MANUFACTURER(S): State Arsenals - Soviet Union
WEIGHT: 1 Tons (560 kilograms; 1,235 pounds)
ENGINE: None. This is a towed artillery piece.
RANGE: 3 miles (4 kilometers)
Detailing the development and operational history of the 45mm Model 1937 (53-K) Towed Anti-Tank Gun.
Entry last updated on 11/5/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
During its modernization initiative of the 1930s, the Soviet Army purchased a batch of the German Rheinmetall 37mm Anti-Tank Gun and adopted it as the Model 1930. After closer examination of the system, Soviet engineers began work on a modified form to better suit local requirements and this included installation of new sights as well as an enlargement of the original caliber to 45mm. Wire-spoked wheels were introduced and the weapon adopted as the "Model 1932". In the latter half of the decade, additional work begat the more modern "Model 1937" which carried the product designation of "53-K". Some would see action in the Spanish Civil War.
The guns retained much of their original German work including the two-wheeled carriage unit and mounting hardware. The recoil mechanism was integral to the barrel action and loading was through the breech. A small gunshield protected the crew to an extent. The tow arms allowed for the weapon to be dug into positions to help counter recoil effects while also double as the arms required to haul the system by way of mover vehicle. Combat weight was around 936lbs and the barrel measured 46 calibers long (L/46). The mounting hardware for the gun tube held an elevation span of -5 to +25 degrees with traversal of +60 degrees from center.
Two types of 45x310mmR ammunition were generally employed - Armor-Piercing (AP) and High-Explosive (HE). The AP round was the principle armor-defeating projectile adn weighed 3.1lbs. The HE projectile, suitable for engaging enemy infantry, structures, and "soft" targets, was a 4.7lb alternative. Muzzle velocities varied between the two ammunition types - 2,533 feet per second for AP rounds and 1,133 feet per second for the HE rounds. Effective range was out to 62,650 feet with HE rounds while the AP round could penetrate armor up to 1.4 inches thick at 60-degrees. As a field gun, the Model 1937 required line-of-sight with the target in question.
Form the Soviet Army's initial foray into Poland came its committed to the "Winter War" against neighboring Finland from late-November 1939 to mid-March 1940. The bloody actions saw the Soviets suffer terrible, humiliating defeats (323,000 casualties to 70,000 Finns) in several of the campaigns though the damage was done and the invaders came away with critical territory taken from the Finns. During the fighting, large stocks of Model 1937 guns fell to the Finns who used them against their attackers without remorse. The Model 1937 gave good service in the conflict though the Soviets were lulled into a false sense of its success as the Finns did not field notable armored vehicles beyond some light-class forms.
By the time of the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941 (Operation Barbarossa), the Model 1937 was a standardized 37mm AT gun in Army service and available in great number. The loss of industrial centers certainly pressed the defenders hard and 45mm AT guns were produced as quickly as possible out of desperation. The caliber was soon found wanting against the newer generation of German Panzer tanks - the Panzer III and Panzer IV medium series - which held considerably better armor protection than the original Panzer I and Panzer II light types. This then led to additional work to produce a better end-product which became the Model 1942 AT gun and its lengthened gun tube, pressed-steel wheels, and longer trail legs. The longer barrel aided in penetration values by way of increased muzzle velocity. Despite the reduced effectiveness of such guns on the whole, the 45mm caliber was retained in this new iteration for the sheer simplicity of mass production - any anti-tank measure was better than none it seems. Eventually, Soviet forces restocked with the larger 57mm and, ultimately, 76.2mm caliber AT gun types though the 45mm versions still remained in service throughout the remaining war years in the tens of thousands.
Production of Model 1937 guns spanned from 1937 to 1943 to which 37,354 were produced out of Soviet factories. The gun tube also made up the armament of the "21-K" Anti-Aircraft Gun system for the Soviet Navy from 1934 onwards. Its low rate-of-fire meant that the weapon retained only marginal usefulness in the role where fast-firing was a key quality.