For those of us who have climbed in and out of armored vehicles, we know how cramped such spaces can be. I'm no submariner, but this ex-grunt would wager swabbies have far more room in today's nuclear tin cans than tankers had in WWII Russian tanks.

Like their American counterparts, Soviet tank crews didn't have a whole lot of elbowroom. At worst, they may have had space for a sidearm; at best, they might have been afforded the luxury of a compact submachinegun (SMG) with a folded butt stock.

Such was the dilemma Russia faced when confronted with replacing its burdensome PPSh-41 SMG with a viable personal defense weapon (PDF) for their tank, mobile recon and airborne units in 1941. The war wasn't going that well for the Ruskies, and they wanted a shooting iron that was lighter and more compact than the "burp gun."

They needed an SMG as accurate and more cost-effective than the PPSh-41.

In 1942, Soviet weapons designer A.I. Sudayev came up with the PPS-42 (Pistolet Pulemyot Sudayeva Model 1942) prototype. This SMG was never destined to win any beauty contests, but its abbreviated form and folding steel stock that folded up and over the receiver was just what the Red Army—and Comrade Doktor—had ordered.

Less than 50,000 units of the PPS-42 were produced by 1943. And in the months that followed, the PPS-43, an improvement over the PPS-42 rolled off the assembly lines.

And they didn?t stop rolling for four years. Unlike the PPS-42, the PPS-43 was so loved and performed so well for the Soviets that they produced several million of 'em.

The PPS-42 is a full-auto only, simple blowback SMG that fires from the open bolt. Its safety was located before the trigger guard. It featured a stamped steel receiver and barrel shroud; a pistol grip; a rear, L-shaped flip-up sight (@100 and 200 yards) and a fixed blade front sight; a simple muzzle brake and a chrome-lined barrel built to last.

The PPS-42 was lighter than the PPSh-41 (6.7 pounds compared to 8 pounds); shorter (24 inches with the stock folded compared to 33 inches); but it cycled fewer rounds (500 to 600 rounds per minute compared to 900 rounds for the PPSh-41).

The PPS-42 used 35-round, detachable box magazines and fired 7.62x25mm Tokarev ammo at a muzzle velocity of 1,640 feet per second. And in the final analysis, the PPS-42 proved itself as great if not greater a weapon than its predecessor, the PPSh-41, a.k.a., the Burp Gun.