The purpose of this book is to describe the development of automatic weapons and ammunition which are larger than the usual rifle calibres. The majority of these have calibres of between 12.7 and 57mm, although reference will be made to some smaller and larger weapons for the sake of comparison. There is also a comprehensive summary of heavy shoulder-fired rifles anti-tank weapons and their modern equivalents in Appendix 1.

The book assumes no prior knowledge of weapons and ammunition and there are no formulae. However, there is much that will interest the knowledgeable enthusiast as a result of research into primary sources, mainly at the Ministry of Defence Pattern Room in the UK, but also with contributions from other researchers around the World. It contains much information that has never been published before.

The book will be a useful reference as the complete data tables and cartridge and weapon illustrations in the Appendices are unavailable in any other publication. However, it has been written with the aim of explaining and evaluating as well as merely describing. It is intended to be essential reading for anyone with an interest in the technical aspects of military history.

It has 297 pages, 160 black & white photos, 32 pages of colour photos and around 30 pages of line drawings.


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The genesis of automatic weapons and definitions of types of weapon


CARTRIDGE DESIGN factors affecting the design

THE PROJECTILE explanations of the different terms used and construction methods

ARMOUR PIERCING SHOT development of AP, APC, APCBC, APCR/HVAP, APDS, APFSDS and the measurement of armour penetration

EXPLOSIVE/INCENDIARY SHELLS different types, Minengeschoss, HEAT, HEDP

COMBINED PROJECTILES including APHE/SAP, tracers, multipurpose projectiles

OTHER PROJECTILES multiball, salvo-squeezebore, frangible, rocket-assisted, cargo-carrying, chaff-dispensing, IR decoys, Bofors PFHE and Oerlikon AHEAD

FUZES characteristics of contact, time (chemical, mechanical and electronic), proximity and multipurpose fuzes

PROPELLANTS types used and design requirements

PRIMERS rimfire, centrefire, percussion and electric

THE CARTRIDGE CASE materials, nomenclature, shape, crimps and headspace

BALLISTICS internal and external; the pros and cons of high velocity, the reasons for developing sub-calibre projectiles, the effects of streamlining, tracers and base-bleed designs

AMMUNITION CHOICES approaches to selecting the type of ammunition to load; dual feeds, mixed belts, multipurpose projectiles

CALIBRES the development of different calibres and their current uses

CHAPTER 2: THE GUNS (52 pages)

GUN DESCRIPTIONS distinction between heavy machine guns and cannon; description of the parts of a gun and the different types of mechanisms

GUN MOUNTINGS types of ground, naval and aircraft mountings; the recoil problem; muzzle brakes; floating mountings; synchronised mountings; firing mechanisms; heating and cooling

SIGHTS basic ground-fighting sights, AA sights, reflector and gyro sights, radar and modern optical fire control systems

AMMUNITION FEEDS gravity feed; box, drum or pan magazines; cloth and (disintegrating) steel belts; belt drive mechanisms; linkless feeds; loading systems

BARRELS AND COOLING the heat problem; closed and open bolt firing; air and water cooling

THE FIRST EXTERNALLY POWERED GUNS Gatling, Hotchkiss, Gardner and Nordenfelt

RECOIL OPERATED GUNS operating principles

SHORT-RECOIL MECHANISMS: THE MAXIM GUNS the toggle-bolt action; Vickers and Furrer developments

OTHER SHORT-RECOIL MECHANISMS rotary, pivoting, lifting and sliding locks; Solothurn, Rheinmetall, Browning (and Japanese derivatives), Gast, and Soviet designs; accelerators and muzzle boosters

LONG RECOIL MECHANISMS Browning, Vickers, Rarden, Bofors, Oerlikon, Japanese and Soviet designs; automatic grenade launchers

BLOWBACK MECHANISMS design principles; delayed and retarded blowbacks

API BLOWBACK design principles and characteristics of advanced primer ignition actions and their ammunition; Becker, Semag, Oerlikon (and Japanese versions), Ikaria, Polsten and Rheinmetall-Borsig designs

GAS-OPERATED GUNS: LINEAR MECHANISMS Hotchkiss, Breda, Soviet and postwar Oerlikon, GIAT and Mauser designs

THE HYBRIDS Hispano, Scotti, Japanese, Soviet, German and French versions

REVOLVER CANNON German initiation and postwar development in UK, France, Switzerland, USA, the Soviet Union and Germany

GAS-OPERATED ROTARY CANNON the Soviet Gryazev-Shipunov and Yakushev-Borzov models

THE REVIVAL OF EXTERNALLY-POWERED GUNS the Vulcan rotary cannon project and successors; chain guns; the Meroka volley gun


THE "POM-POM" Boer War introduction; the AA requirement

LESSONS OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR new targets; aircraft and tanks

THE INTERWAR HEAVY MACHINE GUNS The MG TuF legacy; Browning, Vickers, Hotchkiss, Breda, Degtyarev-Shpagin and CZ models

AUTOMATIC CANNON: THE 20MM GUNS Rheinmetall-Borsig, Mauser, Oerlikon, Bofors, Breda, Scotti, Furrer, Madsen, Lahti and Japanese designs

WARTIME 24 TO 30MM WEAPONS Furrer 24mm, Hotchkiss/Japanese 25mm, Bofors/Soviet 25mm, Rheinmetall-Borsig 3cm FlaK 38

THE 34 TO 40MM GUNS Furrer 34mm, German, American and Soviet 37mm, Bofors and Vickers 40mm

LESSONS OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR AA hit probabilities and the effectiveness of HMGs; the big automatic AA guns

POSTWAR HEAVY MACHINE GUNS DShK-38/46, KPV and Chinese equivalents; Soviet NSV and Chinese Types 77 and W-85, Western experiments and modified Brownings; the GAU-19/A; new multipurpose and APDS ammunition

POSTWAR 20-25MM ANTI-AIRCRAFT CANNON Hispano, Oerlikon and Vulcan cannon and mountings; Soviet 23mm ZU; modern Western 25mm guns

MODERN 30-76MM AA GUNS the advantage of range; 30mm Oerlikons, Hispanos and Mausers; Czech M53; Soviet Tunguska; Oerlikon 35mm family; Chinese 37mm; Bofors 40mm and 57mm; Soviet/Chinese 57mm; 76mm OtoBreda Otomatic

MODERN CANNON FOR GROUND FIGHTING automatic loading for tank guns; the first MICVs; Eastern 23-30mm guns; the Rarden; the Bushmaster series; the 30mm ASP; Oerlikon 35mm and Bofors 40mm; the grenade launchers

CHAPTER 4: NAVAL GUNS (24 pages)

EARLY BEGINNINGS 19th Century manually-operated guns and the early Maxims

THE ANTI-AIRCRAFT PROBLEM BETWEEN THE WARS calibre choices and mountings

BRITISH WEAPONS - .5" Vickers and 2 pdr pom-poms

THE NAVAL ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNNERY COMMITTEE RN calculations of threats and how to meet them

AMERICAN WEAPONS the .5" Browning and the 1.1" gun

EUROPEAN AND JAPANESE EQUIPMENT Hotchkiss/Japanese 13.2 and 25mm; German FlaK guns; Italian, Finnish and Soviet equipment

THE SECOND WORLD WAR Oerlikon and Bofors; small craft guns; how the wartime guns worked in practice

POSTWAR ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS development in different directions

MANUALLY-AIMED LIGHT CANNON 20-30mm guns and mountings; stabilisation and fire control

RADAR-DIRECTED ANTI-AIRCRAFT AND ANTI-MISSILE GUNS Phalanx, Goalkeeper, Seaguard, Myriad, Drakon, OtoBreda, Kashtan, Millennium and Bofors

LARGER AUTOMATIC CANNON 57mm Bofors and 45mm + 57mm Soviet equipment; 76mm and larger guns


EARLY EXPERIMENTS prewar gun trials

THE FIRST WORLD WAR: MANUALLY-LOADED CANNON French 37mm guns, Crayford 1.59", Davis recoilless

THE FIRST HEAVY AUTOMATICS 37mm Vickers Mk III and 1 pdr COW gun, 25.4mm Revelli-F.I.A.T. and 20mm Becker

THE PATH TO THE SECOND WORLD WAR weapon choices and considerations; mounting location pros and cons; mixed armament problems

BRITISH DEVELOPMENTS upward-firing COW guns; .5" HMG tests; the Hispano-Suiza 404 selection and mounting problems; the Vickers Class S 40mm and comparisons with rocket projectiles; the Molins 57mm

AMERICAN WEAPONS Browning M2 improvements; the adoption of the Hispano; the three 37mm guns (and the M9 mystery!)

SOVIET EQUIPMENT recoilless cannon experiments; 20mm ShVAK and Beresin; 12.7mm UB; 23mm VYa and NS-23; NS-37 and predecessors; NS-45 and larger calibres

THE GERMAN ARSENAL MG C/30L evaluation; Ikaria MG-FF and the development of the MG-FFM; MG 204; MG 151 and 151/20; Schrage Musik installations; MK 101; MG 131; Minengeschoss and Hartkernmunition development; MK 108 and 108A; MK 103 and 103M; BK 3.7, BK 5 and BK 7.5; MK 214A and late-war experiments

THE JAPANESE MISCELLANY naval and army incompatibility; 20mm, 30mm, 37 and 57mm Kawamura designs; 20mm, 30mm and 40mm Oerlikon developments; 12.7mm, 13mm, 20mm, 30mm and 37mm Browning variants; 13mm Rheinmetall-Borsig version; weapon fits including upward-firing installations

WEAPONS OF OTHER NATIONS Italian 12.7mm Breda-SAFAT and Scotti; French HS 7, HS 9, HS 404 and experimental 23mm HS and 25mm Hotchkiss; Swiss 20mm FMK38; Finnish 12.7mm LKk/42; Madsen 11.35, 20 and 23mm; Swedish 13.2mm Browning and Bofors 57mm

THE SECOND WORLD WAR: EXPERIENCE AND CONCLUSIONS armament fits and effectiveness; the influence of armour; ammunition capacities and combat persistence; tracer ammunition usefulness; bomber defensive installations and effectiveness; the Soviet and Japanese design comparisons

POSTWAR DEVELOPMENTS IN WESTERN NATIONS large-calibre plans; updates of the wartime guns (the US .5" M3, 20mm M3 and M24, the British 20mm Mk 5); the USN Mk 12; international development of the Mauser MG 213C revolver cannon; the USN Mk 11; Project Vulcan and the M61; Bofors 20mm aircraft guns

POSTWAR DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SOVIET UNION NS-23, NR-23, AM-23, R-23, A-12.7, N-37, N-57, NR-30 and installations

MODERN WESTERN WEAPONS the missile age; US 25mm experiments the GAU-7/A and GE-225; GAU-12/U, GAU-8/A and GAU-13/A; Aden 25 and modern GIAT guns; Mauser BK 27

MODERN SOVIET AND RUSSIAN EQUIPMENT the Gryazev-Shipunov show; the GSh-23, GSh-6-23, GSh-30, GSh-6-30 and GSh-301

DESTRUCTIVE POWER AND COMBAT PERSISTENCE comparison between US, European and Soviet equipment

HELICOPTER GUNS early installations; Soviet and US rotary heavy machine guns; 20mm US M195, M197 and XM301; M230 Chain Gun; Soviet 23mm and 30mm guns; French and South African weapons; automatic grenade launchers

CHAPTER 6: THE FUTURE (12 pages)

NEW PROJECTILES FAPDS, steerable projectiles, EMP projectiles

THE PLASTIC CARTRIDGE CASE US experiments; Hughes lockless, Dardick Tround, ARES TARG; cased telescopic

THE CASELESS CARTRIDGE combustible case and caseless; the GAU-7/A; the Mauser RMK 30; liquid propellants

GUN DESIGN electrothermal-chemical, electrothermal and electromagnetic weapons

THE FUTURE OF NAVAL APPLICATIONS guns v missile CIWS; the need for a light cannon; choices in medium calibre guns

ARMY USES the calibre race in MICVs; COMVAT developments; guns and missiles in air defence; externally mounted guns; automatic artillery; the US OCSW programme

AIR FORCE EQUIPMENT the case for the fighter gun; different choices US rotaries, European revolvers, Russian recoil systems; the calibre choice; ground attack and helicopters


The Mauser M1918; British experiments and the .55" Boys; the 12.7mm Sholoklov and the 14.5mm PTRD and PTRS; the Czech 15mm vz 41; the US TE1E1 .60"

THE SMALL BORES the Polish 7.92mm Maroszek and the German 7.92mm PzB 38, PzB 39 and M.SS 41; the GrB 39 grenade-launcher; French, Spanish and British experiments

THE BIG CANNON Oerlikon SSG and SSG-36; Solothurn S18-100 and S18-1000; Lahti L39; Madsen; Bofors m/40; Carl Gustav m/42 recoilless; Japanese Type 97; Swiss 24mm Tb 41


MODERN RIFLES new .50", 12.7mm and 14.5mm rifles; Steyr IWS 2000; 20mm guns

SILENCED HEAVY RIFLES De Lisle carbine; US .458x1" in Vietnam; current Whisper rifles

POSTSCRIPT the US OICW programme



The metric calibre, rim and body diameters, country of origin/main use, projectile type/weight, muzzle velocity, muzzle energy and the principal weapon applications for 95 cartridges which have seen service. In some cases several different loadings are given.


Similar information to Table 1 for 7 cartridges currently under development, 30 experimental/limited service rounds, 4 used in manually operated repeaters, 13 for shoulder-fired heavy weapons,11 rifle-calibre machine gun cartridges and 13 rounds for manually-loaded cannon, selected for comparative purposes.


The name, metric calibre, weight, length, barrel length, method of operation, cartridge feed and rate of fire for about 200 different weapons which have seen service, grouped by nationality.


Similar information to Table 3 for about 60 weapons which saw little or no service, or have completed development but not yet been officially adopted, or are still under development.


The name, country of origin, metric calibre, weight, length, barrel length, method of operation and cartridge feed for 20 different anti-tank weapons which saw service, and 13 modern rifles firing 11.35-20mm ammunition.


Information for comparative purposes on 28 weapons used in the 20th Century, including medium MGs, light MGs, GPMGs, aircraft guns and externally-powered guns.


Drawings prepared by J-F Legendre of 94 different cartridges of calibres 11.35-57mm used in service automatic weapons. Includes such little-known items as the 24x138 and 34x239 Swiss cartridges , the 23x260mm for the Rikhter R-23, all of the 30mm, 37mm and 57mm Japanese aircraft gun rounds to see service, the 37x195 for the Soviet NS-37, the 50x346B for the FlaK 41 and both of the Bofors 57mm rounds (short and long case).


Drawings prepared by A G Williams of 44 aircraft guns of 12.7-57mm calibre used in the Second World War. Includes the 12.7mm Scotti, Breda-SAFAT, Beresin and Ho-103, the 20mm Solothurn S18-350, MG 204, Beresin and Japanese Ho-1, Ho-3 and Ho-5, the 23mm VYa and NS-23, the 30mm MK 103M and Japanese Type 2, Type 5 and Ho-155, the 37mm US M4, M10 and M9, Soviet NS-37, German BK 3.7 and Japanese Ho-203 and Ho-204, the 40mm Japanese Ho-301 and Vickers S gun, 50mm BK 5 and MK 214A, and 57mm Ho-401 and Molins gun


Drawings prepared by A G Williams of 12 fighter aircraft guns of 20-37mm calibre introduced into service in the postwar era. Includes the Soviet NR-23, N-37, NR-30, GSh-23, GSh-6-23 and GSh-301, the US 20mm Mk 12, M39 and M61 and the European Aden/DEFA, Oerlikon KCA and Mauser BK 27.


Explanations of over 300 acronyms and technical terms used in this book. Edited version available HERE


Extensive list of sources, many of which have never been published


Includes comprehensive cross-referencing to facilitate browsing.