The use of exploding shells from field artillery became relatively commonplace from early in the 19th century. Until the mid 19th century, shells remained as simple exploding spheres that used gunpowder, set off by a slow burning fuse. They were usually made of cast iron , but bronze , lead , brass and even glass shell casings were experimented with. Typically, the thickness of the metal body was about a sixth of their diameter and they were about two thirds the weight of solid shot of the same caliber.
To ensure that shells were loaded with their fuses toward the muzzle, they were attached to wooden bottoms called sabots. In , a committee of British artillery officers recognized that they were essential stores and in Britain standardized sabot thickness as a half inch. Despite the use of exploding shell, the use of smoothbore cannons firing spherical projectiles of shot remained the dominant artillery method until the s.
The mid 19th century saw a revolution in artillery, with the introduction of the first practical rifled breech loading weapons. The new methods resulted in the reshaping of the spherical shell into its modern recognizable cylindro-conoidal form. This shape greatly improved the in-flight stability of the projectile and meant that the primitive time fuzes could be replaced with the percussion fuze situated in the nose of the shell.
The new shape also meant that further, armor-piercing designs could be used. During the 20th Century, shells became increasingly streamlined.
Brass Artillery Shells
In World War I, ogives were typically two circular radius head crh - the curve was a segment of a circle having a radius of twice the shell caliber. After that war, ogive shapes became more complex and elongated. From the s, higher quality steels were introduced by some countries for their HE shells, this enabled thinner shell walls with less weight of metal and hence a greater weight of explosive.
Ogives were further elongated to improve their ballistic performance. Advances in metallurgy in the industrial era allowed for the construction of rifled breech-loading guns that could fire at a much greater muzzle velocity. After the British artillery was shown up in the Crimean War as having barely changed since the Napoleonic Wars , the industrialist William Armstrong was awarded a contract by the government to design a new piece of artillery.
The piece was rifled , which allowed for a much more accurate and powerful action. Although rifling had been tried on small arms since the 15th century, the necessary machinery to accurately rifle artillery only became available in the midth century. Martin von Wahrendorff and Joseph Whitworth independently produced rifled cannon in the s, but it was Armstrong's gun that was first to see widespread use during the Crimean War.
This spin, together with the elimination of windage as a result of the tight fit, enabled the gun to achieve greater range and accuracy than existing smooth-bore muzzle-loaders with a smaller powder charge. The gun was also a breech-loader.
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Although attempts at breech-loading mechanisms had been made since medieval times, the essential engineering problem was that the mechanism couldn't withstand the explosive charge. It was only with the advances in metallurgy and precision engineering capabilities during the Industrial Revolution that Armstrong was able to construct a viable solution. Another innovative feature was what Armstrong called its "grip", which was essentially a squeeze bore ; the 6 inches of the bore at the muzzle end was of slightly smaller diameter, which centered the shell before it left the barrel and at the same time slightly swaged down its lead coating, reducing its diameter and slightly improving its ballistic qualities.
Lead coated shells were used with the Armstrong gun , but were not satisfactory so studded projectiles were adopted. However, these did not seal the gap between shell and barrel. Wads at the shell base were also tried without success. In , the British adopted a copper ' gas-check ' at the base of their studded projectiles and in tried a rotating gas check to replace the studs, leading to the automatic gas-check.
This was soon followed by the Vavaseur copper driving band as part of the projectile. The driving band rotated the projectile, centered it in the bore and prevented gas escaping forwards. A driving band has to be soft but tough enough to prevent stripping by rotational and engraving stresses. Copper is generally most suitable but cupronickel or gilding metal were also used. Although an early percussion fuze appeared in that used a flint to create sparks to ignite the powder, the shell had to fall in a particular way for this to work and this did not work with spherical projectiles.
Progress was not possible until the discovery of mercury fulminate in , leading to priming mixtures for small arms patented by the Rev Alexander Forsyth , and the copper percussion cap in The percussion fuze was adopted by Britain in Many designs were jointly examined by the army and navy, but were unsatisfactory, probably because of the safety and arming features.
However, in the design by Quartermaster Freeburn of the Royal Artillery was adopted by the army. It was a wooden fuze some 6 inches long and used shear wire to hold blocks between the fuze magazine and a burning match. The match was ignited by propellant flash and the shear wire broke on impact. A British naval percussion fuze made of metal did not appear until Gunpowder was used as the only form of explosive up until the end of the 19th century. Guns using black powder ammunition would have their view obscured by a huge cloud of smoke and concealed shooters were given away by a cloud of smoke over the firing position.
He promoted its use as a blasting explosive  and sold manufacturing rights to the Austrian Empire. Guncotton was more powerful than gunpowder, but at the same time was somewhat more unstable. British interest waned after an explosion destroyed the Faversham factory in Austrian Baron Wilhelm Lenk von Wolfsberg built two guncotton plants producing artillery propellant, but it was dangerous under field conditions, and guns that could fire thousands of rounds using gunpowder would reach their service life after only a few hundred shots with the more powerful guncotton. Small arms could not withstand the pressures generated by guncotton.
Abel patented this process in , when the second Austrian guncotton factory exploded. After the Stowmarket factory exploded in , Waltham Abbey began production of guncotton for torpedo and mine warheads. In , Paul Vieille invented a smokeless powder called Poudre B short for poudre blanche —white powder, as distinguished from black powder  made from This was adopted for the Lebel rifle. Higher muzzle velocity meant a flatter trajectory and less wind drift and bullet drop, making meter shots practicable. Other European countries swiftly followed and started using their own versions of Poudre B, the first being Germany and Austria which introduced new weapons in Subsequently, Poudre B was modified several times with various compounds being added and removed.
Krupp began adding diphenylamine as a stabilizer in Britain conducted trials on all the various types of propellant brought to their attention, but were dissatisfied with them all and sought something superior to all existing types. It entered British service in as Cordite Mark 1.
Cordite could be made to burn slower which reduced maximum pressure in the chamber hence lighter breeches, etc. Cordite could be made in any desired shape or size. A variety of fillings have been used in shells throughout history. An incendiary shell was invented by Valturio in Their use continued well into the 19th century. A modern version of the incendiary shell was developed in by the British and was known as Martin's shell after its inventor. The shell was filled with molten iron and was intended to break up on impact with an enemy ship, splashing molten iron on the target.
It was used by the Royal Navy between and , replacing Heated shot as an anti-ship, incendiary projectile. Two patterns of incendiary shell were used by the British in World War 1, one designed for use against Zeppelins. Similar to incendiary shells were star shells, designed for illumination rather than arson. Sometimes called lightballs they were in use from the 17th Century onwards. The inch wasn't officially declared obsolete until Smoke balls also date back to the 17th Century, British ones contained a mix of saltpetre, coal, pitch, tar, resin, sawdust, crude antimony and sulphur.
They produced a 'noisome smoke in abundance that is impossible to bear'. They were used to 'suffocate or expel the enemy in casemates, mines or between decks; for concealing operations; and as signals. Shells filled with poison gas were used from onwards. Frequent problems with shells led to many military disasters when shells failed to explode, most notably during the Battle of the Somme. Artillery shells are differentiated by how the shell is loaded, propelled and the type of breech mechanism:. With this style of ammunition, there are three main components the fuzed projectile, the casing to hold the propellants and primer , and the single propellant charge.
With a fixed round everything is included in one ready to use package and in British ordnance, terms are called fixed quick firing. Often guns which use fixed ammunition use sliding-block or sliding-wedge breeches and the case provides obturation which seals the breech of the gun and prevents propellant gasses from escaping. Sliding block breeches can be horizontal or vertical. Advantages of fixed ammunition are simplicity, safety, moisture resistance and speed of loading.
Disadvantages are eventually a fixed round becomes too long or too heavy to load by a gun crew. Another issue is the inability to vary propellant charges to achieve different velocities and ranges. Lastly, there's the issue of resource usage since a fixed round uses a case, which can be an issue in a prolonged war if there are metal shortages.
With this style of ammunition there are three main components: The fuzed projectile, the casing to hold the propellants and primer, and the bagged propellant charges. With a separate loading cased charge round the casing, bagged propellant charges and projectile are usually separated into two or more parts. In British ordnance terms, this type of ammunition is called separate quick firing. Often guns which use separate loading cased charge ammunition use sliding-block or sliding-wedge breeches and during World War I and World War II Germany predominantly used fixed or separate loading cased charges and sliding block breeches even for their largest guns.
A variant of separate loading cased charge ammunition is semi-fixed ammunition. With semi-fixed ammunition the round comes as a complete package but the projectile and its case can be separated. The case holds a set number of bagged charges and the gun crew can add or subtract propellant to change range and velocity. The round is then reassembled and fired. Advantages include easier handling for large rounds, while range and velocity can be varied by using more or fewer propellant charges. Disadvantages include more complexity, slower loading, less safety, less moisture resistance and the metal cases can still be a resource issue.
With this style of ammunition there are three main components - the fuzed projectile, the bagged charges and the primer. Like separate loading cased charge ammunition, the number of propellant charges can be varied. However, this style of ammunition does not use a cartridge case and it achieves obturation through a screw breech instead of a sliding block.
Sometimes when reading about artillery the term separate loading ammunition will be used without clarification of whether a cartridge case is used or not, in which case refer to the type of breech used. Heavy artillery pieces and Naval artillery tend to use bagged charges and projectiles because the weight and size of the projectiles and propelling charges can be more than a gun crew can manage. Advantages include easier handling for large rounds, decreased metal usage, while range and velocity can be varied by using more or fewer propellant charges.
Disadvantages include more complexity, slower loading, less safety and less moisture resistance. Extended range shells are sometimes used. The first has a small rocket motor built into its base to provide additional thrust. The second has a pyrotechnic device in its base that bleeds gas to fill the partial vacuum created behind the shell and hence reduce base-drag. These shell designs usually have reduced HE filling to remain within the permitted weight for the projectile, and hence less lethality.
The caliber of a shell is its diameter. Depending on the historical period and national preferences, this may be specified in millimeters, centimeters, or inches. The length of gun barrels for large cartridges and shells naval is frequently quoted in terms of the ratio of the barrel length to the bore size, also called caliber.
Some guns, mainly British, were specified by the weight of their shells see below. Explosive rounds as small as International Law precludes the use of explosive ammunition for use against individual persons, but not against vehicles and aircraft. The largest shells ever fired were those from the German super- railway guns , Gustav and Dora , which were mm Very large shells have been replaced by rockets , missiles , and bombs , and today the largest shells in common use are mm 6.
Gun calibers have standardized around a few common sizes, especially in the larger range, mainly due to the uniformity required for efficient military logistics. Shells of and mm for artillery and mm and mm for tank guns in NATO. Artillery shells of , and mm, and tank gun ammunition of , , or mm caliber remain in use in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, Northern Africa, and Eastern Asia.
Most common calibers have been in use for many years, since it is logistically complex to change the caliber of all guns and ammunition stores. The weight of shells increases by and large with caliber. A typical mm 6. The Schwerer Gustav supergun fired 4. During the 19th century, the British adopted a particular form of designating artillery. Field guns were designated by nominal standard projectile weight, while howitzers were designated by barrel caliber. British guns and their ammunition were designated in pounds , e. Usually, this referred to the actual weight of the standard projectile shot, shrapnel or HE , but, confusingly, this was not always the case.
Some were named after the weights of obsolete projectile types of the same caliber, or even obsolete types that were considered to have been functionally equivalent. Also, projectiles fired from the same gun, but of non-standard weight, took their name from the gun. Thus, conversion from "pounds" to an actual barrel diameter requires consulting a historical reference. After World War II, guns were designated by caliber. With the introduction of the first ironclads in the s and s, it became clear that shells had to be designed to effectively pierce the ship armor.
A series of British tests in demonstrated that the way forward lay with high-velocity lighter shells. The first pointed armor-piercing shell was introduced by Major Palliser in Approved in , Palliser shot and shell was an improvement over the ordinary elongated shot of the time. Palliser shot was made of cast iron , the head being chilled in casting to harden it, using composite molds with a metal, water cooled portion for the head. Britain also deployed Palliser shells in the ss.
In the shell, the cavity was slightly larger than in the shot and was filled with 1. The shell was correspondingly slightly longer than the shot to compensate for the lighter cavity. The powder filling was ignited by the shock of impact and hence did not require a fuze. These were cast and forged steel. AP shells containing an explosive filling were initially distinguished from their non-HE counterparts by being called a "shell" as opposed to "shot". At the beginning of the war, APHE was common in anti-tank shells of 75 mm caliber and larger due to the similarity with the much larger naval armor piercing shells already in common use.
As the war progressed, ordnance design evolved so that the bursting charges in APHE became ever smaller to non-existent, especially in smaller caliber shells, e. Panzergranate 39 with only 0. Although smokeless powders were used as a propellant, they could not be used as the substance for the explosive warhead, because shock sensitivity sometimes caused detonation in the artillery barrel at the time of firing.
Picric acid was the first high-explosive nitrated organic compound widely considered suitable to withstand the shock of firing in conventional artillery. In , the French government adopted a mixture of picric acid and guncotton under the name Melinite. In , Britain started manufacturing a very similar mixture in Lydd , Kent, under the name Lyddite. Japan followed with an "improved" formula known as shimose powder. In , a similar material, a mixture of ammonium cresylate with trinitrocresol, or an ammonium salt of trinitrocresol, started to be manufactured under the name ecrasite in Austria-Hungary.
By , Russia was manufacturing artillery shells filled with picric acid. Ammonium picrate known as Dunnite or explosive D was used by the United States beginning in Toluene was less readily available than phenol, and TNT is less powerful than picric acid, but the improved safety of munitions manufacturing and storage caused the replacement of picric acid by TNT for most military purposes between the World Wars. These fills included Ammonal, Schneiderite and Amatol.
Figure 2 Common rim styles on artillery shell casings. Shell casings have been made from many different materials including brass, steel, aluminum, plastic, and combustible materials. They may also be made from a combination of these materials.
Dating artillery shells. Naval artillery - Wikipedia
Many casing have special finishes on their surfaces to protect them from harsh conditions. Brass casings normally have no finish. Steel casings are normally painted, lacquered, copper washed, or finished with zinc chromate to keep them from rusting. Aluminum casings are typically anodized but may also be unfinished. Anodized casings can come in a variety of colors including red, orange, gold, green, brown, blue, and purple etc.
Combustible casings are normally waterproofed to keep them from getting damaged by moisture. Figure 3 shows examples of casings made from different materials.
Figure 3 From left to right: Typically artillery shell casings are manufactured in the same way as small arms shell casings, by drawing them out from a cup or a disc of metal Figure 4. Drawing is probably the most common method of constructing casings. However, metal casings have also been constructed by riveting or fastening the head to a coil of sheet metal that forms the body Figure 5. These casings had a have drawn walls and a two-piece head that is attached with rivets.
Plastic casings are normally injection molded Figure 6. Figure 5 Coiled and non-coiled multipiece casings. From left to right: The arrows in the photo of the base of the casing point to the rivets that hold the casing together. Figure 6 Unfinished injection-molded component right and sectioned plastic and metal shell casing left [20x] casing by AAI. Most shell casings have only one opening, at the mouth for the projectile. However, some shell casings have a large hole on the base or many holes on the side. These casing are for recoilless weapons.
Recoilless weapons balance the force of the projectile leaving the gun barrel with an equal force from gas leaving the rear of the gun. To allow the blast to leave the back of the gun, some of the gas from the burning propellant is directed either out the bottom or side of the shell casing and out the back of the gun.
Recoilless casings that allow gas to pass through the base are normally closed with a fiber base. The casings that allow gas to pass through their walls are lined with a combustible liner to hold the propellant and protect it from moisture. The primers in recoilless cases are in the center of the base for the casings with perforated sides and are in the base or on the sides for casings with blow-out bottoms.
Figure 7 shows examples of recoilless shell casings. Figure 7 Recoilless shell casings. Often a collector encounters shell casings that have been altered. Sometimes alterations are legitimate military alterations made for experiments Figure 8 ; sometimes the casings are altered to make blanks Figure 9 ; and sometimes they have been altered to make "trench art" such as umbrella stands, pencil holders, vases, and lamps Figure Experiments that alter casings usually change the length of the casing, the style of the rim, or the diameter of the mouth.
Sometimes these altered casings are marked to reflect the changes, but sometimes they are not. Although they are not always marked, they are usually well made, and so it is clear that they are legitimate shell casings and not just made by someone fooling around. Blanks are often made from shell casings by cutting the shell casing down. It is not normally necessary for a blank to contain as much powder as an actual round.
Blank shell casings are usually marked "blank" or "saluting," the word either stamped on the head or stenciled on the head or the side. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a cut-off casing is a blank if it is not marked. You know it is not a blank if the edge at the mouth is rough or uneven or shows saw marks.
Figure 8 Shell casings altered for testing and their unaltered counterparts. Figure 10 Damaged casings: Cut off British left and German right shell casings. There are many different types of projectiles that a collector may encounter, including explosive shells, antiarmor projectiles, target practice projectiles, chemical shells, canister shot, cargo shells, illumination shells, proof shot, and dummy rounds.
Projectiles that explode, carry chemicals, or carry other payloads are called shells. Projectiles that are completely solid or do not explode are sometimes called shot. Most modern projectiles have many features in common. These features include a fuze, ogive, bourrelet, and rotating band Figure Fuzes are used on a projectile to initiate detonation or cause the projectile to function.
Fuzes may be used in the nose or the base of the projectile or both. A further section shows examples of different fuzes. The ogive is the curved part of the projectile that starts at the point and ends where the projectile becomes cylindrical. A rotating band is a metal or plastic band that serves to engage the rifling on the gun and trap propellant gases at the rear of the projectile.
Engaging the rifling imparts a spin on the projectile, and the spin stabilizes the projectile while it is in flight. Rotating bands may be made out of many different materials including brass, copper, iron, and plastic Figure There are many different designs of rotating bands: Some are solid, and some have grooves Figure Some projectiles have multiple driving bands Figure Projectiles that are not stabilized by a rotation are typically stabilized by drag.
The drag is usually caused by fins although sometimes a cone may be used. Sometimes a fin-stabilized projectile may have a rotating band. These rotating bands are added just to trap propellant gases behind the projectile. If the finned projectile is being fired from a rifled gun, the rotating band will be free to rotate on the projectile so that no spin from the rifling will be imparted on the projectile.
Figure 14 shows fin and cone stabilizers for projectiles. Copper, brass, iron, and plastic. Figure 13 Single rotating bands with and without grooves left and multiple rotating bands left. Some projectiles also have a bourrelet. A bourrelet is a section of the shell that is machined so that it rides on the lands of the rifling. The bourrelet keeps the shell from wobbling in the gun barrel. Many projectiles have a tracer--a pyrotechnic pellet on the rear of the projectile Figure When the projectile is fired, the tracer is ignited by the burning propellant.
Tracers are used to observe where the projectiles are going. Explosive shells are used to destroy soft targets and inflict causalities. Explosive shells may be fuzed in the nose, in the base, or both. The explosive used in early shells was black powder, a low explosive. Figure 16 shows nosed-fused shells used in s and s era Hotchkiss revolving cannons. Figure 17 shows base-fuzed common shells from the s through the s. From the early s to the present, more powerful high explosives HE have been used in explosive shells Figure Armor piercing projectiles are used to destroy armored vehicles or other hard targets.
There are two broad categories of armor piercing projectiles. One category uses mass and velocity kinetic energy to pierce the target. The other category uses explosives. Kinetic energy projectiles pierce by placing more stress on the target than the target can withstand. Kinetic energy antiarmor projectiles consist of the following types:. An AP projectile is a hardened-steel projectile. AP projectiles may have a small cavity in the base for explosive, or they may be solid.
AP projectiles look a lot like base-fuzed common shells, but they are made from much harder steel. Also, the cavity in the base for explosive, it is much smaller than that of a common shell. Figure 19 shows a diagram and a photo of an AP shot. Ballistic-capped AP projectiles are AP projectiles with the addition of an aerodynamic ballistic cap a windshield. A more aerodynamic projectile means the projectile hits the target with a higher velocity and therefore more force than a nonballistically capped projectile.
Therefore the projectile is able to apply a greater stress on the target and stands a greater chance of defeating it. Figure 20 shows a diagram and a photo of a ballistical-capped AP projectile. APCs are AP projectiles with a special soft-steel cap attached to the front of the projectile Figure The cap keeps the hard-steel projectile body from cracking when it hits the target, thereby increasing the effectiveness of the projectile. HVAP projectiles are made using a relatively light, usually aluminum, body to enclose a hardened-steel, tungsten, or depleted uranium core.
This type of projectile relies on the core to defeat the target. Because the core is much smaller in diameter than the projectile and contains most of the mass of the projectile, it is able to apply a larger stress on the target than an AP projectile of the total diameter. Figure 23 shows a schematic and a photo of a typical HVAP projectile. Arrowhead shot are called that because the projectiles resemble an arrowhead.
However, in an APDS projectile the core is the only portion of the projectile that reaches the target. The outer body of the projectile is shed after it leaves the muzzle of the gun, which thus leaves only the core to travel to the target. By shedding the light outer portion of the projectile, the diameter of the projectile is made smaller without a large change in mass, which translates to a larger stress on the surface of the target when the core hits it. The outer portion of the projectile that is left behind is called the sabot.
Sabots are typically either a cup type that is left behind in one piece or a petal type that breaks up into multiple pieces petals after leaving the gun. Figure 25 shows several APDS projectiles. Also shown in the right photo are three APDS cores and two bases for 25mm projectiles. The fin stabilization allows for a longer core than that of the APDS projectiles, and the longer core means more mass. Because the core has more mass, it can produce more stress when it hits the target and so it is more likely to defeat it. The grooves around the bodies of the dart-like core of the projectile ensure the sabot has good contact as the projectile travels down the gun barrel.
Two types of projectiles use explosives to defeat hard targets: HEAT projectiles use a shaped charge to defeat armor. A shaped charge, also called a hollow charge, is a cone with its tip pointing to the rear of the projectile that has explosives packed behind it. When the explosives are initiated, the cone is inverted and turned onto a jet of molten metal and gas that punches a hole in the target.
However the rotation of the projectile reduces the effectiveness of the shaped charge, so most HEAT projectiles that have been adopted since the s have been fin stabilized. Figure 27 shows different HEAT projectiles. HEP projectiles deform when they hit the target: