5"/38 caliber gun
|5"/38 caliber gun|
Two Mk 30 single enclosed base ring mounts on a Fletcher-class destroyer.
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||US Navy, US Coast Guard, Royal Navy, Danish Navy, Italian Navy, Japanese Navy, South Vietnamese Navy, and every navy that bought surplus WWII, US Navy warships|
|Wars||World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Falklands War, and wars that involved navies who bought surplus WWII, US Navy warships|
|Weight||Mk 12 Gun Assembly: 3,990 lb (1,810 kg). Mounts varied from 29,260 lb (13,270 kg) to 170,653 lb (77,407 kg)|
|Length||Mk 12 Gun Assembly: 223.8 in (5.685 m)|
|Barrel length||190 inch bore (4.83 m), 157.2 inch (4.00 m) rifling|
|Crew||Varied on mount type|
|Shell||53 to 55 pounds (24 to 25 kg)|
|Caliber||5 inches (127 mm)|
|Breech||Vertical sliding wedge|
|Recoil||15 inches (38 cm)|
|Elevation||−15° to +85°|
|Rate of fire||Design: 15 rpm|
|Muzzle velocity||2,600 ft/s (790 m/s) new; 2,500 ft/s (760 m/s) average|
The Mark 12 5"/38 caliber gun was a US naval gun. The gun was installed into Single Purpose and Dual Purpose mounts used primarily by the US Navy. On these 5" mounts, Single Purpose (SP) means that the mount is limited to 35° elevation with no provision for AA shell fuze setters, and is designed to fire at surface targets only, while Dual Purpose (DP) means that it is designed to be effective against both surface and aircraft targets because it can elevate to 85° and has on mount AA shell fuze setters. The 38 caliber barrel was a mid-length compromise between the previous United States standard 5"/51 low-angle gun and 5"/25 anti-aircraft gun. United States naval gun terminology indicates the gun fired a projectile 5 inches (127 mm) in diameter, and the barrel was 38 calibers long, making the 5"/38 dual purpose midway in barrel length between the 5"/51 surface-to-surface and the 5"/25 anti-aircraft guns. The increased barrel length provided greatly improved performance in both anti-aircraft and anti-surface roles compared to the 5"/25 gun. However, except for the barrel length and the use of semi-fixed ammunition, the 5"/38 gun was derived from the 5"/25 gun. Both weapons had power ramming, which enabled rapid fire at high angles against aircraft. The 5"/38 entered service on USS Farragut (DD-348), commissioned in 1934. The base ring mount, which improved the effective rate of fire, entered service on USS Gridley (DD-380), commissioned in 1937.
Among naval historians, the 5"/38 gun is considered the best intermediate-caliber, dual purpose naval gun of World War II, especially as it was usually under the control of the advanced Mark 37 Gun Fire Control System which provided accurate and timely firing solutions against surface and air targets. Even this advanced system required nearly 1000 rounds of ammunition expenditure per aircraft kill. However, the planes were normally killed by shell fragments and not direct hits; barrage fire was used, with many guns firing in the air at the same time. This would result in large walls of shell fragments being put up to take out one or several planes or in anticipation of an unseen plane, this being justifiable as one plane was capable of significant destruction. The comparatively high rate of fire for a gun of its calibre earned it an enviable reputation, particularly as an anti-aircraft weapon, in which role it was commonly employed by United States Navy vessels. Base ring mounts with integral hoists had a nominal rate of fire of 15 rounds per minute per barrel; however, with a well-trained crew, 22 rounds per minute per barrel was possible for short periods. On pedestal and other mounts lacking integral hoists, 12 to 15 rounds per minute was the rate of fire. Useful life expectancy was 4600 effective full charges (EFC) per barrel.
The 5"/38 cal gun was mounted on a very large number of US Navy ships in the World War II era. It was backfitted to many of the World War One-era battleships during their wartime refits, usually replacing 5"/25 guns that were fitted in the 1930s. It has left active US Navy service, but it is still on mothballed ships of the United States Navy reserve fleets. It is also used by a number of nations who bought or were given US Navy surplus ships. Millions of rounds of ammunition were produced for these guns, with over 720,000 rounds still remaining in Navy storage depots in the mid-1980s because of the large number of Reserve Fleet ships with 5"/38 cal guns on board.
Mark 12 5"/38 cal gun assembly
Each mount carries one or two Mk 12 5"/38cal Gun Assemblies. The gun assembly shown is used in single mounts, and it is the right gun in twin mounts. It is loaded from the left side. The left gun in twin mounts is the mirror image of the right gun, and it is loaded from the right side. The Mk12 gun assembly weighs 3,990 lb (1,810 kg). The Mark 12 Gun Assembly was introduced in 1934, where it was first used in single pedestal mounts on the Farragut class destroyers, but by the time of World War II they had been installed in single and twin mounts on nearly every major warship and auxiliary in the US fleet.
- During recoil, some of the recoil energy is stored in the counter-recoil system. That stored energy is used during counter-recoil to prepare the gun for the next round. The firing pin is cocked, the breech is opened, the spent powder case is ejected, and the bore is air cleaned.
- Hand loaded
- A Projectile-Man and a Powder-Man are stationed at each gun assembly. Their job is to move the round, consisting of a projectile and a powder case, from the hoists to the rammer tray, and then start the ram cycle.
- Power rammed
- This gun used a 7.5 hp (5.6 kW) electric-hydraulic Power Rammer which was designed to ram a 93 lb (42 kg), 47.5 in (1.21 m) long round into the chamber, at any gun elevation, in less than a second.:172 The Rammer's control box, hydraulic fluid tank, and AC motor are bolted to the top of the slide. (See the Gun Assembly picture above.) The hydraulically driven Rammer Spade, called the Power Spade in that picture, is at the back of the Rammer Tray. If the multiple names of the "Spade" is confusing, look at this footnote.
- Vertical sliding-wedge breech block (See drawing)
- The breech block closes the chamber behind the powder case. It also holds the firing pin assembly.
- Hydraulic recoil
- Two hydraulic pistons in the housing absorb the major shock of recoil as the housing moves back inside the slide. (See Picture) They also buffer the end of counter-recoil for a soft return to battery.
- Pneumatic counter-recoil
- At the end of recoil, the Counter-Recoil System moves the housing forward again until it is back "In-Battery" — and holds it there at any gun elevation. A chamber in the housing is filled with high pressure air. At the back of this chamber is a 3.5 in (8.9 cm) cylindrical hole with a chevron packing. :161 Sticking through the hole is a movable piston that abuts against the back of the slide. (See Picture) The air pressure in the chamber wants to push the piston out of the chamber, but the piston can't move because of the slide. Therefore, since the piston can't go backwards, the air pressure in the chamber forces the housing forward. When the gun is in battery, the pressure in this chamber is about 1,500 psi (10 MPa). During recoil, the pressure rises to about 2,250 psi (15.5 MPa).:162
Explain 5"/38 Caliber:
- 5″ means that the bore diameter is 5 in (13 cm) — measured form land to land. (Lands are the raised portions of the bore rifling, between the groves.)
- 38 Caliber means that this barrel is 38 calibers long form the breech face to the muzzle.
- Caliber, when used with US Naval Rifles 3 inches or larger, equals the bore diameter of that gun.:81 So, in this US Naval Rifle with a 5 in (13 cm) bore, one "Caliber" equals 5 in (13 cm).
- Therefore, the length of a 5"/38 Caliber gun is 38 times one caliber, or 38 times 5 in (13 cm), which equals 190 in (480 cm).
- Radially expanded monobloc steel alloy.
- Weight 2,000 lb (910 kg)
- The bore is chrome plated from the "Origin of Rifling" (forward end of the chamber) to the muzzle.
- 45 groove rifling with a full uniform right hand twist in 30 Calibers (150 in (380 cm)).
- It was connected to the housing with a bayonet joint that allowed for its replacement by destroyer tenders in the theater of operation — without dismantling the breech mechanism or other parts.
- Maximum horizontal range, with a 55 pound projectile, is 18,000 yards (16,000 m).:159 In the antiaircraft role, it had a ceiling of 37,200 feet (11,300 m) at 85 degrees elevation.:159
- Armor Penetration with 54 lbs. (24.5 kg) Special Common Shell
- 5.0" (127 mm) belt armour at 4,000 yards (3,660 m)
- 4.0" (102 mm) at 5,400 yards (4,940 m)
- 3.0" (76 mm) at 7,400 yards (6,770 m)
- 2.0" (51 mm) at 11,000 yards (10,060 m)
- 1.0" (25 mm) deck armour at 13,800 yards (12,620 m)
- with 55.18 lbs. (25.0 kg) AA Common Shell: 1.5" (38 mm) at 10,000 yards (9,140 m)
- Range with 55.18 lbs. (25.03 kg) AAC Mark 49 (792 mps)
- 10° 9,506 yards (8,692 m)
- 15° 11,663 yards (10,665 m)
- 20° 13,395 yards (12,248 m)
- 25° 14,804 yards (13,537 m)
- 30° 15,919 yards (14,556 m)
- 35° 16,739 yards (15,298 m)
- 40°17,240 yards (15,764 m)
- 45° 17,392 yards (15,903 m)
- AA Ceiling 37,200 feet (11,887 m)
The new gun initial velocity is 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s), and the gun life average initial velocity is about 2,500 ft/s (760 m/s)
US ships during World War II carried only small quantities of Special Common ammunition as the AA Common were considered more useful as all around multirole ammunitions, even if this meant much less armour penetration. Bursting charges were 7.25 lbs.(3.3 kg) Explosive D Composition A, the Special Common had only 0.9-1.2 kg due to its thicker walls (AP).
At the "LOAD" command, or if the mount is executing "RAPID" loading: (NOTE: Rapid loading means that, when the gun fires, the gun crew immediately reloads the gun without command until "CEASE FIRE" or "CHECK FIRE" is given.)
- Verifies that the RAMMER SPADE is back at the rear of the "Rammer Tray". (See Picture) If he loads a Powder Case into the Tray without the Spade there, the Case, with its percussion primer, can slide out of the tray, and fall onto the gun room deck.
- Okay, the spade is back at the rear of the tray. He may start the load cycle, and he slips the "Butterfly" primer protector off the base of the powder case that is sticking knee high out of powder hoist on the deck.
- Throws the protector out of the mount.
- Extracts the powder case out of the powder hoist, and lifts it into the rammer tray.
- Verifies that the case is back against the rammer spade.
- Clears his arms from the tray.
- Verifies that the powder case is in the rammer tray.
- Pulls the projectile out of the waist high projectile hoist.
- Places projectile in the tray in front of the powder case.
- Clears his arms from the tray.
- Pulls down on the RAMMER CONTROL. (See RAMMER CONTROL at the upper left corner of picture.)
Rammer Load Cycle::172
- Pulling down on the Rammer Control lever opens hydraulic valves inside the Rammer Controller.
- The opened valves port high pressure hydraulic fluid to the ″Hydraulic Ram Cylinder″ in the Slide behind the tray. The Ram Cylinder is connected to the "Rammer Cross Head", and it, in turn, supports the Rammer Spade as it moves in the tray. (See the white horizontal bar behind the spade in the picture.) When the cylinder is pressurized, the Cross Head and Spade are driven forward in the Tray.
- As the spade moves forward, it pushes the projectile and powder case into the chamber. The spade's time of travel, form the rear of the tray to the breech, is one second. As it approaches breech, the Cross Head pushes through a spring latch that locks it there.:173 At the same time, the Cross Head trips another lever connected to the Rammer Controller, and the Controller releases the hydraulic pressure to the Ram Cylinder.:174
- When the powder case clears the top of the breech block, the block automatically rises.:175
- The rising breech block displaces the rammer spade behind the powder case by pushing the spring loaded spade up. This continues until the rammer spade is off the powder case, and the block has sealed the chamber.:175
- The gun is loaded and ready to fire.
This gun can be fired either electrically or by percussion.
When the gun fires, the following automatic events happen in two seconds: 
- During Recoil:
- The Rammer Crosshead is unlocked.
- The Rammer Control is pushed to the up position by a cam on top of the Housing.
- With the Rammer Control up, the Rammer Controller ports high pressure hydraulic fluid to the retract side of the Rammer Cylinder, and Rammer Spade drives back to the rear of the Rammer Tray.
- During Counter-recoil:
- The Firing Pin is cocked.
- The Breech Block is lowered.
- The spent Powder Case is ejected out of the Chamber, and back down the Rammer Tray. There it is caught by the gloved Hot Case Man, and thrown out of the mount.
- Just before the housing finishes returning to "In Battery", a valve is opened for a second, and a blast of compressed air is sent down the bore to clean it out.
The gun is ready to be reloaded.
There are four basic mount types:
- Twin :158
- All were enclosed.
- All sat on a base ring stand, and had an ammunition handling room, called the Upper Handling Room, below the mount.
- They all had:
- Horizontal periscopic sights with movable-prism sight setting.
- Two powered, fuze setting, projectile hoists.
- Two powered powder case hoists.
- Powered training and elevating drives. (In this context, "training" means rotating the mount on its stand.):47
- This mount was the standard installation on battleships, cruisers, early Destroyer Leader classes (these mounts on the DL's were single-purpose/anti-surface ship only), and later destroyers. It was also used on the island (starboard) side of the Essex-class aircraft carriers.:47
- Enclosed single
- All enclosed single mounts sat on a base ring stand, and had an upper handling room. The enclosed single mount was used on some early destroyer classes, but by the end of World War II, it was mainly found on the many minecraft and auxiliaries which were developed from the older classes of destroyers, as well as on most of the destroyer escorts, and many large auxiliaries (repair ships, destroyer tenders, etc.).
- Open single base ring mount
- Open mount with Upper-Handling Room. Used on the port and starboard gangways, just below the flight deck, on Yorktown Class carriers. 
- Open single pedestal mount
- This was the first 5"/38cal type installed. It was put on the Farragut class destroyer in 1934. Some of these mounts placed on ship's forecastles were partially enclosed to protect the crew against bow spray, but they were still considered an open mount. Since these mounts did not have Upper Handling Rooms, they could be installed on ships without extensive reconstruction. For that reason, they were frequently used on armed merchant ships.
There are several models of the 5"/38, differentiated by the word Mark (or its abbreviation MK) and a number. Variations to the basic design are called Modifications (or its abbreviation Mod). For instance, 5"/38 MK 21 is a single-barrel open pedestal mount widely used on amphibious ships, auxiliaries, and merchant ships. The 5"/38 MK 30 is a single enclosed base ring mount widely used on Destroyer escorts. The 5"/38 MK 38 is a twin mount specifically designed for newer destroyers.
|Mk21||Single||31,200 lb (14,200 kg)||Open pedestal||Some 1930s built combatants, auxiliaries, merchant ships|
|Mk22||Twin||75,250 lb (34,130 kg)||Enclosed base ring||c1935 destroyer leaders|
|Mk24 Mod1||Single||29,260 lb (13,270 kg)||Open pedestal||1930s built aircraft carriers|
|Mk28 Mod0||Twin||156,295 lb (70,894 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Pre-Iowa class battleships|
|Mk28 Mod2||Twin||170,635 lb (77,399 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Iowa class battleships|
|Mk29 Mod0||Twin||108,000 lb (49,000 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Cruisers|
|Mk30 Mod0||Single||40,900 lb (18,600 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Destroyers, auxiliaries, USCG high endurance cutters|
|Mk30 Mod1||Single||33,500 lb (15,200 kg)||Open base ring||Destroyer rear mounts, escort carriers|
|Mk30 Mod69||Single||45,000 lb (20,000 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Destroyer escorts with the upper rear edge of the Mark 38 blast shield beveled to clear hedgehog projectiles from a launcher astern of the gun mount|
|Mk32 Mod0||Twin||105,600 lb (47,900 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Cruisers, aircraft carriers|
|Mk32 Mod4||Twin||120,369 lb (54,598 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Cruisers, aircraft carriers|
|Mk37 Mod0||Single||34,700 lb (15,700 kg)||Open pedestal||Armed merchants, auxiliaries|
|Mk38 Mod0||Twin||95,700 lb (43,400 kg)||Enclosed base ring||Destroyers, Atlanta class light cruisers|
Since this gun fires semi-fixed ammunition, each round is delivered to the gun in two pieces — a projectile and a powder case.
- Base ring mounts
- The ready service ammunition is kept in the upper handling room just below the mount. The projectile travels up to the gun room (also called the gun house) through an electric-hydraulic hoist. It arrives next to the projectile-man nose down and waist high. If the projectile has a time fuze, the fuze is automatically set as it goes up the hoist, and the hoist maintains the ordered fuze setting from the fire control system as long as the projectile stays in the hoist. The powder case is sent up through a powder scuttle in the gun room's deck just next to the powder man's feet. It arrives with its base up, and the primer covered with a protector called the "Butterfly". The men in the upper handling room hand carry the projectiles and powder cases from the ready service racks to the lower ends of the hoists while avoiding the equipment hanging down from the rotating mount. In a twin mount executing "Rapid continuous fire" (The firing keys are held closed, and the gun fires as soon as the breech closes), the crew move 30 to 44 projectiles and powder cases per minute.
- Pedestal mounts
- The ready service ammunition is kept in lockers or compartments arrayed around the mount. The projectiles and powder cases are hand carried from ready service to the left side of the moving mount. The projectile is placed nose down in one of three Fuze Setter Mechanisms (commonly called fuze pots) on the mount. If the man is delivering a projectile with a mechanical time fuze, he then spins a hand crank just in front of that fuze setter mechanism. This would dial in the ordered fuze time into that projectile. The powder case is placed in a rack bolted to the mount's deck just behind the powder-man's feet.
Depending on the mount, a 5"/38 caliber gun could have a crew of from 15 to 27 personnel in the gun room and upper handling room. This does not include the personnel needed in the magazines during extended actions. There were two modes of mount operation that the crew was trained and expected to know. The primary mode was "automatic control", where the mount was slaved to the fire control system. But if the fire control system was damaged, or if the ship's power was out; the mount could continue the action in "local control". In US service, most gun crews were US Navy personnel. Even the civilian Merchant Marine ships had a small detachment of the Navy Armed Guard on board to operate the 5"/38 and other guns. One exception to this was on ships with a Marine Detachment, where the Marines manned one of the mounts, usually decorated with the Marine emblem. (See the USMC emblem on USS New Jersey's Mk 28, Mod 2 mount picture above.)
- Mount captain
- A senior Petty Officer or Gunnery Sergeant who was in command of the mount. In enclosed mounts, he stood on an interior platform that was located half way up the back bulkhead of the enclosure. There was a hatch on the top of the enclosure where he could stick his head and shoulders out the mount's top. On some mounts, this hatch had a steel hood welded around the back and sides (See an example of this hood in the USS New Jersey picture.) This hood protected the Mount Captain from the muzzle blasts of adjacent weapons. He was wearing a sound powered telephone so that he could receive action orders from the battery commander, and send mount status reports back. Covering the telephone headset, there is a helmet specially designed to fit over the phone. Around his neck, he has a pair of gunnery binoculars which had a reticule scaled in angular mils. By ducking his head down into the mount, he could see the entire interior of the mount from his platform. Next to him was a voice tube down to the upper handling room. At arms length, he had switches for controlling communication, emergency lighting, and battle lanterns. His duties during Automatic Control was to receive action orders from the battery commander (e.g.: "Mount 51, plot. Surface action starboard. Target destroyer. Bearing 060. Range nine thousand, five hundred yards. Slow salvo."), give the appropriate orders to his Gun Room and Upper Handling Room crews (e.g.: "Match pointers. Switch to automatic. Handling room fill the hoists with able able common and full service charge. Standby for slow salvo."), verify that his orders were being followed, and report his gun's status back to the battery commander (e.g: "Plot, mount 51 in auto. Bore clear."). In Local Control, he aims and fires his mount's gun(s) — sometimes without external help. With his gunnery binoculars, he estimates the range to the target, and its bearing rate. He then mentally converts these into range and deflection orders to his Sight Setter. After firing, he observes the fall of his shot, and makes sight corrections to his Sight Setter if necessary.
- Gun Captain
- The Gunner's Mate(s) responsible for maintaining the mount. Daily, he goes through a process of checking fluid levels, lubricating bearings, cleaning gun sights, cycling powered equipment, testing firing systems, checking gas pressures, and verifying that all the equipment that will be needed in an action is in his mount. In twin mounts, there will be a gun captain assigned to each gun assembly. The gun captain usually stands on his foot high tool box welded to the mount's deck, and offset from the gun's centerline. (See the man in black standing on the box in the MK21 open mount picture.) This places him high and aft of the rammer motor. From there, he can watch the actions of the powder-man, projectile-man, breech block, and rammer. He can verify that the gun returns to battery before the next round is loaded. If something goes wrong, he is free to move around his gun to fix the problem. He knows everybody's job, and can step in if necessary. At the mount captain's command, he manually opens the breech block before the first round is loaded, and reports if the bore is clear. His duties are the same in automatic or local control.
- sear in the breech block is at the other. By rocking his right foot forward, he fires the gun. Electrical firing is the primary firing method. When the Mount Captain commands, "Match pointers. Switch to Automatic.", he looks down at the dials on his Indicator-Regulator. The dials tell him the difference between the gun's present elevation and the ordered elevation electrically coming from the Fire Control System by synchro. He changes the elevation of the gun, by moving his hand wheels, until the dial difference is zero. His dials are now "matched", and he switches the elevation drive into Auto. This disengages his hand wheels, and gives elevation control to the Fire Control System. Then, he moves the Electrical Fire Select Switch to "AUTO", and reports back to the Mount Captain, "Elevation in auto." He may now look through his sight, and if the Sight Setter has matched the sight-setter dial pointers, he will see the target in the cross-hairs. When the Mount Captain commands, "Switch to Local", he switches the elevation drive and the Electrical Fire Select Switch to local. In local control, he controls the gun's elevation with his hand wheels to keep his sight's horizontal cross hair on the target. At the command of the Mount Captain, he fires the gun by squeezing the firing key on his right hand wheel.
- synchro. When the Mount Captain commands, "Match pointers. Switch to Automatic.", he looks down at the dials on his Indicator-Regulator. The dials also tell him the difference between the gun's present train angle and the ordered train angle. He changes the bearing of the gun, by moving his hand wheels, until the dial difference is zero. His dials are now "matched", and he switches the train drive into Auto. This disengages his hand wheels, and gives train angle control to the Fire Control System. Then, he reports back to the Mount Captain, "Train in auto." He may now look through his sight, and if the Sight Setter has matched the sight-setter dial pointers, he will see the target in the cross-hairs. When the Mount Captain commands, "Switch to Local", he switches the train drive to local. In local control, he controls the gun's train angle with his hand wheels to keep his sight's vertical cross hair on the target.
- Sight setter
-  The sight setter has three dials, and two hand cranks. (pictured) The two right dials and right hand crank control the elevation reticule offset (called Sight Angle). The upper right dial is scaled in minutes of arc, and the lower right dial is in yards. The left dial and hand crank control the reticule's left and right offset (called Sight Deflection), and the dial is scaled in angular mils. When the mount is in Automatic Control, he turns his hand cranks to keep index marks on his dials matched to lines on the central disks of the dials. These disks are electrically controlled by the Fire Control System by synchro. This is called matching the pointers, and it allows the sights to remain on the target while the mount is controlled by the Fire Control System. In local control, he takes sighting orders from the Mount Captain in yards of range and mils of deflection.
- Fuze setter
- synchro. In Local Control, he follows the Mount Captain's fuze orders by spinning the hand crank until the dials in the window read the correct fuze time.
- Slides the primer protector off the powder case, and then lifts the case from the powder scuttle at his feet to the gun's rammer tray.
- Moves the projectile from the hoist to the rammer tray, and then he pulls the rammer lever to load the projectile and powder case into the chamber.
- Hot case man
- When the gun fires, he catches the ejected powder case and throws it out of the mount.
- Check sight
- He verifies that the mount is aiming at the target.
This gun uses semi-fixed ammunition. (Pictured)  (Also called Separated Ammunition.) Each round consists of a projectile and a powder case. The two parts of the round are kept separate until they get to the gun. At the gun, they are first combined on the rammer tray, and then power rammed into the chamber together with one ram cycle. The powder case completely fills the volume of the chamber, and its length seats the projectile's rotating band into the bore's rifling. This is different from a naval bag gun. In a bag gun: (1) The projectile, by itself, is power rammed into the chamber until its rotating band is seated in the bore's rifling. (2) The rammer is retracted. (3) The powder bags are then rammed in. This is also different from some artillery field guns: (1) The projectile is hand rammed into the chamber with a ramrod until its rotating band is seated in the bore's rifling. (2) The ramrod is retracted. (3) Next powder is placed in the chamber either as a bag or primed canister with the required charge. Note that the single ram operation used in semi-fixed guns decreases the loading time, and therefore increases the firing rate on medium and large caliber guns. For example, each of the nine 8"(203mm)/55caliber Rapid-Fire guns installed on the Des Moines-class cruiser used auto-loaded semi-fixed ammunition and had a firing rate of 10 to 12 rounds a minute. See also the 8"/55 caliber Mark 71 gun.
The Projectile (pictured) has three major parts: the body, the fuze, and the explosive charge.
- Projectile body
The body is basically a machined steel tube with an ogive shape at one end. At the ogive and rear ends are threaded openings used to the install the shell's filler and hold the fuzes. Around the tube near the base is a copper alloy ring called the Rotating Band. This band has a diameter larger than the bore, and when the projectile and powder case are rammed into the chamber, the band is jammed into the grooves of the bore's rifling. It forms a gas seal between the projectile and the bore. Also, as the projectile travels down the barrel, the band grips the rifling to impart spin to the projectile.
The fuze detonates the projectile to cause maximum damage to the target. Different targets required different fuzes. The most important requirement of a fuze is that it remains unarmed until the projectile is well clear of the gun's muzzle on the firing ship. To do this, the fuze remains unarmed until a series of events take place. The first event is the shock of firing. The 5"/38 cal projectile experiences at least a 14,000 g acceleration as it is pushed down the barrel by the burning propellant. This acceleration causes parts of the fuze to setback due to their inertia, and they shear pins that hold them in the unarmed position. The second event is the spinning of the projectile due to the bore's rifling. The 5"/38 cal projectile spins at more than 200 revolutions per second when traveling at 2,600 feet (790 m) per second (New gun initial velocity). The centrifugal force of this spin causes other parts to move outward. The third event is the projectile's deceleration after it leaves the muzzle, and other parts creep forward. All of these events must take place in the correct order to arm the fuze.
List of fuze types:
- Mechanical time fuze
- A nose time fuze that detonates the shell after an adjustable time interval has elapsed since firing.
- Base detonating fuze
- A base impact fuze screwed into the rear of a projectile to protect the fuze during impact. It delays the shell's detonation about 25 ms after impact, allowing the projectile to penetrate the target prior to detonation.
- Point detonating fuze
- A nose impact fuze. Very fast detonation on the surface of the target.
- VT fuze
- The VT (Variable Time) fuze is a proximity fuze. It is a nose electronic fuze that does not require impact to trigger. Designed to detonate close to the target. It was originally intended to be used against air targets. Now it is also used in shore bombardment and surface actions against fast boats. This is because the VT fuze has proved well suited for bursting the shell at the correct distance above the ground or water for maximum damage to lightly armored targets over a large area.
- Auxiliary detonating fuze
- In the projectile drawing, an Auxiliary Detonating Fuze is screwed onto the bottom of the Mechanical Time Fuze. This is because the time fuze primer does not have enough explosive shock to detonate the relatively insensitive Explosive "D". The Auxiliary fuze uses an intermediate explosive that is set off by the time fuze primer, and in turn, sets off the Explosive "D".
|Body label||Full name||Description|
|AA||Anti-aircraft||A high capacity fragmenting shell with a nose mechanical time fuze|
|AAC||Anti-aircraft common||A medium penetrating shell with a mechanical time fuze and a base detonating fuze. Designed to be used on either aircraft or lightly armored ships. For aircraft, the time fuze is set to explode the shell just before it reaches the target. The detonation shock wave and the expanding cone of shrapnel increases the chance of target destruction. For vessels, the time fuze is left on safe, and the base detonating fuze will explode the shell 25 milliseconds after impact.|
|AAVT||Anti-aircraft VT||A high capacity fragmenting shell with a VT (proximity) fuze.|
|AP||Armor-piercing||A thick walled penetrating projectile with a base detonating fuze. The explosive charge is usually Explosive D because it is less sensitive to impact.|
|SS||Star shell||A thin walled shell with a mechanical time fuze. Packed inside is a flare attached to a parachute. When the fuze fires, a small black powder charge expels the flare and parachute out the back. Before radar, star shells were used to illuminate the target at night. They are still used in support of troops at night, or illumination of an at sea rescue.|
|WP||White phosphorus||A thin walled shell with a point detonating fuze used for smoke screens. It also has some incendiary effect.|
|AA non-frag||Anti-Aircraft non-fragmentation||A thin walled shell with a mechanical time fuze and packed with a smoke producing chemical that is ejected out the rear by a small black powder charge. It is used in practice anti-aircraft shoots.|
|AAVT non-frag||Anti-Aircraft VT non-fragmentation||A thin walled shell with a VT fuze and packed with a smoke producing chemical that is ejected out the rear by a small black powder charge. It is used in practice anti-aircraft shoots.|
|BL||Blind load||A shell without a fuze, and filled with sand. It is used in practice surface shoots.|
|W||Window||A thin walled shell with a mechanical time fuze and packed with strips of metal foil that is ejected out the rear by a small black powder charge. It is used to confuse enemy radar.|
The powder case is a brass or steel alloy cylinder closed at one end. It holds the propelling charge and a case combination primer. The charge is held packed around the primer by a wad, distance piece (not in clearing charge), and plug. When rammed in the chamber with the projectile, the Full and Reduced charge cases are designed to completely fill the volume of the chamber from the breechblock face to the base of the projectile when its rotating band is jammed into the bore's rifling. In other words, the powder case acts a rammer extension for the projectile. There are three types of powder cases:
- Full service charge (pictured)
- Reduced charge
- The Reduced Charge uses the same case as the Full Service Charge, but with only 3.6 lbs (1.6 kg) of power and a longer distance piece. The Reduced Charge new gun initial velocity is 1,200 fps (366 mps). It is used in shore bombardment to lob shells, like a mortar, over obstacles to hit targets on the opposite side, and for propelling star shells at a lower velocity to protect the parachute from being shredded while it is deployed.
- Clearing charge (Pictured)
- The clearing charge (also called, "the short round") is a short case; plugged just above the wad. The distance piece between the wad and plug is left out. Its powder charge is less than a full service charge. This case is essential for the safety of the mount because it is needed to clear a gun after a misfire. Due to its importance, it is kept in a special container in the mount whenever the ship is in a combat zone. A misfire is especially dangerous in semi-fixed guns. When the breech is opened after the misfire, the faulty powder case can be extracted, but the projectile will remain jammed in the rifling. Also, all or part of the extracted case's cork plug may still be wedged in the chamber behind the projectile. This "fouls" the chamber because it decreases the chamber's volume. And, since Full and Reduced charge cases take up the full volume of an unfouled chamber (See loaded Semi-Fixed round drawing above), any residue left from the previously extracted case will prevent them from fully loading into the chamber. Therefore, the clearing charge is made short so that it will fit into a fouled chamber.
- After hand extracting the bad case from the chamber, the clearing charge is removed from its special container and is hand rammed into the chamber. With the clearing charge sealed in the chamber, the projectile is fired out the muzzle. It is important to clear the projectile through the muzzle because it is not easy nor safe pushing a bore rod down the barrel to force a fuzed projectile back through the chamber and into the gun house. Also, if the gun has fired a number of rounds just prior to the misfire, time is critical because the barrel may be hot enough to cook off the high explosive in the projectile. This would destroy the mount.
Weapons of comparable role, performance and era
- QF 4.5 inch Mk I – V naval gun : British equivalent dual-purpose gun.
- 12.7 cm SK C/34 naval gun : German equivalent limited to low-angle fire.
- 130 mm/50 B13 Pattern 1936 : Soviet equivalent naval and coastal gun.
- Canon de 138 mm Modèle 1929 : French equivalent naval gun.
- 120 mm naval gun : Italian equivalent naval gun.
- 12.7 cm/50 Type 3 naval gun : Japanese equivalent naval gun.
- DiGiulian, Tony (November 2006). "United States of America 5"/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12". navweaps.com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-30. "The Mark 22 twin mount used on the Porter (DD-356) and Somers (DD-381) destroyer classes was the only SP mounting ever developed for these weapons."
- DiGiulian, Tony (November 2006). "United States of America 5"/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12". navweaps.com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-30. "Mark 22: −10 / +35 degrees"
- DiGiulian, Tony (February 2013). "United States of America 5"/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12". navweaps.com. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
- a Bore diameter greater than 4 inches (102 mm) and less than 8 inches (203 mm).
- Naval Weapons of WW2, Campbell, P106
- DiGiulian, Tony (November 2006). "United States of America 5"/38 (127 mm) Mark 12". navweaps.com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-30. "Pedestal and other mounts lacking integral hoists: 12 – 15 rounds per minute"
- Naval Weapons of WW2, Campbell, P139
- DiGiulian, Tony (November 2006). "United States of America 5"/38 (127 mm) Mark 12". navweaps.com. Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-11.
- DiGiulian, Tony (November 2006). "United States of America 5"/38 (12.7 cm) Mark 12". navweaps.com. Archived from the original on 21 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-30. "The earliest mountings as [sic] used on USS Farragut (DD-348) were pedestal mounts with shell and cartridge hoists located on the deck behind the gun mount."
- (You may have noticed that what this article calls the "Rammer Spade" is called the "Power Spade" in the Gun Assembly picture, and is parenthetically called the "Shell Guard" in the Rammer Tray picture. This is probably the result of different Navy documents, written by different people, at different times. Ultimately, it became the "Rammer Spade" as shown in the Rammer Tray picture. This is because it looked like a small, leather covered, garden spade — and it was the thing that rammed the round into the chamber.)
- GUNNER'S MATE 3, VOL. 1, NAVPERS 10158-A. WASHINGTON, D.C.: UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 1952.
- Franklin, Bruce Hampton (1999) The Buckley-class Destroyer Escorts Naval Institute Press ISBN 1-55750-280-3 p.34
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "Approximately 27 men are required to man all stations in the mount and the upper handling room."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "Movable prism-type telescopes are mounted at the pointer’s, checker’s, and trainer’s stations."
- Gunner's Mate 3, VOL. 1, NAVPERS 10158-A. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1952. p. 32.
- GUNNER'S MATE 3, VOL. 1, NAVPERS 10158-A. WASHINGTON, D.C.: UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. 1952. p. 38.
- GUNNER'S MATE 3, VOL. 1, NAVPERS 10158-A. Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. 1952. p. 66.
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "The three primary functions of the rotating band are to seal the bore, to position and center the rear end of the projectile, and to impart rotation to the projectile."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "... time fuzes are clockwork mechanisms used to obtain timed air bursts."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "The radio proximity or VT fuze is used in all of the types of projectiles which can use mechanical time fuzes..."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "Point detonating, time, and VT fuzes may all be called nose fuzes ..."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "VT-fuzed ammunition is very effective on exposed personnel and lightly armored targets ..."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "In 40 mm and larger guns, a cardboard disc, or wad, is forced into the case and a distance piece, if one is needed, placed on top."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "Whether a gun is hot or cold, the risks attendant upon removing a loaded and fuzed projectile seated in the bore, by backing out, are considered unwarranted..."
- Naval Ordnance And Gunnery, Volume 1, Naval Ordnance, NAVPERS 10797-A (1957 ed.). Washington 25, D.C.: U.S. Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel. 1957. "A loaded and fuzed projectile, seated in the bore of a gun that is hot from previous firing, presents a hazard, since detonation of the projectile is possible as a result of being heated."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 5"/38 caliber gun.|
- Detailed description and history 5"/38 including ammunition and Mark data
- Illustrated descriptions of MK 30 & MK 38, list of ammunition for all Marks
- Illustrated description of MK 38
- Illustrated Operating Instructions for MK XXI model
- Photos of 5"/38 ammunition
- Naval Ordnance and Gunnery, 1957 Volume 1 Naval Ordnance NavPers 10797-A