Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Boys anti-tank rifle

The Rifle, Anti-Tank, .55in, Boys commonly known as the "Boys (or, often and incorrectly,"Boyes") Anti-tank Rifle" was a British anti-tank rifle. There were three main versions of the Boys, an early model (Mark I) which had a circular muzzle brake and T shaped bipod, a later model (Mk II) that had a square muzzle brake and a V shaped bipod, and a third model made for airborne forces with a 30-inch (762 mm) barrel and no muzzle brake. There were also different cartridges, with a later version offering better penetration.

At its introduction, the weapon was effective on light armour (16 mm thick) at 100 yards (91 m). There were two main service loads used during the Second World War, the W Mark 1 (60 g AP at 747 m/s) and the W Mark 2 ammunition (47.6 g AP projectile at 884 m/s). The W Mark 1 could penetrate approximately 16 mm of armour at 100 yards, about the thickness used on the frontal armour of a half-track or armoured car, or the side or rear armour of a light tank. Later in the conflict, a more effective round was developed, the W Mark 2, which fired a tungsten-cored projectile at 945 m/s. The W Mark 2 was able to penetrate up to 3/4 inch (19 mm) of armour at 100 yards (~91 m), with the plate inclined at 70° from the horizontal (i.e. 20 degrees from the direct line angle of fire), the effective thickness being ~21.5 mm at 0°. Its effective range against unarmoured targets (e.g. infantry), was much further. Despite its recoil slide and cushioned buttpad, the felt recoil of the weapon (along with noise and muzzle blast) was terrific, frequently causing neck strains and bruised shoulders. Consequently, the Boys was almost never fired as a free weapon (i.e. not affixed to a support) except in emergencies.

The Boys rifle was used in the early stages of World War II against lightly armoured German tanks and combat vehicles. Britain also supplied a large number of Boys anti-tank rifles to Finland in 1939 and 1940 during the Winter War with the Soviet Union. The weapon was popular with the Finns, because it could deal with Soviet T-26 tanks which the Finnish Army encountered in many engagements.

In the Far East theatre the Boys was used against lightly-armoured Japanese tanks in Malaya as late as 1942, when the 1/14th Punjabis knocked out two light Japanese tanks at a roadblock. As British and Commonwealth forces lacked a longer-range rocket-propelled anti-tank weapon such as the bazooka or panzerschreck, the Boys remained in inventory for use in that theatre.

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