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Apr 25, 2013

A "Short" History of Anti-Tank Rifles

Author: Priory_of_Sion

Instead of tanks, I would like to discuss the Anti-Tank Rifles(ATRs) of the world. The ATR was designed to kill tanks, a job that most failed to due reliably. After it became clear that these weapons were more of a burden than a help they disappeared from the battlefield.

 The first ATR originated in Germany, the Mauser "Tank-Gewehr" Model 1918. The Mauser 1918 was an enlarged Mauser pattern rifle with a very long barrel, a heavy butt, a bipod, and a 13x92SR T-Patrone round. It was very large weighing 39 lbs(17.7 kg) and was 66.13 inches long(1680 mm). The Mauser 1918 allowed German Infantry to battle against the Allied armored vehicles which were immune to most machine gun and rifle fire. The Mauser 1918 fire the 13 mm round at 913 m/s and could penetrate ~25 mm of armor at ranges up to 200 meters. It was a single shot design.



The Mauser 1918 evolved into the standard German ATRs of WWII, the Panzerbuchse Modell 38(PzB38) and the Panzerbusche Modell 39(PzB39). The PzB38 combined a necked down version of the 13 mm round of the Mauser 1918 and combined it with a new 7.92 mm design(7.92x95 Patrone 318). The PzB38 and the PzB39 were single shot designs. The PzB38 saw service in the Polish campaign and had marginal success. The PzB39 was a simplified version to ease production. The PzB38 was 51 inches(1295 mm) long and weighed 35 lbs(15.88 kg) while the PzB39 was 62.25 inches long and weighed a little over 27 lbs(12.35 kg). These ATRs had little success versus any vehicle with actual armor only penetrating ~30 mm at 100 meters with an impressive 1210 m/s to 1265 m/s muzzle velocity. 

A little more detailed look at the ammo shows that the Germans actually copied Polish ATR ammo and started using Polish type ammunition instead of theirs after realizing the Polish ammo was clearly superior. The Germans also had developed a tear gas capsule which was a complete failure, no reports of enemy soldiers being exposed to the tear gas have ever surfaced. The Allies only found out about the tear gas round by capturing ammunition. 


The SS41 is a very rare German ATR design which was actually developed by the Czechs in Brno. It was made in very small numbers by the Waffen SS and is one of the first bullpup designs that was ever used by any military. It had a 5 to 10 round magazine and a very awkward reload system(see below). This complicated the manufacturing and exposed the breech to more dirt and dust. It had sightly less muzzle velocity compared to the PzB38/39 and was obsolete by the time it saw combat in 1941.

Here is how you reload the SS41, brought to you by world.guns.ru:
"to open the breech, shooter first has to unlock the barrel from the breech by rotating barrel counter-clockwise; this is done by turning the pistol grip, which is attached to the barrel, right and up. Once barrel is unlocked from stationary breech, it can be pulled forward by pushing the pistol grip to the front. If the spent case is present in the gun, it remains stationary against the breech, held by extractor. Once the barrel is fully forward, the spent case is free to fall out of the gun. Barrel then is pulled rearward, and upon this movement it picks up the fresh cartridge from the box magazine, which is attached to the stationary stock / cradle at the angle. Once the barrel is in its rearmost position, enclosing the fresh round in the chamber, it can be locked to the breech by turning the pistol grip down. Now the rifle is ready to be fired."




Before I talk about the last German ATR I must talk about the Swiss Solothurn S-18/100. The S-18/100 was developed in the early 1930s and was to fire the massive 20x105B round. The S-18/100 fired semi-automatically from either a 5 or 10 round magazine. It was 69 inches long(1760 mm) and weighed 99 lbs(45 kg). The S-18/100 fired the massive 20 mm round at 762 m/s and could penetrate ~27 mm of armor up to 300 meters. The S-18/100 was used by Italian and Hungarian forces in WWII.

The reason why I talked about the S-18/100 first is that the German Panzerbuchse Modell 41(PzB41) was a German modification of the Solothurn. The PzB41 made it into production due to the realization that the PzB38 and 39 would be obsolete within a year. The PzB41 fired a 20x138B round at 731 m/s which could penetrate 30 mm of armor at 250 m. The PzB41 however was a complete flop. The main Soviet vehicles including the T-34 were all but immune to the PzB41. The Italians used it in 1943 with limited success.

The Finnish developed one ATR of note, the Lahti Model 39. The Lahti was modified from a 20 mm AA gun and fired the same round as the Solothurn ATRs. The Lahti had a 10 round magazine and was suppose to fire semi-automatically, however it is entirely possible fire automatically with a cyclic rate of 500 rpm(which helped convert the Lahti bak into an AA weapon). This weapon was 88 inches(2232 mm) long and weighed 94 lbs(42.1 kg). The Lahti fired the 20 mm round at 900 m/s and should have superior penetration compared to the Swiss/German 20 mm designs. Only a couple of Lahtis saw service in the Winter War and were moderately successful versus early Soviet armor. By the time of the Continuation War the Lahti was useless versus T-34s and mainly used versus lightly armored vehicles and emplacements.


The British meanwhile developed their own ATR in the mid 1930s called the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle designed by Enfield. It was originally called the Stanchion but was later renamed the Boys after Captain H.C. Boys, one of the chief proponents in the weapon's creation. Issued in 1936 the Boys saw service in France, North Africa, and the Far East. The Boys fired a .55 caliber(13.99x39B) round at over 800 m/s, this allowed for penetration upwards to 23 mm at ranges up to 100 meters, it did this via a bolt-action system with a 5 round magazine. The weapon weighed 35 lbs(16 kg) and was 64 inches(1575 mm) long. The Boys was produced up until 1943 and was a staple weapon of the Home Guard. The Boys also saw usage versus weakly armored early panzers and Italian tanks in France and North Africa. It was also used by the USMC Raiders which actually reported the destruction of Japanese flying boats by the Boys ATR. The Desert Rats also carried the Boys ATR. Both Finnish and Russians also received shipments of Boys ATRs. The last known usages of the Boys dates to the Korean War when the Boys where converted to fire .50 BMG rounds and were successful long range weapons against Chinese forces, even later some saw usage in the Yugoslav Conflicts. 



The Polish ATR which used high velocity lead rounds which performed much like HESH rounds. Maroszek Kb Ur wz.35. This ATR was developed in secret in late 1935 and over 6000 copies were issued to Polish Forces before German/Soviet Occupation. The Maroszek fired a 7.92x107 round which could penetrate 20-30 mm of armor at up to 100 meters at 1290 m/s. It held 5 rounds in a detachable magazine. This was more than enough to defeat German Panzer Is and IIs. The Polish tried their best to create the lightest ATR in the world, the Maroszek was 69 inches(1760 mm) long and weighed just over 20 lbs(9.1 kg). In my opinion the Poles created the best ATR ever made and could have been very successful if its use was more widespred.


The Japanese also tried to produce an ATR but ended up making a small support weapon. The Type 97 was a huge weapon weighing upwards to 152 lbs(68.93 kg- almost as much as me) and was 82.5 inches(2095 mm) long. The Type 97 was an automatic(usually fired semi-automatically) weapon firing 7 rounds from a vertical magazine, these rounds were 20x124 mm rounds. The 20x124 fired at 693 m/s and could penetrate some of the USMC light tanks in the Solomon Islands and were reported to be in use in 1939-40 in China. The Type 97 was quickly put out of service and many were converted to the Type 98 which fired a more powerful 20 mm round and was mounted on a wheeled carriage. 


Lastly we have the Soviet ATRs. The Degtyarov PTRD and the Simonov PTRS were both developed and put into production around the same time right after the start of Operation Barbarossa. The 14.5x114 mm round fired by both rifles proved very effective, penetrating armor up to 40 mm at 100 meters. The Dehtyarov PTRD was a much more simple design compared to its brother and was more reliable in combat.  These ATRs also made the usage of side skirts widespread among German AFVs and was one of the causes that led to the Panther II project in 1943. These guns were known to be used by the Chinese/DPRK forces in the Korean War and it is entirely likely that small numbers have seen action throughout the Cold War and into the Yugoslav Conflicts. The PTRD was a single shot weapon while the PTRS fired semi-automatically from a 5 round magazine. The PTRS weighed ~46 lbs(20.9 kg) and was 82.9 inches(2108 mm) long while the PTRD weighed ~38 lbs(17.3 kg) and was 79 inches(2000 mm) long. 



Hey DeathMongrel



Feel free to add/correct my info.

Sources:
Military Small Arms of the 20th Century by Hogg and Weeks
world.guns.ru
rifleman.org.uk


44 comments:

  1. nice im now really proud that u like polish rifle:P i hope to see "polish" tanks in game hehe
    being pole in wot its a hard stuff, every1 think that we are almost as stupid as russians and i know there are many "siema" idiots but every country has their own brainless zombies:P

    pesymistik

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    1. To my knowledge the Polish will make up a large percentage of the vehicles in the hypothetical Pan-European Tree, along with Czech, Swedish, Hungarian, Swiss, and other nation's tanks.

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    2. The most brainless Zombies are tanks with german, polish and turkish flags.

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    3. Biggest player base perhaps? Also ive seen many dumb Czech people, they are second biggest player base after Poles.

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    4. Second biggest are Germans, after that it's the Czechoslovaks actually. Either way, Brice, I am afraid you are wrong there, because unless Wargaming makes a LOT of stuff up, the Polish don't have too many vehicle to go with. Medium/heavy branch up to tier 6-7 as far as I know.

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    5. Also, the Poles had one of the most experienced pilots in WW2 they helped defending Great Britain when the Germans attacked.

      Just a bit off-topic.

      Nice article by the way.

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    6. Anti-Polish flame starting in 3... 2... 1...

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    7. Been over a day now and we're still waiting for it to start. :c

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  2. I think that your info on KB wz.35 ammo is incorrect. It didn't use tungsten core type ammo but it was made of lead core and steel jacket. Thanks to high velocity and mild steel it worked similar to HESH rounds making in armour holes of up to 3 diameters of bullet hurting people inside the tank with shrapnels

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    1. After going through some online sources it seems my book is a little off in that regard. Will fix.

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    2. AFAIR - original ammo was designed in that way that it vaporized on impact - transferring most of energy to armour - thus making pieces of armour into projectiles doing actual damage.
      Contrary to previous believes many rifles were captured and used by Wermacht / SS troops up to 1942/43. Germans also captured assembly lines for ammo and weapons itself, so they started production of their own version of bullets - those ones with hardened steel / tungsten core, with penetration stated as up to 40mm (IIRC). Germans transferred most of their URs to Italian troops later on, who used them up to 1944. I my have erred with dates somehow - writing from memory (at work now ;P) - and as one book hero once said - Memoria fragilis ;)

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  3. "Lahti". Same as the city. Means "bay".

    Really nice article, ty.

    -kn

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  4. Both PTRD and PTRS saw action in Vietnam, Lebanon, Israeli-Arab wars, Algeria, Yugoslavia breakup, Iran-Iraq war, Afghan war, wars in Afrika - Ethiopian-Somali and Ethiopian-Erithrean war, Portugese colonial conflict in Angola etc.
    Sometimes used as large-cal sniper, sometimes as anti-material rifle, sometimes vs light armor (APC/IFVs).
    Additionally in Bosnian conflict Boyes and Solothurn saw some (limited) action, and there are also reports of 13mm (only one would be Mauser 1918) AT rifle being used.

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    1. A lot (not just a few, but almost all) leftover Boys rifles were re-bored to 50 cal and distributed as heavy sniping rifles. The original .55 Boys ammo today is so rare it's practically a collectible.

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    2. Those in Bosnia were in were in original caliber. Blame it to JNA/YPA and tendency to warehouse every weapon and ammo for it, no matter how obsolete.

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    3. Of weapons that were in JNA holdings only M7 Priests (~80 still available in 1991) missed it, due the fact that those were held in storage in Serbia. Crying shame is that they were scrapped in 1996-97... :(

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  5. Finally i know why i cant pen t34s frontally with the ptrs in red orchestra 2 ;-)

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  6. Here's a little better pic of the PTRD ;)

    Be mindful, I'm 6' (182cm) and that thing basically dwarfed me. Plus, after looking down the sights, and with how the human eye focuses on near/far objects, I have complete and utter respect for the fellows who used these things to shoot at tanks, let alone anything else.

    I have also used these extensively in Red Orchestra, stupendously effective anti-personnel weapon when there aren't any tanks!

    http://assets-cloud.enjin.com/users/337187/pics/original/77841.jpg

    DeathMongrel

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    1. I guess you wouldn't mind if I added this pic? TY

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  7. Do you have any more information regarding the mysterious EW141 of the PzKpfw I Ausf C? I find it hard to believe that the real thing, if it even exists, fired as fast as the one in-game does.

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    1. It was real and actually fired much faster than in-game and it was belt-fed...Tungsten cored ammunition could penetrate about 20mm of armor at 90 degrees angle, 500m away. Steel cored ammunition was far less effective vs. armor and was used for anti-personnel combat and as tracers (there were red and yellow ones) for target marking/distance estimation. WG "mixed up" the ammuntion: they gave steel cored ammo penetration values of tungsten cored one, and invented the gold ammo for it (balance reasons, of course).

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    2. http://www.ww2incolor.com/forum/showthread.php/3357-Antitank-Rifles-amp-Machineguns/page5

      This guy gives a good overview of the weapon IMO.

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  8. Something about the Boys reminds me of an upside down M82. I guess they both perform a similar roll. Are there any reports on the accuracy of these weapons?

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  9. Any Information about the U.S. ATRs?

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    1. The US army had interests in the Solothurn before the war, but it lost out, in the end, to the Bazooka. The US army intended to use rocket lauchers since WW1 but the armistice, and in the end the death of the inventor Robert H. Goddard, postponed its use until the 2nd World War. They also had heavy machine guns like the M2 Browning so there really was no need to use ATRs.
      Thats basically it, during the Second World War. During the Korean War, US troops started capturing soviet ATRs and turned them into anti material weapons, like this one: http://i.imgur.com/HYI11aZ.jpg

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  10. IMHO all those rifles, are anti material rifles, they all lack the pen to really destroy tanks. But they could blow up other light armor and other vehicles. That and the destruction of, for example, ammo depots, fuel, was a better use for all.

    Like actual barrets, none thinks it could pose a treath to let's say...a T80, but APC and others could be amaged by firing in weak spots like driver hach or driver cameras. making an APC highly exposed to real antitank weapons like portable misiles.

    In the past was the same, making a tank or APC exposed by destroy tracks and left them to other weapons to finish. A tracked tanks in less dangerous than a moving one, specially in retreats...

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  11. Lol... "Panzerbusch" is nice type in german. :)
    But it should be "Panzerb├╝chse", shouldn't it?

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  12. Nice post!!! i remember the Boys Anti-Tank Rifle from MoH Pacific Assault. I bet it's still good enough to blow up a Leopard 1 hehe

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  13. I'd really like to get my hands on some of the Polish 7.92x107mm brass and see what that round can do for long distance shooting; would be interesting as the case capacity is probably insane compared to the projectile weight it hurls downrange. Could easily match the .338 Lapua Magnum at 1000m depending on how it flies.

    -PanzerHyeena, NA server group

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  14. http://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karabin_przeciwpancerny_wz._35

    unfortunatelly it's in polish...but was doing quite well!

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  15. The greatest problem of the AT-rifles (especially the semi-automatic ones) was the lack of accuracy on longer ranges. They were conditioned for 100 to 500m use, that range where their penetration was effective. Their powerful ammo would make them fine long-range weapon, but they had tremendous recoil and vibration, which was not solved in their era... Some Boys-rifle operator was more afraid of firing his gun (and feeling the pain of the recoil) than the enemy panzers. In their primary, conventional AT role the ATRs outclassed very quickly, but with special ammunition (API, APHE, APCR) and on urban terrian they remained potent much longer, and later became the base of the anti-material rifle concept.

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  16. I've read somewhere that the Lahti was used with some success against the weak points of armored targets during the continuation war. If tanks drove with their hatches open, and in forested areas they sometimes did, the rifle had enough accuracy to hit them with phosphorous or high explosive ammunition and disable the crew.
    The Lahti was also really good at long range shooting which gave it a new life as an anti-material rifle. Finns had good artillery but pillboxes and strongpoints were hard to take out withoug direct fire. Lahti was good for that kind of thing again with phosphorous or HE munitions.

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    1. AFAIK Solothurns were used in a similar "light infantry gun" capacity in the Chaco War against field fortifications - arguably the cannon-caliber ATRs were the more long-term viable path specifically due to this ability to deliver useful payloads, even if they tended to stretch the limits of "man-portable".

      Surplus Lahtis are apparently relatively popular in the US (though these day most have been rechambered for .50 BMG), and in the past have been used for such diverse purposes as attacks on Cuban merchant ships by Cuban-American militants and - kid you not - to break into a vault by a bank-robber gang (that one had a sound suppressor scratch-built from an oil drum, presumably mainly to preserve the users' eardrums).

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  17. Check this out:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dwcki0BvIZ0

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  18. There is a typo here:
    'could penetrate 30 m of armor at 250 m.'

    30m of armor would be a little bit much don't you think? :D

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  19. Heres a nice vid of lahti l39
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7EfR4K17G8

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  20. "The Mauser 1918 allowed German Infantry to battle against the Allied armored vehicles which were immune to most machine gun and rifle fire. The Mauser 1918 fire the 13 mm round at 913 m/s and could penetrate ~25 mm of armor at ranges up to 200 meters"
    ---------------------
    lol, and in World of Tanks, a 7.92 MG can penetrate more than 40mm of steel with gold ammo...why they even bring the term "historical" anymore?

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    1. You have no idea what you're talking about, you know that? (Hint: read some of the other comments.)

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    2. The EW 141 penetration is historical.

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  21. The biggest problem with polish "wz. 35 UR" was that it was top secret even in Polish Army. ATRs were held in magazines until mobilization in late august 1939. Most of the rifles didn't reached the front and didn't participate in combat. It was also the reason, that there was no time to train the soliders to use that rifle properly. If all the rilfes reached the front, and soliders knew how to use it the germans losses in armoured vehicles and tanks (that were very heavy) were be even greater. And maybe the german invasion on france was delayed few months.

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    1. Sounds a bit like a repeat of the French fiasco with the Mitrailleuse during the Franco-Prussian War... :/

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    2. Krzysztof - this is quite a BS. You are quoting old commie propaganda. New and quite more honest researches shows the opposite.
      Kb UR was widespread and properly used. Real bottleneck was lack of substantial amount of ammo. Yes - security was tight but all personnel was trained and ready. And to further things up - rifle was made to be not to much different form standard Mauser wz98 in terms of handling, so it was easy to pick up even for untrained soldier.
      And remember - Ur was the reason Guderian was so adamant about need to up-armour german tanks - because of hideous number of penetration form small calibre rounds (that means mostly - Ur's).

      Sincerely Yours
      Max_Von_Trapp

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