Antitank Rifles and MGs. 1930-1945.

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Senior Master Sergeant
Jan 11, 2005
Cordoba - Argentina
Why an Antitank Rifle ?


The late introduction of the Mauser 13mm AT rifle in the WW1 did not cause big impression on the battlefield or the trench warfare. In the years passing the big war there was however a big entusiasm for a new kind a weapon , the anti armor rifle. The reasons for the development of this guns were simple, the rifle although a heavy one was still more cheap and easy to manufacture than a dedicated a artillery piece wich involves a large quatity of high quality steel and dedicated machining.

Other factor helped in his development, the interwar period tanks were far to be the speedy, heavily armed, thick armored and effective war machines like the Tiger or the T-34.

In here we going to discuss the different models and developments
Maroszek WZ 35, the polish secret weapon.


The Polish Maroszek WZ 35 was one of the first designs of the 30s.

Clearly inspired in the Mauser tankgewehr it had been conceived and developed by Lt.Col. T. Felsztyn and the engineer Jósef Maroszek in the early 1930ies. First trials in late 1935 proved unsuccessful, because the extremely stressed barrel endured only about 20 shots. After intensive research and testing an almost perfect relation between ammunition characteristics and barrel construction was reached.

The new weapon had a life expectancy of 300 shots. It was integrated into the army in November 1935, simulated battles showed a more than satisfying performance as an anti-tank rifle.


However, the rifle was considered so important that a strict veil of secrecy was put over the whole project, and the delivery crates - containig one Maroszek WZ 35, three replacement barrels and three full ammo magazines - were sealed with the strict order that the seal was only to be broken under direct orders of the defense minister. Until July 1938 only a very restricted and select group of people (again under strict nondisclosure - orders) - mostly military commanders of different command levels - was shown the weapon.


The result was that in many cases the soldiers that were to use it didn't even see the weapon before WW II started with the german invasion of Poland! Due to all this, this reasonably performing weapon saw only very limited use in the Polish war against the attacking germans; many Polish soldiers ended the short German invasion of Poland still ignorant of the weapon!

The Germans captured considerable numbers of these weapons still unissued in the armories and storages; it received the German designation Panzerbüchse 35(p) ("Tank Rifle", the suffix "p" for "polnisch") - abbreviated as PzB 35(p) - but was also called Panzerbüchse 770(p) and was issued to german troops. Some of the weapons were also given to and employed by italian troops.

At least 630 of these polish tank rifles were incorporated into the Wehrmacht and used in the war against the French in 1940. Also a small numeber went to Italy and slovakia, the italians named it "Fucile anticarro Modello 35".

Muzzle brake.


The PzB 35(p) was a manual bolt action weapon with a magazine for three rounds. It can easily be recognized by the lack of a pistol grip which is rather uncommon for tank rifles.


The barrel had 6 grooves / right spin and was very long and thin. After 300 shots it had to be changed, which could be accomplished rather quick and uncomplicated with a special key. The well-designed muzzle brake absorbed 65% of the recoil forces and the recoil of the weapon was contrary to other tank rifles only slightly stronger than that of a regular infantry rifle.

The large cartrigde (from Tony Williams site)


The high velocity of the bullet made for an extremely staright flight path, therefore sights at a range of 300m were used. The weapon comes complete with a bipod but can be used without it.

There is a little of debate about what type of bullet it use, some sources say a copper plated lead, but this is completely wrong in my opinion. The heavy barrel wear indicated a hard-core bullet, probably an alloy os steel with high level of chrome and Tugsten. A thing is confirmed, there was no any incendiary or explosive content.


Muzzle speed. 1,280m/s; length 176cm; barrel length 120cm; weight w/o ammo 9.5kg (10kg with bipod). practical rate of fire: 6 rounds per minute.

Penetration in steel plate: Figure vary upon source but about 20-22 mm at 100 meters in a vertical plate ( 90 degrees ) .This plate is equivalent to the side armor of the Panzer IV ausf b C, both present in the Polish Campaing 1939. :rolleyes:
Boys anti-tank rifle


The Rifle, Anti-tank, 0.55-in, Boys, Mk 1 was originally known as the Stanchion Gun, but the name was later changed to honour the name of its principle designer after he died just before the weapon entered service. It was designed to be the standard infantry antitank weapon of the British army, but it was soon overtaken by events and had only a short active career, The first of the type entered service during the late 1930s and by 1942 the weapon was obsolete, overtaken by rapid increases
in enemy tank armour that the Boys rifle could no longer tackle.

the 14 x 99B cartrigde. (MUNICION.ORG)


The Boys anti-tank rifle had a calibre of 13.97mm (0.55 in) and fired a powerful cartridge that could penetrate 21mm (0.827 in) at 302m (330 yards). The cartridge produced an equally powerful recoil, and this didlittle to endear the weapon to its firer, To reduce this recoil somewhat the long slender barrel was fitted with a muzzle brake.

Ammunition was fed into the bolt-action firing mechanism from an overhead five-round box magazine. Overall the Boys was rather long and heavy, which made it an awkward
load to carry, so it was often mounted as the main weapon on board.

A French officer is about to receive
the hefty recoil from a Boys anti-tank
rifle. The French army used a
number of these rifles in 1940


Bren Gun or Universal Carriers. More were used as the main armament of
some light armoured cars. The first production Boys used a forward-mounted monopod combined with a handgrip under the butt plate. After Dunkirk various modifications were made to speed production, and among the measures taken was replacement of the forward monopod by a Bren Gun bipod and of the circular muzzle brake attachment ba new Solothurn muzzle brake with holes drilled along the sides; this latter
was easier to produce than the original.

Mk I with simplified Muzzle brake.


In this form the Boys saw out its short service life, as by late 1940 it was regarded
as being of only limited use as an anti-armour weapon. Eventually it was replaced by the PIAT, but before
it finally departed it had a brief flurry of popularity during the Entrean and
Cyrenaica campaigns of 1940 and 1941.

Boys in use by U.S.M.C soldiers.


It was found to be a very effective anti-personnel weapon during these campaigns as it could be fired at rocks
over or near a concealed enemy, the resultant rock splinters acting as effective anti-personnel fragments, The Boys also found its way into US Marine Corps hands during the Philippines campaign of early 1942, when some
were used very sparingly against dugin Japanese infantry positions. How
these Boys rifles got to the Far East is not recorded. Also the british commandos used the Boys to knock out Flak emplacements in the Dieppe landings.

Some captured Boys
anti-tank rifles were also used by the Germans for a short while after Dunkirk,
but only in limited numbers; the
type was known as the 13.9-mm Panzerbüchse 782(e).

Bren carrier with Boys, Kursk July 1943.


In 1940 there were plans to produce a Mk 2 version of the Boys. This would
have been a shortened and lightened version for use by airborne forces but
it did not get very far before the project was terminated, no doubt because
the shortened barrel would have produced an even more violent recoil.

Specification Boys Mk 1

Calibre: 13,97 mm (0.55 in)

Lengths: overall 1.625 m (5 ft 4 in);

Barrel 0.914 m (36 ft 0 in)

Weight: 16.33 kg (36 lb)

Muzzle velocity: 790 m/s AP, 810 m/s APC, 884 m/s APCR

Armour penetration: (APC) 21 mm (0,827 in) @ 302 m (330 yards)
Very nice contribution - I learned a few things! This is an appealing format
with concise details and good photo's. Thanks, CB!
Excellent thread CB... I would assume ur going to get into the PIAT next??

Thanks Les, we could include the PIAT, but is more like a grenade launcher.

Swiss AT rifles part 1:

The Rheinmetall owned swiss factory of Solothurn develop a family of heavy caliber weapons for antiarmor use. This facility was employed in the late 20s and mid 30s as for the insvestigation on small arms and it was just other of the german shorcut made due the Versailles treaty. The use of the 20 mm caliber imply a large a heavier weapon wich were less portable that lighter caliber rifles. However there is some advantages in those mastodontic guns, the payload capacity of ensure a better post armor effect because the incendiary and/or explosive bullet.

The first design was the ST-5 (schweres tankbuchse modell 5), this model was scarcely manufactured and promply a improved variant was introduced.


That was S18-100 series (the numbers of the variants went up to S18-500) in a unique 20 x 105B calibre. The gun was long recoil operated although by the time this was adopted for use in German naval aircraft as the MG 204 the case design had been changed slightly to a rimless 20 x 105.

Estonian soldier with the S-18-100. The weapon had a 4x20 scope


The S-18-100 had a muzzle speed of 760 M/s with armor piercing bullet and 780 shooting explosive shells.

Bullet types.


The bullet denominated "Pauline" was an 140 grams APHE one and it could penetrate nearly 30mm of armor at 200 meters distance. This rifle weights 42 kg and was nearly 2 meters long, it was feed from the side by 5 or 10 rounds magazines. Only a few of these were actually used by the german army under the designacion of 2cm Tankbüchse S-18, the gun simply did not fit in the "blitzkrieg" concept, in the end much smaller 8mm antiarmor weapons were used instead.

S-18-100 in german use in Holland 1940.


The Solo 100 was bought by Finland (S-18-154) who purchased 100 and some, the fins used it in the Winter and Continuation war. They found very efective agaist light and amphibious tanks. The gun was also used by the Hungarian army.

And how not..the S-18-100 advertisement to spanish languaje readers. The rifle could penetrate a T-26 like those used in the SCW from 400 meters

Aditional images of the Solothurn S-18-100 20mm AT rifle:



Barrel jacket, the flutted part marked the recoil lenght.



Muzzle brake. (mundungbremse)


Doing some field test, covering the ears was a good idea.


20x105mm cartrigdes. (

Swiss AT Rifles part II. Solothurn S-18-1000/1100.


The Solo S-18-100 was a sound and powerful design. it had a major disadvantage however, his cartrigde. The 20x105 mm ammunition never was a standar one in any European country. So in order to cure that the Swiss factory designed the models 1000-1100.

Swiss soldier with the S-18-1000.


This weapon used the larger 20x138B ammo, this bring some increase in weight (57 kg) but being this caliber in use with the italians in his Breda 20/65 and Scotti automatic cannons and in the German 2cm Flak 30/38, some good sales were espected.

The S-18-1000 work by the short recoil principle and it was feed by 5 or 10 round magazine, the 1100 was a fully automatic rifle wich used the 20 round magazine of the Flak 30. The overall lenght of both rifles was 2100mm.

2 pictures of the Solos transport cart



2 examples of ammo:

Armor piercing incendiary tracer.140 grams, muzzle velocity about 815 m/s.

High explosive tracer-self destruct, weight 120 grams, muzzle velocity 870 m/s.

Aditional images of the Solo 100, 1000 and the Solo S-18-1100, the 1100 was a fully automatic fire variant of the 20x138 1000 model and could be used also an Flak cannon.







German 8 mm rifles

The second generation of german antiarmor rifles uses the cartrigde know as "patrone 318" this was a the 13mm case for the Mauser tank rifle and the T.u.F MG bottlenecked to accept a 8mm armor piercing bullet.

The resultant was the 7,92mmx94 cartrigde.


Panzerbüchse 38.


Conceived by Dipl.-Ing. (certified engineer) B. Brauer and built by the Gustloff-Werke in Suhl. It was a manually loaded single shot weapon with moving barrel. When fired, the barrel recoiled about 9cm, which opened the breech and expelled the spent cartridge.


The breech block was then arrested in the rear position, leabing an opening for the gunner to manually insert a new cartridge. The gunner then released the cocked breech with a lever at the grip. breech and barrel then glide forward again and the trigger is cocked. The weapon is ready to fire again. This rather complicated mechansim was reportedly prone to jamming if the system got dirty in field use.


The weapon uses the bipod found on the MG 34; the shoulder plate is rubber-cushioned and can be folded to the right for ease of transportation. Although manufactered with pressed steel parts that were spot-welded, still because of the complicated vertical block breech mechanism it was difficult to manufacture and only the small number of 1408 PzB 38 was built from 1939 to 1940 at the company Gustloff Co. Waffenfabrik in Suhl

Detail of the handgrip safety.



62 of these weapons had been used by the german troops in the invasion of Poland 1939. As soon as the successor PzB 39 was available immediately production was switched over to the new type. The weapon had an overall length of 161.5 cm (129cm with the stock folded for transportation) and a barrel (4 grooves rs) length of 108.5 cm. Total weight (incl. bipod and carrying sling) 16.2 kg, weight of barrel (incl muzzle brake) 6.14kg; Vo using the Patrone 318 was 1,210m/s which made for a penetration of 30mm at 100m.
Great job Charles. Very good posts.

Imagine these things produced a ton of dust when fired, the muzzle being that close to the ground.
Hi CharlesBronson, are you familiar with Lahti L-39? I've uploaded a couple of pictures of it:

Very nice pictures, I will wrote about the Lathi when I finish the german rifles.

Great job Charles. Very good posts.

Imagine these things produced a ton of dust when fired, the muzzle being that close to the ground.

Thanks, and sure thy do, just imagine that muzzle brake so close to the groud in the Solos 20 mm, nasty, not to mention the effect on the shooter ears 8)
Thank you for your post. 8)

Panzerbüchse 39.


After the production of the Pzb 38 was dropped a more simple and cheaper desing was choosed instead.

The Pzb 39 was a single shot, manually loaded weapon that discarded the complicated semiautomatic breech. The lock mechanism was a simple falling block commanded by the pistol grip, this action also cocked the firing pin.

It had an overall length of 162.0 cm; weight was reduced to 12.6 kg. It's performance data was basically the same as that of the PzB 38.

Pzb 39 with the grip forward (open chamber)


To increase the practical rate of fire, two cartridge-holding cases containing 10 rounds each could be attached to both sides of the weapon near the breech - these were not magazines feeding the weapon, they simply enabled the gunner to extract the cartridges (that he still had to manually insert into the gun) from the conveniently placed magazines.


In the Pzb 39 a new round was introduced this was Patrone 318 S.m.K.(H)-Rs-L'spur, wich means Spitzer mit Kern (hart), pointed with core (hard), the "hard " thing means that the bullet had a tugsten carbide core. Rs is for Reisstoff, or irritant because it carry a small irritant gas pill.


This was made with the overoptimistically target to make the tank crew leave his vehicle after being the practice the irritant content was so small that nobody noticed that. L'spur was for "Leuchtspur" ("bright trace" = "tracer") indicating the bullet had a small tracer in its rear.

In Afrika.


In the todays point of view it seems incredible that such a small caliber was chosen, but in 1939 with the majority of the tanks with armor ranging from 10-25 mm it look like a razonable choice.

At a typical Vo of slightly over 1,200m/s the projectile penetrated 30mm of steel at a range of 100m and still up to 20mm at 300m (both at 0° slope) and was accepted as the standard anti-tank rifle ammunition to be used by all weapons of that type.

Production of the Patrone 318 ran until August 1942.

Paratroopers in france in 1940, the Pzb 39 at the shoulder.


Technical data:

Overall length: 162cm;
barrel length 108.5cm;
total weight (incl. bipod and carrying sling but no magazines)
12.6kg; weight empty 11.6kg; total weight of magazine (loaded) 1.09kg; weight magazine (empty) 0.25kg; practical rate of fire: 10 shots/min. Ammunition:

Patrone 318; Vo 1,210 m/s; armor penetration 30mm of homogeneus plate at 100m with the Tugsten core and 28 mm with the steel core bullet.

Some of these rifles were mounted in armored vehicles such as the Sd.Kfz 222 and the engineers vehicle Sd.Kfz 251/7


568 PzB 39 were used by the german army in the invasion of Poland; two years later, at the beginning of the war against russia, 25,298 PzB 39 were in use by german troops; total production form March 1940 to November 1941, when production ceased, was 39,232 rifles.


Experimental 7,92x94mm rifles.

The germans were quite unsatisfied with the performance of their tank rifles. It was obvious that other tank rifles were to be produced if this weapon type was to have any practical use. Several projects were undertaken in 1940 by several companies, all using the Patrone 318.


Gustloff-Werke presented two self-loading AT rifles - model 42 (later known as PzB.40 G) and model 44. Rifle model 42 had 5 different variations. It was gas-operated. Both models, capable only of semi-auto fire, had different mechanisms of locking the barrel. In one case it was wedge locking and in other case it was done by lever. Both models were magazine-feed from 8-round magazine.

Gustloff PzB 40.


Magazine receiver was made on the left side of the rifle's body. For decreasing the size of a rifle in stowed position (due to request from para forces command), rifle's butt folded to the left side, decreasing the overall length from 1660mm to 1460mm. Barrel length - 1085mm.

Practical fire rate of Gustloff-werke rifles was up to 32 shots per minute, with an initial bullet speed of 1150m/s.

Effective fire range was no more than 300m. First model 42 weighted 18kg, second model 44 - 13.5kg. In these rifles were used components from other small arms, which production was already mastered, for example, the pivot-frame and butt from MG.34.

The Waffenfabrik Carl walther in Zella-Mehlis built the Modell 40 / PzB 40 W, a semiautomatic weapon with a curved magazine for 8 rounds. The weapons resemble very much to a modern assault rifle but a lot bigger.

Another Self-loading AT rifle , the model 41 was made by firm Mauser-Werke from town Oberndorf-am-Nekkar. It was gas-operated. . It was magazine-feeded, sector-type magazine contained 8 rounds and was inserted into receiver from left side.
Lock was capable of only semi-automatic fire with practical fire rate of 32 shots per minute. The rifle was partially made using punched metallic components. Overall length was 1670mm, barrel was 1085mm long; rifle weighted 12.5kg.

Mauser M41.


H. Krieghoff made not less interesting AT rifle model 43 (also known as PzB.40 K). Zul armsmasters presented seven prototypes with differences. They were gas-operated with wedge barrel locking. Most part of rifle components (excluding barrel and lock), was made out of steel sheet by punching. 8-round box-shaped magazine was fastened on the left side of the rifle. Rifle weighted 14kg, it's overall length was 1570mm (1300mm with folded butt), while the barrel itself was 1150mm long.

There were thorough many-sided tests of new AT rifles which took place in october 1940 for finding out which rifle was best.

In the end all there rifles were deprived to enter in large scale production due the increase in armor achieved by allied tanks designs, the 8mm caliber despite his ultra velocity was no more competitive. The next stage will be the 13 and 15mm guns.

Sources (until now):

Panzerbuchse Anti-Tank Rifle




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