The Gepard M1 was a Hungarian-originated heavy rifle intended for use against light-armored vehicles or targets behind fortified walls. Its design was centered around the 12.7x107mm Soviet heavy machine gun cartridge - its role akin to the American 12.7x99mm (.50 BMG) cartridge. The weapon entered service in 1990 at the close of communist rule in Hungary and became one of the most powerful Anti-Material Rifles (AMRs) available in Europe. The original went on to spawn a line of similar weapons from the Gepard M2 to the Gepard M6 - the latter the last in this fine line of rifles. Performance-wise, the Gepard series is comparable to the American Barrett M82 (detailed elsewhere on this site).
The 12.7x107mm (also written as 12.7x108mm) differs some from its American .50 BMG counterpart in being a longer, thicker, and heavier cartridge though both cartridges are proven against light armor and fortifications at range and thusly are featured as standard ammunition in anti-aircraft and anti-armor vehicle weapons. The Gepard M1 (and several of its family members) can be converted to fire the NATO-standard .50 BMG cartridge as well.
Outwardly, the Gepard M1 showcased a rather utilitarian appearance with its cylindrical shape constituting most of the weapon's design lines. A padded shoulder stock was set at the rear of the tubular receiver with a large muzzle brake seated over the business end of the barrel. No iron sights were fitted so reliance on an optics fit was wholly necessary. The pistol grip was set under the receiver with the trigger unit ahead - the grip doubling as the actual bolt-handle of the weapon. The action was manually-operated by the user and the weapon fired only a single cartridge as no detachable magazine box support was built into the design. A folding bipod was added ahead f the receiver with a monopod used to brace the weapon at the middle-rear.
Loading of the rifle was accomplished by twisting the pistol grip upwards which, in turn, unlocked the breechblock. A cartridge was then manually loaded into the awaiting chamber and the breech was closed / locked by reversing the open action. The hammer was manually cocked which made the Gepard M1 ready-to-fire, requiring just a pull of the trigger. A simple and effective instrument, the M1 could penetrate up to 15mm of armor thickness at range - enough to cut through an engine block or disable a particularly sensitive component on an armored vehicle.
The M1A1 emerged as the M1's only variant and this weapon was more or less the same rifle now mounted on a metal rack (back pack frame) for stationary fire on soft ground or snow. The frame added considerable weight to the weapon but offered improved performance for special environment operations.
The Gepard M1 line was inevitably continued through introduction of a series of related weapons stemming from the same basic approach. This included the semi-automatic-minded M2 (with 5-round box magazine) and the follow-up M3 (chambered for 14.5x114mm Soviet), M4 (semi-automatic, five-round box magazine) and M5 (bolt-action) models. The M6 represented the last of the family line and remains in active service with some of the leading global armies.