Monday 15 April 2013

Axis Guns vs German Tanks

In order to determine if it is worth using a captured tank, it must be tested against other captured tanks. This article covers tests of German armour against guns used by the Wehrmacht and the armies of Axis minors.

In the 1942 report on trials of captured, domestic, and Lend-Lease vehicles (CAMD RF 38-11355-832), which you should all be familiar with by now, a number of such tests are described.

First, the LT vz 38, or PzKpfw 38(t), shoots at the StuG III.

At 100 meters, the 37 mm shell makes a 40 mm dent, but does not penetrate. At 50 mm, the formed is the same depth. Another shot from 50 meters, this time with an uncapped shell, makes a dent only 22 mm deep. Firing at the side from 850 meters, the Pz38(t) penetrates 3 times in a row. The diameter of the hole is 40 mm, which indicates ductile armour.

Subcaliber shells are loaded. From the same 850 meters, the shell hits a 10 mm screen, and breaks up. The main 30 mm armour plate has "an insignificant scratch" on it. Firing at the 30 mm armour with no screen, the shell fails to penetrate again. The core got stuck in the armour plate. Closing in to 400 meters, and firing at the screened armour, the shell only manages to make a 2 mm dent in the main armour plate.

The Pz38(t) starts firing at the front again. From 100, 200, and 400 meters, the subcaliber shell penetrates the front of the StuG. The diameters of the hole range from 15-18 mm.

Conclusions: "The 37 mm armour piercing shell does not penetrate the front 50 mm plate from any distance. The 37 mm armour piercing shell penetrates the side 30 mm plate from 850 meters. The subcaliber 37 mm shell penetrates the front from 400 meters. The subcaliber shell does not penetrate the 30 mm side armour."

Next is another captured and re-captured tank, the S35 Somua. Its 47 mm gun faces off against a StuG.

At 100 meters, it penetrates the front. Same at 250 meters. The diameter of the holes ranges from 45-55 mm. Another shot at 250 meters does not penetrate the front, but makes a 45 mm dent. Inside, an armour fragment equal to the shell caliber was knocked out. At 400 meters, the Somua penetrates once (next to the armour plate edge) and bounces off once, after making a 25 mm dent.

Conclusions: "The 47 mm AP shell penetrates the front from up to 300 meters."

Finally, we have two honest Germans facing off: a PzIII firing at a StuG.

At 100 meters, the shell penetrates. Hole diameter is 80 mm at the entrance, 60 mm at the exit. At 250 meters, the result is the same, with 50 mm on entrance, and 45 mm on exit. At 400 meters: 60 mm and 55 mm. Another shot from 400 meters penetrates the lower armour plate. At 700 meters, the shell penetrates the front of the StuG three times, with entrance diameters of 55 mm and exit diameters of 50-60 mm. At 800 meters, the shell penetrates the front plate, and gets stuck. An armour fragment 200 mm in diameter is knocked off on the inside

Conclusions: "The 50 mm armour piercing shell, fired from the 50 mm gun on the PzIII penetrates the 50 mm armour of a StuG at 800 meters."

In this test, you can also see that the StuG's ductile armour starts spalling once hit with a lot of kinetic energy, even if it doesn't crack like the Pz38(t) did previously.

That's it for the guns tested. The conclusions describe the shell condition after impact:
"The 37 mm German shell for the Czechoslovak 37 mm gun makes a 40 mm dent in a 50 mm armour plate at 50 meters. Without a ballistic cap, it makes a dent of 22 mm. Either way, the shell is fully destroyed.
The 47 mm German shell for the 47 mm French gun penetrates 50 mm of armour from 100 and 250 meters. The shell is not destroyed. The tip of the shell, in most cases, retains its shape.
The 50 mm German shell for the 50 mm German gun penetrates 50 mm of armour from 100 meters to 800 meters. The shell is not destroyed."

Next, let's take a look at the bigger German guns, fighting bigger German tanks. First up is the PaK 43, against a Tiger II.

"Shot #21. Target: upper front plate. Distance: 400 m. Dent 360 mm by 130 mm, 90 mm deep. A 510 mm by 160 mm fragment of armour was knocked out on the inside. A 1700 mm crack formed through the existing breaches.

Shot # 23. Target: front of the turret. Distance: 400 m. The shell hit the gun sight opening. Penetration, 130 mm by 110 mm entrance, 110 mm by 90 mm exit. 150 mm by 115 mm fragment is torn off the armour. The shell exploded behind the armour.

Shot #24. Target: front of the turret. Distance: 400 m. The shell struck the side of an existing breach. A hole was formed 100 mm in radius at the entrance. 270 mm by 220 mm, 130 mm thick, fragment of armour broke off on the inside. The welding seams on the gun mount ruptured, and the gun mount flew off.

Shot #25. Target: front of turret. Distance: 400 m. The shot made an entrance breach 140 mm by 170 mm, breaking off a 40 mm by 190 mm, 35 mm deep, fragment off the rear side. The rear of the turret has a hole 70 mm by 90 mm. The following welding seams burst: left turret side and turret rear, 600 mm in length, left turret side and turret roof, 950 mm in length, turret rear and turret roof, 450 mm in length, left side of the turret and turret roof (close to front), 500 mm in length, turret front and turret roof, 800 mm in length, turret front and left turret side, 200 mm in length."

Photo #26: The front of the turret penetrated by shots #23-25

Photo #27. The rear of the turret penetrated by shot #25.

"Shot #36. Target: lower front plate. Distance: 500 m. Shot hit an area damaged by shot #20. A breach 130 mm by 75 mm was found in a fragment of the hull that fell off."

The Tiger II's own gun (the KwK 43 was just a PaK 43 in a tank) seems to have trouble with the upper glacis, but spalling finishes the job, as always. The turret, however, is easily penetrated at 400 meters.

Next is the KwK 42, firing at the same Tiger II.

"Shots #26 and 27. Ricochet from the upper front plate into the turret.

Shot #28. Target: upper front plate. Distance: 100 m. The shot hit an area weakened by previous hits. A dent 280 mm by 110 mm was formed, 80 mm deep. As a result of cracks caused by previous shots, a 1500 by 1700 fragment of the hull fell off."

"Shot #29. Target: upper front plate. Distance: 100 m. Shell type: subcaliber. A 250 mm by 80 mm dent formed, 65 mm deep. Cracking from previous hits outlined a breach 730 mm by 600 mm."

Photo #29. Effect of a 75 mm subcaliber shell fired at 100 m.

Photo #30, indicating the section of the hull that fell off after shot #28. The ricochet from shot #29 is shown on the other side of the MG ball.

The Panther, despite its high velocity gun, cannot penetrate the front of a Tiger II, even after it has been weakened by numerous hits. Shots 26-29 do not even produce spalling, and half of them fail to do any damage at all, even to the perforated and cracked armour plate.


  1. This leads me to believe that the Germans tested their armor with German guns and when they found their guns didn't penetrate their armor, they were satisfied that no one else's would either.

    1. Seems possible. You'd think that they'd clue in on their metallurgy issues at some point otherwise.

    2. Withstanding its own gun at frontal arc is pretty universal "good enough" rule of thumb in tank design. Like KV-1, T-34-76, IS-1, IS-3, M4, M26. Great many non-upgunned tanks adhere to this. Even modern tanks strive to do this.

  2. were any tests of the german 75mm done against the frontal turret? ingame wot has UFP at ~212mm+ effective armor, and 75mm L70 APCR at ~194mm pen, so this fits. meanwhile, turret face is weaker.

  3. interesting article, I wish there were more pictures

  4. Regarding the test with the Tiger B


    According to page 42 from website Panzer War, this test is the same than the test quoted by website Achtung, Panzer ! as an evidence of the low quality of Tiger B's armour, and of the efficiency of either the 100 mm BS-3 and the 122 mm A-19 armour-piercing rounds against the Tiger B's armour.

    May I understand that the Red Army destroyed Tiger B's front armour with German rounds (Pzgr. 39/43 and Pzgr. 40/42), then pretended the job was made by Soviet rounds ? Or is it a mistake from website Panzer War ?

    For your own, you regarded, on March 2013, the two tests as different ones, or didn't see it was the same one, whereas photos suggest it is the same one.

    HELP !

    1. My link for your March 2013 article doesn't work. I hope that this one will do.

    2. In another article from your website (December 2014), someone commenting proved that the totally destroyed armour of a Ferdinand, allegedly having been destroyed by Soviet 152 mm shells only, in fact had been pierced and weakened by many Germam rounds – during Soviet tests – before collapsing.

      So my question is : could Soviet shells penetrate German tanks' heavy armours only after these armours had been destroyed by German shells ???

    3. Evidence it's the same test :

      This photograph from the page of Achtung, Panzer ! I already gave the link of. The same holes on the turret front, the same destruction on the glacis ; the only difference is that a few more shells have hitten this Tiger B on the photographs of your own article, here.

      So, before « testing » its own rounds, the Red Army had already destroyed the Tiger B… with Pzgr. 39/43's (German Tiger B's rounds) and with a few Pzgr. 40/42's (German Panther rounds, with carbonid tungsten core).

    4. « … the only difference is that a few more shells have hitten this Tiger B than [had hitten it] on the photographs of your own article, here. »

      Sorry for the mistake !

    5. The photograph from Achtung, Panzer shows the tank after the end of the test. I link to the full document with the Soviet test in the comments of the article IIRC, there every shot is numbered and the results recorded. The tank is also photographed after every shot. You can see that it is perfectly clean before the tests started, the assertion that it was destroyed before testing is ridiculous.

  5. For sure,saying that this tank was destroyed before the test would be ridiculous ! None says that !

    Yourr photographs show it was destroyed by Soviet tests with German Pzgr. 39/43's and German Pzgr. 40/42's – as long as you're answer means you agree that the Tiger B allegedly destroyed by Soviet 122 mm rounds had already been destroyed by German rounds.

    From the three Tiger B's taken by the Red Army during the Sandomierz Bulge battle, this one had been destroyed in tests, and another one is today displayed in Russia, near Moscow, in the Kubinka Tank Museum. Do you know its Fgst.Nr, please ?

    1. That is not the case. German rounds were not even fired at the Tiger B, they were fired at the Ferdinand.

      Two Tiger Bs were sent to Kubinka, one to be shot up, and one for mobility trials. I don't know the numbers, sorry.

  6. You probably can't read.

    German rounds pierced German armour.

    I had known of liars ; I had known of damned liars ; now I know you and your website.

    Don't know if I will comment anymore on your tankarchives lying collector. It's a kind of childish joke.

    Hope it is.

    Have a nice novel !

  7. The 75mm L70 PGr. 39 (PANTHERs KWK42) cannot be relied upon to penetrate the TIGER Ausf. B turret front. Rated penetration of this round at 920m/s velocity in german armour penetration tests communicated by WaPrüf (5 out of 5 times in a row with an intact projectile completely behind the plate, no failures allowed) was 185mm RHA (70 to 80kg/mm^2 tensile strength), dropping to 147mm RHA (~80kg/mm^2) at 30°, 90mm RHA (95-105kg/mm^2) at 45° and 60mm RHA(105-115kg/mm^2) at 60°.
    It´s close to the TIGER Ausf. B´s 180mm front, but the latter was not vertical but declined a bit (10°) and this rendered penetration unreliable.

    That being said, You may expect a couple of penetrations out of ten good quality shells fired in a row from a perfectly aligned target plate and with a gun without any muzzle wear.

    The 50° 150mm glacis plate cannot be penetrated by the 75mm (or 88mm, or 128mm), though as all homogenious armour that thick, it may be cracked or holed, depending on the circumstances.