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M1938 120mm (120-HM 38)

Infantry Field Mortar [ 1939 ]

The M1938 120mm infantry field mortar - copied from a French design - served the Red Army throughout World War 2.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 07/18/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The M1938 120mm mortar was a field mortar system accepted into service with the Red Army in 1939. The weapon system was nothing more than a copy of the excellent French-designed Brandt series of 1935, known specifically as the "Mortier Brandt de 120mm Modele 1935". The M1938 was used extensively by Red Army troops throughout World War 2, particularly in combat actions following the June 1941 German invasion of the Soviet Union, opening up the fabled "East Front".

The M1938 was made up of three components consisting of the reusable firing tube, baseplate and bipod assembly. The type was also known for its integrated wheeled towing carriage which allowed it to be transported or relocated by the fire team or mover vehicles. Another method of transportation involved breaking the system down into its three key aforementioned components, thus allowing one member of the fire team to carry a portion of the weapon to a new location.

The M1938 weighed in at 620lb when full prepared to fire. The fire tube was rated for 120mm mortar projectiles that each weighed 35lb. The mortar was operated in a conventional manner with the operator simply dropping the projectile into the launch tube through the muzzle. The projectile would then fall, hit a firing pin at the bottom of the tube and ignite the charge propellant. This sent the projectile out of the launch tube at 890 feet per second along the pre-determined fire arc. Elevation was controlled through an adjustment mechanism by the crew.

Once in action, the firepower inherent in a 120mm mortar system became wholly apparent and the mortar was used in conjunction with infantry assaults as a support weapon. The mass amounts of suppression and lethal firepower of a single high-explosive mortar was something to note, particularly for the receiving German Army troops. The Germans were so impressed with the caliber of power inherent in the Soviet M1938 that the weapon was outright copied to become the Granatwerfer 42 series mortar for the German Army in 1941. The German version exceeded the Soviet design in range, reaching out to 6,600 yards over the original's 6,200 yard range.

Regardless, the Soviet model endured long after the war and was a central performer in the Cold War to follow. The M1938 found its way into various inventories of Soviet Bloc and allied nations for decades after World War 2. This allowed the weapon to be fielded in notable numbers in such upcoming conflicts as the Vietnam War. The M1938 can still be found in lesser numbers today, a testament to its excellent design and qualities - with much owed to the French.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Various State Factories - Soviet Union
China; Iraq; North Korea; North Vietnam; Poland; Soviet Union; Ukraine; Vietnam
Operators National flag of China National flag of Iraq National flag of North Korea National flag of Poland National flag of the Soviet Union National flag of Ukraine National flag of Vietnam
Service Year
Soviet Union
National Origin

Capable of suppressing enemy elements at range through direct or in-direct fire.

1,862 mm
(73.31 inches)
Overall Length
1,862 mm
(73.31 inches)
Barrel Length
617.29 lb
(280.00 kg)
Empty Weight
Manually-Operated; Pin Strike
May not represent an exhuastive list; Calibers may be model-specific dependent; Always consult official manufacturer sources.
Single-Shot; Reusable Firing Tube
Adjustable Elevation Mechanism

Material presented above is for historical and entertainment value and should not be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation - always consult official manufacturer sources for such information.

19,800 feet
(6,035 meters | 6,600 yards)
Max Effective Range
890 ft/sec
(271 m/sec)
Muzzle Velocity

M1938 - Base Series Designation

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Image of the M1938 120mm (120-HM 38)
View of the M1938 120mm infantry field mortar on display in Ukraine; color

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