Rifle, Anti-Tank, .55 in, Boys
Overview
 
The Rifle, Anti-Tank, .55in, Boys commonly known as the "Boys Anti-tank Rifle" (or incorrectly "Boyes"), was a British anti-tank rifle
Anti-tank rifle
An anti-tank rifle is a rifle designed to penetrate the armour of vehicles, particularly tanks. The usefulness of rifles for this purpose ran from the introduction of tanks in World War I and until the Korean War...

 in use during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

There were three main versions of the Boys, an early model (Mark I) which had a circular muzzle brake
Muzzle brake
Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire...

 and T shaped monopod
Monopod
A monopod, also called a unipod, is a single staff or pole used to help support cameras, video cameras, binoculars, rifles or other precision instruments in the field.-Camera and imaging use:...

, built primarily at BSA in England, a later model (Mk I*) built primarily at Jonathan Inglis in Toronto Canada, that had a square muzzle brake and a V shaped bipod
Bipod
A bipod is a support device that is similar to a tripod or monopod, but with two legs. It provides significant stability along two axes of motion .-Firearms:...

, and a third model made for airborne forces with a 30-inch (762 mm) barrel and no muzzle brake.
Encyclopedia
The Rifle, Anti-Tank, .55in, Boys commonly known as the "Boys Anti-tank Rifle" (or incorrectly "Boyes"), was a British anti-tank rifle
Anti-tank rifle
An anti-tank rifle is a rifle designed to penetrate the armour of vehicles, particularly tanks. The usefulness of rifles for this purpose ran from the introduction of tanks in World War I and until the Korean War...

 in use during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

.

There were three main versions of the Boys, an early model (Mark I) which had a circular muzzle brake
Muzzle brake
Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire...

 and T shaped monopod
Monopod
A monopod, also called a unipod, is a single staff or pole used to help support cameras, video cameras, binoculars, rifles or other precision instruments in the field.-Camera and imaging use:...

, built primarily at BSA in England, a later model (Mk I*) built primarily at Jonathan Inglis in Toronto Canada, that had a square muzzle brake and a V shaped bipod
Bipod
A bipod is a support device that is similar to a tripod or monopod, but with two legs. It provides significant stability along two axes of motion .-Firearms:...

, and a third model made for airborne forces with a 30-inch (762 mm) barrel and no muzzle brake. There were also different cartridges, with a later version offering better penetration.

Although adequate against light tank
Light tank
A light tank is a tank variant initially designed for rapid movement, and now primarily employed in low-intensity conflict. Early light tanks were generally armed and armored similar to an armored car, but used tracks in order to provide better cross-country mobility.The light tank was a major...

s in the early part of the war, the Boys was ineffective against heavier armour and was phased out in favour of the PIAT
PIAT
The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

 mid-war.

Design and development

The eponymous creator of this firearm was Captain
Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)
Captain is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines. It ranks above Lieutenant and below Major and has a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force...

 H C Boys (the Assistant Superintendent of Design) who was a member of the British Small Arms Committee and a designer at the Royal Small Arms Factory
Royal Small Arms Factory
The Royal Small Arms Factory was a UK government-owned rifle factory in the London Borough of Enfield in an area generally known as the Lea Valley. The factory produced British military rifles, muskets and swords from 1816...

, Enfield
Enfield Lock
Enfield Lock is an area in the London Borough of Enfield, North London. It is approximately located east of the Hertford Road between Turkey Street and the Holmesdale Tunnel overpass, to the River Lee Navigation, including the Enfield Island Village. The locality gains its name from the lock on the...

. It was initially called Stanchion but was renamed after Captain Boys as a mark of respect when he died a few days before the rifle was approved for service in November 1937.

A bolt action rifle fed from a five-shot magazine
Magazine (firearm)
A magazine is an ammunition storage and feeding device within or attached to a repeating firearm. Magazines may be integral to the firearm or removable . The magazine functions by moving the cartridges stored in the magazine into a position where they may be loaded into the chamber by the action...

, the weapon was large and heavy with a bipod at the front and a separate grip below the padded butt
Stock (firearm)
A stock, also known as a buttstock or shoulder stock, is a part of a rifle or other firearm, to which the barrel and firing mechanism are attached, that is held against one's shoulder when firing the gun. Stocks are also found on crossbows though a crossbow stock is more properly referred to as a...

. In order to combat the recoil caused by the large 0.55 inch (13.9 mm) round, the barrel was mounted on a slide, and a shock absorber was fitted to the bipod along with a muzzle brake
Muzzle brake
Muzzle brakes and recoil compensators are devices that are fitted to the muzzle of a firearm or cannon to redirect propellant gases with the effect of countering both recoil of the gun and unwanted rising of the barrel during rapid fire...

 on the barrel. The Boys had been designed with numerous small narrow-slotted screws of soft steel set very tight into the body of the weapon, and its repair and maintenance proved a nightmare for British ordnance repair crews.

The cartridge was an adaptation of the .50 BMG
.50 BMG
The .50 Browning Machine Gun or 12.7×99mm NATO is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s. Entering service officially in 1921, the round is based on a greatly scaled-up .30-06 cartridge...

, with a belt added firing a 47.6 gram bullet. At its introduction, the weapon was effective on light armour (23.2 mm thick) at 100 yards (91 m).

There were two main service loads used during the Second World War, the W Mark 1 (60 g AP at 747 m/s) and the W Mark 2 ammunition (47.6 g AP projectile at 884 m/s). The W Mark 1 could penetrate 23.2 mm of armour at 100 yards, about the thickness used on the frontal armour of a half-track or armoured car, or the side or rear armour of a light tank. Later in the conflict, a more effective round was developed, the W Mark 2, which fired a tungsten
Tungsten
Tungsten , also known as wolfram , is a chemical element with the chemical symbol W and atomic number 74.A hard, rare metal under standard conditions when uncombined, tungsten is found naturally on Earth only in chemical compounds. It was identified as a new element in 1781, and first isolated as...

-cored projectile at 945 m/s. The Boys effective range against unarmoured targets (for example, infantry), was much greater.

Despite its recoil slide and cushioned buttpad, the recoil of the weapon (along with noise and muzzle blast) was said to be terrific, frequently causing neck strains and bruised shoulders. Consequently, the Boys was almost never fired as a free weapon (that is not affixed to a support) except in emergencies.

Service

The Boys rifle was used in the early stages of World War II against lightly armoured
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 German tanks and combat vehicles. Britain also supplied a large number of Boys anti-tank rifles to Finland in 1939 and 1940 during the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. The weapon was popular with the Finns, because it could deal with Soviet T-26
T-26
The T-26 tank was a Soviet light infantry tank used during many conflicts of the 1930s as well as during World War II. It was a development of the British Vickers 6-Ton tank and is widely considered one of the most successful tank designs of the 1930s....

 tanks which the Finnish Army encountered in many engagements.

Although useful against early German and Italian tanks in France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 and North Africa, such as the Panzer II
Panzer II
The Panzer II was the common name for a family of German tanks used in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen II...

 and early models of Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

, increases in vehicle armour
Vehicle armour
Military vehicles are commonly armoured to withstand the impact of shrapnel, bullets, missiles, or shells, protecting the personnel inside from enemy fire. Such vehicles include tanks, aircraft, and ships....

 during the Second World War left the Boys largely ineffectual as an anti-tank weapon. A shortened version was issued in 1942 for issue to airborne forces and saw use in Tunisia, where it proved completely ineffective because of the reduced velocity caused by the shortened barrel. The Boys was so unpopular that the Canadian government commissioned a Disney training film
Training film
A training film is a form of educational film – a short subject documentary movie, that provides an introduction to a topic. Both narrative documentary and dramatisation styles may be used, sometimes both in the same production...

, Stop That Tank, to oppose the rifle's "jinx
Jinx
A jinx, in popular superstition and folklore, is:* A type of curse placed on a person that makes them prey to many minor misfortunes and other forms of bad luck;...

" reputation. Nonetheless, in the European theatre it was soon replaced by the PIAT
PIAT
The Projector, Infantry, Anti Tank was a British hand-held anti-tank weapon developed during the Second World War. The PIAT was designed in 1942 in response to the British Army's need for a more effective infantry anti-tank weapon, and entered service in 1943.The PIAT was based on the spigot...

 (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) in 1943, which first saw service during the Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Sicily
The Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, was a major World War II campaign, in which the Allies took Sicily from the Axis . It was a large scale amphibious and airborne operation, followed by six weeks of land combat. It launched the Italian Campaign.Husky began on the night of...

. In other roles the Boys saw some use against bunkers, machine gun nests and light-skinned vehicles but was rapidly replaced in British and Commonwealth service by the U.S. .50 BMG
.50 BMG
The .50 Browning Machine Gun or 12.7×99mm NATO is a cartridge developed for the Browning .50 caliber machine gun in the late 1910s. Entering service officially in 1921, the round is based on a greatly scaled-up .30-06 cartridge...

 calibre M2 Browning machine gun as quantities of the latter weapon became available.

Using armour-piercing (AP), armour-piercing incendiary (API), and armour-piercing incendiary tracer (APIT) ammunition, the .50 Browning was just as capable in armour penetration and more devastating when igniting thin-skinned vehicles using incendiary rounds than the Boys, but the Browning could also serve as an effective anti-aircraft weapon. Even the British Special Air Service
Special Air Service
Special Air Service or SAS is a corps of the British Army constituted on 31 May 1950. They are part of the United Kingdom Special Forces and have served as a model for the special forces of many other countries all over the world...

, which made much use of captured or cast-off weapons for their jeeps and reconnaissance vehicles, quickly got rid of their Boys rifles in favor of .50 M2 Brownings or the Italian 20mm Breda
Breda Model 35
The Cannone-Mitragliera da 20/65 modello 35 , also known as Breda Model 35, was a 20 mm anti-aircraft gun produced by the Società Italiana Ernesto Breda of Brescia company in Italy and used during World War II. It was designed in 1932 and was adopted by the Italian armed forces in 1935...

 cannon.

However, in the Pacific theatre
Pacific War
The Pacific War, also sometimes called the Asia-Pacific War refers broadly to the parts of World War II that took place in the Pacific Ocean, its islands, and in East Asia, then called the Far East...

 the Boys was used against the lightly armoured Japanese tanks in Malaya
British Malaya
British Malaya loosely described a set of states on the Malay Peninsula and the Island of Singapore that were brought under British control between the 18th and the 20th centuries...

 as late as 1942, when the 1/14th Punjabi
1st Punjab Regiment
The 1st Punjab Regiment was a regiment of the British Indian Army from 1922 to 1947. It was transferred to the Pakistan Army on Partition of India in 1947, and amalgamated with the 14th, 15th and 16th Punjab Regiments in 1956, to form the Punjab Regiment....

s knocked out two light Japanese tanks at a roadblock. During the Battle of Singapore
Battle of Singapore
The Battle of Singapore was fought in the South-East Asian theatre of the Second World War when the Empire of Japan invaded the Allied stronghold of Singapore. Singapore was the major British military base in Southeast Asia and nicknamed the "Gibraltar of the East"...

 the 1st Cambridgeshire Regiment found the Boys very useful in knocking holes through walls during street fighting.

Usage

China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 – some eventually rechambered for .50BMG rounds and used experimentally as sniper rifles – a few used by Congolese rebels in 1964-65, possibly supplied by China. – as 14 mm pst kiv/37, during the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 and the Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

. - received a large shipment in exchange for 25mm anti-tank guns
25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun
The 25 mm Hotchkiss anti-tank gun was a French anti-tank gun that saw service in the first years of the Second World War.-Development:...

. - rifles captured after the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force
British Expeditionary Force (World War II)
The British Expeditionary Force was the British force in Europe from 1939–1940 during the Second World War. Commanded by General Lord Gort, the BEF constituted one-tenth of the defending Allied force....

s in Norway and France were designated 13.9-mm Panzerabwehrbüchse 782(e) in German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 service. – used by the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary during the Second World War from 1942 to 1945, The post-war era from 1945 to 1960s, the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) during the Korean War from 1950 to 1955 and the Hukbalahap Rebellion from 1946 to 1954. - received 3,200 Boys rifles via Lend-Lease. – used by the US Marine Corps in early 1942 on the Philippines against dug in infantry positions. During the Korean War, The Marine Corps borrowed some Boys rifles from Canadian troops, strengthened the action and mounted them with scopes. They were used as long range sniper rifles on an experimental basis, firing double charged .50 BMG ammunition. These rifles had a range of over 2000 yards.

Vehicle mounting

The Boys Rifle was sometimes mounted on vehicles such as the Universal Carrier ("Bren Gun Carrier")
Universal Carrier
The Universal Carrier, also known as the Bren Gun Carrier is a common name describing a family of light armoured tracked vehicles built by Vickers-Armstrong. Produced between 1934 and 1960, the vehicle was used widely by British Commonwealth forces during the Second World War...

 and the Standard Beaverette
Standard Beaverette
Standard Car 4x2, or Car Armoured Light Standard, better known as the Beaverette, was a British armoured car produced during World War II.-History:...

armoured car.

External links

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