8.8 cm KwK 36

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A captured Tiger I tank fitted with the 88 mm KwK 36

The 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 (German: 8,8 cm Kampfwagenkanone 36 L/56) was an 88 mm electrically fired tank gun used by the German Heer during World War II. This was the primary weapon of the PzKpfw VI Tiger I tank. It was developed and built by Krupp.


It is often said that this gun was based on the FlaK 36 88 mm gun anti-aircraft gun. There are similarities between these weapons but they must be considered merely parallel designs. The KwK 36 could fire the same ammunition as the FlaK 18 or 36. The only difference were the primers that were of percussion type in the FlaK guns and electric in KwK 36. Also the ballistics were identical and both guns had a 56 caliber barrel. The KwK 36 was built to practically the same design as the 7.5 cm and 5.0 cm guns already used in German tanks, but with the structure scaled up considerably. The breech ring was square in section and 320 millimetres (13 in) on a side. The breech block was of vertical falling wedge type and operated semi-automatically, meaning that after firing the empty cartridge case was automatically ejected, while the breech cocked itself and remained open, ready to take the next round in.

L56 refers to the barrel length; the inside diameter of a gun barrel is one "caliber". In this gun, L56 means the barrel was 56 calibers long, or 56 times 88 mm = 4,928 mm, or almost 5 metres (16 ft). A longer gun barrel allows the expanding gas from the shell's charge to act on the projectile longer than a short barrel, imparting it more velocity and force. For the Tiger II's 88 mm Kwk 43 L/71, 71 times 88 mm is 6248 mm, over 6 metres (20 ft) long.


The gun was amongst the most infamous tank guns of its time. It was very accurate and high-powered, having a high muzzle velocity which gave the shell travel in a stretched arc. By having a flatter trajectory, its gunners were afforded a higher margin of error in range guessing, helping and being partly responsible for the gun's accuracy. In addition, the gun is notorious for severely outclassing all other weapons at the time of its introduction, a fame only furthered by the platform it was mounted on; the gun was capable of destroying all targets with impunity at the time of its introduction, with the tank it was mounted on being generally able to withstand the large majority of hits received by its contemporaries.[1] In British firing trials during the war, a British gunner scored five successive hits from 1,200 yards (1,100 m) at a 16 by 18 inches (41 by 46 cm) target.


Panzergranate 39 (PzGr. 39) with APCBC round[edit]

Finnish training chart for KwK 36, shows a 88 mm PzGr. 39 (APCBC round)

An armour-piercing, capped, ballistic cap (APCBC) projectile with explosive filler and tracer.

  • Weight of projectile: 10.2 kg (22.48 lbs)
  • Muzzle velocity: 800 m/s (2,624 ft/s)
  • Explosive filler 0.059 kg

Penetration figures given for an armoured plate 30 degrees from vertical

Hit probability versus
2.5 x 2 m target [2]
Range Penetration in training in combat
100 m 120 mm 100% 100%
500 m 110 mm 100% 100%
1000 m 99 mm 100% 93%
1500 m 91 mm 98% 74%
2000 m 83 mm 87% 50%
2500 m n/a 71% 31%
3000 m n/a 53% 19%

PzGr. 40 (APCR)[edit]

An armour-piercing, composite rigid (APCR) projectile had a sub-calibre tungsten core.

  • Weight of projectile: 7.3 kg (16 lbs)
  • Muzzle velocity: 930 m/s (3,051 ft/s)

Penetration figures given for an armoured plate 30 degrees from vertical

Hit probability versus
2.5 x 2 m target [2]
Range Penetration in training in combat
100 m 171 mm 100% 100%
500 m 156 mm 100% 100%
1000 m 138 mm 100% 93%
1500 m 123 mm 97% 74%
2000 m 110 mm 89% 47%
2500 m n/a 78% 34%
3000 m n/a 66% 25%

PzGr. 39 HL (HEAT)[edit]

A high explosive anti-tank (HEAT) round with a shaped charge.

  • Weight of projectile: 7.65 kg (16.8 lbs)
  • Muzzle velocity: 600 m/s (1,968 ft/s)

Penetration figures given for an armoured plate 30 degrees from vertical

Hit probability versus
2.5 x 2m target [2]
Range Penetration in training in combat
100 m 90 mm 100% 100%
500 m 90 mm 100% 98%
1000 m 90 mm 94% 62%
1500 m 90 mm 72% 34%
2000 m 90 mm 52% 20%
2500 m 90 mm n/a n/a
3000 m 90 mm n/a n/a

See also[edit]

Weapons of comparable role, performance, and era[edit]


  1. ^ Prado, Fabio. "PzKpfw. VI Tiger I". The Armor Site. Retrieved 2015-01-12. 
  2. ^ a b c "Tiger I"[dead link]. Archived from the original on 2009-10-23.
  • JENTZ, Thomas L.; Germany's TIGER Tanks - Tiger I and II: Combat Tactics; ISBN 0-7643-0225-6

External links[edit]