AT-RIFLES PART 2:

Foreign designs

 

 

20 mm pst kiv/18-S:

(20 mm antitank rifle M/18-S)

(Solothurn S 18 - 100)

(Solothurn S 18 - 154):

PICTURE: 20 mm antitank-rifle M/18-S. Notice magazine on side of the weapon above trigger guard. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 115217). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (87 KB).

Calibre:

20 mm x 105 B (Short Solothurn)

Length:

176 cm

Barrel length:

93 cm

Weight:

40 kg / 45 kg

Rate of fire:

? shots/minute

Muzzle velocity:

860 - 910 m/s or 735 m/sec (depending source)

Magazine:

10, removable box

Bullet weight:

148 g (AP-T)

Ammunition weight:

290 g (AP-T) (whole cartridge)

Ammunition types:

AP-T

Basic principle:

Semiautomatic, recoil-action

Country of Origin:

Switzerland

Finnish use: Small number (12) used by Finnish frontline troops from 1941 to early 1944. After that few were issued to coastal troops.

Armour penetration:

Solothurn was Swiss company owned by German firm Rheinmetall-Borsig AG. In mid-1930's they designed semiautomatic 20 mm S 18-100 antitank-rifle, which was very modern at that time. By early World War 2 Solothurn developed also improved semiautomatic version called S 18-1000 and later also full-automatic version called S 18-1100. Before and during World War 2 users of Solothurn antitank rifles included Czechoslovakian, Dutch, Estonian, Romanian, Hungarian, Yugoslavian, German and Italian Armed Forces. The Estonians also acquired license for manufacture before WW2, but what is known they managed manufacturing only two before the Soviet occupation. Notice: Most Solothurn at-rifles were made in 20 mm x 138 B calibre, however S 18-154 series delivered to Finland used different ammunition (the 12 weapons were probably test series originally intended to some unknown country, as they had unknown coat of arms marking).

Finland had bought one Solothurn S 18-1000 antitank-rifle for tests in August of 1939. Later in March of 1940 another twelve Solothurn S 18-100 antitank-rifles of sub-version S18-154 were bought, but arrangements needed for this deal to happen were very complicated. As part of Soviet-German pact Germany during Winter War tried to stop all armaments deliveries to Finland. As part of this policy it stopped all Finnish armaments deliveries though its own territory and the territory it controlled. Besides this it also used diplomatic pressure in some cases to stop armaments deals from Central-European countries to Finland. Rheinmetall-Borsig AG that controlled Solothurn had specifically forbid it selling antitank rifles to any country without its approval - considering the political situation getting this approval was more than unlikely. During Winter War Finland sent some representatives to buy weaponry, ammunition and other equipment for Finnish military from foreign countries. One of these representatives was director B. Grönblom, who arranged this deal. The deal was interesting to say the least, Finnish side of deal was Finnish embassy in Rome (Italy) and with the Swiss middleman Solothurn was at least officially lead to believe that the customer to receive the weapons was Swiss Army. The weapons were delivered to Finland by ship after being transported to Italy. When the Solothurn at-rifles arrived to Finland in spring of 1940 Winter War had already ended. However, when Continuation War started in summer of 1941 they were issued and remained in frontline use until early 1944. At that time few were issued to coastal troops and the rest were placed on storage for possible further use. At least one of these antitank-rifles was lost during battles in Hanko / Hango Peninsula year 1941 and four in battles of Viipurinlahti Bay in summer of 1944. Finnish Army acquired one Solothurn S 18-1100 select-fire antitank-rifle for tests in year 1942, the weapon was tested in 13th Weapons Repair Company (13. Asekorjauskomppania), but the tests didn't lead to any further acquisitions. Last remaining four S 18-154 antitank rifles were sold around 1959 - 1960 to Interarmco, which took them abroad.

The information listed in the table is for S 18-154 antitank-rifle, which used different ammunition than S 18-1000 and S 18-1100. Both S 18-1000 and S-1100 used 20 mm x 138B ammunition, which was used also in most 20-mm anti-aircraft guns used by Finnish Army, antitank-rifle L-39 and anti-aircraft rifle L-39/44. While the dozen S 18-154 saw plenty of use, there is no information if the lone S 18-1000 ever saw combat use. Due to German 20 ItK/30 BSW anti-aircraft guns bought just before Winter War, there would have been suitable ammunition available during that war. But it's not known if Finnish Army bothered to issue this one-of-a-kind in Finnish use antitank-rifle. Apparently the equally lone S 18-1100 didn't see any combat use with Finnish Army.

Solothurn S18-154 pretty much belonged to same class as Finnish 20 pst kiv/39 (L-39) antitank rifle. Both of them used 20-mm ammunition, were semiautomatic, had 10-round removable magazine and weight well over 40-kg. However S18-154 lacked the versatile selection of ammunition, which L-39 had. The dozen Solothurn at-rifles were only weapons in Finnish inventory to use 20 mm x 105B ammunition, so it was not wonder that only armour-piercing tracer ammunition were available for these weapons in Finland. As typical they had muzzle brake and bipod, but their equipment also included telescopic sight. Empty magazine weight some 2 kg, while fully it weight fully loaded about 5 kg. Open sights were fully adjustable to ranges of 0 to 1,500 meters.

 

14 mm pst kiv/37:

(14 mm antitank rifle M/37)

(0.55 Inch Boys Anti Tank Rifle Mark 1, "Boys")

PICTURE: Boys antitank rifle. (Photo taken in Sotamuseo). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (85 KB).

Calibre:

13,9 mm x 99 B (.55) Boys

Length:

161 cm

Barrel length:

92 cm

Weight:

15 kg / 16,6 kg

Rate of fire:

5 - 7 shots/minute

Muzzle velocity:

745 - 760 m/sec (with Mk I ammunition)

Magazine:

5, removable

Bullet weight:

60,3 g

Ammunition weight:

150 g (whole cartridge)

Ammunition types:

AP

Basic principle:

repeater, cylinder lock (bolt action)

Country of Origin:

Great Britain

Finnish use: During Winter War 100 used in Finland, from these 70 were used by Finnish frontline troops and 30 used by Swedish (SFK) volunteer unit. Finns managed to get about 300 more before Continuation War. These about 400 were issued to Finnish troops in start of Continuation War. They remained in frontline use until being replaced with L-39 AT-rifles around 1942 - 1943. After this some of the Boys at-rifles were issued to coastal troops.

Armour penetration

This British at-rifle completed in 1936 was first called "Stanchion", but after death of one of its designers it was renamed as Boys after him. Boys at-rifle was first issued to British Army in 1937 and used both by British Armed Forces and troops of Commonwealth during early part of World War 2. Around year 1942 the British delivered these antitank rifles also to Soviet Union, but the Soviets were so unimpressed for their poor armour penetration capabilities that they never bothered to issue them. The large differences in measured muzzle velocities could be explained by different ammunition designs. Two British ammunition models existed for this weapon: Mark I and Mark II. The non-Finnish armour data is probably for Mark II ammunition. But according "Finnish Military Cartridges 1918 - 1944" ammunition delivered to Finland seems to have all been Mk I, so Finnish statistics are for this ammunition. Mk I ammunition had 60,3-gram (930-grain) bullets and steel jacket covered with cupro-nickel. Core of the bullet was special steel and thin layer of lead had been applied between core and jacket. Muzzle velocity was around 745 - 760 metres/second.

PICTURE: Boys antitank rifle. Notice the bolt and the off centerline sights (the rear sight has be turned up in this photo). The muzzle brake is not the original design. (Photo credit Gun Pictures.net website). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (63 KB).

During Winter War Great Britain donated 100 Boys at-rifles to Finland, they arrived in January of 1940. 30 rifles of this first batch were issued to Swedish volunteer force and the remaining 70 saw front-line use in Finnish hands during Winter War. Only 6 of the 100 rifles were lost during Winter War. During Interim Peace another batch of 100 Boys at-rifles arrived from UK and later during it Finland also bought 200 more from the Germans (who called them "Panzerabwehrbusche 782 (e)"). The 200 Boys at-rifles bought from Germany arrived 10th of December 1940. When Continuation War started these at-rifles were issued to Finnish front-line troops, who used them until domestic 20-mm L-39 at-rifles replaced them around 1942 - 1943. M/37 at-rifles didn't impress Finnish soldiers that used them, their armour penetration capability proved to quite small and after armour effect was not too remarkable either. When Boys at-rifles had been gathered off from frontline troops some of them were issued to coastal troops and the rest were warehoused. Losses of these weapons had been remarkably low as in summer of 1944 still 336 of the original 400 remained. After WW2 they remained warehoused until being sold to United States in 1956.

The rate of fire for this at-rifle varied around 5 - 7 shots/minute. Empty magazine weight 450-grams, while fully loaded one weight 1.2 kg. Rear sight was diopter-type with settings to 300 and 500 yards/meters. Equipment of the weapon included magazine box, which contained 8 magazines for it. Practical after-armour effects were so small that bullets had to be aimed to crew members of the targeted armour vehicle. As typical to weapons of its class this antitank rifle had both bipod and muzzle brake. But even with the muzzle brake the muzzle flash was visible enough for Finnish military manuals to especially warn about that. Manuals also contain warning informing that the bolt didn't close on top of the empty magazine and replacing magazine demanded first pulling bolt as far back as it goes.

 

8 mm pst kiv/38

(8 mm antitank rifle M/38)

(Maroszek model 35)

(Pz.B.35)

PICTURE: 8 mm antitank-rifle M/38 being used for combat training in Niinisalo Training Centre July of 1942. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 96252). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (128 KB).

Calibre:

7,92 mm x 107 DS

Length:

176 cm

Barrel length:

120 cm

Weight:

9,5 kg

Rate of fire:

10 - 12 shots/minute

Muzzle velocity:

1200 - 1350 m/s

Magazine:

4, removable box

Bullet weight:

13 g (Polish bullet) (*)

Ammunition weight:

64,3 g (whole cartridge)

Ammunition types:

AP

Basic principle:

Repeater with cylinder lock (bolt action)

Country of Origin:

Poland

(*) The ammunition used in Finland was original Polish ammunition. German bullet had weight of 14.4-grams.

Finnish use: Small number (30) used shortly by Finnish frontline troops during early Continuation War.

Armour penetration:

This Polish antitank-rifle was developed by Józef Maroszek (with T. Felsztyn according some sources) in early 1930's and was accepted to weaponry of Polish Army in November of 1935. The rifle was bolt action with removable box magazine. It also had fixed rear sight and laterally adjustable front sight. As typical to antitank-rifles the weapon had bipod and muzzle brake. Ammunition developed for it had very large cartridge case necked down for 7.92-mm bullets. Ammunition produced very large muzzle-velocity, but it came with a price - barrel life was very short and barrel needed to be replaced with new one after only 200 shots. If barrel got too much wear the muzzle velocity started to drop very fast. DS-ammunition had lead core bullet with steel coat. The bullet wasn't designed to penetrate through armour, instead it created secondary projectile by when impact punched of a "plug"/"cork"-shaped piece from armour plate it hit. Both this secondary projectile (which typically was even 20-mm in diameter) from armour plate it hit and which actual the bullet followed inside armour vehicle. Once inside armour vehicle both the secondary projectile (piece punched from armour plate) and the actual bullet could cause damage inside it. The Poles naturally used these at-rifles against the Germans in 1939. German military captured them in relatively large numbers (at least some 6,500 had been made) and used over 600 of them during their attack to Belgium, Netherlands and France in 1940. After that they gave large number PzB 35(p) (as they called Polish Maroszek model 35) to Italian troops that (mostly to Italian 8th Army that used them in eastern front). German also modified ammunition that Poles had manufactured for this weapon by replacing Polish DS-bullets with same tungsten-carbide/cobolt mix-cored bullets already used in their own 7.92 mm PzB-39 antitank rifles. This German modified ammunition had 1297 m/sec muzzle velocity.

During Winter War Finland also managed to bought 30 at-rifles m/38 (as the Finns named them) from Hungary, but they didn't arrive until March of 1940 (too late to be used in Winter War). When Continuation War started they were issued to Finnish frontline troops, but didn't remain in frontline use very long. Soon they proved to be too ineffective against Soviet armour, when at the same time their small number and rare ammunition type created extra problems they were gathered away and warehoused. Considering from where and when the Finns bought the rifles they probably arrived with Polish ammunition. Little by little they were scrapped and the last four were sold to USA in year 1956.

 

14,5 mm PTRS 1941 (Simonov):

PICTURE: Soviet PTRD (foreground) and PTRS (back) antitank-rifles. (Photo taken in Museum of Artillery, Sappers and Signal Corps, St.Petersburg, Russia). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (113 KB).

Calibre:

14,5 mm x 114

Length:

213 cm

Barrel length:

139 cm

Weight:

19 kg / 20,9 kg / 21,7 kg (depending source)

Muzzle velocity:

950 - 1012 m/s

Magazine:

5, non-removable

Bullet weight:

64,2 g (B-32) / 65 g (BS-41)

Ammunition types:

AP-incendiary

Basic principle:

gas-action, semiautomatic

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Finnish use: Typically used by Finnish frontline troops after capture until they run out of captured ammunition. Weapons captured only around early 1943 - mid 1944. Never issued to Finnish troops and no ammunition supply organised.

Armour penetration:

When German attack to Soviet Union started in summer of 1941 Red Army had no at-rifles in its use. Soviets had experimented with at-rifles already in early 1930's and small number of 12,7 mm and 14,5 rifles had been made for tests. Rukavisnikov's 14,5 mm rifle had received official acceptance, but no production had been started. Presumably this was because the Soviets had come to wrong conclusion (likely due to false intelligence) and thought that the German tanks had much thicker armour than what they really had. Because they believed that the German tanks would have 60 - 80 mm of armour Soviet leadership considered antitank rifles useless.

Once the German attack to Soviet Union begun the Soviets came to notice that much of the German armour was actually quite lightly armoured and could have been destroyed with antitank-rifles, but the Soviets had none. So, soon both F.V. Degtjarev and S.G. Simonov received orders to design antitank-rifle for Red Army. Both of them used only 22 days from receiving orders to first tests with the first prototype. Both rifles were approved to use of the Red Army in August of 1941. Sergej Gavrilovitch Simonov quickly developed this semiautomatic antitank-rifle, which while being more complicated and heavier of the two also had better rate of fire. PTRS was gas-action rifle very much based to Simonov's model 1938 automatic rifle prototype. As mentioned PTRS has gas-action rifle with gas piston and fixed magazine, which could be reloaded with cartridge clips of 5 rounds. As usual it has collapsible bipod and muzzle brake. The rear sight was tangent sight with settings upto 1,500 meters, but in reality the antitank rifle was effective within range of 250 - 300 meters. Both armour-penetration capability and accuracy of PTRS were quite good, but the rifles were very roughly made and had some reliability problems (especially in cold weather). Year 1941 only 77 PTRS-rifles were made (partly due to German advance, which forced the Soviets to move many of their factories behind Urals), but production increased fast and during the next year over 63,000 were made. Production of Simonov's at-rifle continued until January of 1945. During the war Soviet military used PTRS antitank rifles also as improvised antiaircraft weapons. During World War 2 captured PzB 784 (r) (as the Germans called it) seem to have been also popular in use of German troops. The Soviets had two ammunition models for these at-rifles: B-32 AP-incendiary ammunition bullet had steel core, while BS-41 AP-bullet had wolfram-carbide mix core. The armour penetration statistics in here seem to for ammunition loaded with BS-41 bullets.

Soviet Red Army didn't issue PTRS at-rifles to its troops in Finnish front until late 1942. Finnish troops captured first antitank rifles of this type early 1943 and after that they were captured in small numbers every now and then, most were captured in battles of summer of 1944. As the total number of PTRS-rifles captured by Finnish troops was not more than few dozens, Finnish military didn't bother to organise ammunition production or distribution for them. Finnish frontline troops sometimes used the captured PTRS antitank rifles, but when they run out of captured ammo that was it. As there was no re-supply of 14.5 mm x 114 ammunition after this they typically handed captured at-rifles away. Finnish Army never issued the captured Soviet antitank rifles to its troops and only kept them warehoused after frontline troops had handed them over. The last remaining PTRS at-rifles captured by Finnish Army were sold to USA in 1956.

 

14,5 mm PTRD 1941 (Degtjarev):

PICTURE: Finnish Army captain poses with captured PTRD antitank-rifles somewhere in Rukajävi region in August of 1944. (SA-kuva photo archive, photo number 156682). CLICK THUMBNAIL TO SEE LARGER PIC (202 KB).

Calibre:

14,5 mm x 114

Length:

200 cm / 208 cm / 213 cm (depending source)

Barrel length:

123 cm / 135 cm / 139 cm (depending source)

Weight:

15 kg / 16,3 kg / 17,3 kg (depending source)

Muzzle velocity:

1010 - 1012 m/s

Magazine:

none, single shot

Bullet weight:

64,2 g (B-32) / 65 g (BS-41)

Ammunition types:

AP-incendiary

Basic principle:

single shot, cylinder lock (bolt action)

Country of Origin:

Soviet Union

Finnish use: Typically used by Finnish frontline troops after capture until they run out of captured ammunition. Weapons captured only around late 1942 - mid 1944. Never issued to Finnish troops and no ammunition supply organised.

Armour penetration:

When German attack to Soviet Union started in summer of 1941 Red Army had no antitank-rifles in its use. The Soviets had experimented with at-rifles already in early 1930's and small number of 12,7 mm and 14,5 mm rifles had been made for tests by 1939. Rukavisnikov's 14,5 mm rifle had received official acceptance, but no production had been started. Both Simonov and Degtjarev received orders to design antitank-rifle for Red Army in 30 days soon after starting of German attack to Soviet Union in summer of 1941. Just like Simonov also Degtjarev designed his antitank rifle in a hurry, but succeeded in this task in only 22 days and Red Army adopted his antitank rifle along Simonov's at-rifle in August of 1941. However the two antitank rifles had very large structural differences. While PTRS already was structurally rather simple semiautomatic rifle PTRD is single-shot rifle simplified to extreme. It has very long thin barrel (with muzzle brake), very simple bipod and very "bare" general look including carrying handle, pistol grip and padded cheek piece and butt plate. The rifle has no magazine, but after firing a shot its lock opens automatically and removes empty cartridge case. This is based to barrel-recoil, which after firing a shot rotates the bolt 90 degrees and ejects spent cartridge case. After this the new cartridge has to be reloaded manually. Also the sights used in this rifle are very simple: Front sight is a simple blade and rear sight a folding frame with only to range settings available - for 400 meters and 1,000 meters. Only safety is in firing pin structure, which allows firing pin to be pulled back and rotated to be locked to safe posision.

Production of PTRD was much larger than production of PTRS, already in 1941 almost 17,700 were made and in year 1942 the production climbed to over 184,000. First battle in which it was used in large numbers was battle of Moscow late 1941. Production of Degtjarev at-rifle ended in January of 1945. Just like with PTRS antitank rifle the finishing of this weapon can be described as rough in best. PTRD didn't have reliability problems of its rival design and it soon earned good reputation is Soviet hands for its accuracy (practical shooting range was around 200 - 400 meters, but naturally against armour vehicles it was most effective closer the range) and good armour-penetration capability. Captured PzB 783(r) (as the Germans called it) seem to have also been rather popular in the German use.

Finnish troops captured first PTRD-rifles already in 1942. Quality of work shown by these antitank-rifles did not exactly over impress Finns. Typically Finnish troops that had captured PTRD-rifles used them as long as there was captured ammunition, when they run out of ammunition they handed over their captured Soviet at-rifles. There was no Finnish ammunition supply organised for Soviet 14,5 mm x 114 ammunition, so when they run out of ammunition, that was it. Bit over 250 PTRD antitank-rifles ended to Finnish warehouses by end of Continuation War, they were all scrapped already in late 1944.

 

OTHER AT-RIFLES:

- 13 mm Mauser m 1918: First antitank-rifle ever, it was first issued to German troops in 1918 and better known as T-gewehr. Weapon was basically an up-scaled single-shot version of Mauser-infantry rifle equipped with MG-08/15 bipod and pistol grip. Ammunition it used was 13 mm x 92 SR and also looked pretty much like upscaled standard German rifle round (7,92 mm x 57). Finland bought 100 of these weapons and 4,800 cartridges from Great Britain in spring of 1940. However, they were never issued and saw no battle use in all. October of 1940 one of these antitank-rifles modified to Finnish 13.2-mm cartridge (either 13.2 mm x 118B or 13.2 mm x 120B) loaded with French armour piercing bullets was tested in Tank Battalion. While the test results were otherwise fairly positive, much of the tested ammunition failed to fire. Also more visible muzzle flash and smoke would have made the weapon easier for the enemy to spot than 14-mm antitank-rifle M/37, to which it was compared in test report. Armour-penetration wise the two antitank-rifle designs were noted to be about similar, with Mauser firing Finnish 13.2-mm cartridge having a slight edge. Mechanism of Mauser was noted as more closed (and therefore less vulnerable to dirt), but due to being single-shot it also had a notably slower rate of fire. The tests didn't apparently lead anywhere. Also modifying of Mauser M/1918 for British 13.9 mm x 99 B and Polish 7.92 mm x 107 DS ammunition was tested in VKT (State Rifle Factory), but that didn't lead to anything further either. Mauser M/1918 antitank-rifles remained warehoused until being scrapped in autumn of 1944.


SOURCES:

Markku Palokangas: Sotilaskäsiaseet Suomessa 1918 - 1988 osat 1 + 3 (= Military Small Arms in Finland 1918 - 1988 parts 1 + 3)

Timo Hyytinen: Arma Fennica 2, sotilasaseet (Arma Fennica 2, military weapons)

Erkki Käkelä: Marskin Panssarintuhoojat (Tank destroyers of Marski)

D.N. Bolotin: Soviet Small-Arms and Ammunition.

Ian Hogg: Twentieth Century Artillery

Terry Garder & Peter Chamberlain: Small arms, artillery and special weapons of the third reich

Article of Tomasz Nowakowski in magazine Nowa Technica Wojskowa volume 6/95 (data kindly provided by Michal Derela)

Article of Marchin H. Ochman "Karabin przeciwpanzerny Pz.B.39, Granatnik Gr.B.39" in magazine Militaria i Fakty volume 5/2002 (data kindly provided by Michal Derela).

Article: Tuntematon lahden takaa, Arsenal Tallinn by Toe Nömm in Ase-lehti magazine vol. 1/92.

Mika Pitkänen and Timo Simpanen: Suomalaiset Sotilaspatruunat 1918 - 1945 / The Finnish Military Cartridges 1918 - 1945.

Military manual: 14 m/m panssarintorjuntakivääri malli 1937 by Puolustusministeriön Taisteluvälineosasto.

Military manual: Panssarintorjuntakiväärit by Päämaja. (Printed 1941)

Military manual: Jalkaväen Ampumatarvikkeet I by Puolustusvoimien Pääesikunta Taisteluvälineosasto. (printed 1941, updated 1st of September 1944)

Finnish military archives, archive reference T19043

Finnish military archives, archive reference T10910

Finnish military archives, archive references T20206/F9, /F10 and /F11

Special thanks to bas and his Gun Pictures.net website.

Special thanks to Sotamuseo (Finnish Military Museum), Helsinki.


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