As light tank development progressed through the interwar years, most nations worked on producing antitank weapons for the infantry. Early on, this was done by solid projectile, as early tanks were relatively lightly armored. Armor was quickly increased during WWII, and solid bullets had to be replaced by explosives for effective infantry antitank weapons. However, at the outset of the war many countries had large caliber antitank rifles, such as the PTRS/PTRD, Mauser 1918, Lahti, Solothurn, PzB38, and Boys.

Boys AT Rifle

The Boys AT Rifle was put into production in England in 1937, and was effective against light tanks at that time. It was a fairly orthodox bolt action design, using a 5-round magazine and a .55 caliber (14mm) projectile at 2640fps. Initial doctrine had the Boys considered effective to 500 yards, but this dropped as the war progressed, and even with improved projectiles (tungsten core) effective range dropped to 300 yards, with 100 being recommended. While tanks became too heavily armored to be much threatened by the Boys, it continued to be useful against gun emplacements and light armored vehicles such as halftracks and scout cars.

By far the biggest complaint against the Boys is its heavy recoil. Despite a muzzle brake, recoil-absorbing stock slide mechanism and heavy recoil pad, it had a reputation for punishing recoil. As a result, it was often fired from fixed mounts, such as off a Bren or Universal carrier.

It the US, the Boys is considered a Destructive Device because its barrel exceeds .50 caliber. Between this and the scarcity of .55 ammunition, many guns have been converted to .50 Browning. This allows much more available ammunition to be used, and removes the requirement to register the gun.

We have only one piece of Boys documentation at the moment, a South African Small Arms Training manual from 1942. We are working on getting more, but in the meantime you can find a lot of good info on the Boys at


Stop That Tank! A Boys Rifle training film made in part by Walt Disney in 1942 for the Canadian military:


(1942) Boys AT Rifle Small Arms Training Manual (English)


  1. IIRC, it’s “Boyes” Rifle. For whatever that’s worth. 🙂

    Unfortunately, they’re .55 caliber. It would have been nice if those pesky Brits had used a .510 [nominal .5″] bore so they could be easily converted to fire 50BMG and not automatically classed as “DD” due to the *just barely*-too-large a bore… [sigh]

  2. During WW2 Rolls-Royce ran a weapons development section until the govt. decided they should concentrate on aircraft engines. One – a semi-automatic 40mm light gun – saw service with light naval forces. Another, an aircraft machine gun, would have used the 0.55ins Boys jacketed round. It would have made a formidable competitor for the 0.5ins Browning, had development been completed. See: ‘Rolls Royce Armaments’ (David Birch),RR Heritage Trust, 2000.

  3. Reply to Surculus:
    Boys is the correct spelling.
    The weapon is named in honour of Captain Boys. His name was misspelled Boyes on the cover of a British training manual published in 1939, and the Germans took this spelling when they entered it into their nomenclature of captured weapons. Thus it became the 13.9-mm Panzerabwehrbüchse 782(e) Boyes in German service.

  4. I have a friend who bought one in the UK and had the rifling reamed out. He imported it to the US as a shotgun. He then rebarreled it in .50 browning, but the receiver soon cracked. He suspected the Boys pressure ratings were optimistic.

  5. The Boys .55 cal round was based on the US .50 BMG cartridge with a belt added and the neck expanded for the larger bullet. They are readily converted to .50 BMG by making and fitting a new barrel. The guns made in Canada by Inglis require a small amount of material removal to the magazine stop lips in the receiver in order to feed the longer American round but otherwise no modifications are required to the receiver. BSA guns don’t require any other mods to the receiver. The .55 cal round used a fatter shorter bullet and because of that the overall length of the round is shorter. This requires the magazines to be modified to hold the longer BMG round. Its a fairly simple mod whereby the front of the mag is removed and spacers welded to the sides of the mag body to move the front portion forward. The mag catch area of the mag is then modified so it will fit into the magwell. Most of us who shoot these rifles don’t use the mag as its easier to feed by hand from underneath and who really needs rapid fire with a 50 bolt gun? As regards the recoil of the rifle most of what you read is written by people who have never shot a handgun much less a rifle. The recoil is readily manageable in either .55 or .50 cal. My 110lb wife shoots my Boys rifle and has no problems with it. The single port brake used on the BSA guns is problematic only because one port is always pointed at the ground and blows crap back into your face. The brake used by Inglis is a harmonica type and works well without tossing debris back at you. Neither is pleasant for those on either side of you.


  6. Heh, heh. I transported my Inglis Boys home across the tank of my mororcycle. Fired about 60 rounds thru it when I owned it. Punishing? Yup. Like detonating a quarter-stick of dynamite five feet from your mug. Potent? Yup.

  7. Hey just looking for anyone who knows where I can have a replacement barrel made in the 50BMG for my Boyes, the original 55 barrel was cut in two via torch and then removed and scraped. Thanx
    PS made one tear up to see a piece of history destroyed. but onward to more future fun..

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