I really like learning about the history of firearms, and the historical circumstances of their design and use. For example, I learned yesterday that Chinese forces used Thompson submachine guns (also known as the “Tommy gun”) against American forces in the Korean war. Unofficially, of course. Crazy stuff.
I have a Federal Curio & Relic collector license, which allows me to buy and sell certain historical firearms. My interest gravitates towards weapons designed and employed by the Russian military during the Second World War. I think part of it is the urgency and desperation of a country staring into the face of Nazi invasion. Desperate times meant desperate measures, and the Russians responded with the PPS-43 submachine gun.
It was 1942. War material was running short for the Russians, and they needed a lightweight, compact firearm for close quarters combat against the Germans. They already had the PPSh-41, a robust SMG that fired the 7.62x25mm handgun cartridge. Recoil was light and the firing rate was high, but the PPSh-41 was expensive to make and took too long to manufacture.
Instead of the wood stock and many parts of the PPSh-41, the PPS-43 was almost completely metal. The PPS-43 took less than a third of the time to build than the PPSh-41 and took 50% less material than its older counterpart. The PPS-43 was built out of stamped steel instead of using a milled block. The controls were simple and coarse — an oversized charging handle, a giant, stamped safety switch, and a big button on the back to release the folding stock mechanism. The PPS-43’s design and construction allowed the Russians to make one in just over 2 hours compared to over 7 for the PPSh-41. Monthly submachine gun output almost tripled.
The PPS-43 was the first example of the Russian “bare bones, get it done” approach to firearm design. Many of the “build it fast, build it anywhere” and “keep it simple” approaches would be reflected in the iconic AK-47 rifle.
The real PPS-43 is not available for purchase in America. The original was fully automatic, and cannot be imported for civilian purchase. However, the Łucznik Arms Factory in Radom, Poland makes the PPS-43C, which is semiautomatic and complies with current American firearm importation laws. Aside from one functional difference, a cosmetic change, and the semi-auto only firing mode, it’s a replica of the SMG used to defend Russia from the Nazis during desperate times.
Despite its historic origins, the PPS-43C is not C&R eligible. It is newly manufactured using the original PPS-43 design. I purchased my PPS-43C from Centerfire Systems and had it shipped to my local FFL to complete the transfer.
The PPS-43C is finished in a glossy black except for the charging handle. It’s not going to win any beauty awards, but it looks right at home with my historical pieces. The grips are plastic; otherwise the entire gun is made out of steel. My PPS-43C came with four 35 round magazines. Like its progenitor, the PPS-43C shoots the 7.62x25mm pistol cartridge. I have handguns that shoot this cartridge (the TT-33 and Md. 57), so I appreciate the ammunition commonality.
To comply with US firearm laws, the stock on the PPS-43C is permanently in the locked position on top of the firearm. This technically makes it a pistol, and therefore not subject to the 922(r) ATF regulations. It’s a big, heavy, unwieldy pistol — but technically it’s a handgun.
Operation is very very simple. There’s a safety on the left side of the trigger guard like an SKS. The charging handle is mounted on the right side of the firearms, just like an SKS or AK. The detachable box magazine is curved and inserts straight into the mag well. The magazine release is large and right behind the box magazine. If you’re used to operating an SKS or an AK-series rifle a lot of the PPS-43C will already be familiar to you. I liked analyzing the design of the PPS-43C and seeing what attributes it shared with more (relatively) modern designs.
The PPS-43C is 24.2″ long. The barrel is just under 10″ in length. This is one of the other reasons the PPS-43C has to be imported with a fixed stock — rifles in the United States must have a barrel over 16″ long or have to be registered as a short barreled rifle with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The PPS-43C weighs 8 pounds, 5 ounces with a full 35-round box magazine. That’s pretty close to what a modern full-sized rifle firing rifle caliber ammunition may weigh. The all-steel construction of the PPS-43C definitely works against it in the weight department. However as I found out on the range, the mass of the PPS-43C made shooting the 7.62x25mm pistol cartridge a breeze.
So, you bought yourself a PPS-43C. How are you going to shoot it? It doesn’t have a stock so you can’t shoulder mount it like a rifle. It’s way heavy for a pistol, so good luck shooting it with your arms outstretched. Like AR and AK pistols, most owners decide to shoot it in what is called the “under arm assault” grip. That means the firearm is held at about halfway down your body, not quite at the hip. Folks sometimes grab the handguard, others grab the magazine or magazine well. It’s more comfortable than a normal handgun hold, but not super stable.
I added a traditional AK-47 sling to my PPS-43C and slung it across the front of my body. This allows me another point of resistance when using the under arm grip, and also brings the PPS-43C higher up on my body. It’s about parallel with my armpit.
Please make sure your firearms are unloaded before experimenting with grip, draw, and presentation.
Note that I have the barrel pointed down a little bit; on the range it is critical to keep the barrel flat in order to shoot accurately.
If you are used to point shooting, firing the PPS-43C this way is easy and pretty accurate. I’ve been almost exclusively point shooting for the last year, and I use the focal point aiming method with the PPS-43C. Basically you make sure the slide of the firearm is level horizontally with the ground — think of an airplane runway, with the bullets as planes — and focus very intently on the target. Here’s how I did at 10 yards:
Note the flier in the upper left part of the photo. The rest are pretty good up the centerline. I never used the sights; trigger pull was at measured, target shooting rate. I used surplus Polish ammunition made in the 1950s.
I did a few magazines this way, and then I decided to shoot at a faster pace on par with how I fire my handguns.
Again, a flier in the upper left. I believe I’m “heeling” the PPS-43C when this happens, and it stresses the importance of focal point shooting. You have to physically focus on one point (in my case, the X) but also mentally focus. My instructors taught me to think “focal point, focal point, focal point” as a reminder. I used surplus Polish ammunition manufactured in the 1980s.
Here’s a closeup:
Not bad for fast, controlled fire.
Recoil is practically non-existent, even from just two points of physical contact. The mass of the PPS-43C works in your favor here, eating up the recoil of the high velocity 7.62x25mm round.
I think the PPS-43C with a sling is fine for pistol-range distances. However, using the stock appears to be a huge improvement. One of my instructors legally converted his PPS-43C to a rifle with the permission of the BATFE. The use of the stock allows his young teen son to put accurate shots on a target like mine while running.
At $349 delivered, the PPS-43C is an interesting piece of history, even if it’s not the actual firearm used during the Second World War. It is very fun to shoot and is easy to operate. New shooters will appreciate its tame recoil, and more experienced shooters will be able to make the PPS-43C sing at close quarters. Ammunition used to be very affordable (about $0.06 a round delivered) but with the popularity of surplus 7.62x25mm firearms and the PPS-43C it’s getting harder and harder to find surplus ammunition. If you want to go further, there are a few manufacturers who make hollow point 7.62x25mm ammunition. Performance ammunition is about on par with .45ACP ammunition costs.
As of this writing, Southern Ohio Gun is selling the PPS-43C with just two magazines for $289 before shipping. That might be a good way to go if you’re the least bit curious about the PPS-43C.