The Panzerfaust is a WW2 German Infantry Anti-Tank Weapon

The Panzerfaust was a single shot, dispensable anti-tank weapon carried by German anti-tank squads during World War Two. It was small, light, cheap to produce and most importantly, it was a deadly anti-tank weapon. Capable of penetrating up to 200mm of armor, the Panzerfaust could deal certain destruction to any tank of the World War Two era – German or Allied.

Panzerfaust in action Panzerfaust training
Soldier firing a Panzerfaust. Limitied field training were provided on the proper handling of the weapon, resulting in many mishaps.

 The Panzerfaust

Battle Tanks
The Panzerfaust simply meant, “Tank Fist”. The concept behind the development of the Panzerfaust was to provide infantry with the ability to knock out enemy tanks in close combat. It was a single shot weapon; meaning it was discarded after use. Several variants existed, the Panzerfaust 30, 60, 100 and 150. They all had the same penetration capability of 200mm of armor at 90 degrees, the difference being their effective range. The Panzerfaust 30 had an effective range of 30 meters, while the Panzerfaust 60 was effective up to 60 meters. The 100 and 150 versions were effective up to 100 and 150 meters respectively.

Consisting of two basic parts, the Panzerfaust was made up of a projectile and cartridge, similar in concept to a bullet, which consisted of a slug and shell. The entire length of the weapon was about 104cm (42 inches) and weighed approximately 5.1kg (11.23 lbs). Later versions such as the Panzerfaust 100 weighed more at 6.8kgs (15 lbs), but the length remained largely unchanged.

Panzerfaust line drawing Panzerfaust sight

The Panzerfaust Projectile
The projectile resembled a large oversized head, which was essentially a small rocket with stabilizer fins. Upon leaving the cartridge, a lever of springs extended the folded stabilizer fins. After a flight of about five meters, the warhead was armed and upon impact, the warhead exploded into a fiery burst, obliterating the target. Different from a bullet, the projectile did not use kinetic energy as a means of penetration. Neither did it spin as a means of stabilizing during flight. Instead the concept was based on the theory of the shaped charge. Panzerfaust Rocket Projectile

The shaped charge (also known as hollow charge) works by focusing the explosive energy of the warhead into a jet stream. By focusing all the energy forward, the resulting explosion would form a sharp thrust, penetrating anything that was in the way. The gases expelled impacts the target at a speed of over 8,000 meters (26,000 feet) per second, with a force in excess of 10 million kg per square cm. For maximum effectiveness, the shaped charge has to be detonated at an optimum distance to the target; too close and the gases have not yet formed, too far and the gases loses its energy as it is dispersed with distance. It is also important not to spin the warhead during the point of impact, as they gyrating force would disperse and unfocus the resulting jet stream. For this reason, the rocket projectile had to be stabilized by fins rather than the gyrating actions of a bullet. As a consequence, the Panzerfaust rocket had a low flight speed and was not very accurate at long range. However, the German armed forces ministry also appreciated that it was to be used in close range against tanks, which presented a rather large target, so accuracy was not of paramount importance. And since it did not depend on kinetic energy, the penetration capability was the same at any distance. It could be fired from 100 meters or laid atop a tank, and still have the same penetration capability. This made the shaped charge a formidable close-range anti-tank infantry weapon.

Theory of shaped charge Solidier with Panzerfaust

The complete projectile had a diameter of 14cm (5.5in), measured 49.5cm (19.5in) long and weighed 2.9kg (6.39 lbs). The warhead weighed 800 grams (28 oz) and was made up of a 50:50 mix of TNT and RDX. The Panzerfaust projectile used in the 30, 60, 100 and 150 versions remained largely the same. Depending on which version of Panzerfaust, the projectile would travel at between speeds of 30 meters to 85 meters per second.

The Panzerfaust Cartridge
The Panzerfaust cartridge consisted mainly of a long hollow tube, which was filled with gun powder which acted as the propellant. It was percussion ignited, meaning it was similar to a bullet which used a firing pin to strike a flint which would cause a spark and ignite the gun powder. The resulting gases would then push the Panzerfaust projectile outward, thrusting it forward with kinetic energy. The backblast of the weapon was very hazardous and could seriously injure a bystander standing behind up to three meters away. Safety regulations required a backward clearance space of at least 10 meters, otherwise the fiery gases can be deflected back, causing serious burns on the back and shoulders.

A simple aiming mechanism was fitted atop the cartridge. This was a simple sighting lever, which was lifted and snapped into position before use. The lever had a series of sighting holes laid in a vertical manner, to help in ranging the distance to the target. For example, the Panzerfaust 100 had sighting holes for 30, 60, 80 and 150 meters. To fire at a target 30 meters away, the soldier would look through the 30 meter sight. If the target was 60 meters away, he would look through the 60 meter sight. Peering through these range sights would raise or lower the weapon according to distance, the higher the degree of elevation, the further the projectile would travel. To prevent against accidental firing, the trigger was secured with a safety switch.

Backblast Field training
The backblast offset the need for recoil action, making the weapon easy to operate. An instructor provides field training, as the bored soldiers look on.

 Combat Service

The Panzerfaust was considered a simple and easy weapon to use, which had the advantage that almost any soldier could pick one up and operate. The adverse effect was that due to its simplicity, training on the proper use of the weapon had never been emphasized. The operating instructions printed on the weapon were deemed to be sufficient under the circumstances, which caused many mishaps due to wrong handling. A warning was printed in large red letters on the tube, “Achtung! Feuerstrahl!” (Caution! Fire Jet!).

In total, the production and delivery of all versions of the Panzerfaust ran into the millions. The most widely issued version was the Panzerfaust 60. Although it was later superceded with the Panzerschreck, it remained in use up to the end of the war. Development was discontinued after the war. The weapon was transported in wooden crates, each crate containing four weapons.

The Panzerfaust proved its worth on many battlefields and saw service on virtually all fronts. During the final Battle of Berlin, many units were issued with Panzerfausts and told to stop Russian tanks. The modern version today is known as the RPG, or rocket propelled grenade.

The different models were :-
Panzerfaust 30 introduced October 1943.
Panzerfaust 60 introduced September 1944. This was the most widely used version.
Panzerfaust 100 introduced November 1944.
Panzerfaust 150 introduced in small numbers in March 1945. It featured a pistol grip and reuseable cartridge tube.
Panzerfaust 250 was a reloadable version which was under development when the war ended.

Panzerfaust in wooden crates Distributing Panzerfausts More photos More photos
Panzerfausts were transported in wooden crates, each box containing four weapons. Panzerfausts being distributed on the front lines. More action photos More action photos

BU 181 with Panzerfausts under the wing
This BU-181 was transformed into an anti-tank role with a pair of panzerfausts mounted on each wing. This experiment was quickly discontinued.


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