Yes, this is the one you have been waiting for
a CO2 version of the most ubiquitous submachine gun in history
By Dennis Adler
There is scarcely a WWII movie that takes place in Europe that does not have soldiers wielding an MP40 submachine gun; it has been used in every WWII and post war espionage thriller from the 1940s to the present day. We’ve seen the MP40 so often, in fact, that we almost don’t see it; it’s a part of the scene, as much as uniforms and dialogue. Both in film and in fact, the MP40, Walther P.38 and Luger P.08 are the very definition of WWII German arms; so they are SOP in any movie or TV prop house. But to say that the MP40 is the most famous submachine gun in history would be less than factual, there are many more famous, like the Thompson, and the Uzi, for example, but certainly none with more screen time, more time in the field of battle, nor more desirable as a blowback action CO2 model. Nearly 80 years after the MP40 was developed the guns are still being used in battle torn areas throughout the world, including the Middle East. Although vastly outdated, even by 1945 when the StG 44 was introduced, the MP40 has remained a solidly reliable (when handled properly) weapon using the most common cartridge in the world, the 9x19mm. The Umarex Legends version puts all of that into your hands in .177 caliber.
Don’t call it a Schmeisser
From a purely military point of view the submachine gun was an ideal weapon for close to medium range combat distances. Submachine guns like the MP40 were the best choice for building-to-building and urban combat, which was common during WWII. The MP40 was also well suited for guards and special detachments; anywhere that a rifle would be less effective and more cumbersome to use, and where rapid fire was deemed necessary. That is one reason why even today many law enforcement SRTs and military Special Ops units carry modern submachine guns for close quarter battle (CQB) use where burst or full auto suppressive fire can be advantageous.
The advent of the submachine gun in the latter part of WWI made it a viable tactical weapon by WWII. Among the earliest pioneers were German arms designers Theodor Bergmann and Hugo Schmeisser. Bergmann was one of the first to develop a semi-auto pistol and together with Schmeisser created the first German submachine gun in 1918. Known as the MP18.1 it became the forerunner of several models leading to the improved MP38, designed at Erma Werke in 1938, and the later MP40.
Although Schmeisser was not involved in either the MP38 or MP40 designs (the MP40 was the work of German arms designer Heinrich Vollmer), to this day the MP40 is often erroneously referred to as a Schmeisser. One reason for that is that Hugo Schmeisser did in fact design the MP40-based MP41, which was a wooden shoulder stocked variation with a selective fire mechanism. The use of wooden stocks, however, was not seen as an advantage due to increased weight and overall length, and models like the MP38 and MP40 used a lightweight skeletonized folding metal shoulder stock.
The MP40’s origins
The Maschinenpistole 40 or MP40 was Vollmer’s reworked version of the MP38 and was designed to be less expensive and time consuming to manufacture for wartime use. Its pioneering construction relied more on welded and sheetmetal stamped parts than its more precision-built MP38 predecessor, which utilized mostly machined parts. Welded and stamped parts became the foundation for many later military weapons, including the Uzi, which uses a similar manufacturing technique.
Having a well designed and easily released folding metal shoulder stock, the MP40 was suited for firing from the waist or more accurately as a shouldered weapon with the stock extended. However, being full auto only, it was a difficult gun to shoot with any precision. The open bolt, blowback action submachine gun did have a comparatively slow rate of fire of between 500 and 550 rounds per minute, and one tried to feather the trigger to generate burst fire; it was a practiced skill that most soldiers forgot in combat emptying the long, single stack 32-round magazines in a matter of seconds.
The construction of the MP40 also used Bakelite, an earlier form of molded plastic for the pistol grips and the foregrip covering the lower receiver. Bakelite varied in color from reddish to browns and black, depending upon the manufacturer (this was also seen in P.38 pistol grips which varied from reddish browns to black).
With the receiver and magazine at the front half of the MP40, the gun’s weight distribution is almost 50/50 (with an empty magazine) and the MP40 balances well with recoil minimized to some degree during shouldered burst fire. Interestingly, this portion of the MP40’s design with the vertical magazine is based almost entirely on Hugo Schmeisser’s MP18.1, so there is more than a little Schmeisser in the MP40! But don’t call it a Schmeisser.
In Part 2 we will compare the new Umarex Legends MP40 with the actual WWII design to see just how authentic this new CO2 model is.
A word about safety
Many air rifles provide the look, feel and operation of their cartridge-firing counterparts and the new Umarex MP40 certainly qualifies. Air rifles in general look like cartridge-firing rifles, models like the MP40 even more so, and it is important to remember that the vast majority of people can’t tell an air rifle from a cartridge model, especially one as accurate in appearance as the MP40. Never brandish any air rifle in public. Always, and I can never stress this enough, always treat them as you would a cartridge gun. The same manual of operation and safety should always apply.