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"New Hollow-Charge Antitank Grenade for Close Combat" from Tactical and Technical Trends

Review of the German hollow-charge antitank rockets Faustpatronen (Gretchen and Panzerfaust), and Ofenrohr (Panzerschreck) including tables of issue and tactics, from Tactical and Technical Trends, October 1944.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German weapons and equipment is available in postwar publications.]



The new German Faustpatrone, a recoilless antitank hollow-charge grenade with expendable launcher, designed as a basic close-combat antitank weapon, is the latest German development in close-combat antitank matériel. The tables of issue give 36 to each rifle company, and a total of 2,000 to the infantry division. The Ofenrohr (German "bazooka," also called Panzerschreck) remains the basic close-combat weapon of the regimental antitank company.

Close-combat antitank methods and matériel are strongly emphasized by the German Army as a result of experience on the Eastern front. Their dependence on these methods is now increased by United Nations supremacy in the air and superiority in fire power, which interdict effective employment. of German antitank guns, forcing them to be sited with more consideration for cover than would normally be the case. This air and fire power hamper fulfillment of antitank-gun missions and cause heavy losses in crews and matériel. Antitank close-combat matériel then becomes still more important to the Germans, not only for defense, but to maintain the morale of German troops in the face of Allied armor.

During 1943 and 1944 the Germans still showed ingenuity and resourcefulness in adapting their tactics and matériel to changing conditions, in learning from their opponents, and in making the best of limitations. Prompt adoption of a German version of the U. S. "bazooka" (the Ofenrohr) and the subsequent development of the two models of Faustpatronen are examples.

Antitank close combat, which has been discussed before both in this publication and in the Intelligence Bulletin, lends itself to many variations in organization, equipment, and method, according to local conditions, the matériel available, and the ingenuity and aggressiveness of the troops.

As an example of the need for adaptability, the Germans used smoke grenades successfully on the Eastern front to blind opposing tanks, but the Soviets, after first making the error of stopping, learned to drive right through the smoke, preferring the risk of what might be on the other side of the cloud to the certainty of attack if they came to a halt.

The Ofenrohr (also called Panzerschreck, and described in the May 1944 issue of Tactical and Technical Trends) is a basic weapon of the regimental antitank company, in which two platoons may each have 18 Ofenrohr.


The smallest tactical unit for employment of this weapon is the section of three launchers. These are usually sited close behind the infantry positions, on which they depend for close protection. If the terrain is open, the launcher subsections may be sited in an irregular line so that there is not more than 130 yards between weapon pits. Thus, even if one crew is knocked out, there will be no gap in the defense, since the area can still be covered from the two nearest pits.

A section is sited well forward of the infantry positions only when it is absolutely certain that tanks will be encountered, since in forward positions the section is too vulnerable to patrols or unexpected attacks. In this case the pits are carefully camouflaged.

According to German doctrine, if tanks come within range of two launchers at once, both should engage simultaneously, partly to make certain of a kill, and partly to insure that each subsection does not leave the target to the other.

The weapon pit has three parts, a firing trench, a loading trench, and a shelter trench. The section consists normally of two men, No. 1 firing the launcher and No. 2 serving as loader. Sometimes a second-in-command and a runner may be added, the runner carrying ammunition from the rear, and both replacing casualties and engaging crews from damaged tanks. The section may also be equipped with either model of the Faustpatrone and the usual variety of close-combat antitank equipment, such as magnetic hollow-charges, smoke grenades, Molotov cocktails, sliding mines, pole charges, plus sub-machine guns, pistols, rifles, and hand grenades.

The 88-mm rocket launcher (Püppchen), with breechblock and wheels, described in the August 1944 issue of this publication, should not be confused with the Ofenrohr, even though both fire the same ammunition. Püppchen is not a close-combat weapon, it has a range reported at 700 yards as against 200 yards for the Ofenrohr, and it sometimes replaces some of the antitank guns in the division anti-tank battalion.

The antitank rifle in its original form is entirely obsolete, though an attempt was made to increase its effectiveness by modifying it permanently to launch an antitank hollow-charge grenade. The race between armor and armament has brought about the use of increasingly larger projectiles and an increase in muzzle velocity in some weapons to increase penetration. But the development of the hollow-charge principle has enabled the effective use of low-velocity weapons against tanks. With the hollow-charge principle the penetration is independent of the velocity, because the effect depends on concentrating the explosive force in a jet.


The German tables of issue for close-combat antitank weapons to various units are heavy, especially in the case of the recoilless antitank grenade with launcher as far down as companies.

The Ofenrohr is issued as follows:

1. Tank-destroyer battalion with antitank guns and close-combat antitank weapons (Panzer-Zerstörer Bataillon), 216.

2. Infantry divisions, light divisions, and mountain divisions, 130, of which 22 are kept in reserve, and 18 are issued to each of 2 platoons of the regimental antitank companies.

3. Armored divisions, Panzergrenadier divisions, GHQ troops, and corps units are not equipped with this weapon.

4. Ammunition is issued at a basic rate of 10 per "bazooka," replacements being allotted as necessity requires.

The Faustpatronen are issued on a very heavy scale:

1. Infantry divisions, light divisions, and mountain divisions: To each infantry, light, mountain, and engineer company, 36; to each antitank company, 18; to each artillery battery, 12; to other units, 18 per company; total, 2,000 for the infantry division.

2. Panzergrenadier division, 1,500.

3. Armored division, 1,000.

4. GHQ units, 70 per battalion.

5. Corps units, 50 each.

The order in which units are to be equipped with these weapons is as listed above. (For example, the infantry, light, and mountain divisions, have priority over the Panzergrenadier divisions.) It should be borne in mind, however, that the present state of German supply will result in many inconsistencies in issue and in deviations from the established scale.

It appears that "bazookas" have been ordered withdrawn from rifle companies and replaced by either of the two models of the Faustpatrone.

There are two models of the Faustpatrone, the Faustpatrone 1, also called the Gretchen; and the Fauspatrone 2, also called the Panzerfaust. The literal translation of Faustpatrone is "fist cartridge."

Both are hollow-charge grenades, and easily fired by one man. The grenades and launchers are identical in operation and similar in design, except that the Gretchen is somewhat smaller than the Panzerfaust (see figure). Both of these weapons have a maximum range of less than 50 yards, but improved models with longer ranges may be encountered. Penetrations are claimed by the Germans of 5.5 inches (140-mm) for the Gretchen and 7.9 inches (200-mm) for the Panzerfaust, although it is estimated that the penetration of the latter is actually no more than 6.5 inches (165-mm).

[Recoilless antitank grenades, with launchers.]
Recoilless antitank grenades, with launchers.

[Grenade cross-sections: Gretchen (above), Panzerfaust (below).]
Grenade cross-sections: Gretchen (above), Panzerfaust (below).

The weapons consist of two main parts, a simple launching tube with a sight and firing mechanism, and a hollow-charge grenade with wooden tail and spring-steel fins. The weight (grenades only) of the Panzerfaust is 6 pounds 14 ounces; the Gretchen, 3 pounds 9 ounces.

Outstanding features of these weapons:

1. Absence of recoil, which is neutralized by the escape of part of the propellant gases to the rear — on the same principle as the Germans' airborne guns.

2. A comparatively large projectile for the weight and size of the launcher.

3. Simplicity of operation and design.

4. The low velocity of the grenade does not lessen its effectiveness, because of the hollow-charge principle.

The expendable launching tubes of thin steel, open at both ends, contain the propelling charge, which is fired by percussion. Attached to the top of the tube is a bracket which contains a bolt for cocking the firing mechanism, and at the front end a release button and simple folding sight.

The grenades have thin steel heads containing the hollow charge. The filler is believed to be Cyclotol (Cyclonite and TNT). The outside of the wooden tail unit is provided with spring-steel fins. One end of each fin is so attached to the tail that it may be wrapped around the tail for loading in the launching tube.

The grenade may be launched from standing, kneeling, or prone positions. The operator must always wear a steel helmet, and immediately after firing must take cover to avoid being hit by splinters. Since a 6-foot jet of flame shoots from the rear of the tube on firing, a firing position must be so chosen that there will be no walls or other obstructions to this stream.

In firing, the tube is taken under the right arm, the left hand supporting the tube about 2 inches from the front end.

The weapon is then sighted over the top of the sight and the top edge of the grenade.

The fuse safety pin is pulled out, and the striker is cocked by pushing the lock forward until the striker is set and the release button emerges. The lock then slides back into its original position, and the release button is pressed, discharging the grenade.

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