PPSh-41 vs. German MP 40: battle of iconic submachine guns

Vladimir Onokoy
by Vladimir Onokoy

Unlike many other countries, Russia always celebrates May 9. In fact, it is one of the biggest holidays of the year. On May 9, 1945, at 00.16 local time, Germans signed the Instrument of Surrender, which ended World War II in Europe.

Every year on May 9 there is a parade, big celebration, movies about WW2 on TV… It is a very important holiday when people remember those who laid down their lives to defeat Nazis.

Another great thing about May 9 is that you can use it as an excuse to get access to film some really cool stuff – WW2 small arms, tanks, vehicles. Usually, it is very hard to get access to government-owned collections, find the right ammo, book the range, get the camera crew, but when you say “This video will be released at May 9!”, it opens a lot of doors.

This is how this video was made. We needed something for May 9 and I suggested we film the ultimate competition of WW2 submachineguns – German MP40, British “Sten” MK II, Thompson M1921 and Soviet PPSH-41.

All of those weapons were in Kalashnikov concern reference firearms collection. I just had to make sure all those weapons are actually working, have ammo and magazines.

Thompson M1921 from Kalashnikov concern reference firearms collection (picture courtesy of Kalashnikov media: https://kalashnikov.media/en/)

In a week, I found PPSh magazines, visited a few really shady places to buy Thompson and MP40 mags. What I couldn’t find were STEN mags and 45 ACP ammo for Thompson. With that in mind, I decided to scale down the production and leave only PPSh and MP40 in the video.

Tests had to be simple, dynamic and interesting to watch. And since I would never dare to torture test those fine pieces of history, we tested full-auto controllability, accuracy and obstacle penetration.

Full-auto controllability was amazing with both weapons, certainly much better than with modern sub guns that fire from a closed bolt (MP5 aside). Later in the day, I shot another few hundred rounds to make enough B-roll, and you literally could not tell the difference between MP40 and PPSH groups (pictured above and below). Unfortunately, in the video, I stated rates of fire incorrectly – lesson learned.

Accuracy test was the biggest problem. We shot two groups it in the middle of the day, never checked the targets and filmed the results a few hours later, so there was no time to reshoot. I think MP40 is capable of much better accuracy. Hopefully, I will test that in the future videos.

Obstacle penetration was a lot of fun, out of 15-20 shots PPSh managed to get through two cinder blocks twice, MP40 easily penetrated the first block but bullet never went through the second one.

Nothing unusual there, the velocity of 9×19 Barnaul (Silver Bear) we used is 1180 feet per second (360 meters per second), and the velocity of military ball 7.62×25 is around 1591 feet per second (484 meters per second).

In the future, I will try to do more tests like that with historical weapons. If you have any ideas or suggestions on what you want to see – let me know in the comments, I will do my best to make it happen.

Vladimir Onokoy
Vladimir Onokoy

Vladimir Onokoy is a small arms subject matter expert and firearms instructor. Over the years he worked in 20 different countries as a security contractor, armorer, firearms industry sales representative, product manager, and consultant. His articles were published in the Recoil magazine, Small Arms Review, Small Arms Defence Journal, and Silah Report. He also contributed chapters to books from the "Vickers Guide: Kalashnikov" series. Email: machaksilver at gmail dot com. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Vladimir-Onokoy-articles-and-videos-about-guns-and-other-unpopular-stuff-107273143980300/ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vladonokoy/ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/machaksilver

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  • TheGreatDeception TheGreatDeception on Jul 31, 2018


    • Brett baker Brett baker on Aug 01, 2018

      @TheGreatDeception PPshs are reliable bro. And I've never heard of Mercedes continuing to accelerate after you let up on the gas pedal. Whereas I HAVE seen an MP-40 keep firing after the trigger was released.

  • Wicapiwakan Wicapiwakan on Aug 01, 2018

    hot take: the MP-40 sucked. it was too heavy and too expensive, and any accuracy benefits it may have had (which are way overblown) are frankly irrelevant for this type of weapon.

    the PPS-43 was the ideal SMG, and the M3 greasegun was up there too. the worst was the thompson, which was even heavier and even more expensive than the MP-40.