Panzerbüchse Model 39 Anti-Tank Rifle
|Type||Single-Shot Anti-Tank Rifle|
|Magazine Capacity||None; Single Shot|
|Muzzle Velocity||1265 meters/second|
|Armor Penetration (see footnote)||30mm/100m/60|
|Country of Origin||Germany|
The Panzerbüchse Modell 39 (PzB39), or Model 39 Anti-tank rifle was a simplified version of its predecessor, the PzB38. It operated of a vertical sliding breechblock. The PzB39 was chambered for an unusual cartridge that featured a 13mm cased neck down to a 7.92 mm projectile with an armor-piercing tungsten core.
For every weapon there will eventually be a counter-weapon. When the British introduced the tank on Somme in September 1916, it appeared to be invincible. Soon the Germans however, had developed the first anti-tank gun, the Mauser Modell 1918 Tank- Gewehr. It was an oversized Mauser bolt-action with a 38.68″ barrel firing a 13mm jacketed bullet with an armor-piercing core. This formidable cartridge with its high-velocity projectile provided the inspiration for Browning’s .50 caliber machine gun cartridge, in use to this day.
After World War I, tank armor had technology had improved, and Germany’s Wehrmacht wasted not time in catching up. The old rough-and-ready Modell 1918 was replaced in 1938 with the Panzerbuchse Modell 1938 (left). This was a single-shot rifle with a unique action featuring a vertical sliding-wedge breechblock. When the gun was fired, the barrel recoiled and operated a cam system, which opened the breechblock and ejected the fired case. When a new round was inserted, the breechblock automatically closed. The cartridge for the PzB38 was a 13mm case necked down to accept 7.92mm projectile with an armor piercing core.
In 1939, the PzB39 appeared, a simplified version of the PzB38 which eliminated the automatic opening and closing feature. After the Polish campaign of 1939, the Germans captured large stocks of Polish anti-tank rifles and their improved ammunition. Taking their cue from the Poles, the Germans upgraded their cartridge with a metal-jacketed projectile with a tungsten carbide core for higher penetration.
As the tank gained ascendancy, the armor improved, so these weapons were withdrawn. Numbers of them were converted to grenade launchers by cutting down the barrel and fitting a discharger cup (Scheissbecker). The modified guns were known as the ‘Granatbüchse Modell 39’, or GrB39.
The original 7.92 mm/13 mm featured, in addition to the armor piercing core, a capsule of teargas that was designed to torment the tank crew causing them to evacuate. There is no record of this clever device ever having worked.
The 30mm/100m/60° is standard NATO notation. It means the projectile will defeat 30mm of homogeneous armor plate at a distance of 100 striking at 60° from the surface of the plate. Note that World War II British and US reports give the angle from ‘normal,’ that is, from a line drawn at exact right-angles to the surface of the plate, in which case the same performance would be given as 30mm/100m/30.