The Panzerfaust (German: “armor fist” or “tank fist”, plural: Panzerfäuste) is an inexpensive, single shot, recoilless Germananti-tank weapon of World War II. It consists of a small, disposable pre-loaded launch tube firing a high-explosive anti-tank warhead, and was intended to be operated by a single soldier. The Panzerfaust’s direct ancestor was the similar, smaller-warhead Faustpatrone ordnance device. The Panzerfaust was in use from 1943 until the end of the war The weapon’s concepts played an important part in the development of the later Russian RPG weapon systems such as the RPG-2 Most notably, the RPG-7 added a sustainer rocket motor to the grenade.
Development began in 1942 on a larger version of the Faustpatrone. The resulting weapon was the Panzerfaust 30, with a total weight of 5.1 kilograms (11.2 lb) and total length of 104.5 centimetres (3.4 ft). The launch tube was made of low-grade steel 44 millimetres (1.7 in) in diameter, containing a 95-gram (3.4 oz) charge of black powder propellant. Along the side of the tube were a simple folding rear sight and a trigger. The edge of the warhead was used as the front sight. The oversize warhead (140 mm (5.5 in) in diameter) was fitted into the front of the tube by an attached wooden tail stem with metal stabilizing fins.
The warhead weighed 2.9 kilograms (6.4 lb) and contained 0.8 kilograms (1.8 lb) of a 50:50 mixture of TNT and hexogen explosives, and had armour penetration of 200 millimetres (7.9 in).The Panzerfaust often had warnings written in large red letters on the upper rear end of the tube, the words usually being “Achtung. Feuerstrahl.” (“Beware. Fire jet.”). This was to warn soldiers to avoid the backblast.
After firing, the tube was discarded, making the Panzerfaust the first disposable anti-tank weapon. The weapon, when correctly fired from the crook of the arm, could with its shaped charge warhead penetrate the armour of any armoured fighting vehicle of the period.