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The Best Submachine Gun

Discussion in 'Weapons & Technology in WWII' started by Smiley 2.0, Dec 20, 2014.

  1. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    Three of the most well known standard issue submachine guns were the American Thompson submachine gun (aka the Tommy Gun), the German MP40, and the Soviet PPSH-41.
    From the three which one do you think was better and why?
     
  2. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WWII Veteran

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    While we wait for someone to come along with a knowledge of all three weapons i thought you might be interested in this old posting of mine from ww2talk.com that mentions the Tommy Gun

    On another thread I asked forum members to solve the mystery of Dave's Japanese Swords and it set me thinking about a facet of warfare that is usually glossed over, namely looting.

    As my thread title suggests, in my experience, it was never referred to as looting, if it was discussed at all it was usually referred to as liberating and I honestly don't think it was ever considered as a crime of any type whatsoever.

    To start the ball rolling, consider this little piece I penned on the BBC WW2 Archives, it starts off with a simple diary entry:

    Wednesday 25th. April 1945
    Moved off at first light. Stopped at casa where Busty fitted out old people with suit. Pulled into new H.Q. area then out again. Finally stopped at factory

    This episode about Busty was a piece of pure ‘black comedy’.

    The squadron was advancing Northward, and in the middle of the night of the 24th we came across a small farmhouse. Busty, Tommy Gun in his hands,very melodramatically kicked open the door of the house then, as no-one was in residence, rummaged through a chest of drawers.

    He found and ‘liberated’ a tweed suit saying ‘this might come in handy later for a bit of swapping’ .

    The next day we were at another farmhouse where the occupants gave us a bottle of vino and Busty promptly gave them the suit he’d ‘liberated’ the previous day. I couldn’t help wondering at the time whether or not at some time in the future farmer A would see farmer B and ask him ‘Where did you get that suit from, I used to have one just like it !’

    Looking back at this event some sixty odd years later I suppose that other folks might have considered this came under the heading of looting. In all honesty,Busty would have hotly denied this and I suppose that as I shared in the bottle of vino I was also an accomplice and I certainly don’t feel guilty of any such crime.

    I now intend to rummage around and find a few other instances that fit the title of the thread, in the meantime I would be interested to hear from others on this subject.

    Ron
     
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  3. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I suppose arguments could made for all of them, depending on the criteria - cost, ease of manufacture, magazine capacity, weight, etc. But for my money, if on the ground, I'd pick the Thompson solely on the fact that when firing FMJ pistol rounds, size matters. You're talking 7.62x25 vs 9x19 vs .45 (11.5mm), with weights going from 85 grains (Tok) to 115 grains (nine) to 230 grains (.45).

    In a civilian capacity with hollow point slugs, the difference isn't that great especially between the nine and the .45. But, with FMJ military slugs you really want that extra energy. It may mean the difference between an enemy shooting back after being hit, or falling down.

    Furthermore, the Thompson is a bit more refined than either of the other SMG's mentioned. It has a better trigger, is more ergonomic, has a usable aperture sight and though heavier, that weight helped you hold the muzzle on the target.
     
  4. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    Would you say that the Tommy Gun was more accurate than the other two?
     
  5. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    In terms of usable accuracy, yes. By that, I mean that if you bolted each of them into a ransom rest there would probably be little difference, but because the Thompson had better sights, better trigger, better ergonomics, you had better odds of hitting your target in the real world.

    I've never shot a PPSH or an MP-40, but I have held them and dry-fired them. They're slightly awkward and the sights are rudimentary. I've shot a Thompson (a civilian semi-auto version) and it felt good and pointed naturally. With an aperture sight (the round circle in the rear) the trick is to pretend there is no rear sight - you don't try and center it, just look through it and because of a trick of optics your eye will naturally center the top of the front post. Put that on the target and pull the trigger and you'll hit the target.

    I don't mean to get technical, but understand that with a standard sight your focus has to jump back and forth from the rear to the front sight to keep them aligned. That's easy in practice, but not so easy in dim light or when people are trying to kill you.

    Accuracy counts, even at close range. Think of that when you read some of these ridiculous news reports about cops firing a hundred shots in some exchange.
     
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  6. Smiley 2.0

    Smiley 2.0 Smiles

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    Thanks for the insight Kodiak!
     
  7. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    I own examples of all three ( OK, sorry, they're deactivated ) but they make for an interesting comparison. Overall, I'd think the M1A1 may just shade the other two due to weight of bullet - as against that, it feels noticeably bulkier and heavier ( certainly than the MP40 ). All three have fors and againsts - the PPSh 41 is bulky and awkward to carry with the drum magazine and has a smaller calibre, but this is offset by high rate of fire and ability to function in all conditions. A big plus for the MP40 is the folding stock making it much easier to carry - but it seems 'over-engineered' compared to the other two.

    I think for close-in fighting there wouldn't really be that much to set them apart.

    Another small factor is the amount of confidence they impart to the infantryman. I reckon I'd feel fairly confident toting an MP40 or M1A1. I recently handled a Mk II Sten and although I'm sure it would kill just as effectively as the others, it looked and felt horrid compared to the other three. I can quite see why the troops nicknamed it the 'Woolworths Gun' ; hardly a ringing endorsement of confidence.
     
  8. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    I used to manage a small gun shop and we had a deactivated MP-40, a PPSH and several other WW2 SMG's (A PPS, a Soumi, etc). One drawback I noticed with the MP40 and PPS was how easily that folding stock could get caught up when you tried to get it on your shoulder quickly, and this indoors with just a shirt. I recall thinking then that if one were in a bulky military jacket with web gear and various dangling bits, you could easily get in trouble if you needed to shoot fast.

    Of course Hollywood teaches us that you spray from the hip like a bullet hose, but in real life that's not very effective unless your target is within room distance. I've been shooting an AR quite a bit lately, and in playing around one will shoot from the hip and you quickly learn what a waste of ammo that is.

    I wanted to point out also, that the Soviets considered the PPS-43 superior to the PPSH. They didn't make as many of them because production was already geared up for the PPSH, but the PPS was lighter, more reliable and easier to produce. It had a chrome lined barrel and chamber that not only prevented barrel erosion but aided in feeding and extraction simply because chrome is harder and slicker than steel. The PPSH tended to foul and fail when the barrel got hot, but the PPS would just keep on running.
     
  9. denny

    denny Member

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    The so called "Grease Gun" .....was it pretty dependable.?
    I guess it would never shoulder like a real Thompson would.....but would certainly be faster to manufacture, for the same 45 caliber.
     
  10. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The M3 "grease gun" had some extreme reliability problems when first introduced and they didn't get those worked out until the fall of 44... They had issues like the magazine falling out when firing, the cocking handle getting stuck or breaking and the rear sight was so flimsy it would get bent just bumping around in a vehicle. They did work out all those issues, but the war was coming to a close before the improved gun really made it into the line.

    The main advantage from a user standpoint (in my opinion) is that the M3 had a slower rate of fire than the Thompson and thus was easier to hold on target in long bursts. I'd still rather have a Thompson...
     
  11. PzJgr

    PzJgr Drill Instructor

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    My grandfather must have had a affection for the PPSH because there are many pics with one in his hand.
     
  12. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Was the MP40 ever used optically? I assume you could throw a scope on anything, but actually during combat?
     
  13. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    There's no need for a scope when shooting pistol rounds. They don't have the range to require any magnification.
     
  14. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member Patron  

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    What was the approx. range of the MP40?
     
  15. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The maximum effective range was probably 150 to 200 yards, but the problem with any open bolt design is that there is a mechanical delay between when you pull the trigger (a long, heavy, gritty trigger) and the length of time it takes for that bolt to release, go forward, peel up a round and shoot it. That delay is only hundredths of a second, but with that heavy spring loaded bolt flying forward it's enough to throw you off unless you're rigidly fixed on a rest or something. Still, you might get hits out much further than that with a little Kentucky windage and some luck.

    Really though, it's a close-range weapon at its best under 100 yards, where a scope would just get in the way.

    Modern subguns usually have a holo sight - a red dot sight - there is glass, but no magnification. You see a red dot in the glass and put it on a target. Optically, it's the same as the old aperture sight because you are dealing with only one focal plane and don't have to reference the rear sight. The improvement is that the dot shows up in low light where one might have trouble finding the top of the post in the old aperture sight.
     
  16. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Of the three mentioned I'd go with the Thompson, it's the best of the three, though it takes more training to employ effectively. Since the M-3 has been mentioned and was not among the initial three, I assume we can mention others. Probably the best all around, though appearing at wars end was the Swedish K. It incorporated features of the MP-40, Sten, PPsh-41 and PPS-42/43, and is a very good all around sub-gun.
     
  17. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    there is not a good position for the support/''aiming'' arm on the MP40? seems like accuracy would not be good....I read a book something like Firing the War Weapons, I forget the exact title....very good book...it did have many weapons of the different countries....firing, disassembled views, comparisons, etc..I thought the book said something about if you held on to the mag, it would probably damage that area....
     
  18. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    how is the glass protected? can it get scratched easily?
     
  19. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    They are normally hooded.

    Example:
    [​IMG]
     
  20. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    is this standard for combat weapons?? I'm guessing they are sturdy/durable enough for combat conditions?
     

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