Prior to World War Two, the Soviet Union had a rather lackluster interest in antitank rifles – a series of guns were developed, but slowly and without all that much success. The Barbarossa invasion gave a very immediate need for just this sort of weapon, however, to give Soviet infantry units an organic anti-armor capability. Two star Soviet designers were tasked with designing AT rifles, Degtyarev and Simonov. The cartridge they were to use was the new 14.5x114mm, a high-velocity monster using a tungsten carbine cored projectile.
After a shockingly fast development period, the guns from both design bureaus were accepted. The Degtyarev became the PTRD-41, a single-shot auto-ejecting design that was extremely cheap and fast to produce. The Simonov design became the PTRS-41, a 5-shot semiauto offering more firepower but also taking longer to produce. The Degtyarev entered service first, with the first substantial deliveries of PTRS rifles arriving in 1942.
Both designs would serve through the war, with hundreds of thousands being made. Many were put into storage in 1945, and they are still seen today in Ukraine periodically. The PTRS would go on to be the basis for Simonov’s 7.62x39mm infantry rifle, adopted as the SKS.
Many thanks to the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History in Brussels for access to this very rare piece! Check them out here: