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Red Army Anti-tank rifles - tactical usage

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  • Red Army Anti-tank rifles - tactical usage

    I posted this on another forum and didn't get too much in way of replies, so thought I'd ask here as well.

    I'm looking at the typical deployment of the 14.5-mm anti-tank rifle in Red Army Rifle Regiments, in particular within the Rifle Battalion. It's one of those subjects where I find myself falling back on oft repeated explanations without really knowing how well supported they are. These are the points I would appreciate some clarification on from those more familiar with the Red Army approach and not just the German interpretation.

    Concentration of weapons; while the authorised organisation underwent a number of changes, in general the Anti-tank Rifle Squad consisted of an NCO and three teams, each of a gunner and a loader serving a single PTRD or PTRS. In the Rifle Battalion (circa July 1942 onwards) there were three such Squads in the Anti-tank Rifle Platoon for a total of nine weapons, while the Rifle Regiment added an Anti-tank Rifle Company of three such Platoons (total 27 guns). Where the Battalion had an Anti-tank Rifle Company this had 16 weapons total, deployed in two Platoons, each of four Squads, each of just two rifles. (I know there were numerous modifications for reduced strength organisations, but I haven't ploughed through all those from pamyat-naroda yet to see how they curtailed use of the anti-tank rifle, so am looking more at the 'by the book' approach in this case).

    Was it generally expected that the smallest subunit would be the Squad, so say that using three weapons? Three Squads in the Battalion's Anti-tank Rifle Platoon allows for an even allocation of one Squad per Rifle Company, but is that too easy an assumption? The December 1942 Guards organisation retained the 16 weapon Anti-tank Rifle Company first seen in the March 1942 version of the Rifle Regiment. To my eye that looks better suited to attaching a Platoon of eight weapons to each of two forward Rifle Companies, rather than an even distribution across all three.

    There's also the question of the Regiment's Anti-tank Rifle Company; was that intended for routine deployment out to reinforce the anti-tank fires of the Rifle Battalions, or fought more as cohesive subunit?

    Concentration of fire; this is what got me thinking on the subject initially. The general argument is that, due to the relative ineffectiveness of the 14.5-mm round against German tanks, certainly from 1943 onwards, the tactical usage was concentrated fire of multiple weapons against individual targets. That runs into the matter of concentration of weapons as above, because you really need to mass rifles to achieve that effect, which impacts on their expected deployment.

    Targeting; when the PTRD was introduced, like other anti-tank rifles it was expected to be capable of penetrating the lesser protected portions of enemy tanks and causing damage to the interior and/or engine. The 14.5-mm round was incendiary tipped, unlike its British and German equivalents as I understand it, the intention being that a hit in the ammunition stowage or fuel tanks could cause an internal fire or explosion. That approach would stand the best chance against the relatively weaker side armour of most tanks.

    However the most popular opinions I see voiced are that the PTRD and PTRS were used against other vulnerable aspects of German tanks, such as vision ports and running gear, or that multiple guns would subject individual German tanks to concentrated fire in the search for disabling hits. I'm sure there's an example quoted somewhere in a book I have (but I can't find it now) about how many hits one particular Panzer sustained.

    There's no reason that both forms of fire could not be used dependent upon the situation, what I'm wondering though is whether there was an acceptance by say 1943 that the 14.5-mm round was not in itself going to destroy many German tanks, however by a change in emphasis from armour penetration to targeting vulnerable points that the many thousands of weapons with troops could still offer some service.

    Any thoughts welcomed,

    Gary

  • #2
    Originally posted by Gary Kennedy View Post
    ()
    However the most popular opinions I see voiced are that the PTRD and PTRS were used against other vulnerable aspects of German tanks, such as vision ports and running gear, or that multiple guns would subject individual German tanks to concentrated fire in the search for disabling hits. I'm sure there's an example quoted somewhere in a book I have (but I can't find it now) about how many hits one particular Panzer sustained.

    There's no reason that both forms of fire could not be used dependent upon the situation, what I'm wondering though is whether there was an acceptance by say 1943 that the 14.5-mm round was not in itself going to destroy many German tanks, however by a change in emphasis from armour penetration to targeting vulnerable points that the many thousands of weapons with troops could still offer some service.

    Any thoughts welcomed,

    Gary
    That and it was presumably still useful against the many soft-skinned vehicles the Germans had, or even against infantry - if not against the truly big cats who would I imagine be the target of other weapons by '43.


    Edit, I looked around a bit and apparently they were still useful in Korea even.

    http://www.koreanwaronline.com/arms/antitank.htm

    In Korea, the PTRD was used very effectively by both the North Korean and Chinese snipers. They were deadly out to 2,000 yards, so could be registered on positions or potential approach routes and seemingly strike from nowhere. The mere sound of the gigantic round roaring by was terrifying.
    Lambert of Montaigu - Crusader.

    Bolgios - Mercenary Game.

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    • #3
      The British army in the Western Desert found the Boys anti tank rifle useful for winkling enemy infantry out of buildings, stone sangers etc the bullets punching through the walls of houses and creating large numbers of stone splinters. I would think that the Soviets could have employed theirs in the same manner in house to house fighting.
      Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
      Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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      • #4
        This book might help out. Its written by Zaloga which is a plus and the reviews are all good.

        https://www.amazon.com/Anti-Tank-Rif...s=books&sr=1-1
        Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
          That and it was presumably still useful against the many soft-skinned vehicles the Germans had, or even against infantry
          Also against low-flying airplanes.

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