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The Panzerschreck was an anti-tank rocket launcher employed by the German military during World War II. It was a precursor to the American bazooka, and looked very similar, if slightly larger than that weapon.

It consisted of a launch tube a little over five feet in length, that was loaded with a seven pound rocket from the rear. There was no special sighting equipment, the target was simply eyeballed, and you pulled the trigger to electrically ignite the rocket motor. It had a range of about 180 meters. As a HEAT charge, effectiveness did not decline as a function of range, not counting poor aim. At a flat angle this charge could penetrate 230mm of steel armor plate.

Unlike the Panzerfaust, this weapon could be reloaded, and ammunition was distributed throughout a squad in five round boxes.

Early models did a lot of damage to the body and morale of the firer, because there was no guard against the burning propellant of the rocket as it left the tube. Troops were issued fireproof ponchos and gasmasks as makeshift protection. A remedy was attempted in 1943, when a small shield was placed in front of the trigger mechanism, with a tiny viewport added. This was an improvement, however it created a blowback effect as the blast of the rocket pushed against this surface.

Over the course of the war over 250,000 of these weapons were produced. The chief selling point being reduced production costs per weapon. Compared to an anti-tank gun that may have cost several thousand Reichsmarks to produce, a Panzerschreck cost under 100RM. As the war ground on, there was even a push to produce the weapon as a corrugated cardboard tube to save metal.

At a range of 100 meters, against a static target, in peaceful conditions, a little under 75% of shots fired would miss. If you were carrying one of these in 1944, you probably died before 1945.

Name: Raketenpanzerbüchse, AKA Panzerschreck
Type: Anti-tank rocket launcher
Caliber: 88 mm
Weight: 9,5 kg
Rocket weight: 3,25 kg
Barrel length: 1,35 m
Range: 180 meters
Muzzle velocity: 110 m/sec
Armour penetration: 230 mm

When the Wehrmacht encountered the cheap, light and effective bazooka, it immidiately abandoned their R-Werfer 43 in favour of their own version of the bazooka. Designated the Raketenpanzerbüchse 43, it consisted of a simple hollow-charge rocket and a steel tube fitted with a hand grip, trigger and sights. The rocket was inserted into the rear of the tube and fired electrically.

Because of the exhaust hazard, the Panzerschreck had to be fired at a right angle from a prone position. Troops only fired the weapon from a kneeling or standing position when good cover was available. Gas masks and fireproof clothing were used to remedy this problem until a shield with a viewport was placed in front of the trigger, although the force of the rocket would press it into the face of the user. By the end of 1944, a new rocket was designed which consumed all the propellant before it left the barrel.

While the Panzerschreck may not have been the most accurate of weapons, it was certainly effective when it did hit. None of the allied tanks on the western front were equipped with the kind of armour needed to withstand a hit from a panzerschreck. For example, the Sherman, without a doubt the most ubiquitous tank in that particular theater, had a mere 75 mm of frontal armour. The Russian tanks were an entirely different matter.

The Panzerschreck and its smaller cousin, the Panzerfaust, proved especially effective in the French hedgerow country in Normandy. In the closed confines there, tanks were vulnerable as they drove on narrow roads with deep ditches on either side or when they drove through the hedgerows. It was, among other things, thanks to superior anti-tank weapons like the Panzerschreck that the Germans could prevent the allies from breaking out from Normandy for as long as they did.

Note that the Panzerschreck was upgraded several times. The stats above are for the Raketenpanzerbüchse 54/1, the latest version built during the war.

According to Britannica and all other books and websites I've checked, the Panzerschreck was indeed developed after the bazooka, contrary to what doomyeti has written in his writeup

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