Small Arms Ammunition

Pistolenpatrone 08 (Pist. Patr. 08)

The standard German pistol round was the 9 mm Parabellum with the designation Pistolenpatrone 08. The bullet of the round was the Pistolengeschoß 08.

Schweres Spitzgeschoß (s. S.)

The schweres Spitzgeschoß (heavy, pointed bullet) was the standard bullet used in rifles and machine guns. It had a hard lead alloy core with a tombak brass alloy plated mild steel jacket.

Spitzgeschoß mit Stahlkern (S. m. K.)

Two versions of the bullet existed: The standard Spitzgeschoß mit Stahlkern (S. m. K.), and the Spitzgeschoß mit Stahlkern und Leuchtspur (S. m. K. L'Spur; pointed bullet with steel core and tracer). The tracer version had a smaller core to make room for the tracer element, resulting in an overall lower weight.

The Spitzgeschoß mit Stahlkern (pointed bullet with steel core) was designed to penetrate armor. It had a hardened steel core encased in soft lead with a tombak brass alloy plated mild steel jacket. The bullet was essentially an armor-piercing, composite, rigid (APCR) type bullet.

Spitzgeschoß mit Hartkern (S. m. K. H.)

The Spitzgeschoß mit Hartkern (pointed bullet with hard core) was similar to the S. m. K., but had a tungsten core instead of a steel core. This increased the weight, and thereby penetration, of the bullet. While S. m. K. H. was reserved for targets that could not be defeated by regular S. m. K. ammunition, its production still consumed a large portion of available tungsten resources. In 1941, S. m. K. H. tungsten cores made up 482 tons out of the German Army's total tungsten stock of 579 tons. Due to a lack of tungsten supplies, production was ceased during the war. In the 21 March 1942 issue of the German Army news bulletin, a notice by Inspectorate 2 was issued stating that S. m. K. H. ammunition would no longer be issued to units.

Rifle ammunition distribution

All the types of rifle ammunition could be fired by all German standard-issue rifles and machine guns. The S. m. K. and S. m. K. H. were mainly issued to machine guns.

Rifle ammunition comparison

s. S. S. m. K. S. m. K. L'Spur S. m. K. H.
Caliber 7.92 mm
Length 35.30 mm 37.30 mm 37.30 mm 28.60 mm
Weight 12.80 g 11.55 g 10.00 g 12.60 g
Core weight - g 5.79 g 2.60 g 8.25 g

Artillery Rounds

German artillery used both fixed and separated ammunition. Mortar, tank gun, and anti-tank gun ammunition was usually fixed rounds, though large-caliber ammunition such as that of the 12,8 cm Pak 80 was separated ammunition. Infantry gun and field artillery ammunition was usually separated ammunition.

Fixed rounds

Fixed rounds were referred to as Patronen, the same term used for small-arms rounds. The fixed round could be referred to as a whole or by its components, for example:

Example of a fixed anti-tank round, with three main parts:

  • A: Panzergranate (Pzgr) (anti-tank shell)
  • B: Patronenhülse (Patrh) (fixed round shell casing)
  • C: Panzergranate Patrone (Pzgr Patr) (fixed anti-tank round)

The same shell could be used with different shell casings for use in different guns. For example, the 5 cm Panzergranate 39 was used in the ammunition for both the 5 cm Pak 38 anti-tank gun, the short-barreled 5 cm Kw K tank gun, and the long-barreled 5 cm Kw K 39. The shell used for the three guns were different to allow for different amounts of gun powder. To differentiate between the three rounds, the name of the gun was included in the name:

  • 5 cm Pzgr Patr 39 Pak 38
  • 5 cm Pzgr Patr 39 Kw K
  • 5 cm Pzgr Patr 39 Kw K 39

Separated rounds

The shells of separated ammunition followed the same naming convention as fixed rounds.

There were two types of powder charges (Kartuschen) of separated ammunition: A single, full powder charge or multiple, smaller powder charges that could be assembled by the gun crew depending on the required range. The shell casing of separated ammunition was referred to as Kartuschenhülsen.

Shell Types

This is a list of the most common shell types used by the German Army during the Second World War. Like with all German designations, there were many exceptions and variations, as well as name changes during the war. The type names below should therefore only be considered a general guide.

Most shell types were followed by a two-digit number. The number may appear to be the year of design or manufacture. While the number does sometimes match the year, it was also sometimes used to identify specific types of ammunition across multiple guns (see the three types of Panzergranate below), and sometimes used to distinguish different shells for the same gun. In other words, while the numbers are important for identifying specific shells, they can not be assumed to hold any meaning by themselves.

Panzergranate 39 (Pzgr 39)

The most common German anti-tank shell during the Second World War was a full-caliber steel shell with a high-explosive filler. This shell was referred to as either Panzergranate or Panzergranate 39, depending on the specific shell. Both terms could refer to variations without a cap (AP), with a cap (APC), and with both a cap and ballistic cap (APCBC).

Panzergranate 40 (Pzgr 40)

Armor-piercing, composite, rigid (APCR) ammunition was referred to as Panzergranate 40. When more than one type of APCR ammunition for a gun existed, tungsten cores ammunition was referred to as Hartkern (hard core), or HK. In a 1944 German document on anti-tank shells, tungsten cored ammunition is described in this way:

Anti-tank shells with hard cores only penetrates armor with their hard core. Like armor piercing ammunition, their penetration depends in weight, impact velocity, and angle of impact. Their effectiveness decreases faster than for regular anti-tank shells at increased distances and smaller angles1. Their effect comes from their increased force of impact and the particular hardness of their cores. Their effect behind the armor plate due to the shattering of the core together with parts of the armor plate breaking off is significantely poower than that of regular anti-tank shells.

Hard core ammunition is currently no longer manufactured. The hard core ammunition that is already with the troops is to be used within their effective range against particularly valuable targets

To supplement ammunition stocks after tungsten ammunition production ceased a solid Weicheisen (soft iron) version of the 7,5 cm Pzgr Patr 40 was created that was identified with (W), the 7,5 cm Pzgr. Patr. 40 (W). The notice of its introduction was dated 19 October 1942, and printed in the 7 November 1942 edition of the German Army new bulletin. The 1944 document above describes soft iron shells as such:

Anti-tank shells made of soft iron have the same ballistic properties as anti-tank shells with tungsten cores. The penetration is poorer than regular anti-tank shells and anti-tank shells with tungsten cores (developed due to the raw material situation).

The shell deforms on impact and thereby creates a hole greater than the caliber of the shell, especially for weaker armor places. The effect behind the armor plate is greater than for anti-tank shells with tungsten cores but doesn't have the scrapnel effect of regular anti-tank shells with an explosive charge.

Soft iron shells are only created in limited amounts as an experiements. At the front line, they are to be used as practice ammunition.

Panzergranate 41 (Pzgr 41)

Armor-piercing, composite, non-rigid (APCNR) ammunition for squeeze-bore guns was referred to as Panzergranate 41.

Two variants of the 7,5 cm Pzgr Patr 41 was created as tungsten ammunition production ceased. One with a steel core instead of the tungsten core, the 7,5 cm Pzgr Patr 41 (St K), and a solid variant, the 7,5 cm Pzgr Patr 41 (W).

High explosive shells

There were several different terms used for high explosive shells:

Granate (Gr)
Generic term used both for artillery shells and hand grenades. When used alone it usually referred to a high-explosive shell, mainly used by howitzers and field guns.
Sprenggranate (Sprgr)
Primarily used for the shells of fixed rounds and railroad artillery.
Infanteriegranate (Igr)
Used by infantry guns, such as the 15 cm s I G.

Hohlladung (Hl)

High-explosive, anti-tank (HEAT) ammunition was referred to as either Infanteriegranate (for infantry guns) or Granate (for other gun types), followed by Hl (hollow charge) and a different number to distinguish it them from the high-explosive type.

Germany developed several shaped charges during the war, with different liner shapes and filler quantities. When more than one design existed for the same gun, a letter was added to their name, for example 7,5 cm Gr 38 Hl/A, 7,5 cm Gr 38 Hl/B, and 7,5 cm Gr 38 Hl/C.

A 1944 German document describes the effect of shaped charges as such:

Hollow charge shells penetrates the armor through a concentrated detonation wave at the point of impact. Their penetration capability is the same at distances, independently of the impact velocity. However, the reduced accuracy limits their effective range to distances up to 1200 to 1500 meters.

The destructive effect (gas pressure and scrapnel) behind the armor plate is the poorest of the anti-tank shells.

Hollow charge shells can also be used against unarmored live targets when high explosive shells are unavailable. However, their scrapnel effect is poorer than that of high explosive shells.

The production of hollow charge shells has been reduced for all long-barreled tank and anti-tank guns. They are to be used in case of shortages of regular anti-tank shells. On the other hand, all short-barreled tank and anti-tank guns will continue to exclusive use hollow charge shells as armor piercing ammunition.

Stielgranate (Stiel Gr)

To extend the service life of the 3,7 cm Pak and 5 cm Pak 38, large-caliber shaped charges were designed that were inserted into the front of the gun, somewhat similar to a rifle grenade. These shells were called Stielgranate (Stiel Gr).

In addition to the hollow-charge Stielgranate for use against armored targets was the 15 cm Stielgranate 42 for the Schweres Infanteriegeschütz 33. This was an 89.5 kg high explosive shell for use against live targets and for clearing obstacles and mine fields.

Nebelgranate (Nbgr)

Smoke rounds were identified by the designation Nebelgranate, such as the 7,5 cm Nbgr Patr Kw K 40.

Mortar shells

Germany had three different types of mortars during the Second World War:

Granatwerfer (Gr W)
Infantry mortars, such as the le Gr W 36 (5 cm) and 12 cm Gr W 42. These mortars fired fixed rounds that were launched by dropping them into the barrel.
Mörser (Mrs)
Heavy mortars, such as the 21 cm Mrs 18. These mortars fired traditional artillery shells at a high trajectory using separated rounds.
Nebelwerfer (Nb W)
Rocket launchers, such as the 10 cm Nb W 35 and 15 cm Nb W 41. These launchers fired fixed rounds from simple barrels.

These shells were collectively referred to as Wurfgranate (Wgr), as well as Geschosse. If more than one type existed for a gun, the type was typically appended to the end of the designation, such as the high-explosive 10 cm Wgr 35 Spr and the smoke 10 cm Wgr 35 Nb.

Training ammunition

Training ammunition usually had the same amount of propellant as combat ammunition. For high-explosive shells the amount of explosive filler was significantly reduced. Training ammunition had (Üb, short for Übungsmunition (training ammunition), appended to the name of the combat ammunition it represented. For example, the training version of the 5 cm Sprgr Patr 38 Kw K had the designation 5 cm Sprgr Patr 38 (Üb) Kw K.

Other Identifying Marks

Gun type identifier

Sometimes, the type of gun was added at the beginning of the name. For example, most of the shells for the leichte Feldhaubitze 18 started with F H, such as Feldhaubitzgranate (F H Gr) and Feldhaubitzgranate Nebel (F H Gr Nb).

Some shells had the letters FES or FEW appended to their name. This indicated that the drive ring of the shell was made of sintered iron and rolled iron, respectively.

Fuzes

Different fuzes were used for different purposes. Some shells had only one, fixed fuze, while other shells could use several different fuzes depending on the fire mission.

Bodenzünder (Bd Z)
Fuze used in conventional armor-piercing ammunition with a high-explosive charge. The fuze was placed in the bottom of the shell and detonated after a brief delay. This allowed the shell to penetrate the armor plate before the charge exploded. For example, the 7,5 cm Pzgr 39 Pak 40 used the Bodenzünder (5103*) der 3,7 cm Pzgr (Bd Z (5103*) der 3,7 cm Pzgr), which had a 0.002 second delay.
Aufschlagzünder (A Z)
Contact fuze, where the fuze detonates the shell on impact. Some of these fuzes had a short either fixed or variable. For example, multiple versions of the Aufschlagzünder 23 (A Z 23) for the ammunition for the leichte Feldhaubitze 18 existed, including with no delay, 0.1 second delay, 0.15 second delay, and 0.25 second delay.
Zeitzünder (Zt Z)
Delayed fuze, where the time to detonation was set prior to firing the shell.
Dobbelzünder (Dopp Z)
Combined delayed and contact fuze. The time to detonation could be set like a delayed fuze, but the shell would also detonate on impact.

Notes

  1. It is not clear whether this refers to steeper or shallower angles. Back

Sources

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