WW1 75mm US “Sharpnel” projectiles. Sold as a pair.
Shrapnel shells were anti-personnel artillery munitions which carried many individual bullets close to the target and then ejected them to allow them to continue along the shell’s trajectory and strike the target individually. They relied almost entirely on the shell’s velocity for their lethality. The munition has been obsolete since the end of World War I for anti-personnel use, when it was superseded by high-explosive shells for that role. The functioning and principles behind Shrapnel shells are fundamentally different from high-explosive shell fragmentation. Shrapnel is named after Major-General Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), a Britishartillery officer, whose experiments, initially conducted on his own time and at his own expense, culminated in the design and development of a new type of artillery shell.
The size of shrapnel balls in World War I was based on two considerations. One was the premise that a projectile energy of about 60 foot-pounds force (81 J) was required to disable an enemy soldier. Typical World War I 3-inch (76 mm) field gun shell at its maximum possible range traveling at a velocity of 250 feet/second, plus the additional velocity from the shrapnel bursting charge (about 150 feet per second), would give individual shrapnel bullets a velocity of 400 feet per second and an energy of 60 foot-pounds (81 joules): this was the minimum energy of a single half-inch lead-antimony ball of approximately 170 grains (11 g), or 41-42 balls = 1 pound. Hence this was a typical field gun shrapnel bullet size.
The maximum possible range, typically beyond 7,000 yards (6,400 m), was beyond useful shrapnel combat ranges for normal field guns due to loss of accuracy and the fact that at extreme range the projectiles descended relatively steeply and hence the “cone” of bullets covered a relatively small area.
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