Description of Shell Types

Armour Piercing and High Explosive Shells of all Nations


Patrone SmK Kurz 7.92 mm

Spitzgeschoss mit Kern, a steel cored rifle bullet designed to be fired from a standard Mauser infantry rifle. It was the German answer to the tank in World War I. At the time, British tanks sported 8 mm of face hardened armour all round, and the "K" bullet could penetrate a maximum of 12-13 mm at 0 to 100 meters (0 Degrees inclination). This gave the "K" bullet a 33% chance of penetration with a direct hit on an oncoming tank. As every soldier in a front line position was issued 10 rounds of »K« bullets, there would be a large number of these armour piercing projectiles hitting the target. As a result, »K« bullets accounted for a large number of tank crew casulties, and vehicle losses in the early days of tank warfare.

When the British discovered this, new tank designs received 12 mm of face hardened armour all round (1% chance of penetration with a "K" bullet), and later 14 mm, making the vehicles bullet proof (SmK-sicher). This was the first time that an anti-tank weapon influenced the design of a tank. The Mauser Elephant Gun anti-tank rifle again defeated the big, and heavy British tanks, the weapon provided 21 mm penetration at 0 to 100 metres. accordingly, French FT-17 tanks were equipped with 22 mm of frontal armour which made them anti-tank rifle proof.

A.P.– Armour Piercing

Manganese steel solid shot.

A.P./I.– Armour Piercing Incendiary

Same as A.P. above, but with flammable content.

A.P./T.– Armour Piercing Tracer

Same as A.P. above, but with phosphorous tracer to facilitate the correction of aim.

H.V.A.P. - High Velocity A.P.

A.P.C.– Armour Piercing Capped

An American shell type designed to reduce the bounce of a solid shot striking rounded, angled, or sloped armour plate. The armour-piercing cap is made of soft metal which deforms on impact, momentarily sticks the nose of the shell to the target surface, and allows the solid shot core to begin punching through the armour. In order to work effectively, the cap has to be relatively blunt, resulting in lower velocity, shorter range, reduced accuracy, and less armour penetration of the round. The shell was very effective against Italian and Japanese armour, which would invariably be penetrated if a hit was scored. The reduced penetration capabilities were a noticeable disadvantage when APC shells were used against the homogeneous armour of German tanks.

A.P.C.B.C. – Armour Piercing Capped Ballistic Capped

An American shell type designed to improve accuracy, range, and penetration of the standard A.P.C. shell. In addition to the blunt armour-piercing cap, this shell had a second cap which was streamlined, and which improved the ballistic performance of the shell. The solid shot core punched through both caps on impact. Performance against homogeneous armour was greater than that of A.P. shells. US 76 mm L.53 anti-tank guns and tank destroyers equipped with A.P.C.B.C. shells had an increased chance of knocking out Tiger I and Panther tanks. It also enabled the British 17 Pdr. 76.2 mm L.60 to penetrate the frontal armour of the Königstiger at 500 metres.

A.P.C.R.– Armour Piercing Composite Rigid

An A.P. shell with a tungsten core, giving German guns much better armour penetration than equivalent Allied shells. Tungsten supplies ran out in 1944.

A.P.D.S.– Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot

A small diameter A.P. solid shot attached to a larger calibre casing which was discarded upon exiting the muzzle. The device could be fired with a full-sized propellant charge, resulting in increased velocity of the small calibre A.P. round. Because of its reduced diameter, this type of A.P. solid shot exhibited less drag than a full-sized round.

F.S.A.P.D.S. - Fin-Stabilized Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot

The German variant of A.P.D.S. was fin-stabilized, it was designated Panzergranate 44. The shell was developed in response to increased Soviet armour thickness, and tungsten shortages which reduced supplies of German A.P.C.R. shells.

A.P.H.E.– Armour Piercing High Explosive

Used by most countries until about 1935, A.P.H.E. was last used by the Soviet army in 1941/1942. This type of shell had significantly lower armour penetration capabilities than A.P. solid shot. It was thought that the shell would penetrate an enemy tank and detonate inside, with catastrophic results. In reality A.P.H.E. shells shattered on impact. Low quality Soviet A.P.H.E. ammunition gave German armour a significant edge in the 1941 campaign. Some A.P.H.E. shells are tracer detonated, but most are detonated by inertia and they are used as anti-aircraft shells. Their use against tanks may have been out of accident rather than design. Navies use A.P.H.E. shells against enemy ships, and their application to tank combat may have been a throwback to this naval method.

A.P.S.V.– Armour Piercing Squeezed Velocity

A solid tungsten core with steel shims. Originally a German design, squeeze bore shells were also developed for the British 2 pdr. gun using the Littlejohn Adaptor. Upon firing, the tapered bore of the Panzerbüchse 41 squeezed the shell down from its original diameter of 28 mm to only 20 mm, resulting in a velocity of 4,600 feet per second -- the highest velocity in WW2 by a margin of 1,500 feet per second. The Panzerbüchse 41 had a maximum penetration of 94 mm at 100 metres. The weapon was small and lightweight, making it ideal for Fallschirmjäger operations.

Case/Cannister

A thin-walled artillery shell which ruptures on exiting the gun barrel and projects 1000 ball bearings (9 mm) in a shot-gun pattern. This shell type is available to 75 mm and larger guns.

H.E. - High Explosive

Anti-personnel artillery shell type.

H.E. - High Explosive Tracer

Same as H.E. above, but used for direct firing.

H.E.A.C. - High Explosive Anti-Concrete

Sometimes called Concrete Piercing Hollow Charge (C.P.H.C.), these shells were used by StuG. III and StuG. IV assault guns. The figures provided in the table are for the anti-tank effect of these shells only.

H.E.A.T. - High Explosive Anti-Tank

Hollow Charge shells used against buildings and fortifications, and fired from anti-tank rocket projectors like the Bazooka and Panzerfaust. Shaped charges of this type use the Munroe Effect to focus the power of the charge on the impact point. At pressures of 2,000 tons per square inch, armour becomes a jet of molten metal travelling at ballistic velocity inside the target. Spaced armour neutralizes the effect of these shells. German Pz.Kpfw. III Ausf. M/N, and Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. H/J had side skirts fitted to protect them against H.E.A.T. rounds.

H.E.S.H. - High Explosive Squash Head

A thin-walled H.E. shell which deforms on impact with the target in order to apply maximum wracking effect against the surface. H.E.S.H. does not penetrate. Instead, pieces of armour plating are broken loose on the inside of the vehicle, causing significant internal damage.

Andy Reid

Frequently Asked Questions

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Panzergranate Simulation