A Luftwaffe soldier aims the Faustpatrone using the integrated leaf sight
|Type||Man-portable anti-tank weapon|
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|Used by||See Users|
|Wars||World War II|
Greek civil war
|Number built||over 6 million (all variants)|
|Variants||Panzerfaust 30, 60, 100, 150, 250|
|Weight||6.25 kilograms (13.8 lb) (Panzerfaust 60)|
|Length||~ 1 meter (3 ft 3 in)|
|Caliber||149 mm (Panzerfaust 60)|
|Effective range||60 m (200 ft) (Panzerfaust 60)|
The Panzerfaust (lit. "armor fist" or "tank fist", plural: Panzerfäuste) was a cheap, single shot, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded launch tube firing a high explosive anti-tank warhead, and was operated by a single soldier. The Panzerfaust was in service from 1942 until the end of the war. 
Faustpatrone[edit | edit source]
A forerunner of the Panzerfaust was the Faustpatrone (literally "fist cartridge").
The Faustpatrone was much smaller in physical appearance than the better known Panzerfaust. Development of the Faustpatrone started in the summer of 1942 at the German company HASAG with the development of a smaller prototype called Gretchen ("little Greta") by a team headed by Dr. Heinrich Langweiler in Leipzig. The basic concept was that of a recoilless gun; neither the Faustpatrone, nor its successor the Panzerfaust were rockets.
To use the Panzerfaust, the soldier takes off the safety, aims, and, with a little squeeze, fires the projectile. Unlike the Bazooka or Panzerschreck, the Panzerfaust did not have a trigger. It had a pedallike lever near the projectile that would ignite the propellant when squeezed.
The following weapon model of the Panzerfaust family, the so-called Faustpatrone klein, 30 m ("Small Fist-Cartridge") had a total weight of 3.2 kg (7.1 lb) and a total length of 98.5 cm (38¾ in); its projectile had a length of 36 cm (14¼ in) and a warhead diameter of 10 cm (4 in); it carried a shaped charge of 400 g (14 oz) of a 50:50 mix of TNT and tri-hexogen. The propellant consisted of 54 g (1.9 oz or 830 grains) of black powder, the metal launch tube had a length of 80 cm (31½ in) and a diameter of 3.3 cm (1.3 in) (early models reportedly 2.8 cm (1.1 in)). Fitted to the warhead was a wooden shaft with folded stabilizing fins (made of 0.25 mm (0.01 in) thick spring metal). These bent blades straightened into position by themselves as soon as they left the launch tube. The warhead was accelerated to a speed of 28 m/s (92 ft/s), had a range of about 30 m (100 ft) and an armor penetration of up to 140 mm (5½ in) of plain steel. Soon a crude aiming device similar to the one used by the Panzerfaust was added to the design; it was fixed at a range of 30 m (100 ft).
Several designations of this weapon were in use, amongst which Faustpatrone 1 or Panzerfaust 30 klein; however, it was common to refer to this weapon simply as the Faustpatrone. Of the earlier model, 20,000 were ordered and the first 500 Faustpatronen were delivered by the manufacturer, HASAG Hugo Schneider AG, Werk Schlieben, in August 1943. Two main problems had already surfaced much earlier in the weapon's trials: first, the original model did not have a sighting device, and, secondly, because of the odd shape of the warhead (see pictures), it tended to ricochet off or explode with lesser effect on sloped armour, especially evident when deployed against the Russian T-34. Since these problems surfaced early in testing, the development and production of its successor, the Panzerfaust 30, had already begun by the time of the first deliveries, inhibiting incorporation of possible solutions to the problems in the newer design and perpetuating its weaknesses. Still, the small and simple Faustpatrone was kept in production well into 1945. During the entire Second World War, it remained the most common German anti-armour weapon.
Overview[edit | edit source]
Development began in 1942 on a larger version of the Faustpatrone. The resulting weapon was the Panzerfaust 30, with a total weight of 5.1 kilograms (11.2 lb) and total length of 1.045 metres (3.4 ft). The launch tube was made of low-grade steel 44 millimetres (1.7 in) in diameter, containing a 95-gram (3.4 oz) charge of black powder propellant. Along the side of the tube were a simple folding rear sight and a trigger. The edge of the warhead was used as the front sight. The oversize warhead (140 mm (5.5 in) in diameter) was fitted into the front of the tube by an attached wooden tail stem with metal stabilizing fins. The warhead weighed 2.9 kilograms (6.4 lb) and contained 0.8 kilograms (1.8 lb) of a 50:50 mixture of TNT and hexogen explosives, and had armor penetration of 200 millimetres (7.9 in). The Panzerfaust often had warnings written in large red letters on the upper rear end of the tube, the words usually being Achtung! Feuerstrahl! ("Attention! Fire Jet!"). This was to warn soldiers to avoid the backblast. After firing, the tube was discarded, making the Panzerfaust the first disposable anti-tank weapon. During the last stages of the war, many poorly trained conscripts were given a Panzerfaust and nothing else, causing several German generals to comment sarcastically that the tubes could then be used as clubs. The weapon, when correctly fired from the crook of the arm, could with its shaped charge warhead penetrate the armor of any armoured fighting vehicle of the period.
Many Panzerfäuste were sold to Finland, which urgently needed them as the Finnish forces did not have enough anti-tank weapons that could penetrate heavily armored Soviet tanks like the T-34 and IS-2. The Finnish experience with the weapon and its fitness for Finnish needs was mixed and only 4,000 of 25,000 Panzerfäuste delivered were expended in combat.
In the Battle of Normandy, only 6% of British tank losses were from Panzerfaust fire, despite the close-range combat in the Bocage landscape. However, the threat from the Panzerfaust forced tank forces to wait for infantry support before advancing. The portion of British tanks destroyed by Panzerfäuste later rose to 34%, a rise probably explained by the lack of German anti-tank guns late in the war and also the terrain where the fighting took place.
In urban combat in the late war in eastern Germany about 70% of tanks destroyed were hit by Panzerfäuste or Panzerschrecks. The Soviet forces responded by installing spaced armour on their tanks from early 1945 onwards, despite it being easily removed by exploding shells or Panzerfaust hits. Each tank company was also assigned a platoon of infantry to protect them from infantry-wielded anti-tank weapons.
The US 82nd Airborne Division captured some Panzerfäuste in the Sicilian campaign, and later during the fighting in Normandy. Finding them more effective than their own Bazookas, they held onto them and used them during the later stages of the French campaign and even dropped with them into the Netherlands during the Market-Garden campaign. They captured an ammunition dump of Panzerfäuste near Nijmegen, and used them through the Ardennes Offensive to the end of the war.
Variants[edit | edit source]
- Panzerfaust 30 klein ("small") or Faustpatrone
- This was the original version, first delivered in August 1943 with a total weight of 3.2 kilograms (7.1 lb) and overall length of 98.5 cm (38.8 in). The "30" was indicative of the nominal maximum range of 30 m (33 yd). It had a 3.3 cm (1.3 in) diameter tube containing 54 grams (1.9 oz) of black powder propellant launching a 10 cm (3.9 in) warhead carrying 400 g (14 oz) of explosive. The projectile traveled at just 30 m (98 ft) per second and could penetrate 140 mm (5.5 in) of armor.
- Panzerfaust 30
- An improved version also appearing in August 1943, this version had a larger warhead for improved armor penetration, 200 mm (7.9 in), but the same range of 30 meters.
- Panzerfaust 60
- This was the most common version, with production starting in September 1944. It had a much more practical range of 60 m (66 yd), although with a muzzle velocity of only 45 m (148 ft) per second it would take 1.3 seconds for the warhead to reach a tank at that range. To achieve the higher velocity, the tube diameter was increased to 5 cm (2.0 in) and 134 g (4.7 oz) of propellant used. It also had an improved flip-up rear sight and trigger mechanism. The weapon now weighed 6.1 kg (13 lb). It could defeat 200 mm (7.9 in) of armor.
- Panzerfaust 100
- This was the final version produced in quantity, from November 1944 onwards. It had a nominal maximum range of 100 m (330 ft). 190 g (6.7 oz) of propellant launched the warhead at 60 m (200 ft) per second from a 6 cm (2.4 in) diameter tube. The sight had holes for 30, 60, 80 and 150 m (260 and 490 ft), and had luminous paint in them to make counting up to the correct one easier in the dark. This version weighed 6 kg (13 lb) and could penetrate 220 mm (8.7 in) of armor.
- Panzerfaust 150
- This was a major redesign of the weapon, and was deployed in limited numbers near the end of the war. The firing tube was reinforced and reusable for up to ten shots. A new pointed warhead with increased armor penetration and two-stage propellant ignition gave a higher velocity of 85 m (279 ft) per second. Production started in March 1945, two months before the end of the war.
- Panzerfaust 250
The last development of the Panzerfaust-series was the Panzerfaust 250. It used a reloadable tube and now featured a pistol grip. With propellants in both the firing tube and on the projectile itself it was projected to reach a projectile speed of 150 m/s (490 fps). Serial production was scheduled to begin in September 1945. However, the development of this weapon never got completed and not a single one was produced .
- Pansarskott m/45 and pansarskott m/46
- Swedish-made copies of the Panzerfaust.
Users[edit | edit source]
- Argentina at least some were Swedish made pansarskott m/46 copies
- Nazi Germany
- Italian Social Republic
- Kingdom of Hungary
- Poland (use of captured ones during the war, limited use post-war as PG-49 and limited manufacture of local copy PC 100)
- Kingdom of Romania
- Sweden manufactured and used copies of the Panzerfaust in at least two different variants; Pansarskott m/45 and Pansarskott m/46
See also[edit | edit source]
- List of common World War II infantry weapons
- List of World War II firearms of Germany
- Rocket-propelled grenade
References[edit | edit source]
- Chuikov, Vasili Ivanovich; Kisch, Ruth (translator) (1969). The End of the Third Reich. Panther Books. ISBN 978-0-586-02775-2. LCCN 74534462. http://books.google.com/?id=HVqpAAAACAAJ.
- Stallings, Patrick A.. "Tank Company Security Operations". Major. http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA258111&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf.
- Guzmán, Julio S. (April 1942) (in Spanish). Las Armas Modernas de Infantería. http://books.google.com/?id=vEc2GwAACAAJ.
- Handbook on German Military Forces. Washington D.C.: United States War Department. 1945. p. VII-II. http://downloads.sturmpanzer.com/FMS/NARA_TM_E30_451_1945.03.pdf.
- Simons, Gerald (1982). Victory in Europe. Alexandria, VA: Time–Life Books. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-8094-3406-0. LCCN 81018315. http://books.google.com/?id=CqJzAAAAIAAJ.
- Bishop, Chris (January 1998). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. New York: Orbis Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7607-1022-7. http://books.google.com/?id=YfJLPwAACAAJ.
- Jowett, Philip S.; Snodgrass, Brent (Illustrator); Ruggeri, Raffaele (Illustrator) (July 2006). Martin Windrow. ed. Finland at War, 1939–45. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-84176-969-1. LCCN 2006286373. http://books.google.com/?id=p58vtOKyVy8C.
- Place, Timothy Harrison (October 2000). "Chapter 9: Armour in North-West Europe". Military training in the British Army, 1940–1944. Cass Series—Military History and Policy. 6. London: Frank Cass. p. 160. ISBN 978-0-7146-5037-1. LCCN 00031480. http://books.google.com/?id=McUS0IuZ1EYC&pg=PA160.
- More Than Courage: Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Anzio, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace ... By Phil Nordyke P.299
- Pansarskott Swedish Wikipedia article, accessed 2012-11-15
- Julio S. Guzmán, Las Armas Modernas de Infantería, Abril de 1953
- Rada, Tibor (2001) (in Hungarian). A Magyar Királyi Honvéd Ludovika Akadémia és a Testvérintézetek Összefoglalt Története (1830-1945). II. Budapest: Gálos Nyomdász Kft. p. 1114. ISBN 963-85764-3-X.
- Perzyk, Bogusław: Niemieckie granatniki przeciwpancerne Panzerfaust w Wojsku Polskim 1944-1955 cz.I in: Poligon 2/2011, pp.57-62 (in Polish) and Perzyk, Bogusław: Panzerfaust w Wojsku Polskim 1944-1955 cz.II. Projekt PC-100 in: Poligon 4/2011, p.68 (in Polish)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Panzerfaust.|
- Contemporary U.S. Intelligence Report on German Hollow-Charge Weapons
- Finnish Panzerfaust manual
- der Erste Zug: taken from Die Neue Feldpost newsletter
- Field Instructions for Panzerfaust 60
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