HomeArticleWorld War-II guns and the Ukraine-Russian war: Relics fighting in contemporary war

World War-II guns and the Ukraine-Russian war: Relics fighting in contemporary war

Taha Amir

One can articulate that war never ceases, and their use also seems never-ending for some weapons. Firearms produced for world war two could still be seen on contemporaneous frontlines on parity with their modernistic counterparts. Some are century-old designs constructed for a completely different type of warfare and conditions yet pulled from their racks and still serving their primary purposes. However, utilising old equipment is not unique only to contemporary battles, campaigns, and operations.

For instance, world war I saw the usage of 40 or fifty years old designs. It was obsolete to use single-shot bolt action rifles in world war I; it was the same as operating multi-turreted tanks of the interwar period in world war II. There were circumstances on the battlefield where soldiers with old threadbare assault rifles like MP44 were next to rocket-propelled anti-tank launchers. After world war II ended, there were vast stocks of various weaponry remaining rifles, submachine guns, anti-tank launchers, pistols, grenades, mines, and bombs. All the weapons heavily produced by the allies had to be stored. Ultimately, they would not need to wait for reuse though the Korean war broke out in 1950, a mere five years after the halt of world war II only to be fully utilised again on all sides and the more modern ones. Afterwards, wars were no anomaly during the second half of the 20th century; many wars were fought with a similar mix of world war II weapons and contemporary designs.

Moreover, as the technology advanced, these antiquated and fatigued weapons became less visible in the ranks. The proliferation of the assault rifles like AK-47 made submachine guns and old rifles be wholly pushed aside and practically useless in comparison; however it did not mean that those weapons would ultimately dwindle, stocks were and still are kept. The world superpowers keep their old weapons in stock for the second-line troops and as a reserve. Thousands of rifles of all calibres and types are stored away, a legacy of the cold war arms race. After the political tumult of the Euromaidan protests in February 2014, a war broke out in the Donbas; in the twists of events, the understaffed Ukrainian army launched a so-called anti-terrorist operation in eastern Ukraine opposing them with local militias supported flagrantly and patently by the Russian federation. Their initial weapons would array from helmets and baseball bats but upgraded to modern rifles, tanks, artillery rockets and rocket launchers.

One antique weapon would return to service on both sides early on:  the late 19th-century Mosin Nagant rifle carried and used in Donbas by the pro-Russian separatist forces. This rifle was designed from 1882 to 1891. It was espoused in service by the Russian empire and saw service in many wars up to the present day. It is a bolt action, five-shot, internal magazine-fed rifle, chambering 7.62 by 54-millimeter cartridges; a stripper clip usually feeds it and has reasonable ambit and precision. Captain Sergei Mosin made it in many variants comprising carbines and sniper rifles. It served well through World war I and II, used by all sides on the eastern front. It is a rough and long-wearing weapon capable of dealing an awe-inspiring amount of damage over long stretches. This rifle has served the most renowned world war II Soviet snipers. Vasily Grigoryevich Zaitsev, a man, credited with over 225 enemy kills, used a Mosin Nagant M1891 fitted with a PU scope. The Mosin Nagant was produced in over 37 million copies and served many armies even with the furtherance of sniper rifles and other infantry weapons. This rifle is still a rugged and earnest adversary.

The historic Maxim machine gun is another stirring weapon marginally younger than Mosin Nagant. The PM1910 is a water-cooled machine gun chambering 7.62 by 54-millimetre cartridge belt-fed; it has a fire rate of 600 rounds per minute, featuring a metal shield with a two-wheeled carriage. It was used extensively in both world wars; during its lifespan, it was ameliorated several times over, improving the use of habituation and performance in the field. Then, it was plebeian to see soviet infantry advancing while being shielded by maximum gunfire. One innovation saw a switch to the water cooler cap making it more significant to allow the option of adding snow as a quick coolant.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence took vantage of thousands of these machine guns in their stocks. In 2016 they were formerly conjoined into the armed forces and saw use in the Donbas. With the Russian invasion in 2022, these machine guns were more perceptible, being distributed to the territorial defence of Ukraine. However, the maxim gun could not emulate modern medium machine guns like the PKM; it is still virulent, stiff and capable of plying steady and persistent fire volleys over large distances.

The submachine gun witnessed its full potency during world war II; close combat inside Stalingrad was one of the significant shows of how short weapons with a sane rate of fire and large ammo count make a difference over the cumbrous long rifles. Moreover, entire Soviet units were crossing into the Stalingrad that would switch their rifles for submachine guns, incrementing their firepower radically and giving them a warring edge in battles where buildings were combated over several times a day.

The next relic is the PPSH-41, the most fabricated submachine gun of world war II, a magazine-fed stomp steel weapon contrived to be elementary, brassy and efficacious. Nevertheless, it saw far-flung use in the soviet army and some conflicts after world war II. It can be fed with a stick magazine of 35 rounds or a drum magazine with a capacity of 71 rounds; it uses 7.62 by 25 millimetre Tokarev cartridges. It was so persuasive and dynamic that the german soldiers covetously kept the captured firearms due to the high-pitched rate of fire and orotund ammo capacity; it could diminish fire suppressions and transcendency in short ranges. The PPSH-41 would see widened services in the Korean and US Vietnam war, and Other minor conflicts would also see this weapon utilised. Should the situations originate, many warehouses of the eastern bloc still have oiled and stored this iconic gun. When the separatist militias in eastern Ukraine started to arm themselves, one could accredit PPSH-41 among the soldiers for propaganda or actual combat. This weapon still glistens 80 years after being introduced into the service; it is arguable how adequate this weapon can be nowadays. The previous typical ranges for urban combat of only a couple of dozens of meters between the troops in world war II have mainly been superseded by ranged combat of up to 300 metres in modern warfare. Assault weapons have mostly pushed out submachine guns with more potent, precise, virulent calibres. Additionally, assault rifles have proliferated, so much tardily to obtain than an out-of-date submachine gun. Nevertheless, it does not mean that world war II submachine guns are not needed anymore.

On the contrary, the simulacrum of PPSH-41, another submachine gun created by Alex Sabbath in 1943, also saw service in the Donbas. This submachine gun PPS  was projected to render an emblem and effective personal defence weapon for the gun and the vehicle crews’ surveillance and support units. It used the same 7.62 by 25-millimetre Tokarave cartilage as the PPSH-41 in a 35-round demountable box magazine. This weapon was primitive, facile to use and was manufactured at a colossal level, with about millions of copies. Its superiority over the PPSH-41 was its collapsible stock, making it easier to use in incommodious vehicles and trench warfare compartments.

Nonetheless, it did not wholly replace PPSH-41 but was relatively proportioned; the PPS would later see service in wars and conflicts like its counterpart. It was likewise more trustworthy than the PPSH41 because it had a pistol grip and was customarily easier to use. Overall it was a practical, functional and cost-effective weapon. Some separatist movements in eastern Ukraine garrisoned the barricades in the Donbas, although the veritable use and efficiency are doubtful, given the ranges at which combat is occurring and the general advantage of assault rifles and other modern weapons. These weapons would use those mentioned above 7.62 by 25 millimetre Tokarev cartridges. This cartridge is relatively easy to obtain as even the popular and the mass-produced Tula Tokarev F-33 also uses it.

So, the next weapon in line is Tula Tokarev F-33; this pistol is commonly known as the TT or Tokarev. It was conceived in 1930 by Fedor Tokarev as a service pistol to replace that old-time Nagant M1895 revolver but became a supplement to Nagant rather than its obvious successor. The Tokarev has an 8-round detachable magazine simple and reliable mechanism and design. It fires powerful cartridges with a flag trajectory and increased penetration capabilities. The gun is renowned for its reliability and has served in many wars after its production ended in 1955. Therefore, it is unsurprising that it was one of the first guns to show up after the conflict broke out in Ukraine. Pistols were not that hard to obtain, and ammunition was readily available members on all sides were using it, making its war record continuing well into the 21st century. However, what has been mentioned has been more or less standard military firearms.

Something extraordinary also showed up in this conflict, the world war II anti-tank rifles of the Soviet scheme. Anti-tank rifles were the merchandise of the first world war or, more precisely, as a counteragent for the debut of allied tanks. They were prominent and clumsy rifles contrived to fire a large bullet and penetrate the armour of the tanks. Nevertheless, many European nations proceeded to build them during the interwar period. The soviet union had two rifles in their administration; one of them, the PTRD-41, was briskly constructed in 1941 to fill in the dearth and cater to soviet infantry with some sort of defence against the tanks. Vasily Degtyaryov projected its blueprint; It was a single-shot rifle firing a 14.5 by 114-millimeter cartridge. This cartridge was developed primarily for the PTRD-41 and PTRS anti-tank rifle, but it is still being used up until this day in numerous roles. In 1941, it was more than adequate to defeat the side armour of lighter german tanks, self-propelled guns, and half-tracks in the prompt phases of the German invasion.

Moreover, it could rupture tank tracks apart and scathe tech optics and other equipment. Its use against army personnel was also very virile as the rifle could substantially damage people and soft-skinned vehicles and buildings. After the cessation of world war II, the rifles were disengaged and used in limited amounts in several later conflicts. The entry of RPG-2 and later anti-tank rocket launchers made this weapon archaic. It was too big, too cloggy, made too much dissonance, and other vehicles and weapons could fire the same cartridge in more prominent and accurate salvos, but its story did not end here. In Donbas, militia members would habituate this weapon against Ukrainian troops and equipment. Even though the rifle is some 80 years erstwhile, it can perforate or earnestly traumatise armoured personnel carriers and other lightly armoured vehicles.

The PTRD-41 was also employed in snipping activities; with its tumid round and incursion capabilities; this weapon could decimate enemy pirogue, bunkers, control posts and entrenchments. Moreover, some are outfitted with a thermal scope, muzzle suppressor and rail mount, making them unnerving anti-material rifles. Nonetheless, the rifle’s drawback is that it is a single-shot weapon.

The next anti-tank rifle was the PTRS-41, which Sergei Gavrilovich Simonov germinated. The main difference between the rifles mentioned above was that the Simonov rifle was semi-automatic with a magazine capacity of 5 rounds. This rifle was utilised with the same pattern and success as its PTRD-41 precursor. The chief targets were lightly armoured vehicles, tanks personnel, transport vehicles and fortifications. However, this rifle had another intent during the Ukrainian war: fighting against low-flying helicopters or drones. Some have even been pictured, filmed, or fired from the back of the supporting soldier or the shooter standing up shoulder firing. Even though the rifle is some 20kg, the shooter was somehow capable of firing it from a shoulder.

Lastly, the Degtyaryov machine gun or DP-27 is a supplemental dreaded world war II weapon. This weapon had the same 7.62 by 54-millimeter cartridge as the maxim gun but leaden less and more comfortable to move around. Almost 800 thousand have been manufactured and served in legion conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries. The Degtyaryov machine gun was dependable, which was not the case for its disc shape magazines. The gun was consequently given sobriquet such as the record player due to the shape of the magazine analogous to gramophone players. This machine gun was called into the services of Ukrainian armed forces; it was witnessed on the outskirts of Kiyv among the territorial defence members operating checkpoints. After almost 100 years of service, it is impressive that such a weapon can still find its use in modern conflicts.

The primitiveness and the veracity of world war II blueprints made the weapons protracted. As a result, even though modern weapons outstrip them in facets such as calibre, precision, rate of fire, convenience, accessories and others, they still find their way to the barbarous front lines of war.

The author is a diligent undergraduate student studying BS Defence and strategic studies at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also working as an intern at monthly The Consul magazine.

Rate This Article:
No comments

leave a comment

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.