The Soviet PPS-43 Submachine Gun

By Frank Iannamico

Prior to the outbreak of World War II, the Soviets had several of their weapon designers working on a suitable submachine gun for the army. However, during 1940, a decision was made to terminate development and pull all existing submachine guns from service. This decision would soon be reversed during Russia’s brief war with Finland where the Finns’ use of their submachine guns inflicted large numbers of casualties on the Red Army.

Although the Soviets initially thought the submachine gun had little military value, they would field more of the weapons than any other country during World War II. After the PPD 34, PPD 34/38 and PPD 40, the Soviets introduced a weapon that would become a national symbol of their victory over the Germans, the PPSh 41 and its iconic drum magazine.

The PPSh 41 was an effective weapon well suited to the Soviet’s massed infantry assault tactics, but the submachine gun was heavy and although relatively simple in construction a new weapon was needed that could be produced faster and cheaper. The PPSh 41 was deemed satisfactory for the infantry, but a more compact design was needed for tank crewmen and troops whose function was to support the infantry. However, the primary consideration was for a weapon that required less raw materials and labor hours to manufacture. In 1942, as the German invasion troops were advancing across Russia, Soviet weapon designers were faced with developing a submachine gun that was lighter, had a slower cyclic rate than the PPSh 41, and was fabricated primarily from pressed sheet metal.

As early as February of 1942, several prototype submachine guns were submitted by Valsiliy Degtyarev, Georgiy Shpagin, Aleksey Sudaev, Sergey Korovin and Nikolay Rukavishnikov. Georgiy Shpagin, the designer of the PPSh 41, submitted an updated version of that weapon designated as the PPSh 42. Shpagin’s new weapon was a simplified version of his PPSh 41. A rectangular-shaped receiver was fabricated from pressed steel. Like Sudaev’s PPS-43 design, the recoil spring guide was used to eject spent cartridge cases. The PPSh 42 had a wooden or metal folding buttstock that was detachable and a rear pistol grip. A short sheet metal ventilated shroud covered a portion of the barrel to serve as a foregrip. The barrel was fitted with a protected front sight and muzzle compensator. Sling attachment points were spot-welded to the left side of the barrel shroud and receiver. The PPSh 42 submachine gun was fed from a 35 round box magazine and only capable of full-automatic fire with a cyclic rate of approximately 600 rounds per minute. During testing, the PPSh 42 was found to have many flaws: the method of attaching the stock was fragile, it had excessive weight, and the weapon had poor accuracy.

None of the designs submitted were acceptable. Work resumed and a second trial was scheduled for April. Of all the weapons tested, the Sudaev entry proved superior, although some improvements were necessary before the weapon could be considered for production. Another trial was scheduled for July 1942. Sudaev’s weapon successfully passed the testing and was ordered to be placed in series production immediately. On 28 July, Sudaev’s submachine gun was adopted as the PPS-42. The manufacture of the weapon required 13.7 pounds of steel and only 2.7 machine hours, less than half of that required for fabrication of the PPSh 41 submachine gun. Production was initially assigned to the Voskov Instrument Factory in Sestroretsk, using a double-diamond logo with a letter B in the center. As the German army was advancing, the plant was relocated to Leningrad. The situation was chaotic, Leningrad was under siege as the factory was being reorganized, and at the same time new tooling and gages were being designed and fabricated so production could begin. The Kulakov factory in Leningrad was another company that produced a large number of PPS-43 submachine guns. The Kulakov factory symbol was an upward pointing arrow with a horizontal line at the bottom, inside of a triangle. A third manufacturer was Scetmach in Moscow, marking their weapons with a letter C. Other factories contributing to production of the PPS-43 included: the Tbilisi Instrument Factory, the Tbilisi Train Factory, and Artel Primus, Leningrad. One known magazine manufacturer was the Leningrad Metal Factory. After an extraordinary effort working around the clock, the first PPS weapons were delivered in early 1943.

While often overshadowed by its predecessor, the iconic PPSh 41 submachine gun, the PPS-43 was considered a superior weapon by the Soviets. Primarily as a result of the rush into production, many problems were encountered with the manufacturing methods resulting in the PPS-42 weapon being less than reliable in the field. Sudaev went to work to further improve his original design, which was adopted and designated as the PPS-43 model. The PPS-43 was lighter and shorter in length.

After the adoption of the PPS-43, the PPSh 41 remained in production. Rather than waste time and resources to retool the factories for the PPS 43, the Soviets realized that more submachine guns could be produced if both weapons were produced simultaneously.

The Soviet PPS-43 is a 7.62x25mm, full-automatic only weapon that fires from an open bolt. The cyclic rate is approximately 600 rounds per minute, nearly half of that of its predecessor the PPSh 41. The safety lever was located inside the trigger guard on early models and could lock the bolt in a forward or rear position. On later production the safety lever was moved to the right side of the trigger guard. The bolt handle is a simple tab that is on the right side of the receiver. The recoil spring guide rod also serves as a spent case ejector. The 10-inch, 4-groove chromium lined barrel is pressed and pinned into the receiver. The barrel is enclosed in a shroud that is an integral part of the receiver. A muzzle compensator is riveted onto the end of the shroud. The metal stock is unlocked by depressing a button on top of the receiver. The buttplate is also hinged and is folded when the stock is positioned on top of the receiver. A pistol grip is fitted, which aids in controlling the weapon. The rear sight has two-leaves graduated for 100 and 200 meters; the sight is well protected from damage by side ears. The front sight is a protected post that can be adjusted for elevation and drifted left or right to adjust windage. The magazine release is at the rear of the magazine well, and is protected by a shroud to prevent accidental release of the magazine. Two sling attachment points are located on the left side. Many of the features of the PPS-43 were borrowed from the earlier submachine gun designs of I.K. Bezruchko-Vysotsky. Using many innovative features from other designs has always been a practice of weapon designers. One of the keys to designing a successful weapon is to study previous designs and learn what worked and what did not. The double stack, double feed 35-round magazine is an improvement over the single-feed PPSh design. The PPS magazine is much easier to load and more reliable. The PPS-43 was not designed for a drum magazine.

Although a number of Communist nations used the PPS-43, only the Soviet Union, China and Poland are known to have manufactured the weapon. There were very few deviations from the original Soviet pattern other than receiver markings and the pattern of the pistol grips. The Soviet made PPS-43 weapons generally can be identified by a Cyrillic letter C (representing a letter S) molded on the grips. Chinese plastic grips will have a diamond or letter K on their grip panels. Polish plastic grips have no markings. All of the plastic grip panels had a checkered surface to provide a slip-free surface.

Poland was licensed to manufacture the Soviet PPS-43 design in 1950 as the Pistolet Maszynowy wz.43. The submachine gun was a very close copy of the PPS-43, with the original Soviet pattern folding metal buttstock. Factory markings were on top of the receiver consisting of a number inside of an oval. Known manufacturers of the weapons were: HCP Hipolit Cegielski, in the city of Poznan; a few prototypes were marked with the HCP logo but switched over to an encircled number 6 logo during production. The HCP plant was briefly renamed as the Joseph Stalin Metal Works from 1953-56, before reverting back to its original name. Other manufacturers included the Zaklady Metalowe im. gen. Waltera, Radom, using an encircled number 11, and Huta Baildon, Katowice marked with an encircled number 12. PPS-43 submachine guns were also made at the Polish magazine factory Zaklady Metalowe Wifama in Lódz, marked with the encircled 53 factory code. In 1952, a new model, designated as the 43/52, was fitted with a fixed wooden buttstock. The 43/52 variation was only manufactured at the HCP plant.

The People’s Republic of China manufactured a copy of the PPS-43 from 1953 to 1956 designated as the Type 54. The Type 54 was manufactured in several Chinese arsenals. The receivers were marked “replica 43 model” in Chinese characters, date of manufacture and serial number.

Though production was limited, Hungary made a variant of the PPS-43 called the 53M.

The Soviet PPS-43 and copies manufactured in Communist countries were chambered for the 7.62x25mm Tokarev cartridge, which was originally developed in 1929 for the Tokarev pistol. The cartridge case is a bottleneck design with a bullet weight of approximately 85.8 grains. The lightweight bullet has a muzzle velocity of approximately 1,492 feet per second. Early Soviet production used brass cases, however because of brass being a critical material in wartime; around 1942 the case material was changed to steel with a painted or copper washed finish to protect the cases from corrosion. To conserve material the bullet was later redesigned with a mild steel core surrounded by a lead envelope, the bullet jackets were steel, clad with gilding metal.

Finland designed and adopted their M/44 submachine gun, which was a Sudaev PPS-43 copy chambered in 9mm, and able to accept the Finnish Suomi drum magazine, the 35-round box magazine and the 50-round duplex “coffin” magazine.

Another lesser known copy was the DUX 53 (Latin for leader) submachine gun manufactured in Spain. The DUX 53 was chambered for the 9mm Parabellum cartridge. The DUX 53 was an almost identical copy of the Finnish M/44, and used the same box and drum magazines. In 1954, the weapon was adopted by the West German Border Guards- the Bundesgrenzschutz BGS. The DUX 53 was followed by the DUX 59 model that was developed by Anschütz in Germany. The DUX 59 had a few changes and upgrades, most of which were copied from other designs. The recoil spring was changed to an enclosed telescoping configuration like that used in the German World War II MP40. The trigger frame of the DUX 59 was reinforced on the sides of the magazine well, preventing the use of the drum or duplex magazine. A sliding safety lever was relocated above the pistol grip on the left side, and the folding metal buttstock was reinforced. A new curved magazine was developed for improved feeding. The DUX 59 was under development for many years, but basically it was a World War II design. The weapon was evaluated, but not adopted by the German military.

Folding stock
Overall length: 32.25/24.25
Barrel length: 10-inches
4-groove barrel
Loaded weight: 8.65 pounds
Magazine capacity: 35 rounds
Cyclic rate: 600 rounds per minute
Full automatic only


This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V18N1 (February 2014)
and was posted online on November 15, 2013


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