120mm German stub case ammo discussion

This is a bit of a dust up which we had earlier concerning the Rheinmetall stub case ammo. Of possible interest relating to current discussion.

I have the stub base (what is left after firing one of these rounds) for the 120mm cone stabilized TPT. Glad to see the entire round.

GERMANY thanks you. They love to see those fired stubbs ; cachink , cachink ; money in the cash box. They also get a royalty on the gun. PS: the Soviet design is MUCH smarter - don’t everyone scream at once! look at them from a practical point of view - like inside the turret. These things are fragile

Having been one of those guys “in the turret”, I’d have to disagree with you. The Soviet design was to allow the use of the automatic loader on the T-72 and later models. The drawback is in the loading carrousel and it’s tendency to pop the turret off when hit, nevermind the slow reload speed and the need to take the gun off target to reload. From a design standpoint, in theory, the Soviet style round is better, but in practice, the whole system leaves a lot to be desired. The 120 rounds are not as fragile as one would think, certainly not like the old 152mm rounds used in the Sheridan. Those rounds were indeed fragile and dangerous. Having personally seen the amazing power of the 120’s in action, I’d say that the royalties are money well spent!

No doubt they do the target damage. Drop one or bang it against something in the turret and it breaks. This was the major draw back to it being adopted when tests were done at Aberdeen. It was adopted for POLITICAL reasons not practical reasons. When Soviet (Iraqi) tanks flip their tops it is a success of incoming ammunition not a failure of insitu stores. What happens to the Abrams when hit with a lethal penetration? It explodes. Little comfort to the crew that the turret stays in place. My comments were about the AMMUNITION not the tank design. The Soviet modular design is far more practical and durable AMMUNITION. No doubt that the tank/gun/ammunition/sighting/training and support systems of our Abrams are as a fielded package a superior weapon. The fragility of the semicombustible case in this size is the major weakness. Breakage of the round in testing , training and field use is HIGH. It is always possible to compensate for weakness in one part of a system by engineering in another. Our tanks have never been up against first line Soviet/Russian tanks and crews( and never will) so there is no value in comparing second rate units like the Iraqi Republica Guard to First class troops. Most , if not all , of our Abrams tanks destroyed in the action with the Iraqis (Soviet) tanks were destroyed by our own tanks (friendly fire). The 120mm Rheinmetall case was turned down by vulnerablity testing. The 140mm newer version designed was absolutely vetoed as far too fragile. The Germans ( Rheinmetall,etc.) have very heavy hitters in their promotion departments who were able with political help to push through their design. I am and always will be against POLITICAL intervention in the weapon design field. Intelligent weapon design put the best weapon on the field regardless of where the ideas came from. The only thing important in battle is the weapon in your hand and feeding it. How many of our folks carried the M16 on their back and used captured AK47s, shotguns or what ever they could find in VIET NAM? Remember. Putting the M16 in the hands of our troops was a POLITICAL act not an efficient weapons design. The HUMMER, LAW,BRADLEY- ALL POLITICAL boondoggles. For example- the South Africans had the same problem with roadside bombs when Nelson Mandella was blowing people up in their effort to over throw the “white” government. They developed a very efficient vehicle “the buffalo” which cut the casualties down by 90%. Have you seen any of them in IRAQ? Of course not. We spend billions of dollars refitting or attempting to refit big JEEPS which were never designed to be fighting vehicles or tankettes designed to be armored JEEPS not tanks. Long story short; the next time you have a 120mm semicombustible loaded US tactical round in your hand whether in a turret or out drop it from waste high (bet me first on what the outcome will be) and see what happens. Hint- the case will crack. If you look at the sectioned ones on this post you will see that the powder is contained in a bag. The bag keeps the powder from spilling out but the cracked case is a PROBLEM of fragility common to all designs of semicombustible and or attached powder combustibles. Yes they are just as fragible as I think-I don’t just think about these things. I have tested and studied them.

The fluff near the base of the projectile is the top and closure of the POWDER BAG which keeps the powder from spreading when the case cracks which happens all too often.

Forgot to mention: there were and are plenty of US designs superior to the Rheinmetall gun and ammo. These designs would keep our money at home as well as proving a safer more reliable battle enviornment for our tankers. Our Abrams has a special automatic BLAST DOOR which separates the ammo storge from the gun room. WHY ? Figure it out. Take a day trip to Walter Reed Army Med. center DC and see what happens when that door closes on your arms ! We will never see a full up first line battle between our and enemy tanks so most of this is just rhetoric but no doubt that reinforced paper shells BLOW in a variety of ways !

I dare say that you have probably not spent as much time in the turret of an M1-A1 or examined as many combat-killed T-72s as I have, but from my perspective and experience, the 120 semi-caseless round is adequate for the job at hand, and exceptionally good at killing other tanks. Sure there are better guns and ammunition. There always is a better mouse trap out there… A good loader does not bang or drop any round, be it steel cased or combustable. Riding in an M1-A1 is smooooth and the turret interior is small enough that there is little room for the loader or the round to go anywhere except for where it is supposed to. Why does the Abrams have the ammo stored seperate from the crew? Not because of the design of the ammunition, but the inherent danger in storing main gun rounds in the fighting compartment. This has been the bane of ALL tanks before the Abrams, it has nothing to do with the ammo. Remember that the original M1 was a 105 gun tank with steel cased ammunition. It pioneered the blast doors. Most T-72 kills are catastrophic because of the way the ammunition is stored in the carrousel under the turret. Bad design. M-1s are very survivable, and even most that have been destroyed had 100% crew survival. A big reason is the isolation of the ammunition from penetration shots. I apologize for this topic going off on a tangent, but I feel that in many cases, to better understand the ammunition we study, we must look at it’s use and the system that uses it. I have personal experience with the ammunition in question as it was intended to be used and CSAEOD has experience with the testing and studying of them. The Marines do have a “Buffalo” like vehicle in Iraq now, I beleive it is called a “Rhino”. The first time I saw a pic of one, I thought it was a Buffalo.


Lots of “good loaders” die in combat from accidents. You are correct there are better gun and ammo designs. That was my initial point. When a main gun round gets into your turret it doesn’t matter if you are in am M1A1 or a T72. You and the tank are dead. No one on our side has seen a MODERN first line Soviet or Russian tank in catastrophic failure from combat. Comparing the M1A1 against the T72s of the Iraqis is worse than comparing apples and oranges. It is comparing old apples and new oranges. The fact that you are alive is evidence that you have not been in combat with the new generation of Russian tanks. All soldier tout their weapons when they live. back to point: the Rheinmetall designed semicombustible ammo is more fragile , more expensive , and less enviormentally friendly than MANY US designs which were available BECAUSE of political considerations. How many US tanks were killed by the crack IRAQI Republican Guards in combat - NONE. They didn’t have a chance and knew it. They tried their very best to get away. Glad you agree that the ammo in question is adequate but not the best design. PS weapons designers have to assume that theuser WILL drop and misuse the item-not that they won’t. We have a high rate of failure in our sophisticated ammo designs becaused we engineer SAFETY to excess to avoid the EXPECTED accidents and misuse of weapons. Accidents DO and ALWAYS WILL happen.


I know of no M-1 tanks that were destroyed by enemy tank fire in either of the two wars. There have been Abrahams destroyed by ATGMs and massive IEDs, but I am unaware of any destroyed by an enemy MBT. Can you cite documentation which shows this?

In the first Gulf War, which I was present for, M-1’s without exception, were able to engage the enemy (when he stood to fight) beyond the enemy’s effective range. I saw video footage of an M-1 with what was obviously the rear portion of a KE penetrator sticking out of the turret frontal armor. Obviously the result of a “hail mary” long shot from an Iraqi MBT. I know of an incident where a mechanically disabled M-1-A-1 was destroyed to prevent enemy capture. It was repeatedly fired on by other M-1-A-1’s before it was destroyed. They had to move in very close to effect penetration and destruction. During the current conflict, beginning with the invasion, tank on tank engagements were exceedingly rare and again, very one sided. Even in these cases, crew survivability is excellent. And again, As you pointed out, the M-1-A-1 has never faced an equal or superior tank on the battlefield. You obviously feel there are better alternatives, but the M-1-A-1 is an excellent, battle-proven system and the 120 main gun/ammunition is very effective.



You are in error. I am the military - industrial complex and that has nothing to do with the facts of ammunition design nor does your experience. The only M1s hit within operational range of a main battle tank main gun round were our tanks hit by OUR tanks. None of the crews survived. None of our tanks have ever been hit by a main gun shell from a first line enemy tank within operational range of the arm since WW2. To recap; this is about ammunition. The semideflagrable ammunition used in the M1 tank and others as well is fragile. The design in our case was adopted for political reasons not for superior design. Everyone appreciates your service. This does not change facts. How the M1a1,2 or future models would rate against first line Russian , Chinese or other tanks is something which neither of us will ever see. Everyone has an opinion which is often based upon incomplete or misinformation. We will not be engaging either of these countries in armor battles. They do not export their first line tanks to any country which we might engaged in land combat. As a consequence tank vs tank opinion at this level is just speculation. The T72s and other obsolete tanks of the Iraqi army were no match for our tanks; Apples and oranges. This had far less to do with the ammunition design than the age of the tanks and ammunition and the training of the crews. What production dates did you see on the main gun ammunition for Iraqi T72s ? Were they within standards for desert storage ? Did they receive proper storage to insure optimum performance? Were the vehicles themselves maintained to Soviet standards? The answer to these questions is no. “Hail Mary” indeed.

Soviet 125mm 2 piece tank ammo.Semicombustible stub case to the left , projectile to the right , shipping tubes in the center.



[quote=“CSAEOD”]Soviet 125mm 2 piece tank ammo.Semicombustible stub case to the left , projectile to the right , shipping tubes in the center.


It may be of interest to the people not dealing with this kind of ammo that the projectile is missing it’s semicombustible cylindrical lower part which contains also a huge amount of propellant.

As good as an autoloading system may be the Russian system is limiting itself by the given maximum length for the projectile section. Today where the penetrators of such rounds are getting longer and longer this will be a serious drawback.

Here is some soviet shells with the charge on them. Note that the outer cardboard shell is impregnated with TNT for better combustion.


Thanks for posting that. Always interested in seeing Soviet/ Russian ammunition,packing etc.

AKMS quote “The drawback is in the loading carrousel and it’s tendency to pop the turret off when hit, nevermind the slow reload speed and the need to take the gun off target to reload. From a design standpoint, in theory, the Soviet style round is better, but in practice, the whole system leaves a lot to be desired”.

These are excellent points.