History of the Second World War, Volume 3

Shot and Shell-Howitzer and Gun The main difference between guns and howitzers is that guns fire ‘directly at their targets while howitzers fire ‘indirectly at high angles dropping their shells onto targets which are hidden by hills or fortifications in the target area. The plunging fire of howitzers is also ideal for cracking open heavy gun emplacements and defences. Howitzers usually fire at shorter ranges than guns which means that the propellent charges of howitzer shells are comparatively small. And this in turn means that howitzers have shorter barrels than guns for howitzer charges have a shorter- burning fuse. This basic distinction was narrowed by 1939 with the appearance of the multi­purpose gun howitzer of which the classic example is the British 25-pounder: it had exactly the same calibre as the German 88-mm gun and could serve as an efficient anti-tank gun with a 20-pounder shot. The chart below shows the comparative ranges of guns and howitzers of various calibres note the longer reach of the gun. At the foot of the page is an array of some of the most used shells of the war —from the armouries of the main combatant powers —compared to a standard rifle round to show the scale M= Mortar H =Howitzer G =Gun Breakdown of an Armour-Piercing (AP) Shell Streamlined cap Soft AP cap Hard AP core Tracer location (for spotting fall of shot) -Shell case These shells were designed to drill through a tank’s armour and shatter after penetration 14. Italian 37-mm AA HE 15. Italian 47-m m A/TK HE 16. US 37-mm AP 9. US 90-mm AA HE 10. Russian 76-2-mm HE 6 0 M AA-'Anti-aircraft AP= Armour-piercing A /TK=Anti-tank HE= High-explosive Chem=Chemical 1. Italian 20-mm AA AP 2. Italian 47-mm HEAP 3. German 37-mm AA HE 4. British 95-mmA/TK HE 5. British 6-pdr AP 6. British 25-pdr (chem) 7. German 88-mm AA AP 8. British 3-7-inch AA HE 500035000 yards 2 0 miles 1343
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