[Lone Sentry: Submachine Gun (M.P. 38 and M.P. 40); WWII German Infantry Weapons]
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German Infantry Weapons
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 14, May 25, 1943
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Special Series publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


3.  SUBMACHINE GUN5 (M.P. 38 AND M.P. 40)

a. General

Although this weapon was originally designed for use by parachute troops, it can now be found in general use in all combat units of the German Army. The construction is simple, and both the M.P.6 38 and the more recent M.P. 40, which has been issued in large quantities, are reliable weapons. They fire from an open bolt, and the pressure in the barrel forces the bolt back in order to extract and eject the empty cartridge case. The spring then forces the bolt forward again, chambering and firing a new round.

b. How to Identify

The M.P. 38 and M.P. 40 may be identified by—

(1) Folding skeleton shoulder stock.

(2) Absence of wood (these guns are all metal and plastic).

(3) Fixed and folding, open rear sights.

(4) Hooded front sight.

(5) Marking ("M.P. 38" or "M.P. 40") on top of the receiver.

(6) Corrugations on the receiver casing of the M.P. 38; smooth surface on the receiver casing of the M.P. 40.

c. Characteristics

(1) General.—The M.P. 38 and M.P. 40 are simple blowback-operated submachine guns; they are magazine-fed, air-cooled shoulder weapons which may also be fired from the hip. They are used for close work and are not effective at the longer ranges. They fire from an open bolt and deliver full-automatic fire only. Although the M.P. 40 is slightly lighter and has a slower rate of fire, both types are the same for all practical purposes. (See fig. 8.)

[Figure 8. Two views of M.P. 40, showing skeleton shoulder stock folded, and open.]
Figure 8.—Two views of M.P. 40, showing skeleton shoulder stock folded, and open.

(2) Table of characteristics.

Principle of operation    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Straight blowback, full-automatic fire only.
Caliber    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    9 mm (.354 inch).
Capacity of magazine    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    32 rounds in removable box magazine.
    Front    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Inverted V blade, with cover.
        Fixed    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Open V notch, sighted to 100 meters (109 yards).
        Folding    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Open V notch, sighted to 200 meters (219 yards).
Length    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    Over-all, with shoulder stock extended 33 1/2 inches.
Weight    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    With loaded magazine, 10 pounds 7 ounces.
    Effective    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    200 yards.
    Maximum    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    1,850 yards.
Rate of fire (practical)    _ _ _ _ _ _ _    80 to 90 rounds per minute (in short bursts).

d. How to Operate

(1) Safety.—The only safety on these guns is the notch marked "S" (sicher—"safe") at the butt end of the cut made for the operating handle in the receiver. To make the gun "safe," pull the operating handle back as far as it will go and then push it upward into the safety notch. This is not a positive safety, as a jump or a fall may disengage the operating handle from the safety notch and leave the gun ready to fire.

[Figure 9. M.P. 40 in action. (This photograph shows the manner of holding the pistol with the left hand when using the skeleton shoulder stock.)]
Figure 9.—M.P. 40 in action. (This photograph shows the manner of holding the pistol with the left hand when using the skeleton shoulder stock.)

(2) To load and fire.—Press the thumb catch above the pistol grip in order to release the skeleton shoulder stock from its folded position. Snap the shoulder stock into extended position and unfold the butt plate. Pull the operating handle back and switch it into the safety notch. Insert a loaded magazine into the feedway on the under side of the receiver until the magazine catch engages. Disengage the operating handle from the safety notch; then aim,7 and squeeze the trigger. The magazine can serve as a grip while firing (but see fig. 9 for the German method of firing).

(3) To unload.—Press the magazine catch and remove the magazine. Check the chamber to be sure that it is empty. After pressing the trigger, let the operating handle go forward slowly.

e. Ammunition

The ammunition used in these guns is the standard 9-mm Parabellum cartridge, used in all German pistols and submachine guns. This is a rimless, straight-case cartridge with a round-nose, jacketed bullet. The German nomenclature for this ammunition is Pistolenpatronen 08 ("pistol cartridges 08"). It comes in cases containing 4,160 rounds, packed in multiples of 16 rounds in cartons and packages. Ammunition (9-mm) manufactured for the British Sten submachine gun (called a machine carbine by the British) can be used in the M.P. 38 and M.P. 40. Italian 9ómm pistol ammunition other than model 34 will also function. But the German-issue ammunition should be used whenever possible.

f. Maintenance

(1) Oiling and cleaning.—These submachine guns are cleaned and oiled in the same manner as the U.S. Thompson submachine gun. In sandy or dusty country, oil should be used sparingly or not at all.

(2) Stripping.—First, be sure that the gun is unloaded and uncocked. Pull out the locking pin (see fig. 10(1)) located on the bottom front portion of the receiver behind the magazine well, and turn the pin a little to keep it unlocked. Grasp the barrel with the left hand and the pistol grip with the right; press the trigger, and at the same time turn the receiver in a counterclockwise direction, holding the magazine housing in its normal position (see fig. 10(2)). It will then be possible to separate the receiver from the barrel and from the magazine housing. Remove the bolt and recoil spring from the receiver by means of the operating handle. The recoil sprhig may be removed from the telescoping recoil-spring housing.

[Figure 10. Method of removing receiver of M.P. 40 from barrel and from magazine housing.]
Figure 10.—Method of removing receiver of M.P. 40 from barrel and from magazine housing.

(3) Assembly.—Assemble the recoil spring to the recoil-spring housing. Replace the recoil-spring assembly and bolt into the receiver. Hold the trigger back, and assemble the receiver to the barrel and the magazine housing by holding the magazine housing and then inserting the receiver and turning it in a clockwise direction. Turn the locking pin so that it snaps in.

g. Accessories

Six magazines and a magazine filler are carried in a web haversack. Four magazines are sometimes carried on a magazine holder attached to the belt. A small cleaning outfit is carried on the person, and a sling is attached to these guns for carrying purposes.

5 A submachine gun shoots pistol ammunition; the ordinary machine gun shoots rifle ammunition.
6 M.P. is an abbreviation for Maschinenpistole, literally "machine pistol."
7 See fig. 5. p. 8, above, for the method of aligning German sights.

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