Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons

Shell Types and Armour Penetration Capabilities

Airfix Panzerjäger Bren conversion.

German Panzerjäger Bren, based on a Universal Carrier Mk.II. Large numbers of French and British vehicles were captured during the 1940 campaign in France, and subsequently employed by the Wehrmacht. The Pz.Jäg.Bren was a practical, and cheap anti-tank firing platform, fitted with three fixed 8.8 cm RPzB 54 “Panzerschreck” rocket projectors, four Panzerfaust, and an MG 34 for close defense. Boxed ammunition was carried on the back of the vehicle. The interior is in the original British Army 1939 camouflage pattern, and the exterior has been repainted in Wehrmacht dark yellow with a red brown disruptive pattern. The conversion, and detailing work was done by Jim Gordon, using an Airfix 1:76 scale model kit of the Universal Carrier.

The table lists armour penetration values of infantry anti-tank weapons 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.

Anti-Tank Rifles and Machine Guns

Weapon Projectile Penetration
0.30 Inch L.M.G. (U.S.) “K” Bullet 12 mm
0.303 Inch Rifle, L.M.G., H.M.G. (Britain) “K” Bullet 13 mm
7.92 mm Infantry Rifle (German) “K” Bullet (1916) 13 mm
«K» bullets were heavier than regular rifle ammunition, they had a tungsten-carbide core which gave the bullet longer range, and better penetration. «K» bullets were more carefully made than regular rifle ammunition, to ensure that their flight characteristics were very similar, and predictably accurate. German snipers and machine gunners were issued «K» bullets in 1915, to be used for long-range firing out to 800 yards, and to penetrate the boiler plate armour often used to protect enemy sentries and lookouts. When the first tanks appeared in the west in April 1917, it was found that the “K” bullet penetrated the armour. Accordingly, German infantry was issued «K» bullets as an anti-tank measure. This did not escape the British, who upgraded their Mark IV tanks with hardened steel plate to withstand the “K” bullet.
7.92 mm C.Z. Marosheck A.P. 34 mm
Named after the Czech engineer who came up with the idea of firing a 7.92 mm “K” bullet from a 20 mm cannon shell case. Barrel pressure is enormous when these types of bottlenecked rounds are fired, and a very long length calibre is required to obtain high velocity. After German annexation of Czechoslovakia, this design became available to the Wehrmacht, and all German anti-tank rifles of 7.92 mm employed the Marosheck principle.
7.92 mm Panzerbüchse 38 (German) A.P. 34 mm
7.92 mm Panzerbüchse 39 (German) A.P. 34 mm
7.92 mm Panzerbüchse C.Z. Model 41 A.P. 34 mm
An innovative Czech design. This weapon featured automatic firing, a centrally mounted pistol grip, and a magazine which protruded out of the stock at a 30 degree downward angle to the right. A telescopic sight was fitted. The PzB 41 fired the same ammunition as the Panzerbüchse 38/39 series, but it was significantly shorter than either of these weapons. The 41 was prone to seizures caused by dust, dirt, heat, and other adverse battlefield conditions. It was dropped as a frontline weapon in 1942, at a time when anti-tank rifles were already obsolete. The modern British army S.A. 80 rifle is nearly a scaled down replica of the 41 design, and it suffered from similar problems during the 1991 Gulf War. By the end of that conflict, British troops were using captured A.K. 47 rifles which proved more reliable, and offered greater effective range.
0.50 Inch H.M.G. (US Browning, Brit. Vickers) A.P. 25 mm
0.50 Inch H.M.G. (US Browning, Brit. Vickers) A.P./I. (Incendiary) 22 mm
0.55 Inch Boyes Anti-Tank Rifle (British) A.P. 21 mm
13 mm Mauser T-Gewehr (German, M.1917) A.P. 21 mm
The Mauser Tank-Gewehr anti-tank rifle was an upscaled version of the Model 98 infantry rifle, designed to defeat the armour of upgraded British Mark IV tanks which were immune to the “K” bullet.
14.5 mm P.T.R.S. (Soviet) A.P. 29 mm
14.5 mm P.T.R.D. (Soviet) A.P. 29 mm
20 mm S.18/100 Solothurn (Swiss) A.P. 38 mm
The Solothurn anti-tank rifle was used by the Wehrmacht right up to at least 1944. The author recalls reading an account of a skirmish between a German bicycle infantry unit, and an American unit mounted in half-tracks, where this weapon was used. The Italian army of World War II probably used the Solothurn S.18/100 as well. The S.18/100 is still in production today, it is listed in Jane’s “Smallarms of the World 1979”.
20 mm L.53 Anti-Tank Rifle (Japanese) A.P. 29 mm
2.8 cm schwere Panzerbüchse 41 (German) A.P.S.V./A.P.S.B. 94 mm

Anti-Tank Devices and Rocket Projectors

Weapon Charge Penetration
Sticky Bomb (British) Chemical (Thermide) 42 mm
The Sticky Bomb was rejected by the Army in the U.K. as being to dangerous for use by troops so it was issued to the Home Guard instead. Anyone who has seen the film Dad’s Army may recall that the main hazard was the Bomb’s ability to stick to the user’s trousers, which then gave the user 7 seconds in which to remove his trousers, and remove himself to a safe distance.
P.I.A.T. (British) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 85 mm
The British P.I.A.T. (Projector Infantry Anti-Tank) was different from Bazooka, Panzerfaust, and Panzerschreck rocket projectors in that it developed no backblast. The weapon had a spring operated firing mechanism which actually hurled the bomb instead of using a propellant to fire it. The P.I.A.T. was the only weapon of this type which could be safely fired from a building or similar enclosure. If the P.I.A.T. misfired, the spring could be difficult to re-cock manually.
50 mm Bazooka (U.S.) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 119 mm
Faustpatrone/Panzerfaust 50 Klein (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 153 mm
Faustpatrone/Panzerfaust 100 Klein (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 219 mm
8.8 cm Raketenpanzerbüchse 54 (Ger.) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 209 mm
Bazooka, Panzerfaust, and Panzerschreck rocket projectors developed a tremendous backblast upon firing, which immediately revealed the firing position of the weapon. Another problem associated with the backblast was that these weapons could not be fired safely from buildings, bunkers, and similarly enclosed positions. In the heat of battle, this important safety instruction was often ignored, resulting in many accidental casualties among the operators.
3.7 cm & 5 cm Stabgranate (German, 1941) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 180 mm
A modification for the 3.7 cm PaK 35/36 and 5 cm PaK 38, using the 15 cm Gr.38.H1A artillery shell H.E.A.T./H.E.A.C. warhead. The oversized warhead had a stick attached to it which could be inserted into the PaK barrel. A blank cartridge was used to fire the device. Tail fins stabilized the warhead in flight, but it was not a very accurate weapon beyond 200 meters range. If a hit was achieved, the device proved successful even against KV-1 heavy tanks.

Reloading had to be done by a courageous crew member walking around the gun shield, and exposing himself to enemy fire while he inserted another stick grenade into the muzzle. In effect, this was a one-shot ambush weapon, very difficult to conceal after it had fired.
Geballte Ladung (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 180 mm
Seven stick grenade heads wired together on a common handle. A figure carrying this device is included in Revell’s 1:72 scale set of German engineers.
Panzergranate 46 Rifle Grenade (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 89 mm
Panzergranate 61 Rifle Grenade (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 89 mm
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.
V.P.R.S. Grenade (Soviet) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 76 mm
The Soviet V.P.R.S. grenade required a very strong individual to throw it, the device resembles a large paint can with a handle attached underneath.
Ceramic Grenade (Type 1, Japanese) Chemical (Thermide) 38 mm
Anti-Tank Grenade (Type 3, Japanese) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 70 mm
Lunge Pole Mine (Type 3, Japanese) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 70 mm
The Lunge Mine demanded operator parcipation in that the soldier had to run towards the tank, and ram the Lunge Mine into the side of the vehicle. Anyone attempting this was usually either shot by the tank crew or the infantry supporting it, or killed by the mine explosion afterwards.
Dog Mine (Soviet) Explosive (Wracking) 20 mm (Approx.)
The Russian Dog Mine is described in The Book of Heroic Failures Volume I. The weapon was supposed to work as follows: The dogs were kept hungry, and they were only fed underneath running tanks, to familiarize them with the high noise level. The dogs were then trained to get used to carrying a large weight of explosives (T.N.T.) strapped to their backs and sides. In operation, the dogs would be taken to the battlefield, and released when enemy tanks were clearly visible. The dogs would run underneath the enemy vehicles, expecting to be fed, and the device would be set off with catastrophic results for the tank, and the unsuspecting animal, of course.
In actual use, the device did not work as planned. The dogs had been trained underneath Soviet tanks, and they only expected to be fed there, not underneath enemy vehicles. As a result, when they were first deployed in 1941, the dogs immediately made a beeline for the nearest Soviet vehicles. Apparently, an entire tank division had to be withdrawn from the combat zone until the infantry had shot all the uncontrollable mine dogs.
Tellermine (German) Explosive (Wracking) 20 mm (Approx.)
Mines are triggered by the weight of a vehicle driving over them. If they do not destroy the vehicle itself, they may immobilize it by breaking the tracks, or rupturing tires.
Panzerwurfmine (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe)
A shaped charge attached to a stick with spring-loaded fabric fins at the rear. When it was thrown, the fins unfolded and stabilized the warhead in flight.
Haftmine (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 175 mm
Haftmine Anti-Tank Magnetic Mines sported three industrial magnets at the front of the device which held the shaped charge firmly in place against armour plate. When the device became available in 1944 it proved very effective, and it was assumed that the Soviet Army would copy it immediately. As a counter-measure, the Wehrmacht developed Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating for armoured vehicles, defeating its own magnetic mine technology. The Soviets never did copy the Haftmine, and Zimmerit turned out to have been an unnecessary precaution.
Zimmerit Mine (German) H.E.A.T. (Munroe) 175 mm
An anti-tank device designed to defeat vehicles equipped with Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. Stronger magnets were used to hold the device firmly in place against the uneven surface of a vehicle coated with Zimmerit. Like the Haftmine, it used the 15 cm Gr.38.H1A artillery shell H.E.A.T./H.E.A.C. warhead.

As can be seen, most infantry anti-tank weapons that involve throwing, or even placing the weapon, are more hazardous to the operator than the target. Infantry without tank, or anti-tank support frequently had to rely on these weapons as a last resort. Infantry tank hunter teams learned to use a variety of anti-tank devices, and, if the terrain favoured them, it was often possible to stalk tanks, and destroy them at very close range. The Sticky Bomb, Lunge Mine, Dog Mine, Russian V.P.R.S. grenade, and U.S. M9 rifle grenade belong to a category of their own, they were downright dangerous to the user even when there were no enemy tanks in the vicinity.

Andy Reid

Miniatures of World War One, 1914–1918