Top 5 WW2 Airsoft AEGs : Our Favourite Retro SMGs

Top 5 WW2 Airsoft AEGs : Our Favourite Retro SMGs


The real STEN Gun 

After dismissing submachine guns as "gangster guns" in the classic British style, the Brits suddenly found the need to purchase submachine guns, starting by buying off-the-shelf Thompson M1928 SMGs at an extortionate rate. 


After burning a lot of gold on high-end SMGs, the Brits decided to supplement their extremely expensive Thompson SMGs with a British-made SMG which they could produce in workshops across the country, en masse, quickly and cheaply. 

The first attempt was known as the Lanchester, which was practically a direct copy of the German MP28 of WWI, and was cheaper than the Thompson but very heavy, and labour intensive to manufacture, and an interim solution at best considering how many SMGs the British Army required at the time. 

Enter the STEN gun, named after its designers, Shepard and Turpin, and the Enfield small arms factory in which it was first produced. The STEN was 15 times cheaper than the Thompson to make, and derived its design from the Lanchester but with everything considered non-essential stripped off, leaving only what was necessary to have a functional firearm. 


Over 2.5 million STEN MK.II submachine guns were produced before the MK.V began production, and the small arms factories of the time were churning out up to 500 STEN guns per shift, with each STEN taking a mere 5.5 man hours to produce. 

STEN guns, copies and derivatives are still seen in conflict zones across the world, largely due to their ease of manufacture and the huge volume of them produced and distributed during WWII. 



AGM's STEN replica is as beautiful as a STEN gun can be, constructed entirely from steel and simple yet effective in its ergonomics. Effective as in there is a place for your firing hand, there isn't really one for your support hand, though users often gripped the magazine well or heat shield when wielding the real STEN. 

The AGM STEN uses the version 7 gearbox design which was first used in the legendary Tokyo Marui M14, one of the most impressive Airsoft platforms to this day when it comes to range and accuracy. Like its real steel counterpart, the AGM STEN feeds from the same magazines as AGM's MP40, which also made our list!


Simple though it may be, the AGM STEN MK.II includes some thoughtfully authentic STEN features, including the ability to remove the stock entirely from the AEG for transport or storage. The battery is housed inside the receiver tube itself, and is installed by removing the stock. 

The AGM STEN is in every way as portable and easy to stow as the real thing, boasting the ability to rotate the magazine well to the central position to make the STEN flatter and easier to carry on a sling. This means if you are sniping WWII style you can run a scoped Lee Enfield and carry a STEN on your back as a secondary if you need more than a pistol for dealing with an advancing enemy!


Like the real STEN, the charging handle can be racked and locked up into the safety notch, though this STEN has no safety built in, so remember to keep your finger off the trigger to avoid shooting your teammates in the back accidentally!

The AGM STEN is set to fully automatic by default and doesn't have a semi-auto mode, so while this STEN is awesome outdoors it is not likely to be allowed at many CQB skirmishes, so make sure you have your sidearm if you are clearing rooms/bunkers!

M3/M3A1 Grease Gun - Snow Wolf M3 AEG / Snow Wolf M3A1 AEG

The real Grease Gun

Nicknamed the "Grease Gun" due to its resemblance to the actual grease guns used by mechanics, the M3 was conceived from a similar need to the British at the time; the need for something cheaper to produce than the exceptionally expensive Thompson SMG. Like the Thompson, the Grease Gun was chambered in .45 ACP which was the standard US pistol cartridge of the era. 

M3A1 Grease Gun

The Grease Gun was largely based on the STEN, but unlike the STEN, which people understood was a weapon for desperate times, the Grease Gun had quite a good reputation for being reliable, and while it was initially disliked by troops due to its crude appearance it quickly gained popularity when G.I's realised it shoots far better than it looks!

The early version of the Grease Gun, known as the M3, had a side charging handle which cocked the bolt using a ratchet, which was the source of most of the early issues with the SMG. The M3A1 variant ditched the charging handle completely and made use of a milled hole in the bolt carrier and the MK1 human thumb to cock the weapon before firing.

M3A1 Grease Gun

Unconventional, for sure, but effective, and with the thumb charging system the M3A1 went on to serve beyond WWII into Vietnam, and the final examples were retired from service following the Gulf War of 1991. 

The Snow Wolf M3/M3A1 Grease Gun AEG

M3 Grease Gun

We are very lucky when it comes to Grease Guns, as we have both versions available in Airsoft form from Snow Wolf. Hopefully, they will release the suppressed version eventually! We can only dream...

Both the Snow Wolf M3 and M3A1 are constructed entirely from metal alloy giving a realistic weight and feel, even down to the detailed mock welds in all the right spots. The external finish is a very fitting gun metal grey and looks exactly like the finish applied to real Grease Guns. 

M3 Grease Gun

The M3 correctly has the original ratchet style charging handle on the right side, and the M3A1 deletes this in favour of a deep thumb hole in the mock bolt which can be used to pull it back for a HOP-up adjustment.

M3A1 Grease Gun

Like the AGM STEN, the Grease Gun is fully automatic only in authentic tribute to the real SMG. This does, unfortunately, mean no CQB for the Grease Gun in most cases, though it still makes one heck of an old school run and gun SMG; perfect for an aggressive playstyle outdoors. 

Snow Wolf's Grease Gun uses a proprietary gearbox, but for the upgrade obsessed this is not a deal breaker as it still uses standard AEG gears and a slider adjustable HOP-up, meaning you can still upgrade this to your liking. 

M3 Grease Gun

One of the nicest inclusions in Snow Wolf's M3 is its electric blowback function. This gives a little bit of recoil from firing, and while it is nothing close to the recoil from a real .45 simple blowback SMG it makes the firing experience a bit different, and great fun compared to normal AEGs. 

The Grease Gun is a bit more conventionally laid out than the STEN, so if it's something more familiar you are looking for the Grease Gun would be a fine choice. At least the magazine is in the right place on this one! 


The real MP40 SMG

Like many SMGs of the era, the MP40 finds its routes with the Schmeisser MP18 of WW1 and was derived from the earlier MP38 SMG, which was itself based on the Erma MP36 design. 


The difference between the MP38 and the MP40 was almost entirely concerned with the manufacturing process, with the MP38 being milled from steel bar stock, and the MP40 being stamped from sheet steel to reduce weight and complexity as well as to reduce production time. 

The MP40 was incorrectly known as the "Schmeisser" by the allies, even though it was designed by Heinrich Vollmer and Hugo Schmeisser was reportedly not involved with the MP40 design process. Poor Vollmer! Nothing like designing one of the best SMGs of WWII and not getting the deserved recognition! 


The MP40 was one of the first of the so-called "second generation" of submachine guns which are generally defined as prioritising ease of manufacture and tend to use a stamped steel receiver like the IMI Uzi and H&K MP5 which would follow far later. 

Like many SMGs of the era, the MP40 was well-liked and served well over its lifespan, only being let down by its double stack single feed magazine, just like the STEN and Grease Gun. This is no coincidence, as all of these SMGs made use of the MP18/28 magazine design which was functional, but not the best design out there. That will teach those Brits and Yanks for copying the Germans' homework!



AGM's MP40 comes in two variants, both of which have an alloy upper receiver, grip frame and stock, and a polymer lower receiver, just like the real thing. The polymer used on the AGM MP40 is a modern formula ABS plastic but can be had in authentic brown mock bakelite colouration or black which was accurate for late war MP40 SMGs. 

The MP40's unique gearbox is compatible with both AEG gears and motors; good news for those who simply cannot leave an AEG as it came from the factory, and simply must upgrade everything. AGM's MP40 also shares magazines with their STEN, meaning if you have both of these WWII SMGs you only have to buy one loadout of mags!


One of the neat things about the AGM MP40 is the ability to quickly field strip it in a very similar manner to the real SMG. Obviously being an AEG, this cannot be perfect but is close enough that accessing the internals and battery compartment is easy as pie, or whatever the German equivalent of pie is. 


On the outside, there is only one thing which is "wrong" with the AGM MP40, and it is actually a useful feature if you attend CQB skirmishes. The fire selector found on the left side of the receiver is not an authentic feature, as the real MP40 only fires in fully automatic, but allows you to tear up the CQB site with an old-school aesthetic if you so choose!

This fire selector can be removed with modifications if you are more of a stickler for the details, and with that modification done the AGM MP40 could pass as the real thing, even under the scrutiny of a historical firearms buff!

PPSh-41 - S&T PPSh-41 EBB AEG

The real PPSh-41 SMG

The PPSh-41 was used in immense numbers by the Soviet Red Army during WWII and was well known for its extremely high rate of fire, and the 71-round drum magazine it was issued with. The PPSh-41 was named for a combination of the weapon type and the designer's surname, as was the Soviet convention at the time. PP denotes Pistolét Pulemyót, and Sh stood for Shpagin, after the designer Georgy Shpagin. 


The drum magazine, despite being one of its most recognisable features was not the most reliable design, and often drum magazines were not interchangeable and had to be kept with the gun they were built for.

Later in the war, the PPSh-41 was equipped with a more conventional box style 30-round magazine which was both easier to carry and far more reliable than the slick-looking drum mag we often see this SMG toting. 

Although it was intended to be a simplified derivative of the earlier PPD40 SMG, the PPSh-41 was remarkably complex and didn't go to anywhere near the lengths the Brits and Americans did with the STEN and Grease Gun respectively. 


The PPSh-41 had a drop safety built into its charging handle, which the STEN really needed but never got. It also had a fire selector switch within the trigger guard and a *gasp* semi-auto firing mode, which was absent on the MP40 and STEN for simplicity reasons. The magazine release even folds flat against the receiver when not in use to prevent snags and accidental magazine drops. 

A great design hampered by production quality control issues and a lack of available materials, the PPSh-41 was later replaced by the PPSh-43, which was the SMG the Soviets really needed, and was far simpler to manufacture, used fewer scarce materials and removed a lot of the advanced functions of the PPSh-41 which simply weren't necessary during wartime, wherein quantity is more important than quality by an order of magnitude. 



The S&T PPSh-41 is probably the best built SMG on our list, being constructed entirely from stamped steel and real wood components, just like the real thing. This SMG has significant weight and heft, tipping the scales at an immense 3.8kg which is near bang on the weight of the real PPSh. 

The finish on the steel parts is an authentic gloss black paint, matching the real deal when it came out of the factory over 80 years ago. The wood looks a bit too fresh to be a real PPSh which wasn't made with the utmost care, unlike the S&T example which was clearly made to impress with its light woodgrain and flawless form. 


Roughing the wood up a bit would make this PPSh-41 look a bit more authentic, but it would be a real shame to ruin such well finished and attractive-looking wood. It's up to you, maybe the reason your PPSh-41 is so immaculate is that it was made perfectly for display in the Kremlin! 

The best feature of the S&T PPSh-41 is its electric blowback system, which reciprocates the mock bolt carrier with each shot, giving off a thunderous sound and drowning out the motor noise with a "chop-chop-chop". Like the Snow Wolf Grease Gun, this blowback isn't anything like the recoil from a real firearm but makes the PPSh a joy to shoot and that bit more immersive.


On the inside the S&T PPSh is every bit as impressive; boasting a quick change spring system, rotary HOP-up unit and the ability to decompress the spring using the charging handle. The latter feature helps preserve the internal spring and reduces wear on the internal components which will help prolong the life of the SMG. 

Thompson M1A1 - CYMA CM.051 Thompson "Chicago Typewriter" | Snow Wolf M1A1 Thompson

The real M1A1 Thompson SMG

If you were worried this iconic WW2 SMG wouldn't make it into the top 5, you can now breathe a sigh of relief! The M1A1 Thompson was a simplified variant of the M1928 Thomspon which the British military was using at the time at great expense in gold bullion. The M1928 was in all ways a premium firearm, and the M1A1 was conceived after recognising that many of the finishing touches and fine details on the elegant M1928 simply weren't necessary for a mass-produced military firearm. 

The M1928 used the contentious "blish-lock" operating system which was intended to provide a slight delay in the opening of the bolt via the use of brass pieces within the bolt, and the theory that the use of different materials would increase friction as the bolt opens and function similarly to a "delayed blowback" firearm. 

M1928 Thompson

In reality, this was not very effective, and as such the M1A1 bolt was redesigned to function via "simple blowback", which relies on only the mass of the bolt itself to hold the action closed for long enough that chamber pressure would drop to a safe level before extraction and ejection. 

M1A1 Thompson

The M1A1 had a repositioned charging handle which was now on the side and as part of the redesign, the ability to use drum magazines was omitted as they were generally regarded as too heavy, unreliable and difficult to carry. The result of the redesign was a heavy but well-liked SMG which was known for being reliable and relatively controllable in full auto. 


The M1A1, like the PPSh-41 in Soviet service, was not quite simple enough to equip the US Army with the volume of SMGs it needed and was supplemented in service by the M3 Grease Gun, and other designs in far smaller numbers. 

The CYMA CM.033 Thompson M1A1 AEG


CYMA's Thompson SMG is a perfect clone of the original Tokyo Marui Thompson and comes with an alloy receiver and faux wood furniture. Faux though it may be, the furniture on this Thompson is very well done, with a deep and authentic looking faux wood grain and a shiny lacquer-like finish on the surface. 

M1A1 Thompson

Thankfully the CYMA Thompson doesn't weigh quite as much as the real thing, but still feels substantial in the hand, weighing in at around 3kg unloaded. The real Thompson weighed around 4.5kg, and if the CYMA replicated this it would detract from the run and gun playstyle Airsoft SMGs lend themselves so well to. 

Unlike most of the SMGs on this list, the real Thompson had a semi-auto firing mode, which is correctly replicated on the CYMA Thompson with its dual selector switch setup. The foremost selector switch on the left side controls the firing mode, and the rear selector provides the trigger lock safety function. CQB is a go for this WWII SMG!

M1A1 Thompson

On the inside the CYMA Thompson uses a version 6 gearbox, meaning aftermarket gearsets are compatible for those who want more performance, though the pre-installed internals are great as it is. The HOP-up uses a rotary style adjuster which is accessible through the ejection port when the charging handle is pulled back. 

M1A1 Thompson

You have the choice of either period accurate stick magazines or the legendary Thompson drum magazine with this M1A1, unlike the real version which could only use stick mags. CYMA sacrificed a bit of realism here for a lot of in game functionality, and if you need to keep heads down in a WWII reenactment skirmish this Thompson can serve as an LMG in disguise! 

So, which one is our favourite? As far as features are concerned, it has to be the S&T PPSh-41. The build is flawless, being constructed predominantly from steel, just like the real thing, and it comes with the iconic drum magazine and an electric blowback system which gives it a lively firing experience. 

Looks wise, it has to go to the AGM STEN MK.II, which is also primary steel in its construction, and despite being a rough stamped steel tube SMG which is far from the best firearm design of all time, it has the iconic British looks that make us almost tear up with pride. 

Maybe we are a little biased, but the horrible ergonomics of the STEN are simply not horrible enough to make us fall out with its simplistic yet beautiful form and its pivotal role in world history.