Book Reviews: The MP38, 40, 40/1 and 41 Submachine Gun, Volume 1
by Larry S. Sterett

The MP38, 40, 40/1 and 41 Submachine Gun, Volume 1.

Copyright 2001.
ISBN 90-805583-2-X.
Distributed by Ironside International Publishers, Inc.,
Dept. SAR, PO Box 55,
Alexandria, VA 22313-0055.
Price $34.95, plus $6.00 s&h
Phone: 703-683-5486.
Reviewed by Larry S. Sterett.

This slim hardbound volume features more than 200 historical black and white photographs of the German MP38, MP40 and its variants. The majority of the photos have never appeared in any prior publication, having been gleaned from German and other archival sources.

The purpose of this book is to explain the history of the MP38 and MP40, their predecessors and variants that Hugo Schmeisser did not design and that models such as the MP38/40 never actually existed. (Schmeisser did design the MP41, manufactured by Haenel, probably for Rumania.) Following the usual preface, acknowledgements, and introduction, the book is divided into ten chapters, with the final one being sources, literature and notes.

The first eight chapters are devoted to discussion of the various models, including some experimental models, accessories, ammunition, and production. Lists of production codes, manufacturers, time periods, and estimated production figures for 1939-1944 are provided. Illustrations consist of excellent, detailed black and white photographs, including assembled and disassembled views, receiver cap and magazine markings - some 10 to 15 million or more magazines were manufactured - and miscellaneous features.

Chapter IX is the largest and consists entirely of propaganda photos illustrating the various models in service by German soldiers, and others, such as the Russian Cossack in a German uniform and the Slovenian female partisan carrying an MP41. Each of the photographs is accompanied by text explaining it, along with the approximate time frame, and the source of the photograph. They include desert and winter scenes, young soldiers and combat veterans, and even civilians in the last ditch army in early 1945. One of the most interesting shots is of a soldier in Tunisia carrying an MP38 or early MP40 in a dust cover. The cover protects the weapon from dust, except for the lower portion of the magazine, and the barrel, but can be removed quickly in an emergency.

This unique volume is one any fan of the MP38 and MP40 machine pistols will find worthwhile. Almost as well known as the Thompson, the Maschinenpistoles 38 and 40, and variants, were forerunners of things to come. Although copied and improved on by later designers, many of the original MP38 and MP40 submachine guns are still being used in various parts of the world today, more than six decades later. This book illustrates the guns as they were originally used.


by Guus de Vries and Bas J. Martens
ISBN 90-805583-6-2,
Copyright 2003
Special Interest Publicaties BV
P.O. Box 282,
6800 AG Arnhem,
The Netherlands
USA distributor:
Ironside International Publishers Inc,
Dept. BG, P.O. Box 55,
Alexandra, VA 22313-0055
Price $38.95 plus $6 s&h
Reviewed by Lee Arten

The Mkb 42, MP43, MP44 and the Sturmgewehr 44 is the fourth book in the Propaganda Photo Series written by Guus de Vries and Bas J. Martens, two historians from the Netherlands. The men have written 12 books of firearms history. Others in the series include The MP38, 40, 40/1 and 41 Submachine Gun, The K98k Rifle and The P08 Luger Pistol.

I learned some new things from the book. One was that the combat philosophy that led to selective-fire assault weapons was discussed by the German military as early as the 1920s. Complaints about weapons used in World War I were that the 7.92x57mm cartridge had too much recoil and too much range. The Gewehr ’98 was said to be too long and lacking in magazine capacity. Submachine guns were one proposed solution. Rifles like the MKb 42, MP43, MP44 and the Sturmgewehr 44 were another.

As with other military weapons in history, development of these rifles was a political as well as a military process. Their proponents had to deal with infighting between manufacturers, production problems acerbated by Allied bombing raids, and more. The authors state: “Even as late as August, 1944, competition among German companies was stiff. At the same time, Haenel’s director Schmeisser staged a successful coup. He got the committee to agree that “alien companies would not get involved in the further development of devices without consulting the mother company,” thus effectively blocking the initiatives of ERMA.”

On the political front they relate: “The Fuhrer was not impressed. In his opinion, an infantry weapon should have a range of at least 1200 to 1500 meters. The troops needed sniper rifles and fast-firing machineguns, such as the recently introduced MG42, and not weapons for an intermediate cartridge.”

Hitler proved to be a poor military planner in this instance too. The work on assault rifles went on, and he eventually approved production.

The book contains many photographs of the rifles that came before the SturmGewehr. One was the select-fire Vollmer M35/III. It was the first rifle made for an intermediate cartridge, the 7.75 x 39.5 mm. The caption with the photos of the Vollmer rifle says, “for obscure reasons, the design was not pursued.”

Besides photos of early rifles, one of the book’s plates shows a line-up of intermediate cartridges including the 7.5x35mm Swiss, the 7.75x39.5mm (Genshow) and several other variations on the theme. Another shows an original box of 15 cartridges for the Sturmgewehr.

Other photographs illustrate types of magazines, and six different markings found on the weapons. One rifle had the original mark crossed out and a new one added.

The authors write: “The Sturmgewehr has the doubtful honour of being the most frequently renamed gun in history”... and “There may have been moments that nobody knew which was the correct designation and this lead to weapons that were re-stamped, some even getting earlier or non-official designations.”

Other photos of interest show a device for carrying an assault rifle on a bicycle, and devices for shooting a SturmGewehr from cover. “Shoot around corners” devices have recently gotten new notice on the Internet. This proves there aren’t many old ideas that can’t be revamped.

The longest part of the book is section “IX Propaganda Pictures.” The authors write: “The propaganda photos were collected from German and other archives, and were taken by official German war photographers. During World War II, there were about 2,500 official photographers and reporters... Their work was considered so important, that some of them were given permits that gave them immediate access to any form of transport at any time on any front.”

Photos include shots of Field Marshal Albrecht Kesselring inspecting weapons in Italy, and watching as an MP43/1 is fired from prone and offhand. There are shots of Mountain and Ski troops carrying the MP43/1 in Russia and SS troops with another variant of the weapon. Also included are pictures of a factory building SturmGewehrs, and a machine used to test fire them.

MPs in use by partisans are also included. Two of them picture Polish resistance fighters with captured MPs. Another shows German men, wearing civilian topcoats and hats, organized for defense late in the war. The men carry a variety of arms, including an MP41 made by Haenel.

I recommend this book to those interested in World War II history and in the German weapons developed during the war.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V7N10 (July 2004)
and was posted online on August 9, 2013


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