Any student of military history and those
of us who enjoy late-night war flicks on TV have seen the German MP40
submachine gun (SMG) machinepistole, auf Deutsch, paraded around by Nazi paratroopers and German infantry-squad and platoon
The MP40 was designed by Heinrich Vollmer in 1938 and produced from 1940 to 1945
by German manufacturer, Erma Werke. It saw service throughout World War II.
This SMG and similar versions (e.g., MP38 and the MP38/40) saw limited production-about 1
million units-fewer than the Russian PPSh-41 @ 6 million units, the British Sten gun @ 3 to 4 million units and the American Thompson at nearly 2 million units.
A generally reliable, full automatic, the MP40 had a 500-round-per-minute rate of fire with an effective range of 300
feet (100 meters) and a maximum range up to 200 yards. This made it ideal for close-combat, short-range warfare. It featured a blowback open bolt action and
used the popular SMG 9x19mm Parabellum ammunition. Like its predecessor, the MP38, the MP40 used a single-feed magazine design.
The MP40 was the first SMG to feature a folding stock. Although this proved advantageous to the German paratroopers who
carried it, the metal stock was less than durable and was insufficient when used hand to hand as a club against Allied soldiers.
Friendly forces called the MP40 the 'Schmeisser.' This was a misnomer as Herr Schmeisser, designer of the MP18, did
not design the MP40, rather its magazine.
The MP40 weighs about 9 pounds and is slightly longer than 32 inches, 24 and a half inches with its stock folded. The
barrel is just shy of 10 inches in length. This formidable SMG had a muzzle velocity of slightly more than 1200 feet per second, and it featured a hooded front
sight and a flip-up U-notch rear sight.
Like earlier versions of the modern U.S. M-16 rifle, operators of the MP40 were forced to adapt to short bursts, so as
to avoid muzzle climb and not waste ammunition.