Gepard M1: A Hungarian-made .50 Cal sniper rifle

Gepard M1 single-shot 12.7mm Anti-materiel rifle designed and manufactured in Hungary
Gepard M1 single-shot 12.7mm Anti-materiel rifle designed and manufactured in Hungary (Photo: XY)

The Gepard M1 is a heavy sniper rifle chambered in .50 Cal (12,7 mm). It was part of the Gepard sniper rifles series designed and manufactured in Hungary in the late 1980s.

Introduction

The Gepard sniper rifles are the result of four designers’ (János Egerszegi, Ferenc Földi, György Piroska and Imre Simkó) collaboration in 1987. In December 1987, testings of the 12.7x107mm B32 ammunition was started by the HTI [Institute of Military Technology]. The bullet penetrated a 20mm steel plate at 100 meters, a 17 mm steel plate at 600 meters, 200mm concrete at 600 meters. The rifle was named ‘Gepard’.

Three Gepard prototypes were manufactured by István Fellegi at Sz. E.K. Miskolc for tests in April 1988. A trial rifle with an ‘NSZVT’ barrel outperformed the others with various barrels, and they all far outperformed the 7.62x54mm Dragunov SVD Sniper.

The Gepard series consisted of the 11 sniper rifles designed and manufactured in Hungary:

  • Gepard-1
  • Gepard-2
  • Gepard-3
  • Gepard M1
  • Gepard M1A1
  • Gepard M2
  • Gepard M2A1
  • Gepard M3 Destroyer
  • Gepard M4
  • Gepard M5
  • Gepard M6 Lynx
Gepard M3 Destroyer Sniper Rifle
Gepard M3 Destroyer Sniper Rifle (Photo: YouTube/screenshot)

Design

The Hungarian Gepard M1 rifle is a rather peculiar design that first appeared in the West in 1990. It is a single-shot weapon, without a magazine, so that firing each round is a slow business. The pistol grip actually acts as the handle of the breech bolt and contains a very simple hammer and firing pin mechanism.

Hungarian-made Gepard M1 rifle
Hungarian-made Gepard M1 rifle (Photo: XY)

To load, the pistol grip is twisted sideways to unlock the lugs on the bolt from meting recesses in the barrel, and the grip and bolt are then removed completely from the weapon. The cartridge is then inserted into the exposure chamber and the grip and bolt are replaced and twisted back so as to lock the breech securely. The hammer is cocked and then the trigger is pressed to fire the round.

The rifle can be quickly disassembled for carrying, with the longest piece 1200mm, fitting into a carrying backpack. The carrying bag frame also serves as the rifle stand. Complete weight with accessories 21kg.

Cartridge

The cartridge is the ex-Soviet 12.7 mm machine gun round, roughly equivalent to the U.S. .50 Browning machine gun cartridge. It delivers a heavy bullet, and, as a result, generates a Chevy recoil in the gun. The Gepard M1 barrel is fitted with a high-efficiency muzzle brake which helps to reduce the recoil to manageable proportions. There is also a resilient butt pad and cheekpiece to avoid injury to the fire. The Gepard M1 is usually supported on a simple adjustable bipod, but standard Warsaw Pact machine gun tripods can also be used.

12.7x108mm cartridge
12.7x108mm cartridge. The tip of the bullet is color-coded i.e. black = armor-piercing, red = incendiary (Photo: XY)

Accuracy

The cartridge is sufficiently accurate to give a 300 mm (12 inches) group with five shots at 600 meters range. The bullet is capable of penetrating 30 mm of rolled steel armor plate at 100 meters, dropping to 15 mm at 600 meters. The effective range is claimed to be up to 2000 meters against vehicles and similar large targets, 1200 meters against personnel.

May 1992 issue of Guns Review tested a Gepard M1 showing impressive 10″ groups at 1280 meters [1400 yards].

Variants

In February 1990 the variant of the M1, Gepard M1A1 Sniper Rifle was also introduced. In comparison to the Gepard M1, the Gepard M1A1 has a lighter barrel, a 2-stage muzzle brake. The receiver is made from a lightweight alloy.

Users

In July 1991 18 Gepard M1 rifles were shipped to the Hungarian Army and RKSZ (anti-terrorist unit). During military testing, 3 Gepard M1A1’s destroyed a helicopter size target at 1800 meters. In October 1991 a Hungarian designed, improved, and manufactured scope with internal adjustments replaced the Japanese Nikko scopes.

During testing the new scopes, sharpshooters hit man-size targets at 1200 meters. In November 1991 the Hungarian Army officially adopted the Gepard M1A1 Sniper Rifles. The Gepard received several patents.

Technical specifications: Gepard M1

Manufacturer:Istvan Fellegi, Miskolo, Hungary
Designed:1987–1990
Service:1990-present
Type:single shot
Caliber: 12.7×107 mm B32 or MDZ23, 12.7×99 mm NATO (.50 Browning)
Barrel:1580mm (1210mm without the butt)
Weight (empty):35 lbs (16 kg)
Effective firing range:2,000 m
Maximum firing range:2,500 m
Rate of fire:
Magazine capacity:single shot
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