3.7 cm Pak 36

The Pak 36 (Panzerabwehrkanone 36) was a German anti-tank gun that fired a 3.7 cm calibre shell. It was the main anti-tank weapon of Wehrmacht infantry units until mid-1941. It was followed in this role by the 5 cm Pak 38 gun.

3.7 cm Pak 36
Class Vehicle
Type Towed Artillery
Manufacturer Rheinmetall
Origin Germany
Country Name Origin Year
Germany 1941
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
China View
Estonia View
Finland View
Germany View
Hungary View
Italy View
Romania View
Slovakia View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Rheinmetall View

Design of a horse-drawn, 3.7 cm anti-tank gun (designated 3.7 cm Pak L/45) by Rheinmetall commenced in 1924 and the first guns were issued in 1928. By the early 1930s, it was apparent that horse-drawn artillery was obsolescent, and the gun was modified for motorized transport by substituting magnesium-alloy wheels and pneumatic tyres for the original spoked wooden wheels. Re-designated the 3.7 cm Pak 35/36, it began to replace the 3.7 Pak L/45 in 1934 and first appeared in combat in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. It formed the basis for many other nations' anti-tank guns during the first years of World War II. The KwK 36 L/45 was the same gun, but used as the main armament on several tanks, most notably the early models of the Panzer III. Even the Soviets used the PaK 36 carriage design for their 45mm M1937 AT gun.

During the May 1940 Western Campaign, the Pak 36, being a small-calibre weapon, was found to be inadequate against allied tanks like the British Mk.II Matilda, and the French Char B1 and Somua S35. Still, the gun was effective against the most common light tanks, such as the R35, during the Battle of France, where the Char Bs and Matildas represented but a small fraction of the total number of AFVs. In June 1941, the Soviet forces consisted of 10,661 T-26, 2,987 T-37/38/40/50s, 59 T-35, 442 T-28, 7,659 BT, 957 T-34, and 530 KV for a combined total of approximately 23,295 tanks. Thus, during the initial phases of Operation Barbarossa, the Pak 36 could still penetrate the armor of the majority of Soviet AFVs at ranges up to 1000m from the front, with the notable exception of the T-28s and T-35s, which it could only penetrate at under 100m. The Pak 36 could not penetrate the armor of the T-34s and KVs.

By late 1941, however, the widespread introduction of Soviet medium tanks quickly erased the gun's effectiveness; miserable performance against the T-34 on the Eastern Front led to the Pak 36 being nicknamed Heeresanklopfgerät (literally "army door-knocking device"), for its inability to produce any effect on the T-34 aside from notifying the tank of its presence by futilely bouncing rounds off its armor (regardless of the angle or distance).

The Pak 36 began to be replaced by the new 5 cm Pak 38 in mid-1940. The addition of tungsten-core shells (Pzgr. 40) added slightly to the armour penetration of the Pak 36. Despite its continued impotence against the T-34, it remained the standard anti-tank weapon for many units until 1942. With tungsten core rounds, the Pak 36 crews could finally achieve kills on T-34s, but only via a direct shot to the rear or side armour from point-blank range, an unlikely and rather suicidal scenario. The advantages of the Pak 36 were: its ease of handling and mobility (it could be brought into action very rapidly by as few as two men since it weighed only 432 kg); its good quality optical aiming devices; it was small and easy to conceal; and it had a very high rate of fire.

As the Pak 36 was gradually replaced, many were removed from their carriages and added to SdKfz 251 halftracks for use as light anti-armour support. The guns were also passed off to the forces of Germany's allies fighting on the Eastern Front, such as the 3rd and 4th Romanian Army. This proved particularly disastrous during the Soviet encirclement (Operation Uranus) at the Battle of Stalingrad when the Romanian forces, already demoralized and understrength, bore the brunt of the main Soviet armored thrust, and were unable to stop the Soviet advances due to their grossly inadequate anti-tank weaponry. The Pak 36 also served with the armies of Italy, Finland, Hungary, and Slovakia.

Although the Pak 36 quickly became ineffectual in the European and Russian theatres, in China, the Pak 36 was still viable as an effective anti-tank gun. It could destroy the Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go and Type 97 Chi-Ha tanks, since their armor protection was quite weak. For example, during the Battle of Taierzhuang, the Chinese PaK 36 destroyed a number of Japanese tanks.

Type Anti-tank gun
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
Used by  Nazi Germany
 Kingdom of Italy
 Republic of China
 Finland
 Estonia
 Hungary
 Slovakia
 Kingdom of Romania
Wars Second Sino-Japanese War
Spanish Civil War
World War II
Production history
Designer Rheinmetall
Manufacturer Rheinmetall
Unit cost $2,579
Specifications
Weight Travel: 450 kg (990 lb)
Combat: 327 kg (721 lb)
Barrel length 1.66 m (5 ft 5 in) L/45
Width 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Height 1.17 m (3 ft 10 in)
Crew 2
Shell 37 × 249 mm. R
Caliber 37 mm (1.45 in)
Elevation -5° to +25°
Traverse 30° right and left
Rate of fire 13 rpm
Muzzle velocity 762 m/s (2,500 ft/s)
Effective firing range 300 m (328 yds)
Maximum firing range 5,484 m (5,997 yds)

End notes