“Bazooka” is the nickname given to any shoulder-mounted individual rocket launcher and is the precursor to modern-day rocket launchers. The term was first coined when rocket launchers became prominent in World War II. The first rocket launchers were also known as “stovepipes” (for obvious reasons).
The rockets used in the bazooka — high explosive warheads — were propelled by a solid rocket motor, which is the same propulsion method used to launch rockets into space. The bazooka originated in the U.S., and was designed for infantry use against tanks and bunkers that could not be reached with hand grenades.
Development of the bazooka actually began during the late stages of World War I, but it was discontinued when the war ended. Experiments with firing shaped charges from a rocket launcher took place in 1940, and in 1942, the M1 “bazooka” rocket launcher was born.
Improvements to the first bazooka were made, including an optical sight, increased penetration of the warheads, and production of the launchers in two pieces for better mobility. The first bazooka was able to penetrate up to 4 inches of metal armor. But by the time of the Korean War, the M20 “Super Bazooka” was made, which could penetrate up to 11 inches of armor. The maximum range of the M1 was allegedly over 1000 feet, while the M20′s maximum range was about 3000 feet.
There were other models made in the years between the production of the M1 and the M20. The M1A1 quickly replaced the original M1 in late 1942 and featured an improved electrical system and the removal of the front grip. The M9 came into use in 1944 with a more powerful rocket which could penetrate armor deeper.
Although the actual bazooka is no longer in use by the U.S. military, the nickname is given to any missile weapon fired from the shoulder. Unfortunately, bazookas are one military surplus item not available to the public. But you can get the gum that was inspired by the bazooka rocket launcher and was first produced just after the end of World War II — Bazooka Bubblegum. Be sure to get some!
Written by Craig Kent, member of the Best Military Surplus team.