Long post on long guns

hawk18hawk18 Senior MemberPosts: 735 Senior Member
I was stationed aboard the USS Davidson in the early 1970's. It was a Distroyer Escort, DE-1045, commissioned in 1964. We carried, among other things, two 5" 38 mounts. One forward, one aft. This is an email I received from a former gunnery officer on Davidson. Sorry for its length and maybe I should have posted it in Personal Defense.

Jerry, note the last paragraph.

Hawk


The particular guns we had on our ship were built at Northern Ordnance in 1938, which is in present day Blaine Minnesota. (that was the date that was on the metal identification tag riveted to the gun).
The designation for naval ordnance was 38 times 5" for barrel length or 15. 8 feet. This gun had a range of 17,000 nautical yards with regular ammunition which is just over 9 land miles. Post WW 2 found the addition of RAP (rocket assist projectiles) which had a rocket booster pack on the base of the projectile which could add 6000 yards to the shell's range when I reached the azimuth of its trajectory. It should be mentioned that these specific rounds were available; however, were not carried in great numbers because of their infrequent and unique application. The 5" 54's had barrels 22.5 feet in length and were supposed to fire their 75 pound projectile 26,000 yards. There were 6" 47's (135 pound projectile) on the light cruisers off shore with us, 8" 55's on the Newport News (265 pound projectile) (last all gun cruiser in the Navy at that time) and the WW 2 battle ships of a bygone era (however Reagan brought 4 back into service in the 1980's) with their 16" 50's (firing projectiles 23 miles down range that weighed 2600 pounds).

The 5" 38 was first introduced to the fleet in 1935 as a dual purpose gun the could engage surface targets (surface craft, NGFS and aerial targets) with a rapid rate of fire for guns of this size. The weapon could fire a multitude of ordnance which included Armor Piercing, HE (high explosive), HE point detonation, HE MTF (mechanical time fuze), VT frag, Able Able common, anti aircraft, Window, Illumination rounds (star shells for lighting up the targeted area), White Phosphorus (chemical round).

Forward Observers (spotters) would prefer the 5" 38's because they were reliable and not prone to malfunctions at critical times which could cost the FO his life. We routinely sustained 20 rounds per minute when engaging targets where rapid sustained fire (for a short duration of time) was needed to accomplish the mission. A typical 5" 38 round weighed 57 pounds with a power charge weighing about 30 pounds in a brass casing with a primer in the rear base center. These rounds were hydraulically rammed into the breach and rifling; however, if the rammer became disabled or the rammer spade broke off from fatigued metal (which happened on several occasions during our deployment but was repaired in a reasonably short time by welders aboard) then the crew manning the gun mount could "hand ram" the powder and projectiles to get the rounds on target but at a maximum rate of 4 to 5 rounds per minute.

The same gun 5" 38 was carried in twin mounts aboard late WW 2 destroyers, Essex class aircraft carriers and as secondary batteries on cruisers and battleships. The advantage in this configuration was spare parts on the second gun as well as the ability to deliver more ordnance on target in a shorter amount of time.

Age really has nothing to do with function or with accuracy. Look at the Air Force's weapon system of the B-52. It was first introduced in 1953 and is expected to be carried in our inventory possibly to 2040. It still gets the job done.

Replies

  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    Do the 5" 38's require fresh ammo or are the old shells as reliable as the old guns?
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 14,974 Senior Member
    What a great post!
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • jaywaptijaywapti Senior Member Posts: 4,506 Senior Member
    Thanks for posting the letter, very informative for those of us that dont know the Navy's jargon for big guns.

    JAY
    THE DEFINITION OF GUN CONTROL IS HITTING THE TARGET WITH YOUR FIRST SHOT
  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 14,974 Senior Member
    For another longish read...check out this PDF about what went on when the BBs were reactivated in 87....excellent insight into the internal ballistics of the 16" 50 cal, pressure curves etc...also the issues involved with a gun system that has been sitting idle for 30 some years....



    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a183947.pdf&ved=0ahUKEwjaivKf5_bWAhVFKiYKHT0SDisQFggpMAA&usg=AOvVaw18VrxoOjiSThBEtpZzo0kt
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • NNNN Senior Member Posts: 23,942 Senior Member
    :usa:

    Semper Fi and thank you crew of the USS Davidson.

    :usa:
    A Veteran is someone that served in the Military, it does not matter where they served.
  • hawk18hawk18 Senior Member Posts: 735 Senior Member
    early wrote: »
    Do the 5" 38's require fresh ammo or are the old shells as reliable as the old guns?

    In '71 and '72 we were still shooting WW II ammo. Sometime in '72, it switched to newer stuff. (Changed from brass powder casings to steel alloy) There was no change in reliability or accuracy.

    As a side note. We saved all the brass and used it to pay for having the ship exterior painted while anchored in Hong Kong. China Mary and her girls painted the entire ship in two days. American sailors were not allowed to work outside the skin of the ship while in Hong Kong harbor. Had to keep the ChiCom happy.

    Hawk
  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    Wow, had to have been some serious brass.

    According to what I read, some guys on the Normandy beaches were real thankful for Navy guns.
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • snake284snake284 Senior Member Posts: 21,834 Senior Member
    hawk18 wrote: »
    In '71 and '72 we were still shooting WW II ammo. Sometime in '72, it switched to newer stuff. (Changed from brass powder casings to steel alloy) There was no change in reliability or accuracy.

    As a side note. We saved all the brass and used it to pay for having the ship exterior painted while anchored in Hong Kong. China Mary and her girls painted the entire ship in two days. American sailors were not allowed to work outside the skin of the ship while in Hong Kong harbor. Had to keep the ChiCom happy.

    Hawk

    thought Hong Konk was still a British protectorate until the 90s?
    Daddy, what's an enabler?
    Son that's somebody with nothing to do with his time but keep me in trouble with mom.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 25,961 Senior Member
    early wrote: »
    Do the 5" 38's require fresh ammo or are the old shells as reliable as the old guns?

    Don't know about the 5"-38s or 5"-54's, but for the 3"-50 twin mounts on my ship there was a lot of old WWII vintage ammo shot, as well as more recent vintage. And the ammo was three grades as it were, and segregated by lot number. Some lot numbers shot with higher accuracy than others. We had the 'good stuff' that was hoarded for the unlikely case that we'd have to fire it at someone, there was the slightly less accurate stuff that was next in line for when/if we ran out of the good stuff in any unlikely battle, and then there was the 'plinking ammo' that wasn't all that accurate or consistent that was used for live fire training. I sort of suspect that the 5" rounds were the same as to lot numbers, and hoarded, or not, accordingly.

    Cleaning those things, no matter what size, was not a lot of fun. The gunner's mates had the fun job, yelling and cussing the guys running the huge ramrod and assorted swabs and brushes in and out of the bore. And to think I heard guys having a hissy fit cleaning M16s later in the Guard! :rotflmao:
    Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.


  • JayhawkerJayhawker Moderator Posts: 14,974 Senior Member
    Makes you wonder how much of that stuff is in storage. Last year the government was looking for someone to demil 15,000 16" projectiles... There has to be a huge amount of the smaller stuff out there...
    Sharps Model 1874 - "The rifle that made the west safe for Winchester"
  • earlyearly Senior Member Posts: 4,950 Senior Member
    Sounds like the gunners had a good handle on what ammo was what. Hoppes by the 55 gallon drum :tooth:
    My thoughts are generally clear. My typing, not so much.
  • tennmiketennmike Senior Member Posts: 25,961 Senior Member
    Jayhawker wrote: »
    Makes you wonder how much of that stuff is in storage. Last year the government was looking for someone to demil 15,000 16" projectiles... There has to be a huge amount of the smaller stuff out there...

    Speaking 3" and up, there's probably a whole bunch of it. I 'think' the 5" and 8" new rapid fire guns use a different 'cartridge' than the older ones. And I bet there's bunch of 20mm and 30mm AA ammo lying about somewhere in some old magazines. The new 20mm, 25mm, and 30mm use the 'new and improved' rounds.
    Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.


  • hawk18hawk18 Senior Member Posts: 735 Senior Member
    thought Hong Konk was still a British protectorate until the 90s?

    It was, but, the British were already bending to the pressure of the inevitable. Hong Kong could only be used as a R and R port. When we arrived, we had been at sea for 60 days. I didn't rest much but it was relaxing.

    Hawk
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