The MP41/44 Submachine Gun Was Beautifully-Constructed — And Way Too Complex
The Swiss produced just 10,000 copies during World War II
by MATTHEW MOSS
By 1940 it was obvious to the Swiss military that Germany posed a major threat to Switzerland, as the Reich had already ignored the neutrality of numerous countries.
As a result, the Swiss began to reconsider their defense plans — and decided they needed a new submachine gun. While the Swiss had the excellent K31 infantry rifle, they were severely lacking in automatic small arms. In 1940, the Swiss military held a competition pitting rival submachine gun designs from SIG and Waffenfabrik Bern.
While SIG’s design was clearly superior, the Swiss army selected the Waffenfabrik Bern’s MP41, designed by Adolf Furrer, following a forceful sales effort on Furrer’s part. He insisted his weapon would be easier and cheaper to produce than the SIG would be.
Furrer was wrong. The MP41 and MP41/44 are perhaps the most over-engineered, expensive and complex submachine guns ever mass-produced.
Production began in late 1941 and, by June 1944, some 5,200 copies had rolled out of the factory. W+F Bern revised the design and produced another 4,500 guns by the time production finally ended in late 1945.
Chambered in nine-by-19 millimeter, the MP41/44 fired from an open bolt and used a short recoil-operated action with a horizontal, triple-jointed toggle lock locking the breech. The MP41 and MP41/44 fed from 40-round box magazines that loaded into the right side of the weapon.
The MP41/44 was extremely heavy at 11.5 pounds. W+F Bern intended for the MP41/44 to be a simplification of the MP41. However, only the sights and some of the machining were simplified. And the MP41/44 actually added a bayonet lug.
While Furrer had initially meant the weapon to use bakelite furniture, this was prone to cracking. Furrer used wood, instead.
For all its complexity, the weapon was extremely well-made — and served long after the end of World War II. The toggle lock was susceptible to fouling, however, and in 1960 the Swiss military finally withdrew the guns, replacing them with a copy of Finland’s excellent M31.
Originally published at Historical Firearms.