Monday 26 December 2016

2 cm KwK 38 Penetration Tables

By 1941, the PzII wasn't exactly a top of the line tank, and its firepower left much to be desired. These instructions reveal how to squeeze the most out of a gun that hasn't aged well. 

The tank has three types of ammunition:
  • Pz: armour piercing
  • HK: "hard core" subcaliber armour piercing (not to be used at a range of over 250 meters)
  • Sp: high explosive
The tank silhouettes are labelled as follows:
  • Solid black: destructive effect
  • Shaded black: hindering effect
  • White: no effect
Otherwise, the advice is largely the same as in the Pak 40 instructions.

Against the Valentine, there isn't much the 2 cm KwK 38 can do. Firing at the gun mantlet, machinegun port, and driver's slit is bound to have some effect, but the only guaranteed damage is APCR straight to the back of the turret. Firing HE at the engine deck might start an engine fire. Interestingly enough, the tracks aren't indicated as a weak point. Presumably 20 mm HE shells are not powerful enough to break them.

Against the Churchill, the idea is the same: hammer away at anything there shrapnel can make it through to jam mechanisms or injure the crew. You can try shooting underneath the tracks from the side or rear at close range, when the tank is at a strict right angle from you.

Against the M3 Lee, you have a few more offensive options. From the front, the area around the main gun is vulnerable to subcaliber ammunition, as is much of the side and rear. The Sherman, while invulnerable from the front, can also be penetrated at close range from the side and rear. At least, in theory, the notes below clarify that these are just calculations.

The T-34 (for some reason the three-periscope driver's hatch and two-periscope driver's hatch versions are separated) are much less vulnerable than the Sherman: you can only penetrate them by shooting at the lower hull, behind the wheels. KV tanks are completely invulnerable (barring engine fires from getting HE through the grille), as is the Matilda, which mysteriously migrated to the Soviet page instead of the British one.

CAMD RF 500-12480-138


  1. By early 1943 they were more likely to encounter Matildas in Soviet service than British...

  2. The problem with these manuals is that they use the penetration values for 30° at all times. It's also odd how this manual reads that the HK ammo shouldn't be used above 250m, while the manual for 20mm ammunition reads that only at 600m is the penetration lower than that of the regular AP ammo. The penetration values from the Encyclopedia of German Tanks of WW2, which generally has the correct German penetration data, also shows that at 500m the HK ammo penetrates more than AP.

    1. There are other factors that determine when to fire a certain kind of ammo than penetration. Almost every manual will tell you to hold your fire with APCR until the enemy is as close as possible because tungsten is very expensive and you want to be 100% sure that you will hit your target. In the case of the anaemic penetration of the 20 mm gun, you will want to aim at weak spots even with the extra penetration, hence the instruction to fire from a very close range.