In the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we’ve seen the mighty Russian Army, our supposed near-peer, fall apart in the face of Ukrainian resistance. A big part of Ukraine’s success has been its anti-armor capabilities. The Javelin has been the star of the show, alongside numerous European and American anti-armor weapons. But the anti-armor has had some oddballs in its midst. So, today, we are presenting three of them.
The oddballs of the anti-armor community
1) The Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr
World War I saw the rise of tanks as the ultimate tool to cross no man’s land. The British Mark 1 changed warfare forever, and these lumbering beasts were fearsome creatures for an infantryman to face. This created a need for the first anti-armor weapons. The Germans took what they knew and designed a rifle to deal with the issue of tanks.
The Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr was the first anti-tank and arguably the first anti-material rifle. This was the only anti-tank rifle fielded during World War I and created an entirely new genre of rifles. Famed firearm manufacturer Mauser designed this new rifle to arm the first dedicated anti-armor troops ever formed.
This rifle was a big hunk of hatred that was five foot and seven inches long and weighed 35 pounds. It fired a 13mm round. For comparison, a .50 caliber round is 12.7mms. This was a single-shot, bolt-action rifle that was adorned with a pistol grip and a bipod. However, there was no way to tame the rifle’s substantial recoil. This was technically a crew-served weapon with a crew of two to keep the single-shot weapon firing.
In World War I, the tanks were more akin to armored cars, and the T-Gewehr could penetrate right through them and kill the crew or cause enough damage to give the tankers a bad day.
2) The M25 Lever Action Bazooka
The Bazooka was a massively effective weapon in World War II. This man-portable tank killer worked wonders in the European theatre, and the Army loved it. The bazooka was so effective it bred a family of weapons that included the M20 Super Bazooka which amped up the size of the rocket to stop tanks with even greater ease.
Part of the M20 family was the M25. This was an oddball: a bazooka without a home, if you will. I can’t find a reason why it was created beyond the Army wanting to shoot bazookas faster. The M25 was a repeating bazooka with a three-round top-loading magazine. It featured a lever action design to reload the tube, and if the magazines ran empty, an A-gunner could top load extra rockets on the fly.
The advantages included a faster firing action that allowed the gunner to engage a tank multiple times without a lengthy reload. When tanks are bearing down on your infantry, the ability to fight them back effectively is invaluable. Sadly, the M25 was huge, heavy, and cumbersome. It was not man-portable and required a crew to operate. It never made it past the experimental phase.
3) Rifleman Assault Weapon
The Rifleman Assault Weapon, aka the RAW, is a weird-looking but high-performing anti-armor weapon. This weapon looked like a bowling ball and was mounted to the bottom of a soldier’s M16 prior to use. A live round ignited the rocket engine and propelled it forward. This was a tool designed to provide a soldier with anti-armor and anti-bunker capability in an urban environment.
Unlike other rocket launchers, the RAW lacked backblast, so it could be used near other soldiers and even inside buildings without backblast concerns. Soldiers could hit targets out to 300 meters, and the explosive was powerful enough to penetrate 20 centimeters of reinforced concrete and leave a 36 cm wide hole in it.
The RAW was a very capable tool that gave soldiers an explosive bowling ball that was part rifle grenade and part rocket launcher. The Army passed on it for the Viper, which became such a mess that congress got involved. After that, the RAW faded away into the sunset.
Weird anti-armor weapons
Armor is a great asset to the battlefield commander and an absolute terror to the average infantryman, however, an infantryman’s ability to knock out a tank can be a game-changer.
Anti-armor weapons are often creative, and sometimes they are odd, very odd. Odd doesn’t always mean useless, though, and sometimes odd is the right solution to an armored problem.