20 Dec 17
“Yesterday’s ‘Advanced Weapons Platform’ is today’s museum exhibit!”
SMGs (Submachine Guns)
No self-respecting Western movie-producer would dream of making a movie about WWII (European Theater) without equipping nearly all his actors portraying Wehrmacht (German) soldiers with MP-38 SMGs.
The profile is unmistakable!
The distribution of MP-38s throughout the actual WWII Wehrmacht was not nearly as generous as one might conclude from watching WWII feature films, particularly those filmed in America, but there were still many produced and used.
Often incorrectly called the “Schmeisser,” the MP-38 (“MP” is for “Machine Pistol”) made extensive use of metal stampings, and even die-cast internal parts. It was thus cheap and easy to manufacture, and could be produced in far greater numbers, and faster, than much more precise Mauser rifles.
Hugo Schmeisser, along with his brother, Hans, and their father, Louis, was indeed a design genius. The entire family was well known and respected within the European small-arms community. But, Hugo’s only connection with the MP-38 was its use of a straight-line magazine, upon which the Schmeisser brothers held a patent.
And yet, referring to the MP-38 as a “Schmeisser” is probably a error long-past any chance of correcting!
During the 1939 “Winter War” in Finland, swift, ski-mounted, SMG-equipped Finnish troopers cut-up slow-moving columns of Soviet infantrymen, languidly slogging through deep snow. The lesson was not lost on the Soviets!
During the next few years, Russians too equipped front-line troops with its version of the SMG, the PPSH-41, designed by Georgy Shpagin. The PPSH saw extensive service on the Eastern Front.
Both the MP-38, and the PPSH-41 fired pistol ammunition, which is far faster and easier to manufacture than is rifle ammunition.
As noted above, the SMG itself is little more than a welded bullet-squirter. Both the MP-38 and the PPSH-41 had rudimentary sights, but both enjoyed the affection of senior commanders, because their limited range and accuracy discouraged individual initiative. Neither the Soviets, nor the Nazis, encouraged unilateral initiative on the part of solders (including officers).
Among American Forces, the wonderful (but heavy) Thompson SMG, which had been around since the 1920s, proved too slow and expensive to manufacture in bulk. Most American servicemen never saw a copy!
The SMG that did see use on the American side was the M3, commonly called the “Grease Gun” or “Greaser.” Again, it was a rude, crude, welded bullet-squirter that saw most of its use with tank-crews and rear-area units.
It was never as widely deployed as was the MP-38 and PPSH-41 on the German and Soviet sides.
While Hugo Schmeisser had little connection with the MP-38 (other than having his name attached to it, as noted above), he did have a great deal to do with the design and production of the German MP-44, later dubbed the Sturmgewehr-44, or simply the “STG44.” The MP-44 can rightfully claim the title of the “original model” for all future battle rifles, including the Kalashnikov, M4, and many others. It used an “intermediate cartridge,” the 7.92×33 or 7.92 Kurz (“short”), similar to 7.62×39 Soviet.
The MP-44 was greatly loved by Germans, and respected by Soviets, but neither the British, nor Americans, were aware of it until after the War was over. In any event, it came along too late, and in numbers too small, to significantly affect the course of the War.
Since Hitler, during the later stages of WWII, had no interest in a new battle rifle to replace the bolt-action Mauser with which his troopers had equipped since WWI, development, and eventual deployment, of the MP-44 proceeded in secret. In fact, calling it the “MP-44″ was a deliberate deception, because it made it sound like merely a upgrade of the existing, pistol-cartridge-firing MP-38.
The MP-44 was deployed exclusively on the Eastern Front, because Schmeisser and the rest of the conspiracy knew that its appearance on the Western Front would quickly garner the attention of the American and British press, and then the cat would be out of the bag!
In fact, Hitler himself only found out about the “new rifle” when it received high praise from Wehrmacht troopers returning from the East. When he discovered how popular the MP-44 was, Hitler went along, but re-designated it the “STG44,” forever removing it from the SMG category.
Today, the original MP-44/STG44 is being re-manufactured and marketed, to compete in America with all the similar military rifles, which can be said to be its progeny!
SMGs have since fallen out of favor with the world’s armies. An argument can still be made for their use, in certain circumstances, but most militaries no longer have any interest in them.
I still love to shoot them, but I’m probably showing my age!
“Into my eyes stiff sea-horses stare.
Over my head sweeps the sun like a swan.
I stand alone in Parliament Square,
A cold bugle calls… and the city moves on.”