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2 cm Flak 30
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-301-1953-24, Seine-et-Oise, Soldaten mit Flak-Geschütz.jpg
2 cm Flak 30
Type Anti-aircraft cannon
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service April 1934–45
Used by Nazi Germany, Finland
Wars World War II
Production history
Manufacturer Rheinmetall-Borsig
Produced 1934–45
Number built more than 144,000[1]
(Flakvierling count per barrel)
Variants 2 cm Flak 38, Gebirgsflak 38, Flakvierling 38
Weight 450 kg (992 lbs)
Length 4.08 m (13 ft 5 in)
Barrel length 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) L/65
Width 1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)
Height 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)
Crew 7

Shell 20×138mmB
Caliber 20 mm (.79 in)
Elevation -12°to ±90°
Traverse 360°
Rate of fire 280–450 rpm (cyclic)
120–180 rpm (practical)
Muzzle velocity 900 m/s (2,953 ft/s)
Effective range 2,200 m (2,406 yds)
Feed system 20 round box magazine

The Flak 30 (Flugabwehrkanone 30) and improved Flak 38 were 20 mm anti-aircraft guns used by various German forces throughout World War II. It was not only the primary German light anti-aircraft gun, but by far the most numerously produced German artillery piece throughout the war.[1] It was produced in a variety of models, notably the Flakvierling 38 which combined four Flaks 38 onto a single carriage.


Flak 38

The Germans fielded the unrelated early 2 cm Flak 28 just after World War I, but the Treaty of Versailles outlawed these weapons and they were sold to Switzerland.

The original Flak 30 design was developed from the Solothurn ST-5 as a project for the Kriegsmarine, which produced the 20 mm C/30. The gun fired the "Long Solothurn", a 20 × 138 mm belted cartridge that had been developed for the ST-5 and was one of the most powerful 20 mm rounds in existence.[2]

The C/30 featured a barrel length of 65 calibers, firing at a rate of about 120 rounds per minute. The C/30 also proved to have feeding problems and would often jam. This was offset to some degree by its undersized magazine, which held only 20 rounds, which tended to make reloading a common requirement anyway. Nevertheless the C/30 became the primary shipborne light AA weapon, and equipped a large variety of German ships. The C/30 was also used experimentally as an aircraft weapon, notably on the Heinkel He 112, where its high power allowed it to penetrate armored cars and the light tanks of the era during the Spanish Civil War.[citation needed]

Rheinmetall then started an adaptation of the C/30 for Army use, producing the 2 cm Flak 30. Generally similar to the C/30, the main areas of development were the mount, which was fairly compact. Set-up could be accomplished by dropping the gun to the ground off its two-wheeled carriage and leveling with hand cranks. The result was a triangular base that allowed fire in all directions.

The main problem with the design remained the fairly low rate of fire, which at 120 rpm was not particularly fast for a weapon of this caliber. Rheinmetall[N 1] responded with the 2 cm Flak 38, which was otherwise similar but increased the rate of fire to 220 rpm and slightly lowered overall weight to 420 kg. The Flak 38 was accepted as the standard Army gun in 1939, and by the Kriegsmarine as the C/38.

In order to provide airborne and mountain troops with AA capabilities, Mauser was contracted to produce a lighter version of the Flak 38, which they introduced as the 2 cm Gebirgsflak 38 (2 cm GebFlak 38). It featured a dramatically simplified mount using a tripod that raised the entire gun off the ground, which had the side-effect of allowing it to be set up on more uneven ground. These changes reduced the overall weight of the gun to a mere 276.0 kg. Production started in 1941 and entered service in 1942.


A wide variety of 20x138B ammunition was manufactured and used in 2 cm Flak weapons; some of the more commonly used types of ammunition are listed on the following table.[3] Other ammunition types that existed included numerous practise rounds (marked Übung or Üb. in German notation), and a number of different AP types. A high-velocity PzGr 40 round with a tungsten carbide core in an aluminium body existed in 20x138B caliber.

German designation US Abbreviation Projectile weight [g] Bursting charge Muzzle velocity [m/s] Description
Sprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger HE-T 115 6.0 g HE (PETN) ? Nose fuzed tracer round, self-destruct at 5.5 seconds (2000m range) due to tracer burn-through.
Sprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger HE-T 120 6.6 g HE (PETN) ? Boat-tailed HE tracer round with nose fuze. Self-destruct at ca.2 km range due to tracer burn-through.
Brandsprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger HEI-T 120 2.4 g HE (RDX+wax) +
4.1 g incendiary (zinc)
? Nose fuze, tracer (5 second burn), with self-destruct
Brandsprenggranatpatrone mit Zerleger HEI 120 22 g total (HE and incendiary) ? Nose fuze, no tracer, with self-destruct. Lack of tracer and high density of incendiary allows heavy filling load.
Panzergranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger APHE-T 146 ? ? Base-fuzed tracer round, with self-destruct due to tracer burn-through after 2 second flight (1000m range).
Panzerbrandgranatpatrone (Phosphor) L'spur ohne Zerleger API-T 148 3.0 g incendiary (WP) ? Tracer round, with no fuze or self-destruct function.
Panzersprenggranatpatrone L'spur mit Zerleger (Kriegsmarine) APHE-T 121 3.6 g HE ? Base-fuzed round, self-destruct after 4.5 second flight (1800m range) due to tracer burn-through.

2 cm Flakvierling 38

2 cm Flakvierling 38
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-J08339, Ausbildung an der Vierlings-Flak.jpg
2 cm Flakvierling 38
Type Anti-Aircraft Gun
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service March 1940–1945
Used by Nazi Germany
Wars World War II
Production history
Designed 1940
Manufacturer Mauser
Produced 1940–1945
Weight 1,509 kg (3,327 lbs)
Length 4.08 m (13 ft 5 in)
Barrel length 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) L/65
Width 1.81 m (5 ft 11 in)
Height 1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)
Crew 8

Shell 20×138mmB
Caliber 20 mm (.78 in)
Elevation - 10° - +100°
Traverse 360°
Rate of fire 1,800 rpm (Cyclic)
800 rpm (Practical)
Muzzle velocity 900 m/s (2,953 ft/s)
Effective range 2,200 m (2,406 yds)
Feed system 4x 20 round box magazines

Even as the Flak 30 was entering service, the Luftwaffe and Army had doubts about its effectiveness, given the ever-increasing speeds of low-altitude fighter-bombers and attack aircraft. The Army in particular felt the proper solution was the introduction of the 37 mm caliber weapons they had been developing since the 1920s, which had a rate of fire about the same as the Flak 38, but fired a round with almost eight times the weight. This not only made the rounds deadlier on impact, but their higher energy allowed them to travel to much longer distances, allowing the gun to engage targets at longer ranges. This meant it could keep enemy aircraft under fire over longer time spans.

The 20 mm weapons had always had weak development perspectives, improving just enough to keep them useful. It was something of a surprise when Rheinmetall was able to "pull a fast one" again, introducing the 2 cm Flakvierling 38, which improved the weapon just enough to make it competitive once again. The name vierling means literally "quadruplet" and refers to a four-barreled combination gun.

The weapon consisted of quad-mounted 2 cm Flak 38 AA guns with collapsing seats, folding handles, and ammunition racks. The mount had a triangular base with a jack at each leg for leveling the gun. The tracker traversed and elevated the mount manually using two handwheels. The gun was fired by a set of two footpedals—each of which fired two diametrically opposite Flak 38s—and could be operated either automatically or semi-automatically. When raised, the weapon measured 307 cm (10 feet 1 inch) high.

Each of the four mounted guns had a separate magazine that held only 20 rounds. This meant that a maximum combined rate of fire of 1,400 rounds per minute was reduced practically to 800 rounds per minute for combat use – which would still require 10 magazine swaps per minute on each of the four guns. The guns could be fired in pairs (diagonally opposite) or simultaneously, in either semi-automatic or fully automatic mode. The effective vertical range was 2200 meters. It was also used just as effectively against ground targets as it was against low-flying aircraft.[4]

The gun was normally transported on a Sd. Ah. 52 trailer, and could be towed behind a variety of half-tracks or trucks, such as the Opel Blitz, SdKfz 251 and SdKfz 11. It was also mounted onto half-tracks and tank bodies to produce mobile anti-aircraft vehicles, such as the SdKfz 7/1 (based on the SdKfz 7 half-track) and the Wirbelwind and original Möbelwagen prototype (both based on the Panzer IV tank). In Kriegsmarine use, it was fitted to U-boats and ships to provide short-range anti-aircraft defense, and was also employed in fixed installations around ports, harbors and other strategic naval targets. The Flakvierling was also a common fixture on trains, even on Hitler's own command train, where pairs of them were mounted on either end of a "camelback" flatbed car and then covered to make it look like a boxcar, sometimes with a pair of such twin-Flakvierling mount cars for defense, one near each end of Hitler's Führersonderzug train.

The closest equivalent fielded by any of the Allied nations to the Flakvierling gun system was the Browning M2-based M45 Quadmount open turret unit, usually fitted as the main armament of the American M3 half track as the M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage.

See also


  1. The original source articles used to produce this single combined version state different companies for the manufacture of the various models. It suggested that Mauser produced all of the Flak 38 and later variants.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "German Weapon and Ammunition Production". Retrieved 30 July 2011. 
  2. An introduction to collecting 20 mm cannon cartridges
  3. 20mm Suomessa - Aseet ja ampumatarvikkeet (20mm in Finland - Weapons and Ammunition). Pitkänen S., Simpanen T, 2007. ISBN 978-952-5026-59-7.
  4. The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War 2


  • Gander, Terry and Chamberlain, Peter. Weapons of the Third Reich: An Encyclopedic Survey of All Small Arms, Artillery and Special Weapons of the German Land Forces 1939-1945. New York: Doubleday, 1979 ISBN 0-385-15090-3
  • Hogg, Ian V. German Artillery of World War Two. 2nd corrected edition. Mechanicsville, PA: Stackpole Books, 1997 ISBN 1-85367-480-X

External links

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