The MP 40 (MP stands for Maschinenpistole, or 'Machine Pistol') is a submachine gun that was developed and produced in Nazi Germany during World War II. The '40' in its name reflects the year of its acceptance by the Wehrmacht. It is often referred to as the Schmeisser MP 40, as that is how Allied soldiers referred to it during the war. This is a misnomer, however. Hugo Schmeisser was a weapons designer who had designed the first production submachine gun, the MP 18 (one guess about its initials) which saw service in the German army in World War I. Although he held a patent on the magazine design used in the MP 40, he did not design the weapon - but since his name was stamped on the magazines, the designation stuck.

The MP 40 itself is famous for its ubiquity during the war. Its design was a refinement of the earlier MP 38 (again, no points for guessing) and included several refinements on that design which sprang from both industrial and service feedback. The former consisted mostly of cost-saving measures needed to allow for the large demand and increasing resource restrictions Germany was facing; the latter consisted of field use feedback from soldiers taking part in the invasion of Poland. The primary differences between the MP 38 and the MP 40 are in their construction. The former included many components of machined steel; the latter replaced many of these with stamped steel parts for quicker and cheaper manufacture.

Originally, the MP 40 was issued only to select soldiers (platoon leaders, etc.) and to troopers in special units (paratroopers, the separate Waffen-SS) while line troops were issued the Karabiner 98K bolt-action rifle. As the Eastern Front fighting moved towards urban combat, however, and the Soviet Union began to manufacture automatic shoulder arms in quantity, the Wehrmacht began issuing the MP 40 to complete units. 98Ks were still issued for units expected to fight at longer range; although the MP 40 had rear U and front blade sights, the two-hand grip and lack of solid stock made them of marginal use beyond short range. This wasn't considered a problem as the pistol ammunition used didn't have the energy to be effective past that. With the introduction of the larger and longer-ranged Sturmgewehr-44, the Wehrmacht moved to issuing automatic weapons to as many soldiers as logistically possible. The smaller MP 40, however, remained preferable in the tight spaces and short ranges of urban warfare.

The MP 40 served (and continues to serve) as an icon of the Third Reich's troops in World War II movies. In popular entertainment, it is nearly as much a part of the Nazi uniform as the distinctive flaring helmet and gray tunic. During and after the war, both surplus war stock MP 40s as well as reverse-engineered copies were used by forces the world over. The IDF, somewhat ironically, used the MP 40 as an official issue weapon through 1956. Most if not all later submachine gun designs can be fairly said to have drawn inspiration and lessons from the weapon, from the Uzi to the M3 and MP5 family.

Basic Stats

Weapon Type: two-handed automatic weapon with pistol grip; optional wire shoulder stock on some variants
Ammunition: chambered exclusively for 9x19mm Parabellum (also known as 9mm Luger for its other contemporary use). Magazine-fed, 32 rounds in double-row/single feed bottom-mounted straight (box) magazine. Muzzle velocity approximately 1250 feet per second (~380 meters per second)
Mechanism: open bolt, blowback operated (as opposed to gas-operated)
Rate of fire: Fully automatic only, at approx. 550 rounds per minute- users familiar with the weapon could approximate semi-automatic fire with careful trigger use
Range: 100 meters effective range; 200 meters maximum range

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