A question of Artillery calibre

Discussions on the fortifications, artillery, & rockets used by the Axis forces.
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Post by adrian » 16 May 2002 23:01

G'day all,
Compare this to the Brits who seem (very unusually for them I feel!) to have a multitude of Artillery ammo types:
2pdr - as a tank gun as well
6pdr - as above
17pdr- as above

Field Guns
18pdr (yes I know WW1, but it was a training gun and did serve in the mid east and far east in the early stages)
105mm gun and howitzers (US M2/M101 series)
75mm pack howitzers
3.7in pack howitzer
4.5in gun/howitzer

5.5in Gun/Howitzer
155mm Gun and Howitzer (Long Tom etc)

Heavy This is where the weird and the wonderfull do get out!
6in gun (coastal batteries)
7.2in Gun
8in Gun
240mm (US gun)
9.2in Gun (mainly coastal but a few WW1 vets saw service in 1939/40)
12in Gun (coastal batteries)
14in as above
15in as above

3 in (early war)
5.25in (DP gun used in coastal role and shipboard)

This is no means complete either.This is just off the top of my head so there is probably numerous other that I have missed. For instance the multitude of calibres the RN had. I leave you to ponder!

best regards,

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Post by adrian » 17 May 2002 04:19

Just as a further to my last here's some of the Tank calibres used!

37mm - Stuart/Honey, Lee/Grant series
2pdr - Cruisers (Crusader,Valentine etc),Matilda,early Churchills
6pdr - Churchill,Cromwell,Crusader
17pdr - Sherman Firelfly,early Centurions
75mm - Sherman,Churchill,Lee/Grant,Cromwell
76mm -Sherman
77mm - Comet (differs from the 17pdr as it was a purpose designed tank gun)
95mm - used in CS tanks, some Churchills
3in- Churchill I and CS, Matilda CS
105mm- Sherman CS,M7 Priest
25pdr - Sexton SPG

As I said in the previous post, this is just off the top of my head.
best regards,

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british art.

Post by admfisher » 18 May 2002 19:59

QF 2pdr Mk VII AT-gun= 40 mm apporx. or 1.57
QF 6pdr 7cwt Gun Mk2 AT gun = 57 mm or 2.244 in
15 pdr = 3 in WWI
Ordance QF 17pdr AT Gun = 76 mm or 3 in.
18 pdr = 83.8 mm WWI
25pdr = 87.6 mm
3.7in OF gun Mk 1 AA origannally = 94 mm
60 pdr = 127 mm WWI
Ordance BL 5.5 in Gun Mk2 = 140mm

I hope some of this helps. :mrgreen:

Marion L. Anderson wrote:I would like someone who is very well acquainted with British Calibers to explain the pounder size to me, as it doesn't make any sense to me in this day and age. When the old guns were used and all were lead/iron round shot it did make a good deal of sense but these days I can't see any real value in it as the actual shot is not lead/iron. It is easy to figure the old British gun size as the weight of lead or iron in any spherical size is directly proportional to its diameter. However these days it is impossible as the actual slug is not spherical. M.L. Anderson

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The really basic answer

Post by Zygmunt » 31 May 2002 23:04

This may seem patronising, but the really simple answer to the question 'why were these particular calibres adopted' would be 'because those were the ones which did what was asked'; The military would decide that they needed a weapon capable of delivering a projectile of weight x to range y, and the boffins would go off and experiment. If a 50mm piece wouldn't go far enough, they'd make a prototype 60mm. If that didn't do it, they'd make a 70mm piece. If that did it, they'd go back to a 65mm........ The calibres adopted were the ones which could meet the specifications in terms of range, muzzle velocity, armour penetration etc. If the enemy is known to be using 40mm steel on their tanks, you find a gun big enough to penetrate that, and adopt it! Sometimes other considerations came into play; guns for tanks were limited by how much space was available inside the turret. So the calibre adopted was the biggest one could fit into a Sherman turret. If that turned out to be 75mm, then so be it.[/u][/i]

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Post by Ovidius » 01 Jun 2002 18:28

Logan Hartke wrote:The Americans only had the .45, the .30cal pistol (M1 Carbine), .30cal, and .50cal.

The Germans had the 9mm, 7.92mm, and 7.92 Kurz. That's if you don't count the normal German assortment of captured, confiscated, and experimental weaponry used (9mm Steyr, 9mm Browning HP, etc.).

Didn't the Brits only have the 9mm Parabellum, .45, 9mm HP, 9mm, .30cal, .303, 12.7... oh, wait, I see you point about the Brits.

The Browning HP("High Power") or GP("Grande Puissance") had been designed for the same the 9x19 Parabellum ammo as the German "9mm"(also known as "9mm Luger", actually 9x19 Parabellum or the nowadays 9x19 NATO Standard).


Plus, the Brits did not manufacture the 9x19 ammo, and had to import it from other allied countries that did.

~Best regards,


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The Calibre Djungle

Post by varjag » 24 Jun 2002 11:57

Somewhat belated lift of this puzzling subject from recent discussion.
Most of this seems to go back to the Industrial Revolution and British pre-
pnderance in it. In other words, machine-tools were made to Imperial
standards - not least the expensive and complex deep-boring machines
made to tool gun-barrels.This inheritance is still lingering on in most of the
world and revolved around the Imperial inch of, near enough 25,4mm's.
Or Tenths thereof, i.e. 2,54mm. Thus follows, that;

1 " = 25mm
1 1/2" = 37mm
1 3/4" = 45mm
2 " = 50mm
2 1/4" = 57mm
3" = 75mm
3 1/2 " = 90mm
4" = 102mm

This standard is more or less followed in all countried but with notable
exceptions in those that went metric early, France, Germany, f.i.
It also pertains to light weapons where we are back to the 1/10 of the
inch which gives for instance the .30cal and .303 of US and Britain and
Russia, though in Russia the 1/10 was called a 'Line' and resulted in
'3-line boring machines for barrels' - so the Moisin-Nagant was a 3-Line
Rifle, likewise the Nagant revolver and subsequent automatics and SMG's.
Or, the .45 bullets carved outta the walls where the tsar family was murd-
ered showed that someone hade used 'a 4 1/2-line pistol'.
The German heavy ordnance manufacturers had a more liberty at choos-
ing 'calibers' than those in the west and ended up with the 105, 88 and
170 and 210 mm calibers in deference to ballistical requirements,more than fixed military specifications.
It should also noted that putting the calipers inside gun barrels or around
projectiles - sometimes can surprise, i.e. they are not all what they pur-
port to be - the tolerances seems to be generous, given type of rifling,
drivingbands etc. - or the manufacturers used more metaphysics than I
have been able to grasp.

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Post by Harri » 25 Jun 2002 10:20

Just comment that the calibre usually used may not be quite accurate. For example there are both 76.2 mm and 77 mm (17 Pdr) British guns but they actually are of the same calibre. Why is that? Their ammos differ from each others and to avoid confusion guns have been "named" this way.

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Post by Mark V » 25 Jun 2002 12:01

Hi all.

Aah...Talking about calibres. You could really get lost in that jungle.

1) Sometimes the nominal calibre isn't really too accurate, Germans were masters in this:
- 15cm - has always been actually 149.10mm
- 8cm mortar - actually 81mm
- 17cm - 173 mm
- 28cm - 283mm
- 10cm - 105mm

2) Sometimes the nominal calibre was changed as an attempt to avoid confusion:
- Brit 77mm has been talked about allready
- American 106mm recoilless rifle is - ofcourse actually 105mm

3) Sometimes the same basic cartridge has different nominal calibres:
- 7.63 Mauser - 7.62 Tokarev - 7.65 Borchardt - all same

4) You would think that 9mm pistols are all 9mm pistols - EEK- wrong:
- well known 9mm Makarov is actually 9.2mm - better not reload these bullets to 9mm Para...
- we don't really want go to the jungle of American revolver calibres here - but there would be more...

5) Sometimes calibres were chosen for peculiar reasons:
- Germans used 77mm guns in WW1, intention was that they could rebore captured enemy 75 and 76.2mm weapons to their calibre but the enemy could not do the same thing if they captured German guns.
- Soviet Union took different approach on same issue. They used 82mm mortars so that they could use the 81mm grenades that everybody else was using on their weapons, but not vice versa.

....you know this could continue for long time, but i guess i should spare you. 8)

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French artillery in 1940

Post by David Lehmann » 05 May 2003 15:30

I tried to complete my previous list for the French artillery in 1940 :

AT guns

- 13.2 mm Hotchkiss M24/26 HMG in AT role
- Canon AC de 25 mm SA-L mle 34 (V° 900 m/s range 500 m)
- Canon AC de 37 mm mle 34 (on the Maginot line mainly)
- Canon AC de 47 mm L53 SA mle 37 APX (V° 850 m/s range 1000 m) (Issued to German occupation forces in France as the 4.7cm PaK 181(f). From 1942 onwards it can fire Steilgranate 41 HEAT round)
- Canon AC de 75 mm mle 97/35 (canon de 75 mm mle 1897 used in AT role)

Infantry guns

Canon de 37 mm mle 16 TR (In German use it was issued to second line occupation troops as the 3.7cm IG 152f).

AA guns
- FM 24/29 in AA role
- 13.2 mm Hotchkiss M24/26 twin HMG (range 6600 m)
- 20 mm CA mle 39 Oerlikon)
- 25 mm 1939 Hotchkiss (range 5000 m V° 900 m/s 200 rpm) (110 in service in May 1940. Weapon was intended to have a dual purpose role and AP rounds for anti-tank use were issued. Captured guns were used by the Germans as 2.5cm FlaK Hotchkiss 38 and 39)
- 37 mm L60 mle 29 (range 5300 m) (principally used by the French Navy)
- Canon de 75 mm 1897 (range 8200 m)
- Canon de DCA de 90 mm mle 28 (range 6000 m V° 850m/s) (principally used by the French Navy)
- 40 mm Bofors (30 pieces)

Field Artillery

- Canon de 75 mm mle 1897 range 11100 m. This is the famous "75". Used by 18 countries including the US (until 1941), UK (1939-40 in small numbers), Poland, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Romania, Finland (48, 12 of which arrived in time for the Winter War), Lithuania & Spain. France had 4500 in service in June 1940, most of which ended in German hands as FK 97(f) used for 2nd line troops and fortifications and in Flak units. 600 were modified as anti-tank guns and renamed Pak 97/38.
- Canon de 105 mm mle 1913 and mle 35B Schneider range 12200 m
- Canon de 105 mm long (105L) mle 1936 Schneider range 16000 m
- Canon de 107 mm mle 10/12 Schneider range 12500 m
- Canon de 152 mm mle 1910 Schneider range 12400 m
- Canon de 155 mm court (155C) mle 1917 Schneider range 11300 m (Also used by the U.S. as the M1917. Spoked wheels with solid rims, single trail, gunshield extends to cover wheels)
- Canon de 155 mm court (155C) mle 1917 St.Chamond range 10600 m
- Canon de 155 mm GPF (Grande Puissance FILLOUX) range 16400 m. Also used by the US it was the US 155 mm Long Tom.
- 194 mm GPF (tracked SPA) range 18300 m (A small number of these 194mm armed vehicles survived the years in French service and were captured and used by German forces following France´s defeat in World War Two where it was known as the 19.4cm Kanone 485f GPF)
- 220 mm Howitzer Schneider
- 240 mm mle 84/19
- 280 mm mle 14/16
- 370 mm Filloux
- 520 mm Rail Gun

Mountain Artillery

- Canon de 75M mle 1909 Schneider (range 8550 m) (also used by Greeks, Poles and in German hands it became the 7.5cm GebK 237f)
- Canon de 105M mle 28 Schneider
- Canon de 65M mle 06 (65 mm L20 mle06 Mountain Gun also used by greeks an poles. In German service it was known as the 6.5cm GebK 221f and issued to mountain troops)


- Mortier de 50 mm mle 37 (This exceedingly light weapon was used by the Germans as the 5cm Granatenwerfer 203f)
- Mortier de 60 mm mle 35 (Nearly 5000 in French use in 1940. Same design as the American Mortar 60mm M1. Used by second line German units as the 6cm Granatenwerfer 225f. May fire a lighter bomb at lesser effect to double normal rang)
- Mortier de 81 mm mle 27/31 (This Brandt design was copied and used by almost every army in the world, including the Dutch, Finns, Italians and Yugoslavs)

Maginot Line and Fortress units

- 50 mm mortars
- bunker grenade launchers for close combat and protection of the entrances
- FM 24/29
- Mortier de 81 mm mle 32 range 3600 m
- Mortier de 135 mm mle 32 range 5600 m
- Canon de 75 mm mle 29,31,32 or 33
- Canon de Bange 120 mm long (120L) mle 1877 range 8650 m
- Canon de Bange 155 mm long (155L) mle 1877 range 9100 m
- Canon de Bange 155 mm court (155C) mle 1881 range 6400 m
- Mortier de Bange de 270 mm mle 1885
Last edited by David Lehmann on 12 May 2003 00:41, edited 9 times in total.

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Post by Matt L » 05 May 2003 19:39

Although I'm not a ballistics engineer, I'd suggest it's far more likely that the choice of calibers is strictly an engineering issue. Otherwise it makes little sense for someone to choose sizes other than fairly 'round' numbers. There must be some ballistic advantage to using .303, 88mm, 7.92mm, 105mm, instead of .300, 85mm, 8mm, and 100mm, respectively. Even using 75mm over 80mm seems strange unless there was some advantage to the slightly smaller diameter. 5mm is a pretty small amount when one is talking diameter.


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Post by Mark V » 05 May 2003 19:52


You forget that many of the traditionl calibres are actually "fairly" round numbers.... not in metric system though.

Regards, Mark V

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Erik E
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Post by Erik E » 05 May 2003 19:56

Maginot Line and Fortress units also used

Hallo Panzermeyer!

Which of the guns on your list was used in the retractable turrets?
I wisited a lot of those a few months ago. Very, very, VERY interesting!
Especially the defence at Hackenberg!. I got one of the restored turrets caught on video, when operating. Too bad that the guide spoke French....

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Erik E photo

Post by admfisher » 05 May 2003 21:35

Erik E very nice picture I like it. Did you get one while it was up?

On the artillery.
The big point that was learned in WWII was the need for standard gun sizes,
the allies.

Now days that a look at artillery. It seems the most common gun in service is of the 150 mm size.
On the otheside the 40 mm gernade launcher used today. It is an awesome weapon. Imagine something like that in 1940?


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Juha Tompuri
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Post by Juha Tompuri » 05 May 2003 22:05

Hi Panzermeyer!

Congratulations for your 100th.
Among the artillery pieces France donated Finland during the Winter War there were also 12 80mm(range 7,5km) and 100 90mm(range 9,7km) de Bange cannons mod 1877. Not all came in time, but at least 22 90mm guns were delivered to units before the war ended.
A bit off-topic but I´ve read that the de Bagne ammo contained melniitti (in Finnish) as explosive materiel. Some sources state it as effective stuff. What was it?
46 of Finnish Canon de 75 mle 1897 were later converted in Germany to Pak 97/38.

Regards, Juha

P.S. I agree with Varjag what comes to the original issue.

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Post by Mark V » 05 May 2003 22:21

Juha Tompuri wrote:What was it?

Good old Lyddite (picric acid). And the stuff is really effective - though also notorious... 8O

Mark V

BTW. I forgot to mention - French did use metric-system - easy to know just by looking their arty calibres...

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