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The Lahti L-39 Norsupyssy was a Finnish anti-tank rifle.


The L-39 antitank rifle (official Finnish designation 20 pst kiv/39, unofficial "Norsupyssy" - elephant gun) was developed by famous Finnish arms designer Aimo Lahti on request from Finnish army. Early prototypes were built around proprietary 20x113 ammunition, also designed by Lahti, but in mas production this was changed to more common 20x138B ammunition, which was more powerful, has wider selection of loadings (AP, AP-T, AP-HE, Incendiary etc.), and was also common with 20mm AA guns,
Lahti m39

The Lathi L-39 AT rifle

bought from Germany. About 1 800 of these guns were produced by VKT factory during the WW2, and although 20mm shells were rather ineffective against Soviet T-34 and KV tanks, Finnish army made a good use of this weapon to fight light armor, bunkers and other targets of importance. In 1944, an 'anti-aircraft rifle', known as 20 it kiv/39-44, was developed from the L-39, by adding select-fire capability and simple anti-aircraft mount. It must be noted that Finnish army kept its stocks of Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifles well after the WW2 - many were surplussed and sold to USA in early 1960s and last ones were scrapped or sold as surplus in mid-1980s.

Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle is a semi-automatic, gas operated weapon. Gas piston is located below the barrel, and a manual gas regulator is provided in gas block. The bolt locking is achieved by vertically sliding locking block, which is installed in the bolt. When in battery, this locking block is forced up by cam surface in the bolt carrier to engage the slot cut in the receiver. After discharge, rearward movement of the gas piston and bolt carrier forces the locking block to fall down and unblock the bolt; after that, bolt is free to recoil along with bolt carrier. One unusual feature of the Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle is that bolt remains open after each shot, which allows the barrel to cool down faster after each shot. Despite that, gun is fires from closed bolt, and the firing sequence after each shot involves two deliberate actions. First, shooter must squeeze grip lever (located below the trigger guard) to release bolt forward. Once bolt is fully locked, shooter can pull the conventional trigger and fire the gun. Feed is from detachable top-mounted magazines, ejection is to the bottom. To reduce the felt recoil, rifle is equipped with massive muzzle brake and a soft shoulder pad. Standard iron sights are fully adjustable and calibrated between 200 and 1400 meters. Lahti L-39 anti-tank rifle was equipped with unusual "dual" bipod, with two sets of legs, one with spiked shoes for use on more or less hard ground and another with skid-type shoes for use on soft ground or snow.

Combat HistoryEdit

During the Winter War, Finland suffered from the lack of anti-tank weapons . Only two rifles and a few 20 mm 13.2 mm machine guns were sent to the front, where machine guns proved ineffective and unreliable, while the 20 mm guns successfully fought Soviet tanks. The gun was also widely used in the tactic "Cold Charlie ", which employed a Finnish dummy to simulate an officer checked out, which attracted the Soviet sniper fire, then the Lahti L -39 was used  to eliminate the Soviet sniper .

Lahti action

Finnish soldiers using the L-39

Although this gun could not penetrate the armor of the new Soviet tanks like the T -34 and KV -1 used in Continuation War, proved to be quite effective against the pockets of bunkers, targets located at great distances and even airplanes. A small amount of a fully automatic version of the L-39 was produced for use as anti-aircraft gun. Other preferred targets were snipers and the various weaknesses of the tanks, as the hatches open, especially if used ammunition white phosphorus. It was even capable of damaging the tank turrets and block the lifting mechanism of the canyon.

The shooters found that L -39 was difficult to carry in combat. Your charger weighed almost two pounds more than the SMG Suomi M-31. The complete rifle weighed about 50 kilograms and was generally towed by reindeer or horses, but could also be carried by several men. In combat it required a team of two men moving and firing the gun. Some guns were simply abandoned in the middle of the battle, because it's easy to be replaced . By the end of the war, more than 1900 L -39 anti-tank guns had been manufactured by VKT ( Valtion Kivääritehdas, " State Rifle Factory " in Finnish) and used in combat.

Several of these anti-tank rifles were on active duty after the Second World War as anti-helicopter weapon, while others were sold to collectors, mostly from the United States. Today these anti-tank rifles, especially those who still work, are very scarce and sought after. Some anti-tank guns off ( by welding a steel rod in the chamber ) were reactivated because of their value . As ammunition is extremely difficult to obtain, they are frequently recalibrated to use cartridges .50 BMG and thus lower the cost of their employment. In the United States, possession of such guns by civilians is possible, depending on federal and state. Since this gun fires bullets of a caliber greater than 12.7 mm, is considered a " destructive device " is subject to the Act and National Firearms 1934. Its possession by civilians depends on the law and each state regarding " destructive devices . "


Type / action semi-automatic, gas operated
Caliber 20x138B
Weight unloaded 49.5 kg
Length 2240 mm
Barrel length 1300 mm
Magazine capacity 10 rounds
Armor penetration (Range / Angle / Penetration) 100 m / 90o / 30 mm; 300 m / 90o / 25 mm

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