The Schmeisser M.P.41
The Schmeisser M.P.41 Sub-machinegun was developed and produced during the second world war. But Why? And for whom? SAM-Weapons magazine tries to resolve the mystery.
By Bas Martens
Wonderful, those firearms that very little is known about. These are ideal for the lazy firearm authors or people that like to make up stories. You take a few photos and you keep on blathering. Being right is not important. All this applies to the subject of this article, the German M.P.41 sub-machinegun. The most wonderful stories are being told. Highlight Is the re-occurring myth about the relation between Erma and Haenel. Summarized the story is as follows: Haenel produced the MP41. Erma (patent holder on the construction) went to court at the end of 1941. They proved them wrong and Haenel had to stop the production. Unfortunately for these phrasemongers the M.P.41 was still in production until early 1944.
The MP41 is most definitely a mysterious firearm. In anticipation of the conclusion; between 1941 and 1944 about 26000 units were manufactured. But why? And for whom? This article will try to provide an answer.
The mystery already starts with the brands on the top of the receiver tube. In three lines it reads
C.G. HAENEL, SUHL
The first line is off course the name: M.P. is the abbreviation of Maschinenpistole. 41 refers to the year. But the year of what? The design? Production year? Year of introduction? If this last is applicable; Introduction with whom? That’s something we don’t know yet. The last line applies to the manufacturer, C.G. Haenel in Suhl. That is strange. Not the fact that Haenel manufactured it but having the manufacturers name stamped on the firearm. In 1941 this was very extraordinary. Germany used a code system that initially started with numbers but as of April 1940 with two or three letters. For Haenel this code was fxo and this is stamped neatly on MP40’s and Maschinenkarabiner that the company manufactured. But not on the MP41 and neither on the magazines of the firearm. On this the factory brand name Haenel is stamped in an arrow.
At last there is also the middle line: “Patent Schmeisser”. This is slightly different then the “System Schmeisser Patent on the receiver tube of the M.P.28/II. Which patent is intended here?
We have only found one patent that is directly related to the construction of the MP41. And then not even the original German Patent but a Swiss (223799, requested on the 7th of March 1942) and a French (880350, requested on the 20th of March 1942) version. Both were registered on Hugo Schmeisser, co-director of Haenel and both have the same description and the same drawings. In the salutation of the French version is referred to the German patent request that was filed in August 1941. Maybe this is an explanation of the 41 in the name. The patent concerns the connection of a thin-walled steel casing with a wooden stock and receiver. Schmeissers description is as follows: increasingly small arm parts especially upper receivers are manufactured from seamless tube or sheet metal by means of punching, pulling and pressing. One strives to manufacture these parts as thin walled as possible. Although the durability of such upper receivers comply, the connection with the lower receiver causes problems. The aim of the present invention is to solve this.
In other words: How do you solidly connect a thin metal upper receiver to a wooden lower receiver? That was exactly the problem of the M.P.41. Hugo Schmeisser wanted to get rid of the construction of the M.P.28/II where the upper receiver and the lower receiver were connected by a solid ax on the front side and a spring guided closing cam on the housing. The design of the M.P.38 and 40 where the upper and lower receiver are connected by a kind of bayonet coupling was not an option. Erma received patent DRP 750348 in July 1937. However Schmeisser found a solution. With the M.P.28/II the trigger guard and trigger plate were connected to the lower receiver with two screws. Schmeisser made these screws stronger and longer, just as with a bolt action rifle, so they could be used to fix the upper receiver to the wooden lower receiver. At the height of these screws, on the bottom of the upper receiver a plate with a case provided with screw thread. In the lower receiver cut outs were made for the plates and cases. A simple solution and also the only unique feature in the construction of the M.P.41. The rest of the fire arm has been borrowed here and there.
Most of the time the M.P.41 is described as a combination between the M.P.28/II and a MP40. Some authors even of the opinion that the weapon was made because Haenel had some spare stocks left of the MP28/II. Let’s see if this is all correct.
To begin the similarities with the MP40. The receiver tube, the magazine well and the double v-sights for 100 and 200 meters are indeed directly copied from the MP40. Would the receiver tube and magazine well directly been taken from the MP40 production line at Haenel? We do not dare to say. The bolt, the firing pin and the connected telescope spring are also directly copied from the MP40. Although this invention is often ascribed to Vollmer we showed in our earlier series of articles about the German Sub-machinegun that the telescope spring was devised by Schmeisser. So he could use this without any problems.
The two piece retracting handle with the built in safety was patented by Hugo Schmeisser on December 13, 1941 in Germany. That patent was numbered 748441 and issued in August 1942. The sight and the sight protector are also similar to that of the M.P. 40. But here is where the similarities with the M.P. 40 end. The barrel of the M.P.41 is directly connected to the receiver tube and lacks the thick barrel nut. The weapon also does not have the hook shaped clamp or barrel rest, for shooting from armored vehicles or loop holes.
Then the similarities with the M.P.28/II. This is mainly the firing mechanism. The bolts of both firearms look very similar but this is a superficial resemblance. For starter the M.P.28/II does have it’s magazine on the left side and the M.P.41 on the bottom side. The recess in the bolt with the grooves for feeding the cartridges is at a different angle relative to the retracting handle. The bolt of the M.P.41 is shorter and the retracting handle itself is a simple hook with the M.P.28/II.
The firing mechanism and the fire selector works the same way on both weapons.
On the photos it is visible that there are some production differences but the depicted M.P.28/II is from the thirties. Maybe the mechanism of the later versions of the M.P.28/II, which was manufactured till 1941, was similar to that of the M.P.41. The fire selector is a cross retainer up in the trigger guard marked with the letter E (for Einzelfeuer, right) and D (for Dauerfeuer, left)
Then the stock and the lower receiver. The story that there would have been used a stockpile of ready to use M.P.28/II stock for the production of the M.P.41 can go right in the bin. The M.P.28/II has a much shorter trigger plate to offer room for a heavy steel bar at the front of the lower receiver where the hinged eye is anchored. The receiver tube of the M.P.41 runs across the complete length of the lower receiver. This way the end cap can be removed from the backside. The receiver tube of the M.P.28/II is shorter than the lower receiver because at the end is the locking latch. Especially internally the lower receiver is completely different on both weapons. Externally the M.P.41 misses the sling mount at the bottom of the stock instead it has a slot for the carrying sling.
A number of authors have questioned themselves how many M.P.41’s would have been made and to whom they were delivered. They relied on the serial numbers of preserved weapons and photos. Often Romanians with the weapon can be seen on it. In Suhl the remnants of the Haenel Archive are kept and there we found some pieces of the puzzle. As from the thirties Haenel had a sales office in Berlin, close to the authorities. One of the things that this office arranged was the applications of export permits. There are a number of cost statements from 1942 of these permits that specify the quantities delivered. We may assume that it is about the M.P.41.
The statements specify the following:
500 MP Bulgaria
100 MP Romania
500 MP Croatia
300 MP Croatia
150 MP Croatia
500 MP Croatia
1000 MP Romania
500 MP Romania
1000 MP Romania
200 MP Croatia
1000 MP Romania
400 MP Croatia
400 MP Croatia
In total, these exports amount 6550 arms: 3600 to Romania, 2450 to Croatia and 500 to Bulgaria. The registrations for the months April, July, November and December are missing. So we have to guess. If we take for April and Juli the average of the previous month and the month after, the delivery for April can be estimated at 975 and for July at 1350. If we further assume that in November and December just about as much was exported as the two previous months, then that totals to another 800 pieces. An educated guess of the output of the M.P. 41 for 1942 comes at 9675 weapon. This off course does not include the MP’s that remained in Germany.
A Haenel delivery book from 1943/1944 provides an even more detailed overview. That book reports a thousand M.P. 41's, with serial numbers from 23000 to 24000. Each weapon had the date of the proof test, the delivery date and the destination.
Out of a thousand guns, the large part was test fired in November and December of 1943 and a few in January 1944. Additionally 567 pieces were delivered to Romania in November and December. On the 17th, 18th and 21st of December 1943 125 pieces were sent to the Sicherheits Polizei in Berlin and one more weapon on the 8th of March 1944. The serial numbers of the deliveries to the Sicherheits Polizei are mentioned later. Noticeable: at the end of November 1943 the numbers 23338 and 23508 were first delivered to Romania and then half December to the Sicherheits Polizei in Berlin according to the book. That doesn't make much sense, but that's how it is mentioned.
The delivery book also mentions four pieces for the Feldkommandantur in Liege, on 22. May 1944 (serial numbers 23327, 23575, 23575 and 23687), six pieces for Organisation Todt, on 7 January 1944 (serial numbers 23360, 23620, 23741, 23754, 23764 and 23817), and two pieces for the firm Drabert Söhne in Minden, on 6 January 1944 (Serial numbers 23673 and 23751). Drabert was a machine factory, but the it's not clear what those two M.P. 41’s were needed for. Of the remainder, 295 weapons, there's no destination in the delivery book. Lastly, in the Haenel archive a typed note about the arms production was found. Drafted immediately after the war for the Soviet occupiers. According to this note there were still 1602 M.P. 41 's in 1944 manufactured.
23673 6 januari 1944
What can we conclude from the above? Between 1941 the firm C.G. Haenel in Suhl made a weapon called the M.P. 41. It was designed by Hugo Schmeisser, as an assembly of his own M.P. 28II, and elements of the M.P. 40, insofar as they were not protected by Erma patents.
For the connection between the upper and lower receiver Schmeisser found a new solution, for which he filed a patent application in 1941. Why did the M.P. 41 look like this? That question is difficult to answer. Someone must have thought that the weapon should have a wooden butt. Of course the M.P. 28II had this as well, but although that weapon was made until 1941, it was outdated. It was relatively heavy, had a magazine on the left, and a receiver made of a heavy steel tube. Meanwhile, there were with the M.P. 38 and M.P. 40 better production techniques, and these were used as much as possible. Haenel already made the M.P. 40, and the upper receiver was copied unchanged. Also the magazines were the same, except for the markings.
The Haenel documentation shows that a large part of the M.P. 41’s were delivered to the German allies in Romania, Croatia and Bulgaria, and a part to the Sicherheitspolizei in Berlin. The weapon was never officially imported into the German armed forces. Then the production: in November and December 1943 the serial numbers 23000 to 24000 were delivered, and according to a statement of Haenel, 1602 pieces were made in 1944. That gives a total of 25,602 weapons, or about 26,000 pieces. That number corresponds with known serial numbers, and is also logical in terms of distribution. If it is assumed that production started at the end of 1941, then in that year maybe a few hundred were made.
In 1942 9675 M.P. 41's were exported. With a few hundred for domestic use this gives an estimated production of 10,000. In 1944 1602 pieces were made. Then there is a remainder of some 14,000 weapons before 1943. That's corresponding with the thousand numbers from the delivery book for the period from the end of November to the end of December.
Finally, the big question remains: why was the M.P. 41 made? There is a lot to think about. Did the question initially come from an organization like the Sicherheitspolizei, who wanted a modern successor for the M.P. 28/11, but with a wooden stock? Did they want to help the allies, but not with M.P. 40's? Was there a need for foreign currencies? Unfortunately, the answer remains unanswered. Most of Haenel’s archives are likely to be in Russia, perhaps that's where the mystery will be solved.
Thanks to the secretary of NVBIW Edouard de Beaumont, Michael Heidler, The Museum of Contemporary History in Slovenia and the Thüringische Hauptstaatsarchiv.
This article was originally published in SAM Wapenmagazine 196, August 2015