76.2-mm Field Gun Model 1936
By the early 1930s the Red Army artillery staff was becoming aware that its stock of field pieces was falling behind those of the rest of Europe in power and efficiency, and so in the early 1930s the USSR began a programme for new weapons. One early attempt, made in 1933, was the placing of a new 76.2-mm (3-in) barrel on the carriage of a 107-mm (4-in) field gun, but this was intended only as a stopgap until the introduction of what was intended to be one of the best all-round field guns in the world.
The new gun was introduced in 1936, and was thus known as the 76.2mm Field Gun Model 1936, usually known as the 76-36. It was an excellent design that made quite an impression on artillery designers elsewhere when the details became known over the next few years. The 76-36 had a very long and slender barrel mounted on a deceptively simple split-trail carriage that provided a wide angle of traverse. This wide angle had been deliberately designed into the weapon for even by that time (the early 1930s) the Red Army's anti-tank defence philosophy had been formulated to the extent where every gun and howitzer in the Soviet armoury had to have its own inherent anti-tank capability. Even when firing a standard high explosive shell the 76-36 had a powerful antiarmour effect, and this factor was a constant benefit throughout the service life of the gun.
The 76-36 first saw active service in Finland in the Winter War of 1939-1940. It performed effectively enough in this campaign, but in its second major deployment it did not fare so well. The second campaign was the invasion of the Soviet Union by Germany, in which it was not so much that the 76-36s did not perform well but rather that they had little chance to do anything. The advancing German armies moved so fast that whole Soviet armies were cut off and destroyed. Huge numbers of 76-36s fell into German hands and, more disastrously for the Soviets, the Germans also captured a great deal of the manufacturing plant that produced the guns. Thus almost the whole Red Army stock of 76-36 guns was lost within a very short time.
German artillery experts swarmed over the captured guns. They took measurements, carried out their own firing trials and came up with two suggestions. One was that the 76-36 should become a standard German field gun, 7.62-mm FK 296(r) as there was enough ammunition to hand to make them useful for some time, and long-term plans were laid to produce more ammunition in Germany. The second suggestion was also acted upon. That was to convert the 76-36 into a specialized anti-tank gun for use against even the most powerfully armoured Soviet tanks, and this suggestion was also implemented. Large numbers of 76-36 guns were taken to Germany, and there modified to take new ammunition for the guns to become the 7.62-cm Pak 36(r), one of the best all-round anti-tank guns of World War II. The changes for the antitank role also involved some oncarnage changes (such as all the fire control wheels being used by the layer instead of the original two men) and a few other modifications.
Thus a Soviet field gun ended up being used just as much by the Germans as by the Red Army. With the disruption in production imposed by the German advances the 76-36 was never put back into full production, although spare parts were made in a few places for use on the few 76-36s remaining in Red Army hands. By 1944 the 76-36 was no longer a Red Army weapon, for they had by then a new gun in service.
Specification Field Gun Model 1936
Calibre: 76.2 mm (3 in)
Length of piece: 3,895 m (153.3 in)
Weight: travelling 2400 kg (5,292 lb) and in action 1350 kg (2,977 lb)
Elevation: -5° to +75°
Muzzle velocity: 706 m (2,316 ft) per second
Range: 13850 m (15,145 yards)
Shell weight: 6.4 kg (14, lib)