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A brief History of the Bazooka

The M1 Bazooka with rocket

The M1 Bazooka with rocket. 

A Brief History of the Bazooka

Initially designed to fill a major gap in the US infantryman’s arsenal, the Bazooka made a major leap in the evolution of man-portable anti-tank weapons.

During the late 1930s the US government acquired shaped charge warheads from the Swiss, but at that point had no concept for a delivery system. It was decided to put the warheads into production and some testing was done with them in the form of a rifle grenade, but it proved too heavy.

So with a growing stockpile of excellent anti-tank warheads there was still no suitable delivery system. Enter Colonel Skinner, a US Army officer at the Ordnance Proving Ground, an enthusiastic proponent of rockets. He soon suggested carrying the hollow charge at the tip of a high-speed rocket. 

Bob Burns’ "Bazooka"

The Bazooka got its nickname for its similar shape to the popular
30s and 40s radio comedian Bob Burns’ musical instrument, a
home made trombone he called a "Bazooka". 

He built a rocket to carry a grenade body, and using a modified 60mm mortar tube successfully demonstrated the destructive force of his new weapon in front of high-ranking Generals in an impromptu demonstration. The officers who had gathered to see the official demonstrations of other weapons were suitably impressed and Skinners weapon was ordered into production immediately.

M1 Bazooka

The new weapon was soon modified for production and month later in May 1942 General Electric had built 5,000 ready for combat. This first model was known as the Rocket Launcher M1.

The calibre of 60mm or 2.36in was determined by the grenade used as the warhead, which were already in production.

This first model had a wooden shoulder stock and pistol grips, though later models saw steel and Bakelite fittings as well. The weapon was electrically fired when a circuit between the rocket and batteries in the shoulder stock was completed by squeezing the trigger. Unfortunately, once the battery was installed, it was always live and that could leave the battery flat at an inconvenient moment.     

It had an effective range of 100m and could fire out to 400m. It had a penetration of about 80mm and required two crew, a gunner and loader.

The next batch of Bazookas in 1943 incorporated several changes.

M1A1 Bazooka

Known as the M1A1 this Bazooka lost the forward pistol grip and added a muzzle blast guard. It now also included an on/off switch to increase battery life expectancy.

The final WWII production model was the M9. It was redesigned so the tube could be broken down into two parts; this also made it more suitable for airborne operations.

M9 Bazooka introduced in 1944

It was finally decided that the unreliable battery ignition system would be replaced. The M9 now included a trigger-activated generator to create the current required to fire the rocket motor.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the Germans weren’t slow to see the potential of captured bazookas in Tunisia. From captured Bazookas they very quickly copied the idea, but choose a larger calibre and created the more effective Panzerschreck.

More on the Panzerschreck... 

German Panzerschreck


Last Updated On Thursday, August 28, 2008 by Wayne at Battlefront