The Lahti l-39 anti-tank rifle is a serious piece of hardware.
Throughout history, humans have sought to build a better firearm. When World War II broke out, many armies started searching for ways to get an edge over their opponents. One of the more unique but seldom talked about firearms is the Lahti l-39, a 20mm anti-tank rifle deployed by the Finnish army.
This gas-operated semi-automatic weighs in at a whopping 109 pounds and holds up to 10 rounds in its massive box magazine. It has a blistering muzzle velocity of 2,600 feet per second, making it one of the most awesome weapons ever deployed in combat. The mighty .50 BMG has nothing on this gun.
The Finns nicknamed this gun the "Norsupyssy," or "elephant gun." Although, as you will soon see, elephant guns look like small arms compared to this massive anti-tank weapon.
It turns out that WWII was not the first time the 20mm Lahti l-39 saw combat. It was first used during the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1939 and 1940. It was fortunate timing because they were able to use the gun in the subsequent Continuation War between the two countries that raged as the second world war as still going. While the Finnish anti-tank rifle was originally meant for armor, it was not as effective on newer Soviet tanks. The Finns still used it for snipers and for punching through bunkers at long-range distances.
Some of these anti-tank guns were converted into a fully automatic version and used as anti-aircraft weapons. Which makes a little more sense since the gigantic muzzle brake, heavy bipod, and ridiculous barrel length likely made it a pain for troops to transport in the field. Just based on the iron sights and the other features he showed in this video, the gun's designer, Aimo Lahti and the manufacturer of the gun, Valtion Kivaaritehdas, clearly did not make this firearm with user comfort in mind!
There are still a few of these semi-autos floating around today, although as the video noted, ammo is rare and expensive. To own one, you need to jump through some additional hoops since they are considered "destructive devices" under the National Firearms Act here in the States. Still, it was fun to see one in action and marvel at the engineering and awesome power of this forgotten firearm of history.