The final instalment of our military blueprint series looks at the German MP40 Submachine Gun
The MP40 is the iconic weapon of Germany during the Second World War. It was designed in 1938, a culmination of various submachine gun designs of the 1930’s. The gun is made from stamped steel with Bakelite bodywork. It was the first submachine gun to have an underfolding stock, which greatly reduced the weapons length when folded. However, this stock design was at times insufficiently durable for hard combat use. Although the MP 40 was generally reliable, a major weakness was its magazine. The MP 40 used a 32 round, double-column, single-feed insert, which could lead to frequent jamming and feeding issues. This magazine was copied by the British for the Sten gun which suffered from the same issue.
The only mode of fire was fully automatic, but the relatively low rate of fire enabled single shots with controlled trigger pulls. The bolt handle had a dual function as the safety. The head of the handle could be pushed into one of two notches, allowing the safety to be activated in both the cocked and uncocked positions.
At the outbreak of WW2 the majority of German soldiers were equipped with a Kar 98k or an MP40. Both were regarded as standard weapons of the infantryman. Encounters with entire Soviet platoons armed with SMGs in the Battle of Stalingrad caused a shift in tactics, and by the end of the war the MP40 was being issued to entire assault platoons on a limited basis.
After the war many thousands of MP40s were captured by the allies and subsequently distributed as military aid across the globe. The Norwegian Home Guard were using the MP40 until 1990. Many irregular and guerrilla forces got their hands on them in the Cold War period and have been used well into the 21st century.