Tank Gun vs. Truck

Capture

I was beginning to wonder how FullMag was going to top the recent video “iPad vs. Minigun.” I was not left to wonder for long. Having been destroying his F-150 using .50Cal and various other rounds, FullMag has opted to give it an explosive send-off using a German anti-tank howitzer from WWII.

The PAK 40 is a 75mm anti-tank gun that can be picked up for about $90,000 (and a few licenses). While available for purchase, its hard to find actual demolition ranges that will allow one to use live ammunition. Typically, one must be under the supervision of a Federal Explosive Licensee. AN FEL issimilar to an FFL, but requires significantly more work to acquire and with more restrictions.

The cannon has a large boom, but a rather small explosion. Looking at the slow-motion footage, I would hazard to guess that the round was not sufficient to actually cause injury in the cab, though did cause the engine block to break into a few pieces. Honestly, I found the video showing a GoPro meeting its demise was more interesting. 

If that round was sufficient to knock out a Sherman (often called “death boxes” due to the poor armor), I am aghast at the poor armoring of the tank. Perhaps we should have just equipped our troops with 2004 F-150 crew cabs with howitzers on top?



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • TVOrZ6dw

    Nice! Interesting that the round looks like it’s pointed down a few degrees.
    Would be fun to have the truck towed to a dealer and film them while you tell them you are having trouble starting the truck in the mornings.

  • Rocky Chen

    they were probably using AP rounds, so no explosive filler to actually make an explosion… i dunno i’m just guessing….

    • Alex D.

      They show the rounds at the start. Black indeed means AP. The explosion you saw was the leftover gasoline in the engine burning due to the heat and pressure of the kinetic impact.

      • Dave

        Yep, wasn’t a APHE round, just AP, so you wouldn’t see any actual detonation from the shell itself.

        • Elvis

          At the two minute mark, you can see the fired projectile. It’s not AP, or APHE, which are both significantly solid. It’s an HE projectile, with no HE in it. It’s either a training round, or a reload, or a reloaded training round. I doubt it was full power.

    • Cal.Bar

      Actually not likely “real” AP rounds either. AP rounds were very hardened dense steel (today made from Tungsten or depleted uranium). Unlikely civilians would be able to load the cannon with those today.

  • Dave

    That’s not a howitzer, that’s a cannon.

    • Cannoneer No. 4

      Panzerabwehrkanone is German for anti-tank cannon. How was this piece misidentified as a howitzer?

  • kyphe

    Death trap not deathbox and only total idiots who know nothing about tanks or tank history use the term thanks to a very very poor book by belton cooper.

    • Thank you!

    • Phil Hsueh

      While we’re on the subject, Shermans were absolutely not poorly armored, poorly armed maybe but not poorly armored. They were comparable in armor to the German workhorse tank, the PzKpfw IV and I believe actually slightly thicker armor than the German tank. The Sherman’s reputation as a deathtrap with weak armor only came later during the war when it started to go up against the heavier German tanks like the Panther and (esp.) the Tiger but both were much larger tanks armed with really good, high velocity guns. While most Shermans were no match for the German heavy tanks except at pretty much point blank range, some variants like the British Firefly and the American E8 (Easy Eight) model were more than a match for late model PzKpfw IVs with the high velocity 75mm guns and actually had a fighting chance vs. Panthers & Tigers.

      • kyphe

        Turns out that with later ammunition the 75mm US gun could easy punch through the side of a tiger at 400m and the side armor of a panther is a total joke which combined with it’s terrible visibility when buttoned up gave Sherman crews a fighting chance. The E8 never really saw service in WW2 but did a good job vs T34 in korea.
        Panther also had the worst burn rate of any tank of WW2, far worse than an early war dry rack Sherman and way way worse than a late war wet rack Sherman.

        • Cal.Bar

          Sounds great until you realize that the Tiger could penetrate the FRONT of a Sherman from over 1000 yards. This means the Tiger would destroy 4-5 Shermans while they made their way around the Tiger to actually shoot at its side.

          • mosinman

            too bad average engagement distances during ww2 on the western front was inside of 800m and it’s even less of a factor when you see just how few Tiger 1s were actually present in the West.

          • Jon

            True most of the Tigers fighted and died at the eastern front.

          • mosinman

            yup, ISU-152s and IS-2s and T-34-85s will do that

          • Jon

            Most Sherman vs Tiger (or any other German cat) battles were fougt at the east front.
            You have commented the IS2, I have to add a commentary about it. It was the most feared heavy tank of the WWII, indeed German took out their tanks (Tigers and Tiger 2 included) if they detected that beasthunter in the same front as their “indestructible” tanks were assigned. A question comes to my mind when I think about it, if the Tiger was feared in the occidental front, what would be their sensation if they had to confront what the mithycal Tiger feared?

          • mosinman

            yeah in the East the Russians used M4s as well. Dimitri Loza was actually very fond of the M4

          • n0truscotsman

            Thats a very fascinating part of history that was (is?) largely ignored by the US Armored community and Sherman service records in general. I think Loza’s book will change that though because more people than myself have brought this up.

            The Soviets made awesome use of the ’emcha’ and utilized it to its most effective extent.

          • mosinman

            yes, they spoke very highly of it, where as over here we listen to the ramblings of Belton Cooper. Dimitri speaks very highly in the M4’s favor over the T-34 even. it’s even more interesting when we realize that they did not receive as many 76mm armed Shermans as American armored forces and faced more German heavy tanks and still did quite well. the only thing that i found odd is that they never tried sticking one of their 85mm guns into the Shermans they received

          • Jon

            The work to stick a 85mm in a Sherman didn’t have much sense, they had T34-85 with a industry producing all the replacements they needed for it.

          • mosinman

            Except that they were fielding quite a few Shermans and the added AT capabilities as well as ammo commonality would have made sense

          • Jon

            If your intention is to procure ammo commonality why stop there? You should also have parts commonality, so you should change the engine, gears, the suspension, tracks, machineguns, optics, radio… it would be easier to ask USA to procure them T34-85’s.

          • Jon

            When the bulk of Shermans arrived to Soviet Union they had enough AT capabilities by themselfs. Logistically was much less time consuming to arm certain units with occidental tanks and supply direct and exclusivelly those units those units with those tank parts, they took the right decision.

          • Secundius

            @ Jon.

            The Largest Gun Tube EVER mounted into a Sherman during WW2 was the M4 4.13-inch (105x372mmR/22-caliber) Howitzer. The Largest Gun Tube EVER mounted in a Soviet Sherman in WW2 was the British Ordnance QF 17-Pdr. (76.2x583mmR/55-caliber) Firefly…

          • Jon

            I doubt Soviets added that gun in Shermans, it was surely mounted before shipping them to the Soviet Union.

          • n0truscotsman

            Im curious as to what the size of the 85 is compared to the Brit 17 pounder. I know the cramped conditions and poor ergonomics of the 17 pounder in the sherman’s turret (firefly) were huge considerations as to why the US Army didn’t adopt it, so maybe the soviets ran into the same problem with the 85.

          • Secundius

            @ nutruscotsman.

            The US Army did, more or less. The just called it something else, the M1 3-inch (76.2mm) Tank Gun. The Army Adopted to basic Gun Design and changed the Muzzle Brake design on the Barrel. The US Army used “a lot of British Equipment” in WW2, they Just won’t admit to “Actually” using the officially…

          • n0truscotsman

            IIRC, the M1 76 and the 17-pounder were quite different animals, but I might be mistaken. I need to do some more digging to refresh my memory.

          • Pat

            That would have required a turret redesign, which was probably not worth the effort during the war when they had free tanks from the US and their own 85mm armed T34s.

          • mosinman

            i’m doubtful of that, the british were able to mount the 17lbr in a standard 75mm turret and the Yugoslavians mounted a 122mm gun in one of their M4s and the Israelis mounted a 105mm gun in a M4 with minor modifications, so i don’t think it would have required a complete turret redesign

          • Pat

            Those more modern guns had effective muzzle brakes, I believe, which the 85mm did not. It would depend on what the breech and recoil mechanism were like. From what I’ve read, the 17 pdr in the Sherman turret was a very tight fit and not easy to service. It also wasn’t balanced and had traverse issues on uneven terrain. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done, I’m just not sure it would have been worth the effort for the Russians

          • mosinman

            the 85mm was a modern gun during WW2.
            they also didn’t have a lot of room in the T-34-85’s turret as the T-34 wasn’t spacious to begin with , so think they could have done it. ultimately it’s irrelevant because afaik they never installed one

          • Secundius

            @ mosinman.

            NOT REALLY! The Original 85mm, was based on the 52-K or M1939 “AA” Gun. First produced in 1939. The Modern 125mm/82-caliber Tank Gun of the T-14 Armata Battle Tanks can be Traced back to the M1910 Imperial Russian Siege Gun…

          • mosinman

            yes , but the 85mm gun mounted to the T-34 and other tanks was a “new” gun. even though it was developed from an AA gun. by that line of thinking the KwK 36 mounted on the tiger was even more dated

          • Secundius

            @ mosinman.

            1917!

          • Jon

            We are speaking about real war, were you take advantage of cover and concealment, not all the fired shells hit the objetive, not all the hits penetrate and not all the penetrations equal to tank destruction.
            Do you know how is the worst way to fight a Tiger? The one you see at Fury. Which is the worst way to fight in a Tiger? The one you see at Fury.

          • kyphe

            The rule of 5 Sherman to one panther or tiger is simply that the size of a US platoon is 5 tanks and they would always send a full platoon. We know that the loss rate in engagements between Sherman and panther/tiger is about 1 for 1. US tanks and infantry work together with artillery and air support. Stupid flanking maneuvers over open ground simply did not happen that is a myth. Flanking takes place either where ground cover allows or by the next platoon of tanks along which has not yet been engaged.

          • n0truscotsman

            Thats assuming you are fighting on flat ground, or open terrain like the eastern front.

            The western european campaign eastward (operation cobra for example) was known for its close confines and hedgerows, which actually put heavy tanks like the King Tiger, Tiger I, (Tiger Is were only encountered 3 times by US forces according to documentation. Brits had an entirely different experience), and Panther at a disadvantage due to their slower turret rotation speeds and sluggish mobility.

            The 75mm of the Sherman had no problem with penetrating Panther armor at those distances and, as proven by post-war penetration values, wouldn’t prove problematic against Tigers either. That assuming any of the big cats could get into the fight, which was questionable itself as well.

            It didn’t help that US tankers became immensely experienced, well oiled groups of individuals while Germany’s tank crews greatly diminished in crew efficiency, with much of the experienced veterans dead and armor being manned by the very young towards the end game.

            A thing to consider is the ‘4 to 1’ point came from a very unreliable source, and armored historical Steven Zaloga notes that he couldn’t find any supporting documentation for that assertion.

          • Jon

            Westerns tend to think east Europe is an plain grassland, if you look a map you will see the reality. Close encounters were common in the east front.
            About the German armor, it was weaker than people commonly thinks. The side armor of a Panther could be penetrated with any fielded cannon, Soviet antitank rifle was able to do the same at close distances.

          • Pat

            Not entirely true in most cases, because the engagement ranges in Western Europe were generally shorter than people realize. A 76mm armed Sherman could kill a Tiger I with a frontal shot at 800 yards. The average engagement range in Western Europe was generally from 800-1000 yards. The 2000 yard effective range on the 88 made a bigger difference in Russia and the desert than in Europe. The 75mm armed Sherman was at a disadvantage, but the terrain in Western Europe didn’t expose the tanks the way other combat areas would have.

        • Phil Hsueh

          You sure it was for the 75? As I understand it, the problem wasn’t the ammo, it as the low velocity from the gun’s short barrel The 76mm was much better, esp. when paired with good ammo like HVAP.

          Cal.Bar does make a very good point though, regardless of ammo type, the Sherman was seriously outgunned by the Tiger and was only a match for the Panther in the Firefly and 76mm variants, the standard low-velocity 75mm gun of the Sherman just didn’t have near the same range and punch as the German’s high-velocity 75mm gun used on the Panther and the 88s used on the Tiger and King Tiger and their tank hunter variants.

          • mosinman

            they were gambling on the fact that such German heavy tanks would be rare and they were right, those heavy tanks had very little impact on the war and were few in number and even fewer in working order. where they were wrong was with the Panther, but even then the Panther was few in number compared to available allied tanks

          • Phil Hsueh

            Definitely true, although greatly feared the German heavies were never available in great numbers and also generally required an escort of PzKpfw IIIs and IVs to watch their flanks. What the Germans should have done was focus on producing PzKpfw IVs and Panthers instead of coming up with ever larger, heavier, and unreliable tanks like the Tiger and King Tiger. As I understand it, the Panther actually turned out to be a pretty decent all around tanks after they managed to work the kinks and bugs out, unlike the Tiger & King Tiger which remained as unreliable at the end of the war as they were when they first entered service.

          • mosinman

            yes very true, the Panther was a good tank, but it was bloated. for the same weight the Soviets had the IS-2 with better armor and a bigger gun

          • Jon

            Panther was a good tank in defensive tactics, it had aceptable frontal armor, good mobility and a very good weapon system. But it was closer to a tank destroyer than to a main tank, its side and rear armor were so weak even Soviet antitank rifles could penetrate them. This was the reason they added side squirts to Panthers when they could.

          • Phil Hsueh

            True, but considering how heavy the Panthers were already and how hard the engine and transmission had to work to move the damned thing, if they thickened up the thinner armor they likely would have ended up with another Tiger, a heavy tank with an overworked engine and transmission. I guess it’s a good thing for us, things might have been a big different if the Germans actually had fully reliable Panthers, Tigers, and King Tigers; probably not enough to affect the outcome of the war but possibly enough to drag the war on a little bit longer.

          • Jon

            You don’t have to go just to the opposite side to build an agile and reliable tank which is fearless of bullets. The aswer was fighting them, if the German wouldn’t be so close minded at WWII they could build very efficient and cheap fighting machines just using the same philosophy they used with the Checoslovaquian tanks. Take a moment to think what tank producing boost would they could have not only if they started producing T34 hulls, but only changing the captured T34 tank turrets for Panther ones and deploying them to their units.
            About the reliability of the big german cats, would it change the war considerabily? I don’t think so, Soviets were one step ahead Germans. They developed guns to defeat those or toughter heavies and they could produce upgunned tanks in a very low time. I’m talking about the 130mm and the BL-10. The reason they didn’t do it was because they didn’t need them. The guns they were using were good enough to do the job.

          • Phil Hsueh

            Interesting idea, although I’m not sure that going with T-34 hulls would have been ideal given how difficult they were to work on in the field. But the general idea is sound, they could have continued to evolve the IV or the Panther and discontinued making IIIs and forgot about making heavies and super heavies. Part of the German’s problem was, in my opinion, definitely related to making too many different types of over-engineered vehicles that took too much time and resources to manufacture, I don’t even know how many different types of armored cars & half tracks they produced and then there’s the well known focus on ever increasingly larger and heavier tanks at at time when Germany really didn’t have the industrial capacity for them.

          • Jon

            A platoon of lend-lease M2A4 destroyed three Tigers and disabled one at the east front. Sherman could fight Tigers if used properly.

          • Phil Hsueh

            There’s no doubt that a Sherman, even a standard 75mm armed Sherman could kill a Tiger, the only question was at what cost? The standard anecdote is that it took 4 Shermans to take out one Tiger at the cost of 3 out of the 4 Shermans.

          • marathag

            It took around 1600 Man/Hour to make a Sherman, and up to 200,000 Man/Hours for an early Tiger I

            That why the US could make 50000 Shermans, while the Nazis didn’t make more than 2000 Tigers

          • Jon

            For any reason I my post with a link to back my commentary gets lost. Phil in my example Shermans didn’t have any loss. Type “Ivan Vasilyevich Novikov lend lease” and read the first link.

          • Secundius

            @ Phil Hsueh.

            Or 9 T-34’s for 1 Tiger. A German Panther Tank, with it High-Velocity 75mm Gun could make a Kill Shot at 1,100-meters, a Sherman at 800-yards, and a T-34 at less than 500-meters…

          • kyphe

            Yes I am sure, though I can understand the surprise, been over this for the last 5 years and there have been a lot of surprises. The US 75mm medium velocity general purpose gun did have problems with some German tanks at range from the front and could easily be out ranged from all angles where range could be used effectively by the enemy. But the thing is that the vast majority of Sherman never once saw a tiger or panther which were in very short supply on the western front. They were infantry support medium tanks and imo were the best tank of the war in that role bar non. US infantry almost always had tank support close by where as most German infantry did not.

          • Pat

            The Tiger weighed 55 tons to the Sherman’s 30-32. The Panther was about 45 tons. It’s not a surprise that either out gunned the Sherman. What IS a surprise is that the effective thickness of the front armor on a Sherman and that of a Tiger, once the angle of the plating is accounted for, was very similar. The Tiger simply had a much bigger gun.

        • dltaylor51

          ”I know everything there is to know about tanks so every one else is an idiot”Are you for real?

        • Secundius

          @ krphe.

          For ALL it’s Hype, the Soviet T34 was a “Junk Pile” on Tracks. Even the Screw Fittings on the Tank, were made to a Higher Standard then the Tank was…

          • Nelson Kerr

            It may have been a junk pile but it was an extremely effective Junk-pile, as proved against both Germany and later the US in the Korean War.

          • Secundius

            @ Nelson Kerr.

            The Problem that people tend to Overlook at the Epic Soviet/German Tank Battle at Kursk in the Summer of 1943, is. That the German’s Fielded 1,100 Tanks, while the Soviet’s Fielded ~90,000 Tanks. After a while, “Quantity, Takes On A Quality All of Its Own”…

          • Nelson Kerr

            How does that change what happened early in the Korean war were many of the engagements were of equal odds and Sherman crews were slaughters? At best Sherman’s were “Cost effective”. that is if you considered their crews expendable

          • Secundius

            @ Nelson Kerr.

            T-34’s in Korea had 85mm gun tubes, Sherman’s mounted 7.62mm gun tube. I believe it was a different story against the M26 Pershings…

          • Jon

            Some Zarist generals said it, don’t mess yourself by the time we are speaking about there were quite few Zarist generals 😉

      • Nelson Kerr

        The Shermas were powered by Gasoline Engines, that is how the earned the term Ronsons ( strikes a light the first time every time) of By the Germans “Tommy Cookers”. the catch fire easily and burn and blow up even more easily.

        The Sherman was obsolete by 1944 but it was cheap and crews were easy to replace. the sick fact is that they were put up against T-34 in 1950-53 and were totally outclassed becasue we would not by enough tanks that were not more danger to their crews than they were the enemy

        • Phil Hsueh

          You know, I keep on hearing two different versions of the story behind the Sherman’s rep for brewing up when hit. There’s the gas engine as you’ve mentioned while others attribute it to ammo storage, I’d be curious to know which it really was or if it was possibly even a combination of both.

    • Bill

      The M113 APC was the deathbox 😉

  • kyphe

    From what I can tell, they did not use an actual cased 75mm round but a 75mm projectile powered by some explosive charge put in the breach. the round was under powered and was on a downward tilt before hitting the engine, the engine block hit side on was thus able to deflect the low energy projectile down into the ground.

    • They use that exact gun to fire live ammo, so I am not sure why you think they wouldn’t do that this time:

      Also here:

      • Tahoe

        The way the shell is angled before impact – not in-line with the track of the projectile – seems to indicate it wasn’t a normal, full round. At 2500 fps+ (from a normal AP shell), that 9-lb shell ought to have traveled a lot farther into the truck.
        I could be wrong, but it doesn’t look right.

        • It was almost certainly not a full power load. They probably don’t want to harm their $100,000 piece of equipment.

      • Tahoe

        I did like how his hat flew off with the muzzle blast, though!

      • kyphe

        i am well aware that they can and have fired full cased rounds from this gun Alex. My thinking is based on what can be seen and what can not, At the start of the video you see two projectiles on the wheel with no case or a very very short case. You don’t see a full size cased round you don’t see them load, you never really see them fire. This may be a simple case of you get what you pay for.

      • kyphe

        I am well aware that they can and have fired full cased rounds from this
        gun Alex. My thinking is based on what can be seen and what can not, At
        the start of the video you see two projectiles on the wheel with no
        case or a very very short case. You don’t see a full size cased round
        you don’t see them load, you never really see them fire. This may be a
        simple case of you get what you pay for.Actually you can see a screen shot of the two rounds used at the start of this article which shows what I am talking about.looks like 15% of full charge to me

        • marathag

          also didn’t return to battery, at 1:11 you can see that its stuck at full recoil. Something must be screwed up with the recuperator, which might be why the low power load

  • Bill

    That won’t buff out. Pity the poor slob who has to clean the range up after that, fluid spill and all.
    That’ll learn ya to fire something big down in a smallish pit, so the concussion can bounce around more.

  • Scrumward bound

    This video is way more interesting that the Truck Gun vs. Tank one was.

  • Jay

    What a waste of a truck…entertaining? Sure…but still.

  • That’s because the round was solid shot, not an explosive round.

  • marathag

    If that round was sufficient to knock out a Sherman (often called “death boxes” due to the poor armor)
    Armor was fine.
    Ammo storage inside wasn’t. Later versions had what was called ‘Wet Stowage’, rounds kept in armored boxes surrounded by a antifreeze/water jacket so any penetration wouldn’t quickly start a fire.

    M4 Sherman had far more armor than the Panzer IV, the most common Nazi tank encountered, that carried a 75mm similar in power to the Pak 40

    • mosinman

      not to mention the Sherman’s effective armor thickness was very close to the Tiger 1

    • n0truscotsman

      True and the PAK40 did its job very well: as a anti-tank gun.

      http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/guns/75-mm/75-mm-pak-40.asp

      3.86″ @ 2,190 yards
      98 mm @ 2,000 m

      That is definitely enough to defeat Shermans and T34s, and even a heavy like the IS2 within common engagement distances.

      • mosinman

        Depends on how you’re calculating the armor values. It could handle the sides of these tanks with ease of course

  • Georgiaboy61

    Re: “Having been destroying his F-150 using .50Cal and various other rounds, FullMag has opted to give it an explosive send-off using a German anti-tank howitzer from WWII. The PAK 40 is a 75mm anti-tank gun…”

    Nathan, thanks for the fascinating story, but please allow a small correction: the PAK 40 ((PanzerAbwehrKanone 40) 7.5 cm gun was an anti-tank gun, not a howitzer.
    While many types of artillery are capable of being used as both direct-fire and indirect-fire weapons, howitzers are more-apt to be employed in an indirect fire (high-trajectory) role, whereas a cannon like the P40 is designed as a direct-fire or (relatively) flat-trajectory weapon. Indirect fire weapons like howitzers and mortars generally fire in a high arc such that rounds are dropped on the target in a steep, sometimes nearly vertical angle, whereas a relatively flat-trajectory cannon with a high muzzle velocity (no cannon or howitzer shoots completely flat; gravity always applies – although at close range, its effect on elevation trajectory can be negligible) is usually employed at targets which lie within the line of sight (LOS). Since muzzle-velocity with most AT guns is usually quite high, these weapons shoot rather flat in comparison to indirect-fire weapons.
    Finally, indirect fire weapons rely mostly upon chemical/explosive force for target effect, whereas anti-tank and other direct-fire weapons often rely heavily on kinetic energy (high muzzle velocity) to achieve their effects.

    • LAMan

      GB61: good write-up. My first reaction on seeing the phrase “anti-tank howitzer” was unprintable 🙂 The PAK 40 was, as you explain, a very powerful, high-velocity rifle, and its AP solid shot projectiles were extremely effective against enemy armor based on their kinetic energy. When I read about it not having a very noteworthy impact on a mere truck, I didn’t even have to watch the video to know that something was “rotten in Denmark.” A full-charge PAK-40 projo would smash a truck engine to pieces; a hit on thin skin (i.e. doors, bed) would likely bore a 3″ hole straight through it.

      The US 3″ (76mm) towed TD (tank destroyer) was its American equivalent, and could also knock hell out of enemy armor. In the book “Saving the Breakout,” there is a series of vignettes about the effectiveness of a single well-positioned, well-camouflaged, and very well-served 3″ towed TD platoon that contributed significantly to stopping the German counterattack near Mortain.

      FWIW, the concept of the TD in US doctrine was to be our tank-killer, whereas basic Sherman M-4’s had essentially the old French 75mm field gun as a general purpose main armament. Against every German tank but the Panther and Tiger, it proved quite effective, but it was originally envisioned as being employed against enemy field positions, houses, light vehicles, etc. Unless it was upgunned with the US 76mm or the British 17-pounder “Firefly” version, it was seriously outgunned in tank-on-tank engagements vs. the Panther and Tiger.

      Over time, every army found out that towed AT (or TD) guns were seriously vulnerable due to their lack of mobility in a shootout with enemy armor. The Americans learned that our self-propelled TD’s were indeed good at “shoot & scoot,” but that many combat situations didn’t allow free-ranging maneuver and required frontal engagements that put them at a grave disadvantage due to open tops and/or light armor.

      Thus, the rise of the modern “main battle tank,” intended to combine speed, armor, and dual-purpose main guns. Likewise, the disappearance of towed AT guns that weighed 1000-3000 pounds.

      • Georgiaboy61

        LAMan, your write-up is also very well-done.

        U.S. Army armor/anti-armor doctrine, as you note, was somewhat flawed during the Second World War, at least in theory, but the grunts made it work on the line and in combat – albeit at a greater cost in lives and war material than necessary.

        Our pre-war doctrine expected that tanks would be used to spear-head infantry attacks and break-throughs, while tank-destroyers and AT artillery were expected to deal with enemy tanks. The expectation that our TD forces would always be on hand when needed to deal with enemy armor proved to be flawed, especially when our tanks were on the offensive. Once this was discovered in the crucible of combat, commanders in the field mitigated the artificial division between TDs and tanks somewhat by attaching TDs – M10s, M36s, M18s (or in the case of the British and CW forces, Archers, Achilles, as well as Lend-Lease M10s, etc.) to regular armored forces on a piece-meal, as needed basis. The established TD battalions continued to operate as separate formations until the end of the war, however.

        It is a good thing, too, for our M4 crews that the TDs were there when they were, because the M-36 – with its 90mm gun – was one of the only weapons in our arsenal capable of knocking-out German’s best tanks and TDs – i.e., Panther, Tiger I, Tiger II, Jagdpanther, etc. The 90mm wasn’t a sure-thing; knocking out a Panther with a penetration of its sloped frontal armor was difficult, and I know of no instance during the war when a Tiger II (King Tiger) was knocked out frontally – using any weapon in the allied inventory.

        As far as the 76mm cannon was concerned, when it was introduced, it was expected by General Eisenhower and many others to be a wonder weapon, fully-equal of the dreaded German 75 and 88mm Flak/AT guns. It under-performed that mark initially, but as the war progressed and higher-quality ammunition came into the supply stream, it proved to be an effective weapon. It was particularly effective using so-called HVAP (hyper-velocity armor-piercing) tungsten-cored ammunition, which was in perennially short-supply due to wartime shortages of wolfram, the ore from which tungsten is produced, and competing needs for the metal for use in machine tools.

        Interestingly, although for anti-tank work the 76mm main gun was preferred to the short-barreled 75mm gun of the M4, the lower-velocity cannon was preferred as a general-purpose and infantry-support weapon, due to the higher quality (and explosive charge) of its H.E. shell.

        Late in the war, the U.S. fielded a prototype of the so-called “Super Pershing,” which was up-gunned to deal with the King Tiger. It’s T15E1 cannon was extremely long (73 calibers in length) and had a larger firing chamber than the stock 90mm cannon found on the production M26. This gun was capable of performance which, for that time, was stupendous – a muzzle velocity of 3,750 fps, and the ability to penetrate a Panther frontally at 2,600 yards (more than 1.5 miles away). This weapon would have been state of the art, but it didn’t make it into general use in the field before the end of the war.

        Some armor warfare historians argue that the 17-pounder was the finest AT weapon in the Allied inventory during the war. Firing armor-piercing discarding sabot (APDS) sub-caliber tungsten-cored ammunition, it attained an m.v. of 3,950 fps, which was sufficient to penetrate 185mm plate steel at 1000 meters. Like HVAP, APDS ammunition was in short supply and was not always readily-available for the tankers. The 17-lb. gun was an excellent weapon, and one which the enterprising British managed to fit into a Sherman tank – despite its undersized turret and turret ring. This was done by mounting it solidly into the glacis plate of the turret front, and by turning it on its side. The radio also had to moved to a box at the back of the turret as well. Since the gun was unsprung and mounted directly into the turret, recoil was fierce and the whole chassis had to absorb it. However, it worked – and British-CW forces were better for it. They offered it to the U.S., but in the classic case of “not invented here” syndrome, the U.S. high command refused it, believing that the then-new 76mm was the equal of the 17-lb. cannon (it wasn’t). In any case, the development and use of sub-caliber ammunition and the APDS system was a significant break-through in tank/AT gunnery and design.

        • Secundius

          @ Geogiaboy61.

          American Airbourne Units, like the 101st PIR. Liked the British Ordnance QR 6-Pdr. Mk. III (2.244-inch/57x441mmR/50-caliber) with Molins Autoloader Anti-Tank Gun. Autoloader could provide up to 55rpm, but in Airbourne Units usually Ammunition Loads were 21-rounds. Effective Range was ~1,650-yards, with a Maximum Indirect Range of 5,000-yards. Could Easily be transported by Glider and set up with a 5-man gun crew, but in a emergency by only 3…

  • The “Sherman death trap” myth is pretty old and tired. I am not sure why it’s surprising that a large antitank cannon like the PaK 40 is effective against… Tanks. Towing those things around was a pain, so they’d better be effective against tanks!

    Truth is, if I had to name a best and most significant tank of the war, the M4 would be right there at the top. It was an incredibly reliable machine, with a powerful multipurpose gun (both 75 and 76mm), good armor, and good mobility, and US automotive manufacturers were capable of making them in astounding numbers. They get a bad rap today mostly thanks to the Stephen Ambrose-influenced Belton Cooper book, and their not so impressive paper stats, but until the coming of the Pershing there probably wasn’t a safer front-line tank than the late M4 with “wet” ammo stowage. That, and the tank had excellent vision, with each crewman being given a unity periscope, offsetting that bugbear of armored vehicles: How terribly blind they are! Contrast this with the Panther, for example, with its excellent gunner’s sight and high velocity gun, sure, but where half the crew (including the gunner, aside from his gunsight) is totally blind. Post war, the largest determining factor in tank engagements was found to be vision and target acquisition, and there probably wasn’t a common tank on the battlefield with comparable vision to the M4 when buttoned up (maybe the T-34 1944). Add to that the very safe ammo stowage and the large hatches for easy egress, plus the high ease of repairability, and I think the merits of the M4 really begin to speak for themselves.

    • guest

      1) A tank with a lower solhouette is less likely to get hit. It is also more likely to have more armor in places that count, because of the same reasons.
      2) A tank with a rational internal volume is more likely to have more armor in places that count, while having the same weight.
      3) A tank fuelled by gasolene is more likely to catch fire. Diesel/gasoil/solar does not produce flammable vapors unless atomized or heated above 60C. Gasolene produces flammable vapors above -18C
      4) A tank that has an adapted aircraft radial engine sets a minimum limit on hull width/height, significalty increasing the height of the tank overall.
      5) Crew having good observation of the battlefield is also important, in that case Wolverine beats the Sherman in that ability plus it was far more mobile and had a much more rational layout, even though it was “just” a tank destroyer
      6) T-34 changed the whole tank industry. Its armor layout echoed far and wide, even past WW2. It was also the same tank that was responsible for winning WW2, unlike the dubious contribution of the Sherman (which of course did contribute, but much less)

      Results of WW2: Sherman scrapped. T34-85 evolved into T-44(85) already during the latter stages of the war, became T-54/55 and was the basis of everything up until late T-90 modifications, because of very rational design that still had a lot to offer.
      M-60 however borrowed much inspiration from Panther, T-34 and the turret layout was basically taken right from a Tiger II. M1A1 was even further away from the “tank family tree”, being based on a german-american project MBT-70.

      • G.K.

        This is literally the flat out dumbest thing I’ve ever read on the comments on this site ever.

        Amazing job, that’s quite the feat.

        • guest

          Sounds like american butthurt to me.

      • T-44 was not a variant of the T-34. It was a new project, influenced by the T-43, but with a transversely-mounted engine. The T-44 also did not share the T-34’s armor layout, having flat hull sides (as that’s more space efficient). The T-44 was the basis for the T-54 and T-55, which in turn was the basis for the T-62, but the IS-3, T-10, T-64, T-72, T-80 and T-90 are all mostly unrelated to the T-44/54/55 family.

        M60 borrowed basically no inspiration from the Panther, being armed with a British gun designed to counter a Russian tank (the T-54). I know is a very common line to see in history books that the Panther was a huge influence on postwar tank development, but that’s difficult to swallow given a sober technical perspective. The Panther had a double torsion bar/interlocking roadwheel suspension that, aside from some French experiments, was never copied. It used a high velocity 7.5cm gun that was never copied postwar (despite many books that claim the 75mms of the early AMX-13 and Israeli upgraded Sherman were “copied” from it, I’ve seen no evidence to suggest this is even remotely the case), a front-drive transmission with straight-cut final drive gears, again not copied anywhere post-war. The (very poor) handoff arrangement from commander to gunner was also not copied. Besides some French experimental tanks, so far as I know the Maybach engines did not lead anywhere, either.

        Cue someone talking about how the Panther was the first MBT or something, despite the T-34 meeting basically all the same criteria several years earlier. But I guess the Panther is German…

        • guest

          T-44 is a direct descendant of T-34 as all the ideas the engineers had were put “on hold” due to the strict order of not disrupting the construction lines, plus it featured a nearly unchanged T-34 turret to begin with.

          IS series of tanks are related all the way up to T-10, they are however not related to T-54 and upwards, so the comparison is irrelevant (heavy tanks vs MBTs). T-64 is however related to T-34, as it is a very radical re-development which had composite armor as its centerpiece, however T-72 and upwards are a “dumbing down” of T-64 from the unreliable and highely complex POS that it was, but however had its rational elements.

          Despite the TL;DR that was just to illustrate what a “one-off” sherman was, which is my point to begin with. A clumsy box, just less clumsy and less pathetic than the Lee, but still with no future.

          • mosinman

            The T-34 was great but the M4 was a better tank in the end. even the Russian tankers that were issued the M4 liked them better than the T-34

          • Jon

            About which T34 are you speaking? I highly doubt they preferred a M4 over a T34-85.

          • mosinman

            pretty sure they did. the M4 is a roomier tank with bigger and more numerous escape hatches , more numerous optics for the crew and easier to maintain and drive, all things tankers like

          • n0truscotsman

            The M4 had more of a future than any other WW2 medium tank, with the possible exception of the T34.

            They were used in the Six Day War alongside newer designs, having been modernized away from gasoline engines and 75 and 76mm guns. Zaloga has a good book on Mid East armor.

            I swear, the Sherman is the most harshly criticized tank ever, despite being one of the most versatile, mass produced, and widely used tanks in history.

        • n0truscotsman

          Those are excellent points and it irks me when someone claims my favorite tank, the M60, was a evolutionary successor of the Panther (never mind the Pershing or anything). 😉

          I think the Panther was an emotional overreaction to encounters with the T34. IMO the Germans went way stupid with the size and armor, which lead to things like the Panther and Tiger rather than a more down-to-earth T34 copy that the VK prototypes were supposed to be. Upgunning the Panzer IV and fielding the Stug III was actually the most sensible decision for Germany’s industrial capacity.

          Yeah I fail to see how Panthers are supposed to be the progenitor to the MBT. Its core concepts proved to be technological dead ends.

          Its funny that when these discussions are brought up, nobody pays homage to the Centurion.

      • mosinman

        i’d like to add that gasoline is no more flammable than diesel when being hit by high velocity AT shells. in fact the vast majority of M4 fires were ammo related…..

      • Pat

        1) This isn’t true and never has been. The “cats” were all taller than the Sherman. The Mk IV was only 2″ shorter.
        2)The Sherman had a much more fightable crew compartment than a T34 and was more comfortable for the crew, which made them more effective in combat.
        3)This is a stupid argument because all of the German tanks also used gasoline. It’s a myth. Most tank fires are ammo fires, not fuel fires. Fuel fires are less dangerous to the crew because they’re not in the crew compartment.
        4)Another bad argument. German tanks were taller with non-radial engines. Having a front mounted transmission is the problem, because the drive shaft has to go under the turret.
        5)M10’s layout was similar to the Sherman. The only main difference was the open turret, which was more dangerous than it was worth.
        6)T34 was actually built in fewer numbers than most think. 15,000 of the 50,000 total production was in the 1950s. 48,000 Shermans were built in WWII, and production ceased in 1944. Shermans bested T34/85s in Korea regularly. Your arguments are not based on fact.

  • J Ballew

    So far all the footage of that particular PaK 40 has been filmed in Arizona. The Hamiltons (the folks who restored it) own a shop in Sedona so it makes sense to keep it local.

    They had to hand make the cases, and only have a couple, so true full charges are only fired on occasion.

    They usually have a nitrogen cylinder about to keep the recuperator topped off, may not have happened this time, or the charge was low.

    Wishing I had “before” pics of the piece when it was painted up like a hippie van and rusted all the hell. They did a hell of a job restoring it.

  • Actually the Sherman was called a zippo, lights the first time.

  • Called a Zippo because it lights the first time. Never heard that nickname.

    • comatus

      No. It was “Ronson.” Their slogan was first time, every time.
      Nothing against Zippo, but the product of Aronson Art Metal was better known by Brits, and much more widespread at the beginning of WW2.

      • Secundius

        @ comatus.

        The American’s called it the ZIPPO, the British called it the RONSON. And the German’s, well they never really had a negative view of the Sherman. The most common name was the ANVIL, because of it Reliability and being Solidly Built…

  • Rick_A

    It’s a big gun. It makes holes. People expect hollywood style effects but that’s just not how it works. I’ve been as close as I’d want to be to a pile of C4 going off, and while the blast, noise, and ground shaking was epic, it just made a big ugly black cloud of smoke.

    I’ve overheard people overhyping what a .50bmg can do. When you tell them the reality of it they look at you cross. Silly.

    It’s shooting a truck with a big gun. That’s always cool. The engine block was shattered. What more would you expect?

  • mitch

    The Sherman was our secret weapon against Hitler, we could mass produce more than they could destroy, and in the DD mode, it actually floated, seems common today but back then it “turned the tide” on D-day.

  • Vince Hawkins

    The Germans called Sherman tanks;- Tommy Cookers. British troops called them Ronsons, after the Ronson cigerette lighter, because they would light up every time

  • Pat Boyle

    Yes it would have been late in the war. Early in the war they were knocking out tanks with 37mm guns. The Sherman, our excellent medium tank, late in the war also carried a 75mm main gun until they up gunned it with a 76mm gun. The Germans had a 75mm gun in their Panther tank and of course even bigger 88mm guns in the Tigers.

    Nowadays our Abrams uses a Rheinmetal smooth bore of 200mm – a much much bigger gun. And as the guns got bigger and the ammunition got more effective the armor on modern tanks also evolved such that this once deadly tank killer would probably barely scratch one of the Main Battle Tanks used by any of the major powers today.

    • Phil Hsueh

      While it’s true that the Sherman carried a 75mm gun, it was a short barreled, low velocity 75 which isn’t the same thing as the long barreled, high velocity 75s the Germans (and others) were fielding. As for the 76mm gun, not all Shermans received that upgrade, I don’t know the exact numbers but the vast majority of US Shermans were armed with the regular 75mm gun.

      As for the Abrams, the gun is only 120mm, not 200, but it is a smoothbore made by Rheinmetal of Germany. Most, if not all, MBTs today field a smoothbore cannon due to the use of SABOT rounds as the primary anti-tank round instead of more conventional AP/HEAT type round. That’s really the big difference between tank guns now a days and older guns is the usage of kinetic energy rounds instead of chemical.

  • Nelson Kerr

    A trucj doesn’t have armor for the round to rattle around inside of, or armor to turn into s fragments. The Sabot round from a M-1 Abrams would have done no more damage.

  • Nelson Kerr

    Then why did they go though crews like Dixie cups?

  • It had the 3 inch 76mm a 30 cal for the driver and one for the gunner.

    • Jon

      Correct, so its gun tube would be of 76.2mm not 7.62mm.