Anti-tank rifles of the Red Army in production and at the front

Anti-tank guns in the museum. In the foreground is the PTRD, behind it is the PTRS. Photo: Vitalykuzmin.net

Anti-tank rifles of two models became one of the main means of fighting enemy armored vehicles for the Red Army during the Great Patriotic War. PTR designs by Degtyarev and Simonov were created in the shortest possible time and only a few months after the start of the war found application on the battlefields. The constant development of enemy armored vehicles could limit the real potential of the PTR, but until the very end of the war, such weapons and armor-piercing riflemen did not remain without work.

As soon as possible

The development of light anti-tank systems of the type of anti-tank missile systems of different shapes has been carried out in our country since the beginning of the thirties. At different times, various models were adopted. However, in August 1940, all work ceased, and the existing products were removed from service. The command of the Red Army considered that thick-armored tanks, protected from PTR fire, would soon enter the arsenal of a potential enemy. Accordingly, the development of anti-tank defense was associated with artillery.

The opinion of the command changed on June 23, 1941. The day after the start of the war, an order was issued to resume work on the PTR. The gun of the N.V. system was again sent to the test site. Rukavishnikov. Leading enterprises were ordered to develop new PTR. Only a few weeks were given to complete the work.

Cartridges 14.5×114 mm in a pack for loading PTRS. Photo: Vitalykuzmin.net

New projects were created in no time. So, KB-2 of the Kovrov Tool Plant No. 2 presented two PTRs – from the chief designer V.A. Degtyarev and from a group of engineers A.A. Dementieva. According to the test results, Dementyev’s PTR was seriously revised, after which it received a recommendation for adoption.

In parallel, S.G. Simonov. It differed from the previous model by the presence of a gas-operated automatic device for self-reloading. Despite the great complexity, the project was prepared in the required time frame, and the PTR went to the test site to confirm the characteristics. The fine-tuning was associated with serious difficulties, but in the end we managed to get the desired results.

On August 29, 1941, the Red Army adopted two new anti-tank guns – Degtyarev’s ATGM and Simonov’s ATGM. Preparations for serial production began. A simpler ATRM began to be produced in September, and by the end of the year more than 17 thousand units were produced. The launch of the PTRS was a little delayed, and the first serial products left the assembly line only in November. In the same November, two types of PTR were first used in battles.

In the language of numbers

PTRD and PTRS were large-caliber rifles chambered for 14.5×114 mm, designed to destroy all kinds of protected targets. With their help, it was proposed to hit tanks, firing points, incl. armored and aircraft. Depending on the type of target, the fire was conducted at distances of up to 500-800 m.

Armor-piercers with anti-tank guns in position. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Two PTRs used a 14.5×114 mm cartridge, originally created for the Rukavishnikov rifle arr. 1939 During the war, the main modifications of the cartridge were completed with armor-piercing incendiary bullets B-32 (hardened steel core) and BS-41 (cermet core). A 30-g sample of gunpowder ensured the acceleration of a bullet weighing 64 g to high speeds.

A characteristic feature of the PTR was a large barrel length, which made it possible to use the energy of the cartridge as fully as possible. PTRD and PTRS were equipped with 1350 mm long rifled barrels (93 clb). Due to this, the initial bullet speed reached 1020 m / s. Muzzle energy exceeded 33.2 kJ – several times higher than that of other small arms. The presence of a gas engine slightly reduced the energy of the PTR Simonov and affected the fighting qualities.

Using a B-32 bullet, both PTR from a distance of 100 m with a direct hit pierced up to 40 mm of homogeneous armor. At a distance of 300 m, penetration for the anti-tank gun was reduced to 35 mm; PTRS due to automation could show less high results. With a further increase in the distance, the penetration rates decreased. As noted in the manual on shooting business from 1942, shooting at armored vehicles could be carried out from 500 m with the best results at 300-400 m.

Evolution of goals

The abandonment of the PTR in 1940 was due to the fact that the command of the Red Army expected the enemy to have tanks with frontal armor at least 50-60 mm thick, which only artillery could handle. As the events of the summer of 1941 showed, the enemy was simply overestimated. The main Wehrmacht tanks had much less powerful protection.

Anti-tank rifles of the Red Army in production and at the front

Degtyarev’s gun and his crew in Stalingrad, August 1942.Photo by Pavel Troshkin (1909-1944) / Wikimedia Commons

The basis of the German tank park was made up of light vehicles. So, one of the most massive was the Pz.Kpfw. II tank – about 1,700 units of all modifications. Early versions of this vehicle had armor up to 13 mm (hull) and 15 mm (turret). In later modifications, the maximum armor thickness reached 30-35 mm.

During the attack on the USSR, approx. 700 light tanks Pz.Kpfw. 38

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