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MP40

The MP40 (Maschinenpistole 40, literally "Machine Pistol 40") is a submachine gun developed in Germany and used extensively by paratroopers and platoon and squad leaders, and other troops during World War II. The MP40 was characterized by its relatively low rate of fire and low recoil.

History

The MP40 is descended from its predecessor, the MP38. The MP36, a prototype made of machined steel, was developed independently by Erma's Berthold Geipel with funding from the German army. It took design elements from Heinrich Vollmer's VPM 1930 and EMP. Vollmer then worked on Berthold Geipel's MP36 and in 1938 submitted a prototype to answer a request from the German Armament services for a new submachine gun, which was adopted as MP38. The MP38 was a simplification of the MP36, as the MP40 was a further simplification of the MP38, with certain cost-saving alterations, notably in the use of more pressed rather than machined parts.

Other changes resulted from experiences with the several thousand MP38s in service since 1939, used during the invasion of Poland. The changes were incorporated into an intermediate version, the MP38/40, and then used in the initial MP40 production version. Just over 1 million would be made of all versions in the course of the war.

The MP40 was often called the "Schmeisser" by the Allies, after weapons designer Hugo Schmeisser. Hugo Schmeisser himself did not design the MP40 but held a patent on the magazine. He designed the MP41, which was a MP40 with a wooden rifle stock and a selector, identical to those found on the earlier MP28 submachine gun. The MP41 was not introduced as a service weapon with the German Army, but saw limited use with some SS and police units. They were also exported to Germany's ally, Romania. The MP41's production run was brief, as Erma filed a successful patent infringement lawsuit against Schmeisser's employer, Haenel.

Design

Both MP38 and MP40 submachine guns are open-bolt, blowback-operated automatic arms. Fully automatic fire was the only setting, but the relatively low rate of fire allowed for single shots with controlled trigger pulls. The bolt features a telescoping return spring guide which serves as a pneumatic recoil buffer. The cocking handle was permanently attached to the bolt on early MP38s, but on late production MP38s and MP40s, the bolt handle was made as a separate part. It also served as a safety by pushing the head of handle into a separate notch above the main opening, which locked the bolt either in the cocked or forward position. The absence of this feature on early MP38s resulted in field expedients such as leather harnesses with a small loop, used to hold the bolt in forward position.

The receiver was originally machined steel but this was a time-consuming and expensive process. This prompted the development of a simpler version that used stamped steel and electro-spot welding as much as possible. The MP38 also features longitudinal grooving on the receiver and bolt, as well as a circular opening on the magazine housing. These features were suppressed on the M38/40 and MP40.

One idiosyncratic and visible feature on most MP38 and MP40 submachine guns was an aluminum, steel, or bakelite resting bar or support under the barrel which was used to steady the weapon when firing over the side of open top armored personnel carriers such as the Sdkfz 251 half-track. A handguard was located between the magazine housing and pistol grip and was made of synthetic material derived from bakelite. The barrel lacked any form of insulation, which often resulted in burns for the supporting hand if it strayed. It also had a compact folding metal stock, the first for a submachine gun, resulting in a shorter weapon when folded, but it was at times insufficiently durable for hard use in combat.

Although the MP40 was generally reliable, a major weak point was its 32-round magazine. Unlike the Thompson's double-column, dual-feed magazine, the MP38 and MP40 used a double-column, single-feed design. The single-feed resulted in increased friction against the remaining cartridges moving upwards towards the feed lips, occasionally resulting in a failure to feed; the problem was exacerbated by the presence of dirt or dust. Another problem was that the magazine was also sometimes misused as a handhold, which could cause the weapon to malfunction when hand pressure on the magazine body caused the magazine lips to move out of the line of feed, since the magazine well did not keep the magazine firmly locked. German soldiers were trained to grasp either the intended handhold on the underside of the weapon or the magazine housing with the supporting hand to avoid feed malfunctions.

Unlike the impression given by popular culture, MP40s were generally issued only to paratroopers and platoon and squad leaders; the majority of soldiers carried Karabiner 98k rifles. However, experience with Soviet tactics where entire units armed with submachine guns outgunned their German counterparts in short range urban combat caused a shift in tactics, and by the end of the war it was being issued to entire assault platoons on a limited basis.

There were never enough MP40s because raw material and labor costs made it expensive to produce alongside the Kar98 rifles. Due to this, starting in 1943, the German army moved to replace both the Kar-98 rifle and MP-40 with the new MP-43/44 assault rifle, also known in its production model as the StG44.

Copies and post-war usage

The MP38 or MP40 was a pattern for diverse submachine guns such as:

  • As the design of the M3 submachine gun started, the designers looked at Sten guns and captured MP40s.
  • The Spanish company Star Bonifacio Echeverria, S.A. produced several variants as follows:
    • Star Model Z-45 model : Produced in 9mm Largo and contains parts of wood (butt and hand guards) and is a version of folding stock similar to the German MP40 and the magazine carried 30 rounds. It served in Spain, Cuba, Chile, Portugal and Saudi Arabia and was used for the first time in combat in the battle of Sidi Ifni.
    • Star Model Z-62 and Z-63 : A much modified variant which entered production in 1963 in good condition and its more well-known difference is than the Z-62 uses the 9 ammunition of length and the Z-63 the ammunition of 9mm Parabellum. They have differences of internal design but by outside they are practically identical. There are parts of no wood and are completely metal. resembles more the Beretta MAB.
    • Star Model Z-70 and Z-70B : Similar in appearance to the Z-62 but with a modified safety, the caliber is in 9 mm Parabellum after the entrance of Spain in NATO and both models incorporate the shipper of 30 firings.
  • The Yugoslav Peoples Army used a similar submachine gun in 7.62x25mm Tokarev produced by Zastava called the M56 which was used in some quantity in the various conflicts after the breakup of Yugoslavia. It was recognized by its long thin barrel, curved magazines, and a permanently mounted folding bayonet.
  • The Norwegian Army used the MP40 from 1945 until about 1970 and other parts of the Norwegian armed forces, such as the Norwegian Home Guard, still issued the MP40 up into the early 1990s.
  • After the war the MP40 was still the standard submachine gun of the Israeli army and was often used in the Palestinian area. It remained the official submachine gun of the Israeli paratroopers until 1956.
  • Some MP40s were in use by the Kosovo Liberation Army in the Kosovo War in 1999

Two MP40s were used by the LAPD SWAT team during the famous May 1974 shootout with members of the terrorist Symbionese Liberation Army.

Variants and developments

  • MP40/I - main production version
  • MP40/II - experiment with two side by side 32-round magazines. The MP40/II was tested in 1942. This version of the MP40 has a two-magazine receiver that slides horizontally to use the additional magazine when the first becomes depleted. This design was intended to counter the superior firepower of the Russian PPSh-41, but made the weapon heavy and unbalanced in the field, and did not work well.. However, by 1943 the Soviets shifted the production of PPSh-41 drums to 35 round magazines to combat malfunctions.
  • MP41: A variant designed by Louis Schmeisser for the Haenel Company, which featured the receiver, operating mechanism, and magazine housing of the MP40 and the stock, trigger and fire selector similar to the MP28.
  • Many countries involved in World War II developed submachine guns which had a similar features to the MP40 (with a folding stock, magazine as a front handgrip, and production techniques). The most famous examples are the Russian PPS-43 and the American M3 submachine gun. Most derivative designs also copied the troublesome magazine design as well.
  • BD38 - a new semi-automatic reproduction of the MP38 submachinegun

Users

See also

References

Bibliography

  • The German Submachine Guns (downloadable) by Lyndon Haywood (H&L Publishing - HLebooks.com - 2001)

External links

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