Panzerfaust – How Effective was it? – Military History

The German “Panzerfaust”, literally meaning “tank-fist”, is a highly-recognised weapon due to it’s shape and name. Additionally, millions of them were built during the late war. (So) the question arises: how effective was it? Let’s look at some background first, and then tackle the question with some numbers: The development of the “Panzerfaust” began in 1942, and the first time front-end troops received a large number of “Panzerfaust” (units) was in September 1943. Ultimately, at the end of the war, a total number of 8.3 million (were) produced, although more than 5% were immediately rejected due to production flaws. One important aspect about the “Panzerfaust” is that there were actually quite many different variants of it. To name most of them, there were the “Faustpatrone”, literally meaning “fist-bullet,” the “Panzerfaust 30”, the “Panzerfaust 60”, the “Panzerfaust 100”, and one of the latest versions: the “Panzerfaust 150”, which only saw limited use in field tests, but looks very similar to post-war Russian RPG(-7)s. Note that the number at the end (of the names of each variant) gives the effective range for each variant. As we can see from the illustrations, the differences between the “Panzerfaust” 30, 60, and 100 are rather small. Thus, is it not really surprising that everyone basically speaks about just the “Panzerfaust”, especially since the “Panzerfaust 60” was the most common variant. So let’s take a look at the technical specifications next. It had a length of a bit of more than 1 m (1.045 m, 3.43 ft.), its weight was 6.5 kg (14.3 lbs.), and 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs.) of that was for the warhead. The weight of the propellant charge was around 130 g (0.13 kg, 0.3 lbs.), which gave the projectile a velocity of 45 m/s (148 ft./s), and a range of 60 m (197 ft.). Which is about 10 (M4) Shermans, or 9 T-34s. Although note that (the) technical range was larger, but the effective range is what counts. Now, the penetration bar was about 200 mm (7.87 in.). The warhead itself had stabiliser fins that expanded once it left the firing-tube. Note that the Panzerfaust was not a rocket, but a recoilless gun: The basic principal is that a large amount of the propellant explosion escaped backwards. And the other amount moved the projectile forwards. Thus significantly reducing the recoil, but also the range. Another side effect was that (a) large
back-blast was created that could burn the operator if not enough back room was present. An instruction sheet states that The back-blast at three metres (9 ft.) behind the weapon is deadly and that nobody should be closer than 10 metres (33 ft.). Hence, correct weapon handling, especially in urban environments and fortified positions was
crucial. Now, let’s take a closer look at the warhead: It was a hollow charge, which
is also sometimes called a “shaped charge”. As you can see, both names make sense. Note that these charges are quite complicated when it comes to actual physics, so take
the following as a rough explanation. Basically the explosion is focussed in a certain direction, and creates a conical jet. Additionally, the liner of the warhead collapses inward, thus creating a high-velocity jet of metal particles which
penetrates the armour. Now, back to the initial question: how effective was it? Well, let’s look at some numbers but be warned: Take all these numbers and conclusions with at least two salt (mines’ worth) from your favourite Gnome Overlord. Since we’ve got that flank covered, let’s look at the numbers of kills achieved with the “Panzerfaust”. We have some data from the Eastern Front from January to April, 1944: Out of 12 500 destroyed tanks we know the cause for 8 148 kills. Out of those, 264 kills were achieved with the “Panzerfaust”. This means (that) on average, about 3.2% (of kills) were achieved with the “Panzerfaust”, yet for each month, the numbers varied greatly from 1.6% to 7.0% of the total kills. Now, how does this compare with anti-tank guns? The total number of tanks destroyed by anti-tank guns during the same period was 1 969, which is 24(.2)% of the total kills with known causes. Again, the number(s) (varied) greatly from 16.0% to 32.0% of the total kills, yet this is just one part. More interesting is, if we add ammo consumption here: For 1944, the (amount) of ammo used for anti-tank guns of calibre 7.5 cm (75 mm, 3.0 in.) was 6.5 million (shots), whereas the total (amount used by) the “Panzerfaust” was 2 million (shots). Note that this is the total consumption, which includes training, losses, et cetera, and not just (the amount) fired at the enemy. Since I don’t have the exact number of shots used for January to April 1944, let’s just take the total (amount) for 1944, divide it by 12, to get the average per month, and multiply it by 4, to get the average (amount) for 4 months. Thus we have, on average, 2.1 million (2 161 633) shots that anti-tank guns used, and 0.7 million (684 500) that (the) “Panzerfaust” used. Hence, we can derive the ammo spent for each tank kill: With 264 kills per “Panzerfaust” and 1969 kills per anti-tank gun, we get 2 600 (2 593) “Panzerfaust” used for one tank kill, whilst only 1 100 (1 098) PaK (75 mm anti-tank cannon) shots were used to kill one tank, which is actually a pretty good number, considering that the “Panzerfaust” was a disposable short-range weapon. Of course, this comparison is quite unfair, because comparing a disposable close-combat weapon with a long-range gun is not really valid, so let’s look also at other close-combat weapons listed for the period (of) January-April 1944 on the Eastern Front, namely the “Panzerschreck”, which was a German (M1) “Bazooka” (16.9%), the magnetic hollow-charge (12.9%), hand-grenades (4.2%), (and I’m not entirely sure, but I assume this includes also the “Geballte Ladung” (lit. “concentrated charge”), which was a bundle of grenades working as a satchel-charge.), anti-tank mines (15.0%), and the Sturmpistole (lit. “assault pistol”) (0.2%), which was an anti-tank pistol, (whose name) literally translated (means) “assault-pistol”. In comparison with these weapons, the “Panzerfaust” achieved the best number of more than 50% (50.8%) of all kills on average, or a total of 264 out of 520 (kills). To conclude, the “Panzerfaust” was clearly not the “Wunderwaffe” or “wonder-weapon” as propaganda claimed, but in comparison with other close-combat weapons, the kill numbers were the highest for the given period. Additionally, even (when) comparing it to long-range anti-tank guns, the ammo consumption was just a bit more than twice as high. The “Panzerfaust” was an effective and easy-to-use weapon, yet the major disadvantage of the “Panzerfaust” was that, due to its low range and large back-blast, the operator had to be highly-skilled and quite daring in order to score a kill, and also survive an engagement. Since 1943 onward, the Wehrmacht had lost the vast majority of its best troops, the “Panzerfaust”‘s full potential could not be exploited, and nowadays, it is often associated with the old men and young boys of the “Volkssturm”, the last-ditch militia that the Germans used to defend against the Allies in the final months of the war. Special thanks to my Paterons for supporting this video by providing the funds to buy the following two books used for this video. Remember, every single dollar helps. As always, all sources are linked in the description. If you like what you saw consider watching this video ([Weapons 101] “How Does a Mortar Work?”) on how a mortar works, or my “Why?” series of videos. Thank you for watching… …and… …see you next time! [“Demilitarised Zone” by Ethan Meixsell]
Subtitles by: Eitchviel


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