Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2.8cm) Sd.Kfz 221

The Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2.8cm) Sd.Kfz 221 was an up-gunned version of the Leichter Panzerspahwagen (MG) Sd.Kfz 221, which had been the first in a series of light armoured cars based on the same Horch chassis.

Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2.8cm) Sd.Kfz 221 from the right
Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2.8cm) Sd.Kfz 221 from the right

The original Sd.Kfz 221 was built onto the Horch 801 chassis, which was the lightest of three designs produced in the mid 1930s to become the basis of a new fleet of four wheeled drive vehicles for the Germany army. It had a narrow superstructure with sloped armour on all sides, and was armed with a single 7.92mm machine gun carried in a seven sided open topped turret. It had significantly better off-road performance than the earlier Maschinengewehrkraftwagn (Kfz 13) and Funkkraftwagen (Kfz 14), and served in reconnaissance units in the early campaigns of the Second World War. Its mobility was appreciated, but the machine gun armed version was unable to compete with enemy scout cars. Some were equipped with a 7.92mm Panzer-buchse 39 anti-tank rifle, which could penetrate 25mm of armour at 300m, but this wasn’t much of an improvement and above 300m the armour penetration fell off dramatically.

In 1941 the Army Weapons Department decided that all Sd.Kfz 221s should be re-armed with the 2.8 cm schwere Panzerbüchse 41 (sPzB 41). This was a squeezed bore gun that fired a 2.8cm shell through a conical barrel that reduced in diameter from 28mm at the breach to 20mm at the muzzle. The shells had a very hard tungsten-carbide core with a softer steel shell and two protruding flanges, one at the base of the projectile and one half way up. These flanges had a diameter of 28mm, while the tungsten-carbide core was nearer to 20mm. When the gun was fired the soft steel shell and flanges would be flattened against the barrel, producing a much tighter seal than normal, and thus allowing the tungsten-carbide core to accelerate to high speed. The armour piercing shell had a muzzle velocity of 1,430m/s, and could penetrate 66mm of armour at 500m. In comparison the 2 cm KwK 30 firing a PzGr.39 shell (used in the Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2cm) Sd.Kfz 222) could only penetrate 23mm of armour at 100m or 14mm of armour at 500mm. However the big problem with the sPzB 41 was a shortage of the tungsten needed for the shells, and production ended in 1943.

In order to install the new gun in the Sd.Kfz 221 the turret front was extended, but the vehicle otherwise remained largely the same. The up-gunned vehicle saw service on the Eastern Front.


Hull Length: 4800mm
Hull Width: 1950mm
Height: 1980mm
Weight: 4100kg
Engine: 75hp Horch/ Auto-Union, 8 cylinder V-petrol engine
Max Speed: 80km/ hr
Max Range: 300km (road), 200km (terrain)
Armament: One 2.8cm sPzB 41 anti-tank gun
Armour: 5-14.5mm


German Half-Tracks and Wheeled Vehicles 1939-1945, Alexander Lüdeke. Looks at the armoured cars and half-tracks used by the German Army before and during the Second World War, focusing on the development and technical descriptions of each type and its major variants. Each type gets one or two pages, supported by photos of the vehicle. A useful short reference book on these essential vehicles, covering both the many types developed in Germany and the smaller number of captured vehicles pressed into service. [read full review]
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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (31 January 2023), Leichter Panzerspahwagen (2.8cm) Sd.Kfz 221 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_leichter_panzerspahwagen_2_8cm_sdkfz221.html

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