Last updated: 15-Aug-2013

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A brief history of the Anti-Tank rifle

The worlds first anti-tank (or anti-material) rifle was based on an over-grown Mauser action. Chambered for a 13.2 x 92mm semi-rimmed bottlenecked cartridge. The Tank Abwehr Gewehr or T-Gewehr was capable of penetrating around 20mm of armour at 100 metres and 15mm at 300 metres, when striking at 90 degrees. Early tanks were protected by no more than 12mm of armour plate, as such this was a fairly effective weapon despite being cumbersome at 17.3kg and 1.68m long.

During the 1930's several countries attempted to develop their own versions of a sub-20mm anti-tank rifle, Germany adopted the ultra-high velocity 7.92mm rifles PzB 38/39) based on the 13mm cartridge,  the Polish Maroszek (Kb ppanc wz. 1935) was also 7.92mm but based on an extended standard Mauser rifle round, 7.92 x 107mm. America tinkered with a .60cal weapon and the U.K went on to develop the .55 Boys rifle. The only rifle of any real success was the Russian 14.5mm PTRD, a bolt action single shot weapon with no magazine, its brother, the semi-automatic and troublesome PTRS was produced for only a couple of years before production was eventually switched to the PTRD. Other much larger calibre weapons were developed by Japan (full-auto!), Finland, Sweden and Switzerland in 20mm. Click here to read about a chap that converted his 14.5mm PTRD to 20mm!

The demise of the Anti-Tank rifle

It rapidly became clear that most WWII anti-tank rifles were too heavy, too large and ineffective against anything that resembled a tank, attempts were made to reduce the weight and size of the Boys rifle with the development of the MKII but the rifle was still rejected by the troops on the ground. After World Was Two the PTRD saw limited service in Korea and the idea of using a rifle to stop a tank was abandoned, primarily because tank armour grew way too thick. Lighter and more portable weapons using simple rocket technology such as the 3.5" M20 Bazooka would penetrate 11" of armour plate, and for anything better protected than that, an assortment of recoilless rifles, namely the 37mm and 57mm M18, M20 anti-tank guns had quickly proven their efficiency in the early post war years, causing far more damage than any anti-tank rifle. It was several years later that the idea of using a heavy machine gun type cartridge of .50" in a sniper rifle was tried, and then developed. Stories abound of soldiers in Korea using PTRDs with a scope bolted to the side and .50" spotting rifles used as precision sniper rifles during the armed conflicts of the late 1950's and 60's, and the fact remained that although the Boys rifle and its foreign cousins couldn't stop a tank, they could at least stop a jeep or truck. Matched to a rugged optical aiming system and recoil reducing muzzle break these rifles went on to become the modern day heavy sniping rifle, such as the Barrett or Hungarian Gepard, anti-material rather then anti-tank.

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This site was last updated 02/12/13