Boys Anti-tank Rifle
Boys anti-tank rifle Mk I
Type Anti-tank rifle
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1937–1943
Used by See Users
Wars World War II
Production history
Designed 1937
Manufacturer Royal Small Arms Factory
Produced 1937–1940
Number built ~62,000
Variants Mk I, Mk II
Weight 35 lb (16 kg) unloaded
Length 5 ft 2 in (1.575 m)
Barrel length 36 in. (910 mm); Airborne: 30 in. (762 mm)

Cartridge Kynoch & RG .55 Boys
Calibre (bullet diameter).5625 in. (14.3 mm) (9/16 in.) In[1]
Action Bolt
Rate of fire ~10 round/min
Muzzle velocity 747 (later 884) m/s (2,450.1 ft/s) (2,899.5 ft/s)
Effective range 23.2mm penetration at 90° Script error[2]

18.8mm penetration at 90° Script error[2]

Feed system 5-round detachable box magazine
File:Swedish Winter War volunteers.jpg
File:ARMY TRAINING 001 013-0.55 inch Boys Anti-tank rifle.jpg

The Rifle, Anti-Tank, .55in, Boys commonly known as the "Boys Anti-tank Rifle" (or incorrectly "Boyes"), was a British anti-tank rifle in use during World War II. It was often nicknamed the "elephant gun" by its users due to its size and large bore.

There were three main versions of the Boys, an early model (Mark I) which had a circular muzzle brake and T-shaped monopod, 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, 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 tanks in the early part of the war, the Boys was ineffective against heavier armour and was phased out in favour of the PIAT mid-war.

Design and developmentEdit

The eponymous creator of this firearm was Captain 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, Enfield. 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, the weapon was large and heavy with a bipod at the front and a separate grip below the padded butt. 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 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, 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-cored projectile at 945 m/s. The Boys' effective range against unarmoured targets (for example, infantry), was much greater.

Despite its recoil slide and rubber-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.


The Boys rifle was used in the early stages of World War II against lightly armoured 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 with the Soviet Union. The weapon was popular with the Finns, because it could deal with Soviet T-26 tanks, which the Finnish Army encountered in many engagements.

Although useful against early German and Italian tanks in France and North Africa, such as the Panzer I, Panzer II and early models of Panzer III, increases in vehicle armour 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 reputation after the battle of France was such that the Canadian government commissioned a training film, Stop That Tank!, from Disney to counter the rifle's "jinx" reputation. Nonetheless, in the European theatre it was soon replaced by the PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank) in 1943, which first saw service during the Allied invasion of Sicily. 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 calibre M2 Browning machine gun[3] 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.[4] Even the British Special Air Service, 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 cannon.Script errorScript error[citation needed]

The weapon was standard issue to British and Commonwealth forces which attempted to stem the Japanese onslaught through the Pacific theatre. At Milne Bay, the weapon proved completely ineffective. It also failed to stop Japanese tanks in Malaya. Some accounts claim that the 1/14th Punjabis knocked out two light Japanese tanks at a roadblock.[5] During the Battle of Singapore the 1st Bn Cambridgeshire Regiment claims the Boys was very useful in knocking holes through walls during street fighting.

The US Marine Corps purchased Canadian Boys rifles prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. They saw limited use by the Marine Raider Battalions against enemy bunkers and aided in shooting down a seaplane off Makin Island.[6] The US Army's 1st Ranger Battalion was also equipped with Boys, but they were not used in combat. The other five Ranger battalions were authorized Boys, but were not equipped with them.

The Boys rifles was used by the local Filipino soldiers of the Philippine Army and Philippine Constabulary during World War II during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines from 1942 to 1945 and Post-War era from 1945 to 1960s including Hukbalahap Rebellion (1946–1954) and the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea during Korean War (1950–1955).Script errorScript error[citation needed]

The Boys rifles were also used by the Chinese Nationalist Army during the late Second Sino-Japanese War in both China and Burma.

In September 1965, members of the IRA hit the British fast-attack patrol boat HMS Brave Borderer with a Boys rifle, crippling one of her turbines while she was paying a visit to Waterford, Republic of Ireland.[7]


Vehicle mountingEdit

The Boys Rifle was sometimes mounted on vehicles such as the Universal Carrier ("Bren Gun Carrier"), Humber LRC and the Standard Beaverette armoured car.[8]


  1. Script error
  2. 2.0 2.1 , Boys Anti-Tank Rifle Mk.I, 1942, Small Arms Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No.5
  3. though not "man-portable" at 38 kg without tripod
  4. Barnes, Frank C., Cartridges of the World, DBI Books, 1975, 1989, p.432: "A review of World War II U.S. .50 caliber AP, API, and APIT ammunition specifications reveals that all armour-piercing varieties of the U.S. .50 BMG cartridge were required to completely perforate 7/8" (22.23 mm) of hardened steel plate armour at 100 yards (91 m).
  5. Weeks, John, Small Arms of World War II, New York: Galahad Press 1979), p. 91
  6. Rottman, Gordon US Marine Corps 1941–45 Osprey Publishing, 1995 p18
  7. White, Robert Williams (2006). Ruairí Ó Brádaigh: the life and politics of an Irish revolutionary. Indiana University Press, p. 130. ISBN 0-253-34708-4
  8. 8.0 8.1 Bishop, Chris, The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II, illustrated edition, Publisher: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.,Year: 2002, ISBN 1-58663-762-2, [1], p. 212
  9. 9.0 9.1 Bishop, Chris, The encyclopedia of weapons of World War II, illustrated edition, Publisher: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc.,Year: 2002, ISBN 1-58663-762-2, [2], p. 213
  10. Script error
  11. Zaloga & Leland Red Army Handbook 1939–1945 Sutton 1998 p197 ISBN 0-7509-1740-7
  12. Pegler, Martin, Sniper Rifles: From the 19th to the 21st Century, illustrated edition, Osprey Publishing, 2010, ISBN 1-84908-398-3, [3], p.55


  • Dunlap, Roy F., Ordnance Went Up Front: some observations and experiences of a sergeant of Ordnance, who served throughout World War II with the United States Army in Egypt, the Philippines and Japan, including way stations. With comment and opinions on the many different small-arms in use by the forces engaged, Samworth Press (1948), LC Control No.: 48007125 (ISBN 1884849091 for R & R Books 1996)

External linksEdit

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