Light, Mobile, and Deadly: the French Mle 1937 25mm Puteaux AT Gun

After World War One, the French military set up a program to modernize all of its weaponry, and that included a replacement for the Mle 1916 light infantry cannon. An anti-tank gun had not been necessary during the Great War, as Germany never fielded tanks in substantial numbers – but as a pioneer of the modern tank, the French recognized the need for a good AT gun. Taking a lesson from World War One, they wanted a light gun that was flexible and mobile, easily moved around the battlefield and easily concealed from enemy fire. A 25mm cartridge was specified, and both the Hotchkiss company and the Puteaux arsenal created guns to use it. Both were adopted into service, with the Hotchkiss Mle 1934 being a bit heavier and the Puteaux Mle 1937 being a bit lighter, at only about 600 pounds. The Puteaux gun was quite small, easily moved by a horse or virtually any motorized vehicle. It had a long barrel and the 25mm AP projectile had a muzzle velocity of about 3150 fps, making it quite effective on the light and medium tanks of the 1930s. It was also remarkably accurate, and the long barrel and flash hider gave it a very small firing signature. Aiming was done with either a 4x magnified optic or a set of backup iron sights.

A total of 1285 of these guns were made before the armistice of June 1940, and they served ably in the Battle of France. A few were also used by the British before Dunkirk, and after the armistice they were used by German forces in limited numbers, and also supplied to Spain and Finland as military aid (this particular one has a Finnish property tag on it).

Thanks to DriveTanks.com in Uvalde Texas for giving me access to film this Puteaux cannon for you!

29 Comments

  1. Looks like someone put the muzzle brake from a M242 Bushmaster 25 × 137 mm machine cannon on the muzzle. I guess it provides better recoil reduction than the original funnel shaped muzzle device for the old piece.

    Looks like a fun piece to own and it is small enough to be stored in your garage and towed by your car to the range. 🙂

  2. A number of these were given to the British Expeditionary Force (the men in the movie Dunkirk) in 1940. But the British usually carried them tied down on the bed of a lorry, instead of towing them. Ian’s reference to their fragility explains why.

  3. You’d have a bit of a chore pulling that with a single horse- there’s nothing to hold the trail up and off his hocks.

    A pair would work fine with the trail between them.

    • A typical hitchup of the time was limber to horse and cannon to limber. Horse did not move faster than bicycle so concern with suspension is bit lame.

  4. “(…)Puteaux Mle 1937 being a bit lighter, at only about 600 pounds.(…)”
    According to https://www.jaegerplatoon.net/AT_GUNS1.htm weight in action was 310 kg. Interestingly: [in Finland] The last of 25-mm antitank-guns were withdrawn from frontline use in year 1943. After the war they were kept warehoused until being declared obsolete in 1959.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/25_mm_APX_mod%C3%A8le_1937 states that 1937 was intended to be used by infantry units and towed by horses which lead to question what was maximal allowed towing speed?

  5. Outstanding gun from otherwise conservative Puteaux arsenal. Even later in the war, there were not just tanks to deal with. Germans had plenty of APCs. One shot in engine compartment and panzerwagen was stuck. Even performance-wise it does not look bad when compared with benchmark KBA.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oerlikon_KBA

    • “(…)KBA.”
      I do not understand why to compare towed single-shot AT gun with auto-cannon intended for mounting in vehicles?

      “(…)performance-wise it does not look bad(…)”
      In terms of combat weight it is not much lighter than some contemporary 37 mm caliber AT cannon, for example TYPE 94 http://www3.plala.or.jp/takihome/37.htm
      which weighted 327 kg (opposed to 310 kg of French 25 mm cannon 1937), sadly penetration values can not be directly compared for different nations AT cannons (different methodologies), but certainly 37 mm HE shell is generally more effective than 25 mm HE shell.

    • Here’s a stupid idea: hide the gun near a choke-point (like a sharp curve or bridge) along the road. When opposing convoy slows down, target a supply truck, and if it is carrying ammunition (or explosives), one shot to the contents of the truck bed may result in fireworks.

      • True, but a light MG like an 0.303in Bren, or for that matter a rifleman who knew his business, could get the same results on a target like that.

        To do it up properly, a rifle, an attached grenade cup or spigot discharger, and half-a-dozen rifle grenades would probably be good enough, and might even be defined as overkill.

        cheers

        eon

  6. Korjattu means that the gun has been sent to the Tampella factory twice for repairs.

    Tampella was famous for grenade launchers and artillery.

      • Yes, it is the very same Tampella. It is the very same Tampella mentioned by Israelis when they’re selling grenade launchers, ie “patent by Tampella”

        Heavy stuff was the thing that Tampella was good at. Nowadays the arms section of Tampella is a part of Patria.

  7. Note that a crew of one can ready the piece for action without even breathing too hard. Probably fire and load it also. Readying for travel could likewise be done by a one-Ian-power unit, perhaps with a little bad language.

  8. Was this or the other version mounted on any vehicles? Didn’t the French have Panhard armor cars with 25mm guns?

  9. Surprising number of these ended up here in the US, probably as a result of Sam Cummings/Interarms. Who else was trading in light artillery pieces that could have brought these in? Sarco? Navy Arms?

  10. I believe the 37 mmm World War 1 gun was also used in the TF 17 French light tank. The American copy used that same 37 mm in our as well as a version with a Hotchkiss I believe 8.8 mm machine gun. In the tank for 37 mm was used for the same thing of bunker-busting and attacking machine gun nests.

    • “(…)Hotchkiss I believe 8.8 mm machine gun(…)”
      I never heard about 8.8 mm Hotchkiss machine gun. Can you write more about it?

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