Muzzle Brakes Were Used Extensively in World War II
|A Junkers Ju 88P-5 medium bomber fitted with an 88 mm gun. This was only a prototype and apparently never used in combat. The gun has an elaborate muzzle brake.|
Incidentally, at the end of this article are two special cases in which the Germans used muzzle brakes in "wonder weapons" that you may not have heard of.
What Are Muzzle Brakes?
|German antitank guns of the normal type. At the left is the 3.7-cm Pak; at the right, the 5-cm Pak 38; in the rear, the 7.5-cm Pak 40. Note the muzzle brakes on the rear two guns.|
projected to use muzzle brakes. However, a muzzle brake is not necessary for any particular gun. Whether or not a muzzle brake is desirable depends upon the purpose of the gun. You could have two identical guns, one with and one without a muzzle brake, and they each would serve their specialized functions better than the other. You add a muzzle brake, they are not required, and sometimes a muzzle brake would completely destroy the purpose of the gun. So, adding a muzzle brake requires a thoughtful decision. You will find experts with a decided preference for one or the other. Some people just think that they "look cool." However, leaning one way or the other regarding whether to use muzzle brakes is sort of like saying that you prefer forks to knives: each setup has its purpose and there is no "one size fits all."
The History of Muzzle Brakes
|A Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf.H of the Hitler Youth Division on maneuvers in Belgium in late 1943.|
|A knocked-out German Panther showing its muzzle brake during the summer of 1944 on the Eastern Front.|
|An Italian Beretta Model 38 9mm with muzzle brake. The brake on this gun directed the muzzle blast upward to counteract the tendency of the gun to rise when fired. This is considered an exceptional submachine gun.|
|Nice view of some muzzle brakes in action during World War II.|
Why Would You Want To Use A Muzzle Brake?From the earliest experiments in France, muzzle brakes have been shown to reduce recoil and improve accuracy. However, those experiments and similar British experiments showed that this was accomplished with some reduction (which could be very great) in muzzle velocity. While muzzle velocity is not always of prime importance, it is something that engineers try to maximize for range and power of the shot. So, whenever you use a muzzle brake, you are trading muzzle velocity for some other benefits. Whether that trade-off is worthwhile depends on what you are using the weapon for.
|A standard 3-man German machine-gun squad with their MG-34.|
- Improve accuracy (the barrel does not rise as much)
- They are often (not always) detachable in case you don't need them
- They look cool and dangerous, like some special thing that makes the gun even deadlier than usual
|A knocked-out German StuG III antitank gun near a destroyed Sherman tank in France late in the war. The StuG is presenting its muzzle brake nicely (Clifford O. Bell, collection of Charles D. Palmer).|
- They can be expensive to design and manufacture
- They magnify the gun's noise to the gunner
- The redirected blast can be dangerous to the gunner or bystanders
- They usually add weight
- They may add length to the barrel, making the weapon more difficult to, say, move through city streets
- The redirected gases can damage the gun itself or the scope
|The classic MG-42 used a muzzle brake when in service as a heavy machine gun.|
So, muzzle brakes definitely have their uses. They are not, however, something that you necessarily need or want in all situations. Having a muzzle brake is a choice that you don't always want to make.
How Did World War II Combatants Use Muzzle Brakes?
|The 1944 model of the Japanese Type 100 submachine gun. This had two ports drilled into the barrel to serve as a muzzle brake.|
|Panzer VI Tiger I in Tunisia, June 1943. Note the muzzle brake (Pirath, Helmuth, Federal Archive Picture 101I-554-0872-35).|
|A Finnish soldier who undoubtedly was the one to knock out this Soviet ISU-152 posing in front of his kill in Finland, 1944. The muzzle brake is clearly visible. The soldier may have used a Panzerfaust to knock it out (SA-Kuva).|
|An M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer sporting a 76mm cannon with the muzzle brake (US National Archive).|
|A Sherman Firefly mounting a muzzle brake on the end of its 17-pounder anti-tank gun.|
A Special Case: The Panzerkampfwagen E 100 (Gerät 383) (TG-01)
|An American soldier cleaning the muzzle brake on a captured E-100.|
A Special Case: The Luftwaffe's Gerät 104 (Device 104) "Münchhausen."
|The Junkers Ju 88P-5 "Duka" prototype with 88mm anti-tank cannon fitted with an elaborate muzzle brake.|
|Prototype Dornier Do-217 fitted with a Gerat 104 Münchhausen cannon, complete with massive muzzle brake.|
|Plans for the airborne Gerät 104 (Device 104) "Münchhausen."|