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Ta-daaaa! PIAT P0rn!

Okay, ladies and gents, the wait is over. PIAT P0rn is here! Here you see Pete PIAT next to Carl the Gustav. (Yeah, I'm lazy, still haven't lugged Carl back to his shelf). While it was kinda covered in the comments to the original tease post below, we'll get into the down and dirty of Pete today.

I was going to direct you to a site that details a battle during WWII where a PIAT gunner won the Victoria Cross. But proud Canadian Dr. Funk beat me to the punch. To save you having to drop down, I'll just stick it right in here. Hat tip to Dr. Funk saving me any further work on that aspect (and a salute to PIAT Gunner Smith, I might add!)

Okay, so what did you do with a PIAT? You shot these. You shot them direct fire mode at point targets, like tanks, pillboxes, machine guns, etc. Or you shot them indirect fire at area targets out to 370 meters. A good gunner could hit point targets out that far as well, but the geometry of sighting could get a little complex - especially if you were trying to keep your head from getting shot off!

In Brit parlance, this is a bomb. It's a shaped-charge warhead, capable of defeating most WWII tank armor, if not the frontal armor of the last generation german tanks, certainly the top and flank and rear armor.

What were the challenges here? Well, number one, shaped charges do NOT like to be spun, it disperses the plasma jet that does the actual damage. So that ruled out a gun. Plus, this weapon was intended for leg (actual walking, non-motorized) infantry and airborne forces initially. So they tried to keep it a little bit on the light side. (It's still a monster to hump). So, how to make a recoiless gun without it being a gun - and yet able to absorb the recoil of a 3 pound projectile being sent with enough ooomph to travel 370 meters?

You make it a spigot mortar. With a whopping huge spring to absorb the recoil. And you stick what amounts to a .303 blank in the tail of the bomb, making the tail, in effect, the barrel.

With the rod retracted, you set the bomb in the flanges on either side of the hole. The base of the bomb is flared to fit these flanges and hold tight. The flanges served to hold it in place and align the tail for the rod. Holding in place was important when you were above your target, such as during the city fighting for Arnhem Bridge during Operation Market-Garden.

When you are ready to fire, you aim, pull the trigger, releasing the rod, with it's firing pin end. That flies up the tail, hits the blank, and away goes the bomb. And you, boyo, had better be leaning into that thing, so that the impact doesn't break your shoulder and there is enough resistance to recock the spring. Otherwise you are in a world of pain as you try to recock a 200lb spring while laying down under fire, just having pissed off the enemy.

This is the spring we're talking about. Even using the manual, I have a hard time resetting the spring and I'm no small fella and I can still bench 275 lbs.

In this picture, I want to point out several things. The monpod is extended to achieve maximum range. This indicates it is a Mark II version of the PIAT, evidenced by the adjustable monopod. At the same time, the direct fire (out to 100 meters) sights are extended. That would be the two post-like thingys sticking up from the slab-sided items offset to the right on the top of the spring housing above as well as behind the trigger.

You use these sights like a conventional rifle. Look through the appropriate peep for the range, find the front post, align on target, pull trigger - and hope you were leaning in and on target.

To hit those jerks too far away for direct fire, or who are hiding from you (the b*st*rds!) you used the indirect fire - essentially firing in the same way a 2inch mortar (subject of a later post) was fired.

If you note on the range plate, you see the letters "HA". High Angle. This was used for long range shooting (you can see the graduations out to 370m) or closer in where you needed plunging fire to clear an intervening obstacle (like the jerks hiding behind the tank you just took out).

At the rear of the sight (on the right in the pic) you see a leveling bubble, also shown in the pic below. You set the range, then you used the white line on the casing to align the PIAT on the target. You then leveled the bubble, either by adjusting the way the butt sits, digging out underneath the butt, adding something under the butt to raise it, or, less likely in HA mode, adjust the monopod up front. Then you pulled the trigger. For low angle shots you used the obscured part of the sight, went through all that leveling stuff, and fired.

Despite how complex it sounds (and it is, it takes a lot of practice to make a good PIAT gunner and have the sense for the long shot) it could be done quickly and efficiently by trained (and motivated) gunners. The Brits kept the PIAT in service into the 50's, eventually replacing it with the US M18 3.5inch bazooka (subject of a later post), and then the Carl Gustav reckless rifle coyly hiding behind Pete here.

Well, there ya have it, ladies and gents. Now you can all rush out, get a PIAT, and start practicing. BTW - these are not classified as destructive devices anymore, and anyone who can buy a rifle can buy one of these (Federal law - state law may differ, especially in the Borg collectives of New Jersey and California). Why? Because if you can find a LIVE PIAT round, you've got yourself a $3000 piece of gear (that IS a class III destructive device) and there aren't any of those legally registered.

2 Comments

Sweet. Thanks, John!
 
Thanks for the hat tip. Incidentally, I heard once that Smith was one of those classic soldiers with "Velcro chevrons". Supposedly, not long after the VC, he'd been made a Sergeant and got into a fight on leave..which resulted in his having his rank taken away again. Which explains why he was only a Sergeant when he retired in the 60s.