Book Reviews: V22N6

By Dean Roxby

Tank Stopping Infantry Rifles: A Short History of Anti-Tank Rifles from 1918 to WWII

The group of rifles collectively known as Anti-Tank Rifles (ATR) are an intriguing class of firearms. They are from a brief period when the tank was very lightly armoured, allowing an oversized rifle to take them on.

Author Steven J. Zaloga covers the span of these rifles from the first ATR, the German Tankgewehr that appeared in 1918, to the Soviet PTRD and PTRS designs, both from 1941.

The book is divided into: Introduction, Development, Use, Impact, Conclusion and Further Reading.

This is the latest book in the Weapon Series from Osprey Publishing. As I noted in previous reviews, this ongoing series of titles covers a huge amount of weapons from the earliest battle implements (the title immediately preceding this is The Cavalry Lance, WPN 59) to the latest of infantry weapons.

As with other books from this series, it is a small booklet with a good deal of information within its 80 pages. It features many photographs from the 1930s and the early WWII era. Naturally, these are all B&W, given the age. There are several two-page color paintings depicting battle scenes also. These are illustrated by Johnny Shumate.

Within each chapter, Zaloga covers the various guns and nations that produced them in roughly chronological order. As expected, the German T-Gewehr is mentioned first. He also touches on the different approaches taken to defeating armour. During the 1930s, some designs went the tiny, high-speed bullet approach, while others went for the bigger bullet method.

The Polish wz. (wzor, or Model) 35 and several later types of German rifles are examples of the former, with 8mm bullets being driven to ultra fast velocities. The wz. 35 claims to go 1280m/s or 4200 fps. The Finnish Lahti L/39 and the Swiss Solothurn S 18-1000 went to the other extreme, firing the massive 20x138mmB round. This round was also used in the German FlaK 30 and 38 ground-based anti-aircraft cannons.

The development of the British .55 caliber Boys and the late-to-the-game Soviet 14.5mm PTRD and PTRS guns are covered also. The Boys section has a very nice color cutaway drawing of the inner workings of a Boys rifle by Alan Gilliland.

Lesser known designs are covered like the US .60 cal. T1E1 experimental, the Japanese 20mm Type 97 and the mighty Swiss 24mm Tankbusche 1941 (Tb 41). The Tb 41 was not really a true ATR, as it was far too heavy to be man-portable. It was mounted on a small two-wheel carriage, so it was actually light artillery. This puts it in the anti-tank gun class.

The Swiss Solothurn S 18-1000 mentioned above was actually considered for adoption by the US Army in 1940. However, “neutral” Switzerland was leaned on by neighbouring Germany to not sell or license production to the USA.

Near the end, there are several charts that lay out various dimensions in an orderly, easy-to-reference format. These charts are: Gun with caliber and size and weight; Cartridge size, designation, bullet weight and powder charge; and Penetration at 100 and 300 meters at 0 and 30 degrees impact.

Note that most dimensions throughout are in metric, not Imperial.

This book inspired me. While reading it, I found myself wishing I had a few more types of anti-tank rifles in my own gun collection. In fact, I do have a PTRD (https://www.smallarmsreview.com/display.article.cfm?idarticles=2180), and my father often talked about firing the Boys during his training during WWII. I remember my father saying he heard of a higher rank who, while giving a demo to some raw recruits, was pushed backwards by the recoil each time. The higher rank thought this wasn’t a good impression to give the recruits, so he laid prone with his feet braced against a tree and promptly broke his shoulder on the next shot!

ISBN: 9781472817228 (paperback version)
PAGES: 80, PAPERBACK, 7 ¼” x 9 ¾” (Also available as ePub and pdf)
USD: $20.00

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V22N6 (June 2018)
and was posted online on April 20, 2018


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