MP 40

MP 38


MP 40

Left side view of MP 40 sub machine gun with stock in folded position. This is an example produced by Erma in 1943.
Source: Quickload - © CC BY-SA 3.0

Nazi Germany
Sub machine gun
Entered service
Nazi Germany
Heinrich Vollmer
1939 - 1941 (MP38)
1940 - 1944 or 45 (MP40)
Nazi Germany - Erma Werke (1939 - 1944)
Nazi Germany - Haenel (1939 - 1942)
Nazi Germany - Steyr-Mannlicher
Unit cost
57 Reichsmark for MP40 in 1940
Number produced
About 42.000 MP38
Just over 1.1 million (Soviet intelligence sources)
1.047.000 (Nazi German sources)
MP 40 / Machinenpistole 40
Schmeisser (nickname, although incorrect)



The MP40 is is a World War 2 era sub machine gun of Nazi German origin. The design started out as the prototype MP36 and limited production run MP38. The MP40 is an iconic weapon of World War 2 and over a million were produced. Allied troops in World War 2 dubbed it the "Schmeisser" although Hugo Schmeisser was not involved in the design, unlike various earlier German sub machine guns.


The MP40 is a blowback operated sub machine gun that fires from an open bolt. It fires fully automatic only at rather low rate of fire. This is achieved by the mass of the bolt and large recoil spring, resulting in the long receiver. At the time the gun looked futuristic in being all metal and having a margolit (bakelite) receiver chassis, thus lacking any wooden elements. Since this sub machine gun was intended for specialized troops, such as parachute troops, mechanized infantry and NCOs a metal folding stock was added for compactness. A unique feature is the margolit strip under the barrel, intended to rest the weapon when firing from barricades such as the troop compartment of a SdKfz 251 halftrack armored personnel carrier.


The MP38 and MP40 fire the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge from a 32 round double stack single feed magazine. Rate of fire is rather low at 500 to 550 rpm. Combined with the weight this makes fully automatic fire rather controllable for an open bolt sub machine gun. Practical range is 100 meters, although it can reach out to 200 meters.


The MP40 was widely used during World War 2 with over a million produced during the war. Introduced in numbers only since 1941 it was mostly used on the Eastern front, before ending up in all theatres of war. The MP40 was well regarded during the war. Interestingly on the Eastern front German soldiers used captures Soviet sub machine guns which some deemed better, while some Soviet soldiers found the MP40 to be superior. The MP40 was also used by various resistance units, such as those in France. After the war several nations retained the MP40 as a weapon for second line troops. Ironically, various Israeli units were armed with MP40 and other Nazi German weapons during the founding and early years of the state of Israel.


MP 38

Original production model. Can be identified by the machined upper receiver with longitudinal cuts to reduce weight. Also features a fully captive recoil spring and machined pistol grip. The MP38 was a heavier and more precisely machined weapon than the MP40, which was detrimental to large scale production. Some MP38 have been modified with the forward safety position of the bolt as found on the MP40.

MP 40

Improved and easier to produce model, by far the most common version. The upper receiver and pistol grip are made from stamped metal, giving the top of the weapon a smoother appearance. A regular recoil spring is used and the bolt handle was made larger and has a forward safety position to improve the drop and snagging safety of the weapon.

MP 40/I

Variant with enlarged magazine well for two magazine, which can be swapped somewhat rapidly. The objective was to provide ready to fire ammunition in similar quantity as the 71 round drum magazines of the Soviet PPSh-41. Produced in limited numbers in 1942 and possibly early 1943 as this attempt had far more drawbacks than benefits. Sometimes listed as MP 40/II, which is an incorrect designation.


Facts MP38 MP40
Nazi Germany
Sub machine gun
9x19mm Parabellum
Feed system
32 round double stack single feed magazine
Barrel length
250 mm
6 grooves, right hand twist
Muzzle velocity
380 m/s
Blowback operated, fires from open bolt
None, locked by mass and spring tension
Fire selector
Rate of fire
500 - 550 rpm
Stock type
Collapsible, underfolding
856 mm stock extended
630 mm stock folded
4.2 kg empty
Iron sights, hooded post front, aperture rear
Range adjustment
100 m with 200 m flip-up aperture


Related articles

Shpagin PPSh-41

The Soviet PPSh-41 was the counterpart to the MP40 during World War 2. A sort of polar opposite with its rate of fire. that is nearly twice as high. The 71 round drum spurred German developments such as the MP 40/I to increase firepower available to the German soldier.

Sudayev PPS-43

The Soviet PPS-43 has a metal folding stock that is somewhat inspired on the MP 40 collapsible stock, but folds over the receiver due to the curved magazine.

Kalashnikov AK-47

The Soviet AKS-47 has a very similar underfolding stock as the MP 40. Both the locking mechanism and oval folding butt plate are reminiscent of the MP 40.

Star Z-45

The Star Z-45 takes many design elements of the MP 40. Most internal components are different and there are no interchangeable parts.


The Portuguese FMBP-48 is patterned after the MP 40. The same bolt and receiver design are used, although the stock and various details are different.


The Belgian Vigneron sub machine gun uses the same magazines as the MP 40.

Sola Super

The Sola Super sub machine gun from Luxembourg also uses MP 40 magazines.