|It has been suggested that this article be split into articles entitled Gepárd M1, Gepárd M2, Gepárd M4 and Gepárd M5. (discuss)|
The Gepárd anti-materiel rifles are a series of anti-materiel rifles developed by Ferenc Földi.
Designed in 1987 after the Hungarian army sought for a compact, mobile weapon system that could disable lightly armored targets, the Gepárds were originally inspired from early World War II anti-tank rifles, developed by the Germans to blast through the armor of armored vehicles. However, the Gepárds' main purpose is to take out unarmored or lightly armored targets.
The M1 was the first to enter service in the Hungarian army, where there were 25 in service. It was chambered in 12.7×108mm. The M1's reloading process was complicated; reloading involved twisting the pistol grip to the side and pulling it back, where one can chamber a round and do the opposite to bring it into battery, similar how one would reload a PzB M.SS.41. The M1 was essentially a sniper's weapon, featuring a one shot mechanism to reduce the number of moving parts. Due to the weight of the M1, Hungarian soldiers were told to abandon the entire weapon when forced to retreat quickly, and save the pistol grip as proof. Only 123 M1s were produced.
A semi-automatic version of the M1 was eventually developed. Dubbed the M2, it was an improvement over the M1, with the most notable improvement being weight reduction, the addition of a recoil reduction system and shorter barrel, which allowed for firing from the hip. The M2A2, a variant of the M2 with an even shorter barrel, was produced for paratroopers.
Despite these improvements, the M2 was still not considered good enough, so another rifle, the M3, was designed. Chambered in the powerful 14.5×114mm round, the M3 had incredible stopping power and immediately became the most popular variant of the rifle. Unfortunately, the weapon lost the capability to fire from the hip, due to the heavier recoil of the 14.5×114mm round.
The M4 and M5 models were also procured after a few years. The M4 was a semi-automatic anti-materiel rifle, much like the Accuracy International AS 50 and Barrett M82, while the M5 was a bolt-action rifle designed for military sharpshooters. The capability of using massive ten-round drum magazines that could be used with the M2 and M3 was removed with the M4, and was instead replaced by a straight box magazine holding five rounds.
The Gepárd series finally concluded with the M6, which could chamber either .50 BMG or 12.7×108mm with the change of a few parts, like with the M2 and M4, where all was needed was a quick barrel change.
The design of the Gepárds, both internally and externally, are unique and did not have much in common between the variants.
The M1 uses a single shot mechanism to reduce the amount of moving parts. While the reloading mechanism was odd (using the pistol grip as a bolt handle), it worked. The M2 seems to use the same reloading mechanism as the M1, except that it has a magazine and that it is semi-automatic.
The M3 uses the same odd turnbolt style action to cock the gun, despite being semi-automatic, while the M4 is gas-operated. The M5 uses a simple turnbolt mechanism, unlike the unusual one seen on the M1, M2 and M3.
The M6 uses a long-recoil mechanism to cycle its rounds.
The Gepárds are usually chambered for 12.7×108mm, although the M2, M4, and M6 could be converted to fire .50 BMG rounds with the change of a few parts. The M3 strictly fires 14.5×114mm only.
The M1 is the first variant of the rifle. It used an odd turnbolt mechanism where the pistol grip had to be worked in order to fire. It was very heavy, and was usually abandoned during combat when soldiers were forced to retreat.
The second variant of the rifle, the M2 is an improvement over the M1, with a shorter barrel, lighter weight and the addition of a magazine.
The third variant of the rifle, the M3 is strictly an anti-materiel rifle and is the most powerful of the six. The M3 had astonishing penetrating power and instantly became the most popular of the lot.
The fourth variant of the rifle, and the only conventional rifle. The M4 is designed to be fired from the hip, and is one of two semi-automatic rifles in the series that does not use the odd turnbolt style mechanism.
The fifth variant of the rifle, and the last bolt action. The M5 is the only rifle that uses an actual turnbolt handle, and not the odd turnbolt mechanism.
- Main article: Gepárd GM6 Lynx
The final rifle in the series, the M6 "Lynx" (or "Hiúz" in Hungary) is a modern version of the older Gepárd rifles, with excellent penetration (though not as good as the M3's) and mobility. It combines the cocking mechanism of the M4 with the layout of the M2, M3 and M5, and because of this, it does not use the odd turnbolt mechanism, due to it already being a little bit inconvenient.
- The concept of using the pistol grip as a bolt originated with the WWI-era Winchester-Pugsley anti-tank rifle.