Friday, January 19, 2007



A Browning 9 millimeter Hi-Power
A Browning 9 millimeter Hi-Power
Ordnance pistol of the French Navy, 19th century, using a Percussion cap mechanism
Ordnance pistol of the French Navy, 19th century, using a Percussion cap mechanism
Derringers were small and easily hidden.
Derringers were small and easily hidden.
A Walther P99 pistol disassembled.
A Walther P99 pistol disassembled.

A pistol or handgun is a small firearm intended to be used with one hand.



All handguns are divided into one of two major groups depending upon the location of the chamber. Revolvers have a revolving chamber (which is to say, a revolving cylinder containing multiple chambers); other pistols have a chamber integral with the barrel. There are various sub-types.

Some handguns include single-shot pistols, revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, and fully automatic, or machine pistols. In the 15th century the term "pistol" was used for small knives and daggers which could be concealed in a person's clothing. By the 18th century the term came to be used exclusively to refer to hand-held firearms.


The term "pistol" is derived from the French pistole (or pistolet), which has these possible origins:-

  • From the Czech píšťala (flute or pipe, referring to the shape of a Hussite firearm).
  • From the city of Pistoia, Italy, where perhaps a manufacturer was one Camillio Vettelli in the 1540s.
  • That early pistols were carried by cavalry in holsters hung from the pommel (or pistallo in medieval French) of a horse's saddle.

Types of handguns

Luger or P08 Parabellum, used by the German military
Luger or P08 Parabellum, used by the German military

Varieties of handgun: "automatic" self-loading pistols, revolvers (including black powder revolvers), multi-barreled pistols, single-shot hunting or target pistols and finally flintlock pistols. In a pistol, the chamber, in which the cartridge is held for firing, is the rearmost portion of the barrel. Thus the term "pistol" technically excludes revolvers, although this distinction is often ignored in colloquial usage, where revolvers are commonly referred to as "pistols."


The flintlock firing mechanism dates back to the 16th century, although it was another hundred years before it was generally used in infantry muskets, by which time it had been perfected. It survived well into the 19th century and was often known as the French lock because Marin le Bourgeoys, a French gunmaker working in Paris for Henry IV's Louvre, had invented it - in about 1610. He had modified a much more complicated mechanism into a simpler one-piece mechanism. It was also called a firelock. The basic action is that the trigger is pulled and a spring causes the striker, the frizzen, to strike the flint which showers sparks on to the gunpowder in the priming pan.

[edit] Multi-barreled

Multi-Barreled pistols such as some variants of Derringer and Pepper-box pistols are still in circulation today. The Pepper-box pistol is a multishot handheld firearm, which was popular in North America around the time of the American Civil War. The pepperbox was invented in the 1830s and was meant mainly for civilian use. It spread rapidly in the United Kingdom and some parts of continental Europe. It started disappearing gradually in the 1850s with the manufacture of true revolvers by Colt, Webley and others. It was similar to the revolver since like it, it held bullets in a rotating cylinder, in separate chambers. Unlike the revolver however, each bullet had its own barrel.

A 1930s vintage Enfield revolver.
A 1930s vintage Enfield revolver.


Revolvers feed ammunition via the rotation of a cartridge-filled cylinder, in which each cartridge is contained in its own ignition chamber, and is sequentially brought into alignment with the weapon's barrel by a mechanism linked to the weapon's trigger (double-action) or its hammer (single-action). These nominally cylindrical chambers, usually numbering between five and ten depending on the size of the revolver and the size the cartridge being fired, are bored through the cylinder so that their axes are parallel to the cylinder's axis of rotation; thus, as the cylinder rotates, the chambers revolve about the cylinder's axis. Due to simplicity of construction and operation, revolvers are considered to be more reliable than semi-automatic pistols.

Walther P99, a semiautomatic pistol from late 1990s
Walther P99, a semiautomatic pistol from late 1990s

Semi-automatic pistols

Semi-automatic pistols fire one round after each pull of the trigger, without the need to manually cock the hammer. After a round is fired, the pistol will cycle, ejecting the spent casing and chambering a new round from the magazine, allowing another shot to take place immediately. One of the main advantages of semi-automatic pistols is that many of them can hold more rounds than a revolver. Their flat profile also tends to make them more concealable than revolvers. A potential disadvantage is that the traditional recoil-based operating mechanisms limit the power of available rounds. Many users, however, feel that the added ammunition capacity and faster reload times make up for this deficiency.

Some terms that have been, or still are, used as synonyms for semi-automatic pistol are:

  • automatic pistol
  • autopistol
  • self-loading pistol
  • selfloader

Machine pistols

Micro-Uzi machine pistol
Micro-Uzi machine pistol

A machine pistol is generally defined as a firearm designed to be fired with one hand, and capable of fully automatic or selective fire. While there are a number of machine pistols such as the Glock 18C and later models of the Mauser C96, these are rare; the light weight, small size, and extremely rapid rates of fire of a machine pistol make them difficult to control, making the larger heavier submachine gun a better choice in cases where the small size of a machine pistol is not needed. Most machine pistols can attach a shoulder stock (the Heckler & Koch VP70 would only fire single rounds at a time unless the stock was attached); others, such as the Beretta 93R, add a forward handgrip. Either of these additions technically create a legal non-pistol under the US National Firearms Act, as pistols are by definition designed to be fired with one hand. The addition of a stock or forward handgrip is considered a design change that creates either a short-barreled rifle or any other weapon, and therefore such additions are generally only found on legal machine guns.

Operating Mechanisms

Single-action (SA) handguns have a trigger mechanism whose sole function is to drop a pre-cocked hammer to discharge a cartridge. For revolvers, the popular Colt Peacemaker of Old West fame is typically thought of. Its hammer must be manually cocked for each shot. For auto-loading pistols the Colt 1911 or Browning Hi-Power are typical examples. They must be cocked for the first shot, but subsequent shots are cocked automatically. These types of guns typically have a very light and crisp trigger pull, making for more accurate target shooting.

Jericho 941 F (DA), 9 mm with magazine removed
Jericho 941 F (DA), 9 mm with magazine removed

Traditional double-action (DA) handguns have a mechanism that can be either pre-cocked, like the above single-action gun, or can be fired with the gun uncocked. In this case, the gun has an additional mechanism added to the trigger that will cock the gun (and rotate the cylinder in the case of revolvers) as the trigger is pulled. Once the trigger is pulled far enough, the hammer is released and the gun fired. For autoloading pistols the self-loading mechanism will also re-cock the hammer after the first shot is fired so that subsequent shots are fired single-action. For revolvers, each shot is fired with the hammer initially uncocked unless the shooter manually cocked the gun. Popular auto pistols in this category include the Walther P38 and Beretta Model 92. These guns typically have a longer, heavier trigger pull for the first shot then light, crisp pulls for subsequent shots. Popular revolvers include the Ruger Redhawk and Smith & Wesson Model 629. These have long, heavy trigger pulls for all shots unless the revolver is manually cocked.

Double-action only (DAO) handguns do not have the ability to be cocked and is usually evidenced by a lack of either the hammer spur or the entire hammer. A typical autopistol in this category is the Ruger KP93DAO and Taurus Millennium, and a typical revolver is the Smith & Wesson Model 640 "Chief's Special". All pistols in this category have a long, heavy trigger pull for all shots.

Pre-set triggers are only on autoloading pistols. In this case the pistol mechanism is always partially cocked while being carried and during firing. The partially-cocked firing pin or striker is not cocked enough to cause an accidental release to discharge a cartridge, adding to the safeness of the design, but is cocked enough to remove much of the trigger pull and weight of a purely double-action pistol. These types of pistols do not have external hammers and do not generally have a decock function. Common pistols in the category are the Springfield Armory XD and the various forms of the extremely popular Glock. The trigger pull of these guns is between double-action and single-action pistols. Pre-set triggers may or may not have a second-strike feature on a dud cartridge.

Some automatic pistol models such as the HK Heckler & Koch USP (Universal Self-loading Pistol) come in a variety of mechanism types and can be easily changed by a gunsmith for both left- and right-handed shooters and for different operating mechanism and safety features.

Advantages of pistols

In comparison to longer guns such as shoulder weapons (rifles and shotguns), pistols are smaller, lighter, easier to conceal, and faster to bring to bear. Another important tactical consideration, in the context of civilian self-defense, is that an attacker in close quarters with the defender can more easily wrestle a shoulder weapon's muzzle to a position where it is not covering him, and can more easily wrestle the gun away from the defender, whereas a handgun offers little to grab, and is more likely to still be covering some portion of the attacker during the struggle.

Disadvantages of pistols

Generally being a self-defense weapon for use under 50 metres, most handgun bullets neither have the energy nor the accuracy of a bullet shot from a rifle or shotgun.

Pistols and gun politics

Smaller pistols are easily concealed on a person—a trait that is particularly useful to people wishing to carry a handgun for self-protection or for criminals wishing to bear arms. Larger handguns, including many hunting pistols, are often much longer and thus less concealable. For these reasons, handguns are a particular focus of debates on gun politics, and in many jurisdictions their ownership is much more heavily regulated than long arms.

In the United States, 48 states allow some form of concealed carry by citizens meeting training or other requirements. 39 of these states, called "shall-issue" states, require issue of a permit if there is no compelling reason not to issue a permit (such as a prior felony conviction, a restraining order, or history of mental illness). Generally, in a shall issue state, if a person cannot obtain a concealed weapons permit once training requirements are met, that person also cannot lawfully own a firearm. The remaining 9 states, called "may-issue" states, may deny a permit for any reason, usually at the discretion of local law enforcement.

In the United States, a person must be 21 years of age to purchase a handgun or ammunition intended for a handgun from a Federally licensed dealer, which is higher than the age requirement of 18 for rifles and shotguns.

In the United Kingdom, civillian ownership of almost any pistol has been outlawed since the Dunblane massacre of 1996; the only exclustion were single shot rimfire and muzzleloading pistols; all cartridge firearms were later banned in 1997. Air pistols are still legal, however, those with power levels over 6 foot pounds (half the limit for air rifles) are classified as firearms.

See the main gun politics article or the article on concealed carry in particular for more details on this debate.

Other related info

In the 1780s, Alessandro Volta built a toy electric pistol ([1]) in which an electric spark caused the explosion of a mixture of air and hydrogen, firing a cork from the end of the gun.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:

External links


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Heckler & Koch

Heckler & Koch

Heckler & Koch GmbH
Type Public
Founded 1949
Headquarters Oberndorf am Neckar, Germany
Key people Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, founders
Industry Defense
Products Firearms, weapons
Employees 700 (December 2002)

Heckler & Koch GmbH (H&K) (pronunciation see [1]) is a German weapons manufacturing company famous for various series of small firearms, notably the MP5 submachine gun, the MP7 personal defense weapon, USP series handguns, high-precision PSG1 sniper rifle, and the G3 and G36 assault rifles. Heckler & Koch are known for the extreme precision, durability, reliability and accuracy of their firearms. All firearms made by H&K are named by a prefix and the official designation, with postfixes used for variants.

Heckler & Koch has a history of innovations in small arms, such as the use of polymers. Most believe that Austrian company Glock were the first firearms manufacturer to use polymers in their pistols, however it was Heckler & Koch who actually claimed that title when they released the VP70 pistol in 1970. Heckler & Koch also developed modern polygonal rifling, noted for its high accuracy and increased muzzle velocity and barrel life. Not all of its technologically ambitious designs have resulted in successful products (for instance, the advanced but now abandoned G11 assault rifle). HK produces the whole range of small arms, from pistols to grenades and machine guns. In its extensive product range, HK has used most of the operating systems for small arms: blowback, short-recoil, roller-delayed blowback, gas-delayed blowback, and gas-operated. All of their firearm models have achieved reputations for excellent accuracy and reliability, however, their high price tag has somewhat offset their popularity in the civilian market.



HK was founded by Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch, and Alex Seidel in 1949 from the remnants of Mauser, and the company was registered in 1950. In the beginning, the company produced sewing machine parts and other fine mechanics, but this changed in 1956 when the company constructed a rifle for the Bundeswehr (Federal German Army). In 1991 in the wake of the cancellation of the G41 and G11 rifles, H&K was bought by British Aerospace's Royal Ordnance division. Their major contribution to weaponry since then was the modification of the SA-80 rifle for the British Army, clearing up a number of issues, and the development of the the lightweight carbon fiber–reinforced polymer assault rifle G36, the current main service rifle of the Bundeswehr and numerous other military and police forces. In 2002 BAE Systems, as it was by now known, resold HK to a German group (H&K Beteiligungs-GmbH) that was created for this purpose.

The company is located in Oberndorf in the state of Baden-Württemberg, but also has a subsidiary in the United States. The company slogan is: "In a world of compromise, some don't". The slogan emphasizes that HK aims to incorporate accuracy, reliability, and ergonomics into their designs without sacrificing one over the other. Because of this paradigm many fans feel that HK is the world's premiere firearm manufacturer. This idea is supported by the fact that Heckler & Koch provides firearms for many of the world's elite military and paramilitary units, like the Special Air Service, U.S. Navy SEALs, FBI HRT, the German KSK and GSG 9 and countless other counter terrorist and hostage rescue teams.

HK has been contracted by the U.S. Army to produce the kinetic energy subsystem (see: kinetic projectiles or kinetic energy penetrator) of the Objective Individual Combat Weapon, a planned replacement for the M16/M203 grenade launcher combination. OICW will fire both 5.56 mm bullets and 25 mm grenades. The kinetic component was also developed separately as the XM8, though both the OICW and XM8 are now indefinitely suspended.

HK is also contracted to refurbish the SA80 range of weapons for the British Army.

Recently, H&K developed an improved version of the United States issued M4 rifle, called the H&K 416. H&K replaced the impingement gas system used by the Stoner design on the original M16 platform with a piston system. At this date, there is only rumors and speculation as to whether or not the rifle will be adopted by the US Forces.

HK sells its pistols in the United States to both the civilian and law enforcement market. In 2004 H&K was awarded a major handgun contract by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) , worth a potential $26.2 million for up to 65,000 pistols. This contract ranks as the single largest handgun procurement contract in US law enforcement history. Many HK civilian rifles that were briefly sold in the United States now command a high value on the secondary market. HK firearms are often seen as a status symbol among American gun owners due to their quality, scarcity, and high price tag.

Notable Heckler & Koch designs or families

See also List of Heckler & Koch products

Short List of Heckler & Koch abbreviations

(Format: Abbreviation = German Text (English Text))

  • A = Ausführung ("Version") [2]
  • G = Gewehr ("Rifle")
  • K = Either Kurz ("Short") for pistols and submachine guns or Karabiner ("Carbine") for rifles and assault rifles.
  • AG = Either stands for Anbau-Gerät ("Attached Device") or Anbaugranatwerfer ("Attached Grenade Launcher")
  • GMG = Granatmaschinengewehr (Grenade machine gun)
  • GMW = Granatmaschinenwerfer (Automatic Grenade Launcher)
  • MG = Maschinengewehr ("Machinegun")
  • MP = Maschinenpistole ("Submachinegun")
  • PSG = Präzisions-Schützen-Gewehr ("Precision Marksman's Rifle")
  • SD = Schalldämpfer ("Sound dampened", in the case of the MP5 having an integral silencer, in the case of the USP, an extended threaded barrel for attaching a silencer)
  • SG = Schützen-Gewehr ("Marksman's Rifle")
  • UMP = Universal-Maschinenpistole ("Universal Machine Pistol")
  • UCP = Ultimate Combat Pistol
  • USP = Universal-Selbstladepistole ("Universal Self-loading Pistol")
  • ZF = Zielfernrohr ("Telescopic Sight")

See also

External links


  1. ^ HKPro - How do you correctly pronounce "Koch?"
  2. ^ HKPro - definition of 'A' designation

Wednesday, January 17, 2007



Boxes of ammunition clog a warehouse in Baghdad
Boxes of ammunition clog a warehouse in Baghdad

Ammunition is a generic term meaning (the assembly of) a projectile and its propellant. It is derived through French from the Latin munire (to provide). See also munition.



  • Small projectiles, like those fired from rifles and handguns (collectively known as small arms), are called bullets.
  • A "round" is a single unit of ammunition; for small arms this is the combination of bullet, propellant, primer and cartridge case.
  • Large caliber guns often fire explosive-filled projectiles known as shells, the equivalent non-explosive projectile is a shot (see artillery).
  • Large numbers of small projectiles intended to be fired all at once in a single discharge are also called shot; hand-held guns designed for this type of ammunition are generally known as shotguns.
  • Duds are ammunition that fail to work as intended.

General information

The design of the ammunition is determined by its purpose; anti-personnel ammunition is often designed to break up or tumble inside the target, in order to maximize the damage done. Anti-personnel shells contain shrapnel and are designed to explode in mid-air, so its fragments will spread over a large area. Armor-piercing ammunition tends to be hard, sharp, and narrow, often with lubrication. Incendiary projectiles include a material such as white phosphorus which burns fiercely. Tracer ammunition emits light as it travels, allowing the gunner to see the path of bullets in flight while using a machine gun.

Popular types of military rifle and machine-gun ammunition include the 5.45 mm, 5.56 mm, and 7.62 mm. Main battle tanks use KE-penetrators to combat other MBTs and armoured fighting vehicles, and HE-Frag (High Explosive-Fragmentation) for soft targets such as infantry.

Ammunition, particularly that of small arms, is specified by an extremely wide range of designations derived from metric and English measurements, commercial firms' private systems, and the different requirements of armies of different countries. German firms in the late twentieth century have decided to make "all-metric" ammunition, a refinement of existing designs.

Match-grade ammunition is of exceptional quality and consistency, intended for target-shooting competition.

The components of ammunition intended for rifles and ordnance may be divided into these categories:


Historical (circa World War I)

These general conditions apply to the storage of ammunition in fortresses. Here the positions for the magazine and ammunition stores are so chosen as to afford the best means of protection from an enemy's fire. Huge earth parapets cover these buildings, which are further strengthened, where possible, by traverses protecting the entrances. For the purpose of filling, emptying, and examining cannon cartridges and shell, a laboratory is generally provided at some distance from the magazine. The various stores for explosives are classified into those under magazine conditions (such as magazines, laboratories, and cartridge stores) and those with which these restrictions need not be observed (such as ammunition and shell stores). The interior walls of a magazine are lined, and the floors laid so that there may be no exposed iron or steel. At the entrance, there is a lobby or barrier, inside which persons about to enter the magazine change their clothes for a special suit, and their boots for a pair made without nails. In an ammunition or shell store these precautions need not be taken except where the shell store and the adjacent cartridge store have a common entrance; persons entering may do so in their ordinary clothes. A large work may have a main magazine and several subsidiary magazines, from which the stock of cartridges is renewed in the cartridge stores attached to each group of guns or in the expense cartridge stores and cartridge recesses. The same applies to main ammunition stores which supply the shell stores, expense stores, and recesses.

The supply of ammunition are either for guns forming the movable armament or for guns placed in permanent positions. The movable armament will consist of guns and howitzers of small and medium caliber, and it is necessary to arrange suitable expense cartridge stores and shell stores close to the available positions. They can generally be constructed to form part of the permanent work in the projected face of traverses or other strong formations, and should be arranged for a twenty-four hour supply of ammunition. These stores are refilled from the main magazine every night under cover of darkness. Light railways join the various positions. The guns mounted in permanent emplacements are divided into groups of two or three guns each, and usually each group will require but one calibre of ammunition. A cartridge store, shell store and a general store, all well ventilated, are arranged for the especial service of such a group of guns. In the cartridge store the cylinders containing the cartridges are so placed and labeled that the required charge, whether reduced or full, can be immediately selected.

In the shell store the common shell are separated from the armour-piercing or shrapnel. Each nature of projectile is painted in a distinctive manner to render identification easy. The fuzes and tubes are placed in the general store with the tools and accessories belonging to the guns. The gun group is distinguished by some letter and the guns of the group by numerals; thus A/1 is number one gun of group A. The magazine and shell stores are also indicated by the group letter, and so that mistakes, even by those unaccustomed to the fort, may be avoided, the passages are pointed out by finger posts and direction boards. For the immediate service of each gun, a few cartridges and projectiles are stored in small receptacles (called cartridge and shell recesses respectively) built in the parapet as near the gun position as practicable. In some cases, a limited number of projectiles may be placed close underneath the parapet if this is conveniently situated near the breech of the gun and not exposed to hostile fire.

In order to supply the ammunition sufficiently rapidly for the efficient service of modern guns, hydraulic, electric, or hand-power, hoists are employed to raise the cartridges and shell from the cartridge store and shell store to the gun floor, whence they are transferred to a derrick or loading tray attached to the mounting for loading the gun.

Projectiles for BL guns above 6 inch (152 mm) calibre are stored in shell stores ready filled and fuzed standing on their bases, except shrapnel and high-explosive shell, which are fuzed only when about to be used. Smaller sizes of shells are laid on their sides in layers, each layer pointing in the opposite direction to the one below to prevent injury to the driving bands. Cartridges are stored in brass corrugated cases or in zinc cylinders. The corrugated cases are stacked in layers in the magazine with the mouth of the case towards a passage between the stacks, so that it can be opened and the cartridges removed and transferred to a leather case when required for transport to the gun. Cylinders are stacked, when possible, vertically one above the other. The charges are sent to the gun in these cylinders, and provision is made for the rapid removal of the empty cylinders.

The number and nature of rounds allotted to any fortress depends on questions of policy and location, the degrees of resistance the nature of the works and personnel could reasonably be expected to give, and finally on the nature of the armament. That is to say, for guns of large calibre three hundred to four hundred rounds per gun might be sufficient, while for light QF guns it might amount to one thousand or more rounds per gun.

Modern era

Modern ammunition includes not only shells for tube artillery and mortars, but increasingly aircraft-delivered bombs, smart bombs, rockets and other explosive-bearing projectiles. The destructive power and lethality of these systems is difficult to appreciate. A single cluster bomb, deliverable by any of the above systems, can sow grenade-sized bomblets across a 100 yard (90 m) football-sized field in sufficient density to kill any persons present, even in trenches and wearing body armor.

See ammo dump for discussion of modern ammunition storage facilities.

Supply of ammunition in the field

With every successive improvement in military arms there has necessarily been a corresponding modification in the method of supplying ammunition and in the quantity required to be supplied. When hand-to-hand weapons were the principal implements of battle, there was no such need. But in the Middle Ages, the archers and crossbowmen had to replenish the shafts and bolts expended in action, and during a siege, stone bullets of great size, as well as heavy arrows, were freely used. The missiles of those days were however interchangeable, and at the battle of Towton (1461), part of the War of the Roses, the commander of the Yorkist archers induced the enemy to fire arrows in order to obtain them for firing back. This interchangeability of war material was even possible for many centuries after the invention of firearms. At the battle of Liegnitz (1760) a general officer was specially commissioned by Frederick the Great to pack up and send away, for Prussian use, all the muskets and ammunition left on the field of battle by the defeated Austrians.

Captured material is utilized whenever possible at the present time. In the First Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese went so far as to prepare beforehand spare parts for the Chinese guns they expected to capture. Though it is rare to find a modern army trusting to captures for arms and ammunition; almost the only instance of the practice is that of the Chilean Civil War (1891) in which the army of one belligerent was almost totally dependent upon this means of replenishing stores of arms and cartridges. But what was possible with weapons of comparatively rough make is no longer to be thought of in the case of modern arms.

The Lee-Metford bullet of 0.303 inch (7.7 mm) diameter can scarcely be used in a rifle of smaller caliber, and in general the minute accuracy of parts in modern weapons makes interchangeability almost impossible. Further, owing to the rapidity with which, in modern arms, ammunition is expended, and the fact that, as battles are fought at longer ranges than formerly, more shots have to be fired in order to inflict heavy losses, it is necessary that the reserves of ammunition should be as close as possible to the troops who have to use them. This was always the case even with the older firearms, as, owing to the great weight of the ammunition, the soldier could only carry a few rounds. Nevertheless it is only within the past seventy years that there has grown up the elaborate system of ammunition supply which now prevails in all regularly organized armies. That which is described in the present article is the British, as laid down in the official Combined Training (1905) and other manuals. The new system designed for stronger divisions, and others, vary only in details and nomenclature.

Ammunition for infantry

Ammunition for infantry refers to the ammunition carried by a typical foot (infantry) soldier. Someone serving in the infantry generally carries, in pouches, bandoliers, etc., one hundred rounds of small-arms ammunition (S.A.A.), and it is usual to supplement this, when an action is imminent, from the regimental reserve (see below). Like any trade, the proper tools are necessary for the task at hand. Infantry need to be provided with the weapons and ammunition to deal with the expected threat, be it another foot soldier, a mounted warrior, armoured vehicle or aircraft.


Every reduction in the caliber (size) of the rifle's ammunition means an increase in the number of rounds carried. One hundred rounds of the Martini-Henry ammunition weighed 10 pounds 10 ounces (4.8 kg); the same weight gives 155 rounds of 0.303 in (7.7 mm) ammunition and at 0.256 in (6.5 mm) the number of rounds is still greater. The regimental reserves were historically carried in six S.A.A. carts and on eight pack animals. The six carts are distributed, one as reserve to the machine gun, three as reserve to the battalion itself, and two as part of the brigade reserve, which consists therefore of eight carts. The brigade reserve communicates directly with the brigade ammunition columns of the artillery (see below). The eight pack animals follow the eight companies of their battalion. These, with two out of the three battalion carts, endeavour to keep close to the firing line, the remaining cart being with the reserve companies. Men also are employed as carriers, and this duty is so onerous that picked men only are detailed. Gallantry displayed in bringing up ammunition is considered indeed to justify special rewards. The amount of S.A.A. in regimental charge is 100 rounds in the possession of each soldier, 2000 to 2200 on each pack animal, and 16,000 to 17,600 in each of four carts, with, in addition, about 4000 rounds with the machine gun and 16,000 more in the fifth cart.

Current small arms ammunition

Currently, every army of an internationally recognized country (except those who rely on others for defense, such as Andorra, and those that do not have a true army, such as the Vatican City) has adopted assault rifles as the main infantry weapon.

In western (NATO) forces, the 7.62 mm NATO round has been mostly replaced by the lighter 5.56 mm NATO round, which is better suited for automatic fire than the larger round and allows each soldier to carry more ammunition. The larger caliber ammunition is still retained where range and weight of shot is important eg machine guns and sniper rifles.

Other nations, especially forces with former ties to the Soviet Union tend to use rifles related to or devleoped from the AK-47 with similar sized rounds to the NATO ones. In 7.62x39mm and 5.45x39mm for assault rifles and 7.62x54R for sniper rifles and light machine guns.


The tank made horse mounted cavalry obsolete and while an infantryman could deal with a horse-borne enemy new weapons were needed to damage a tank or other vehicle or penetrate and wound the crew. The first anti-tank weapons given to infantry were based on small arms, for example the anti-tank rifle. As even the lighter designs of tank carried more armour the limit of a man-portable rifle that could fire a round with sufficient kinetic energy to penetrate the armour was reached. The introduction of the shaped charge warhead gave the infantry a weapon that used chemical energy rather than kinetic to beat the armour and in a focussed way which made them more effective than large grenades. When propelled by a rocket, the shaped charge gained range as well. Weapons such as the Bazooka or Panzerfaust were never small but they were suitable for infantry use - though they often had to be used at close range where they could be aimed accurately at the vehicles weak points. Post World War 2, the advent of the missile delivered both great range and accuracy and provided infantry with a weapon that could reliably destroy the heaviest tanks at long distances.


Today's infantryman can deploy sophisticated multi-spectral man-portable surface-to-air missiles equipped with the ability to reject decoys and defeat counter-measures. In Somalia it was demonstrated that slow moving/stationary aircraft at low altitudes could be defeated with unguided anti-armour infantry weapons. It is also true that aircraft are relatively delicate machines, filled with highly flammable fuel, and since their first usage in World War I a plane can be brought down by single bullet striking something vital. The main weaknesses of ammunition provided to infantry to deal with aircraft are limited range and small warheads, both due to the necessity that such weapons remain portable by men on foot. The premier SAM for infantry is the FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defence System), provided as an all-up round in a canister it is attached to a launcher unit and is ready to expend. Numerous other missiles in this class exist from different nations of origin. Infantry machine guns and rifles may improve their ability against aircraft by utilising tracer ammunition, to allow the aimer to better gauge the lead aim necessary to strike his target. Weapons developed primarily for anti-tank roles can add proximity fusing to increase the probability of a kill by having the warhead detonate nearby the target without having to make contact.

Large weapon ammunition

See Main article, Shell (projectile), for information on the various types of shell and shot.

Modern artillery ammunition is generally of two types: separate loading and semi-fixed. Semi-fixed ammunition (rounds) appear in the form of a projectile mated with a cartridge case which contains the propellant and they resemble small arms rounds.

The canister is outfitted with a primer on its base which fires upon contact from the firing pin. Gunpowder, precision machined to burn evenly, is contained inside of cloth bags that are numbered. US/NATO 105 mm howitzers use semi-fixed ammunition, containing seven powder bags referred to as increments or charges. Putting the powder in bags allows the howitzer crew to remove the increments when firing at closer targets. The unused increments are disposed of by burning in a powder pit at a safe distance from the guns.

Above a certain size, semi-fixed rounds are impracticable; the weight of the whole assembly is too much to be carried effectively. In this case separate loading ammunition is used: the projectile and propelling charge are supplied and loaded separately. The projectile is rammed home in the chamber, the powder charge(s) are loaded (usually by hand), then the breech is closed and the primer is inserted into the primer holder on the back the breech. Separate loading ammunition is typically used on 155 mm and larger howitzers. Several propellant types are available for 155 mm howitzer.

All normal projectiles arrive at the weapon with a plug in the fuze well on the nose of the projectile. Using a special fuze wrench, the plug is unscrewed and a fuze is screwed in. The decision as to which type of fuze to use is made by the fire direction center and carried out by the gun crew.

The armaments fitted to early tanks were contemporary field or naval artillery pieces and used the same ammunition. When tank versus tank combat became more important, the trend became that anti-aircraft artillery pieces (designed to fire high velocity shells to altitude) were often adapted to tank use where a gun specifically made for the vehicle was not available. As the armour applied to tanks increased, ammunition for tank use paralleled that of anti-tank guns. Current tank gun ammunition is a single fixed round ("shell" and charge combined in a single piece) for quick load, the charge is in a combustible case - so there is no empty cartridge to be removed and stored in the turret and the "shell" is a saboted shot, a shaped charge or sensor fuzed warhead.

Naval ammunition

The ranges at which engagements are conducted by warships are typically much greater than that at which land warfare is observed. The targets are also generally machines, not men. Naval ammunition is therefore optimized for great velocity (to reach those great ranges, to hit aircraft flying at altitude and also with the benefit of reducing the lead that has to be applied to hit a distant moving target) and to disable said machines, rather than rending human flesh. Naval gun ammunition of WWII vintage came in two main varieties, armour piercing shells to attack hardened warships or high explosive incendiary shells (with point detonating fuzes to start fires on ships, or mechanical time fuzes designed to fragment and create clouds of shrapnel to defeat aircraft). With the demise of the armoured warship, contemporary naval gun ammunition is solely the high explosive variety, but new fuzing and guidance options are available to increase lethality, especially against high speed missile or aircraft threats.


Common artillery fuses include point detonating, delay, time, and proximity (variable time). Point detonating fuses detonate upon contact with the ground. Delay fuzes are designed to penetrate a short distance before detonating. Time fuzes, as the name implies, detonate a certain time after being fired in order to achieve an air burst above the target. Time fuzes are set to the tenth of a second. Proximity or variable time fuzes contain a simple radio transceiver activated a set time after firing to detonate the projectile when the signal reflected from the ground reaches a certain strength, designed to be 7 meters above the ground. Fuses are armed by the rotation of the projectile imparted by the rifling in the tube, and usually arm after a few hundred rotations.

See also


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