Monday 27 May 2013

F-34 vs German Tanks

Many sources point to the gun of the T-34 as a weakness, as it was incapable of harming a Tiger at over 500 meters. While this is true, it is misleading. While the T-34's 76.2 mm F-34 AP shell was, indeed, not very good against a Tiger, it was much more than enough against the overwhelming majority of German tanks. This article contains the results of testing its AP and HE shells. The "Report on the shooting of German tanks with AP and HE shells from tank guns" (CAMD RF 38-11355-832) contains the data we need.

First up, as always, is the Pz 38(t). The first shot is fired from 800 meters, with a devastating effect. The 76 mm shell penetrates the turret platform from the front, tears off the front plate, and shatters it into pieces. The fragments then enter the crew compartment.

The testers switch to an HE shell. They fire at the front of the tank hull from 800 meters. The front plate is bent by 40 mm. The welding seam holding it front plate burst (300 mm in length). The two front wheel carriers are torn off (each is held on by 4 bolts). 12 bolts popped off the front armour plate.

The next shell is aimed at the front of the turret from the same distance. The front armour plate is torn off in an area right of the gun. Fragments of the front plate enter the turret. The next shot is aimed at what's left of the turret platform from 900 meters. The remainder of the front plate is shattered by the HE shell, and the pieces fall inside the tank.

Another shot from 800 meters, this time at the side. A 200 mm breach is formed in the outer armour plate, 300 mm breach in the inner one. A shot from 950 meters makes a breach 100 mm in diameter, and results in 90 mm long cracks running through the side armour.

The next target is the side of the turret, from 950 meters. The turret is torn off, and displaced 150 mm. The turret ring is destroyed. The right side of the turret is destroyed.

The next target for the F-34 is the PzIII. The loader switches back to AP. The gunner fires from 900 meters. The front armour is penetrated (entrance diameter 120 mm, exit diameter 165 mm). The tank's gearbox is destroyed. Notice the large diameter of the breach compared to the shell's caliber. This is a sign of over-hardened or poor quality armour.

The next target, again from 900 meters, is the sloped portion of the front armour. The armour plate is fragmented in an area up to one meter away from the breach. The welding seam holding the plate bursts over a length of 1.5 meters. The armour fragments enter the crew compartment.

Another shot from 900 meters, this time from the side. A torsion bar limiter is torn off. A hatch is torn off. The tire of one of the wheels is torn off.

The testers switch back to HE. The first shot from 900 meters shatters the left side of the turret platform over a span of one meter. Another shot makes a breach in the lower hull 240 mm in diameter, as well as a breach 300 mm in diameter in the bottom of the PzIII. An idler is knocked off. The gas tank is punctured.

Another shot makes a 400 mm breach in the side of the tank, knocks out the rear wheel shock absorber, and damages the engine and radiator with the fragments. Another shot at the right side of the turret tears off the turret hatch, destroys the turret ring, and bends the side armour by 60 mm. Fragments of the armour "damage everything inside the turret". The last shot bends the side armour by 50 mm, tears off the right side of the turret platform, and shatters it into three pieces.

Conclusions: "The 76 mm AP shell penetrates the 60 mm of front armour at 900 meters. We did not test larger distances. The 76 mm HE shell destroys the side armour and turret from 900 meters."

The PzIV is tested next. Its front armour is penetrated at 500 meters (entrance diameter 90 mm, exit diameter 100 mm). From 800 meters, another penetration. The front armour plate is shattered into two pieces. Another shot from 800 meters penetrates the front. The testers switch to firing at the side at 800 meters.

The side is penetrated. The 20 mm armour screen is torn off the bolts that hold it. The shell keeps going, and penetrates the other side of the hull, and its armour screen. Total penetration is 80 mm. Another shell penetrates the side, but only one side this time. It knocks off the wheel carrier.

The gunner aims at the turret. The hatch of the turret is torn off with a direct hit. The side of the turret bends inwards 50 mm. Another shot impacts the commander's cupola, tearing it off, and throwing it 5 meters. The hatches on top of the cupola are also torn off, and thrown 30 meters. Another shot to the side of the hull forms a 130 by 350 mm breach.

Conclusions: "The 76 mm AP shell can penetrate the front of a PzIV at 900 meters. We did not test larger distances. The 76 mm HE shell destroys the side of the turret and hull at any range."

From conclusions of the document:
"The 76 mm long-range HE-fragmentation steel grenade fired from a 76 mm gun (F-34) model 1940 installed in a T-34 tank, on impact with the Czechoslovakian 38t tank, side or rear 30-20 mm German tanks PzIII, StuG, and PzIV, destroys armour plates from 1000 meters, damaging the tank and crew with the fragments.
The 76 mm AP shell, when fired from a 76 mm gun (F-34) model 1940, penetrates the front armour of German tanks PzIII, PzIV, and Pz 38(t) from 800-1000 meters. The penetration ability from over 1000 meters was not checked.
The 76 mm model 1940 (F-34) gun is an effective weapon against all German tanks, based on its AP penetration and HE shell destructive properties."

According to calculations of NII-48 in topic 2VV-2 "Investigation of the armour of tanks of the German army" (CAMD RF 38-11355-778), the following are the distances at which an F-34 can defeat the armour of a Pz 38(t):

  • 90 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 1970 meters
    • Turret platform front: 1970 meters
  • 80 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 1970 meters
    • Turret platform front: 1940 meters
  • 70 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 1900 meters
    • Turret platform front: 1860 meters
  • 60 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 1690 meters
    • Turret platform front: 1600 meters
  • 50 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 1320 meters
    • Turret platform front: 1250 meters
  • 40 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 880 meters
    • Turret platform front: 840 meters
  • 30 degrees
    • Turret and hull front: 490 meters
    • Turret platform front: 420 meters
Tactical diagram for a Pz38(t). The F-34 is shown as the double dotted line (front only)

For the PzIII, a much larger number of armour groups was tested, to the point where it would be massively inconvenient to transcribe the full chart (if you absolutely must have it, let me know), but here it is for a slightly angled tank, at 80 degrees:
  • Upper front plate: 800 meters
  • Lower front plate: 1800 meters
  • Turret platform front: 1970 meters
  • Turret front: 1970 meters
  • Upper rear: 1940 meters
  • Middle rear: 1900 meters
  • "All other parts of the tank can be penetrated with a 76 mm AP shell at any distance, at any angle". 
The conclusions made are as follows: "The protection from 76 mm AP shells is unacceptable. Even its front is penetrable at 900-1200 meters when standing at 45 degrees, and exposing many more vulnerable parts."

Tactical diagram for a PzIII tank. The F-34 is shown as a dotted line for the front and back.

For a PzIV, similar conclusions (again, at 80 degrees):
  • Side with armour screen: 2000 meters
  • Turret and hull front: 1970 meters
  • Turret platform front: 1970 meters
  • "All other parts of the tank can be penetrated with a 76 mm AP shell at any distance, at any angle".
The conclusions made are as follows: "The protection from 76 mm AP shells is unacceptable. Even its front is penetrable at 1100 meters when standing at 45 degrees, and exposing many more vulnerable parts."

Tactical diagram for the PzIV tank. The F-34 is shown as a dotted line for the front and sides.

The same table is made for a StuG III, but only the front armour plate. The result is the same as a PzIII: vulnerable at 1970 meters, 1100 meters at a 45 degree angle.

CAMD RF 38-11355-776, a NII-48 article on domestic armour quality, also discusses experimental HEAT shells. These shells were capable of penetrating 30 mm of medium hardened armour and 45 mm of highly hardened armour at a distance of 1600 meters, at every tested angle (maximum tested was 45 degrees).


  1. Soviet 76.2 mm guns were not really meant for anti-tank use by their designs. Their high explosive rounds can actually contain more explosive than 75 mm guns on the Shermans.

  2. But it does not say what version of Pz III and IV was tested ?

    1. Seems to be early to middle versions, from other articles I read.

  3. It seems nothing, no variants could very well mean very thinly armored late 30's armor thicknesses for these vehicles also apart from variant I'd like to know what the russians measured as the armor thickness because previous to Barbarossa ( in preparation of in fact) the German tanks received up armoring from their 30mm tanks (Pz38t's, Pz III, & IV's) were thickened to 30mm+30mm and newer variants were a single plate of 50mm thick steel THIS my good sirs makes a difference also when was this test conducted ? are there any pictures of the vehicles tested?

  4. can I get the full report regarding the Panzer III?? not sure how to contact you here's my email :

    1. My email is in the header:

  5. The point is that the soviet army is using a huge range of AP shells, and different types of ammunition could make a lot of difference in penetrating power(For example the latter BR-250B series, introduced in 1942, has at least 10mm more penetration than the BR-350A).

    1. The 76 mm shell used is indicated as "blueprint 206519". Unfortunately, I don't know what the army nomenclature for this type of shell is.

  6. The 76mm was uncapped, right?
    If this presumption is hold correct than little can be made out of larger than projectile cal holing event because the projectile smashed itselfe apart while impacting the plate, greatly spreading mass over a larger impact area, thus generating a larger breach than would have been done by a more rigid penetrator.

    German testers used uncapped projectiles to test specifically the ductility of the plates and capped AP to test ultimate resistence of plates. Capped AP always left smaller holes than uncapped because the former projectile usually (within a certain obliquity and velocity realm) stayed intact while the former did not unless of exceptional quality (some experimental trial projectiles only).

    It´s possible that the soviets in absence of access to rigid penetrating projectiles focussed on developing armor with higher standarts or properties to better resist these smashing impacts of their own ammunition. It´s actually very sensible to presume this because You test vs Your own stuff in absence of knowledge what the other has. If so, it doesn´t hold true that this was also the best armor to protect vs the more focussed attack of rigid penetrators protected by a AP cap.
    800m as limit for the 76.2mm soviet AP to perforate 60mm RHA is a fairly poor performance. The german re-engineered capped AP manufactured specially for captured soviet 76.2mm guns (f.e. for MARDER SPG) was capable of penetrating this thickness at more than twice the range (reliably defeating 80mm RHA at 1500m)...
    So while a smashing attack may be impressive in terms of surface damage and a spectacular event to write about, it´s not the best way to attack a plate and wastes a lot of energy which could be better used for longer range penetration.

    That being said, it´s entirely true that against 76.2mm the armor of Pz III and Pz IV as intiially fielded 1942 was too much on the thin side.