Home Forums Air and Sea Naval Help: Did range of shot increase/decrease likelihood of magazine hit/explosion? Reply To: Help: Did range of shot increase/decrease likelihood of magazine hit/explosion?

Tony Hughes

The angle of impact varies with a number of factors. The relationship and influence of each factor varies with the other factors so isn’t easy to predict or generalise on.

The higher the muzzle velocity the flatter the trajectory (so angle of impact nearer to horizontal) but a low calibre shell looses velocity quicker than a high calibre one so big guns tend to have flatter trajectories than smaller ones (at the same range & the same MV). Obviously higher elevation is needed to get longer ranges so range affects the AoI significantly too. Poor shell design can increase resistance, causing increased AoI too – still an issue in WW1 but hardly at all by WW2.

To get effective ‘plunging fire’ you need to have an AoI of over about 30deg (over 45 even better) AND hit the deck. At that angle the deck actually presents a larger target than the ship’s side so, in theory, you probably do get a better chance of hitting the weaker deck armour at longer ranges. The problem is that the AoI is shallow enough to make penetration a bit hit and miss if it is much lower than 45deg and, for most WW1/2 guns, this would only happen close to extreme range, where hitting the target at all is a low probability.

All things considered I think you’d have difficulty proving that plunging fire hitting a magazine at longer ranges was any more likely than flatter trajectory fire at shorter ranges – where penetration of weak spots on and through the superstructure and gun positions make it possible.

Turn the time back to the pre-Dreadnought era and I think you might have to consider it a possibility but not with WW1 era weapons and armour and beyond.


  • This reply was modified 3 years, 5 months ago by Tony Hughes.