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Do batttleship guns still use black powder?

Discussion in 'Blackpowder' started by rajb123, May 24, 2012.

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  1. rajb123

    rajb123 member

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    ...I guess most of our battle ships in the USA have been taken out of service since they are volnerable to attacks from subs but a few are still around; right?

    I believe they used to fire their guns using black powder propellant. Is this true today or is a smokless alternative used?
     
  2. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Without referencing Norman Friedman's book on Naval Firepower, smokeless powder was used starting in the late 1800s. The USS Maine blew up because it's powder deteriorated and became volatile. At the most, black powder would be limited to primers for the big guns.
     
  3. junkman_01

    junkman_01 member

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    At present the US Navy has no battleships in active service. Big naval guns firing bagged powder and projectile do use duplex loads to get things going. Larger naval guns retained bag charges in guns of 8in or above - for reasons including the handling of +200lb projectiles and +50lb charges.
     
  4. BADUNAME30

    BADUNAME30 Member

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    Now that is a real cool question !!
    I can't answer it but i sure know that it is one beautifull sight to see them belch that yeller fire and all that smoke when they go off.

    Here's a link to a lot of info on these guns but i can't find where they specificaly name the propellent.

    http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNUS_16-50_mk7.htm
     
  5. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Yep, unfortunately all our battleships have been retired. Although I think there are two or three that are still in good enough condition to be refitted. Which is what the Marine Corps wants. I also think the US was the last to decommission its battleships. The big guns have given way to missiles and fighters. Which is a shame. Maybe some of those trillions Obama has wasted on other things would've been better spent refitting our battleships???
     
  6. rajb123

    rajb123 member

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    So Gary:

    The WW2 TV and movie shots with firing guns from the battleships were stoked with smokeless powder?

    For smokeless propellant they sure did smoke em?

    I thought I read somewhere that the battleship guns were breach loaded first with the projectile followed by bags of powder that weighed a couple hundred pounds. Apparently, the big pill went up to 20 miles or so.....

    WOW!
     
  7. junkman_01

    junkman_01 member

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    You did read it somewhere....in post #3.
     
  8. Shultzhaus

    Shultzhaus Member

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    I believe they use 90Lb. sacks of stuff called cordite. Loads were adjusted according to the projectile used. General purpose shells were 1900 Lbs., armour piercing were 2700 Lbs. (in 16" guns). The navy called them naval rifles, not artillery. Maybe we have some retired navy chief on this forum that can edit me and set things straight.
     
  9. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    Cordite and other nitro-cellulose powders were used during both World Wars. The trouble is they produced both smoke and flash (thanks to the huge volume of powder involved). The Imperial Japanese Navy did something that reduced their flash signature immensely and this gave them an edge in night fighting. In fact, the Japanese would initiate their night attacks with long lance torpedoes and would only fire their guns after the torpedoes hit our ships.

    Back on topic, smokeless was adapted about 1889 by the Royal Navy. As chemistry was an imperfect science, the nitrogen would sweat out, rendering it highly volatile. Hence several ships were lost to non-combat related magazine explosions. For more reading see Appendix A of Norman Freidman's book, Naval Firepower[/].
     
  10. CraigC
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    CraigC Member

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    Last I remember hearing the range was more like 65miles.
     
  11. Marlin 45 carbine

    Marlin 45 carbine Member

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    cordite is the 'powder' used. it has a tubular shape as a long 'stick powder'. BP is used as the igniter. accuracy depends on conditions such as weather, range, proficiency of spotter, waves and other factors. ideal conditions a football field at 30 ms is possible but generally around 20 ms is effective range but max range is much further than that.
     
  12. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    Howdy

    Calling it a duplex load is a bit of a stretch, but that is the general idea.

    Many large caliber cannons use what is called an initiator to help get the Smokeless powder burning. The very large grains of extruded powder used in large caliber artillery shells are a bit more difficult to ignite than the types of powders we use in small arms. So a Black Powder initiator is often used, because Black Powder is very easy to ignite. In self contained artillery shells, the initiator is often a perforated tube running up the center of the 'cartridge'. The tube is filled with Black Powder, or some other highly volatile material. When the primer of the shell is struck, it ignites the initiator, which in turn ignites the main charge.

    The Navy's 16" guns use 40 pound bags of extruded stick powder. The individual grains are almost as large around as a pencil. Since this powder is relatively difficult to ignite, the last bag in the stack has a pouch filled with Black Powder sewn at the rear. The normal charge for the Navy's 16" guns is four forty pound bags of powder. The bags are made of silk, so they completely combust in the gun. The shell is rammed into place by a mechanical ram, then the bags of powder are placed on the ram and gently shoved into the breech. Bad things can happen if they are rammed in too quickly. The last bag has the BP initiator at the rear. The actual primer used to fire these guns is about the size of a 38 Special cartridge. When the primer is struck, it ignites the Black Powder first, which then ignites the 160 pounds of Smokeless.

    One of the reasons Goex is still in business is they are the only supplier of Black Powder made in the USA. Remember, BP is not just used in the 16" Naval guns, smaller shells have a BP initiator in them too.
     
  13. DoubleTapDrew

    DoubleTapDrew Member

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  14. Pancho

    Pancho Member

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    The Navy is full of tradition a lot of it lost in time and research. Such as, I've read there are no cannons on a ship just guns. I don't know why but that's what I've read multiple times.
     
  15. Carl N. Brown

    Carl N. Brown Member

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    The old war movie "Sink the Bismarck!" has several scenes inside a battleship 15-inch gun turret showing ramming the shell in the breech, then ramming one, then two what appear to 200 lb powder bags the size of duffle bags, and swinging the huge interrupted thread beech plug in place.

    As I recall reading, on American battleships, the primer used in the breechplug was a .30-06 blank that fired into a black powder pad at the back of the powderbag which was filled with smokeless powder.
     
  16. Driftwood Johnson

    Driftwood Johnson Member

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    That video is British.

    I toured the Battleship USS Massachusetts in Battleship Cove in New Bedford, Mass a few years ago. The Big Mamie has three turrets with three 16 inch guns in each turret. The only difference between the guns on the USS Massachusetts and the guns on the Iowa class ships is the length of the guns. The Massachusetts and the other ships in its class have guns 45 calibers long, the Iowa class ships have guns 50 calibers long. Measuring gun length by calibers was the standard way to measure big guns. 45 X 16 inches makes the gun 60 feet long. 50 X 16 inches makes the gun 66 2/3 feet long. The longer guns fired slightly heavier shells.

    While in the turret I watched a film of the guns being loaded and fired. Unlike the British video, our ships used a folding slide to load the breech. The gun had to be lowered from firing position to a level position. The slide was folded so the shell could rise up into it. The shells rose up vertically on an elevator from down in the babbette. Once the shell was raised onto the slide, the slide unfolded, rotating the shell to the horizontal. Then the ram shoved the shell into the breech. Powder was stored separately from the shells. Powder bags came up on a separate elevator outside of the turret. There was a pass through for the powder bags into the turret. I distinctly remember the bags weighed 40 pounds. The number of powder bags used could vary to vary the velocity and the trajectory, but they weighed 40 pounds. The last bag had the Black Powder initiator sewn onto the rear. It contained ten pounds of Black Powder. The primer was about the size of a 38 Special cartridge, not a 30-06. Each gun had its own separate compartment and crew, separate from the other two guns in the turret. When the gun recoiled, it recoiled about six feet, so every man had to be in their post in the turret. If the gun had recoiled into a man it would have killed him. The floor of the turret was non sparking aluminum, all the crewmen wore shoes with copper nails, to prevent sparks. And the men handling the powder bags wore protective suits to prevent static sparks. Handling the powder bags was the most dangerous job.
     
  17. twofifty

    twofifty Member

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    According to a couple specialist sites, the velocities and pressures attained
    by US 16" naval rifles were not much different than what a .30-06 produces.
     
  18. Shadow 7D

    Shadow 7D Member

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    Right, but then change the projectile weight buy a *few* orders of magnitude....
     
  19. hawkeye74

    hawkeye74 Member

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    I know nothing about these big weapons, but I do read. The article referenced above Navweapons.com lists different charge weights. Per that article, Full charge was 600-655 lb. charges, half charge 300 lbs or so.

    Was there that much difference between the early 16" guns and the Iowa class guns?
     
  20. spyder1911

    spyder1911 Member

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    The first few minutes of this video shows the loading process of a 16" Naval gun.

    Guess this forum doesn't allow imbedding videos.

    The video is at

    USS Wisconsin
     
  21. CSestp

    CSestp Member

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    Dont know much other than the mighty mo was recommissioned for the gulf war to provide bombardment before the invasion.

    Sent from my MB865 using Tapatalk 2
     
  22. 4v50 Gary

    4v50 Gary Moderator Staff Member

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    The 16" guns of the newer post WW I battleships including the Washingtons, South Dakotas and Iowa class were 50 caliber. The earlier Colorado class (CO, WV and MD) were armed with 16" 45 caliber guns).

    The longer guns had a higher velocity (2,800 fps v 2,600 fps) and longer range over the earlier ones. This came at a price of shorter barrel life and higher expense ($268,000 v $235,000) as well as weight (128 tons v 105 tons). Weight of course comes into play when designers must strike a balance between offensive firepower, armor protection and speed.
     
  23. Auto426

    Auto426 Member

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    The U.S.S. Iowa is the last battleship afloat that hasn't been turned into a museum yet, but it is currently in that process. The U.S. kept it's Iowa class battleships in service much longer than any other nation, who had all decommissioned and/or scrapped theirs by 1960. The U.S. kept the Iowa's in reserve fleets and would pull one or two out whenever the fire support that their big guns could provide was useful for operations close to shore. The Iowa's were present for Korea, Vietnam, and even Operation Desert Storm.

    Battleships are some of the best ships to be on when it comes to withstanding torpedo attacks from subs (at least in WWII). Their size allowed them extra layers of protection from torpedoes, while most smaller ships couldn't afford the space for such protection.

    With the guns elevated to 45 degrees, firing a full charge with a 2,700 lb. Mk. 8 AP shell, range was 42,345 yards. That works out to just a tad over 24 miles. Muzzle velocity was approx. 2,500 fps, and at the 40,000 yard mark the shell would have spent 80 secs in the air.
     
  24. Auto426

    Auto426 Member

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    Note quite.

    The Iowa was the only class to be armed with the 16"/50 Mark 7 guns. The South Dakota's, North Carolina's, and Colorado's were armed with 16"/45 guns of various marks.
     
  25. junkman_01

    junkman_01 member

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    USS Wisconsin BB-64....a BIG ship.

    [​IMG]
     
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