While submachine guns were first fielded during the last days of World War I, they reached their zenith during World War II. They were light and handy, and what they lacked in range and penetration was more than made up for in short-range firepower.
The German success with the MP-38 in Poland and the Finns with the Suomi KP/-31 during the Winter War of 1940 left many doubting Toms scrambling to field suitable designs of their own.
One nation, the Soviet Union, was caught unprepared for just how effective the submachine gun proved. After scrambling to make up for lost time, the Soviets fielded Georgy Shpagin’s drum-fed PPSh-41 in such huge quantities it became the badge of the Red Army soldier.
There is no doubt this tough and effective submachine gun, along with the T-34 tank and Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik, played an important role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.
As successful as the 7.62x25mm PPSh-41 was, the Soviets went on to field an even better design, the PPS-43. Lighter, better balanced, easier to manufacture and with more advanced features, the PPS-43 was arguably the best submachine gun of World War II.
Despite all its excellent qualities, it was not produced in the same numbers as the PPSh-41. The PPS-43 went on to be produced by several countries and saw service in many of the conflicts that followed World War II. Now a semi-automatic variant, called the PPS-43C, is being produced in Poland by Pioneer Arms and available to shooters and collectors in this country.
The PPS-43C is not entirely new to the U.S. market. It was a popular offering of Pioneer Arms until military contracts forced them to withdraw from the U.S. commercial market a few years ago.
Demands from military customers led to a rapid expansion of Pioneer Arms over the past five years. During this time, they never lost sight of the U.S. commercial market though.
As soon as production capacity enabled it, they founded a U.S. subsidiary, Pioneer Arms USA, to return directly to the U.S. market. The return to the U.S. market will be marked by reintroduction of the popular 7.62x25mm PPS-43C pistol.
Before we delve into this interesting design, let’s take a brief look at the company producing it, Pioneer Arms. Pioneer Arms’ production facility is some 95 kilometers south of Warsaw in the historic Polish city of Radom.
Located on the Mleczna River, Radom has a population of about 220,000 today and is perhaps most famous for its firearms.
The company was founded by Michael Michalczuk, originally to produce high-quality side-by-side shotguns. The first product was a handsome Greener-style 12-gauge double with exposed rebounding hammers, dual triggers and Greener-style locking crossbolt.
Today, Pioneer Arms is known for Kalashnikov rifles. The company has grown and expanded immensely since the first time I visited some five years ago. They have since taken over some of Fabryka Broni’s (Arsenal 11) old buildings and today they even have their own foundry.
Most of their production capability is geared to producing Kalashnikov rifles for military sales. Over the past few years Pioneer Arms has worked hard to continually improve the materials, manufacturing techniques, QC procedures and overall quality of their rifles.
Pioneer Arms was one of several European Kalashnikov manufacturers that shifted away from the U.S. commercial market to military sales. The result has been a shortage of high-quality European manufactured AK rifles on the U.S. market. The shortage has led to higher prices for AK rifles across the board.
Eager to return to the U.S. market, they began by setting up an American subsidiary in Deland, Fla. By having a U.S. subsidiary, Pioneer can not only better meet the needs of U.S. customers, but can more easily expand to offer additional products. The key to being successful in the U.S. market is having people who understand what the U.S. consumer wants.
Accordingly, Pioneer’s first offering is the 7.62x25mm PPS-43C pistol. Pioneer Arms produces these using a combination of original parts taken from disassembled Polish pm wz.43s (the Polish variant of the PPS-43) and newly designed and manufactured parts. The result is a fantastic-looking piece perfect for the collector or shooter.
For those unfamiliar with it, the Pistolet Pulemyot Sudaeva or Sudaev’s Submachine Gun model 1943 was developed by Alexey Ivanovich Sudayev (August 23, 1912–August 17, 1946). Sudayev lived in Leningrad and participated in its defense during the German siege. His most obvious contribution was designing an effective submachine gun capable of being easily and cheaply mass produced.
While the standard Soviet PPSh-41 submachine gun was reliable and effective, the besieged city needed a design easier to produce on the huge scale required. So Sudaev set out to develop a submachine gun that required fewer machining operations, had a lower production cost and required fewer skilled work in its fabrication.
To accomplish this, he eliminated as many machining operations as possible, making most of the parts from stamped sheet steel. He also eliminated the traditional wooden buttstock of the PPSh-41 and the ability to
accept the problematic drum magazines.
Normally, when someone specifically sets out to design a firearm that’s cheaper and easier to mass produce, you expect it to be inferior. Not so in this case.
Despite all his cost-cutting and simplifications, Sudaev came up with a very practical, user-friendly and effective design. Prototypes successfully passed testing during the spring of 1942 and were accepted into Red Army service as the PPS-42.
Some 75 years ago, small-scale production began during the siege of Leningrad. Mass production began in 1943 at the Sestroryetsk Arsenal, with more than 45,000 being produced before production switched over to an improved design, the PPS-43. Thanks to his work, the Soviets could increase submachine gun production from approximately 135,000 to 350,000 units per month.
While the Shpagin’s PPSh-41 has a classic look to it with its wood stock and 71-round drum magazine, Sudaev’s design is the better of the two. Compared to the PPSh-41, the PPS-43 is lighter, better balanced and quicker handling. The PPS-43 carries easily and is fast to the shoulder. In comparison, the PPSh-41 handles like a dump truck.
The safety on the PPS-43 is also better placed and the magazine release is a better design. It can also be made more compact, thanks to its folding stock. The PPSh-41’s only advantages are its ability to accept drum magazines and its heft, which aids controllability.
However, the PPS-43 ‘stick’ magazines proved more reliable than the mass-produced wartime drum magazines of its peer. The PPS-43 could easily stand toe to toe with the Germans MP 40.
Soviet-produced PPS-43s entered service, as the 7.62mm pm wz.43, with the Polish People’s Army in 1943. In 1946, production began in Poland at the Hippolytus Cegielski Plant in Poznan. Later it was produced in Radom and the Textile Machinery ‘WIFAMA’ in Lodz.
The quality of the Polish manufacture was surprisingly good. The stamping, machining, assembly and finish were all nicely executed. These Polish-built guns are very good looking pieces and a fine example of the quality Polish firearms manufacturers became famous for.
The PPS-43C looks exactly like a PPS-43 with its stock folded. Operation has been changed from open-bolt blowback to closed-bolt. Since it’s sold as a pistol, the stock is present, but cannot be unfolded.
The example I handled measured 24.2 inches in length and weighed in at 6.8 pounds. Barrel length is 9.6 inches and it features a 1:9.4 twist. At the muzzle, you will find Sudaev’s distinctive compensator.
Sights consist of a protected front post and a rear flip-sight with U-notches for 100 and 200 meters. Sling mounts are provided on the left side of the barrel shroud and rear of the receiver.
Caliber is the classic Soviet 7.62x25mm, which is a high velocity bottleneck design. Standard military ball ammunition drives a .309″ 86-grain lead-core FMJ bullet at between 1600 and 1800 fps from the PPS-43C. While inexpensive surplus ammunition has unfortunately dried up, new production ammunition is readily available. Wolf Performance Ammunition, Prvi Partisan, Century Arms and others offer it. If you enjoy handloading, Starline offers Boxer-primed reloadable brass cartridge cases while dies and reloading data are all readily available.
The PPS-43C feeds from standard 35-round PPS-43 magazines. These are relatively inexpensive and easy to find online. The charging handle is located on the right side of the receiver, the magazine release is a paddle at the rear of the magazine well and the safety is a Garand type located at the front of the trigger guard.
Push the safety forward to place on fire and snap it back to place on safe. The trigger pull on the PPS-43C is surprisingly good; it stacks slightly and then breaks cleanly. Recoil and report are mild, but it does toss empties high in the air. Accuracy is good, but the sights are small and might be hard to see if you have middle aged eyes.
What do I like about the PPS-43C? A lot of things, with the first being the historic appeal.
While I may never own an honest-to-God PPS-43 submachine gun, a PPS-43C is well within my reach. The PPS-43C has a certain “cool” factor to it. It has the appeal of a classic second generation submachine gun without the rough welds and odd bits of low grade steel of say a Sten gun. It certainly spices up a collection of Mosin rifles and Nagant revolvers.
Better still, the PPS-43C is a whole lot of fun to shoot and its distinctive looks attract crowds at the range. Accuracy is good and report and recoil are quite mild. It is a very fun piece for recreational shooting. But the lack of a buttstock is a bit of a pain.
This makes the PPS-43C a perfect candidate to register as a Short Barrel Rifle. If you submit your paperwork, pay your $200 tax and wait to receive your stamp you can install the folding stock mechanism. Then you can have a working buttstock that folds neatly out of the way on top of the receiver, making a very fun little carbine. As I write this, PPS-43 demilled parts kits are readily available and quite inexpensive. Apexgunparts.com has them for $69.95, along with spare magazines, slings and extras.
Now I fully understand that most will shy away from going the SBR route. Something else to consider would be adding an arm brace to the PPS-43C. There are a couple ways this could be done, but no matter how you go about it, you’ll get a whole lot of legal fun. I would love to see Pioneer Arms offer the PPS-43C with an arm brace. Perhaps this will happen down the road.
Pm Wz.63 RAK
In addition to the PPS-43C, Pioneer Arms is working to bring in a semi-automatic version of the Polish 9x18mm pm wz.63 RAK submachine gun. The pm wz.63 is a very compact PDW-type weapon that can be carried in a holster and deployed like a machine pistol.
Blessed with a low rate of fire, it is very smooth shooting and easy to control. The first time I had a chance to shoot a RAK, I was shocked by just how controllable, and fun, it was. In stark contrast to say, a Glock 18, which just buzzsaws away, the RAK is very docile and easy to control.
Like many others, I thought this project was dead when Pioneer Arms pulled out of the U.S. market. But luckily, I was wrong. Pioneer Arms will be offering a very interesting semi-automatic version for collectors and shooters to enjoy.
I would also expect them to bring in Kalashnikovs and other interesting items down the road. Expect the street price on the PPS-43C to be $575. Pioneer Arms returning to the U.S. market is good news for shooters. They are a company to keep an eye on.