8.8 cm KwK 43

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A Tiger II mounting an 8.8 cm KwK 43 gun, preserved at the Musée des Blindés.

The 8.8 cm 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 mounted as the primary armament on the Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf. B Tiger II and the 8.8 cm PaK 43, an anti-tank gun, was very similar in design and use albeit not mounted on tanks but rather on tank destroyers or deployed on the field.

Design and development[edit]

At 6.24 m (20.5 ft), the length of the KwK 43's barrel was over 1.3 metres longer than of that of the 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 used for the Tiger I. The cartridge of the KwK 43's shell was also considerably longer (at 82.2 cm) and wider than that of the KwK 36's meaning that the KwK 43 allows for more room for a heavier propellant charge in its shells than the KwK 36 could. All guns of the PaK/KwK 43 series could use the same ammunition interchangeably.

The KwK 43 and PaK 43 were initially manufactured with monobloc barrels meaning the barrel was made from one piece. However, due to the weapons' extremely high muzzle velocity and operating pressures when fired, the weapon suffered from accelerated barrel wear. As a result, the change was made to manufacture the PaK/KwK 43 with a two-piece barrel instead of a monobloc barrel. This had minimal to no effect on the performance of the gun, but made replacing a worn-out barrel much faster and easier than before.

In addition, the massively increased operating pressures of the new gun in turn required a new armour-piercing shell to be designed. The result of this was the PzGr.39/43 APCBC-HE projectile, which was similar to the older 10.2 kilograms PzGr.39-1 APCBC-HE projectile used by the 8.8 cm KwK 36 and PaK 43 guns except for the addition of much wider driving bands. The wider driving bands of the PzGr.39/43 increased the weight of the shell to 10.4 kilograms as a result.[1] However, due to the full transition to the newer PzGr.39/43 rounds wasn't completed for some time, the older PzGr.39-1 rounds was instead allowed to be used for the KwK 43 & PaK 43 if provided the gun had fired no more than 500 rounds. Over that set amount, it was feared that the expected barrel wear combined with the narrower driving bands of the PzGr.39-1 could lead to a loss of pressure in the gun. The new PzGr.39/43 could be fired without loss of pressure until the barrel was worn out, thus requiring no restriction.

PaK 43/41 at CFB Borden.

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 had described that "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." [2]

PzGr. 39/43 (APCBC-HE)[edit]

Average penetration established against a rolled homogenous armoured plate laid back 30 degrees from the vertical
Range in
Penetration in
Hit probability versus
2.5 m x 2 m target
percent [2]
1 2
100 202 100 100
500 185 100 100
1000 165 100 85
1500 148 95 61
2000 132 85 43
2500 n/a 74 30
3000 n/a 61 23
3500 n/a 51 17
4000 n/a 42 13

PzGr. 40/43 (APCR)[edit]

Average penetration established against a rolled homogenous armoured plate laid back 30 degrees from the vertical
Range in
Penetration in
Hit probability versus
2.5 m x 2 m target
percent [2]
1 2
100 238 100 100
500 217 100 100
1000 193 100 89
1500 171 97 66
2000 153 89 47
2500 n/a 78 34
3000 n/a 66 25

Gr. 39/3 HL (HEAT)[edit]

  • 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)

Penetration comparison[edit]

Penetration figures (90 degrees) uses American and British 50% success criteria,
and allowing direct comparison to foreign gun performance.[3]
Ammunition type Muzzle velocity
Penetration (mm)
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

Anti-tank gun[edit]

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 designed to hunt tanks, 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 barrels, and KwK 43 (Tiger II) with a two-piece barrel.

See also[edit]

  • 8.8 cm KwK 36 L/56 - The predecessor of the 8.8 cm KwK 43 which was mounted on the Tiger I.
  • 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41 - The prominent anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapon with which the 8.8 cm KwK 43 is often confused.

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era[edit]


  1. ^ US Army Technical Manual TM9-1985-3, United States Government Printing Office Washington, 1953
  2. ^ a b c Jentz, 1996, p. 9
  3. ^ Bird, Lorrin Rexford; Livingston, Robert D. (2001). WWII Ballistics: Armor and Gunnery. Overmatch Press. p. 61. 
  • Thomas L. Jentz, Germany's Tiger Tanks: Tiger I and Tiger II - Combat Tactics. London: Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 1996. ISBN 0-7643-0225-6

External links[edit]