American Anti-Tank Weapons

Shell Types and Armour Penetration Capabilities

M3 Half-Track with .50 cal. Browning HMG

The table lists armour penetration values for American infantry anti-tank weapons and anti-tank guns at 0 to 100 meters range and 0 degrees inclination of armour. Dates indicate the year when a particular shell type entered production, not necessarily the year of availability to combat units. New shell types would take several months to reach the troops at the front, some favoured units receiving the new shells more quickly than others. Andrew Mark Reid is the author of Panzergranate, a set of miniature wargame rules using carefully researched gunnery data to simulate armour penetration results.

Machine Guns

Machine Guns Projectile Penetration
7.62 mm (0.30 Inch) M.2 & M.3. Browning L.M.G. "K" Bullet 12 mm
12.7 mm L.130.2 (0.50 Inch) Browning H.M.G. A.P. 25 mm
12.7 mm L.130.2 (0.50 Inch) Browning H.M.G. A.P./I. (Incendiary) 22 mm

Shaped Charge Grenades

Weapon Projectile Penetration
M9 Rifle Grenade (U.S.) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 100 mm
The U.S. M9 rifle grenade had a range of 10 metres, and a blast radius -- mainly directly towards the firer -- of 12 metres. The weapon was not safe to be fired from the open or from poor cover.
50 mm Bazooka (U.S.) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 119 mm
Bazooka, and Panzerschreck rocket projectors are missile weapons which produce a less dangerous backblast than the recoilless Panzerfaust, although the backblast is still noticeable enough to reveal the firing position. Rocket projectors can be fired from enclosed spaces with minimal risk to the operator, and there is enough historic evidence to suggest that this was done in combat. The Panzerschreck fired a larger warhead than the Bazooka, and the weapon had a face shield to protect the operator.

Tank and Anti-Tank Guns

Weapon Projectile Penetration
37 mm L.21 (Christie T.3, etc.) A.P. 31 mm
37 mm L.53. M.3 A.P.C. 76 mm
37 mm L.53. M.3 with Little John A.P.S.V. (1943) 97 mm
The British Little John squeeze bore attachment was originally designed to increase the velocity and armour penetration of the 2 Pdr gun. Little Johns were tested on other guns as well, but they became obsolete when 6 Pdr and 17 Pdr anti-tank guns entered service. The US Locust airborne tank used the Little John attachment to extend the useful life of its already obsolete 37 mm gun. Locust tanks were deployed in the Rhine crossings and before.
40 mm L.70. M.6. Flak (Bofors copy) A.P. 117 mm
57 mm L.23. (W.W.I tank Gun) A.P.H.E. (1918) 32 mm
75 mm L.31. M.2 (Lee) & M.6 (Chaffee) A.P.C. (M.61) 76 mm
75 mm L.31. M.2 (Lee) & M.6 (Chaffee) A.P. (M.72) 89 mm
75 mm L.31. M.2 (Lee) & M.6 (Chaffee) A.P.C.B.C. (Late 1944) 96 mm
75 mm L.41. M.2 & M.3 (Sherman) A.P.C. (M.61) 101 mm
75 mm L.41. M.2 & M.3 (Sherman) A.P. (M.72) 118 mm
75 mm L.41. M.2 & M.3 (Sherman) A.P.C.B.C. (Late 1944) 127 mm
76 mm L.52. M.6 Anti-Tank & Tank Gun A.P.C. (M.61) 127 mm
Prior to the Normandy invasion, the U.S. Army Ordinance Department had promised that the new 76 mm L.52. M.6 gun would take out any German armour in service. This turned out not to be the case, the gun performed poorly against Tiger I and Panther tanks, and it was incapable of penetrating the frontal armour of the Königstiger. A request for Sherman Firefly tanks with the more powerful 17 pdr gun was turned down by the British Ordinance Department. Instead, American units were hastily re-equipped with A.P. (M.79) shells, but much of the A.P.C. (M.61) ammunition remained in service until the end of the war.
76 mm L.52. M.6 Anti-Tank & Tank Gun A.P. (M.79) 155 mm
76 mm L.52. M.6 Anti-Tank & Tank Gun A.P.C.B.C. (M.93) 208 mm
90 mm L.52 Anti-Tank & Tank Gun A.P. (T.33) 148 mm
90 mm L.52 Anti-Tank & Tank Gun A.P.C. (M.82) 163 mm
90 mm L.52 Anti-Tank & Tank Gun A.P.C.B.C. (M.304) 270 mm
105 mm L.23 Howitzer M2 H.E.A.T. 102 mm
The 105 mm howitzer was mounted on the M7 Priest, and the Sherman Jumbo assault tank variant. The weapon fired H.E.A.T. shells designed to penetrate concrete. Available range test data indicates that the shell penetrated 4 Inches (102 mm) of armour at any range.
155 mm L.46 Howitzer A.P. (M.112) 168 mm

American shells performed poorly against German tanks, particularly against the heavily armoured Panthers, Tigers and Königstigers. Many efforts were made to remedy the situation, but the older, less effective ammunition continued to be issued even as supplies of improved shells became available. It was not uncommon for vehicles to carry all the different types of shells in their racks at the same time. Unable to rely on just one type of A.P. shell to engage any potential ground target successfully, American tanks crews had to deal with the additional stress of selecting the proper shell for the job at hand.

Andy Reid

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US Army Miniatures of World War Two