Big game hunters

German troops trudging through driving snow, protected by Zeltbahn shelter halves worn as ponchos. The soldier in the middle is carrying a Panzerbüchse 39 (PzB 39), an anti-tank rifle used to knock out armored vehicles. Several countries used AT rifles, but as their principal targets became increasingly heavier armored, they were of limited use. The concept of AT rifles originated during World War 1, and as long as tanks and other armored vehicles sported thin armor, the idea was valid. A 1939 German rifle company was equipped with three PzB 39, at least in theory; shortages in production meant that only 568 PzB 39 were used by the German army in the invasion of Poland.

Two years later, at the beginning of the war against the USSR, 25,298 PzB 39 were in use by German troops. They could take on light tanks like T-26s and BT-7s, but KV-85s and T-34s (which the Germans didn’t know existed) were tougher nuts to crack… Total production from March 1940 to the cessation of production in November 1941 was 39,232 rifles.

The overall length was 162 cm, and the weight was 12.6 kg. It fired a 7.92 mm armor-piercing round. 25mm armor penetration was effective out to 300 meters. To increase the practical rate of fire, two cases containing 10 rounds each could be attached to the sides of the weapon, closer to hand for the gunner. A fold-out bipod steadied the weapon. The PzB 39 remained in use until 1944, by which time it had become hopelessly inadequate against all but the lightest armored vehicles.


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