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The Development of Armor-piercing Shells with Suggestions for their Improvement   By:

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Armor piercing Shells

(With Suggestions for their Improvement)



Faculty Lecturer, New York University



The manufacture of projectiles to meet the requirements of the modern science of warfare has been brought to its present high stage of development through a long series of experiments based, at first, more upon theory than perhaps any other branch of engineering.

In the days of wooden vessels very little thought was given to the actual physical properties of the then cast iron spherical mass. The gun was the agent upon which depended the ability of the projectile to penetrate. The projectile, being confronted by so slight a resisting material as wood, was distorted or physically affected to practically no degree by the resisting medium. When fighting yard arm to yard arm the power of the gun was sufficient to fully penetrate the enemy, while at long ranges considerable damage would be executed without in the least impairing, by the shock of impact (which was inconsiderable as compared with modern conditions) the physical condition of the shot.

In the days of the all wood vessel the guns were of the smooth bore class divided into various types with nomenclature according to the size or weight of the shot, very much as they are today, i.e., 3 pounder, 6 pounder, 4 inch, 10 inch, etc.

A general review of the gradual development of projectiles will be found beneficial and helpful to a more complete understanding of the complexities involved in overcoming the present day difficulties.

In the smooth bore gun spherical shot was used. This was by no means a tight fitting device. Upon firing the gun considerable powder pressure was lost through the rapid escape of the gases past the shot between it and the bore of the gun. This would most naturally be expected since at best the surface of contact between the shot and the bore would be only a circular line quickly eliminated or worn away through friction under the high temperature of the burning gases behind the shot. The most obvious way to eliminate that wearing away of the bearing surface was to increase it, in doing which the escape of gas past the projectile would be greatly checked, and the gas pressure behind the projectile increased (exerting, thereby, a greater propelling force) and imparting to the projectile greater velocity, increased momentum, and consequent increased penetration. But an increase in the bearing surface of the shot necessitated an alteration in its shape introducing difficulties affecting the accuracy of its passage through the air.

It was not an appreciation of any ineffectiveness in the early shot that first brought about a realization of the importance of obtaining the highest possible results from the material at hand, for no difficulty was experienced in penetrating the early wooden barriers. But with the introduction of rail road and boiler iron and anchor chains along the sides of the vessels of war as a protection it was demonstrated that the old round shot previously most effective at the same range was now of little consequence. Armored vessels, though crude as was their armor, could with impunity run up along side a wooden enemy and demand immediate surrender with immediate destruction as the penalty for non compliance. It is only necessary to refer to the Naval History of the Civil War of the United States for the most convincing proof that this was so.

Thus began one of the greatest industrial wars of the World the Battle of Guns and Armor, which has been constantly waged through years of international peace and prosperity, and is destined to continue indefinitely or until the Utopian days of Universal Disarmament and everlasting peace arrive.

Early Developments

With the change from the spherical to the longitudinal projectile, difficulties in securing accuracy of flight arose not previously existing... Continue reading book >>

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