As we begin the commemoration of the centennial of the United States’ involvement in WWI, let’s take a minute and look at a “firearm first” from that era. The Mauser 1918 T-Gewehr rifle holds the distinction of being the first gun specifically designed to target tanks. Up until that point, tanks weren’t really a thing, so WWI arms makers had to come up with something original to combat this new threat.
By 1917, the German army had discovered – much to their dismay – that their 7.92x57mm armor-piercing rounds weren’t effective against British-built Mark IV tank armor. By today’s standards, the Mark IV armor, which ranged between one-quarter and one-half-inch thick, is paltry at best. Nonetheless, it was a formidable obstacle in 1917.
To fix this problem, the Germans approached renowned gunsmiths at the Mauser factory to create something that would strike fear in the hearts of British tank crews. By 1918, the T-Gewehr was in production. It fired a 13mm round that was sure to penetrate the tank’s armor. From that point on, the Mark IV tanks were no longer safe.
In addition to being the world’s first anti-tank rifle, the T-Gewehr was also the only anti-tank rifle to see service in WWI. While this gun is forgotten by most people today, it played a significant role in how war would be fought throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.