8.8 cm KwK 43

This article is about the Tiger tank gun;. For the renowned German "88" field weapon, see 8.8 cm Flak 18/36/37/41.
A Tiger II mounting an 88 mm KwK 43 gun, preserved at the Musée des Blindés.

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.[1] 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.

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 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." [2]

PzGr. 39/43 (APCBC-HE)

Average penetration established against a rolled homogenous armoured plate laid back 30 degrees from the vertical
Hit probability versus
2.5 m x 2 m target
percent [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)

Average penetration established against a rolled homogenous armoured plate laid back 30 degrees from the vertical
Hit probability versus
2.5 m x 2 m target
percent [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)

Penetration comparison

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

Main article: 8.8 cm PaK 43

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.

See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era


  1. US Army Technical Manual TM9-1985-3, United States Government Printing Office Washington, 1953
  2. 1 2 3 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

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