Articles, Blog

The Model SS41 – A Czech Bullpup Anti-Tank Rifle for the SS


Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another
video on ForgottenWeapons.com. I’m Ian, I am here today at the Institute of Military Technology taking a look at some very interesting firearms, like this German World War Two bullpup anti-tank rifle actually made by the Czechs. Now, that’s a cool gun. Now this is a Model of 1941, sometimes called an SS41, or an MSS, or an SS-M41, couple of different nomenclatures for it, anti-tank rifle. It is chambered for the Patrone 318, which was kind of the standard German anti-tank rifle cartridge of World War Two. Which was kind of obsolete when it
was introduced, but still did see some use. Like many anti-tank rifles, the primary combat
tanks, especially the medium and heavy tanks, were pretty quickly developed with armour that was far
thicker than something like this could actually penetrate. But these rifles remained useful through the end of the
war for targeting things like emplacements, pillboxes, light vehicles, that sort of thing. And you could potentially
damage even a larger tank by shooting at tracks or bogie wheels. Whether that would be effective
or not is kind of situation dependent, but these rifles did see use, as did all other
anti-tank rifles, through the course of the war. Now this particular cartridge is a little bit unusual in World
War Two anti-tank cartridges in that it is 8mm or 7.92×94. So it’s a relatively very small bullet
with a huge case full of powder behind it. The German idea here was to have velocity
do the armour penetration rather than mass. So most of the other … anti-tank rifles out there are
12, 12.5, .50 calibre, or 13mm, or 14.5mm, or 20mm. The Germans were kind of the only major World War
Two power that went with an 8mm anti-tank cartridge. Specifically this fires a 220 grain bullet at right
about 4,000 feet per second, so very high velocity. For you metric types, that’s 14.3
grams at 1,210 meters per second. And of course it was a tungsten core projectile,
so good hard AP core and decent armour penetration. It would do 30mm of vertical armour at 100 metres,
and it would do 20mm of penetration at 300 metres. Alright, so that’s some of the numbers. The developmental
history of this goes back to the 1930s in Czechoslovakia, where the military was watching the
development of armoured vehicles, and decided we really need some sort of infantry
portable weapon that can take out tanks in the 1930s. And in the early to mid-30s most of the tanks that
were around and being used were vulnerable to weapons like this. So a lot of countries developed
them, almost everybody kind of developed one. The Czech military interestingly had a whole
lot of different ideas going at the same time. They were developing rifles like
this in 15mm, 11mm and 8mm. And of course the bigger they got, the heavier
they got, and the more crew they required to operate. And ultimately the decision kind of came down
that they wanted to focus on something that was small enough that it could be handled by just a
crew of two. Basically a gunner and an assistant. And that was kind of where this came in. Now
there were a whole series of these rifles developed, a lot of prototypes, I don’t have any
particularly good information on them. Apparently they were developed by a
couple of the names that you see all the time in this period of Czech firearms
development, the Holek brothers and Koucký. So they came up with a bunch of things. This is kind of
the one that got the farthest and it was a Model of 1941. When the Germans occupied
Czechoslovakia this research was still ongoing, and this weapon was redesigned to use the German anti-tank
cartridge, which made it interesting to the German military. Now this is known as the SS41. It was primarily
used not by the Wehrmacht, but by the SS. A lot of people think that the SS, being,
you know, super-elite combat troops and Hitler’s personal pick of the military, they must have
gotten the best gear. Actually the opposite is true. The SS were controlled by the Nazi party directly,
not through the normal military chain of command. As a result the SS had to source their weapons kind of on their
own. And this led to a lot of oddball guns being used by the SS because they weren’t necessarily able to get
standard production military rifles, because the normal army, the Wehrmacht, and maybe the
Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe had priority on those guns. So for example, the Germans went into World War Two with the
Panzerbüchse 39, their own (in that case single-shot), anti-tank rifle. The SS wasn’t able to get their hands on any significant
quantity of those, but here they are in Czechoslovakia, you’ve got the CZ factory making this rifle, or capable
of it. Well the CZ factory can be contracted with, and they bought a bunch of these rifles to use.
They were primarily used on the Eastern Front. And not very many of them survive today, probably
a dozen, maybe a little more, maybe a little less. This is a particularly nice example, so
it’s a good one for us to take a look at. Alright, let’s go ahead and take a closer look at the
mechanics of this thing, because it’s really pretty cool. In order to cycle this thing
you actually grab the pistol grip, unlock it by the pistol grip, the breech is fixed,
the whole barrel assembly slides forward, and then you go ahead and close it, pick up a new cartridge,
lock the action, and you’re ready to fire a second shot. So let’s take a closer look at that. Alright, let’s start by taking a
look at a couple of the markings. Here on the receiver, on the left side of the
magazine well actually, we have the CZ plant logo. Then we have the model designation. You can see that actually
isn’t … the letters “SS”, that’s actually a pair of SS runes. These were marked model SS41, presumably because
they were actually contracted directly by the SS rather than the Wehrmacht or another
official part of the German military. Now the magazine catch for the gun is here, and we
actually are going to roll the magazine out by the front, and lift it out. It is a single stack magazine, holds I believe
10 rounds. All the literature says 10 rounds. Although I don’t have 10 rounds to work with, I do have one
dummy cartridge here, so we can show that in the magazine. Drops in just like so, and it is interesting to
point out that the magazine has this interrupter. Kind of actually similar to what you’d find on
a Mosin-Nagant, or some other designs as well. The idea behind that is when this interrupter is pushed down,
it allows one round to pop out the top of the magazine. That’s important because we
don’t have a typical bolt action here. Instead of pushing a round up into the chamber from the back,
this functions by having the barrel come up from the front, pick up a cartridge, and then push it back onto the breech face. So a little bit different style of operation, which requires
a different style of magazine to work, in this case. This is a little different from the blow forward pistols, which
are able to use pretty much a standard style of magazine. So if we take a look at the front end of the gun, we
have a pretty big, square, blocky muzzle brake there. And then the front sight is interesting, I want to
point this out. That front sight is really, really, wide. So just in comparison, that’s almost
like a half-inch wide front sight post. Which seems kind of ludicrous
until we look at it from behind. Now the rear sight is pretty standard looking,
just a pretty normal notch cutout there. But when you actually look at these
together, that front sight comes into its own. Sights aside, let’s take a look at the action. The lever here is your unlocking lever. Pushing this down
allows you to rotate the bolt handle, or the barrel handle I suppose, which is what you have to do to cycle
the action. So what you would do is… First off, this is also your safety. When it’s locked back like that, the trigger’s locked and the
opening mechanism is locked. So you flip it forward into the fire position,
then push it down and rotate it like this. So the shooter (this is only a right-handed gun because
it is a bullpup), so the shooter depresses the latch, opens the handle, and then
pushes the barrel forward. That is going to kick this ejector out, right there. You can see the ejector moving
right there, that kicks out the empty case. Now you’re ready to load a new round. Now loading that new round is where this
interrupter on the magazine comes into play. As we pull this back the first thing that’s actually in contact is the barrel hits the
front of this interrupter, and starts to push it down. The nose of the bullet drops into this feed ramp, and then as we pull the barrel back, you can see
it’s able to pull this cartridge out of the magazine. The interrupter is dropping down and ensuring that
the next … cartridge in the mag doesn’t also come out. This is going to come back, right there the
cartridge has popped out of the magazine entirely, but now it’s fed sufficiently into the barrel that it’s not going
to fall out, and it will now slowly lift up into the breech face. Here’s the whole process again from a
different angle. Going to open the breech, pull the barrel forward, that would eject the empty case,
and then I slide the barrel back, down, and lock it. So this anti-tank rifle needed to be infantry portable. … The whole point was to have an anti-tank
weapon that could be with the infantry at all times, because, sure, there are much better anti-tank
weapons, things like towed artillery, anti-tank guns. But what happens when the infantry gets separated from
those weapons? That’s the purpose of something like this. So portability was an important consideration. Now this was intended to be a two man weapon,
the whole thing weighs about 28.5 pounds or 13 kilos, and they incorporated a number of
elements into the design for portability. One of them is that the sights fold.
So I can take the rear sight here (if I remember which direction it goes, it goes back), so the rear sight folds down,
so it doesn’t snag on things. The front sight also folds
down to get out of the way. We have a carry handle here, leather over
metal tabs, for carrying the barrel assembly. This shoulder rest folds down to
make things a little bit more compact, so you don’t have this
sticking up in the way. And then the whole gun can be
disassembled remarkably easily. So here on the side of the gun we have two locking levers,
and what we’re going to do is go ahead and open the barrel, unlock it, pull it forward a little bit,
and then I can pull these two levers off, what I do is push forward
and then I can lift that up. Those allow me to simply pull the barrel assembly completely off the gun. (Maybe. There it is.) There we go. Now we’ve separated the gun
into two much more transportable pieces. This is certainly still not light or small in any way, but it’s a lot
easier to move that than to move the gun as a complete unit. Now you have two separate pieces that you can split between
the two-man crew so it’s easier to haul this thing around. While we have this apart, I want
to point out something right here. This actually has a pair of rollers, and that’s part of what makes this gun so smooth to cycle
is that the barrel is actually not rubbing on this front surface. It’s actually riding on two nice smooth rollers. This can also give us a nice good view of the
breech block here. As I mentioned, this is fixed in place because the barrel cycles
forward off and onto it. We have three really big sets of dual locking
lugs there, that’s an extremely strong system. Certainly there’s no way the bolt’s coming out the back
of this thing, because the back ain’t going nowhere. So here’s another consideration for an anti-tank rifle,
especially a high velocity, small bore one like the PzB, well the Patrone 318,
anything using that 8×94 cartridge. Because the velocity is so high you’re
going to have really fast erosion of the barrel, and it won’t take all that long before the rifling is in bad shape, the
throat’s kind of eroded away from the heat of those cartridges firing. It would be nice to have an easy way to change
out barrels, and the Czechs have that on this rifle. So the breech block assembly here is
actually just threaded onto the barrel. But there we go. You can take the
breech assembly completely off the barrel. Now you have just a barrel with its sights,
and that’s an easy replacement part. A couple last little things we can take a look at. In this
breech block we have the threading for the barrel, and we have the locking lugs of course at the back. And you can see that’s the trigger transfer bar. So
when I pull the trigger, all it’s doing is just lifting that up. That’s going to hit a sear that’s sitting at the breech
block, and that’s what will actually fire the weapon. And then this has two elements on there, one here and … once
you pull this down then this is able to rotate up to unlock. So in total only a few thousand of these were made. They served primarily on the Eastern Front, which is
largely why very few of them exist in the United States. They just weren’t in a situation
to find their way back to the US. Thanks for watching guys, I hope you enjoyed the video. These guns are very scarce today and very cool
to get to take a look at this one here at the IMT. If you’re interested in small arms research, things like this,
the IMT actually kind of focuses on American firearms, but they do have a pretty substantial collection
of European and other foreign weapons as well. So the collection is not generally open to
the public, but it is available by appointment. So if you’re interested in this type of thing, by all means
get in touch with them and arrange yourself a visit. I think you’ll enjoy it. If you enjoy seeing these on
YouTube without travelling down here to the IMT, well in that case definitely consider
checking out my Patreon page. It’s contributions from folks there that make
it possible for me to travel to places like this, and bring you guns like this SS41 anti-tank rifle. Thanks for watching.

100 thoughts on “The Model SS41 – A Czech Bullpup Anti-Tank Rifle for the SS

  1. This is a very very cool rifle, and the engineering is seriously impressive for such an unconventional design. The handful of guns that use the pistol grip as the op handle are super intriguing.

  2. Been watching all the anti tank/anti material rifle videos and feel like they need their own playlist! So many vids now, love it!

  3. It would be really really funny if you broke one of these large caliber guns or shot the wall with a live round and then just looked at the camera and signed off with the usual forgotten weapons see you next time

  4. What was the shot count per barrel lol 5-6. I saw the bullet and thought it was an april's fools joke. 8mm on top of that much powder is no bueno.

  5. кто немцам все механизмы усложнял во время войны ?ну видно же что можно проще и дешевле сделать ,но нет ,мине кажется это не спроста так

  6. I wonder how hard it would be to make these currently, using modern cartridges like .50 BMG, .416 Barrett, or .408 Cheytac…

  7. you have to really give it to the soviets who managed to build a two man crew served portable gas operated semi automatic anti tank rifle, that's still used today and has nearly twice the penetration of anybody else's attempt.

  8. Ok. This is a bullpup anti-tank rifle used in WW2 by an elite military/police force AND the barrel moves forward instead of the bolt moving backwards.

    Shut up and take my money!

  9. The proper term for the infantry troops of the SS is Waffen-SS which started out in WW2 as grenadiers and later became both infantry and armor troops. Most divisions at the start of the war had czech weapons and it took some time for that to be phased out. Great video, thanks !

  10. Outstanding level of the machinery of this thing. No CAD, just pure hand drawing and design and they managed to make it so cool 80 years ago. Simply incredible work by engineers.

  11. This is actually brilliant. The action is so obviously simple and efficient. How is this not an industry standard big bore model?

  12. "Most of the world was building anti-tank rifles like this."
    John Browning: You silly people, you make your HMGs double as anti-tank machine guns!

  13. Hi Ian, greetings from the Czech republic 🙂
    Thanks for the video… and years of your work!
    I like the circled Zet logo, which is still one of my favorite sights, when one is leaving the main train station at Prague 🙂
    Take care, your…
    Sacral Authority

  14. I'd never heard of the gun before. It's a VERY impressive design. I'm surprised no one copied it for an anti material rifle.

  15. One of the most common misappropriation's of 3rd Reich nomenclature is using Wermacht as the English translation for Army
    Wermacht, in German loosely means "Defense Force".
    It was made up of the following Armed services:
    • Heer (Army)
    • Kriegsmarine:(Navy)
    • Luftwaffe: (Airforce)
    As we all know the Waffen SS was the military "wing" of the NSDAP (Waffen SS= "Armed SS").
    Note the difference between OKW and OKH.
    OKW= Oberkommando der Wermacht or High Command of "Defense Force". Whereas OKH= Oberkcommando des Heeres or High Command of the Army.
    BTW, this is an AMAZING series !!
    For me, it has brought to life many weapon's that I've only been able to marvel at through text and imagination!
    Many thanks to lan and the crew.

  16. What did it sound like when it ejects a cartridge? What did it sound like? You opened it, you put a dummy round in it, you closed it, but you didn't open it again.

  17. Wondering what the range was on such a gun. If the precision was ok you could ad a huge scope and use it for sniping.

  18. https://youtu.be/nlhHBZDZMKY

    Carlos Hathcock interview.
    On a side note, this is a sniper rifle, not an anti-materiel rifle.

  19. Always annoys me when Ian talks about the Wehrmacht when he means the Heer. It shouldn't bother me, the man has forgotten more about weapons than I will ever know, but still lol

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *