One of the key pieces of field artillery available to the Soviet Army during World War 2 (1939-1945) was the "76mm (76.2mm) Divisional Gun, M1942" - better known as the "ZiS-3". This caliber weapon would go on to become the standard Soviet anti-tank weapon of the war with production of the ZiS-3 gun series totaling over 100,000 units. Many soldiered on into the post-war years with adoption through Soviet allies and satellite states in time. Some remain in active service with armies today (2014) - though Soviet/Russian use was given up long ago. ZiS-3 guns fought in the Korean War (1950-1953) under the charge of North Korea, a long-time Soviet military customer.
The ZiS-3 was actually the culmination of work begun with the Model 1936 field gun which saw 2,844 units produced. Soviet authorities thought this weapon too heavy and too long for practical frontline service and revisions were undertaken in 1939 that naturally evolved the line. The modified design emerged with an overall lighter operating and travel weight as well as a shorter barrel assembly for more compactness. Production was reordered as "Model 1939".
The German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941 began the East Front and many Soviet guns, aircraft, tanks, and soldiers fell in the wake of the fast German-led Axis advance towards Moscow. During the ongoing fighting, the Model 1936 was pressed into service as an anti-tank gun beyond its field gun norm and it was found that the weapon's projectile could be of some use in slowing German armor down. The Germans, too, found the guns useful and reconstituted captured examples as their own under the 7.62cm PaK 36(r) and 7.62cm PaK 39(r) designations - "r" used to signify their Russian origins. While some were operated in their original 76.2mm forms, large stocks were sent to Germany to be retooled for local German ammunition. Other captured guns served on "Marder" gun carrier vehicles.
With the Germans slowed by winter and stretched supply lines, further production by the Soviets unveiled the ultimate 76.2mm gun of the war - the "Model 1942" (ZiS-3) of 1942 which retained the potent 76.2mm caliber. This gun served Red Army forces well, being excellent, reliable, and easy-to-maintain and operate battlefield weapons. Gunners could be quickly trained on the type and stability made for a sound gunnery platform. It easily tackled the first and second generation German tanks, up to the Panzer IV medium line, though the arrival of the heavier "Panther" (Panzer V) medium and "Tiger" and "King Tiger" heavy tanks meant that the usefulness of the ZiS-3 series was tested to the extreme when used in fontal attacks. Gunnery crews required some rather precision shots along key weak spots on these tanks to secure a notable hit. Their effectiveness in defeating the new German armor played better along the more vulnerable sides or rear of such tanks as the war progressed. Beyond its tank-killing role, the ZiS-3 also retained its field gun capabilities and could engage soft targets through use of High-Explosive (HE) projectiles - though only through line-of-sight function.
As designed, the ZiS-3 followed conventional practices of the. The long, slender barrel tube featured a double-baffled muzzle brake as well as an over-under, integrated recoil mechanism. The gun sat atop a two-wheeled, rubber-tired split-trail carriage system with tubular legs used in both bracing the weapon when firing and as the tow arms when hauled by mover vehicle. The wheels also allowed the crew to make more precise changes to the placement of the gun or even advance it over short distances. The mounting hardware allowed for inherent elevation ranges of +37 to -5 degrees to be attained. Traversal was 54-degrees from centerline. Protection was through a simple, angled gunshield ahead of the breach with cutouts in the panel for vision or optics.
A trained crew could fire up to 25 rounds-per-minute with ranges reaching 8.25 miles. As a field gun, the ZiS-3 was a direct line-of-sight weapon, meaning the target had to be visible as opposed to a howitzer which could lob projectiles onto the enemy. Overall weight of the complete system was 2,645lbs and a typical operating crew was seven. The formal shell caliber was 76.2x385mmR.
Many consider the ZiS-3 to be the best anti-tank gun of the war, regardless of battlefield role or owner. It served with both warring sides of World War 2 and also found value as a vehicle weapon in the "SU-76" tracked vehicle series introduced in 1942. Such a combat history led to its widespread adoption in the post-war years.
MANUFACTURER(S): Artillery Factory No. 92 - Soviet Union
LENGTH: 13.78 ft (4.2 m)
WEIGHT: 1 Tons (1,200 kg; 2,646 lb)
POWER: None. This is a towed artillery piece.
OPERATORS: Afghanistan; Albania; Angola; Belarus; Bulgaria; Cambodia; China; Czechoslovakia; East Germany; Egypt; Ethiopia; Hungary; Mongolia; North Korea; North Vietnam; Poland; Romania; Soviet Union; Syria; Ukraine; Vietnam; Yugoslavia