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A quick-firing or rapid-firing gun is an artillery piece, typically a gun or howitzer, which has several characteristics which taken together mean the weapon can fire at a fast rate. Quick-firing was introduced worldwide in the 1880s and 1890s and had a marked impact on war both on land and at sea.
The characteristics of a quick-firing artillery piece are:
These innovations, taken together, meant that the quick-firer could fire aimed shells much more rapidly than an older weapon. For instance, an Elswick Ordnance Company 4.7-inch gun fired 10 rounds in 47.5 seconds in 1887, almost eight times faster than the equivalent 5-inch breech loading gun.
In 1881, the Royal Navy advertised for a quick-firing gun that could fire a minimum of 12 shots per minute. This rate of fire became increasingly important with the development of the first practical torpedoes and torpedo boats, which posed an extreme threat to the Royal Navy's maritime predominance.
The first quick-firing light gun was the 1-inch Nordenfelt gun, built in Britain from 1880. The gun was expressly designed to defend larger warships against the new small fast-moving torpedo boats in the late 1870s to the early 1880s and was an enlarged version of the successful rifle-calibre Nordenfelt hand-cranked "machine gun" designed by Helge Palmcrantz. The gun fired a solid steel bullet with hardened tip and brass jacket.
The gun was used in one-, two-, and four-barrel versions. The ammunition was fed by gravity from a hopper above the breech, subdivided into separate columns for each barrel. The gunner loaded and fired the multiple barrels by moving a lever on the right side of the gun forward and backwards. Pulling the lever backwards extracted the fired cartridges, pushing it forward then loaded fresh cartridges into all the barrels, and the final part of the forward motion fired all the barrels, one at a time in quick succession. Hence the gun functioned as a type of volley gun, firing bullets in bursts, compared to the contemporary Gatling gun and the true machine guns that succeeded it, such as the Maxim gun, which fired at a steady continuous rate.
It was superseded for anti-torpedo boat defence in the mid-1880s by the new generation of Hotchkiss and Nordenfelt "QF" guns of 47 mm and 57 mm calibre, firing exploding "common pointed" shells weighing 3–6 pounds.
The French firm Hotchkiss produced the QF 3 pounder as a light 47 mm naval gun from 1886. The gun was ideal for defending against small fast vessels such as torpedo boats and was immediately adopted by the RN as the "Ordnance QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss".It was built under licence by Elswick Ordnance Company.
The Royal Navy introduced the QF 4.7-inch in HMS Sharpshooter in 1889, and the QF 6-inch MK 1 in HMS Royal Sovereign, launched 1891. Other navies followed suit; the French navy installed quick-firing weapons on its ships completed in 1894–95.
Quick-firing guns were a key characteristic of the pre-dreadnought battleship, the dominant design of the 1890s. The quick-firing guns, while unable to penetrate thick armour, were intended to destroy the superstructure of an opposing battleship, start fires, and kill or distract the enemy's gun crews. The development of heavy guns and their increasing rate of fire meant that the quick-firer lost its status as the decisive weapon of naval combat in the early 1900s, though quick-firing guns were vital to defend battleships from attack by torpedo boats and destroyers, and formed the main armament of smaller vessels.
An early quick-firing field gun was created by Vladimir Baranovsky in 1872–75.which was officially adopted by the Russian military in 1882. On land, quick-firing field guns were first adopted by the French Army, starting in 1897 with the Canon de 75 modèle 1897 which proved to be extremely successful. Other nations were quick to copy the quick-firing technology.
The QF 4.7-inch Gun Mk I–IV was initially manufactured for naval use and as coast artillery. British forces in the Second Boer War were initially outgunned by the long range Boer artillery. Captain Percy Scott of HMS Terrible first improvised timber static siege mountings for two 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns from the Cape Town coastal defences, to counter the Boers' "Long Tom" gun during the Siege of Ladysmith in 1899–1900.
Scott then improvised a travelling carriage for 4.7-inch guns removed from their usual static coastal or ship mountings to provide the army with a heavy field gun. These improvised carriages lacked recoil buffers and hence in action drag shoes and attachment of the carriage by cable to a strong point in front of the gun were necessary to control the recoil.They were manned by Royal Navy crews and required up to 32 oxen to move.
The first war in which quick-firing artillery was widespread was the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.
The quick-firing howitzer offered the potential for practical indirect fire. Traditional howitzers had been employed to engage targets outside their line of fire, but were very slow to aim and reload. Quick-firing weapons were capable of a heavy indirect bombardment, and this was the main mode of their employment during the 20th century.
The Ordnance Quick-Firing 17-pounder was a 76.2 mm (3 inch) gun developed by the United Kingdom during World War II. It was used as an anti-tank gun on its own carriage, as well as equipping a number of British tanks. Used with the APDS shot, it was capable of defeating all but the thickest armour on German tanks. It was used to 'up-gun' some foreign-built vehicles in British service, notably to produce the Sherman Firefly variant of the US M4 Sherman tank, giving British tank units the ability to hold their own against their German counterparts. In the anti-tank role, it was replaced after the war by the 120 mm BAT recoilless rifle. As a tank gun, it was succeeded by the 84 mm 20 pounder.
A rifled breech loader (RBL) is an artillery piece which, unlike the smoothbore cannon and rifled muzzle loader (RML) which preceded it, has rifling in the barrel and is loaded from the breech at the rear of the gun.
The 2-pounder gun, officially designated the QF 2-pounder and universally known as the pom-pom, was a 40-millimetre (1.6 in) British autocannon, used as an anti-aircraft gun by the Royal Navy. The name came from the sound that the original models make when firing. This QF 2-pounder was not the same gun as the Ordnance QF 2 pounder, used by the British Army as an anti-tank gun and a tank gun, although they both fired 2-pound (0.91 kg), 40-millimetre (1.6 in) projectiles.
The Hotchkiss gun can refer to different products of the Hotchkiss arms company starting in the late 19th century. It usually refers to the 1.65-inch (42 mm) light mountain gun; there were also a navy (47 mm) and a 3-inch (76 mm) Hotchkiss guns. The 42 mm gun was intended to be mounted on a light carriage or packed on two mules to accompany a troop of cavalry or an army travelling in rough country.
This article explains terms used for the British Armed Forces' ordnance and also ammunition. The terms may have slightly different meanings in the military of other countries.
Ordnance, QF 3.7-inch howitzer is a mountain gun, used by British and Commonwealth armies in the First and Second World Wars, and between the wars.
The 7.7 cm Feldkanone 96 neuer Art was a field gun used by Germany in World War I.
The Ordnance QF 4.5-inch howitzer was the standard British Empire field howitzer of the First World War era. It replaced the BL 5-inch howitzer and equipped some 25% of the field artillery. It entered service in 1910 and remained in service through the interwar period and was last used in the field by British forces in early 1942. It was generally horse drawn until mechanisation in the 1930s.
The QF 4.7-inch Gun Mks I, II, III, and IV were a family of British quick-firing 4.724-inch (120 mm) naval and coast defence guns of the late 1880s and 1890s that served with the navies of various countries. They were also mounted on various wheeled carriages to provide the British Army with a long range gun. They all had a barrel of 40 calibres length.
The Ordnance QF 13 pounder Mk IV anti-aircraft gun was an Elswick Ordnance commercial 3 inch 13 pounder gun of which 6 were supplied during World War I. It is unrelated to other British Mks of 13 pounder.
The QF 6-inch 40 calibre naval gun (Quick-Firing) was used by many United Kingdom-built warships around the end of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century.
The QF 12-pounder 12-cwt gun was a common, versatile 3-inch (76.2 mm) calibre naval gun introduced in 1894 and used until the middle of the 20th century. It was produced by Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick and used on Royal Navy warships, exported to allied countries, and used for land service. In British service "12-pounder" was the rounded value of the projectile weight, and "12 cwt (hundredweight)" was the weight of the barrel and breech, to differentiate it from other "12-pounder" guns.
The Ordnance QF Hotchkiss 6 pounder gun Mk I and Mk II or QF 6 pounder 8 cwt were a family of long-lived light 57 mm naval guns introduced in 1885 to defend against new, small and fast vessels such as torpedo boats and later submarines. There were many variants produced, often under license which ranged in length from 40 to 58 calibers, but 40 caliber was the most common version.
The QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss or in French use Canon Hotchkiss à tir rapide de 47 mm were a family of long-lived light 47 mm naval guns introduced in 1886 to defend against new, small and fast vessels such as torpedo boats and later submarines. There were many variants produced, often under license which ranged in length from 32 to 50 calibers but 40 caliber was the most common version. They were widely used by the navies of a number of nations and often used by both sides in a conflict. They were also used ashore as coastal defense guns and later as an anti-aircraft gun, whether on improvised or specialized HA/LA mounts.
The QF 12 pounder 18 cwt gun was a 3-inch high-velocity naval gun used to equip larger British warships such as battleships for defence against torpedo boats. 18 cwt referred to the weight of gun and breech, to differentiate the gun from others that also fired the "12 pound" shell.
The QF 1 pounder, universally known as the pom-pom due to the sound of its discharge, was a 37 mm British autocannon, the first of its type in the world. It was used by several countries initially as an infantry gun and later as a light anti-aircraft gun.
The QF 6 pounder Nordenfelt was a light 57 mm naval gun and coast defence gun of the late 19th century used by many countries.
The BL 6-inch gun Marks II, III, IV and VI were the second and subsequent generations of British 6-inch rifled breechloading naval guns, designed by the Royal Gun Factory in the 1880s following the first 6-inch breechloader, the relatively unsuccessful BL 6-inch 80-pounder gun designed by Elswick Ordnance. They were originally designed to use the old gunpowder propellants but from the mid-1890s onwards were adapted to use the new cordite propellant. They were superseded on new warships by the QF 6-inch gun from 1891.
The Ordnance QF 95-mm howitzer was a British howitzer built in two versions during the Second World War. The tank howitzer version was accepted for service use, but the infantry version was not.
The Type 41 3-inch (76 mm) naval gun otherwise known as the 8 cm/40 3rd Year Type naval gun was a Japanese dual-purpose gun introduced before World War I. Although designated as 8 cm (3.15 in), its shells were 76.2 mm (3 in) in diameter.