By 1917, the German Army was forced to develop counter weapons once the British and French began unveiling their "landships" on the European battlefields - better known to us today as "tanks". These tracked, plodding armored vehicles were developed to help break the stalemate along the Western Front caused by the bloody business of trench warfare across the Europe in World War 1. While the Germans delivered a landship all their own - the forgettable, gangly 30-ton A7V monster - they also found value in devising a man-portable anti-armor solution in the form of a large-caliber rifle system. This rifle was designed specifically for defeating armor through simple penetration and subsequently disabling key internal components within the enemy vehicle - the crew, engine or other key vital systems. Design and development by the Mauser concern ultimately yielded a new type of firearms category - one still in use even today and as popular as ever - the "anti-tank rifle". The Mauser firm, therefore, developed the world's first such weapon system - the Mauser 13.2mm Tank Abwehr Gewehr Mod. 18 (or "Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr" for short). The T-Gewehr would be the only anti-tank rifle to see combat action in World War 1.
The T-Gewehr was chambered to fire a powerful 13.2mm TuF ("Tank und Flieger" ) .525-caliber jacketed, armor-piercing, steel core cartridge, a round - as the designation suggested - designed to deal with both armored vehicles (Tank) and (und) aircraft (Flieger). The cartridge as actually originally intended for use in a new water-cooled, heavy-caliber machine gun to be produced by Maxim as the "MG18". However, the war ended before the weapon could be put properly developed and placed into Imperial German service. The weapon was a single-shot system requiring the operator to reload the firing chamber after each firing - so a crew of two personnel was generally assigned to each individual gun. Operation was via a manually-actuated bolt-action system that was nothing more than an enlarged form of the basic Mauser action used in service rifles. Effective range was out to 500 meters and sighting was via a rear V-notch and front post with penetration of 20mm armor thickness at out to 100 meters (15mm at 300 meters) against a 90-degree surface. The violent recoil was addressed to some extent by way of a heavy spiked bipod installation that could fold for transport and a heavy shoulder stock pressed firmly against the shoulder of the operator. As might be expected, it was intended that the T-Gewehr be fired from the prone position for the safety of the user. The operation of the weapon was not unlike the bolt-action rifles of the day with the firing action controlled by a conventional pistol grip and trigger installation to the rear and underside of the receiver. Length was 1,680mm with the barrel being 983mm. Muzzle velocity was 3,000 feet per second. Weight was 35lbs unloaded with 41lbs being the listed loaded weight to include the bipod assembly.
Approximately 15,800 examples of the T-Gewehr were delivered from the Waffenfabrik Mauser AG facility at Oberndorf-am-Neckar beginning in early 1918. The rifle type was made operational across specially-formed German Army anti-tank groups by May and placed into combat actions soon after. The T-Gewehr generally gave a good account of itself once in the field and certainly served to pave the way for more similar anti-tank systems to come in the interwar years and into World War 2. Since enemy tanks fielded no more than 12mm of armor protection in any one spot (enough to help protect it from standard rifle fire), the penetrating power of the T-Gewehr was second to none. Despite the weapon system's inherent weight, the rifle proved a sound addition to the German land army. However, the German Empire was ultimately forced into surrender and the armistice was formally signed in November of 1918 - officially ending World War 1 but, in many ways, laying the foundation for another world war to come in the 1930s and 1940s.
Today, the anti-tank/anti-material rifle remains an ever more important part of the modern army with the T-Gewher embodied in such designs as the American Barrett M82/M107 and the Hungarian Gepard. Despite the caliber and technological changes, the scope of these weapons is the same as in the original T-Gewehr - to disable enemy armor.
The T-Gewehr is a rare find for collectors today, as the caliber is largely obsolete in most circles and the rifle itself saw only limited production nearly 100 years ago. As such, they tend to share a fairly good sum on auction blocks.