Anyone who ever thought you needed the best tech to win a war clearly never met the ugly stepbrother of the PPS-41 “Papasha” submachine gun – the PPS-43. Or maybe they did … and that was the end of the story. Despite all the odds and cut corners, this speed shooter was an incredibly effective piece of firepower at around 600 rounds per minute. There was no semi-auto function.
The PPS-43 and earlier PPS-42 version were truly wartime weapons. The Soviet Union entered World War II with some very forward-looking firearms that ranged from the SVT-40 semi-auto rifle to the simplified, Browning-inspired Tokarev pistol. Innovation, however, did not prevent the German army from rolling through the Russian boarder at the start of Operation Barbarossa.
In fact, the lightning strike from the Nazi regime surged past many Soviet supply installations and landed quite a few pristine new weapons in the hands of the German army, which were promptly turned on the Soviets.
It was a brutal fight to be sure, but the Eastern Front was undeniably crucial to the Allies success. With weapons and critical materiel in short supply, the firearms designer Alexei Sudayev developed a simple, cheap, effective gun the Soviets could easily mass produce.
Born in a time of desperation, the PPS-43 had a lot going for it. Early versions were even slapped together by the defenders of Leningrad, with the story claiming they simply test fired the guns out the windows of the factory at the German lines nearby. By the time Berlin fell, nearly 2 million guns made it to the Red Army, becoming a staple of the Cold War scene shortly after.
The beauty of the gun was in its simplicity, both in function and in actual manufacturing terms. It took less labor and skill to build than my childhood bicycle. A relatively unskilled labor force working with crude machining could churn out two PPS-43s in less time and with less steel than it took to make just one of the earlier PPSh-41 submachine guns.
These were basic, open-bolt, blowback designs. Most of the ones you're going to see in the U.S. are modified clones designed to fire on a closed bolt to meet U.S. law, such as the Polish-made Pioneer Arms PPS-43C. They were originally chambered for the zippy 7.62x25mm Tokarev round. But 9mm fans will be excited to know there are some modern-production guns in that caliber.
Even the buffer system was simplistic and relied on a long recoil spring connected to the bulky round bolt. Early guns even used a cheap cloth-like buffer pad. Beyond that, most of the other parts were made by simply stamping and bending sheet metal, which meant a basic bicycle shop could contribute to the manufacturing process.
But one of the things that really set the guns apart had nothing to do with the internal function of the firearms or their simplicity. Guns need to be fed, and that is probably one of the most exceptional things about the PPS-43.
Magazines Make the Gun
She’s kinda ugly. She’s crude, but I guarantee you don’t want to be on the other side of her when she empties a 35-round magazine. The success of the PPS-43 owes a lot to the fact that it had an actually reliable double-stack magazine, which plagued similar guns like the British Sten and American M3 “Grease Gun.”
I’ve fired far pricier ARs only to have them choke on feeding issues from cheap, over-used government mags. Reliable mags make the gun run as much as anything. The combatants in World War II produced plenty of budget submachine guns with even more budget mags. The PPS-43 was blessed with one of the best magazines sent to soldiers in the war.
Shooting the ‘Pistol’ PPS-43C
Before you get too excited at the sight of the folding stock, it is pinned in place and requires an NFA stamp and parts kit to make functional. The overall length of the barrel is just under 10 inches long, so a folding stock would make it a short-barreled rifle. It’s ironic, given that a folded Zastava M70 AK is comparable in length and legal without a stamp.
Unless you want to shell out for the stamp, most of these imported guns are going to take on the pistol format – a very, very heavy pistol at just over 8 pounds loaded. It will test your arm strength at the range.
Speaking of the range, the long sight radius provides ample accuracy, and the test gun I shot functioned flawlessly. One thing to note is the sights. There are two settings on the flip-up rear sights, 100 and 200 meters. That said, the gun was never really meant for precision shooting, and I actually found that mine hit about 10 inches high at 30 yards.
You could fix this issue by simply adjusting the front sight post. Sadly, I cannot claim to have any range time with a full-auto original. Though, they were known to be quite controllable and fairly flat shooting.
Ergonomics and Controls
Rocking the first patented synthetic resin in world history, the simple Bakelite pistol grip streamlined the manufacture process and spared precious wood resources. I found the grip to provide plenty of control and relative comfort even if it is boxy. Other than the rugged Bakelite grip, the only other non-metal part in the gun is the buffer pad at the base of the recoil spring.
That should leave anyone whose fired a machine gun with an obvious question, “Where do you put your support hand?” Well, the magwell actually doubles as the forward grip, and there is an added shield to protect the magazine release at the rear of the magwell.
The trigger itself is actually kind of atrocious. Little more than a long, boxy lever of steel with a hook at the end, it is hardly refined. Most of the trigger pull is mush before the break with little wall. But the pull is also light and easy. Given that the PPS-43C is a clone of an open-bolt submachine gun designed to have the bolt flopping around, the expectation was never to offer a precision trigger anyway.
Other controls are also incredibly basic. The safety is on right side and just in front of the trigger. It is relatively easy but not very ergonomic to push the safety forward with your trigger finger – for a righty anyway. The bolt handle is little more than a polished steel tongue attached to the round bolt. Takedown is a cinch with a button on the rear of the receiver that pops open the guts of the entire gun.
It’s hard to fault a gun for being ugly when it has a reputation like the PPS-43. The end of the war is obviously well written and recorded, but it’s easy to miss one of the guns that made it happen. The PPS-43 breathed fire and at a bargain price. With the war over and the arrival of the iconic AK-47, the PPS-43 stayed on the stage for decades and can still be found in some conflicts today.
Soviet arms quickly became a staple for many of their satellite states. They then made their way to nations around the globe and the Chinese created their own variant. Even though the PPS-43C is a clone that no longer functions like the original, it is easy to feel the history when you hold it in your hand. Plus, it’s at a small fraction of the price for a rare original in the U.S.