The early phases of World War 2 (1939-1945) indicated a need for armor-stopping products and this inevitably gave rise to anti-armor solutions that ran the gamut of ideas - rifles firing considerably large, armor-piercing rounds, mines developed exclusively with the enemy tank in mind, various bombs that could be attached to the external surfaces of a passing tank, etc... One of these offerings became the German "2.8cm schwere PanzerBuchse 41" (sPzB 41) Anti-Tank Gun (ATG) - though the heavy weapon was classified by the Wehrmacht as an Anti-Tank Rifle (ATR).
The sPzB 41 ended as one of the most powerful and largest infantry-level anti-tank rifled weapons of the war but was limited by its internal complexity and low production figures. Sources indicate just 2,797 total units were completed by Mauser-Werke AG with peak production seen in 1943 before manufacture ceased due to the availability, or lack thereof, of the tungsten material needed. The complete weapon system weighed over 500lb and required a minimum crew of three to operate efficiently and effectively. The team could hope to achieve a rate-of-fire of up to 30 rounds per minute if the ammunition supply allowed and their cover was good. A small shield offered some point protection against battlefield hazards but did little on the whole.
The rifle was chambered for the mammoth 28/20mm cartridge firing out to 550 yards at 4,500 feet-per-second. The breech was accessed through a horizontal block-style arrangement and recoil dampened somewhat by the hydrospring (hydraulic recoil buffer) system and muzzle brake. The gun sat upon its own mounting system that provided an elevation span of -5 to +30 degrees with traversal of 70 degrees from centerline.
One of the unique design qualities of this gun was its tapered barrel which measured 28mm at the firing chamber but decreased to 20mm at the muzzle. This provided a higher velocity to the outgoing projectile and, theoretically, better penetration at range. To improve accuracy, optical sights could be fitted over the iron that was standard and ranged out to 500 meters.
The guns were typically affixed to two-wheeled split-trail carriages for ease-of-transport and acted more as a field artillery piece than the ATR it was categorized as. A built-in suspension system for the carriage allowed for some cross-country mobility. For improved transportation, the entire system broke down into five easier-to-handle components.
The zPsB 41 was issued to regular Army and airborne forces and known to be deployed against the Soviets along the East Front - faring rather poorly against the armor of Soviet T34 tanks in the early going. In time, they found their way to the fighting in North Africa as well as the West Front where some examples were captured by the Allies and placed back into action. Italy took on a small stock of the weapons before its surrender of September 1943.
The 2.8cm sPzB 41 leFl 41 became a variant developed with airborne forces in mind and this led to a lighter carriage (lacking suspension) being issued and the traditional tires replaced by rollers. The guns almost always lacked the gun shield of the original design to save even more weight. The other model of note was the 2.8cm KwK 42, a version mounted to armored vehicles and tanks. It appears that production of this form was extremely limited, perhaps as many as two dozen only ever completed.
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