[Lone Sentry: Enemy Self-Propelled Guns--A Summary of Known Equipment, WWII Tactical and Technical Trends]
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"Enemy Self-Propelled Guns--A Summary of Known Equipment" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. intelligence report on German, Italian, and Japanese self-propelled guns was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 25, May 20, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


a. General

Self-propelled guns represent one of the technical advances made in ordnance during this war. The following account, from British sources, of German, Italian, and Japanese equipment shows the considerable interest which this development has aroused. Several descriptions and sketches of these guns have already been published in earlier issues of Tactical and Technical Trends.

With reference to German self-propelled guns the following general points are worthy of note:

There are no known German self-propelled heavy antiaircraft guns;

With regard to antitank guns, while there have been many local improvisations, the present German tendency is to provide self-propelled mounts for the heavier antitank weapons only;

In every case standard guns and standard chassis, whether semi- or full-tracked, are used;

All self-propelled guns are provided with AP and HE ammunition, and can thus effectively engage both "soft" and armored targets.

b. German AA/AT Guns

(1) 20-mm AA AT Gun

Although primarily an antiaircraft gun, this piece can also be used against tanks. Mounted on a 1-ton half-track (see figure 1) with a gasoline engine, it usually tows a single-axle ammunition trailer. The armament is a long, thin-barreled, 20-mm, high-velocity gun. The weight in action is 4.5 tons; the length, 15 ft. 7 in., the width, 7 ft. 1 in. and the height, 6 ft. 7 in. On roads, the radius of action is about 137 miles; cross country, about 93. The crew is seven men.

[Halftrack with 20-mm AA Gun]

There are two versions of the gun itself, namely the 20-mm Flak 30 and the 20-mm Flak 38. The gun, mounted in front, may or may not be shielded. It fires 20-mm, .260-pound, high-explosive shells at a high muzzle velocity of 2,950 f/s, the .327-pound AP shell at 2,625 f/s, and the .223-pound AP 40 shot at 3,270 f/s. The firing rate is 120 rpm. The horizontal range is 5,320 yards. The mount gives an all-around traverse and an elevation varying from minus 12 degrees to plus 90. At 400 yards, the AP shell will pierce .98 inch of homogenous armor at an impact angle of 30 degrees, and 1.50 inches at normal. At 400 yards' range, the AP 40 shot will pierce 1.46 inches at 30 degrees, and 1.69 inches at normal.

(2) 20-mm Four-Barreled AA/AT Gun

This is a Vierling (quadruple) gun on an 8-ton half-track (see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 4, p. 4) 22 ft. 6 in. long by 7 ft. 11 in. wide and 10 ft. 10 in. high, weighing, ready for action, 11.5 tons. The gasoline engine develops 140 brake horse power, giving a radius of action on the road of 155 miles, and about 62 cross country. The crew is probably eight. The armament is "a quadruple 20-mm Flak 38, with an all-around traverse and an elevation stated as from "minus 10 to plus 100" (apparently 10 degrees past vertical--which seems odd, but may be useful when firing at planes passing directly overhead). The range, penetration, and ammunition are substantially the same as for the Flak 30 and 38 previously noted.

(3) 37-mm AA/AT Gun

While like the 20-mm primarily an antiaircraft gun, this 37-mm gun can be used for horizontal fire. It may be identified by the long, slender barrel with a conical muzzle brake (see figure 2), and it usually tows an ammunition trailer. The mount is a 5-ton, half-tracked vehicle, with a 130-HP gasoline motor giving a 156-mile radius on the road, and about 62 miles cross country (which seems rather small). The length and breadth are 20 ft. 7 in. by 7 ft. 6 in.; the height is 9 ft. 2 in. The crew is eight men.

[Halftrack with 37-mm AA Gun]

Like the 20-mm, the 37-mm Flak 36 is a high-velocity gun, delivering an HE shell at 2,690 f/s at the muzzle. The horizontal range is slightly over 7,000 yards, and the rate of fire, 60 rpm. There is all-around traverse, and an elevation of from minus 5 to plus 85 degrees.

(4) 50-mm Self-Propelled AA/AT Gun

This weapon, the 5-cm Flak 41, is known to exist, but details are lacking. Presumably, it may be a development of the standard 50-mm antitank gun (5-cm Pak 38) described in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 15, p. 38, which gives a reported muzzle velocity of 3,940 f/s to an AP shot of 2.025 pounds, and 2,740 f/s to a 4 lb. 9 oz. AP tracer shell.

(5) 88-mm Self-Propelled Multi-Purpose Gun

A self-propelled version of the "88," the 8.8-cm Flak 36 Sfl, is known to exist. At one time the gun was said to be mounted on a 12-ton half-track, but this mounting is believed to have been unsatisfactory. Various other mounts have been reported, the most likely of which is the PzKw 4 (medium tank) chassis. In this case, the gun probably has a limited traverse and cannot deliver antiaircraft fire. It fires a 20-pound HE shell, or a 21-pound AP, with an armor-piercing cap surmounted by a "wind splitter" ballistic cap. At 500 yards the projectile will penetrate 4.33 inches of armor at a 30-degree angle, and 5.07 inches at normal. When the range is lengthened to 1,000 yards, penetration falls to 3.30 and 3.93 inches, respectively. The maximum horizontal range is 16,200 yards, but the sight is graduated to 10,340 yards only. The practical rate of fire is from 15 to 20 rpm. The number in the crew is not stated.

c. German Self-Propelled Antitank Guns

(1) 28-mm AT Gun, Model 41

It may be that this gun is a local improvisation. Firing forward, it is mounted on a light half-track, with a coffin-shaped, armored body. The small weapon may be identified by its prominent muzzle brake and flat, double shield. The chassis is that of a 1-ton half-tracked vehicle. The battle weight is about 6 tons. The dimensions are 15 ft. 6 in. by 6 ft. by 7 ft.; the motor is a 100-hp gasoline engine. Cross country, the radius of action is about 75 miles; on the road, 120. Varying from about .39 inch on the front, the light armor is .32 inch elsewhere. The crew is believed to number five.

The ultra-modern, high-velocity gun is the 2.8-cm (1.1 in) Pz.B. 41. It is choke-bored from 28 mm at the breech to 20 (.79 in) at the muzzle, and has a muzzle velocity of 4,580 f/s. At 100 yards it will drive a .287-pound shot through 2.72 inches of armor at 30 degrees, and through 3.31 inches at normal angle. At 100 yards the penetrations are 2.09 and 2.56 inches, respectively. The traverse is 90 degrees, the elevation from minus 5 to plus 45.

(2) 37-mm AT Gun

Like the 28-mm, this gun may be a local improvisation. The obsolete 37-mm antitank gun, with or without a shield, fires towards the front and is mounted on a 3-ton armored half-track; weight in action is 8.4 tons (see figure 3). The dimensions are: length 18 ft. 8 in., width 6 ft. 10 in., height about 7 ft. 6 in. The gasoline motor develops 100 hp. On the road, the radius is 187 miles, and 81 across country. In front, the armor is from .39 inch to .59 inch in thickness, and on the sides, .32 inch. The crew numbers three.

[German Sdkfz 251 Halftrack with 37mm AT Gun]

This gun has a muzzle velocity of 2,500 f/s for the 1.68-pound AP shell and 3,380 (estimated) for the .786-pound AP 40. The HE weighs 1.38 pounds. At 200 yards, the AP shell will penetrate 1.65 inches at 30 degrees and 2.20 inches at normal angle; at 600 yards, 1.34 and 1.81 inches, respectively. The AP 40 at 100 yards pierces 2.68 inches at 30 degrees and 3.11 inches, normal; but with the light AP 40 shot, at 400 yards, the penetration falls to 1.93 and 2.28 inches. The effective range is 600 yards. The maximum traverse is 60 degrees, and the elevation varies from minus 8 to plus 25 degrees.

(3) 47-mm AT Gun

This piece of equipment is the Czech antitank gun mounted in a three-sided shield on the turretless chassis of the PzKw 1 Model B tank. It may be recognized by the five bogie wheels (of which the rear four are partially obscured by a girder), a front sprocket, a rear idler, and four return rollers. The gun-shield is open at the back and top. The gun is fitted with a muzzle brake, and the recuperator is above the barrel. The weight is 7.5 tons; the dimensions 13 ft. 7 in., 6 ft. 7 in., and 7 ft. A 100-hp gasoline engine will drive the vehicle on a radius of action of 70 miles cross country and 90 on the road. The crew is three.

The Skoda gun has a 30-degree traverse with an elevation of from minus 8 degrees to plus 12. The AP tracer shell, 3.68 pounds, has a velocity of 2,540 f/s, penetrating at 300 yards 2.32 inches of armor at 30 degrees, and 2.99 inches at normal angle. At 1,000 yards the respective penetrations are 1.85 and 2.44 inches. An HE shell of 5.07 pounds and an AP 40 shot of 1.81 pounds are used. The effective range is not stated, but is apparently 1,000 yards. About 74 rounds are carried.

(4) 50-mm AT Gun

The only evidence of this equipment is a photograph, which showed a long-barreled gun in a fixed, square turret on an armored half-tracked vehicle of unconventional design. There is a large muzzle brake at the end of the gun, which is believed to be the standard 50-mm Pak 38.

(5) 75-mm AT Gun, on a PzKw 38(t) Chassis

This equipment consists of the 75-mm (2.95-in) antitank gun (Pak 40) mounted on the turretless chassis of the light Czech PzKw 38(t). The suspension consists of four large Christie-type bogie wheels, two return rollers (mounted above the space between bogie wheels 1 and 2, and 2 and 3, respectively), a front sprocket, and a rear idler. In action, the weight is 10 tons. The dimensions are 15 ft. 3 in. by 7 ft. by 7 ft. 2 in. A 125-hp gasoline motor gives a radius of 143 miles on the road, 103 cross country. A plate of .98-inch armor with, possibly, an additional plate of the same thickness riveted on, protects the front. The sides are 1.18 inches toward the front, and .59 inch toward the rear of the sides and the back of the hull. The crew is probably four.

The gun is a 75-mm antitank piece, thought to have a performance similar to the 75-mm long-barreled tank gun mounted in the latest PzKw 4's. This latter gun has the moderate velocity of 2,400 f/s, giving a penetration (presumably with a 15-pound, capped AP projectile) of 3.5 inches at 500 yards at a 30-degree angle, and 4.25 inches at normal. At 2,000 yards, the shell pierces 2.44 and 3.03 inches. There is an AP 40 shot supplied for this gun, and a 12.5-pound HE shell.

(6) 75-mm AT Gun on a PzKw 2 Chassis

This 10-ton assembly may be recognized by the long-barreled gun with the muzzle brake, as in the previous description, but the PzKw 2 chassis has either five or six large bogie wheels. Its length is 15 ft. 2 in., width, 1 ft. 4 in., and height 16 ft. 6 in. With a 140-hp gasoline engine, the radius on the road is 118 miles, and cross country 78 miles. In front, the armor varies from .59 inch to 1.79 inch, with .59 inch on the back and sides. The crew is probably four. The gun is the same one described in the previous paragraph.

(7) 76.2-mm (3-in) AT Gun on a 5-Ton Half-Track

Possibly another local improvisation, this piece of equipment consists of a Russian 76.2-mm gun mounted on the chassis of a 5-ton half-track in a high, square, box-like riveted structure of .20-inch armor, Open at the top (see figure 4). The gun may be employed both in field artillery and antitank roles.

[Russian 76.2-mm AT Gun on 5-Ton Halftrack]

The weight is about 10 tons. The mount is 19 ft. 9 in. long, 7 ft. 3 in. wide, and 10 ft. high. The motor is a 130-hp gasoline engine, giving the weapon a radius of action of 160 miles on roads and 70 across country, carrying a crew of probably six.

The 76.2-mm Russian field gun Model 36 (7.62-cm Pak 36 (r)) with a long, thin barrel throws a 14.8-pound capped armor-piercing shell at the relatively low velocity of 2,200 f/s, a 14-pound HE at 2,340 f/s, and an AP 40 shot of 9.25 pounds weight at 2,800 f/s. The range is not stated, but the firing charts include ranges up to 2,000 yards, at which range it is claimed that the AP shell will drive through 2.08 inches of armor with a 30-degree slope, and 2.52 inches, vertical. At 500 yards, the penetration is reported to be 3.11 and 3.70 inches, respectively. The awkward-appearing mount gives an unexpectedly large traverse of 60 degrees, with an elevation varying from minus 5 to plus 45 degrees. (The gun mount is capable of giving 75 degrees of elevation, but the shield fouls the front tarpaulin rail at 45 degrees.) Sixty-four rounds are carried, approximately half HE and half AP.

(8) 76.2-mm Gun on Tank Chassis

This is the 76.2-mm Russian gun just discussed, mounted on the light Czech PzKw 38(t) chassis with 4 bogies as described in Tactical And Technical Trends, No. 21, p. 6 (see figure 5); it is also mounted on the PzKw 2 chassis which has 5 bogie wheels. Both chassis are rather light for so large a gun. It seems unlikely that either the traverse or elevation on these tank chassis is as great as on the 5-ton half-track.

[German Marder III on Czech 38(t) Chassis]

d. German Self-Propelled Assault Guns

(1) 75-mm Assault Gun

A low silhouette, a well-armored body, and a short gun firing forward characterize this assault gun. (See Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 7, p. 9.) The mount is the chassis of the PzKw 3. The suspension consists of six small bogies or each side with three return rollers, a front sprocket, and a rear idler. The vehicle with its weapon is heavy--nearly 20 tons. It is 17 ft. 9 in. long and 9 ft. 7 in. wide, but only 6 ft. 5 in. high. A radius of 102 miles by road and 59 cross country is attained with a 300-hp gasoline motor. The crew is four. Probably, this model is no longer in production.

With its casemate mount, the short-barreled 75-mm gun has a traverse of only 20 degrees, and an elevation varying from minus 5 to plus 20. For HE shell, the gun is sighted to 6,550 yards; for AP, only 1,640. At 500 yards, the penetration is 1.81 inches in 30-degree sloping armor, and 2.16 inches in vertical; at 1,200, it drops to 1.57 and 1.89 inches. The HE shell weighs 12.6 pounds; the AP shell, with cap and ballistic cap, 14.81. There is an AP hollow charge of unstated weight, as well as a 13.56-pound smoke shell. In the bins of the carrier, 44 rounds are carried, and about 40 more may be stacked on the floor. A dozen stick grenades (potato mashers) may also be carried clipped on a rack.

(2) 75-mm Medium-Length Assault Gun

This machine is essentially similar to the foregoing, except that a gun 30 calibers long mounted in a large box-like casing has replaced the stubby piece in the earlier model.

(3) 75-mm Long Assault Gun

The third assault gun model is a long-barreled "75" with a prominent muzzle brake. It, too, is mounted on the PzKw 3 chassis (see figure 6). The velocity has been increased to 2,400 f/s, with a resulting increased penetration at 500 yards of 3.5 inches of sloping armor and 4.25 inches of vertical; at 2,000, the penetration is still formidable--2.44 and 3.03 inches. It is thought that this gun is primarily a tank-destroyer weapon.

[75-mm StuG III Assault Gun]

(4) 75-mm Gun Mounted on a 3-Ton Half-Track

Probably another local improvisation, this weapon is mounted on an armored half-track. The mounting is the same as that used for the 37-mm anti-tank gun, the details of which are given in c (2) above. (If the 76.2 Russian gun is a little heavy for a PzKw 2 mount, a 3-ton half-track would seem extremely light for a 75-mm piece.)

(5) 150-mm Infantry Howitzer on PzKw 1 Chassis

Probably retaining its original wheels and trail, this medium howitzer is mounted on the semiobsolete PzKw 1-B chassis. This chassis has five bogies (of which the rear four are partially obscured by a girder), four return rollers, a front sprocket, and a rear idler. Above the chassis floor is a high, three-sided gun shield, open on the top and back. The weight is about 9 tons. In length, it is 13 ft. 7 in.; in width, 6 ft. 7 in.; and the height is 11 ft. A radius of 95 miles on the road and 70 miles cross country is given by a 100-hp gasoline engine. Front and sides are protected by .59-inch armor, and back by .28 inches, and the gun shield is thought to be 'only about .39 inch. Four men make up the crew.

The piece is the normal 150-mm heavy infantry howitzer (15-cm s.I.G.33) with a muzzle velocity of 790 f/s and a range of 5,125 yards. The recuperator is underneath, and extends almost to the end of, the short barrel. On the field mounting, the traverse is 11 degrees, and the elevation from 0 to 73 degrees. Ammunition weights are 83.6 pounds for the HE shell, and 84.7 for the smoke.

(6) 150-mm Infantry Howitzer on PzKw 2 Chassis

A close-support piece of great power has been made by mounting a 150-mm howitzer low behind a three-sided shield on what is possibly a redesigned PzKw 2 chassis. (See Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 22, p. 13, and No. 13, p. 6.) In place of the usual five large bogie wheels, there are six (see figure 7), suggesting that the normal PzKw 2 chassis has been lengthened, or a new chassis designed. There are four return rollers, a front sprocket, and a rear idler. The weight is about 11 tons. The length is about 18 ft.; the width is 7 ft. 4 in.; and the height has been kept down to 5 ft. 6 in.--a remarkably low silhouette. A 140-hp motor gives a radius of action of 118 miles on the road and 78 miles across country. The frontal armor consists of two plates, .59 and .79 inch thick. Sides, back, and shield have .59 inch, and the superstructure .39 inch. The crew is probably four. As in the previously described weapon, the gun is a short heavy infantry howitzer, with the recuperator almost as long as the barrel.

[German 150-mm Infantry Howitzer on Panzer II Chassis]

e. German Self-Propelled Medium Artillery

(1) 105-mm Gun

Nothing is known of the mount except that it is armored. The gun is thought to be the standard 10-cm K 18 of which the following are some of the particulars: muzzle velocity 2,660 f/s; maximum effective antitank range, 2,060 yards; penetration with 34.6-pound armor-piercing shell at 500 yards, 30 degrees slope, 5.49 inches, and vertical, 6.46 inches; penetrations at 2,000 yards, 4.39 and 5.22 inches. A capped, AP shell and a 33.5-pound HE shell are reported.

(2) 105-mm Gun-Howitzer

Nothing is known of the mount, but the gun performances are believed to be as follows: muzzle velocity (super-charge), 1,540 f/s; range, 11,640 yards. Shell weights vary between 31.25 pounds for the AP tracer to 35.9 pounds for the hollow-charge.

(3) 128-mm Gun

Both this gun and the 105 were probably produced to deal with the heaviest Russian tanks. No details are available as to the gun or the mount.

(4) 150-mm Howitzer on French 38L Mount

Attention is called to the account in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, p. 15 of this 150-mm howitzer mounted on the 6-bogie chassis of the French tracteur blindé 38L (see figure 8). The hull is divided into 3 compartments: the driving compartment in the front, the engine in the center, and a deep, well-protected cockpit for the gun crew in the rear. The assembly is light (7 1/2 tons). It is 14 ft. long and 5 ft. 2 in. wide, with a 70-hp engine giving a speed of 22 mph. The radius of action is not stated. Armor protection is from .37 to .47 inch in front, .35 inch on sides and rear, and .24 inch on the superstructure. The fixed gun housing, mounted in the floor of the chassis, is of rather thin plate. Traverse is limited to about 4 degrees, and a rear spade is provided to take up recoil stresses. The crew is four.

[German 150-mm Howitzer on French 38L Mount]

While the 150-mm assault guns, previously described, are 150-mm infantry howitzers firing an 86-pound shell, this medium howitzer has a longer barrel, which gives a muzzle velocity of 1,250 f/s instead of 790 to a shell of 92.4 pounds weight. The range is 9,300 yards as against 5,125. HE shells, and anticoncrete and smoke shells, are provided. It is notable that in this case a self-propelled gun firing a 92-pound shell to so great a range has been developed on a weight limit of 7.5 tons.

f. Italian Self-Propelled Guns

(1) 75/18 Gun-Howitzer

This seemingly effective, self-propelled equipment is the chassis of the M13, mounting a 75/18 gun-howitzer (see figure 9). The turret and part of the superstructure of the tank are removed, and a new vertical front plate is fitted, as well as new side plates without the hull entrance-doors. The fighting compartment is roofed with .39-inch plate. Ready for action, the gun weighs about 11 tons. It is 16 ft. 2 in. long, 7 ft. 3 in. wide, and only 5 ft. 10 in. high, presenting a rather squat appearance. The unusual engine is a 105-hp Gasolio, burning a mixture of gasoline and fuel oil. On the roads, the radius is about 120 miles. The cross-country radius is not stated. The armor is substantial: 1.69 inches on the gun mantlet, and two plates, 1.46 and .91 inches, forming the front vertical plate. Sides and tail plates are .98 inch. The crew is three.

[Italian M13 Mounting 75/18 Gun-Howitzer]

The gun has a traverse of 45 degrees and an elevation of from 15 degrees minus to 25 degrees plus. It is an 18 caliber weapon with a maximum range of 8,350 yards. The ammunition consists of 13.9-pound HE shell, 14.1-pound AP and a 14.5-pound shrapnel. Storage for only 29 rounds is provided, but many more will certainly be carried.

(2) The 75/27 Gun, Truck-Mounted

It has been reported that there is in service a somewhat clumsy self-propelled mount comprising a 75/27 gun on the back of an unarmored "S.P.A." truck. The standard small shield is retained and a second small shield mounted in front of it; the trail legs are shortened and clamped to the chassis. The gun fires forward over the hood of the truck.

The gun is rather better than the 75/18, with a muzzle velocity of 1,675 f/s. The elevation is from minus 15 to plus 65 degrees; the traverse is practically 60 degrees. In addition to the HE, shrapnel, and AP shell already noted, the gun fires a 13.79-pound streamlined HE, a 15.9-pound case-shot,* and a hollow-charge shell.

(3) 75/27 Antiaircraft Gun, Truck-Mounted

This is an obsolete 75/27 Krupp antiaircraft gun mounted on a Ceirano 50 C.M.A. 53-hp truck, or a Fiat 18 BL 40-hp truck. Both are four wheeled. The Ceirano truck has a radius of 150 miles on the road; the Fiat, 112. The gun has a muzzle velocity of only 1,675 f/s, with a horizontal range of 6,600 yards and vertical range of 15,200 feet. The elevation is 70 degrees, the traverse 160. A 14.5-pound, time-fuzed, HE shell is fired.

(4) 90/53 AA/AT Gun, Truck-Mounted

This is a 90/53 AA/AT gun mounted on a four-wheeled 60-hp Lancia Ro truck. It is probable that the gun can be used only against ground targets. The radius of action is about 150 miles.

A muzzle velocity of 2,756 f/s gives the 22.2-pound HE shell a range of 19,100 yards. The practical rate of fire is from 15 to 20 rpm. The elevation is from slightly below horizontal to 85 degrees, and the traverse, 360. An AP shell of unknown weight is reported to penetrate 4.41 inches of plate on a 30-degree slope at 500 yards, and 5.63 inches of plate at the vertical. At 2,000 yards, the respective penetrations are 3.15 and 4.13 inches.

(5) 90/53 AA/AT Gun on a Tank Chassis

It has been reported that the 90/53 gun is now found on a mount of entirely new design in the center of what appears to be a tank chassis, firing forward, with a 40-degree traverse. The muzzle is said to slightly overhang the front of the chassis. The chassis itself is stated to be identical with that of the earlier M 13/40 medium tank as regards suspension, armor, and appearance, but the engine is more powerful. In order to fire the gun, the tracks, apparently, have to be locked by the steering levers. Only a limited number of rounds can be carried. The crew is probably six. Whether the chassis is used for the 90/53 self-propelled gun only, or is that of an M15 tank, is at present obscure.

g. Japanese Self-Propelled Artillery

Information regarding Japanese self-propelled guns is entirely too indefinite to warrant any statement. However in October 1941, the British reported a Japanese self-propelled gun, of which but one has been seen, perhaps an experimental model. It is supposed to be a weapon of about 100-mm caliber mounted in the chassis of a medium tank. The piece is said to be long, and to have no shield. The gun may be the 105-mm howitzer, Model "91" (1931), of which the following is known: muzzle velocity 1,790 f/s; maximum range, either 11,500 or 14,200 yards; maximum elevation and traverse (both), 45 degrees. The ammunition is a 35-pound HE shell.

*Similar to shrapnel, for close range.


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