Early in the fighting of World War 2 (1939-1945), the German Army (the "Wehrmacht"), enjoyed relatively steady success against enemy armor by relying on a stock of 37mm and 50mm towed anti-tank guns. These were relatively light and portable by beasts-of-burden or tow vehicles and could be pulled / repositioned over short distances by its gunnery crew. However, all that changed in 1941 when enemy armor protection began to increase to the point that the existing weapons offered little against such types as the Soviet T-34 Medium Tank series. This resulted in heavier, larger-caliber weapons being required for the tank-killing role.
However, this was not an overly sound solution for infantry companies as the bigger guns were restricted in their tactical flexibility - they could not be repositioned on-the-spot by gunnery crews nor easily walked over short distances to new positions. As such, the German military sought a new solution in 1943 and called for a lighter anti-tank gun capable of defeating the new generation of enemy tanks. A low-propellant charge was expected for the projectile and accuracy out to 750 meters was requested. The result of this initiative became the little known "8cm PAW 600", a short-lived anti-tank weapon destined to not see any combat service in the latter half of the war.
The 8cm PAW 600 was developed by the storied concern of Rheinmetall from 1943 to 1944. The completed system weighed 1,410lb and the overall length measured 9 feet, 8 inches. A crew of six was required for optimal function. The official caliber was 81.4mm with the breech accessed by way of a vertical block arrangement. A hydropneumatic recoil mechanism kept the artillery piece in place after each firing, further aiding in the weapon's accuracy. The gun tube sat atop a basic mounting system and was capped by a large, slotted muzzle brake. The mounting hardware offered some traverse and elevation functionality and was straddled by a pair of spoked road wheels for ground transportation.
A basic, three-sided gunshield was affixed to the frontal arc of the weapon to provide some basic protection to the firing crew. Other than this, the crew was completely exposed to the elements and battlefield hazards.
The weapon held an elevation span of -6 to +32 degrees as it was a line-of-sight field gun by design. Traversal was limited to 55 degrees to either side from centerline. Muzzle velocity reached 1,706 feet-per-second with effectiveness out to 750 meters out to a maximum of 6,220 yards (though with reduced effectiveness in the latter).
The PAW 600 was unique in that it utilized a shaped charge projectile fired from a smoothbore barrel assembly. The entire system was based on the proven form and function of the 8cm Granatwerfer 34 series infantry mortar (detailed elsewhere on this site) and this design approach allowed existing mortar factories to transition to making these new guns in quantity without too much modification of the lines. The shells were good against 140mm of armor thickness out to 750 meters.
Production of the gun began in December of 1944 and ended in March of 1945 resulting in 250 to 260 specimens completed under the official German Army designation of "8H63". However, the series arrived too late to see action in the Grand Conflict as the Germans capitulated in May of 1945 to end the war in Europe.
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