SMGs Have Fallen Out Of Favor, Is This the End of the Machine Pistol

By John Farnam

German MP-38 Machine Pistol
German MP-38 Machine Pistol

Ft Collins, CO –-( “Yesterday’s ‘Advanced Weapons Platform’ is today’s museum exhibit!” ~ Anon

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 action on the part of soldiers (including officers).

Among American Forces, the excellent (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 an upgrade of the existing, pistol-cartridge-firing MP-38.


German Soldier fires MP38 Pistol
German Soldier fires MP38 Pistol

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!

Modern MP-44 STG44 Machine Pistol : Youtube
Modern MP-44 STG44 Machine Pistol

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!

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.

“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.” ~ Charles Causley



Defense Training International, Inc
Defense Training International, Inc

About John Farnam & Defense Training International, Inc
As a defensive weapons and tactics instructor John Farnam will urge you, based on your own beliefs, to make up your mind in advance as to what you would do when faced with an imminent and unlawful lethal threat. You should, of course, also decide what preparations you should make in advance if any.


Defense Training International wants to make sure that their students fully understand the physical, legal, psychological, and societal consequences of their actions or inactions.

It is our duty to make you aware of certain unpleasant physical realities intrinsic to the Planet Earth. Mr. Farnam is happy to be your counselor and advisor. Visit:

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I was a tank commander on a M48A3 tank with the 77th Armor in Vietnam on the DMZ. OEM equipment was 2 M3A1 SMG’s per tank. That was one of the finest and most reliable weapons I ever used. I dropped it in mud with the ejection port cover open, to see if it would still work. I scooped the mud out of the chamber with my little finger so that rounds could enter it. I did nothing else. The thing went thru two magazines of continuous 30 round bursts, ejecting mud along with cartridge cases. It was practically self… Read more »


Me thinks Mr. Farnam needs to become better informed about WWII weapons AND the German military!!!


Guns are built for a reason. Generally to fight the last war. The Thompson was a trench sweeper, designed for use in fields of France in 1917. The Germans designed the MP44 to help an out numbered German army fight the soviets. The fact is what worked for the door to door fighting in Stalingrad didn’t help infantry on the plains around Kursk. The current AR variants have evolved to fight in the middle east, and Eurasia. Consider this, if Antifa rallies and takes control of the U.S.’s major urban centers MP5’s will again be in favor. We choose the… Read more »

Chris Mallory

“The German Army doctrine stressed tactical imitative which placed emphasis on independent action at the lowest feasible level.”–WlWjfeDI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjz8ovqqqHYAhUFJCYKHfZiBYgQ6AEIYTAK#v=onepage&q=german%20army%20ww2%20enlisted%20initiative&f=false

The Brits and Americans didn’t know about the STG44 until after the war? I didn’t know the Battle of the Bulge happened after the war. There are photographs of Germans using the weapon during that battle and of Americans with captured examples.


SMGs filled a need back when & can still be useful today in certain applications. With the ubiquity of (relatively) inexpensive assault rifles today it makes sense that militaries today don’t equip combat units with them. The SMG lives on in their semi-auto civilian versions that do well as home defense weapons.


” Most American servicemen never saw a copy!”. . . of the Thompson SMG? Really? Where does this guy get his information, or does he just make things up? My Dad had training on the Thompson in boot camp, and after deployment overseas, he obtained one after his originally issued M1 Carbine proved less than satisfactory against Japanese soldiers. ( He briefly used a Garand before settling on the Thompson.) And he was FAR from the only guy in his outfit to carry one. As for the M3 grease gun, later in the war the brass tried to get the… Read more »

Roy D.

Grunts were still carrying “grease guns” as late as 1975. I know because I saw one doing so and stopped jogging and talked to the guys to confirm that it was a grease gun. This was at Miesau, Germany and the troops were from Baumholder.


Roy are you sure they were grunts? I saw a grease gun of 2 when I got to Ft Hood in ’78 but they weren’t issued to the infantry.


There is a place in war for “spray and pray” weapons, essentially with the life
span of a disposable lighter. Many of us during peace select to surround ourselves with
accurate, quality shooters, either for target, competition, or hunting.
These iconic firearms are still beloved of collectors. Some folks enjoy the “cool”
factor. But practical value is nearly non-existent, in these inaccurate firearms.


The STG 44 is the forerunner to the modern HK systems.

Mike the Limey

The StG 44 was the first assault rifle & not a battle rifle, as the latter use full power rifle cartridges not intermediate power cartridges.

Glenn McDOnald

No mention of the improved, mass-produced MP40, which replaced the costly MP38…