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"50-mm Antitank Gun (German)" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Intelligence report on the German 50-mm antitank gun encountered in North Africa, from the Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on foreign tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data on German tactics and equipment is available in postwar publications.]




In the summer of 1941 the German Army replaced its 37-mm antitank gun with the 50-mm, model 38. To date the 50-mm has proved one of the most effective antitank guns that the Germans have at their disposal. Armor-piercing projectiles fired in this gun weigh 4 pounds 9 ounces, and have been known to pierce the armor of British infantry and cruiser tanks as well as that of U.S. light and medium tanks. The gun has proved especially effective in jamming tank turrets by hits at the junction of the turret and hull. These hits fuze the metal of the two parts together and immobilize the turret.

This gun usually is mounted on a split-trail carriage with a shield of spaced armor plate. It is generally towed by a half-track, and has a third wheel which can be attached to the spade piece on the trail for manhandling the piece into position.

[German 50-mm Antitank Gun]
German 50-mm Antitank Gun.

The Germans manufacture a self-propelled version of this gun. Also, the gun is commonly mounted in their Mark III tanks. When used in a Mark III tank, it can be fired electrically, instead of by percussion, and is used without a muzzle brake.

The 50-mm antitank gun fires armor-piercing shells, high-explosive shells, and armor-piercing 40 shot. This last has a windshield (light, streamlined nose) and a tungsten carbide core. It gives a good armor-piercing performance at 500 yards. Incidentally, the latest type of armor-piercing shell also has a wind-shield.


Muzzle velocity (AP) . . . . . 2,740fs
     "(AP 40) . . . . . 3,940fs
     "(HE) . . . . . 1,800fs
Maximum range (AP) . . . . . 1,540yds
     "(AP 40) . . . . . 770yds
     "(HE) . . . . . 2,640yds
Effective range (AP) . . . . . 1,000yds
     "(AP 40) . . . . . 500yds
     "(HE) . . . . . 2,000yds
Number of grooves . . . . . 21
Twist . . . . . 1turn in 32 cals
Rate of fire . . . . . 16rounds per min
Total weight of gun . . . . . 1,626lbs
Depression . . . . . 18°
Elevation . . . . . 27°
Traverse . . . . . 65°


a. Tube

The tube is of monobloc construction with a muzzle brake attachment, and is 111.25 inches long without the breech ring.

b. Recoil System

The recoil system consists of a hydropneumatic recuperator and oil buffer.

c. Breech Mechanism

The breech mechanism is of the horizontal sliding-block type. It works semiautomatically, and also can be worked by hand.

d. Safety Arrangements

Unless the sliding breech block is properly closed, the safety plunger will not enter its recess in the lower face of the breech ring, and the gun cannot be fired.

If the safety plunger is not in its recess, the firing shaft cannot be turned.

If the firing pin is not in the cocked position, the breech cannot be opened, since the firing shaft is engaged with the safety plunger, which is in its recess.

e. Firing Mechanism

The firing mechanism is operated from the elevating gear handwheel. It is a push-button attached to a wire cable which actuates a lug on the cradle. This, in turn, actuates the firing plunger upward on to the firing shaft of the breech mechanism.

[Details of the German 50-mm Antitank Gun]
Details of the German 50-mm Antitank Gun.

f. Sights

The firing bracket is mounted on the left trunnion, and either a telescopic sight or an open sight can be used. The sight bracket has lateral deflection gear, a range drum, and means of adjustment for azimuth and elevation. The telescopic sight is of three-power magnification.

[Details of the German 50-mm Antitank Gun]
Details of the German 50-mm Antitank Gun.

The range drum is so calibrated that when the maximum range for armor-piercing shell (1,540 yards) is reached, the gun automatically is sighted for high explosive, beginning with 330 yards and going up to a maximum of 2,640 yards.

g. Elevating Mechanism

The elevating gear is operated by a handwheel on the left side of the carriage. It allows 27 degrees for elevation and 18 degrees for depression.

h. Carriage

The gun has a spaced armor-plate shield composed of 2-mm to 4-mm plates about 1 inch apart. It has spoked wheels of a light alloy, with solid rubber tires. A third wheel can be attached to the spade piece so that the gun can be moved by hand.


Type Weight of
Length Weight of
Fuze Identifying
AP tracer shell  9 lbs. 3 oz   21.4 in   4 lbs. 9 oz   Base   Black projectile.
HE shell  7 lbs. 3 oz   23.7 in   3 lbs. 15 oz   Nose   Dark green projectile.
AP 40 shot _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  2.025 lbs   None   Black projectile.

Type shell Range Angle Compact Penetration
AP shell 250 yds  30°  Plate-hardened to same
degree throughout.
 60 mm (2.36")
AP shell 1,300 yds   Normal  Same  60 mm (2.36")
Unconfirmed on AP 40 330 yds  20°  Same  90 mm (3.54")
440 yds  20°  Same  64 mm (2.54")
NOTE.—The above tests were fired with a limited supply of ammunition and the results probably represent underestimates.


The crew consists of the gun commander, No. 1 (gunner), No. 2 (loader and firer), Nos. 3 and 4 (ammunition handlers), and No. 5 (chauffeur).

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