The Gepárd anti-materiel rifles are a family of Hungarian weapons designed to destroy unarmored and lightly armored targets. These long range, large caliber rifles have high accuracy as well as high muzzle velocity. The Gepárds originate from World War I anti-tank rifles created to damage the primitive armored vehicles developed by the British. Since then, anti-materiel rifles fell into disuse. Heavier tanks meant thicker armor, which even the heaviest rifles could not pierce. However, in 1987 the Hungarian army sought to obtain a compact, mobile weapon that could damage lightly armored targets. The project, led by eng. ltc. col. Ferenc Földi (Institute of Military Technology of the Hungarian People's Army), culminated in the creation of the Gepárds.
The M1 was the first Gepárd rifle to enter service. It featured a long barrel for increased accuracy, a skeleton stock to reduce weight, and used the heavy 12.7 x 108 mm Soviet cartridge. However, the rifle was complicated to reload. The M1 fired only one shot and would then have to be manually reloaded. To do this, the user had to rotate, pull back, remove the grip assembly (whose shape resembles a signal-flare handgun), and insert another cartridge. This tedious task took time
to master and slowed the weapon's rate of fire. Other difficulties such as high recoil also plagued the M1. The recoil problem was solved with the addition of a barrel that recoiled back after each shot. The design was inspired by artillery cannons, which face the same impediment. Still, the Gepárd rifles need specially made, high-strength telescopic gunsights. Improvements, such as the addition of a carrier/lafette backpack and a longer barrel, led to the M1A1 variant, but at 21 kilograms its combat weight was deemed excessive.
The M1 was essentially a sniper weapon, not primarily intended for military field application, but for anti-terrorist police and special forces' use, who operate on the "one shot, one hit" principle. The single shot action was designed to reduce the number of moving parts and allow for extreme precision, five hits out of five shots fit in a 25 centimeter radius circle at 1300 meters. Yet, the Hungarian army decided to purchase 25 rifles of the Gepárd M1 type for use as an
in-the-field materiel destruction rifle, but did not purchase any of the later variants so far. Owing to the great weight of Gepárd M1, sharpshooters were instructed to abandon the entire weapon if forced to retreat quickly and only save the grip assembly for proof, rendering the gun useless.