T-34/76 (Model 40) with high-velocity 57mm (2.24in) ZiS-4 gun

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T-34 model 1941 with a 57 mm gun

T-34 model 1942 with a 57 mm gun

Problems with transmissions were such that the T-34/76 (Model 40) often went into battle with spare transmission units secured to the engine compartment deck by steel cables. The Model 40 had a rolled plate turret and a short 76.2mm (3in) L/30.3 (L-11) Model 1938 tank gun mounted in a distinctive cast cradle welded to a flush outside mantle. The Model 40 established a standardization pattern among the T-34 variants of having a great number of interchangeable parts, such as engine, armament, transmission and periscopes. Mechanical simplicity was a prime concern. The hull was of a welded construction throughout, with only three different thickness of rolled plate armour.

The Christie suspension had five large, double road wheels on each side, with a noticeably larger gap between the second and third wheels. The drive sprocket, located for safety to the rear, was of the roller type used on the BT series and powered a cast manganese-steel track with centre guide horns on alternative track links. This first model of the T-34 had a distinctive turret overhang and a clumsy turret hatch occupying the entire rear part of the turret. The Model 40 had one periscope fitted on the front left-hand side.

In late 1941, a small number were fitted with the long-barrelled, high-velocity 57mm (2.24in) ZiS-4 gun. This was a tank gun version of ZiS-2, called ZiS-4. In 1941, trying to improve the anti-tank performance of the T-34 tank, members of the Morozov Design Bureau experimentally equipped it with the ZiS-4. Only a small number of these T-34-57 tanks were built and used as tank hunters. The idea resurfaced in 1943, after Germany fielded heavily armoured Tiger and Panther tanks. Again only a limited number was produced, equipped with a slightly modified version of the gun, the ZiS-4M. Although the high-velocity gun had superior armour penetration to the F-34, the small weight of its shell meant that it could not fire an adequate high explosive round for general use. The ultimate solution for the tank was to design a new turret allowing the use of an 85-mm gun; the new model was called the T-34-85.

T34-57 Production

On June 13, 1940, president of the Security Council S.Timoshenko referred to Central Committee of the Communist Party and SNK USSR the report “…about insufficient power of the armament of existing KV and T-34 tanks, and about other prospective tank projects”. On June 27, the special session of the SNK was devoted to that question. Session acknowledged the insufficient power of the 45 mm tank guns and considered them as having no perspective. To replace them, new 55-60 mm guns should be developed.

At that time, Grabin’s design bureau was already working on 57 mm antitank gun (ZIS-2), that’s why it was ordered to develop a tank variant of that 57 mm gun, but first plans of such a gun were already developed at Grabin’s initiative.

The manufacture of the first prototype of 57 mm tank gun had launched in September 1940, but until December manufacturing preparations were slow because improvement and mass production of the 76.2 mm F-34 tank gun had overloaded factory. Nevertheless, in the beginning of December 1940, the very first prototype of 57 mm tank gun was manufactured. Production continued till the end of March 1941, being mounted on gun-carriage, having factory trials. In April 1941, gun was mounted on production T-34 and sent to ANIOP for trials on the proving ground. Those trials have revealed an extremely short life of its barrel (overheated after 100-150 shots) and low accuracy.

In July 1941, an improved gun, being named ZIS-4, was installed in T-34 and tested again on Sofrino proving ground. Trials were successful and gun was recommended for service in spite of its cost price. ZIS-4 was too expensive mostly because of very long barrel. Nevertheless the gun was accepted for service because of high demand of powerful antitank guns. ZIS-4 was intended to rearm some production T-34 to convert them into “tank-hunters” (T-34-75). Following the order of NKV, ZIS-4 was set up for mass production on factory #92.

Mass production of those guns started in August 1941. In September 1941 it was temporary delayed and on December 1, 1941, it was cancelled. That was because of shortage of 57 mm ammunition and production expenses. According to report of Ministry of Ammunition (Narkomat Boepripasov), in 1941 the Factory # 92 has manufactured 133 ZIS-4 guns.

Until evacuation, KhPZ had received 21 guns for reaming some production T-34s. STZ had received 20 guns. From October 1, 1941, T-34-57 must been manufactured on “Krasnoye Sormovo” Factory. The project for the 57 mm gun was resumed in 1943, when it became clear that all existing guns could not combat with German heavies. In May 1943, the “T-34 tank-hunter” and “KV tank-hunter” were accepted for service again. They were armed with modernised ZIS-4M tank gun that distinguished from its base model by following:

– the gun received a new breech-block that was unified with F-34, ZIS-2, ZIS-3 and ZIS-5;

– the semi-automatic mechanism of the breech-block was simplified;

– the muff’s fastening was improved.

The ZIS-4 wasn’t provided with panoramic sight, T-34-57 was one of the first tanks that received the MK-4 periscope. The tank didn’t have commander’s cupola. Especially for successful combat with German heavy tanks, “tank-hunters” had “the armour piercing round of the extra power” that achieved the muzzle velocity of 1010 m/s. However, usage of that ammunition decreased the barrel’s life significantly. So, after manufacturing of small number of these rounds (less than 2800 rounds total), this ammunition was removed from mass production and withdrawn from the Red Army.

The T-34-57 in Action

“Tank-hunters” of the first production had participated the Battle for Moscow in 1941-1942. In particular, there were 10 T-34-57 in the 21st Tank Brigade that was formed in Vladimir. On October 14, the brigade has been deployed at Demidov rail station and a day later it was ordered to advance on Turchinovo-Pushkino-Troyanovo and make a flank strike on German troops deployed near Kalinin. Starshiy politruk (Soviet rank) E. Gmurya drove his tank along the Volokolamsk highway had met with big column of German trucks.

His tank destroyed the whole 3-km column. After that, the tank moved into a German aerodrome and has destroyed a heavy bomber. His tank was knocked out by German artillery, two crewmembers were killed. Politruk Gmyrya and sergeant Ishenko escaped and rejoined Red Army. After 4 days, 21st Tank Brigade had destroyed 3 German staffs, about 1,000 soldiers, 34 tanks, 210 trucks and 31 guns. The Brigade has lost its commander – Hero of the Soviet Union, Major Lukin and commander of the 1st battalion Hero of the Soviet Union Captain Agibalov. By November 25, all “tank-hunters” of the 21st Tank Brigade had been lost.

Soviet 57 mm Guns


Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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