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MP40, MP38

German submachine guns


MP40, MP38
Type: German submachine guns
History: In 1938, having contemplated the trends and tactics of the Spanish Civil War, the German Army decided that a sub-machine gun was needed; not, apparently, convinced that any of the contemporary designs available were what they wanted,
they instructed Herr Giepel to produce one to their specification. As it happened, Giepel had been working on a design for some time, and with a few slight changes this was accepted as the MP38. It broke new ground in weapon design by having no wood anywhere in its construction and by having a folding stock. The bolt was driven by a return spring contained in Vollmer's telescoping tube and it carried a spring-retracted firing pin. The muzzle was threaded to take a blank-firing attachment or a combined muzzle cover and cleaning rod guide, and beneath the barrel was a hook-like steel bar which was to prevent damage to the barrel when firing through the gun-port of an armored vehicle and which was designed to prevent the gun being pulled inadvertently inboard during firing should the gunner lose his footing.

submachine gun MP38 in use on the Russian Front 1941
The German MP38 in use on the Russian front in 1941. The Wehrmacht assisted the Red Army in their scorched earth policy.

For all its innovations the MP38 was still largely made by conventional methods, and while the Army were pleased with it, they demanded a weapon more easily mass-produced. The MP38 was therefore critically examined and redesigned to make the maximum use of stampings and welded assemblies. The result was known as the MP40 and replaced the MP38 as the standard sub-machine gun, becoming virtually the German Army's trademark. The principal changes were that the body was of stamped sheet steel, formed and welded; the magazine housing was ribbed instead of plain; while the body top was plain instead of ribbed. The cocking handle was redesigned so that it could be pressed inwards when the bolt was forwards so as to engage an enlarged portion of the handle in a slot milled in the receiver, thus locking the bolt forward and preventing inadvertent discharge should the gun be dropped on its butt.

Maschinenpistole MP40

MP38 / 40: A modification of the MP38 to bring it up to the safety standard of the MP40 by fitting it with the MP40s cocking handle and cutting suitable slot in the receiver.

MP40 / 1: The first model of the MP40 had a
smooth-surfaced magazine housing and the cocking handle of the MP38. When these were changed by a retrospective modification to use the cocking handle of the Maschinenpistole 40 and the ribbed magazine housing, the official designation became the MP40 / 1.

MP40 / 2: During the Russian campaign the German troops complained that the Russian soldier with a 71-round drum on his PPSh sub-machine gun had a considerable edge over the German with a 32-round box magazine. As a result, a special magazine housing was produced which allowed two magazines to be inserted side by side; one was aligned with the barrel and fired, after which the second could be slid across into alignment and fired. The device was cumbersome and only produced in limited numbers; its principal drawback was that the weapon with two loaded magazines weighed over 12lbs, while the Russian weighed somewhat less and still had seven shots in hand.

Sergant of the Afrika Corps with MP40
A Sergant of the Panzergrenadiere of the German Africa corps, armed with the MP40 sub machine gun and reserve magazines, is waiting for the attack.

German Paratroopers in Rome with MP40
German paratroops in Rome, 1944, with MP40 sub-machine guns.

Soldiers of the French Legion with MP40 at the Eastern front
Two members of the French Legion on the Eastern front. The soldier in front is armed with the MP40.

Maschinenpistole MP38 and MP40
sub machine gun
9 mm
35.5 in
9 lb 2 oz
10.0 in long, 6 grooves, right hand twist
Feed system

25- or 32-round detachable box magazine

System of operation
Blowback, selective fire
Muzzle velocity
1250 feet/sec
Rate of fire
500 rpm
Erfurter Maschinenfabrik B.Giepel GmbH (Ermawerke), Erfurt
Production delivery
Final delivery
Production figure (MP40)
1+ Millions from MP40, from this aprox. 750,000 from January 1942 to February 1945
Price per unit
60 RM
= ~27 $ = ~13 £

3d model MP38
3d model of MP38

PC game WW2 Total


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