Talk:Shrapnel shell

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Until someone provides supporting evidence, I have moved to here the claim:

"The "Shrapnel shell" was first used in combat in 1804 when the British seized part of Dutch Surinam [sic] establishing British Guiana."

This sounded like a fascinating snippet of obscure history so I attempted to research more detail, but could find very little in the way of references; the few I did find variously seemed to be based on this article, or to contain obvious errors (e.g. putting Suriname in Batavia). Furthermore, it appears that the British captured British Guiana in 1796 (seven years before the shell was adopted), not 1804; and that after Napoleon effectively annexed the Netherlands in 1795, Suriname itself was completely occupied by the British from 1799 until 1816.--Roger 05:54 30 Oct 2003 (UTC)

It would be nice if someone corrected the "homocide bombing" label of the "suicide bombing" link. --Craiky 04:40, 24 Feb 2004 (UTC)

use of Shrapnel/shrapnel[edit]

The Shrapnel shell is a means of taking the action of a cannister round closer to the enemy. strictly the term shrapnel ought to limited only to the shell, but the word shrapnel has come to mean bits of metal (whatever the source) from an explosion. GraemeLeggett 16:18, 15 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Thinking on this further the claymore is an example of a cannister round without a barrel - so even less like Henry's shell. GraemeLeggett

Shrapnel does not mean fragments/shot[edit]

shrapnel One entry found for shrapnel.

Main Entry: shrap·nel Pronunciation: 'shrap-n&l, esp Southern 'srap- Function: noun Inflected Form(s): plural shrapnel Etymology: Henry Shrapnel died 1842 English artillery officer 1 : a projectile that consists of a case provided with a powder charge and a large number of usually lead balls and that is exploded in flight 2 : bomb, mine, or shell fragments


The term shrapnel is incorrectly used to describe the fragments or shot included with explosive weapons. This is misinformation that has been distributed by the media, including this Wikipedia entry. The fragments or shot are called just that: fragments or shot. Shrapnel refers to the weapon type itself, not the included fragments. From the OED:

"1940 N. & Q. CLXXIX. 278/1 The public has chosen to ignore the facts that shrapnel shell has become obsolete and that anti-aircraft guns fire high-explosive only. In consequence the shell fragments which are at present descending upon its devoted head are unhesitatingly referred to by the public as ‘shrapnel’ and the correct expression, ‘shell fragments’, has begun to verge on pedantry. 1940 W. S. CHURCHILL Secret Session Speeches (1946) 20 Our barrage will be firing, and..great numbers of shell splinters usually described most erroneously as shrapnel, will be falling in the streets. 1946 Chambers's Jrnl. May 228/2 A viciously singing piece of shrapnel put his helmet straight for him. 1976 Times 18 Aug. 12/5 What journalists and other non-gunners call shrapnel are in fact fragments from high explosive bombs or shells."

Yes but in colloquial usage it means that. GraemeLeggett 08:10, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
And our article already explains this fairly clearly, I would have thought: "More loosely, the term is used to refer ..." and "...during World War II shrapnel, in the strict sense of the word, fell out of use." I agree with Graeme, I don't see a problem. Securiger 08:58, 19 Apr 2005 (UTC)
Meaning of words change over time with popular usage of that word, it maybe incorrect to refer to shell fragments as "Shrapnel" by the original definition of the word but popular usage is based on the newer definition and it should be mention: both the original definition and the popular definition should be stated as acceptable in accordence with the etymology of the word. --BerserkerBen 21:59, 23 May 2005 (UTC)
I think that the article goes a little overboard in explaining that it is used incorrectly. It does so in the introduction, there is a longer version under "general use of the term" and words like "strictly" are used thoughout the article. Also, "incorrect" may not be the appropriate term, since it has come to mean shell fragments over the years. The American Heritage Dictionary even lists shell fragments as the first definition. I suggest that the article be changed so that the special shrapnel artillery shell is referred to as the original usage rather than the correct usage. If militaries continue to make the distinction, perhaps that should be noted, as well. -- Kjkolb 08:01, 27 May 2006 (UTC)

"1940 N. & Q. CLXXIX. 278/1 The public has chosen to ignore the facts that shrapnel shell has become obsolete and that anti-aircraft guns fire high-explosive only." H'mm, someone seems to have been telling porkies. There was a shrapnel shell for the 3.7 inch HAA (not sure about 20-pr) that only entered service in 1938. It's clearly stated in the 3.7 Handbook published by the War Office. This seems to be missing from the WW2 section in the article.Nfe (talk) 03:29, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Good article[edit]

I'd just like to comment that this is a very informative, well written and interesting article. Ormondroyd 16:28, 25 April 2006 (UTC)

Thank you, I, and I hope everyone else has tried to construct a useful and informative acticle NeilGibson 17:09, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

Bombing on Kerkrade[edit]

Hi can 'Ruud habets' confirm if Kerkrade was 'bombed' with a fragmentation aerial bomb/rocket, or an artillery shell, or 'shelled' with an artillery shrapnel shell, as they are not the same thing? If they were bombed/rocketed/shelled with a fragmentation based munition, please do not add this information to this article as it is not relevant. If the were shelled with a shrapnel shell, can you please elaborate on the hostile force(s) involved and munition type used (calibre, etc). Oh and also change the word ‘bombed’ to ‘shelled’ as shrapnel shells are artillery 'shells', not aerial bombs. NeilGibson 17:07, 27 April 2006 (UTC)

In Response to contributor[edit]

Hi, here is my response to your interesting question:

"I agree, the fragments are more like rectangular." "But why removing the info instead of noting the diff or moving it to a new appropriately titled article?"

As to removing your contribution, your text actually described the functioning of a blast/frag warhead, not shrapnel like warhead. So I re-worded the text with a more correct terminology set, made sure it described ABM shrapnel like warhead and embellished it a bit.

With regards to a separate article, the use of the fragmentation warhead in weaponry is a huge subject (I have rather thick books on the subject). Wikipedia could certainly do with a better article, as the present ones on warheads and fragmentation (weapon) are rather lacking. I did write a slightly more in-depth one for the fragmentation entry, but that was cut down.

For your info, the methods used to produce the fragments in a blast/frag warhead varies considerably, it can be natural, assisted natural (internal scoring, zone embrittlement, internal multi-shaped charge liner, etc), preformed (cuboids, spheroids, rods, etc), or some form of shaped charge (jet or slug forming). Each method resulting in differing shaped fragments, jets or slugs, projected at wide degree of velocities (many 100s to many 1000s of m/s). None are likely to be rectangular though, as that is a 2D object (polyhedron) and the fragments will be 3D (polyhedral). Most modern warheads use the preformed method, though some are now using focusing methods to project more fragments at higher velocities at the target. This by explosively deforming the warhead, forming a concave surface facing the target before detonation, by varying the detonation point and detonation timing, or by a combination of both. NeilGibson 19:00, 1 November 2006 (UTC)

Fuze or Fuse[edit]

Dear contributor, in the context of munition initiation devices, fuze is the correct term. See the Wikipedia article on fuses for more information. NeilGibson 21:40, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

A few points. Shrapnel was the primary apers arty ammo used by UK at the start of WW1, in fact it was the only ammo for 13 and 18-pdr (apart from flare). It was used throughout WW1, and when suppressive covering fire became the norm for UK it probably had more use. It was ideal for this because it definitely kept the enemy away from their trench parapets and was safer for overhead fire because an early burst was less likely to cause caualties to the attacking infantry. However, shrapnel did need a certain amount of skill to get the burst in the right place, but good observers could use it well - in the Boer war they could chase Boer horsemen across the veldt with it.

The various editions of Bethels' pre-WW1 'Modern Guns and Gunnery' deals with shrapnel at some length, including useful pics that must be out of copyright by now.

By UK shrapnel bullets were a lead antimony alloy, there were various weights for different shells, typically weights were a few hundred bullets per pound - details are in ammo section of the gun handbooks.

During WW1 UK also adopted shrapnel configuration for flare and incendiary shells - projecting small 'pots'.

A shrapnel shell was developed for 3.7-inch HAA, its in the handbook, but the extent of its use in unclear. In 1945 UK conducted trials of 95mm fuzed VT.

Beehive was always called 'splintex' by Australian users in Vietnam, and this seems to have been the official name, they also used it with 106 and 90mm RCLs. However, in Vietnam splintex could only be used for direct fire (fear of blinds being recycled as IEDs?)

However, the USSR seems to have developed a splintex type shell for 122 and 152mm and use it for indirect fire. Can't quote a source, too many years ago, but IIRC it was 'official'. Nfe 02:11, 30 January 2007 (UTC)

Merger with Fragmentation (weaponry)?[edit]

I think this would be a good idea, the fragmentation artical has little information.

It might also be worth mentioning earlier weapons which worked through fragmentation/shrapnel and methods of encouraging fragments to form. I think fragmentation has been used for war practically since gunpowder was invented, I can remember reading about bombs made of gunpowder in clay pots which would shatter spraying shrapnel everywhere.

Some Sort Of Anarchist Nutter 13:21, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

Shrapnel is not fragmentation, that's the point. Fragmentation is merely the most common (and possibly oldest) form of bursting munition. Shrapnel is forward ejecting, the third option which only dates from about the 1930s is base ejecting. Nfe 02:33, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Shrapnel in normal english means the fragments ejected when an explosion occurs, it does not refer exclusively to the shrapnel shell. Some Sort Of Anarchist Nutter 10:13, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Really? Presumably by people who can't spell fragments. The fact that popular usage has become divorced from the correct meaning doesn't seem a very convincing argument. This item gives an account of Shrapnel shells and others with the same mode of function. Nfe 10:37, 28 April 2007 (UTC)

If a word is used a lot to mean a particular thing then it takes on that meaning, and that meaning of the word becomes a or the correct meaning. Shrapnel is used more extensively than fragments to refer to the fragments thrown out by an explosion (in spoken as well as written english) so it is now a correct meaning for the word shrapnel, that is how language develops. There may be a case for creating a separate article called Shrapnel shell and putting the the information about this type of weapon there leaving just a little bit and a link to the new artical in this article, but you cant force people to stop using shrapnel to refer to fragments any more than you can stop them using gay to mean homosexual.
Some Sort Of Anarchist Nutter 13:13, 28 April 2007 (UTC)

You could have a discussion about the differences between a dictionary and an encyclopedia, with the former being usuage oriented and the latter factual. In popular usage all artillery is 'heavy' and all artillery fire is a 'barrage', this is factual nonsense as well.

Shorter Oxford Dictionary 5th Edn, 2002:


1 A shell containing bullets or pieces of metal timed to explode before impact. 2 Small change. Austral & NZ 3 Fragmentation thrown out by an exploded shell or bomb.

Technical precision in usage[edit]

Kjkolb wrote above (08:01, 27 May 2006 (UTC)), "If militaries continue to make the distinction, perhaps that should be noted, as well." Well, militaries do continue to make the distinction. The U.S. Army, and in particular its developers, testers, and evaluators of weapons and armor, use the word fragment exclusively. In more than 25 years' work in this field, I have come to recognize use of shrapnel as a sure sign of the novice. I accept that it is indeed used colloquially. But I agree that there is value in flagging the non-technical nature of the broadened meaning of shrapnel. PaulTanenbaum 04:10, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

I agree 100% with PaulTanenbaum. The Oxford Dictionary records how people (including idiots and novices) use words, no matter how inaccurately. It is not an authority on the correct meaning or usage of a word. The whole principle of shrapnel, from its conical dispersal pattern related to the spin and velocity of the shell to its lethality in various conditions, bears no relation to HE or fragmentation. As an encyclopedia these articles must describe the difference clearly, and why the differentiation matters. E.g. Shrapnel formed a cone along the shell trajectory and relied mainly on the shell's velocity for its lethality. In WWI troops' own covering shrapnel could and did "explode" (if explode is the right word for 1.5 oz of gunpowder) short over their heads as they attacked, hitting the enemy rather than themselves. HE fragments spread laterally and to some extend axially. Its lethality bears little relation to shell velocity. If it explodes over your head you are history. Rcbutcher 13:36, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

Do not merge[edit]

Shrapnel (spherical case) are different than common shell, they have a unigue definition, unique usage, and a unigue history. Suggest removing photos in gallery as they are really shell fragments having nothing to do whith shrpanel.Junglerot56 (talk) 03:52, 26 December 2007 (UTC)

Source - accuracy?[edit]

What's the source for stating that the last use of shrapnel was by 60-pr in Burma in 1943?

A quick look at the Royal Artillery's history 'The War in the Far East' suggests this is nonsense. Annex K gives a short history of all UK arty regts in Burma. Only one medium regiment was in action in 1943. 6 med regt that arrived in Chittagong with 26 Indian Div in Oct 43, it had been stationed in India before the war. This regt had only one bty (the other was in Iraq) and this battery had 8 x 5.5 in (pg 151). There were only 2 other med regts in India in 1943, 1 and 8, both had 5.5, 8 regt having converted from 6 in How earlier in 1943.Nfe (talk) 06:04, 11 May 2008 (UTC)

.50 cal.[edit]

I'll remove the phrase "Hence the field gun shrapnel shell performed a role which today is typically performed by a .50 caliber machine-gun." unless someone has something to say about it. I think that it is silly to compare artillery munitions with machine guns that are mostly used as vehicle mounted anti-aircraft weapons.--UltimateDestroyerOfWorlds (talk) 17:49, 2 August 2008 (UTC)

I think you're missing the point that the shrapnel shell functioned as a long-range machine gun : it delivered high volumes of 1/2 inch bullets at near rifle speeds, along rifle trajectories, at ranges up to 6,000 yards. It was an artillery munition only in the sense that it was projected by a field gun. The modern equivalent is a heavy machine gun. Rcbutcher (talk) 18:19, 2 August 2008 (UTC)
Yes, the method is similar, both deliver half-inch bullets at somewhat similar velocities, but the role they are/were emplyed are not alike. Shrapnel shells were used by artillery against infantry targets. They could be used in direct fire as well as indirectly. In this role, most modern artillery use common fragmentation shells,altough cluster munitions clould be considered too. On the other hand, large caliber machine guns (ie. .50 cal.) are rarely used primarily in anti-infrantry role, (and definitely not so by artillery) as smaller caliber weapons can kill men as dead at moderate ranges. In fact, machine guns would compare better to canister shot as their effectiveness degrades similarly with range, due to relatively poor ballistic coefficient. --UltimateDestroyerOfWorlds (talk) 19:03, 2 August 2008 (UTC)
I'll remove it now. --UltimateDestroyerOfWorlds (talk) 13:43, 7 August 2008 (UTC)


Before I start disambiguation repair (on Shrapnel), would it be correct that most uses of the term shrapnel should link to Fragmentation (weaponry)? Just checking before I start. Most links seem to make the mistake talked about on this page in the previous sections. Thanks - cohesion 23:37, 3 May 2009 (UTC)

In the precise military sense, I think yes, people today mean fragmentation when they say shrapnel - the meaning of the word itself has changed - the word shrapnel in today's English does include whatever bits and pieces an exploding bomb or shell spits out. So users are correct to use the term the way they do today, in general talk. I agree that linking such references to Fragmentation (weaponry) would be OK for contemporary references; but for military-related articles pre-1920 the reference may indeed be to the actual shrapnel shell. Rcbutcher (talk) 00:19, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
Right, I will make that decision per article of course, I was just checking my understanding before I started. I learned something new today. :) - cohesion 00:30, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
Perhaps just changing shrapnel to redirect to Fragmentation (weaponry) could go a long way to tidying things up .. Rcbutcher (talk) 01:05, 4 May 2009 (UTC)
You will also run across many references to "shrapnel" in military articles when the correct refence would be to just "shellfire" .. such as "he was badly wounded in four places by shrapnel, as he led his company in an assault" in the Arthur Ernest Percival article. This was in 1916, but the Germans mostly used HE. CEW Bean (Australian official war reporter) made the point of correctly identifying the type of shellfire in a battle if possible, because it had a direct effect on troop survivability and defensive measures - i.e. troops in action, especially officers, needed to know what calibres & types of shell that were incoming for their own survival. Rcbutcher (talk) 02:22, 4 May 2009 (UTC)


That animation is a bit misleading. I suppose one could call it "exaggeration for demonstration", but it shows the balls dispersing at WAY to great of an angle (that and the dispersal doesn't seem to proceed by any logic). A Shrapnel shell is a relatively focused weapon, delivering its charge over an area 10-15 times the diameter of the shell, like a close-range shotgun blast. The animation shows the balls dispersing at almost 180deg around the mouth of the projectile, which would make the shell almost useless unless the bursting charge was carefully timed to go off at the exact moment the shell arrived at the enemy. No, the "bursting charge" merely served to eject the balls from the case. They would then remain in a relatively tight cluster until they reached the enemy like a concentrated burst of machine gun fire. The bursting charge did not fling them all over the place as the animation shows..45Colt 18:35, 4 April 2014 (UTC)