Military-Grade Awesome

Solothurn S-18/1000: Swiss-Built German Design Considered By USA


After the first World War, Germany was banned from producing weapons of war. However, they were not the type to just sit back and let the world tell them what they can and can’t do. No sirree, Ralf. Instead, they bought or started companies in countries not affected by these rules. Such is the case of the Solothurn firearms company. Technically a Swiss company, it was wholly owned by Rheinmetall, a Germany company. With this arrangement, Rheinmetall could design firearms and Solothurn could manufacture them.

One such weapon is the 85 inch long Solothurn S-18/1000 antitank rifle. It’s size and weight (118 pounds empty) help it to blur the lines between what is considered a gun and what is considered artillery. Designed to take out tanks and other reinforced targets, it fires a 20mmx138mm round at a muzzle velocity of about 850 m/s. It’s technically an improved version of the S-18/100, which had a slower muzzle velocity and fired a smaller cartridge. The Solothurn S-18/1000 was fed by a 10-round magazine. The -100 and -1000 were both recoil operated semi-automatic while the later -1100 was a select fire version with a fully automatic mode.

In 1940, the US Army considered buying 50 Solothurn S-18/1000s. They compared it to the .90-cal. T4 being considered for anti-tank duty and found the Solothurn, despite is prodigious size and weight, to be more maneuverable than the gun they were considering. Red tape delayed the Army from actually ordering the weapons, then a little war broke out and the desire for the big German-Swiss gun was put on the back burner.

Today, these guns are very rare and a collector that actually finds one on the market can expect to pay at least $50,000 for one in decent shape.

  • Wolfie

    Must have a long range.
    Also kick like a mule!

  • texlenin

    Wasn't this the one you could buy out of the back of
    Pop Mechanics way back in the 50's?

  • The Professor

    A full-auto 20mm 'rifle'? Good lord, sign me up! That's a great anti-zombie weapon.

    • jalopjackie

      Any apocalypse featuring zombies which require 20mm autocannon fire to put down is no apocalypse I want to be surviving.

      Sign me up for the brains-eating team instead, please.

      • You go to war with the zombie apocalypse you have, not the zombie apocalypse you might want or wish to have at a later time.

        • jalopjackie

          Ah, but therein lies the beauty of my plan — by lying on the ground in a fetal position and letting them take me (and let's be honest, I'll probably be doing that anyway), I will by default be signing up for the 20mm zombie team.

          I can't lose!

        • The Professor

          Damned straight. That's why you stock all of the big weapons that you can get your hands on. Be f&&king prepared, I always say.

          • I could see where the 20mm would be great for Zombies, you would just need to make some sort of funnel corral to get them to line up in a straight line. You could probably take out a couple of dozen with one shot.

          • jeepjeff

            I will always remember the wise words of Id Software: "Thou canst not kill that which doth not live. But you can blast it into chunky kibbles."

      • Shivas

        If you're ever not sure if you awakened into a post-apocalyptic dystopia, just look around. Are there 45 gal steel drums with fires burning in them?

    • Just semi-auto.

      • The Professor

        Bah, phooey! Another pussified weapon. Actually, I suppose that it might get a little dicey shooting a hand-held 20mm cannon on full-auto, but it's things like that which make it sporty.

        • That and a 10 round magazine wouldn't last too long on full auto. A full auto 20mm jumps from rifle to artillery. The Oerlikon 20mm is what you want, although it uses a slightly shorter shell, usually has a fixed mount too.

        • I missed the line about the -1100 model. Apparently it is full auto and they could use the 20 round magazines from a flak cannon.

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    Sons of Guns just had one on the show last week. It was almost worth the Teutel grade silliness to see it in action.

    • It must be one that is still on my DVR. That show is ridiculous, but I love it.

  • Also similar and firing the same 20mm round was the Finnish Lahti L-39.
    <img src=""width=500&gt;

    The Us Marines did use a few British Boys anti-tank rifles, but they were 0.55 caliber, just a little more powerful than the US .50 BMG round., not 20mm. Also, they were bolt action, no semi-auto. <img src=""width=500&gt;

    All of these are legal to own in most states, but are considered Destructive Devices and require the same paperwork and stuff as a machine gun. Any gun with a rifled barrel over 0.50" and firing a metallic cartridge is considered a destructive device. There are a few exceptions to this: rifled shotgun barrels, a few of the old black powder big game cartridges (.600 Nitro), and other old black powder rounds like 0.577 Synder.