This rifle was first captured during the battle of Hamel on July 4. It had only just been issued to certain divisions; other divisions were equipped with it later on … It was too conspicuous and too slow a weapon to be really effective against tanks, though it could easily penetrate them at several hundred yards range.
‒ John Fuller, Tanks in the Great War, 1914-1918 (1920)
The Tankabwehrgewehr 18 (“antitank rifle model 1918”) or Tankgewehr 18 ‒ both designations have been observed in official material ‒ is the first purpose-designed antitank weapon produced anywhere. The T.-Gew.18 appears in the last year of the Great War to combat the Allied tanks on the Western Front. Intended as a stop-gap measure until the MAN-Maxim T.u.F.-M.G.18 antitank/antiaircraft machine gun reaches production ‒ which it never does ‒ it is a single-shot bolt-action design produced by the Mauser-Werke of Oberndorf, Germany.
Chambered for the cigar-sized 13×92mmSR T.u.F. cartridge developed from 1917, it uses a scaled-up mechanism derived from the Mauser Gew.98 bolt-action rifle (Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 67-69). The T.-Gew.18 has a 96-cm barrel and is 168 cm long. It weighs 15.8 kg empty, 17.1 kg with the original bipod taken from the DWM-Maxim M.G.08/15 machine gun, or 18.3 kg with its later dedicated bipod that is sturdier and less likely to sink into the mud. One cartridge weighs 117 g. The shorter T.-Gew.18k has an 86-cm barrel and is 158 cm long. Due to its heavier barrel, it weighs 16.6 kg, 19 kg with its bipod or 17.8 kg with the M.G.08/15 bipod. At least 15,820 are produced from May 1918 until at least January 1919. They are first seen in combat in July 1918. However, it is assumed that production continues in secret until April 1919 and that the actual production is closer to 16,800. Some 300 of these are of the Kurz (“short”) variant.
Only a third of the manufactured rifles actually reach the front in time. Despite being capable of penetrating almost all Allied tanks of the Great War from virtually any angle, the rifle is not judged to be a successful weapon by either the Allies or the Germans. Heinz Guderian remembers it as largely ineffective in his book Achtung ‒ Panzer! (1937).
One reason is probably that the rifle is heavy to carry and has ridiculously high recoil, the bipod helping little to absorb this. Most rifles seeing service are heavily pitted on the small of the shoulder stock, showing where the recoiling weapon crashes into the steel helmet of the shooter with every shot. Many shooters report headaches and nausea after only a few shots, and if handled wrongly, a broken collarbone is quite likely, especially from a prone position. Standing up in a trench, the recoil is not too bad with a proper stance. Some shooters carry a small cushion to put between the shoulder and stock. Another reason is that the projectile needs to strike a vulnerable component to take any effect inside the tank. In practice, several hits are needed to knock out a tank. Finally, the crews are vulnerable to counter-fire.
After the Great War, the Reichswehr is forbidden to retain these rifles by the Treaty of Versailles, but manages to squirrel away so many of the weapons that it still has more than 1,000 in secret storage in 1932. Significantly, German production of the ammunition ceases in late 1918, although production of the ammunition is resumed in the 1930s for experiments and export, Polte shipping 1,750 rounds to Saudi Arabia in 1936.
From 1919, the majority of the rifles are surrendered to Belgium as war reparations. They are stored and refurbished as needed at Fabrique Nationale des Armes de Guerre and sold worldwide. The main users in the 1920s and 1930s are China, Latvia, Poland, and Saudi Arabia. Ammunition is made in Belgium as well as in Switzerland, both for export, as late as 1930.
In 1921, Sweden adopts the T.-Gew.18 as the Pansarvärnsgevär m/21 (“antitank rifle model 1921”). The Pvg m/21 is produced in considerable numbers by the Carl Gustaf Stads Gevärsfaktori and the ammunition is also made locally. Sweden keeps the rifle in service throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
While most civilian folks would have no use for such a rifle in the 1920s and 1930s, an investigator might certainly envision the odd application. However, the T.-Gew.18 would be an unlikely weapon unless the investigator is issued it while in service with one of the armies mentioned. By 1919/1920, quite a few end up as war trophies in the USA, Australia, and elsewhere. In particular, the rifle is a popular conversation piece on the walls of American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts throughout the USA. Most of these lack ammunition and quite often also important parts, such as the bipod or bolt; the latter is supposed to have been removed by its Germans crew when they have to abandon the weapon. Consequently, finding the rifle in America would not be impossible, but ammunition cannot be had anywhere, really. Locating some live rounds would be the main obstacle to using it. A possible source would be Francis Bannerman Sons Military Goods in New York (Investigator Weapons 1, p. 25).
TO USE, turn the bolt handle up and draw it back to open the action, cock the internal striker, and eject the last empty case. Insert a fresh cartridge. Close the action by pushing the handle forward and turning it down. This takes two combat rounds. The rifle is now ready to fire. After loading, the safety at the rear of the bolt can be applied by turning it to the left. The typical malfunction is a failure to extract when the fired case gets stuck.
Shooters with ST 10 or less suffer a penalty of -10 percentiles to Rifle skill.
There is only one type of ammunition for the weapon, firing a steel-cored 13.25-mm Armour Piercing (AP) projectile (Investigator Weapons 1, p. 102) that penetrates 25-mm of armour steel at 100 m, 22-mm at 200 m, 20-mm at 500 m, and 9-mm at 1,000 m. The British Foster Mk I tank (Niemandsland, p. 92) has only 12-mm armour on its front, while the French Renault FT-17 light tank has 16-mm. The British Rolls-Royce Pattern 1920 armoured car (Fearful Passages, pp. 82-83) has 9-mm armour. The projectile reaches a maximum range of 8,000 m; the sights, however, allow only aimed shots to 500 m.
Most rifles are fitted with swivels for a leather sling (Investigator Weapons 1, p. 103), but not all of them. German gunners wear a canvas belt pouch holding 20 cartridges (2.5 kg filled), while their assistants wear two 20-round pouches and carry a wooden case with 72 spare cartridges.
The cost to the German military is about 1,000 Mark ($240).
For an explanation of the statistics, see Investigator Weapons 1, pp. 27-31.
|Make/Model||Calibre||Skill||Base Chance||Damage||Base Range||ROF||Capacity||HP||Malf||Year||Price||Avail|
‡ Double Base Range if fired from bipod mount.