Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle (USSR)

Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle is one of the earliest weapons of this type ever adopted by a major military force. Officially adopted in 1932, it predates similar Swedish Carl Gustav Pvg fm/42 and US M18 recoilless rifles by a whole decade. This gun was officially known as the “37mm K anti-tank rifle”, “K” being the first letter of the family name of Leonid Kurchevsky, designer of this and many other Soviet recoilless weapons of 1930s. Like all other weapons developed by this designer, 37mm K anti-tank rifle was quite complicated, often unreliable and sometimes dangerous in use. Furthermore, its armor-pierceing performance was insufficient for late 1930s, with claimed penetration of only 25mm RHA at 100 meters. For comparison, noticeably lighter and more reliable 14.5mm anti-tank rifles like PTRD and PTRS achieved penetration of up to 40mm at the same range. As a result, by late 1930s Kurchevsky 37mm anti-tank recoilless rifles were withdrawn from service and soon all but forgotten. Only few survived in museum collections.


Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle
Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle in museum collection


Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle is unusual in several aspects. First, it is a muzzle-loader with separate ignition, much like early 19th century cap’n’ball rifles. Second, it is magazine fed, using tubular magazine located above the barrel, which held up to 3 rounds of ammunition. Rounds were loaded into the tube from the rear. To reload the piece, operator has to cycle the charging handle forward and back. This caused the front-most load in magazine to pop out and fall into the loading tray attached to the muzzle. After that, special rammer, attached to the charging handle, pushed the round back into the bore, until it is firmly seated against the internal collar in the breech, which opens at the rear into Venturi nozzle. Rounds of ammunition consisted of the 37mm AP shot with small (about 9 gram) explosive charge inside, attached to the cylindrical canvas “case” with propellant load. AP projectile weight was about 600 gram, propellant charge was 190 gram of smokeless powder. Muzzle velocity was listed as 525 m/s, and maximum effective range against stationary targets was 500 meters. Dangerous back-blast area was 25 meters deep.
Propellant ignition was achieved by separate primers, loaded into special 10-shot strips prior to firing. Those strips were loaded into external firing device, attached to the barrel, and fired by the gun trigger. Upon firing, flame from the actuated primer entered the breech area of the gun via the ignition hole in the barrel, initiating small annular charge of black powder attached to the base of the cartridge. This charge then ignited main propellant load, sending the AP projectile down the bore and at the same time creating recoil-compensating reactive effect by sending some of high pressure gases to the rear via the nozzle.
For aiming, Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle was provided with 2X telescopic sight. It was not intended for “off-hands” use, and was provided with compact tripod mount, adjustable for height and with T&E mechanisms.


Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle
Loading Kurchevsky recoilless anti-tank rifle, from original manual


Caliber: 37 mm
Overall length: 2006 mm
Barrel length: 1250 mm
Weight: 32 kg (with tripod and telescope sight)
Armor penetration: 25 mm at 100 meters