World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Mp 40

Maschinenpistole 40
Maschinenpistole 40
Type Submachine gun
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1938–45
Used by See Operators
Wars World War II
Cold War
Korean War
Vietnam War
Production history
Designer Heinrich Vollmer
Designed 1938
Manufacturer Steyr-Mannlicher[1]
Erma Werke
Produced 1940–45
Number built 1.1 million (estimated)
Variants MP 36, MP 38, MP 40, MP 40/1, MP 41
Weight 3.97 kg (8.75 lb)[2][3]
Length 833 mm (32.8 in) stock extended / 630 mm (24.8 in) stock folded[4]
Barrel length 251 mm (9.9 in)[4]

Cartridge 9×19mm Parabellum[4]
Action Straight blowback, open bolt[3]
Rate of fire 500–550 rounds/min[4]
Muzzle velocity 400 m/s (1,312 ft/s)[4]
Effective firing range 100 – 200 m[3]
Maximum firing range 200 m[3]
Feed system 32-round detachable box magazine 64-round with dual magazines[3]
Sights Hooded front blade

The MP 40 was a submachine gun chambered for the 9×19mm Parabellum cartridge. It was developed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Axis powers during World War II.

Designed in 1938 by Heinrich Vollmer with inspiration from its predecessor the MP 38, it was heavily used by infantrymen, paratroopers, platoon and squad leaders on the Eastern and Western Front. Its advanced and modern features made it a favorite among soldiers and popular in countries from various parts of the world after the war. It was often erroneously called "Schmeisser" by the Allies, despite Hugo Schmeisser's non-involvement in the weapon's design and production. From 1940 to 1945, an estimated 1.1 million were produced by Erma Werke.


  • Development 1
  • Design 2
  • Usage 3
    • Post-war usage 3.1
  • Variants 4
    • Lanchester 4.1
    • MP 41 4.2
  • Operators 5
  • See also 6
  • Footnotes 7
  • References 8
  • Sources 9
    • Printed 9.1
    • Online 9.2
  • External links 10


German soldier with an MP 40 on the Eastern Front, 1944.

The Maschinenpistole 40 ("Machine pistol 40") descended from its predecessor the MP 38, which was in turn based on the MP 36, a prototype made of machined steel.[5] The MP 36 was developed independently by Erma Werke's Berthold Geipel with funding from the German Army. It took design elements from Heinrich Vollmer's VPM 1930 and EMP. Vollmer then worked on Berthold Geipel's MP 36 and in 1938 submitted a prototype to answer a request from the Heereswaffenamt (Army Weapons Office) for a new submachine gun, which was adopted as MP 38. The MP 38 was a simplification of the MP 36, and the MP 40 was a further simplification of the MP 38, with certain cost-saving alterations, most notably in the more extensive use of stamped steel rather than machined parts.[5]

The MP 40 was often called the "Schmeisser" by the Allies, after the weapon designer Hugo Schmeisser. Schmeisser had designed the MP 18, which was the first mass-produced submachine gun in the world, and carried some resemblance to the MP 40. He did not, however, have anything to do with the design or development of the MP 40, although he held a patent on the magazine.[6]


The MP 40 submachine guns are open-bolt, blowback-operated automatic arms. Fully automatic fire was the only setting, but the relatively low rate of fire allowed for single shots with controlled trigger pulls.[7] The bolt features a telescoping return spring guide which serves as a pneumatic recoil buffer.[7] The cocking handle was permanently attached to the bolt on early MP 38s, but on late production MP 38s and MP 40s, the bolt handle was made as a separate part.[8] It also served as a safety by pushing the head of handle into one of two separate notches above the main opening; this action locked the bolt either in the cocked (rear) or uncocked (forward) position.[8] The absence of this feature on early MP 38s resulted in field expedients such as leather harnesses with a small loop, used to hold the bolt in forward position.[9]

The MP 38 receiver was made of machined steel, but this was a time-consuming and expensive process.[10] To save time and materials, and thus increase production, construction of the MP 40 receiver was simplified by using stamped steel and electro-spot welding as much as possible. [10] The MP 38 also features longitudinal grooving on the receiver and bolt, as well as a circular opening on the magazine housing. These features were eliminated on the MP 40.[10]

A soldier of the Russian Liberation Army with an MP 38, 1943.

One unique feature found on most MP 38 and MP 40 submachine guns was an aluminum, steel, or bakelite resting bar or support under the barrel. This was used to steady the weapon when firing over the side of open-top armored personnel carriers such as the Sdkfz 251 half-track. A handguard, made of a synthetic material derived from bakelite, was located between the magazine housing and the pistol grip.[11] The barrel lacked any form of insulation, which often resulted in burns on the supporting hand if it was incorrectly positioned.[11] The MP 40 also had a forward-folding metal stock, the first for a submachine gun, resulting in a shorter overall weapon when folded.[12] However, this stock design was at times insufficiently durable for hard combat use.[12]

Although the MP 40 was generally reliable, a major weakness was its 32-round magazine.[13] Unlike the double-column, dual-feed magazine insert found on the Thompson M1921-28 variants, the MP 40 used a double-column, single-feed insert.[13] The single-feed insert resulted in increased friction against the remaining cartridges moving upwards towards the feed lips, occasionally resulting in feed failures; this problem was exacerbated by the presence of dirt or other debris.[13] Another problem was that the magazine was also sometimes misused as a handhold.[14] This could cause the weapon to malfunction when hand pressure on the magazine body caused the magazine lips to move out of the line of feed, since the magazine well did not keep the magazine firmly locked.[14] German soldiers were trained to grasp either the handhold on the underside of the weapon or the magazine housing with the supporting hand to avoid feed malfunctions.[14]


At the outbreak of World War II, the majority of German soldiers carried either Karabiner 98k rifles or MP 40s, both of which were regarded as the standard weapons of choice for an infantryman.[15]

However, later experience with Soviet tactics, such as the Battle of Stalingrad where entire Russian units armed with submachine guns outgunned their German counterparts in short range urban combat, caused a shift in tactics, and by the end of the war the MP 40 and its derivatives were being issued to entire assault platoons on a limited basis.[16] Starting in 1943, the German Army moved to replace both the Karabiner 98k rifle and MP 40 with the new, revolutionary StG 44.[16][15] By the end of World War II (which ended in 1945), an estimated 1.1 million MP 40s had been produced of all variants.[17]

Post-war usage

After the end of World War II, many MP 40s captured by the Allies were redistributed to the paramilitary and irregular forces of some developing countries.[18] The Norwegian army withdrew the MP 38 in 1975, MP 40 was used for some years more, the territorials (Heimevernet) used it until about 1990, when it was replaced by Heckler & Koch MP5.[9]



After the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940, the British Armed Forces wanted to adopt a submachine gun similar to the MP 40.[19] The Royal Air Force sent a request to the Ministry of Supply for 10,000 British-made copies of the MP 40, but eventually they settled on a copy of the MP 28, known as the Lanchester.[19]

MP 41

MP 41 with wooden stock

In 1943, Schmeisser designed the MP 41, which was in reality an MP 40 with a wooden rifle stock and a selector, identical to those found on the earlier MP 28 submachine gun. It saw limited service, however, and was only issued to SS and police units in 1944.[20]


1st East Surreys reconnaissance patrol in Italy, 1943. Man in the back is armed with a MP40

During World War II, anti-Nazi resistance fighters and Allied soldiers sometimes captured MP40s to replace or supplement their own weapons.

Although a weapon designed and manufactured in the 1930s, the MP 40 would be used for several more decades by many countries around the world in armed conflicts. Captured MP40s found their way into guerrilla groups such as the Viet Cong or African guerrillas.[21][9]

See also


  1. ^ Used in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and afterwards by Unit 101 until replaced by the Uzi.[21]


  1. ^ Medal Net.
  2. ^ Hogg 2001, p. 16.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fowler 2005, p. 98.
  4. ^ a b c d e Myatt & Ridefort 1992, p. 107.
  5. ^ a b de Quesada 2014, p. 13.
  6. ^ Rottman 2012, p. 9.
  7. ^ a b Peterson 2011, p. 314.
  8. ^ a b Bishop 2002, p. 259.
  9. ^ a b c World Guns.
  10. ^ a b c de Quesada 2014, p. 17.
  11. ^ a b Hobart 1975, pp. 95–98.
  12. ^ a b Hogg & Weeks 1977, p. 90.
  13. ^ a b c Hogg & Weeks 1977, p. 33.
  14. ^ a b c Dunlap 1966, pp. 80–81.
  15. ^ a b Neil 2015, p. 65.
  16. ^ a b Priestley & Cavatore 2014, pp. 105–108.
  17. ^ Willbanks 2004, p. 82.
  18. ^ Ingram 2001, p. 75.
  19. ^ a b Hobart 1975, pp. 80–81.
  20. ^ Axworthy 1991, p. 42.
  21. ^ a b c Katz 1988, p. 9.
  22. ^ a b c d e f de Quesada 2014, p. 66.
  23. ^ a b c d e f de Quesada 2014, p. 77.
  24. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 20.
  25. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 23.
  26. ^ de Quesada 2014, p. 56.
  27. ^ a b de Quesada 2014, p. 64.



  • Axworthy, Mark (1991). The Romanian Army of World War II. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Bishop, Chris (2002). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.  
  • Dunlap, Roy (1966). Ordnance Went Up Front. R & R Books.  
  • Fowler, William (2005). Stalingrad, the Vital Seven Days. Spellmount.  
  • Hobart, Frank (1975). Pictorial History of the Sub-machine Gun. Scribner Publishing.  
  • Hogg, Ian; Weeks, John, eds. (1977). Military Small Arms of the 20th Century. Arms & Armour Press.  
  • Hogg, Ian (2001). Submachine Guns. Greenhill Books.  
  • Ingram, Mike (2001). The MP40 Submachine Gun. Zenith Imprint.  
  • Katz, Samuel (1988). Israeli Elite Units Since 1948. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Myatt, Frederick; Ridefort, Gerard, eds. (1992). New Illustrated Guide to Modern Rifles & Sub-Machine Guns. Smithmark Publishing.  
  • Neil, Grant (2015). Mauser Military Rifles. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Peterson, Philip (2011). Standard Catalog of Military Firearms: The Collector's Price and Reference Guide. F+W Media, Inc.  
  • Priestley, Rick; Cavatore, Alessio, eds. (2014). Bolt Action: World War II Wargames Rules. Osprey Publishing.  
  • de Quesada, Alejandro (2014). MP 38 and MP 40 Submachine Guns. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Rottman, Gordon L (2012). The AK-47: Kalashnikov-series Assault Rifles. Osprey Publishing.  
  • Willbanks, James (2004). Machine Guns: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. ABC-CLIO.  


  • "Erma MP-38 and MP-40 submachine gun (Germany)". World Guns. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  • "MP40 Manufacturers and Markings". Medal Net. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 

External links

  • Website dedicated to the MP 38, MP 40 and MP 41
  • Gunworld article on the MP 40
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.