. It was fed by 35-round box magazines which were different than that of PPSh-41. The gun had a different (improved) style magazine well. It also featured a reworked receiver which made the stamping much easier because one of the requirements of the trials was to have a design that would further simplify the manufacturing process. Besides the bolt and barrel, all other major components were made by stamping and attached to each other by riveting and spot welding.

The barrel jacket was shortened and there was a separate recoil compensator attached to the muzzle. The gun was full auto only, which allowed to simplify the trigger mechanism. The very first reports from the battlefield showed that PPSh is mainly used in full auto mode and with short bursts. That’s another reason why Shpagin decided to remove the single shot capability.

Another trial requirement was to reduce the rate of fire, which is 550 rpm on the PPSh-2. It also featured a piece of a composite material which worked as a buffer and probably as an additional measure to reduce the rate of fire.

The wood stock was detachable. There was also a version with telescoping metal stock. Another interesting design feature was the way safety worked on this firearm. It had a rather large dust cover, which when closed not only worked as a dust cover (closing the charging handle slot and the ejection port) but also as a safety. The dust cover locked the bolt either on its forward or rearmost (cocked) positions by catching the charging handle in the corresponding slot. That also should’ve been working great as a drop safety.

The trials commission pointed out the advantages of the PPSh-2 as being easy to make, robust and capable of shooting at a low rate of fire. Among disadvantages were the sensitivity to dust and excessive lubrication (especially in extremely cold conditions). Although the recoil compensator worked well, the commission noted that it generates an excessive amount of flash which makes it hard to shoot from tanks. The officials also didn’t like the detachable stock. It had an unreliable attachment mechanism and they thought that soldiers will lose the stocks on the battlefield.

Some high ranking officers were insisting to allow Shpagin to fix the problems and have a second stage of trials. However, it was a war time and arranging the second stage would be a luxury. The result of these trials was the adoption of Alexei Sudayev’s design which became known as the PPS-43.

4. Curved Barreled PPSh

By the end of the WW2 and right after it, Soviets experimented with curved barrel concept. They had some captured Nazi Germany samples of such firearms and tried to make their own versions. One of the host firearms for such a project was a PPSh SMG. This gun had a 30° curved barrel. The test firing showed that the accuracy was unsatisfactory even at close ranges (100 meters). Further development of the curved barreled PPSh was halted.

Curved barreled firearms were developed for many purposes – shooting from the trenches and corners without exposing yourself, shooting from inside the bunkers, protecting the close perimeter of tanks (which main weapons couldn’t reach) etc. Pretty much all of the curved barrel weapon projects in all the countries proved to be unrealistic and not that useful as they seemed to be on the paper.

5. PPSh with a Night Vision Scope

This one is actually a plain PPSh. What sets it apart, is that it is equipped with a night vision scope. Probably the image lacks the IR spotlight and the batteries –  something descriptive for the first night vision designs of the late war era. Some sources say that the model designation of the scope was Ts-3 (Ц-3).

6. Aircraft Mounted PPSh-41s

In 1944 Tupolev plant has designed an experimental aircraft called Tu-2Sh. It had 88 PPSh-41s in the bomb compartment. It was supposed to be used against infantry. So when the aircraft was diving into an attack, the compartment would open and it would fire the SMGs downward at the enemy infantry. 88 PPSh-41s each equipped with a 71 round drum would simultaneously start firing and dump all the 6248 rounds in less than 5 seconds. For reloading, the whole set of PPShs was lowered and manually reloaded. This set of 88 PPShs was called “Fire Hedgehog” (Огненный ёж).

The tests showed that this setup would have a devastating effect if aimed and accurately fired on a group of infantry. However, the impossibility to reload the guns from inside the aircraft during the flight, as well as the extremely short time of firing, forced them to abandon the idea.

This doesn’t really qualify to our list. The guns are simple PPSh-41s. Nevertheless, the way they are deployed is really unique and unusual, so I decided to include them on the list too.

That’s the list of rare and experimental Soviet PPSh submachine guns. If you know about a version that I missed to include in the list, please let me know in the comments.


P.S. The correct pronunciation of PPSh is not P-P-S-H. It is spelled as P-P-Sh, because the Sh (Ш) is the first letter of the designer’s surname – Shpagin. Russian pronunciation of the PPSh sounds like so: Pe-Pe-Shah.



www. otvaga2004.ru

Hrachya H

Being a lifelong firearms enthusiast, Hrachya always enjoys studying design, technology and history of guns and ammunition. His knowledge of Russian allows him to translate and make Russian/Soviet/Combloc small arms related information available for the English speaking audience.
Should you need to contact him, feel free to shoot him a message at Hrachya@staff.thefirearmblog.com


  • Dickie

    A limp barrell is no good

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  • datimes

    I can see how the Soviets would believe a few dozen Tu-2Sh’s strafing ground troops was a viable weapon.

    • Major Tom

      Basically a (multiple) Minigun armed AC-47 before there was the AC-47 or the Minigun.

    • Brick

      I’d just hate to be the poor guy that has to reload all those drum mags.

      • Michael Gallagher

        Being in the rear with the gear on a relatively safe airbase that probably had regular meals and a tent to sleep in sure beat the hell out of being on the front lines. A great job if you could get it for the times.

      • William Elliott

        you have two racks per plane, one in use while the other one is being reloaded at the air base…

  • mechamaster

    That “Aircraft Mounted PPSh-41s”, maybe it can be revived as the COIN-Aircraft / UAV gunpod , especially the unmanned helicopter like the Fire Scout https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ede61a0b915c9752954c9240b0374d28ff0a2940fa0924d4cac5cc5b1c46a2b0.jpg

  • PK
    • Hrachya H

      Wow! What is that?

      • PK

        No clue! Made in 1943, it’s basically just called the 7.62mm, submachine gun, smaller (7,62-mm пистолет-пулемет уменьшенных размеров) which isn’t a terribly descriptive name and leads far too many places when trying to find additional information.

        I’d suggest you give the whole book a try. It’s filled with things about which I had no knowledge!

        • Hrachya H

          Could you please tell the title of that book?

          • PK

            Here’s the full name, since just the title and no author wasn’t very helpful. Sorry about that!

            Ю.А.Нацваладзе “Оружие победы. Коллекция стрелкового оружия системы А.И. Судаева в собрании музея”

          • Hrachya H


          • Hrachya H

            Hmmm … judging by the book title it is possibly a Sudaev design

          • PK

            Well, yes. I figured it still counted as being based off the PPSh.

            There’s another book sort of like it, also containing things based on the Shpagin designs, but for Degtyaryov’s experiments. Seeing how the “big names” built off each other is fascinating.

          • Clayton Anderson

            “Sorry for the poor quality, it came from the best digital copy of Natsvaladze’s “Weapons of Victory” that I could find.”

  • Brett baker

    Glad to see we’re not the only ones who come up with unworkable stuff.

  • Anonymoose

    That’s a lot of burp!

  • noob

    With all the emphasis on shortness I’m surprised they didn’t try telescoping the bolt like an uzi and then bullpupping the action – unlike a closed bolt design having the open bolt sear catch the bolt on the front end of the telescoped part of the bolt that wraps around the barrel would have identical trigger pull characteristics as a sear that catches the back end of the open bolt in a conventional telescoped open bolt.

    Make an ejection window in the bolt just like the slide on the pistol and force every comrade to shoot right handed and you’ve just saved 11 to 13 inches.

  • Joby

    I like how they left the sights on the curved barrel design. It’s as if they just headed the barrel and shroud up with a blowtorch and tweaked it with a wrench.

    Actually that might be exactly what they did.

  • 3 of 11

    While we are on the subject of how to pronounce Russian things. That 5.45 ammo is not 7N6. In English letters it should be 7P6.

    • Hrachya H

      Nope. 7N6 (7Н6 in Russian) is correct.

  • Lee Enfield

    Unfortunately my 9mm pps-43 is a jamomatic that comes up with spectacular and crazy types of failures. Looks great but runs like crap.

  • Michael Rice

    That folding stock/grip is actually pretty neat, wonder what the ergonomics is on it.

  • pbla4024

    It is surprising they did not come with something like K-50M.

  • RazorHawk

    Whenever i see an article about SMGs, my first thought is always: repeal all gun laws.

  • BrandonAKsALot

    I’m just reading through this seeing all these prototypes I’ve seen before, but still love looking at and then I see the damn plane. 88 PPSH’s? That is seriously like the greatest drunk idea I have ever seen. Forget mounting machine guns, we mount an entire battery of smg’s to an aircraft. God, I love Russian engineers.

  • mikewest007

    Watch what the Mosfilm prop department did to a PPSh:
    The image comes from a 1988 Polish-Soviet comedy “Deja Vu”. They needed something “American” for a scene, came up with this.

  • Zebra Dun

    You could say the PPSH was the first gun to go BRRRRRRT.

  • Scott