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|Panzerschreck - The sights & sighting|
During the lifespan
of the Panzerschreck system the sights were continuously improved since
inaccuracy of the sights was judged as the biggest problem with the
to this there is a variety of sights that can be observed, and most of
the sights will help us "date" the variation of the Panzerschreck.
The sights are of course closely linked with the ammunition. Due to
this we can
divide the sights into two main categories; sights for the Raketen
Granate 4322 (RPzBGr 4322) and sights for the Raketen Panzerbüchse
and 4992 (RPzBGr 4992). But both types of rockets came with a
and a summer-powder, so it gets more complicated.....
I will designate the different sights with model numbers, but these are entirely to keep track of the development. The Germans used descriptive names for them and never divided them up like that. All improvements of the sights ensured full interchangeability with earlier versions of the sights and older ammunition.
The first Panzerschrecks delivered to the front line troops in October 1943 had the Model I front and rear sights. The rear sight consisted of a simple bracket that was welded directly to the side of the tube. The sides were bent forwards to strengthen the construction, apart from the top that was left flat. Two holes were also stamped in the bracket and used in the positioning process prior to welding the bracket to the tube. A small square was cut out in the bracket top to act as a sight notch (Kimme).
The front sight was a bracket that was slightly larger and mirrored to the rear one. It had all the sides bent backwards for strength and the same two holes. The frame was left as open as possible to ensure that the firer would get a best possible view of his target. The actual post (Korn) was placed on a frame that could be adjusted by an armourer with the appropriate tools. Since the weapon was introduced with two types of ammunition (summer/winter powder but same technical name for the rocket) the front sight had two posts. One pointed upwards and one downwards within the same frame. There were no adjustments for the firer, he simply had to choose which post to use according to temperature and rockets available.
was a weak spot
in regards to more than the accuracy. The D1864/1 points it
The first improvement, a necessity
The first improvement was a necessary upgrading of the rear sight. The simple notch cut in the rear sight bracket wasn't possible to adjust sideways. It is not known when or how this improvement was introduced, but it was already in use when the D1864/5 was released. The D1864/5 was issued on 24 February 1944 and is a handbook dedicated to the updating of the Panzerschreck from the early version to the late version. Only the Model I rear sight was pictured, but the text about the sight-alignment procedure states that "for newer weapons with the adjustable rear sight also this has to be adjusted".
The modification was pretty straightforward. The old notch was widened to both sides and two oblong holes were filed out in the bracket. Then a new adjustable sight plate (Kimmenblech) was mounted with a pair of nuts and bolts. The weapon could then be zeroed according to the instructions and the rear sight adjusted sideways. This sight was also manufactured like this on new weapons. The manual describes it as "Visierhalter neuester form".
The second improvement, part of a package deal
The second improvement was made to the front sight. The first model of the front sight was adjustable in height, but only with tools and as part of the sight alignment procedure. The D1864/5 goes into detail about upgrading the sight by removing the old from the frame and replacing it with a new. The new sight was adjustable by the firer with a wing nut according to temperature/ammunition and had only got one post.
The sight was also made a lot less transparent. There was even a plate (Abdeckblech) covering parts of one of the previous holes. This is closely linked with the introduction of the shield. In order to avoid breakage of the window glass the new sight would absorb most of the burning particles from the rocket motor. "The post is adjustable, because the elevation of the tube depends on the changing temperatures. The wing nut makes the adjustment easier. The cover plate is used to protect the window glass in the shield". (Das Korn ist verstellbar, weil mit wechselnden Temperaturen eine andere Erhöhung des Rohres erforderlich ist. Die Flügelschraube erleichtert die Verstellbarkeit. Das Abdeckblech dient zum Schutze des Fensters im Schutzschild).
Carefull aiming, but no rocket is connected! This weapon has the upgraded front sight (Model II) with the Abdeckblech installed.
Redesigning the front sight
After the introduction of the shield the front sight needed redesigning. It didn't make sense to first stamp out the open areas and then having to bolt on a protective plate again. The new front sight didn't change the actual configuration of the sight, it was just a more massive body. Not only did it "fill in" the hole that had to be covered by the "Abdeckblech", it also became stronger, stiffer and got a reduced profile. Most probably due to complaints from the front, the rearward bent edge was increased to the double, giving a much sturdier sight. The Model III sight was only fitted to newly manufactured Panzerschrecks. It was drawn in the D1864/1 that was published in June 1944, so it is reasonable to expect that it was in production from mid-1944.
A more advanced rear sight is needed
Let's take a theoretical look at aiming at tanks. It is "easy" enough to aim and shoot at a tank that sits still. If the tank is moving directly towards you just aim a little lower (since it will be closer by the time the rocket reaches it). If the tank is driving in front of you at an angle, it gets more complicated. You will have to aim in front of the tank, so that the tank and rocket meet each other in a different location than the one the tank occupy at the moment of firing. The answer to this problem was a simple device that substituted the "Kimmenblech" (the adjustable notch). This appears to have been invented by the troops themselves as it is found in the Appendix section 3 of the D1864/1 as "Improvements suggested by the troops".
The blueprint was meant for the waffenmeisters so that they could manufacture their own "Verbreitertes Kimmenblech" (Widened sight) to upgrade the older weapons. The only modification to the actual weapon if it already had the "Kimmenblech" (Rear sight Model II) was to shave off 4mm of the sight bracket top so that all notches would work.
The actual manual has a separate section on how to use the "Verbreitertes Kimmenblech".
The numbers "15" and "30" relates to the anticipated speed of the tank driving crosswise towards you at a 450 angle. The use of the lead-sight is quite logical. When you aim over one of the notches, just make sure the tube is pointing in front of the oncoming tank. The manual even has a small rhyme to make you remember: "Bei Fahrt quer, Vorhalt mehr". (When travelling crosswise, lead more).
The slide series about close combat with tanks also had a slide about it, but called it "Verbesserten Visiereinrichtung" (Improved rear sight).
New ammunition, new sights
One of the problems with the Panzerschreck was the low performance of the rocket, the RPzBGr 4322. It gave a maximum combat range against tanks of 150 meters, and the powder continued to burn for 2 meters after the rocket left the tube. A new rocket motor was finally developed and saw action from the end of 1944. With the improved ballistic performance of this motor a new set of sights had to be installed on all weapons firing the new ammunition. It was introduced together with the Raketen Panzerbüchse 54/1, but it was stressed that the ammunition could be fired from both models of the weapon. The situation must have been a logistic nightmare. The difference between the 54 and the 54/1 constituted no problem, as the ballistic properties of the weapons were identical. The big issue was the new rocket with the longer range. This problem was solved very neatly; new sights were invented that would work with both the old RPzBGr 4322 motor and the new. The drawback with the new sights was that they once again introduced multiple posts, this time 3!
I haven't been able to find any good pictures of a surviving example of this sight, but one original specimen has been unearthed in the Baltikum. The line under "150" is the alignment mark for the temperature setting that would be found on the right side of the sight frame. This is the Model IV front sight.The new rocket motor was marked "Arkt. 44/45" while the new ammunition was designated "Winter-Munition 1944/45".
A notch isn't just a notch! With the improved Model III rear sight came the "lead range", that was determined by the distance between the lead-notches (0-15-30). With the new rocket came a greater combat range and higher velocity. Due to this a new "Vorhaltekimme" Model IV was developed.
With the higher velocity of the new rocket the space between the notches was shortened considerably. In addition the lower edge was bent rearwards for strength. Even though the new front sight could be adjusted for both types of rocket, the lead-range notches of the new rear sight would only be useful with the new rocket!
The infrastructure was at this time under constant attack, but the German supply system still managed to come up with a brilliant solution! The new sights were issued together with the new ammunition! Every second box of the new RPzBGr 4322 with the new motor also contained a set of the new front and rear sights and a instruction sheet was glued inside the lid.
Together with the new front and rear sight was also a instruction sheet:
It was stressed that both the front and rear sight had to be replaced at the same time.
The sight has been tested for radiation without any results, and it doesn't appear to be phosphorous either. Just plain white paint.
Sight alignment and zeroing
If you want a weapon
to hit anything, it is vital that the sights and tube are in alignment;
they point in the same direction. With the introduction of the
(Front sight Model II) the troops also needed a procedure that would
to put the temperature alignment marks on the right spot on the sight
After the alignment marks were placed on the frame the same procedure
to ensure that the sights were correct, especially with the new
The "Richttafel" was drawn up in the size 21,5 cm X 70 cm. The cardboard drawing was placed at a precise distance of 10 meters from the weapon. The weapon had to be placed in a holder or bracket, or simply placed on the ground. The first goal was to align the tube with the cross on the drawing marked "S" (for "Seelenachse", or centerline).
crosshairs were then aligned on the cross marked "S". The vertical
line "L" (Lotlinie) was used to ensure that the weapon was held
vertical. Sighting along the sidewall of the sight bracket along the
line would ensure this.
The guidelines and sight-picture doesn't say anything about how often the sights should be checked.
The introduction of the new rocket motor with extended range didn't require a new "sight-board". The same Richttafel was used until the end of the war. The sights for the new rocket required a new set of markings, but this was simply done by measuring millimetres. The original instruction can be seen in the picture above the Richttafel above. The old "+200 C" was used as a starting point. Only the "+" was kept, all other markings were removed. 3 millimetres below the "+" mark a "0" mark was placed and 3 millimetres below that a "-" mark.The table in the picture above the "Paint" headline was used to determine the correct settings based on the ammunition in use and the current temperature.
Several variables came into play to get the elevation right.
The rockets launched from the Panzerschreck did not travel in a straight line towards the target; they had to go in an arch. The first type of rocket motor burnt out after 3,5 meters (2 meters after it left the weapon). The temperature of the rocket motor was the crucial factor. The higher the temperature, the more power from the rocket. The type of ammunition was closely linked to temperature of the combat environment. The difference between the summer and winter ammunition was the composition and form of the rocket powder (see the ammunition page for more details).
The new front sight could also be used as a range finder. According to the manual a T34 would fit in height inside the square of the post at a distance of 150 meters. Note the white painted post.
Judging the distance was of course also very important. This could be done like the illustration above shows. In a prepared defence position the firer would have surveyed the terrain/road in front of him and taken notes on the various distances to known objects. This way he would know the correct distance to the target from the objects it was close to.
In order to obtain a effective hit (one that actually stops/destroys the tank) a separate manual was written up, the "Panzerbeschußtafel" (Template for tank destruction) Heeres Dienstvorschrift 469, issued on 30. September 1943. It contained pictures of most known tanks at the time, with graphics showing the tanks vulnerable areas. All German anti-tank weapons had their own appendix in this manual, the 8,8 cm R PzB 54 was the H.Dv. 469/3e. This is also the first documented use of the model designation in a manual.
The picture above can be clicked on and will give you the whole appendix to the manual.
The appendix was a tiny book, with no cover and consisted of 12 pages (3 folded pages with a pair of staples). It was good reading in the barracks, but nothing to bring to the trenches. So 9 months later a pocket version was born, printed directly on cardboard. This could be carried by the individual soldier in the field and would withstand the elements better than its predecessor.
The last time the "Panzerbeschußtafel" is mentioned is in the "Heerestechnische Verordnungsblatt" from 15 January 1945. This document introduced both the Raketen Panzerbüchse 54/1 and the Raketen Panzerbüchse Granaten 4992 to service. The document ends with the following text:
"The Panzerbeschußtafel will in the future no longer be distributed with the Panzerschreck, since the rocket will penetrate all known armour as long as the optimum hit-angle is used".
All weapons fired at an enemy will draw counter fire. This has been a fact since people first starting throwing things at each other. The German forces had tried to deal with this since the trench warfare of the first world war. The solution they came up with was the "Deckungszielgerät". A device that enabled the shooter to stay in cover while operating his G98 rifle. The same device was reinvented in 1943 for use with the self-loading G41 rifle and captured Russian SVT40 rifles, but could also be used with the standard bolt action K98k. It was later also used with the G43/K43 rifle. It was called the Deckungszielgerät 43 (DZG43).
The DZG43 absorbed the recoil through a secondary butt stock, held directly by the firer. A version for machine guns also existed, but never went to full scale production like the DZG43.
The Panzerschreck was a completely recoilless weapon, so in theory a DZG should be no problem to manufacture for this weapon, but it was not a priority and the resources needed to manufacture such a device was used on other projects. But the blueprint for such a device was printed in the publication "Von der Front für die Front". Normally these hint, tricks and suggestions carry the name of the inventor, but this one doesn't, so it might have been a product of the OKH/AHA.
The DZG for the Panzerschreck was never manufactured in numbers. It was meant to be made by the units themselves by the means available. This would typically mean the armourer at battalion level, the "Waffenmeister". It could be manufactured with thicker materials, but not thinner, if the correct materials weren’t available. No alterations had to be made to the weapon, and the handling of the weapon would be the same as before. The DZG could be used by both left and right-handed shooters. The DZG was considered an accessory, and by removing the wooden supports in the standard ammunition box it would fit inside. The trench mirror could be manufactured by the armourer, or a standard trench mirror from the DZG43 could be used. The trench mirror gave no magnification; it simply relayed the view through the sights to the firer, keeping his head low.
The added benefit from using the DZG was that the protective shield could be dropped, thus lowering the profile and the chance of detection.
The Mystico Corner
The picture above shows a US soldier inspecting a captured RPzB 54/1 and comparing it with a US M1 Bazooka. There are several aspects about this picture that are worth commenting. The M1 Bazooka is severely damaged in the middle of the tube. It has what appears to be a bullet hole, and has shrapnel damage making the tube bulb and bits of the wood board missing.
The RPzB 54/1 has the Model IV rear sight (note the bent lower edge), and just below this what appears to be a Handschutz in the open position, the cover plate to protect the firers right hand.
The most fascinating detail is the front sight. This is the only picture I have managed to find that shows the Model IV front sight in use. All the 3 post are visible, and appears to have white painted tips. The frame that holds the front sight is a early Model II version with a "Abdeckblech", the nut plainly visible. The bright reader would find this strange, as the new front sight frame came into production mid-1944, while "production" of the RPzB 54/1 started in the end of 1944. The explanation can be found in the section about the RPzB 54/1.
Got this picture from Bill Bogdan. It shows a ground dug Panzerschreck with the Model IV front sight still in place and mostly intact.
Of special note is the non-regulation (probably) brazed on plate to the right with the aligment mark.
The pictures below show a new variety of the rear sight. It is a standard rear sight that has been upgraded to the Model II standard, with an adjustable "Kimmenblech". But in addition a Waffenmeister has added a new element.
(Pictures courtesy of Jeff Supertsar)
An extra sight blade can be rotated into position to make it easier for the gunner to aim and hit his target at longer distances. This invention hasn't been found described in any publication or order, so it was most probably only made locally by a unit's Waffenmeister.
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