The Panzerfaust (lit. armor fist, or tank fist, also means gauntlet) was an inexpensive, recoilless German anti-tank weapon of World War II. It consisted of a small, disposable preloaded recoilless gun - not rocket propelled, as commonly believed. It replaced the earlier Faustpatrone in service, and survived to the end of the war in various versions. Parts of the Panzerfaust concept can be considered to be the pattern on which the RPG-7 was designed.
Development began in 1942 on a larger version of the Faustpatrone. The resulting weapon was the Panzerfaust, a very simple weapon weighing only 5-10 kg. The body was a tube of low-grade steel, around a meter long and a 4-6 cm in diameter. Attached to the upper-side of the tube were a simple rear sight and trigger. There was no front sight, the edge of the warhead was used. Inside the tube was a small charge of black powder for propellant. Fitted to the front of the tube by its wooden tail stem and metal fins was an oversized warhead, 15 cm in diameter and weighing 3 kg. It contained around 800 grams of explosive.
The Panzerfaust often had warnings written in large red lettering on the upper rear end of the tube, the words usually being "Achtung! Feuerstrahl!" (Beware! Fire Jet!). This was to warn soldiers to avoid the backblast. After firing, the tube was discarded, making the Panzerfaust the first expendable anti-tank weapon. The weapon was often fired from the crook of the arm and the shaped charge could penetrate up to 170 mm of steel, enough to defeat any US or British tank, and all but the largest late-war Soviet designs.
In an urban setting where the short sight lines allowed the weapon to be easily used it proved particularly deadly, and knocked out large numbers of Soviet armored vehicles during the Battle of Berlin. The construction was so simple that they could be made in the city while it was under siege, allowing wheelbarrow loads of Panzerfausts to be delivered to the defenders.
It was produced in several versions as the technology improved.