PPS43 - Hero of Leningrad
By Vadim Ribakov

In 1925, the first Soviet submachine gun (Pistolyet-Pulemyot) was developed in connection with sweeping military upheaval. Until that time, no Soviet pistol cartridge had existed, so early weapon designs were geared toward the 7.62x38R Nagant revolver cartridge. These first experimental models were considered unsuccessful due to insufficient magazine capacity and poor ballistic qualities.

In 1928, the Artillery Committee recommended that pistols and machine pistols be developed for use with the Mauser 7.63x25mm cartridge. After agreeing to shorten the cartridge to 7.62mm (to standardize all ammunition), development proceeded.

By 1932, skilled designers such as Degtyarev, Tokarev, Korovin, Kolesnikov, and Priluckyi delivered fourteen submachine gun models from which to choose. Degtyarev’s PPD34 was briefly adopted by the Soviet Army after two more years of refining the weapon. The PPD34 was a basic blowback operated, select-fire weapon with a ventilated barrel casing. Magazine capacity was 25 rounds of 7.62x25mm. The adjustable rear sight had ten increments ranging from 50 to 500 meters. Though the PPD34 had actually surpassed all requirements, it was deemed unsuitable for use by the military management’s erroneous ratings list. Manufacturing was severely limited, and by February 1939, production ceased and this particular model was pulled from the Army.

At about the same time, the USSR began a war with Finland and found itself at a dismal disadvantage in firepower. With the use of Lahti m/1931 Suomi submachine guns, the Finns soon broke through Soviet front lines. Subdivisions of skiers armed with these compact full-autos managed to destroy communications as well as entrenched platoons and rear transports. The PPD34 was immediately ordered back into mass production as Degtyarev worked on an improved model. His second attempt was the PPD40, a wood-stocked submachine gun with a 71-round drum. Due to its complexity, factories could not meet the urgent quantity demands of the Soviet Army and development had to continue.

By December 1940, the Shpagin PPSh-41 became the premier submachine gun of the Red Army. Georgy Shpagin’s system was blowback-operated, select-fire, and had a crude muzzle brake that improved group shots by 70% over the PPD. The rear sight remained similar - ten divisions for ranges of 50 to 500 meters. Standard ammunition capacity was a 71-round drum or 35-round box magazine. The unique quality of this weapon lies in its manufacturing. It was the first Soviet weapon to be constructed by means of punched-welded sheet metal. This revolutionary technology allowed smaller, less sophisticated factories to produce it. Nevertheless, time and technology lagged as the USSR entered World War II on June 22, 1941.

From nearly the start of Germany’s attack, the Soviet Union realized its miscalculations in equipping her infantry divisions. Though well armed with basic rifles and carbines, most German troops were armed with MP-38/40 submachine guns. Suppression of the German firestorm came from a pitifully small amount of Soviet machine gunners. Demands for equal armament were such that the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, Stalin, had personally overseen increased production of the PPSh41. Due to its simplicity, factories of all types were able to retool and mass-produce it in relatively short order. Although considered a valuable and standard weapon for the Army, it had drawbacks for scouts, tank crews, and diversionary groups. Another problem was invested time and the vast waste of scrap metal in the manufacturing process.

By 1942, designers had grasped a better understanding of the ideal military submachine gun. It would have to be reliable in any battle conditions and have a detachable magazine. Weight should range between 2.5 to 3 kg (5.5-6.6 pounds) and deliver 400 to 500 rpm (while maintaining acceptable group dispersion). Sheet metal thickness would need to be less than 1 inch to simplify machining on low-power presses. Once again, the usual designers, along with Sudaev, Rukavishnikov and others, submitted test weapons. Sudaev’s basic sample gained the most attention. Recoil-operated, its full-auto-only firing mode gave good results due to a reliable return spring. Sudaev continued to improve upon it by slight changes in the springs, removal of a drop safety, a modified trigger safety, the form of the buttstock, and simplified internal/external parts for easier manufacture. By July of that same year, Sudaev’s PPS-42 received the nod.

Production of the new submachine gun was difficult as German troops had surrounded and blockaded Leningrad and its factories. Actual series production began in early 1943. Weapons were literally delivered from factory to front-line soldiers for “testing.” Through data collected on the battlefield, the submachine gun underwent a bit more development, mainly concerning reliability. The final product was the PPS-43. It has remained unchanged and is still available today.

The upper receiver contains a ventilated barrel casing with a welded muzzle brake for reduced recoil and stability. The front sight is an adjustable post with protective ears. The rear sight is a flip-type aperture marked “10” and “20” for 100- and 200-meter ranges. The ejection port is located high and forward of the cocking handle. The upper receiver is pinned to the lower receiver and pivots upward on a hinge for field stripping. A folding metal stock is welded to the rear.

The bolt assembly contains a grooved body, a recessed bolt face with a press-fit fixed firing pin, a cocking handle, and an extractor. The assembly nests in a metal tube and the recoil action is delivered by a return spring mounted on the rod and buffer.

The lower receiver contains a hammer/trigger assembly, locking butt cap, and magazine housing. A unique aspect of the magazine-well is the protective plate that covers the magazine latch to guard against accidental release. The trigger is smooth with an approximate 6.5-pound pull. The safety is located on the forward trigger guard. To engage the safety, pull it back. This will block the function of the trigger mechanism, and can be employed whether the weapon is cocked or not. To disengage, push forward. A convenient pistol grip helps control aimed fire. The curved, standard magazine consists of a metal body with a mounting tang, floorplate, follower and spring. Two exterior vertical plates direct insertion.

Field-stripping for maintenance is easy. Remove the magazine and be sure that the weapon is clear. Apply tension to the butt cap/hammer spring to release the upper receiver from the lower receiver, and swivel apart. Remove the recoil spring assembly and bolt. Reassemble in reverse. The PPS43 requires minimal care. After 500 to1,000 rounds, clean and lubricate the bolt assembly.

Of all the Red Army submachine guns, Sudaev’s was considered to be the best during the period of World War II. Its low cyclic rate produced tighter groups and wasted less ammunition with controllable short bursts of fire. The folding metal stock made the weapon quite portable whether in marching or crawling situations. The magazine was easy to load and change under any conditions.

Though the PPS43 could not be equated in capacity with the PPSh41 or PPD40, Sudaev’s model had its advantages. It was compact, lightweight, and simple to manufacture. For a Soviet Army that urgently needed a rapid-fire, maneuverable small arm, the PPS43 was an effective answer. Sadly, as need decreased for the military, so too, did production. Toward the end of the war, factories turned their attention to the output of Shpagin submachine guns. Irony soon struck again as the Germans began to create their own version of the PPS43, known as the MP709. Finland also copied the Soviet submachine gun. Their similarly manufactured M44 is chambered for 9x19mm cartridges. Poland joined in the production under a license in 1951. By 1952, they had an updated weapon named PM WS 43/52. China adopted the PPS43 from 1953-56. Other variations exist, such as the DUX 53 and later, the DUX 59 for use by German police and border patrols, and the Vietnamese K50. Hungary too, developed a weapon in the early fifties that combined aspects from both Sudaev and Shpagin systems. Known as the 53M, a small number was manufactured between 1953-54. It, however, was deemed unsuccessful.

Despite its rather brief history, the Pistolyet-Pulemyot Sudaev, 1943 that was created while Leningrad lay besieged by the Germans, has remained a unique feature in military history. It was highly regarded then, and is considered now, to be a legendary weapon of a bloody World War.

PPS43 Specifications

Caliber: 7.62x25mm (TT: Tula-Tokarev cartridge).
Action: Blowback-operated, full-auto only, fires from the open-bolt position.
Weight, empty: 2.8 kg (6.17 pounds).
Weight of magazine: 0.68 kg (1.5 pounds).
Magazine capacity: 35 rounds.
Overall loaded weight: 3.48 kg (7.67 pounds).
Cyclic rate: 600 rpm.
Muzzle velocity: 500 mps (1,640 fps).
Length (stock extended): 831mm (32.7 inches)
Length (stock folded): 615mm (24.2 inches)

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V8N1 (October 2004)
and was posted online on July 12, 2013


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