French Anti-Tank Weapons

Shell Types and Armour Penetration Capabilities

French Anti-Tank Gunnery Data, Shell Types and Armour Penetration Capabilities

The French Char B1.bis was equipped with a Hotchkiss 47 mm gun and a Puteaux 75 mm howitzer. The latter was designed to engage infantry targets only. No armour piercing ammunition was issued for the howitzer, making it practically useless against enemy tanks.

The table lists armour penetration values for French 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.

Weapon Projectile Penetration
13.2 mm Hotchkiss H.M.G. A.P. 29 mm
Main armament of the AMD Laffly 80 AM armoured car.
25 mm L.60 Hotchkiss Flak A.P. 42 mm
25 mm L.72 Hotchkiss Anti-Tank Gun A.P. 50 mm
25 mm L.77 Puteaux Anti-Tank Gun A.P. 54 mm
37 mm L.21 SA18 Puteaux Tank Gun A.P. (Rupture M.1916) 27 mm
37 mm L.21 SA18 Puteaux Tank Gun A.P. (Rupture M.1927) 31 mm
Most French tanks were armed with the 37 mm L.21, except for the R-40, S-35, Char B and Char 2.C mentioned below. In 1940 a hasty rearming programme was begun after it was found that the 37 mm L.21 could not penetrate German tanks even at point blank range and firing from behind. The plan was to rearm all tanks with the 37 mm L.33 gun, which was nearly useless as well, but only a few F.C.M.36 tanks had been converted by the time France was overrun and the campaign ended.
37 mm L.30 Hotchkiss Tank Gun A.P. (Carbon Steel) 37 mm
37 mm L.30 Hotchkiss Tank Gun A.P. (Manganese Steel) 44 mm
The 37 mm L.30 was not adopted by a French Army, despite the fact that it performed better than the obsolete 37 mm L.21.T.R. (Tire Rapide) guns. Instead, the Hotchkiss 37 mm L.30 became an export item, it was mounted on Soviet light tanks and armoured cars.
37 mm L.33 Hotchkiss Tank Gun (Renault R-40) A.P.(Rupture M.1936) 49 mm
The Wehrmacht rearmed a few Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf. F with captured 37 mm L.33 guns prior to Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The gun was mounted centrally through the existing mantlet, and the tank lost its coaxial MG. In theory, these vehicles should have been designated Pz.Kpfw. II Ausf. G, and one each was allocated to a Pz.Kpfw. II platoon. The vehicle enjoyed success against the lightly armoured Russian BT-5, BT-7, T-26.A, T-26.B, T-26.S and T-28 tanks.
37 mm L.60 Hotchkiss Flak A.P.H.E. 36 mm
A twin barrelled, single shot weapon, mounted on a trailer. The Airfix Coastal Defense Fort (No. 06706) is equipped with two of these guns for air defense. It would be a simple conversion to return them to their wheeled state.
47 mm L.35 Hotchkiss Tank Gun A.P. (Rupture M.1935) 62 mm
Main armament of the Char B1, Somua S-35 and Renault D2. The Char B1 was also equipped with a 75 mm L.18 Puteaux howitzer which did not have an armour piercing shell issued for it. The howitzer was designed to engage infantry positions with High Explosive (H.E.), and smoke shells. Even if an A.P. shell had been developed for it, the howitzer would have had a maximum armour penetration of only 38 mm at 100 meters range, much less than the turret mounted 47 mm gun.
47 mm L.53 Puteaux SA37 Anti-Tank Gun A.P. (Rupture M.1935) 95 mm
This towed anti-tank gun proved effective against the Panzers, but there were too few of them to stop the Wehrmacht in its tracks. A portee version of the 47 mm APX SA37 was mounted on the Laffly W15TCC 6×6 tank destroyer. The gun was fitted in a partially armoured cabin at the rear of the Laffly truck.
75 mm L.12 St. Chamond M.1923 Infantry Gun A.P. 34 mm
The French Renault FT-17.bis of 1923 mounted a short unspecified 75 mm gun in a larger than normal turret, and there is a possibility that the St. Chamond M.1923 may have been used. Infantry support vehicles of this type were employed in the French colonies, and they saw service in the 1940 campaign in France.
75 mm L.18 Puteaux de Cavalerie & Tank Gun n.a. n.a.
Secondary armament of the Char B1, this gun is also considered to be the main armament of the Renault FT-17.bis înfantry support tank.
75 mm L.19.3 Schneider de Cavalerie M.1912 A.P.
75 mm L.25 Schneider-Canet M.98/00 de Cavalerie A.P. 59 mm
75 mm L.29.7 Puteaux Tank Gun (Char 2.C) A.P. 73 mm
75 mm L.31.1 Schneider-Canet M.1898 & M.1900 A.P. 74 mm
It is likely that Colonel Deport who designed the M.1897 Puteaux was involved in the design of this Schneider gun, even if Canet is credited for the work.
75 mm L.36.3 Puteaux M.1897 Field Gun A.P. 90 mm
The famous "75" of World War One, originally designed by Colonel Deport, who worked at Atelier Puteaux and later transferred to Schneider. This weapon is the father of all American tank guns of World War 2, the copy was designated M1 in American service. The M.1897 featured the Nordenfelt breech mechanism as opposed to the sliding block system now the industry standard throughout the world. The same design, but with the breech changed to a sliding block mechanism, became the M2 hull gun in M3 Grant/Lee medium tanks. The French army upgraded many of its old 75 mm Puteaux M.1897 field guns by adding pneumatic tires in the course of the 1938 and 1940 mobilization effort. These guns were designated M.1897/1938 and M.1897/1940 in French service.
75 mm L.36.6 Schneider M.1914 Field Gun A.P. 93 mm

Captured French equipment was used by the Wehrmacht during Operation Barbarossa in 1941. Tank and tractor chassis were converted into self-propelled guns and Panzerjäger (tank destroyers) which served throughout the war. A variety of captured original, and converted French equipment was used to defend the Atlantic Wall against the Allied invasion in 1944. Apparently, captured French vehicles were not normally repainted by their captors, they continued to serve in the original camouflage patterns.

Andy Reid

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French Miniatuers of World War Two