Bits of Armor – Schürzen

We see all of those gorgeous tanks with schürzen armor plated to the sides (Pz IV for instance), but what are they there for? Let’s find out.

Edit: I have revised the initial text of the article. Thanks to our readers for the input.

Russland, Panzer IV
Panzer IV Ausführung H with Schürzen

Anti Tank Rifles and Shaped Charges

The early Panzers weren’t very well armored (Pz IV had 20mm of frontal in the beginning), but were uparmored after the Soviets surprised them with the T-34 and KV-1 tanks. Eventually the Pz IV was upgraded to have 80mm of frontal armor. The Panzers would get too heavy if the armor needed to be upgraded even more, especially side armor. The issue was that the 40mm side armor could often be penetrated by anti-tank rifles on the Russian front; in order to combat this the Schürzen were added. Their purpose was to make the projectile start to tumble and break off its penetration course.


The addition of the Schürzen also proved useful against shaped charges (often referred to as HEAT). Because we do not have AT rifles in World of Tanks, the main focus will go to the HEAT shells. In order to understand how Schürzen helped defeat HEAT, we need to check how HEAT works.

HEAT vs. Schürzen

The Schürzen were very thin 5mm thick plates of steel; hence saving weight of added armor, but increasing protection. The HEAT shell gets to work when it impacts and is completely dependent on the shaped charge reaction on impact; hence the penetration of the shell never drops over distance.

The HEAT shell would strike the skirt, jolting a hot beam of copper through the skirt, but losing a lot of its kinetic energy in the process, it would then continue to try and penetrate the actual armor of the tank, but failing as the reaction lost too much power already. The Schürzen proved to be very effective. It would be rolled out on (almost all) variants of the Panzer III, IV and  Panthers.

This also explains why HEAT does not work very well against spaced armored targets in World of Tanks and why your HEAT gets absorbed by tracks (tracks count as spaced armor).

User Experience vs. Protection

The Panzer IV H as depicted above was pretty much covered in Schürzen, but this proved troublesome in the thick overgrowth of the Boucage in Normandy. The bushes and branches would get stuck there, pulling down foliage and sometimes ripping off parts of the metal (a not so very conspicious way of moving around). Therefore the newer Pz IV J would get rid of the side schürzen, but would keep the Schürzen on the turret; some where provided with lighter weight mesh (as seen on the Pz IV S in-game). The newer tanks like the Panther and Tiger II had Schürzen covering the side of the tank, pretty much over/next to the tracks, preventing this problem.

Modern Applications

You might have seen modern vehicles having cages around them (slat armor) and they serve the same purpose as the added benefit of the Schürzen. The commonly used RPG-7 rocket relies on the same principle of the shaped charge. The cage defeats the projectile.


29 thoughts on “Bits of Armor – Schürzen

  1. This article implies that Schürzen was mad to stop HEAT rounds, rather than stopping the much more numerous Russian 14.5 AT rifles, which were capable of penetrating the 40mm side armor of pz4s and Panthers at low ranges.

    Helping with HEAT rounds (a bit) was only a happy coincidence, because let’s face it, if a tank with 40mm of side armor is flanked by a tank, or overrun with infantry close enough to throw AT grenades at it, no amount of side skirts will save it.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Absolutely correct, the author here got into the trap of copying an unfortunately very common misconception after the WW2.
      The Schuerzen main purpose was the protection against AT Rifles, which were extremely(!) common compared to HEAT.
      The fairly weak side armor of the Pz III, PZ IV, Stug or even parts of the Panther could be penetrated by these rifles. The Schuerzen were meant to destabilize the AT Rifle round, thus making it impossible for her to penetrate the main side armor at the usual combat distances of these teams. And for that purpose these Schuerzen were quite effective.
      Even the Panther received some small Schuerzen exactly for that, to protect a week side area, and if this would not have been found sufficient the whole Panther concept would have received a per standard stronger side armor there, with negative impacts then though to weight, cost, mobility etc …

      best regards


    2. Not only that. That Skirts actually help against HEAT. There is even this WaPrüf report from 1944 which says Skirts don’t have any reliable effect against Panzerfaust, Bazooka or Panzerschreck.

      Am 21.12.1944 wurde in Kummersdorf ein Versuchschießen durchgeführt, allerdings nur mit den Schürzen aus Maschendraht und Panzerfaust bzw. -schreck. Ergebnis: “Das Verhältnis der beschleunigten Masse beim Auftreffen zur Masse der Schürzen, die durch ihre Trägheit das Geschoß bremsen sollen, ist derart unterschiedlich, daß die Schürze die Geschoßwirkung nur unwesentlich beeinflussen kann. Alle Schürzen sind mit der Aufhängevorrichtung beim ersten Schuß zerstört worden.” Auch wenn die Schürzen aus 5mm Blechen und nicht aus harten Drahtnetz sind, wird die Wirkung der Hohlladunggeschoße nicht bzw. kaum gemindert, wobei die allierten Hohlladungsgeschoße in ihrer Wirkung den dt. nicht nachstanden. D.h. die dt. Schürzen waren unwirksam, behinderten das Fahrzeug, teilweise sogar den Höhenrichtbereich des Geschütze, waren nicht sicher befestigt und eine Verschwendung von Material.”

      Source: Karl Pawlas “Schürzen zur Verstärkung der Panzerung” in Waffen Revue Nr. 40

      So basically the tested thin wire mesh skirts first, without effect. Then they changed to stronger wire mesh skirts and 5mm sheet skirts. Still no real effect.
      That’s for the WW2 skirts and not the modern much heavier Slat armor.

      I think in one of the Chieftains videos he said something similar about sandbags on the US Shermans. In oder to have some effect they would have needed much more sandbags. It was more a psychological effect than a real effect. But as long the crew felt safer, it kind of works.😉

      Anyway. This article has more than just a few flaws.


  2. Wasn’t the Schuerzen used to protect tank sides from the 14.5mm cartridge that the PTRS/PTRD fired? I think that many sources have clarified that already, it was not made for HEAT.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is true what you claim. The aim of these “Bits of Armor” articles is to get the discussion going and the receive input from our readers; I like to keep the focus on the game related aspect of things. Nevertheless I should have mentioned its initial purpose in the article. Thanks for the addition!


    1. sadly Pz4H in game’s spaced side really doesn’t stop HEAT =(
      jsut to weak vs the high pen WG gives heat rounds.

      the most the spaced side armor on PZ4H does in WoT is limit HE dmg


    2. Honestly I would take the article offline because it contains other mistakes as well … beside the mentioned wrong Heat reasoning …
      “The bushes and branches would get stuck there, pulling down foliage and sometimes ripping off parts of the metal (a not so very conspicious way of moving around). Therefore the newer Pz IV J would get rid of the side schürzen, but would keep the Schürzen on the turret.”
      Is not true
      Pz IV Ausf. J did receive mesh wire Schuerzen, which were found to be as effectively against AT Rifles, but reduced cost and weight. Yes the tanks easily lost their Schuerzen but the Pz IV continued to received them, even more so due to the success of them, several Sturmgeschuetz detachments added field mounted/developed Schuerzen to their Stugs too

      Please remove the article, its unfortunately not correct in several ways.

      my 2 cents


        1. Your comments have made me realize that indeed I need to do my *full* homework first of which I am very thankful. Also thanks to Seb for the consideration.

          Please note that the concept of these articles is a fast bit of information, without going into too much detail in orderto get the discussion rolling; mainly with focus on game appliances. It sure as heck got this one rolling. I am however aware of the fact that this articles brought up some false assumptions when compared to reality.

          I have now revised the intitial text to take your input into consideration.

          Liked by 1 person

    3. Actually the Schuerzen did not stop HEAT or Bazookas effectively,
      Even that conclusion is not correct. So it was not even a side effect. They only helped really against AT Rifles and similar.


  3. Great article. FYI. Modern appliances? I think you mean applications. An appliance is a refrigerator, microwave, etc.


  4. No, no no no. No.

    The Munroe effect doesn’t give a shit about spaced armour. As a matter of fact, spaced armour can actually increase the penetration (due to a more optimal stand-off). The only implementation of the Munroe effect where spaced armour causes a loss in penetration is when the liner is rotating, which is only the case with very few guns. The forces from this rotation cause the jet to expand. The frontal area increases, sectional density density decreases ergo the penetration goes to shit. This is the reason spaced armour and tracks in WoT ‘eat’ HEAT jets. But then again, even the BK-5 for the 100 mm D-10 is fin stabilised due to rotating driving bands. The so called “Obus-G” round for French 105 mm M-57 has a non-rotating explosive and liner, while the shell mantle itself does rotate. Only the M456 for the 105 mm L7A is rotation stabilised, which is pretty silly.

    The only thing happening to a HEAT jet is that it will lose 0.95 times the thickness of the spaced armour plate in length. This is because the interaction between the armour and the jet is hydrodynamic. This (simply put) means that the jet will erode the armour, and the armour will erode the jet. The speed at which the armour erodes the jet is sqrt(armour density/jet density). For steel armour and a copper jet this turns out to be 0.95. For every centimeter of armour, 0.95 cm of jet is eroded. So for the 5 mm of schurzen, the jet will lose 4.75 mm of length. This is with (semi)infinite armour, with thin armour the loss will be even less. The spaced armour plate can be assumed to not cause a loss in velocity.

    Slat/cage armour works completely different from spaced armour. One works vs HEAT, the other doesn’t. Slat armour aims to destroy the liner before the explosive can be fused (or preventing fusing in the first place). If the liner is destroyed/damaged, the penetration capabilities go completely to shit.

    And as others already pointed out, schurzen were never designed as a counter to HEAT charges.


  5. Often, people mistake skirtless Pz. IV Hs for Pz. IV Js. One big signifier to distinguish the Pz. IV H and J is took look at the return rollers. The Pz. IV H has 4 return rollers while the Pz. IV J has 3 return roller.

    The Pz. IV on the picture is a Pz. IV H missing its spaced armor.

    If you have proof to the contrary I’ll gladly hear it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. A bit late response, but You are wrong. Return rollers were reduced to three in December 1944, so only a late version of Ausf. J can be identified this way. The main difference that was the reason for intruduction of Ausf. J was removal of electric turret drive and the easiest way to tell Ausf. J apart from Ausf. H is the lack of small boxy muffler on the left of the rear of the tank.

      Here’s a good example of Ausf. J with four rollers and old type of exhaust. The turret drive muffler in Ausf. H would be where the white numbers are. Also notice the lack of gun ports on turret doors and lack of drivers side view port.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting article, I was always curious about the origins and effectiveness of the Schürzen. Though according to some commenters, it had a different original use.
    Anyways, article well done, thank you Tomah4wk!

    Liked by 1 person

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