Your Tank Is Dead: Meet the World’s First Anti-Tank Rifle
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The First World War was a time of terrible destruction - and intense innovation and evolution. Several technologies that are considered the standard facet of today's modern battlefields are directly related to advances or improvements made during World War I. Body protection, aerial warfare, tanks - all of this can be traced back to lessons from the First World War. One of the lesser known advances in military technology is the anti-tank rifle.
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The tank made its battlefield debut in 1916 with the British Army and later with the French Army. Although early tank models were slow and cumbersome, steady improvements in their designs resulted in higher speed, thicker armor, and better firepower. Although anti-tank mines were effective against armor, it was difficult to guess exactly where tanks would try to cross. Artillery was also a possible solution, although they couldn't always be put on tanks quickly enough. Bullets were a possible solution to the German tank problem.
The standard German rifle cartridge in the First and Second World Wars was the 7.92 mm Mauser cartridge. The Germans quickly realized that despite their impressive braking power, this lap had no chance against British tanks. Germany began using the armor-piercing K-round or K-ball on troops for use against armored targets.
Depending on the variant, the round in question had either a steel or tungsten carbide core instead of soft lead, which easily deforms when it hits an armored target. But as British armor improved, the round became less and less effective. It turned out that the K-round was completely powerless against British tanks of the latest generation. Something bigger with better penetration was needed. Germany sought the answer from hunters.
One possible solution had African roots. The so-called "Big Five" live on the continent. These are some of the most dangerous animals to hunt - elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos and cape buffalos. As with a tank, it's not an easy task to take down one of the Big Five - and like a tank, a large-caliber round is required.
Based on the lessons from large-diameter hunting cartridges, the German army developed the large 13.2 mm TuF cartridge, German for tanks and planes or tanks and planes. This cartridge with a bottleneck and half-rim was large - even larger than the .50 BMG round of the later Second World War. Because the cartridge was designed to harass or deactivate British tanks, it was supplied with a hardened steel core. A large cartridge requires large cannons, and the platform designed by the German company Mauser was not easy.
The Mauser T rifle was 35 pounds when unloaded. When loaded, the weight of the rifle jumped to over 40 pounds and could only be operated from the prone position. The long rifle was equipped with a bipod that was attached to the barrel near the center and provided a solid, stable platform for shooting. With iron sights, the two-man rifle and ammunition carrier team was able to attack targets up to a distance of about 500 meters or just over 1,600 feet. The rifle used a single-shot, bolt-action system and had an innovative pistol grip just behind the trigger.
Shooting the T rifle was probably very painful. The rifle lacked a muzzle brake or a piston pad to reduce recoil. The shooting was probably carried out by both the ammunition carrier and the main shooter so as not to overly tire any of the shooters.
Germany built over 15,000 T-rifles. Although the design was undeniably powerful, it suffered from poor mobility. The shooter's comfort was probably also a serious problem. In any case, the use of the T-rifle diminished towards the end of the First World War by introducing thicker armor that was essential for its large rounds - good news for the T-rifle crews!
Caleb Larson is a defense writer with a national interest. He has a Master of Public Policy and deals with US and Russian security, European defense issues, and German politics and culture.
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