On June 13, 1940, president of the Security Council S. Timoshenko referred to Central Committee of the Communist Party and SNK USSR the report «...about insufficient power of the armament of existing KV and T-34 tanks, and about other prospective tank projects». On June 27, the special session of the SNK was devoted to that question. Session acknowledged the insufficient power of 45 mm tank guns and considered them as having no perspective. To replace them, new 55–60 mm guns should be developed.
At that time, Grabin's design bureau was working already on 57mm ZIS-2 Antitank Gun, that's why it was ordered to develop a tank variant of that 57 mm gun, but first drafts of such gun was already developed by Grabin's initiative.
The manufacture of the first prototype of 57mm tank gun had launched in September 1940, but until December manufactoring preparations were slow because improvement and mass production of the 76.2 mm F-34 tank gun overloaded factory. Nevertheless, in the beginning of December 1940, the very first prototype of 57mm tank gun was manufactured. Till the end of March 1941, being mounted on gun-carriage, it was on factory trials. In April 1941, gun was mounted on production T-34 and sent to ANIOP for trials on the proving ground. Those trials have revealed an extremely short life of its barrel (overheated after 100–150 shots) and low accuracy.
In July 1941, an improved gun, being named ZIS-4, was installed in T-34 and tested again on Sofrino proving ground. Trials were successful and gun was recommended for service in spite of its cost price. ZIS-4 was too expensive mostly because of very long barrel. Nevertheless its price, gun was accepted for service because of high demand of powerful antitank guns. ZIS-4 was intended to rearm some production T-34 to convert them into «tank-interceptors» (T-34-57). Following the order of NKV, ZIS-4 was set up for mass production on Factory #92.
Mass production of those guns started in August 1941. In September 1941 it was temporary delayed and on December 1, 1941, it was cancelled. That was because of shortage of 57mm ammunition and productional expenses. According to report of Ministry of Ammunition (Narkomat Boepripasov), in 1941 the Factory # 92 has manufactured 133 ZIS-4 guns.
Until evacuation, KhPZ had received 21 guns for reaming some production T-34s. STZ had received 20 guns. From October 1, 1941, T-34–57 must been manufactured on «Krasnoye Sormovo» Factory, but despite best my effort, I was unable to find any records in factory's statistic reports.
The project of 57mm gun was resumed in 1943, when it become clear that all existing guns could not combat with German heavies. In May 1943, the «T-34 tank-interceptor» and «KV tank-interceptor» were accepted for service again. They were armed with modernised ZIS-4M tank gun that distinguished from its base model by following:
— the gun received a new breech-block that was unified with F-34, ZIS-2, ZIS-3 and ZIS-5;
— the semi-automatic mechanism of the breech-block was simplified;
— the muff's fastening was improved.
ZIS-4 wasn't provided with panoramic sight, T-34–57 was one of the first tank that received the MK-4 periscope. Tank didn't have commander's cupola. Specially for successful combat with German heavy tanks, «tank-interceptors» had «the armour piercing round of the extra power» that achieved the muzzle velocity of 1010 m/s. However, usage of that ammunition decreased significantly the barrel's life. So, after manufacturing of small party of these rounds (less than 2800 rounds total), all these ammunition was removed from mass production and withdrawn from the Red Army.
«Tank-interceptors» of the first party have participated the Battle for Moscow in 1941–1942. In particular, there were 10 T-34–57 in the 21st Tank Brigade, that was formed in Vladimir. On October 14, the brigade has been deployed at Demidov rail station and a day later it was ordered to advance on Turchinovo-Pushkino-Troyanovo and make a flank strike on German troops deployed near Kalinin. Starshiy politruk (Soviet political rank, somewhere equal to lieutenant) E. Gmurya drove his tank along the Volokolamsk highway had met with big column of German trucks. His tank has destroyed the whole column of 3-km length. After that, tank rushed in German airfield and destroyed a heavy bomber. After that, tank was knocked out by German artillery, two crewmembers were killed. Politruk Gmyrya and sergeant Ishenko escaped and rejoined Red Army. For a 4 days, the 21st Tank Brigade destroyed in total 3 German staffs, about 1,000 soldiers, 34 tanks, 210 trucks and 31 guns. Brigade has lost its commander — Hero of the Soviet Union, major Lukin and commander of the 1st battalion Hero of the Soviet Union captain Agibalov. By November 25, all «tank-interceptors» of the 21st Tank Brigade were lost.
I could find a mention about 8 T-34-57s being added to the 8th Tank Brigade on October 19, 1941. All I could find about those tanks was mention of lack of ammunition. Unfortunately, I was unable to trace their further fate.
The new T-34–57 «tank-interceptors» had appeared on the frontline in August 1943.They've been attached to the «Special Tank Company 100». That company had three T-34-57s in its first platoon from August 15 to September 5, 1943. Unfortunately, «tank-interceptors» were unlucky. During all those weeks, the company could meet German tanks only once, but at that time the 1st platoon was in reserve and didn't participate the battle. So, «tank-interceptors» were unable to prove their efficiency against German armors. Nevertheless, commander of that company captain Volosatov and delegate of the GABTU colonel Zaitzev, have praised T-34–57 very high after shot practice on knocked out German tanks and captured pillboxes and bunkers.
The main drawback of the ZIS-4 and the ZIS-4M tank gun was very low quality of HE projectiles: they either exploded partially or didn't explode at all.
During 1943, the Factory #92 had manufactured 172 ZIS-4M guns, then it mass production was cancelled in favour of 85 mm guns. Although, according to factory's report on 1944, it had manufactured additional 19 ZIS-4Ms. Perhaps, for repair some existing «tank-interceptors».
Sources: «The T-34 tank. Operational manual», Voenizdat, 1941;
«The T-34 tank. Handbook», Voenizdat, 1944;
Bronekollektsiya #3, 1999;
Tankomaster #1 1999;
I. Shmelev «The T-34», Technics and Armament #11–12, 1998.