Granatnik wz. 36
|Place of origin||Poland|
|In service||1936 - 1939|
|Used by||Polish Army|
|Wars||World War II|
|Weight||8 kg (18 lb)|
|Length||64 cm (2 ft 1 in)|
|Caliber||46 mm (1.81 in)|
|Rate of fire||15|
|Muzzle velocity||30 - 110 m/s
(98 - 360 ft/s)
|Effective firing range||100 - 800 m
(110 - 870 yds)
The Granatnik wz.36 was a Polish grenade launcher designed in originally in 1927 as "wz. 30" and later modified in 1936. It entered service in 1936 becoming the standard grenade launcher of the Polish Army; it was still in use during the German Invasion of Poland in 1939.
The wz.30 had a maximum range of 700 meters; this was increased to 800 meters in the wz.36. They both fired the same 46 mm shell, weighting 0.76 kg. About 3,850 of these 46 mm mortars were produced by 1939. Typically 81 such mortars were distributed to each Polish infantry division—three per company.
In the aftermath of World War I and the Polish-Bolshevist War of 1920 the Polish Army used a variety of WWI rifle grenade launchers and light mortars, notably the German WWI-vintage light mortar pressed into Polish service under the designation of Granatnik wz. 16 and the French shoot-through rifle grenade launcher of Vivien and Bessières system designed for the ageing Berthier rifle. While battle-tested, these weapons were neither accurate nor did they offer enough fire support on a modern battlefield.
To counter that in 1927 the Central Rifle School of Toruń developed a new blunderbuss, or more properly a rifle grenade launcher to be used with the then-standard Kb wz. 98a rifle. This design however proved little better than the already used weapons and in 1929 all further trials were halted.
Work on a new weapon was resumed by the Institute of Material Research for Armament (Polish: Instytut Badań Materiałowych Uzbrojenia) by a team lead by Lt. Col. Kick. It was decided to abandon the idea of a rifle grenade altogether and instead design a crossover between a light mortar and a grenade launcher. In April 1931 a prototype of a new mortar was completed. After a series of successful tests, the weapon was accepted by the Polish Army under the designation of granatnik wz. 30 ("grenade launcher Mark 1930"). An order for 400 pieces was placed in the Perkun company in Warsaw. By July 1932 the first mortars entered service.
Meanwhile the Instytut Techniczny Uzbrojenia (Armament Technical Institute) continued to improve the design and eventually came up with four different projects, initially code-named "type A", B, C and D. (some sources call them "granatnik wz. 30", "wz. 33", "wz. 35" and "wz. 36", respectively). The Centre for Ballistic Studies at Zielonka conducted extensive tests of the four new prototypes hand-made by the Warsaw-based Państwowa Fabryka Karabinów. Eventually the "type D" was chosen and was accepted by the Polish Army as granatnik wz. 36. The first batch was ordered at the I. Zieleniewski factory in Kraków, at a price of 1032 złoty apiece.
The first batch of 850 pieces was delivered to the armed forces by the end of July 1937. Another batch of 1500 pieces followed the next year. Overall, some 3850 were delivered to the army (397 of wz. 30 and 3453 of wz. 36 type), which allowed the creation of either a separate light mortar section of three mortars in every infantry company, or arming every infantry platoon with at least one grenade launcher.
The granatnik wz. 30 and granatnik wz. 36 was an ingenious weapon. Unlike ordinary mortars of the epoch, the firing angle was fixed at 45 degrees and the range was regulated not by raising or lowering the barrel but by limiting the volume of a gas chamber. The unrifled 46 mm barrel was attached to a flat base equipped with a bubble level and stabilised by a folding bipod. On top of the barrel was an exhaust pipe, equipped with a valve and attached to the bottom of the barrel. By turning the valve, soldiers operating the mortar could limit the size of combustion chamber beneath the grenade, setting the muzzle velocity and thus the firing range at between 100 and 800 metres (700 for the wz. 30 version). The mortar was equipped with a frame sight and a muzzle sight, as well as a firing trigger located at the base of the barrel.
In comparison to other light mortars of the epoch such as the German 5 cm Granatwerfer 36 or the Soviet RM-38, the Polish mortar was less accurate and the grenades used had a smaller warhead, however it was lighter and easier to handle and assemble. Also, thanks to the firing mechanism the weapon could be loaded beforehand and fired immediately upon reaching the designated firing position.
Pre-war tests proved that the weapon was very reliable and durable. During one of stress-tests the weapon was fired 850 times with a high rate of fire, without cleaning or cooling off. However, due to the complexity of the design, field repairs were significantly more difficult than in the case of ordinary mortars.
- (Polish) Marek Aszyk (2012). "Granatnik kal. 46mm wz. 36". Uzbrojenie Wojska II Rzeczpospolitej. Retrieved 2014-06-13.
- (Polish) Marek Piotr Deszczyński; Wojciech Mazur (2004). Na krawędzi ryzyka: eksport polskiego sprzętu wojskowego w okresie międzywojennym [Edge of Risk: Polish arms export in the interbellum]. Neriton. p. 455. ISBN 9788388973987.
- (Polish) Bogusław Polak (1999). Technika wojskowa w Polsce, 1935-1939: dokumenty [Military technology in Poland, 1935-1939: Documents]. Wkład Polaków w naukę i technikę światową 1. Koszalin: Wydawnictwo Uczelniane Politechniki Koszalińskiej. p. 212. ISBN 9788388283062.
- (English) Steve Zaloga; W. Victor Madej (1991). The Polish campaign, 1939. Hippocrene Books. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-0-87052-013-6.