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Article by Sergey Monetchikova, (1998 issue, number 23 of the journal "MasterGun")

1997 was 100 years from the birthday of a great Russian gunsmith, creator of the legendary weapon, Georgii Semenovich's victory Shpagin.
During the severe years of war, the Shpagin submachine gun was the most loyal friend for our soldiers and the merciless weapon of the destruction of our enemies.

Georgii Semenovich Shpagin was born in 1897 in the village Klyuchnikovo, in the Kovrov district of the province Vladimir, to a peasant family. In 1916, he was called into the army, where he served as armorer to an infantry regiment. During the years of civil war in the RKKA (WORKERS' AND PEASANTS' RED ARMY), an armorer in the Vladimir garrison. In 1920, after the demobilization, Shpagin entered the model workshop of the Kovrov machine-gun plant as a metal craftsman, at which the chief was the well-known Soviet gunsmith, V.A. Degtarev. Specifically, here at the Kovrov plant, the talent of the master-gunsmith Shpagin was completely opened. His first developments include the design/construction of the twin coupled 6,5- mm tank machine gun with the ball installation. This work served as basis for G.S.Shpagin's creation of an installation for fastening the 7.62-mm tank machine gun DT in the tanks, the armored cars and armored platforms. In the middle 1930's, Shpagin designed an original receiver for belt feed of the 12,7- mm Degtarev heavy machine gun, that made it possible, as long ago as 1938, to accept this on the present efficient and very effective means of troop PVO (AIR DEFENSE) for the armament of the Red Army and VMF. Together with these under Degtarev's management, he created several designs of tripod machine tools under the experimental machine guns DS, he mastered different problems and mechanisms of this weapon. However, the most significant work for which Shpagin became famous, was the Shpagin submachine gun, which became the symbol of Soviet weapons of World War II.

In the course of the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-40, wide application by the Finns of submachine guns, led to the fact that their advantage over other types of weapon became finally indisputable to the Soviet High Command. Experience of the application of an analogous Soviet weapon, the submachine guns of Degtarev, PPD 34/38 and PPD-40, in the severe months of the Winter War gave encouraging results, and their fate was finally resolved. This weapon was accepted for the armament of the Red Army, but simultaneously with this arose one additional insoluble problem, which was consisting in the obsolete technology of the production of submachine guns, connected with working of practically all parts of weapon on the metal-working machines with the method of cutting, which excluded the sharp growth of volumes of production if necessary. Production could be only one: For the Red Army, a new maximally simple and cheap submachine gun was necessary. Especially, since progress in production technology of precise machining, offered new possibilities to designers in the development of new types of weapons. To create the new design/construction of a submachine gun, the Kovrov plant was selected to lead in this direction.

In the beginning of 1940, with the design of the promising prototype of a submachine gun using the regular pistol cartridge, the Kovrov designer G.S. Shpagin and the chief OKB -15 B.G. Shpital'nyy approached on the competitive basis . Already during September of the same year, Shpagin presented, in Artkom GAU, his original submachine gun, which struck one with its simplicity and elementary design/construction. In this submachine gun were new constructive solutions, in many respects, its improved operating characteristics, moreover at the same time, for Shpagin, it was possible to attain the extremely high production and economic indices of the new weapon. First of all, this concerned the significant decrease in labor expenses of its production. Only the barrel, in particular its channel, underwent thorough treatment on the metal-working machines, remaining metallic parts were made by the method of cold pressing from the steel plate with the application of spot and electric arc welding, wooden parts had a very simple configuration. Replacement of casting and forgings for the production of the most labor-consuming parts of the weapon by stamped-and-welded constructions from the sheet metal, with a thickness of 2.5 mm gave especially large metal savings. Perhaps, one of the most expensive and complex problems in the construction/design of this submachine gun, was the 71 round drum magazine, copied without any changes from the PPD-40. In the construction/design of the Shpagin submachine gun, almost completely precise interference fits were absent and there were less threaded connections. The advanced technology of its production gave significant metal savings, reducing labor expense, and the use of cheap and abundant metals, made it possible several times to decrease the cost. As a whole, the weapon came out so simple that its production we could master at any, including unspecialized, machine shops.

The Shpagin machine pistol worked according to the principle of the blowback bolt. Select fire mechanism allowed single or continuous fire. A safety knob was installed in the retracting handle as in the PPD. Sight adjustment was graduated up to 500 m.
He very rationally resolved a question in the new submachine gun about maintaining the stability of the weapon while shooting, by introduction into his design, an inclined muzzle brake-compensator, which is part of the barrel shroud. The fiber buffer, which takes its impacts with the withdrawal of the bolt to the rear position, also contributed to the stability of weapon during the shooting, simultaneously increased the vitality of receiver group and mobile parts of automation. The design of the trigger mechanism became simpler. For the protection of hands from heating of the barrel while shooting, the barrel shroud was made with oval openings for better ventilation and cooling. To increase the operating characteristics of the machine pistol, Shpagin contributed the simple design of the receiver group, which is removed upward, in contrast to PPD, where receiver group had a back plate on a threaded connection. The high reliability of the work of this submachine gun under any, including most complex conditions, is achieved by its simplicity. It is broken down into 5 parts, which ensured its rapid study and mastery by Red Army soldiers. To a big enough degree, precisely by this are explained good official- operational qualities of the machine pistol, which included: convenience in loading and unloading of weapon, the elimination of functioning problems and so on. This unpretentious weapon of the Shpagin system, after gaining the convincing victory over its competitors at the competition, carried out in the fall of 1940, on 21 December of the same year it was accepted for the armament of the Red Army under designation 7,62 mm the submachine gun of the Shpagin system of model 1941 (PPSh -41).

Thus, on the very eve of World War II, the famous PPSh was created, which became an irreplaceable weapon in the hands of the soldiers of the Red Army. However, the exceptional simplicity of its construction/design allowed during the first months of war to connect to many workshops, including those never used for the production of weapons. The plant NKV OF THE USSR in Zagorsk city Moscow region, initially intended for the production of the PPD, first issued PPShs during July 1941.

During October, in connection with the rapid advance of German troops to the capital, the plant was evacuated into the city of the Vyatsky clearings, Kirovskaya district. They here evacuated an additional plant of the Moscow settlement Lopasnya, which produced drums for the PPSh. G.S. Shpagin was appointed as the chief designer of this plant, which became the main producer of PPShs for the Red Army. Vyatskopolyanskiy, the Machine Building Plant, worked very closely in the cooperation with the Izhevsk metallurgical and Machine Building Plants, which provided with its metal, the billets of barrels, by the necessary tool and rigging.

During the years of war, the gunsmiths of the Vyatsky clearings produced more than 2 million PPSh -41s. The significant needs of the Red Army for this weapon determined its mass production at many unspecialized machine shops, including in Voroshilovgrad, Zlatoust, Kovrove and Tbilisi. However, already by the end of 1941, Moscow became the second basic center on the production of PPShs during the war years. PPSh production was fixed at the Moscow auto works with the name I.V. of Stalin (ZIS), subsequently renamed with the motor vehicle plant name of Likhachev (ZIL), the instrument/tool name E Kalmykova and the Machine Tool Plants, in workshop OKB -16, at the factory of sports equipment, on "Krasnom puncher", the plants calculating- of typewriters, of woodworking machines and some others. During November 1941, the capital gave to the front the first 400 PPSh, then during December, 14,000.

In all, Muscovites produced more than 3,5 million Shpagin submachine guns for the war. In only four years of war, the Soviet defense industry produced 5,4 million PPSh-41s.

In this connection one cannot fail to mention, also, about the international cooperation in the field of the production of small arms for the Red Army, speech goes on the Tegeranskom machine-gun plant, which was being located in the Soviet zone. In 1942, after the signing of intergovernmental agreement with the Iranians, they transmitted entire technical documentation, necessary equipment and rigging for preparing the submachine guns PPSh on the Soviet license. During the war years, our soldiers obtained several ten thousands of PPShs of Iranian production.

G.S Shpagin, for the creation PPSh was awarded the Stalin Award of the first degree. Furthermore, the designer was rewarded with the Order of Lenin.

Already in the course of war, the construction/design of the machine pistol Shpagin underwent some changes, which were introduced as a result of both accumulated combat experience and modernization of mass assembly-line production. Thus, most of all of the problems in the troops was caused by the drum magazine; heavy and inconvenient in carrying, equipment and to change on the weapon, especially because with the simplified quality of production, characteristic for the production of the weapon of wartime, these magazines required individual trimming to each PPSh, the labor expense for their production in some stages (in the winter of 1941) held up total release of PPShs, besides this, the reclamations to the not entirely successful safety device frequently occurred from the troops. The numerous cases of spontaneous shots with the impact by the stock with the ground or other solid objects were noted. The designer, in a short time, removed these deficiencies. Already during February 1942, a stick magazine with 35 cartridges was added to the Shpagin machine pistols, prepared from the steel plate with a thickness of 0,5 mm. However with their combat employment, it showed that with all positive qualities the new magazines were insufficiently durable and frequently they underwent deformation.

In 1943 the magazines began to be produced more durable. From a steel plate with a thickness of 1 mm, which ensured their failure-free performance under any operating conditions. In 1942, the PPSh design again underwent a complete revision, for the purpose of simplification and the reduction of production cost. In exchange for the tangent sight, PPSh received a simplified flip sight of 100 and 200 m, which made it possible to forego immediately the production of 7 parts. They replaced the spring safety with the welded construction of a safety , strengthened the clip of the lock boxes, placed the more reliable magazine pawl. The chromium-plating of the bore made it possible to increase its vitality and facilitated the operation of weapon. Fiber buffer was replaced with a cheaper one of Textolite or a coated one.

State for Merit estimated the work accomplished by this designer. For the modernization of its weapon, Shpagin was rewarded with one of the highest leadership rewards, the Order of Suvorov, second degree.

War imposed the increased requirements, not only on all types of weapons, but also methods of its use. At the end of 1941, the place, which the machine pistols in the weapon system by RKKA (WORKERS' AND PEASANTS' RED ARMY) occupied, finally was determined. The field manual of infantry of 1942 clearly determined the destination of the infantry: "Infantry is to accomplish, the basic and most difficult task of the destruction of enemy in the close combat." Regulations further prescribed: "fire, maneuver and hand-to-hand fighting," the basic methods of operation of the Infantry. The high military characteristics of the machine pistol Shpagina Model 1941, allowed it to successfully withstand the most severe tests of World War II and to receive deserved acknowledgement as one of most the popular small arms of the Soviet soldiers.

However, at the same time, already at the beginning of 1942, it appeared, that the PPSh with all its excellent qualities possessed an excessively large weight of 9 kg, with the complete set of the equipped magazines and the significant length of 842 mm, which hampered its application for the tank, airborne troops, scouts, communications men and field engineers. They required a lighter, more compact and maneuverable weapon in addition to the basic automatic weapon of the infantry, the submachine gun PPSh.

Therefore, in the beginning of 1942, GAU declared competition for the new submachine gun. Its weight (together with the fire unit) should not exceed 6,6.5 kg, without the magazine, not more than 2,5.3 kg. Overall length must be regulated: with the detachable stock not more than 700-750 mm, with the folding stock, not more than 550- 600 mm. The design of the magazine was assumed to be the analogous to the magazine of 30 to 35 cartridges as in the PPSh. Together with the improvement of the tactical/technical qualities of weapon, requirements were imposed on improvement and simplification in the technology of its production, reduction of labor expense and prime cost of materials. Soon, several ten prototypes, represented by well-known gunsmiths, also by beginning designers, including front line soldiers, were sent for the tests. Among them the designs of Degtarev, Shpagin, Korovin, Rukavishnikova, Sudayeva, Bezruchno-Vysotskogo, Menshikov- Shkvornev, Zaytseva, Ogorodnikov, Volkova-Chukhmatogo, Goroneskul, Pushkin, Barkhalova, Iyusta and others.

During February 1942, G.S. Shpagin presented the commission GRAU, an altered model 1941, which was differing from the prototype in terms of a detachable wooden stock. However, main disadvantages of the PPSh; first of all, significant weight, and also the unsuccessful design of fastening the stock, served as the basic reasons for the fact that this model was soon removed from the tests. During May of the same year, Shpagin prepared the completely reworked submachine gun PPSh-2. It was a maximally simplified all-metal version famous PPSh-41, with a receiver group of rectangular shape (most convenient for cold pressing). The automation of this prototype also worked according to the principle of the blowback bolt. The simplified trigger mechanism allowed only automatic fire. Function of the safety was performed by the hinged/reversible shield, which closed the longitudinal slot for the retracting handle and ejection port. Shield had two cuts, one in front and one behind. In the "march" position , the bolt handle was retained in them. Feeding rounds was achieved with the standard 35 round magazine. In the design of the recoil mechanism, just as in PPSh-41, a fiber buffer was used. The sight was calculated at distances of 100 and 200 m. For more compactness, the submachine gun PPSh-2 had either a detachable wooden stock or a folding metallic stock. Barrel shut the shortened jacket/housing. In the muzzle end a brake/compensator of a new design was installed. However, clearly unsatisfactory close grouping with short bursts, numerous failures while shooting under extreme conditions, the inconvenience of use in tanks, and also, in practice, weight not lessened, led to the fact that the preference was for the submachine gun Sudayeva (PPS), which proved to be more handy, more convenient to use and it is more unfailing in the shooting. But in spite of the numerous advantages of the Sudayev submachine gun over the PPSh and the adjusting of its mass production, the PPS nevertheless went as an addition to the already produced in colossal quantities, the Shpagin system. This is explained by the fact that the PPSh by that time was solidly mastered in production, the volumes of output of this model exceeded several million pieces.

In 1943-45, Soviet designers continued to work at the improvement of submachine guns, including G.S. Shpagin, who created in 1945, on basis of the PPSh-41 and PPSh-42, a new model. The submachine gun, Shpagin Model 1945, was an all-metal version with the the well-made stock. Receiver group had a rectangular shape, which was simple for production. In contrast to the foregoing samples, the new PPSh had a more thought out safety. For the safer handling of the weapon, together with the safety device, which was placed in the retracting handle, now there was one more, in the form of the lever, fixed under the longitudinal hole in the receiver group for the retracting handle. This lever, in the raised form, reliably fixed the bolt in the "march" position. Feeding was achieved from a stick magazine of 35 cartridges. The submachine gun PPSh, Model 1945, again had the tangent sight, calculated for a distance, up to 500 meters.

In the same year, Shpagin developed one additional original version of his PPSh-41. This weapon was a response to the German automatics with the curved barrel. Stg-44(V) and Stg-44(P), which were created specially for the tank crews for the purpose of fighting with enemy infantrymen and grenade throwers, the neprostrelivayemykh (?) from the tanks' zones from the distance 15 to 20 meters. A detachable barrel with the bend of channel to 30 degrees became the special feature of new construction/design. However, the bend of barrel led, besides significant reduction in the initial velocity of bullets, to a very high scattering of the shots, at a distance up to 50 meters, the pattern, the size of 1x2 meters, remained practically not satisfactory.

These models of the weapon Shpagin, however, and many submachine guns of other designer- gunsmiths, also remained only in the prototypes. Creation in 1943 of the 7.62-mm intermediate cartridge of model 1943 made it possible to approach the design of the new form of individual automatic weapons, automatics (in the West. the corresponding more to the class of automatic carbines or assault rifles). Together with other Soviet gunsmiths, G.S. Shpagin approached, in the beginning of 1944, the development of automatics under the intermediate cartridge. In the first design of his prototype of the new weapon, Shpagin used for the work of automatics, the principle of the return of blowback bolt, which was well recommended for submachine guns. As a whole, on the layout, to the methods of dismantling - assembling the Shpagin automatic Model 1944 was analogous to the PPSh-41: the same articulated coupling of the jacket/housing of the barrel, which appears simultaneously with this of the guiding mobile sybarrel (?) with the trigger assembly. Fast and well- (?) the trigger mechanism, which allowed single and continuous forms of fire . Recoil mechanism is also analogous to the PPSh-41. Feeding from the 30 round stick magazine. However, the attempt of Shpagin to use in the automaton, calculated under the intermediate cartridge, the old design concept of machine pistols with the inertia cutoff of lock failed not because of problems and the mechanisms of weapon, rather they corresponded to the considerably greater power of new cartridge. Payment for this the weight of weapon with the empty magazine became. 5,4 kg, with the weight of lock 1,23 kg. Together with the creation of the submachine guns during the war years, G.S. Shpagin was occupied by the design of signal flare pistols (signal pistols) of simplified construction, created with the use of the newest technologies at that time, of stamping and welding. As long ago as 1943, for the armament of the Red Army, the signal (illuminating) pistol Shpagin (OPSH-y), 25mm, was delivered. In the same year, its design was substantially modernized and the Red Army obtained the new 26 mm signal flare pistol Shpagin (SPSH-2). Signal flare pistols SPSH, are of amazingly simple and reliable design, and to this day, 54 years after adoption for the armament, still continue to faithfully perform their duty, moreover, not only in the Russian armed forces and the armies of other states of the members OF THE CIS, but also in the armies of the former Warsaw Pact, or many third world countries.

For the creation of the signal flare pistol, Shpagin was rewarded with the second Order of Lenin.

After the war, the seriously sick G.S.Shpagin left active designing. The famous Soviet gunsmith, creator of the most popular domestic submachine gun, passed away in 1952 in the fifty sixth year of his life. His remains rest in the Novodevich'em cemetery in Moscow.

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