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How far do machine bullets travel?


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#1 gwendraith

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 05:50 PM

You lot have been so helpful with regards helping to nail the exact spot my great uncle Alex fought on his final day and where he died. One last question (honest!). Judging by the location of the map reference the CWGC gave me for his battlefield burial and the references I've been helped with for the line the btn took and the hostile machine gun post, it looks like he died around 400-600 yards south of that German machine gun post. I know rifle bullets travelled many hundreds of yards but I just want to check that machine gun fire could have been a likely cause of his death given his position. I know I'll never be sure. Posted Image

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Holly

#2 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:05 PM

Holly, 4-600 yards was well within the range of a machine gun.

Robert

#3 truthergw

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:06 PM

You lot have been so helpful with regards helping to nail the exact spot my great uncle Alex fought on his final day and where he died. One last question (honest!). Judging by the location of the map reference the CWGC gave me for his battlefield burial and the references I've been helped with for the line the btn took and the hostile machine gun post, it looks like he died around 400-600 yards south of that German machine gun post. I know rifle bullets travelled many hundreds of yards but I just want to check that machine gun fire could have been a likely cause of his death given his position. I know I'll never be sure. Posted Image

Thanks

Holly



Machine guns were lethal at 2000 yards. They could kill beyond that but that would be the sort of range at which they worked. A rifle could kill at 400, although that would be extreme range for an ordinary shot, well within bounds for a sniper.

#4 gwendraith

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:11 PM

Machine guns were lethal at 2000 yards. They could kill beyond that but that would be the sort of range at which they worked. A rifle could kill at 400, although that would be extreme range for an ordinary shot, well within bounds for a sniper.


Brilliant, thank you so much. It's taken me some months but I think I've cracked is story :)

Holly

Holly, 4-600 yards was well within the range of a machine gun.

Robert


Thank you so much Robert. I was hoping someone would tell me that :)

Holly

#5 centurion

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:26 PM

I've seen an SOS Chart of June 1918 for Vickers fire where the range to target is given as 2,700 yards. The gun(s) firing on a given bearing and elevation and neither the gunners nor the targets would have vision of each other - the guns firing on a signal on a prearranged spot. With the increasing use of machine gun barrages a man could be killed by a machine gun more than a mile and a half away.

#6 gwendraith

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:36 PM

I've seen an SOS Chart of June 1918 for Vickers fire where the range to target is given as 2,700 yards. The gun(s) firing on a given bearing and elevation and neither the gunners nor the targets would have vision of each other - the guns firing on a signal on a prearranged spot. With the increasing use of machine gun barrages a man could be killed by a machine gun more than a mile and a half away.


Gosh, 600 yards was well within range then. As the KRRC diaries mentions the RB coming under fire from this particular machine gun it does seem very possible that Alex was hit as they went up the rising ground in front of them and they pretty much got stopped in their tracks. All the officers bar one junior one died and most of the btn.

Thank you for your input :)

#7 Roger H

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:54 PM

One last question (honest!).
Holly


It won't be, and nor should it be. We are ALL learning and asking questions - even thise with several thousand posts.

Roger

#8 gwendraith

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 07:28 PM

It won't be, and nor should it be. We are ALL learning and asking questions - even thise with several thousand posts.

Roger


Awww, thanks Roger :) I am amazed that I have managed to find out so much considering he enlisted under a slightly incorrect name and that people are always willing to help. I am well and truly hooked ;)

Holly

#9 centurion

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 07:37 PM

It won't be, and nor should it be. We are ALL learning and asking questions - even thise with several thousand posts.

Especially some of those with several thousand posts!

#10 gwendraith

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Posted 28 April 2012 - 07:59 PM

Especially some of those with several thousand posts!


Ha! I have a bit of catching up. I don't feel so bad now :)

#11 TonyE

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 09:23 AM

Sights on the Vickers gun in WWI were calibrated to 2,900 yards, and the range tables give elevation data for searching and barrage fire at these ranges, and even give corrections for the height of the target area above or below the guns's position.

Outside of the scope of your question, but when the .303 inch Mark VIIIz boat tailed bullet was introduced in 1938 the maximum range on the sight scale was increased to 3,900 yards and by using the clinometer barrage fire could be laid down at 4,500 yards.

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#12 TEW

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 11:48 AM

I too have a SOS board and a post HERE. My board sounds similar to Centurion's example and gave a target which I worked out to be 3000 Yds away and 37 metres lower and obviously out of sight, possibly even during the day let alone night or fog.

With the given range and angle of the Vickers plus the height difference it seemed to me the rounds were travelling in an arc and then dropping out of the sky onto the target 3000 yds away. Not quite sure how effective this would be, maybe a silly statement but aren't they just 'falling down' without any velocity?
TEW

#13 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 12:22 PM

TEW, I will leave others to comment on the details of the physics. At the extremes of range, the spread of bullets on the ground (i.e. the beaten zone) was broader. This meant there was less chance of someone being hit. Bullets that were failing could do serious damage if they hit. For example, a soldier was hit in the right shoulder during a long-distance MG barrage. The bullet tracked down, exiting by the right buttock.

Robert

#14 truthergw

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 12:37 PM

I too have a SOS board and a post HERE. My board sounds similar to Centurion's example and gave a target which I worked out to be 3000 Yds away and 37 metres lower and obviously out of sight, possibly even during the day let alone night or fog.

With the given range and angle of the Vickers plus the height difference it seemed to me the rounds were travelling in an arc and then dropping out of the sky onto the target 3000 yds away. Not quite sure how effective this would be, maybe a silly statement but aren't they just 'falling down' without any velocity?
TEW

The bullet, as you say was more or less just falling but from a considerable height. Used indirect, the gun was being used in the same way as a howitzer with steep plunging fire exchanged for shallow arc. On its way down from maximum height it was gaining kinetic energy all the way and it would land point first!

#15 centurion

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 01:19 PM

With the given range and angle of the Vickers plus the height difference it seemed to me the rounds were travelling in an arc and then dropping out of the sky onto the target 3000 yds away. Not quite sure how effective this would be, maybe a silly statement but aren't they just 'falling down' without any velocity?
TEW


No. All bullets, shells etc travel in an arc or trajectory until they intersect with the ground. If you could fire it with enough velocity on the right trajectory and there was no air resistance it would fall round the curve of the earth and never hit the ground (ie it would be in orbit). There is an early Jules Verne novel in which a super villain fires his fiendish city destroying weapon from his lair in a hollowed out volcano (yes Verne got their first) only for it to do a complete orbit and wipe himself out. In reality air resistance would either slow a bullet or shell down (or friction would melt it). However a streamlined high velocity bullet will still have considerable momentum even after a couple of miles. Its mainly gravity that determines the curve of its flight. The first recorded use of a machine gun barrage (indirect fire) in WW1 is by the guns of the 33rd division on 24th August 1916 at High Wood. On that occasion the range was estimated as 2,000 yards. However Sir Ian Hamilton reported the same techniques being used by both Russian and Japanese machine gunners in Manchuria in 1904


One purpose of the machine gun barrage was to deny ground to the enemy and Plummer used in this way at Messines to prevent the enemy from using the cover of night to repair damage to defences caused by the artillery barrage and also to block them bringing their machine guns forward. In this instance the wider (and deeper) spread was an advantage in that more ground was covered. The point of the chance of hitting some one is really only an issue if one was trying to take out a specific target which was not usually the purpose of such a barrage.

One of the factors of an indirect barrage was that it was difficult to detect. If ground is under artillery fire this is obvious as the shells throw up earth on impact and produce flashes and/or smoke. The first sign that soldiers would see of a machine gun barrage would be when men started to go down. Thus if ground was only being swept intermittently the barrage would still deter men from crossing it.

#16 TonyE

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:07 PM

I too have a SOS board and a post HERE. My board sounds similar to Centurion's example and gave a target which I worked out to be 3000 Yds away and 37 metres lower and obviously out of sight, possibly even during the day let alone night or fog.

With the given range and angle of the Vickers plus the height difference it seemed to me the rounds were travelling in an arc and then dropping out of the sky onto the target 3000 yds away. Not quite sure how effective this would be, maybe a silly statement but aren't they just 'falling down' without any velocity?
TEW


Using the Range Table for .303 inch Mark VII ammunition (which WWI Vickers guns would be firing) in Appendix I, Part IV of Text Book of Small Arms 1929, the residual velocity at 3,000 yards is 300 feet per second. This gives an energy of 34.78 foot pounds, not much less than the figure of 58 ft.lbs. which was the energy figure considered for years to be necessary to cause a fatality. This level (58 ft.lbs.) is still achieved at 2,600 yards when the residual velocity is 400 fps.

To achieve a range of 3,000 yards the elevation of the gun is 834 minutes (13 degrees 54 minutes) and the descending angle of the bullets at 3,000 yards is 2009 minutes (33 degrees 29 minutes), so hardly falling out of the sky!

This Range Table was determined by experimental firings at the School of Musketry at Hythe. It differs very slightly from the Range Table for the Vickers in various Training Manuals but "has long been found satisfactory in use, particularly with the Vickers gun. The differences between the two tables lie well within the tolerations for the variation of ammunition".

Incidentally, time of flight to 3,000 yards is 15.1 seconds.

Regards
TonyE

#17 centurion

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:28 PM

 There was a case after WW2 of a British farmer found dying from a bullet wound in the back. From blood traces it was determined that he had been standing in the open with no cover for a long distance and it was surmised that this might be a case of a sniper. In the end some clever forensic work determined that this was probably a terrible shooting accident and some one, possibly a gamekeeper shooting at a hawk, had fired into the air over two miles away. Although the bullet had slowed it had started to tumble before it hit the farmer exacerbating the severity of the wound so that he bled to death. Would it be likely that machine gun bullets fired at extreme range might also tumble? 

#18 bob lembke

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 03:58 PM

Holly;

Most of the answers had to do with the question of ballistics and range. There is also the question of effective aiming.

As the war went on there were changes in the German use of MGs. Various light MGs became available (the "light" MG 08/15, at 64 lbs, but still water-cooled, allowing prolonged firing; captured British Lewis guns, a favorite; captured or stolen Danish Madsens, mostly taken from the Russian cavalry; my father's flame company at Verdun used captured French Chauchauts, which, if clean, and using the original French ammunition, actually would usually fire, although they were very badly made) and these were depoloyed in the front line.

In the meanwhile, the German "heavy" MG 08 (about 140 lbs with the standard mount) ware increasingly put into "MG nests" behind the front line, and were increasingly fitted with telescopic sights. In addition, two or three members of each MG crew were equipped with pairs of good binoculars. With this equipment, the well-trained and elite MG troops (often organized into "Machienen-Gewehr=Scharfschuetzen=Bataillonen", or "Sharp-shooting Machine Gun Battalions") could provide accurate aimed direct fire at ranges of 800 yards and further. This was especially useful in providing the adjacent units with enfalading (sp?) fire sweeping diagonally across the battle-field, an especially deadly form of defensive fire in case of an enemy attack.

The short answer is that, especially by 1916, German MGs could provide accurate aimed fire at ranges of 800 yards or more.

The maximum range of the full-cased MG and rifle cartriges was about three miles. I think some MG ammo was a bit more powerfully loaded than the seemingly similar rifle ammunition of the same nominal caliber. Some one mentioned above a maximum range for rifle fire of I think 600 yards, that is a maximum for aimed fire, but the full power rifle cartridges also could carry about 3 miles, but were of little or no use at anything close to that range.

I hope that is of use.

My father, in the German Army, had a week of training firing MGs out of a moving captured Mark IV tank. Odd.

Bob Lembke

PS: I just noted that TonyE just posted a useful set of comments. As Holly probably does not know, he certainly is one of the two or three top MG experts among the thousands of members of the Forum.

#19 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 04:52 AM

One of the factors of an indirect barrage was that it was difficult to detect. If ground is under artillery fire this is obvious as the shells throw up earth on impact and produce flashes and/or smoke. The first sign that soldiers would see of a machine gun barrage would be when men started to go down. Thus if ground was only being swept intermittently the barrage would still deter men from crossing it.

centurion, what evidence do you have for these statements? Indirect machine barrages produced tell-tale signs, including the kicking up of earth as the bullets landed (which sign was used to adjust the beaten zones when MGs were used in direct fire mode but this did not apply to indirect barrages, by their very nature) and the number/sound/trajectory of the bullets as they flew past. WhiteStarLine's post here provides a very good description.

From the evidence that I have seen to date, few men actually went 'down'. The most striking difference between an indirect MG barrage and direct MG fire was illustrated by detailed accounts from the British 30th Division. This division was at the forefront of the attack towards Gheluvelt ridge on 30th July 1917. Although the first objective was reached, the division failed to press on. This lead to an official enquiry, which provides a lot of very detailed evidence. Almost immediately after the first wave started out, British infantry came under indirect German MG barrages. The direction of fire was ascertainable but few casualties were caused and the advance was not slowed. As soon as the infantry came over the crest of the ridge by Stirling Castle, they immediately came under direct MG fire. The difference was dramatic, with men going 'down' and the remainder taking cover. The advance came to a halt.

Robert

#20 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 04:56 AM

My father, in the German Army, had a week of training firing MGs out of a moving captured Mark IV tank. Odd.

Not so odd, Bob. I have seen this mentioned in German sources. The idea was to demonstrate how difficult it was to fire an MG from a moving tank, thereby reducing the 'tank terror' that occurred when German infantry were exposed to tank attacks.

Robert

#21 centurion

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 10:52 AM

centurion, what evidence do you have for these statements?


Reports from Hythe School of Musketry by experienced machine gun officers




You appear to be confusing observations of direct fire with indirect fire (which by its very nature is difficult to observe) when the bullets tended to strike the ground at a much steeper angle and kicked up less debris



#22 bob lembke

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 11:33 AM

Not so odd, Bob. I have seen this mentioned in German sources. The idea was to demonstrate how difficult it was to fire an MG from a moving tank, thereby reducing the 'tank terror' that occurred when German infantry were exposed to tank attacks.

Robert


Robert;

Exactly as my father told me. After a week the men assumed that they were being trained as Beute=Panzer tank crews. Then the men were called together and officers went over the marksmanship from firing from the moving tank. Three, four hits per 1000 round belt. Then the officers stated: "Men, you are not being trained to fight in tanks, you are going to be trained to fight tanks. We just wanted to show you what a crummy gun platform a moving tank is."

Bob

#23 Robert Dunlop

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 11:52 AM

Reports from Hythe School of Musketry by experienced machine gun officers

Do you have the reference or the actual text please?

Robert

#24 gwendraith

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:53 PM

Holly;

I hope that is of use.

My father, in the German Army, had a week of training firing MGs out of a moving captured Mark IV tank. Odd.

Bob Lembke

PS: I just noted that TonyE just posted a useful set of comments. As Holly probably does not know, he certainly is one of the two or three top MG experts among the thousands of members of the Forum.


Thank you very much for the very comprehensive information, Bob. I am always so impressed by the knowledge people on this forum have! Your father does seem to have had rather strange MG training!

Cheers,

Holly

#25 gwendraith

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:58 PM

Thank you all so much for your comments and the interesting ongoing discussions. Who knew there was so much to machine gunnery :)

I'm always amazed by the knowledge on this forum.

Cheers

Holly