PPSH-41 SMG. General overview

The PPSH-41 (Пистолет-пулемет Шпагина обр.1941, Shpagin submachine gun, model 1941) is one of the most iconic weapons of  WWII. It was, and currently still is, the most mass-produced SMG in the world.


This sub machine gun was created by Gergiy Semyonovich Shpagin in 1940. The new model was much simpler to produce than the PPD-34, PPD-34/38 and PPD-40 SMG's that were used by Red Army, because of the wide use of stamping instead of milling. In late 1940 the PPSH SMG was officially accepted into service, starting in 1941 it was supposed to be launched into mass production. The last PPD-40 SMG's were manufactured in early 1941.

 

PPSH-41 production started at factory No. 367 NKV in Zagorsk. It was a newly created factory, specially built for the manufacturing of PPSH-41 SMG's. At the very beginning production was very low, before the beginning of the war in June 1941 it managed to produce less than 2,000 PPSH-41's. In Autumn 1941 the factory was evacuated to  Vyatskie Polyany in the Kirov region. Until the end of production in 1946, this factory was located in Vyatskie Polyanu and remained the primary PPSH-41 manufacturer


Considering that Red Army required a much higher number of PPSH-41 SMG's during the initial period of war, than factory No. 367 was able to produce, the Soviet government decided to start production at several other factories. None of these manufacturers had any previous experience in the production of small arms. From the first point of view the PPSH-41 seems easy to produce, but experience showed that it still was difficult to make with the equipment available and hard to make within production tolerances.

 

Because of these difficulties, some factories that were supposed to start production were not able to do so. In addition to factory No. 367, two others factories with high rates of production were located in Moscow. They were a factory in the name of Stalin (ZIS factory), and factory No. 43 from the People's Commissariat of Aviation. All other factories produced PPSH-41 SMG's in much smaller numbers compared to them.

Production of PPSH-41's decreased in 1945, compared to 1944, only three factories remained as manufacturers (there were seven of them in 1944 and ten in 1943). Small scale production existed even in 1946 and 1947, but SMG's were produced only by the main factory, No. 367. In 1947 production was completely stopped, however, magazines and replacement parts were produced by factory No. 367 until 1955.

 


The table below provides information about production plans for all manufacturers in the 1941-1945 period according to the Resolutions of the State Committee of Defense, the highest governing body during the war, which was headed by J. Stalin. They do not represent real produced numbers, but they at least allow for a roughly estimate of the quantity produced.

There is information about small batches of PPSH-41 SMG's, produced by other factories according to orders made by local authorities (civil and military), but production is unconfirmed. Even if they were really issued, the number of manufactured SMG's was very small - only hundreds.

Planned numbers for PPS-41 production.

1941-1945 data provided according to the State Committee of Defense Resolutions

* - actual produced quantity

Factory markings, used by PPSH-41 manufacturers

Factory  No. 367 NKV markings.

Picture from open sources

Factory  No. 43 NKAP markings.

Picture from open sources

Iskra factory markings.

Serial number is not shown.

Picture from open sources.

Factory  No.828 NKMV markings.

Serial number is not shown.

Picture from open sources.

1946 PPSH-41 from the factory No.367

Picture from open sources.

Counstruction features

The PPSH-41 passed through several updates during the war. These were based on the experiences of its use in the field and discovered design problems. Some manufacturers had their own unique features that were present on SMG's manufactured by them, which were not present on guns made by other manufacturers. This gives a large number of different production variations that are very difficult to cover in brief overview. Only a few basic differences will be mentioned below. Considering that the majority of PPS-41's on the market now are in refurbished condition, these features can be randomly mixed on them.

Sights

The earliest PPSh-41 SMG had a rear sight leaf with settings up to 500 meters and a removable front sight hood.  According to feedback from field use, it appeared that SMG's were rarely used at distances over 200 m, and the removable front sight hood was very easy to lose. As a result, the rear sight leaf was replaced with a two position flip rear sight, the front sight hood was updated and was locked in place by welding or rivets. During postwar refurbishment SMG's that originally had the detachable front side hood were updated with a late pattern hood which was welded in place. There are two types of the 2-position rear sight - one is an early pattern, without side protection, it was manufactured only by factory No. 367 from very late 1941 until early 1942. The other is a late pattern, with side protection, it was manufactured starting in 1942 by all other factories.

Early PPSH-41 with a leaf rear sight.

Picture from open sources

Early pattern 2-position rear sight.

Picture from open sources

Late pattern 2-position rear sight.

Picture from open sources

On the left - late pattern 2-position rear sight, on the right - early pattern 2-position rear sight.

Picture from open sources

Early pattern detachable front sight hood.

Picture from open sources

Late pattern non-detachable front sight hood.

Picture from open sources

Early pattern detachable front sight hood.

Late pattern non-detachable front sight hood.

Receiver and lower housing
 

Receiver/ lower housing pin (also locks the barrel).

Early PPSH-41 had a two-piece pin, which was later updated to a different design (one piece solid pin which was locked with a thin tube through a hole in the receiver). The new design was created by factory No. 367 in 1942 and was used by it up to 1946, when it seems that production was rolled back to the early design.

All other manufacturers continued to use the older design up to 1945 (possibly there are some exclusions, but they are not recorded yet).

Early pattern pin

Late pattern pin

On the left - early pattern, on the right - late pattern.

Picture from open sources

Lower housing

 

In 1942 some manufacturers started to reinforce the magazine attachment area on the lower housing with welded overlays to increase its durability. In 1943 some factories started production of a modernized lower housing with a strengthened top part. However, non-modernized lower housing without strengthened areas was still produced by some manufacturers until 1944.

Early pattern lower housing, 1941-1944 production

Picture from open souces

Lower housing with enforcement overlays, 1942-1944 production

Picture from open souces

Lower housing with a strengthened top part, 1943-1947 production

Picture from open sources

Bolt
 

There are more than 5 bolt variations, which have differences in the handle, safety, and shape of the bolt. Detailed descriptions of these differences can be long, so only the main differences will be mentioned - early bolt handles had a rounded shape at the end, late bolt handles had a square profile end. The square handle was introduced in 1941, however, some manufacturers continued production of rounded handles in 1942.

Early pattern bolt handle, 1941-1942 production

Picture from open souces

Late pattern bolt handle, 1941-1942 production

Picture from open souces

Stock
 

None of the manufacturers up to 1947 produced stocks with factory installed cross bolts. Only solid wood stocks were issued (some trials with different wood types were made, but mass-produced stocks were made from birch). Majority of the wartime stocks were updated with crossbolts during postwar refurbishment, they were also used during wartime to repair damaged stocks. The earliest replacement stocks that were produced by repair depots after the war also do not have crossbolts.

Some refurbished PPS-41 SMGs can be found with a laminated stock, these stocks are postwar production

Stock without cross bolt. The same configuration was issued by all factories

Picture from open sources

Stock with cross bolt. Repair modification

Picture from open sources

Laminated stock. Postwar production

Picture from open sources

Magazine
 

The PPSH-41 was accepted into service with a 71-round drum magazine. The first stick magazines (35 rounds) were accepted into service in January 1942. There were few modifications by different manufacturers. All of them were produced from 1 mm thick steel and had "ribs". In 1944 a new model without ribs was accepted into service, made from 1.5 mm steel. Production of stick magazines stopped in 1945, drum mags were produced until 1955. Both models up to 1945 were produced simultaneously.

In different years PPSH SMG's were issued from factories with different magazines configurations. For example, factory No. 367 in 1942 issued 94% of SMG's with 2 drum magazines, 6% with 3 drum magazines, in 1943 - 82% with 2 drum magazines, 13.5% with 3 drum magazines, 4.5% with 6 stick magazines, in 1944 - 80% with 2 drum magazines, 20% with 6 stick magazines, in 1945 -72.5% with 2 drum magazines, 20.5% with 3 drum magazines, 7% with 6 stick magazines, in 1946-1947 - 100% with 3 drum magazines.

On the left - earliest pattern of the PPSH-41 drum, identical to the PPD-40 drum except the size of the feed lips (PPD drum had a cut left lip), 1941- early 1942 production period.

On the right - next pattern, 1942-early 1943 production

Picture from open sources

Modernized PPSH-41 drums from different manufacturers, 1943-1947

Picture from open sources

PPSH-41 stick mags, from the left to the right:

1) 1942-very early 1943; 2) - possibly late 1942 - early 1944; 3) - possibly late 1942 - early 1944; 4) 1944-1945.

Picture from open sources

Non-soviet PPSH-41 copies

Exact copies of PPSH-41 SMG's were produced by three countries - Hungary (were manufactured be Femary es Gepgyar, 01 in oval code) as 1948 Minta Geppisztoly, China as "Type-50" SMG and North Korea as "Type-49".

It is interesting that some Hungarian PPS-41 SMG's ended their lives in Soviets arsenals, some were found between refurbished examples, deactivated in Ukraine during 2000's. They were likely captured during the 1956 Hungarian revolution.

PPSH-41 SMG's were widely used in the DDR and Bulgaria, these were Soviet issued SMG's (mainly late war production). Later they were refurbished by those countries, the majority of them had locally produced stocks (from wood different from birch which was used for soviets stocks). Bulgarian-refurbished PPSH-41's had stocks with serial number stamped on them vertically (Soviets stamped it horizontally).

1952 Hungarian PPSH. Refurbished by Soviets. Deactivated in Ukraine during 2000's

Picture from open sources

Bulgarian-refurbished PPSH-41 with locally made stock. Stock has Bulgarian quality control marking - KK10 in a circle

Picture from open sources

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