Like the AK-47, the RPG-7 is a Soviet weapon that was developed shortly after WWII using lessons learned from direct interaction with German military theory, a weapon which rapidly became ubiquitous in modern war and has been widely used in most parts of the world for more than 50 years. If you’ve watched action movies or war news, you have certainly seen this weapon in use. If you’ve traveled in Africa or the Middle East, you’ve probably seen it in person.
RPG stands for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomyot, which means “hand-held anti-tank grenade launcher.” In English we call it a Rocket Propelled Grenade, but the warhead is a little more complicated than your average grenade. It was built to defeat Cold War-era tank armor, and it uses a very focused shaped charge to penetrate up to 20 inches of hardened steel. You can see the powerful cutting jet that the explosive creates in this video:
Compared to the ammunition, the RPG launcher is itself actually very primitive, the action being about as advanced as an early 1800s single-action revolver… without the revolver cylinder. I didn’t know much about this particular weapon, but Ian over at Forgotten Weapons just covered it. While this weapon is actually the opposite of forgotten – Ian usually talks about Chinese mystery pistols or harmonica rifles – it is interesting to learn more about it.
The RPG-7 approaching its 55th birthday (although it has several newer types of ammunition), and it is still a popular weapon among freedom fighters and jihadist thugs alike. This is quite a testament to its simplicity and effectiveness. Along with the AK-47, it is rugged, cheap, and about as close to idiot-proof as anything that the Soviets ever built; Communist military doctrine always assumes an unlimited quantity of idiots.