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World War Two anti-tank projectors

By Sakhal

World War Two anti-tank projectors

Northover Projector

In the terrible days of 1940, in Great Britain entered service some weapons that would not have had place in normal times. One of them was the Northover Projector. This one was just a smoothbore steel tube of 90 centimeters in length, with a screw breechblock in the rear end and the mechanism of trigger and firing pin attached to a metallic buttstock. The tube could be freely oriented on a four-legged mounting (later three-legged one) and it was aimed by means of primitive sights. The projectile could be the hand grenade Number 36, the rifle anti-tank grenade Number 68 or the piercing-incendiary grenade Number 76. These were fired by a small charge of black powder on a celluloid container, ignited by a revolver blank cartridge inserted in the breechblock. This weapon was used by the Home Guard.

Caliber: 63.5 millimeters

Weight of the ensemble: 27.2 kilograms

Length of the tube: 914 millimeters

Type of the grenade: Shaped charge, high explosive or incendiary

Weight of the projectile: 905 grams, 795 grams and 570 grams, respectively

Muzzle velocity: 60 meters/second

Effective range: 250 meters

Piercing power: 50 millimeters at 90 degrees at 100 meters


Developed in the early 1942, the American rocket launcher M1A1 became mostly known as "bazooka", a name taken from a curious musical instrument played by Bob Burns. It was a simple smooth tube fitted with elementary sights which fired a shaped-charge rocket projectile of electrical ignition. In the M1A1 the tube was of a single piece, with a wooden buttstock to rest the shoulder; this model was replaced by the M9, which had a two-piece tube with bayonet joint which was easier for the infantrymen to carry. Apart from its piercing capability, it fired also breaking and phosphorus grenades and it could be used effectively against field fortifications, machine gun emplacements and similar targets. It remained in service until 1950; during the Korean War it was replaced by a version in caliber 88.9 millimeters.

Caliber: 60 millimeters

Weight of the ensemble: 5.98 kilograms

Length of the tube: 1.545 meters

Type of the grenade: Shaped charge, high explosive or phosphorus

Weight of the projectile: 1.54 kilograms

Muzzle velocity: 83 meters/second

Effective range: 135 meters

Piercing power: 120 millimeters at 90 degrees at 135 meters


The PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) was a British anti-tank rocket launcher that used a solid steel bar to ignite the projectile. This one had a hollow tail fitted with drum fins and it carried in its rear end a smokeless powder cartridge and a percussion cap. A tube with an orifice in the end and a shoulder pad in the opposite end constituted the launcher. In its interior it had a powerful spring and the steel bar: a protrusion in its tip was the firing pin. The weapon was cocked by moving backwards the bar, which compressed the spring, and the projectile was introduced by the fore end of the launching tube. When pressing the trigger, the bar was impulsed forward, entering the tail of the projectile and hitting the percussion cap, which caused the deflagration of the powder cartridge. The recoil from the shot caused the bar to move backwards inside the tube, thus being cocked again and ready for the next shot.

Caliber: 83 millimeters

Weight of the ensemble: 14.52 kilograms

Length of the tube: 1 meter

Type of the grenade: Shaped charge

Weight of the projectile: 1.36 kilograms

Muzzle velocity: 106 meters/second

Effective range: 91 meters

Piercing power: 75 millimeters at 90 degrees at 100 meters


In 1943, the Americans sent several types of weapons to the Russians; among these a series of 60-millimeter rocket launchers "bazooka". Few weeks later, the Germans had already captured one or two: this weapon was their version of the "bazooka". It fired a heavier grenade with more piercing power than the American counterpart, but the working principle was exactly the same. Instead of dry cells, the German weapon used a magnetic coil to generate the electricity that ignited the rocket. Another difference was that the rocket was not completely burnt in the launching tube, so the operator had to wear a protection in the face to avoid being burnt; the easier solution was a gas mask. In a later version, the combustion of the rocket was improved and the tube was fitted with a large square shield in front of the operator to divert the exhaust of the rocket.

Caliber: 88 millimeters

Weight of the ensemble: 9.5 kilograms

Length of the tube: 1.638 meters

Type of the grenade: Shaped charge

Weight of the projectile: 3.25 kilograms

Muzzle velocity: 110 meters/second

Effective range: 150 meters

Piercing power: 100 millimeters at 90 degrees at 150 meters

Panzerfaust 30

This German weapon was actually a recoilless cannon consisting of a steel tube fitted with a firing mechanism, in whose interior were placed the projectile and a black powder cartridge with ignitor. The projectile was constituted by a shaped-charge grenade and a wooden tail fitted with four steel fins. The weapon was delivered ready to be fired. To effectuate fire it was raised the sight and so cocked the firing mechanism. The fore sight was a spike in the border of the grenade. The operator put the tube under the arm, pressed the trigger and the powder load launched the projectile towards the target; the shockwave suppressed the recoil. Each tube was only for one use. This was the first disposable weapon; it was cheaper to make a new one than to have a factory to reload empty tubes. The Panzerfaust was made in several sizes, from the Panzerfaust 30 to the Panzerfaust 150.

Weight of the ensemble: 5.22 kilograms

Length of the tube: 800 millimeters

Diameter of the grenade: 150 millimeters

Length of the projectile: 495 millimeters

Type of the grenade: Shaped charge

Weight of the projectile: 3.06 kilograms

Muzzle velocity: 30 meters/second

Effective range: 30 meters

Piercing power: 200 millimeters at 60 degrees at 30 meters

Article updated: 2015-06-18

Categories: Infantry - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-06-07

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