Category Archives: Crew-Served

What’s Cooler than a Suppressed FN SAW M249S?

What’s Cooler than a Suppressed FN SAW M249S? Well, how the same gun plus Jerry Miculek? Yep, we’re talking about Louisiana’s fastest-shootin’ son, king-hell competition and exhibition shooter Jerry Miculek, yielding a suppressed semi SAW, popping silhouettes at a few meters.

As God is our witness, if we had to face three bad guys that close with only a SAW, when we got finished distributing the 216 virgins, we’d then weld a bayonet lug on the gun.

For next time, you know?

If you can’t see it here you can probably pick up the movie on YouTube.

We’ve wanted one of these SAWs since FN announced it, and this video does not make us want it any less. It looks like they’re shipping now — at least, to reviewers.x

More AT Rifles for Sale

If you missed last week’s Boys Mk.I., that’s OK, there are other anti-tank rifles on the market. Just the thing for when “they” come, although to be sure these haven’t been tested against flying saucers.

Collector weapons dealer Bob Adams (whose long dark night of ATF persecution seems to be over, in his favor) has several Anti-Tank Rifles for sale at the moment.

I: 20mm Lahti Semi-Auto: $10k

The first is a registered 20mm Lahti Model L-39:

Lahti AT Rifle

Bob writes:

Description and pictures to follow shortly. This is a live destructive device requiring a $200 transfer tax. It has a Russian Heavy Machine Gun (DShK) tripod adapted to it by the Finns during WWII. The tripod alone is rare.

All he has at the moment is the stock photo and a picture of such a weapon in use by the Finns.

II: 20mm Solothurn M/39 Model S-1000 Semi-Auto: $12k

This is the Lahti’s Swiss cousin.

solothurn AT Rifle

Bob says:

This was recently deactivated by drilling holes in the barrel. It can be re-activated by replacing the barrel and filing a Form 1 with ATF or rebarreled (or sleeved) to .50 BMG with no ATF registration.

We’re kind of doubtful a .50 x 99 conversion would be quite that easy, but people have done it.

Finally, we get to the king of beasts, historically speaking:

III: 1918 Mauser T-Gewehr: $10k with .50 BMG barrel and original barrel.

This is the original, single-shot, bolt-action Mauser anti-tank rifle, the gun that inspired the .50 Browning cartridge and machine gun. It’s set up as a shooter, but no irreversible alterations have been made to this historic piece.

Mauser T-Gewehr

The .50 barrel is mounted. The inset shows the original 13 x

Rare Mauser Tank-Gewehr 13mm WWI Anti-Tank rifle with extra .50 barrel. Rare and historic German military anti-tank rifle made in 1918 by Mauser to defeat early tanks. All matching and complete with original bipod. Very good condition with much blue & some brown patina. Very good or better original bore which can be improved. Excellent .50 Browning 45″ barrel w/scope rail installed on barrel for shooting. Original parts unaltered and complete with the original barrel! Note: ATF has ruled these are not a destructive device.

This is a close-up of the single-shot breech and the sturdy scope-mount rail as installed. As you can see, it attaches to the barrel, leaving the receiver unmarked.

Mauser T-Gewehr breech

Of these, in our opinion the one with the greatest historic significance and the best potential for appreciation is the original T-Gewehr. But all these guns are priced in Barrett territory, which makes them (in our opinion, for whatever value you may give that) underpriced.

 

Want to Own an Antitank Rifle? Here’s a Boys!

Maybe you’re going to get a tax refund in the low five figures (if so, you need to adjust fire on your withholding or quarterlies, but roll with us here for the sake of entertainment, will you?) Let’s take a quick survey of the market for original anti-tank rifles, shall we? This will be Part 1 (because we got 1200+ words out, describing the rifle that was going to be half of the original post).

Boys .55 AT Rifle, British Design, Made in Canada 1943.

Skip Edgley in Maryland, whom we don’t know personally, but with whom we think we’d get along famously, is selling a Boys .55 Anti-Tank Rifle as made by the Canadian wartime gunmaker John Inglis & Company, marked “US Government Property” like a US Military firearm. It comes with three original mags (which come up for sale from time to time) and 200 rounds of original ammo (which is much less common).

Boys .55 left side

Yes, it’s a big beautiful doll of a weapon. Pretty much a lock that it will not fit in your existing safe. It’s a rare bolt-action, magazine-fed AT Rifle.

Boys .55 action right

The sights are offset left to clear that enormous magazine:

Boys .55 front sight

And a lot of attention was paid to recoil management:

Boys .55 rear of action

Here’s his description:

Up for bids is a British Boys Model RB MKI .55 caliber bolt-action Anti-Tank Rifle with bipod. Excellent condition, totally functional. All serial numbers match. Total of 200 original rounds, 40 sets of 5 rounds in stripper clips/bandoleers in two original wooden crates, one full and one partial. DO THE MATH! 1939 dated, original British made .55 caliber ammo is selling (WHEN YOU CAN FIND IT) for around $50.00/each. That’s $10K in just the ammo. That makes the gun cost $2K. This rifle is complete with the original front mounted bipod, three original magazines and the original muzzle break. The magazines are an original WWII British issue. Condition is excellent with 95% of the original wartime finish which has darkened from age, showing only minor edge and high spot wear overall. The bolt body retains its original factory bright finish and the various parts all show their original British proofmarks. The supple cheekpiece, front and rear pistol grips still show their original wartime finish. This is an excellent, all original example of a desirable WWII British/Canadian manufactured, U.S. Army issue Boys Anti-Tank rifle. Manufactured by Inglis of Canada.

These were bought by the United States, not for the US Army, but for Lend-Lease purposes, for Commonwealth forces and for China. As they were quickly obsoleted by improving Axis armor (and improving Allied infantry AT weapons)

This beautiful Anti Tank Rifle was designed and manufactured in Canada for the British and Commonwealth Armies. It is the most powerful rifle ever issued to any modern army. It was the infantry Anti Tank weapon of the British Forces in France and, at Dunkirk, helped to stave off the attack in the German Panzer forces, to permit the evacuation of the Allied forces. It was again prominent in holding intact the British defenses covering Egypt and the nerve center at Cairo”. The Boys Anti Tank Rifle weighs 33 lbs (including bipod) and is 63 inches long. Has three, five shot magazines in an original steel magazine box, muzzle brake, and a thick and soft recoil pad.

Gun is in MD on a Form 4. Curio and Relic. $12,000.00.

One of the reason we like Skip, even though we don’t know him, is his sense of humor (bold emphasis below is ours):

My hi-def close-up photos are part of my description. They are not taken from the Hubble or even a foot away. They might show imperfections that may or may not be apparent to the naked eye. They may also show reflections and some dust/lint that will not be included with your purchase. Please examine them closely. I attempt to list ALL imperfections in my description. Shipping includes insurance. AK & HI slightly higher. My email will not accept mail through the GB board. Please contact me directly at skip.edgley@royalelectricinc.com Plastic +3%. NO RESERVE! Thanks!

via Boys Antitank Rifle 55 Cal MKI DD WWII British : Destructive Devices at GunBroker.com.

Starting bid is $12k; because it’s > .50 caliber, this is a Form 1 Destructive Device and needs an ATF transfer. (If you’re diffident about owning an enormous AT rifle chambered for a bizarre caliber obsolete for 80 years, he’s also got a bargain-priced ($6500) Stemple Sten that will transfer on Form 1, Form 3 if you’re an appropriately-licensed SOT of course).

More pictures of the Boys Rifle are after the jump at the end of the market survey!

Coming soon (hopefully Monday!): More Vintage AT Rifles!

Bob Adams has resolved his long battle with the ATF (entirely in his favor, it seems; the ATF decided to make an example out of him for being an FFL dealing with non import marked pistols, which is perfectly legal, and, mirabile dictu, the courts followed the law). Why does this matter here? Because, along with his usual high-end collector pistols, he has a treasure trove of anti-tank rifles for sale, including some examples that even the advanced collector seldom sees. Look for them RSN (Real Soon Now®).

Click More for (duh) More!

Once again, the “excess” pictures are after the jump, for the lover of AT Rifle porn.

Continue reading

Japanese Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons of WWII

500px-Naval_Ensign_of_Japan.svgRecently we’ve been talking about AT Rifles. The biggest that were deployed were the semi-auto Solothurn (used by Germany and Hungary), the comparable Lahti (Finland), in 20mm, and the daddy of them all, the 20 x 125mm Type 97 of Japan.

You don’t hear much about Japanese anti-tank warfare. In part this is because, by the time Japanese forces were about to fight Allied tanks, they were logistically starved, down to eating tree bark, and, in some of the last island campaigns, their own and American dead.

The 1200 Type 97s made were scattered across the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. You couldn’t count on a supply of special anti-tank ammunition. Anti-tank tactics, for the retreating Japanese, involved infantry swarms on isolated tanks, or use of anti-tank artillery or general purpose field guns in direct-fire AT engagements.

The Russians had already encountered (and captured) some of these weapons in the fighting at Khalkin Gol in the so-called Manchurian Incident in 1939, so they knew what to expect when they declared war on Japan in 1945. The US on the other hand did not see the weapon until late in the war (we believe, in the Philippines).

The Type 97 was a real beast, weighing 50 kilograms empty (110 lbs). There is some irony in the nation with the smallest soldiers producing the largest anti-tank rifle. The Japanese Army had a clever solution — handles clipped on to the rifle that let four men carry it, like stretcher bearers (a similar approach was used to handle heavy machine guns).

Type 97 AT Rifle with handles (image from world.guns.ru).

Type 97 AT Rifle with handles (image from world.guns.ru).

The gas-operated semi-auto rifle was fired from a bipod attached to the gas tube and a rear monopod attached to the forward end of the buttstock. It used a locking wedge to hold a bolt and carrier together initially on firing. We’ve never seen a photo with an optical sight, but there must have been one; Japan made superior optics even then, and many Japanese MGs were fitted with optical sights so it stands to reason the AT rifle would have had them.

By 1944 the AT rifle was a no-hoper in terms of engaging American tanks. But Japan’s ally, Germany, came through with samples and drawings of the Panzerschreck aka Ofenrohr anti-tank weapon. Essentially it was the US Army’s 2.36 inch rocket launcher, scaled up to 88mm bore (about 3.5″) and capable of a frontal-armor penetration and kill on most world tanks.

Japan made a modified copy of the German AT rocket launcher, which they called the Type 4 Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher. The firing mechanism was a direct copy, and the rocket and warhead were very similar, albeit scaled down to 75mm.

Japanese Type 4 70mm AT launcher 2 Japanese Type 4 70mm AT launcher

The tube was a meter and a half long (1525mm, or 61″). Fortunately, the unwieldy tube broke down into two halves for carrying. Crew drill and firing positions were very similar to that of the American or German counterparts, although the Japanese provided a bipod like the one on their light machine guns.  The sighting system was rudimentary: a rear peep sight and two front posts, one over the other, the upper post for 50 meters and the lower accounting for the rocket drop at 100 meters. The sights were welded to the left side of the tube and protruded about 2 inches to the left; the gunner took the left side and the loader the right of the weapon. As with any rocket launcher, the backblast was hazardous and the launch signature made the area of the launch a magnet for enemy suppressive fire.

This weapon, had it been issued in quantity, might have been problematic for American (and once they joined the war on Japan in the summer of ’45, Russian) tankers, except that production of the system began very late, and very few were produced (perhaps only hundreds). Those that were produced may have been retained for defense of the home islands, a defense that was canceled by the unconditional Japanese surrender to the Allied Powers. A Honshu defender who had a Type 4 was well equipped indeed, as many of his fellows had nought but lunge mines (which are exactly what they sound like) or bamboo spears. Still, he would one of millions of lives saved by the nuclear bombing and resulting cancellation of the invasion, and is probably a lucky man that he never fired a Type 4 at an American tank.

Sources

Natzvaladze, Yuri A. The Trophies of the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. Mesa, AZ: Champlin Fighter Museum, 1996.

Popenker, Maxim. Type 97 anti-tank rifle (Japan). World.guns.ru, n.d. Retrieved from: http://world.guns.ru/atr/jap/type-97-e.html

 

 

Another American Anti-Tank Rifle — Wait, Two of Them!

No sooner had we written that the T1E1 Anti-Tank Rifle of 1940-44 was “the only US AT Rifle” when we saw another AT Rifle mentioned in passing in a very interesting Bruce Canfield article on Winchester’s Light Rifle. (Hat tip, TFB). We got the notion to look it up and found this AT Rifle… but, while it’s a Winchester Anti-Tank rifle not the one Bruce mentioned. He referred to a WWII rifle that was a scaled up version of David M. Williams’s short-stroke gas-piston action.  This is a WWI bolt gun, and a strange one it is.

The Winchester Pugsley .50 AT Rifle

pugsleys__50_winchester_at_rifle

The gun in the photo (which comes from Houze’s Winchester Repeating Arms Company, where this oddball is briefly covered on pp. 189-192) is clearly not a finished work, but a development mule.

Edwin Pugsley. Detail of photo in Houze, p. 223.

Edwin Pugsley. Detail of photo in Houze, p. 223.

The firearm was designed by Edwin Pugsley, an important designer for Winchester in the first half of the 20th Century. Pugsley did not have the celebrity profile of Williams; he seems to have been quietly productive, a kind man with a mischievous personality. He rose over the years into engineering management; Winchester’s success shows he was a good selection, even if he’ll never have a biopic, a Bureau of Prisons history, or anecdotes about threatening co-workers’ lives over professional disagreements. He did have some remarkable friends, incuding Carl Swebelius of High Standard (Winchester’s toolroom wound up making several prototypes for Swebelius on the strength of this friendship) and cartoonist Charles Addams, who modeled a recurring character in his “Addams Family” strip (which ran in the New Yorker) on his friend.

pugsley

Returning to the rifle itself, its appearance is more redolent of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, than anything you’d expect to see from Winchester. The bare finish and exposed mechanicals show that it’s a long way from being ready to go to the Western Front, and it appears to have been put away when war’s end froze it in this state of arrested development. It’s clearly meant to have a bipod or tripod. What looks like it might be cooling fins actually appears to  be a spring, associated with the gun mount, and acting to moderate recoil. Assuming the .50 round intended here was the .50 BMG, the weapon appears to have a 10-round magazine and be approximately the same size as a modern Barrett.

The pistol grip, which is styled like that of an M1911 service pistol, also serves as the operating handle: it has a 90º counterclockwise throw, then the gunner slides it back and the top-mounted magazine presents the next round. Here’s an image from the patent for this unusual feature.

pugsleys_at_rifle_patent

The tubular receiver is billet steel. The strange pistol-grip/bolt has two forward locking lugs, and aft, has two widened bearing areas that slide on the inside of the tubular receiver. The extractor seems to be modeled on Mauser practice, and the ejector appears to be welded or otherwise secured inside the left side of the receiver to eject spent casings (or unfired cartridges) out the right-side ejection port.

The quantity built cannot be many, and it does not seem to have been ready for field trials at the time development was called off. Houze’s verdict was that “The anti-tank rifle, designed in 1918 by Edwin Pugsley, is of note more for its outlandish appearance than its mechanics.”1

But wait! That leaves the Williams gun still hanging out there, and we can’t have that.

The Winchester Williams .50 AT Rifle

Williams was an interesting character, an ex-con who became a firearms designer (couldn’t happen under today’s laws; ATF would yank one’s 07 FFL for hiring him) and had his own biopic (with Jimmy Stewrt, no less). The biopic is great fun but rather disconnected from real life, and definitely all wet about Williams’s design efforts — he did not design the M1 Carbine, and was not on the team that developed it. The Carbine only uses his patented gas system. What he did design, though, was a semi- and full-automatic action that scaled rather readily from .30 carbine to .30-06 to .50 BMG, and that was ultimately developed in four versions (with few cross-version interchangeable parts, but complete commonality of design and mechanical principles).

The four versions were carbine, rifle, automatic rifle (a BAR competitor that probably deserves its own post), and anti-tank rifle, the one that concerns us today. The principal virtues of the Williams design were light weight and simplicity compared to its competitors — even its carbine version was lighter and simpler than the light, simple M1 designed by another team at Winchester, using Williams’s patented gas piston. The Winchester Automatic Rifle was pounds lighter than the BAR, and the semi-auto service rifle version lighter than the Garand. A side benefit of this light weight was reduced material requirements, perhaps not a big deal when you’re making one rifle but of national significance when you’re making millions. (World War II German and Soviet weapons-selection documents also show that those nations took material use and machine time into account when downselection options for manufacture).

So of course, we had to keep looking, and in the same book we did find the 1940 Winchester Williams Anti-Tank rifle, just as Canfield told us.

winchester_williams_at_rifle

Houze describes it as one of…

…a series of arms based upon David M. Williams’ design. While the carbine he had developed, as an alternative to the M1 carbine, was not completed until December1941, it was viewed as “unquestionably an advance on the one that was accepted.”

One of the advantages of the Williams’ design (Plates 294 and 295) was that it allowed the action to be stripped for cleaning or replacing broken parts simply by removing a bolt housing that was secured to the receiver by an interrupted thread locking ring. Williams also employed a superior lockwork than that used in either the M1 carbine or M1 rifle. Plate293
In acknowledgment of the design’s advantages, samples were made in .30carbine, .30-60 and .50 caliber.

Though Ordnance Department tests of the .30-06 rifle version demonstrated its marked superiority over the standard M1 rifle, it was to be the light machine gun and anti-tank versions that aroused the most interest. Both of the latter incorporated an ingenious device to dampen recoil. By placing two strong coil springs on either side of the barrel breech that were attached to a recoiling lug on the barrel, Williams was able to transfer a considerable amount of the recoil forces into the springs, thereby absorbing its energy. The effect of this was to reduce the general recoil of both the light machine gun and the anti-tank rifle to the point that they were essentially recoilless. This meant that both arms could be used by infantrymen without undue stress being placed upon them during firing, a major benefit from the standpoint of accuracy as well as use. However, by the time these designs were selected for any serious testing, the war was almost over.2

One of the curiosities that surfaced during this investigation was the Winchester Tank Killer.

Curiously, it was during the testing of the .50 caliber Williams anti-tank rifle that the Winchester company seriously considered entering the automotive business for the second time in its history. On this occasion, however, unlike in 1909, the company toyed with the idea of manufacturing a light armored vehicle in which the anti-tank rifle could be mounted. Based upon a surviving photograph of the Winchester “Tank Killer,” it had an overall length of approximately twelve feet and a height of four feet. The forward section of the vehicle had sloping armor, and the tracks were powered by a 1939 Chrysler Imperial engine. No record exists as to its width or crew capacity, though the size would probably have only allowed two. Other than the one built in December 1944, it is doubtful whether any others were made.3

Unfortunately, we have been unable to find a photograph of the Winchester Tank Killer. Houze notes (p. 285) that the late Lt.Col. WilliamS.Brophy had “an 8×10-inch black-and-white print of this photograph with manuscript notations of the vehicle’s specifications,” but the current whereabouts of this image is unknown. We are also still in the dark as to how many of the AT rifles were made, and when, if ever, they were tested. It seems unlikely it would have had a chance, having less power than the .60 calibre (15.2 x 114) T1E1, although certainly being lighter and more easily handled.

Notes

  1. Houze, p. 189.
  2. Houze, pp. 276-278.
  3. Houze, p. 278.

Sources

Houze, Herbert. Winchester Repeating Arms Company. Iota, WI: Krause Publications, 2004.

The American Cal. .60 Anti-Tank Rifle, T1 & T1E1

Germany, Poland, the UK, and the USSR all developed anti-tank rifles and used them with mixed results (the Germans, in World War I, then all of them, in the early years of World War II) Other nations including Czechoslovakia, Switzerland, Finland and Japan built anti-tank rifles, essentially huge rifles that fired a kinetic penetrator meant to kill tanks. Increasing tank armor during World War II rendered these weapons obsolete rapidly. But most people don’t know that the USA made an effort to develop its own anti-tank rifle — and a strange gun it was!

During World War II, the US Army Air Corps/Air Forces and during Korea the US Air Force, experimented with .60 caliber machine guns — the cartridge was the Cartridge, .60-caliber, T17, and it was developed in 1939 for the T1 and T1E1 Anti-Tank Rifles, a project that hasn’t seen much publicity. It made it as far as test firings in 1942 and 1944. Now all that remains is a few traces of documents that seem no longer to exist in the Springfield Armory archives, and some old photos.

 

t1e1_at_rifle_2

The anti-tank round measured 15.2 x 114mm and was developed no later than 1939. It is a close cousin of the 20 x 102mm cartridge developed for the M39 aircraft cannon (and that would become a decade-plus later the cartridge of the General Electric M61 Vulcan powered-Gatling cannon). Some sources suggest that the 20mm came first, before the 15.2mm (.60) round, but that’s an error. Williams is correct in that the 15.2 came first, and he notes that the round, because of its MG history, is widely available to collectors:

Finally, there is one experimental ATR round which is quite commonly available – the American .60 inch (15.2 x 114). The reason for this is that although the big, gas-operated T1E1 ATR it was designed for was cancelled, the round was adopted for various aircraft MG projects during and after WW2. During this process it was necked down (to make the .50/60) but eventually reached production status when it was necked up to 20 mm to create the 20 x 102 used in the M39 and M61 Vulcan aircraft guns.1

An official history prepared by the United States Air Force described the .60, in the context of 20mm history, like this:

In 1939 the Army developed a caliber .60 antitank cartridge. Early in World War II our ordnance engineers anticipated a need for a machine gun heavier than our caliber .50 Browning and began work on this caliber .60 which would fire a 1200-grain projectile at the then “hypervelocity” of 3500 fps.

This round was later necked down to caliber .50 and achieved a velocity of 3900 fps! Later yet, it was necked up to 20 mm, known as the 60/20, and fired a 1500-grain projectile at 3300 fps. This round gradually evolved into the M50-series which is now the most widely used 20 mm ammunition in the world.2

It was a powerful round, a little harder-hitting than the excellent Soviet 14.5 x 114mm round used in the Simonov and Degtyaryev anti-tank rifles. It fired an 1180 grain (76.5 g) kinetic penetrator projectile at 3,600 feet per second (1,100 m/s) for a muzzle energy of over 34,000 ft/pounds (46 kilojoules). For comparison’s sake, 7.62 NATO produces about 2,700 ft/lb. (3.6 kJ), and 5.56 about 1300 ft/lb (1.7 kJ). As powerful as it was, if it had been fielded in 1939, it might have been powerful medicine for early-war Axis light tanks, which often had less than 30mm frontal armor.

According to a 1947 ballistics survey, the early rounds (presumably the AT gun ammo) were the Armor-Piercing TS4, BC 2, BC 3, and Tracer BC 3 rounds, and possibly the incendiary T1E6 and HE T19. The rounds that were probably postwar MG rounds (used in guns based on wartime Mauser revolver-cannon designs) included Ball, Incendiary, API and API-T all with T designations.3

But the rifle, which might have been adopted if it were ready with the ammunition in 1939, was not ready for testing until 30 October 1942. By this time its penetration, 32mm at 450m, had been left behind by combat-driven armor development; desultory tests continued, with the weapon being fired once again in June 1944. The gun was ultimately put away without ever being publicized — which is why so many people don’t know the USA had an AT rifle.

The T1 (later T1E1, after an unknown modification) Anti-Tank rifle was a man-portable, gas-operated, tripod-mounted semi-automatic anti-tank rifle designed to be emplaced, displaced and served by a crew of two to three men. The tripod appears to be that used on the M2HB .50 caliber machine gun, and the T1E1 appears to have been about as much a challenge to move and emplace as a .50 can be.

Its design history is lost in time — the only archival material a computer search of Springfield Armory reveals is a single 3/4 view photo — which itself has not been digitized. Apart from some references to the ammunition for its importance in the early development the hugely successful NATO aerial rounds, DTIC is silent on it, and even the familiar backdoor into DTIC through an NTIS search produces only ammunition reports.

The most unusual feature of the T1/T1E1, compared to foreign AT rifles (especially repeating and semi-auto guns), was its feed: the stout .60 rounds were loaded in a Hotchkiss-style tray, which almost certainly makes the T1E1 the last firearm ever designed with this feed. (Japan used several improved Hotchkiss designs to great effect in WWII, but the Japanese weapons were designed earlier). Trays were made to hold five and eight of the .60-cal. rounds. The strange buttstock of the T1E1 was also reminiscent of some early Hotchkiss versions.

The weapon had, in its testing phase, no iron sights and what appears to be a standard rifle telescope.

What became of the test article or articles that was fired in 1942 and 1944 is not known. Scrapping seems highly possible. Had no shaped-charge weapons been available, it might have gone to combat. But the shaped charge was a short-cut to much more terminal effect on enemy tanks than the anti-tank rifle could hope for.

The two photographs shown here, which were scanned from Hoffschmidt but are clearly official US photos, are the only two we have seen of the T1E1. (The Springfield catalog tantalizingly holds out the possibility of a third). It is possible that more documentation exists, uncatalogued, in some museum or other. To our great frustration, what you read in this blog post is just about it.

t1e1_at_rifle02

The T1E1 is remembered now as a dead-end, but an exceedingly powerful one. Other anti-tank rifles tried to get greater velocity with smaller calibers, like the German and Polish 7.92mm guns, or greater power with larger explosive shells, like the many 20mm and a monster Swiss 24mm gun. But in the end, improvements in tank armor on the one hand, and Monroe Effect-based shaped charge weapons on the other, rendered them all obsolete. All of them, and most especially the T1 of which no example is thought to survive,

Notes

  1. Williams.
  2. Davis, pp. 4-5.
  3. Hitchcock, table on p. 29.

Sources:

Davis, Dale M. Historical Development Summary of Automatic Cannon Caliber Ammunition: 20-30 Millimeter. Eglin AFB, FL: Air Force Armament Laboratory, 1984 Retrieved from: Fulltext PDF at: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a140367.pdf

Hitchcock, H.P. Ammunition Data for Spinning Projectiles. Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland: Ballistic Research Laboratory, 1947. May be available at: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a800469.pdf (or can be accessed through NTIS/NTRL search).

Hoffschmidt, E.J. Know Your Antitank Rifles. Stamford, CT: Blacksmith Corp., 1977.

Rottman, Gordon L. The Book of Gun Trivia: Essential Firepower Facts. New York, 2013: Osprey Publishing.

Williams, Anthony. An Introduction To Anti-Tank Rifle Cartridges. The Cartridge Researcher: The Bulletin of the European Cartridge Research Association, Nov-Dec 2004. Updated version retrieved from: http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/ATRart.htm

Russian OSV-96 12.7x108mm Sniper Rifle

To put things in perspective, the Barrett M82A1/M107 fires the Browning 12.7 x 99mm round; the case of this one is about 3/8 of an inch longer. These pictures of a Russian analogue, the OSV-96, come from former Weapons Website of the Week KardeN, via Imgur and Reddit.

Karden OSV-96 01

How big is it? Here it is next to an AKSU.

Karden OSV-96 02

But, it folds for convenience and portability.

Karden OSV-96 04

Here’s a look at the welding on the receiver, and the takedown latch. Looks like it locks overcenter to provide both solid grip when locked, and quick release.

Karden OSV-96 03

And here’s a close-up of the magazine being released. The mag release is the familiar type from many Russian weapons, like the AK and Tokarev rifles.

Karden OSV-96 05 Mag Release

One more shot — the bolt mechanism, with some AK DNA in there, and some other stuff. The wedge-shaped locking lugs suggest a very strong mechanism.

Karden OSV-96 06 bolt

The whole thing looks like a product of the Chelyabinsk Tractor Works — not overly well-finished, but perfectly fit for purpose. Kind of like a Barrett, that way, actually.

He has some 80 pictures of this rarely seen rifle on his site, with a brief (Russian language) explanation of each.

An Early Assesment of WWI Tanks

wwi_tanksWe happen to have a hard copy of this old book in the Unconventional Warfare Operations Research Reference Library (UWORRL) here, but we’re pulling this scan of Page 163 from the Library of Congress.

The document source is listed below the excerpt.

It’s interesting to us how well this newsman’s assessment from 1919 — when the din of battle had barely died out, and the grief of the survivors had hardly begun — holds up a century later.

ACTUAL battle scene (above). of French tank going into action, while behind it a line of French infantry is moving up to its support . It would be too much to say that tanks won the war, but it can safely be said that the final allied victory would have been greatly deferred had it not
been for the incalcuable service rendered by the tanks. Not only have they broken down defenses that would otherwise have been almost impregnable , but they have saved thousands of lives by screening from hostile fire the lines of infantry that followed them.
(© French Pictorial Service.)

(At left)–British armored car about to start on a reconnoissance . Note the projecting muzzles of the guns at front and on the side. The damaged cdndition of the tree trunk indicates that the woods nearby had been swept by shellfire.
(© British Official Photo from Underwood & Underwood. )

Below is a huge German tank captured by the French and repaired by them. While of enormous size, the tanks which the Germans built after the British had proved the value of that weapon were too ponderous and unwieldy to be of great service to their forces.
(© French Pictorial Service.)

via American Memory from the Library of Congress.

The last picture, a very famous picture of a German A7V in captivity, may be of a tank captured by Britons, from the graffiti upon it.

To us, the most interesting thing is the American reporters’ complete omission of the role American tanks played in the 1918 offensives; had this been more widely reported, perhaps the Tank Corps would not have had such a hiatus between 1919 and 1940. (As it is, Armor didn’t become a basic branch for US Army officers until the 1950s. That’s the US Army for you, two centuries of tradition unmarred by progress).

Source

The New York Times. The war of the nations : portfolio in rotogravure etchings : compiled from the Mid-week pictorial. New York : New York Times, Co., 1919. Retrieved from: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/np_item.pl?collection=sgproto&agg=sgpwar&iss=19191231&page=163

PDF also available here at WeaponsMan: WWI Tanks.pdf

Patton’s Lessons Learned for Tank Warfare, WWI

"Treat'em_Rough^_Join_The_Tanks._United_States_Tank_Corps.",_ca._1917_-_ca._1919_-_NARA_-_512447We’ve been reading Treat ’em Rough: The Birth of American Armor 1917-20 by Dale Wilson. It is the single book-length treatment of the US Army Tank Corps in World War I, and it filled its void so well — there was no such book before it — that it seems to have derailed future scholorship — there has been no such book since, although there has been an overview by Robert Cameron for the US Army Center for Military History: Mobility, Shock, and Firepower: The emergence of The U.S. Army’s Armor BrAnch, 1917– 1945. Cameron’s book is rather dependent on Wilson for its WWI details, and is available for free in .pdf format from the Army CMH web. If you’re interested in WWI armor, though, the Wilson book is the gold standard,

We’ve been surprised to learn how quickly the US established an effective tank arm, as we’ve been familiar with the terrible teething problems of US Army and Navy aviation in the Great War.

The term, “Treat ’em Rough,” was the recruiting slogan of the tank corps, which was characterized also by a mascot — a furious black tomcat, hair up and claws out. Wilson’s Treat ’em Rough uses the most colorful of these posters as its cover.

Join the Black Toms - They Treat 'em Rough Recruiting Poster by W.F. HoffmanThe tankers were plagued by many of the same problems as the aviators — American manufacturers who over-promised and under-delivered, and the resulting need to use foreign equipment — but they resolved them with grit and imagination. Many of the WWI tank officers would be important men in WWII, including Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton Jr.

By war’s end, Patton had developed a series of lessons learned. Many of these still apply today; others resulted from the novelty and relative unreliability of Great War Tanks.

Here are Patton’s perceptions (from Wilson, pp.208-09).

  • Senior officers, in their demands on the tanks, did not seem to realize their limitations and especially the fact the tanks must have infantry operating with them, if they are to be successfully employed.
  • A lack of liaison between tanks and the infantry severely handicapped the tanks during operations.
  • The infantry used the tanks as a crutch, expecting them to overcome enemy resistance and consolidate objectives after successful attacks.
  • Tanks, because of their mechanical weaknesses, should not be squandered in a reconnaissance role.
  • The distance between attack positions and lines of departure should be reduced in order to cut losses due to mechanical failure.
  • There is no substitute for physical ground reconnaissance by key leaders.
  • Measures such as smoke screens and dedicated artillery units for counterbattery fire should be employed to reduce the effectiveness of enemy artillery against tanks.
  • Tanks clearly demonstrated their value as an offensive weapon and as a separate combat arm.
  • Changes in tactics, especially with regard to better use of tanks in mass and depth, or needed.1

See what we mean about reliability? Patton clearly had been badly burned, and after action reports show that most tanks broke down in most operations.

Here's the Black Tom (in campaign hat!) perched on a Mk. V. These lozenge-shaped tanks are also visible in the other posters.

Here’s the Black Tom (in campaign hat!) perched on a Mk. V. These lozenge-shaped tanks are also visible in the other posters.

The Army got the best and most reliable tanks their allies made (the Renault FT light tank and the British Mk V and Mk V* (“Mark Five Star”) heavy tanks). It’s just that, in 1918, the best wasn’t all that good.

We’ll have more to say about these tanks in a future post, we hope, but the FT had a swiveling turret with a short 37mm gun or a Hotchkiss machine gun.It had a crew of two. The lozenge-shaped Mk V, the classic WWI tank, had a crew of eight or nine and was armed with machine guns and, in some versions, cannons, in hull-side sponsons. Both had a top speed of about 5 mph, a good match for a walking doughboy.

British and French tank concepts were entirely different, with the
French using light tanks to accompany and support infantry, and the British heavy tanks to force breakthroughs for exploitation by infantry. American doctrine hastily synthesized both nations’ approaches and then went into stasis for most of the period in between the wars, while British, French and Soviet tankers shook down new operational concepts.

The Germans countered the Allied tanks with anti-tank rifles, armor-piercing ammunition for their thousands of machine guns, and, most effectively, with direct-fire and indirect-fire artillery under the control of forward observers with their eyes on the tanks. But for every tank destroyed by enemy action, several fell to overheating, clutch failure, thrown tracks, or other breakdowns. One major weakness of the Mark V and Mark V Star was the fan belt, failure of which would quickly down the tank. The Americans carried spare fan belts in a designated maintenance tank, an idea that simply hadn’t occurred to their British mentors (but which the British wasted no time adopting).

Still, a hit from an artillery shell usually meant curtains for a tank, like this FT. WWI tanks had thin face-hardened armor, which shattered under artillery assault, as seen here.

renault_ft_killed_1918A number of the tank crewmen were recognized for acts of desperate valor, including two NCOs who received the Medal of Honor (one posthumously), and many officers and NCOs decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross.

Some tankers also received British decorations, especially after American tank battalions (and other American units) were attached to Sir John Monash’s Australians for a late-September 1918 offensive.

After the war, aviation managed to survive as a separate branch or corps, but tanks didn’t. They were subsumed under the authority of the Infantry branch, and neglected until the clouds of World War II made the Army start to improve its tanks, finally, in both mechanical and doctrinal ays. (They had used long-obsolete Ford Six Ton Tanks, a “copy” of the FT that managed to have zero interchangeable parts, well into the 1930s). Talented officers such as Patton and Eisenhower saw the writing on the wall, and rebranched to the branch of service that the Army brass of 1920 considered to have a future.

The horse cavalry.

That’s the Army for you.

Corrections

Several typos in the initial post have been corrected. WeaponsMan.com regrets the errors. Thanks to the reader who brought them to our attention.

Notes

  1. Wilson extracted this information from pages 9-10 of Patton’s Operations of the 304th Brigade, Tank Corps, from September 26th to October 15, 1918, from the Patton chronological files, to which he had access.

Tank Destroyer Fatalities — Caused by Bad Reloads?

Investigators on the site of the mishap that killed two M18 Hellcat Gun Motor Carriage restorers.

Investigators on the site of the mishap that killed two M18 Hellcat Gun Motor Carriage restorers.

An anonymous commenter using the name “Cannonman” has made some serious allegations about the cause of the deaths of Steve Preston and Austin Lee during a live fire demonstration of an M18 Hellcat tank destroyer in Oregon, previously covered by WeaponsMan here on 27 October and here on 29 October.

The folks were loading their own ammo, the only “correct” component being the M26 cartridge cases. They did not use long enough primer flash tubes. M30 smokeless propellant, triple-based, smaller grain size, was used vice large-grained M1 single-base propellant. Navy projectiles, having longer and larger-diameter driving bands as opposed to Army, were being used. Cases were loaded with 1/2 lb. black powder dumped in base of case, cardboard wad, then 3.5 lbs of M30 propellant.

Why is “Cannonman” using the comments here at WeaponsMan.com to send this message?

I am putting this info here because authorities won’t release any info and the facts need to get out. The very dangerous load caused an extreme overpressure in the chamber shattering the breechblock and cracking the breech ring, sending hot gas and fragments into the occupied turret.

If that was really what they were doing, including using black powder as a sort of gaine in the ignition train, it’s amazing they ever got the thing to fire.

Right now, all we have on this is a single, anonymous source. We welcome further input in the comments or to hognose at network impossible dot com.