What Was the Maximum Range of Submachine Guns in World War II? Exploring Beyond “Effective Range”

What Was the Maximum Range of Submachine Guns in World War II?

The word “effective range” is often used to talk about how well guns, especially submachine guns, worked during World War II. But it’s important to look beyond this number and figure out the “maximum range.”

This article will detail how submachine guns were used during the war, what they could do, and how the maximum range differed from the effective range, how the concept of maximum range differed from effective range.

Understanding the Difference: Effective Range vs. Maximum Range

The effective range of a firearm is the distance at which the weapon can strike its intended target with pinpoint accuracy. It considers variables such as projectile trajectory, precision, and force. This range is essential for combat situations, allowing combatants to engage their opponents accurately.

However, it is essential to note that the effective range is not the same as the maximum range of the firearm. Maximum range refers to a bullet’s maximum distance before impacting the ground. 

Even though a bullet’s accuracy and force diminish beyond its effective range, it retains its lethality within its maximum range. The bullet’s trajectory and velocity play crucial roles in determining this range.

Submachine Guns: Beyond Effective Range

During World War II, submachine guns, known for their small dimensions and rapid-fire capabilities, were widely employed. While their effective ranges were typically limited to between 150 and 200 meters, their maximal ranges were considerably greater. 


Let’s take a closer look at some examples:

The MP Series: Adapting to Warfare

The MP submachine gun series, most notably the German MP40, was designed to meet specific combat requirements. Unlike rifles with effective ranges of approximately 800 meters, submachine guns were designed for lesser distances. 

Early versions of the MP40 were designed for trench warfare, making them ideal for close-quarters combat. However, its true value became apparent when employed with armored units, as it provided rapid-fire support when rifles were inadequate.

Bobosha and Stern Submachine Guns

The effective range of the Bobosha and Stern submachine firearms of the Soviet Army and the British Army was 200 meters. This alignment was not accidental; this range was chosen to optimize the lethality and performance of the submachine guns in their intended functions. 

Due to the concept of maximum range, their bullets remained lethal even though their efficacy decreased beyond their effective range.

The Hundred-Type Submachine Gun: A Long-Range Anomaly

The Japanese army’s Type 100 submachine rifle development during World War II stands out as an exception. Its effective range was only 120 meters, but its maximum range was an impressive 700 meters.

 This extraordinary accomplishment was due to the gun’s longer barrel and lighter 8mm projectiles. The unique combination of these factors increased the bullet’s maximal range and lengthened its flight.

Factors Influencing Maximum Range

Several factors, including barrel length, caliber, and weight, determine the maximum range of a submachine gun. A longer barrel, such as that of the Hundred-Type submachine gun, can increase the muzzle velocity of the projectile, thereby increasing its flight distance. Similarly, lighter projectiles are able to maintain their velocity over greater distances, thereby extending their maximum range.

Beyond the Battlefield: Conclusion

Although submachine guns were designed primarily for close-quarters conflict, their maximum ranges frequently exceeded expectations. The distinction between effective range and maximal range highlights the flexibility and capability of these firearms. 

Submachine guns such as the MP40, Bobosha, Stern, and Type 100 demonstrated that their effective range does not solely determine a firearm’s efficacy.

As we reflect on the innovations and strategies of World War II, it becomes evident how important it is to comprehend the nuances of firearm capabilities. The concept of maximum range serves as a reminder that these weapons could still impact the battlefield beyond their specified effective range.


Q1: What is the difference between effective and maximum ranges in firearms? 

A1: The effective range of a firearm is the distance at which it can accurately hit a target, while the maximum range is the farthest distance a bullet can travel before hitting the ground.

Q2: Can bullets maintain lethality beyond the effective range? A2: Yes, bullets can still possess lethality beyond their effective range due to the concept of maximum range.

Q3: How did the Hundred-Type submachine gun achieve such a long maximum range? A3: The Hundred-Type’s longer barrel and use of lighter 8mm bullets contributed to its extended maximum range.

Q4: Why were submachine guns like the MP40 valuable for armored units? A4: Submachine guns like the MP40 provided rapid-fire support in scenarios where rifles couldn’t effectively engage targets at closer distances.

Q5: What role did bullet caliber play in determining maximum range? A5: Lighter bullet calibers could maintain higher velocities over longer distances, contributing to increased maximum ranges.