‘Rifle on Steroids’: How the Tankgewehr became the First Tank-Killing Weapon

During WWI the German Army was sorely pressed to develop a counter weapon after the British and French began unveiling their first armoured vehicles to break the stalemate in trench warfare on the European battlefields, coming up with what would become the first “anti-tank rifle”.

Just nine months after the appearance of the first British and French tanks on the battlefields of World War I – relatively lightly armored and designed to protect crews only against small-arms fire – Germany rose to the challenge and gave its infantry a man-portable anti-tank weapon.

​Munitions manufacturer Waffenfabrik Mauser AG came up with what is credited as the first antitank rifle in 1917: the Mauser 13.2mm Tank Abwehr Gewehr Model 18, known simply as the Tankgewehr. Mass production was launched at Oberndorf am Neckar in May 1918.

An upscaled bolt-action rifle based on the Mauser action, it was a single-shot weapon that required manual loading each tip, and sported a pistol grip and bipod.

The rifle also had a brutal recoil, so that shooting multiple rounds was quite a feat.

​The rifle was developed initially as a stopgap measure, writes Michigan-based writer Peter Suciu for The National Interest.

Originally, a dual-purpose machine gun had been planned, chambered for the TuF cartridge, to be used against tanks and aircraft.

However, swift action required something that would be less complicated to produce and deploy, hence the far simpler bolt-action weapon.

The only anti-tank…

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