8.8 cm KwK 43
The 88 mm KwK 43 L/71 (Kampfwagenkanone —"fighting vehicle cannon") was an 88 mm 71 calibre tank gun designed by Krupp and used by the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. It was the primary armament of the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. B Tiger II and a similar model was also widely used as an anti-tank gun, known as the 8.8 cm PaK 43.
Design and development
At 6.24 m (20.5 ft) the barrel of the KwK 43 was over 1.3 meters longer than that of the 88 mm KwK 36 L/56 used for the Tiger I. The cartridge was also considerably longer (at 82.2 cm) and wider than that of the KwK36, allowing for a much heavier propellant charge. All guns of the PaK/KwK 43 series could use the same ammunition.
The KwK 43 and PaK 43 were initially manufactured with monobloc barrels. However, the weapons' extremely high muzzle velocity and operating pressures caused accelerated barrel wear, resulting in a change to a two-piece barrel. This had no effect on performance but made replacing a worn-out barrel much faster and easier than before.
The massively increased operating pressures of the new gun in turn required a new armour-piercing shell to be designed. The result was the PzGr.39/43 APCBC-HE projectile, which apart from the addition of much wider driving bands was otherwise identical to the older 10.2-kilogram PzGr.39-1 APCBC-HE projectile used by the 8.8 cm KwK36 and PaK43 guns. The wider driving bands resulted in an increased weight of 10.4 kilograms for the PzGr.39/43. However, up until the full transition to the new PzGr.39/43 round was complete, the older PzGr.39-1 was used for the KwK & PaK 43, but only provided the gun had been used for no more than 500 rounds. Over this, the expected barrel wear combined with the narrow driving bands could lead to a loss of pressure. The new PzGr.39/43 could be fired without loss of pressure until the barrel was worn out, thus requiring no restriction.
PzGr.39-1 FES & Al all up weight: 10.2 kg (9.87 kg without fuse & bursting charge)
PzGr.39/43 FES & Al all up weight: 10.4 kg (10.06 kg without fuse & bursting charge)
The same 278-gram BdZ 5127 fuse and 59-gram Amatol bursting charge was used for both types of projectile (PzGr.39-1 & PzGr.39/43), requiring armoured targets of 30 mm or thicker to ignite after penetration for maximum behind-armour effects.
Jentz says of the data "These accuracy tables are based on the assumptions that the actual range to the target has been correctly determined and that the distribution of hits is centered on the aiming point. The first column shows the accuracy obtained during controlled test firing to determine the pattern of dispersion. The figures in the second column include the variation expected during practice firing due to differences between guns, ammunition and gunners. These accuracy tables do not reflect the actual probability of hitting a target under battlefield conditions. Due to errors in estimating the range and many other factors, the probability of a first hit was much lower than shown in these tables. However, the average, calm gunner, after sensing the tracer from the first round, could achieve the accuracy shown in the second column." 
PzGr. 39/43 (APCBC-HE)
- Type: Armour-piercing, capped, ballistic cap - high explosive
- Projectile weight: 10.40 kg (22.9 lb)
- Muzzle velocity: 1,000 m/s (3,300 ft/s)
|Hit probability versus
2.5 m x 2 m target
PzGr. 40/43 (APCR)
- Type: Armour-piercing, composite rigid
- Projectile weight: 7.30 kg (16.1 lb)
- Muzzle velocity: 1,130 m/s (3,700 ft/s)
|Hit probability versus
2.5 m x 2 m target
Gr. 39/3 HL (HEAT)
- Type: High explosive anti-tank
- Projectile weight: 7.65 kg (16.9 lb)
- Muzzle velocity: 600 m/s (2,000 ft/s)
- Penetration: 90 mm (30 degrees)
|Ammunition type||Muzzle velocity
|100 m||250 m||500 m||750 m||1000 m||1250 m||1500 m||2000 m||2500 m||3000 m|
|PzGr. 39/43 (APCBC)||1,000 m/s (3,300 ft/s)||232||227||219||211||204||196||190||176||164||153|
|PzGr. 40/43 (APCR)||1,130 m/s (3,700 ft/s)||304||296||282||269||257||245||234||213||194||177|
|Gr. 39/3 HL (HEAT)||600 m/s (2,000 ft/s)||110||110||110||110||110||110||110||110||110||110|
The anti-tank gun version of the 8.8 cm KwK 43 was known as the 8.8 cm PaK 43. This name was also applied to versions of this weapon mounted in various armored vehicles, such as the Jagdpanther, Hornisse/Nashorn and Ferdinand/Elefant Panzerjäger tank destroyers. The Nashorn was the first vehicle to carry the KwK/PaK 43 series of guns. The series included: PaK 43 (cruciform mount), PaK 43/41 (two-wheel split-trail carriage), PaK 43/1 (Nashorn), and PaK 43/2 (Ferdinand/Elefant), all with monobloc (one-piece) barrels; PaK 43/3 and 43/4 (Jagdpanther) with two-piece barrel, and KwK 43 (Tiger II) with two-piece barrel.
- 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41, the prominent anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapon the 8.8 cm KwK 43 is often confused with
Weapons of comparable role, performance and era
- US Army Technical Manual TM9-1985-3, United States Government Printing Office Washington, 1953
- Jentz, 1996, p. 9
- Bird, Lorrin Rexford; Livingston, Robert D. (2001). WWII Ballistics: Armor and Gunnery. Overmatch Press. p. 61.