5 in. Naval Shell, need help!

Hello, I hope that someone can help me with this identification.
I just inherited a 42 lb. 20 in. high light blue naval? shell from a neighbor. I was told it was a practice round. The tip is made of an aluminium cone roughly about 4 1/2 long, solid with no markings. Tapping the side of the shell gives a hollow ringing sound as though it is hollow inside, so I am pretty sure there is no explosive contained inside. There is a 2 1/2 inch copper rotating band around the shell about two inches from the bottom. there is a two inch screwed in base cover in the bottom of the shell. The markings on the bottom and rotating band are as follows:

MOD-O AMCOT 5IN.-H.C. MK - 52 LOT 715 0969F

I would appreciate any information anyone can give me about this shell and the markings on the bottom. I am interested in small caliber ammunition and am out of my league when it comes to identifying something this big.


Hi ,

Your shell is for the 5 inch 38 caliber naval gun.
The shell and case are loaded seperated.
Your shell is the H.C. (High Capacity) MK 52 (Mark)
Are you sure the light blue painting is original?
The H.C. shells are not blue painted.
There is a blue painted BL-PT Mk 52 (Blind loaded and plugged/tracer) but this is too heavy , 54.6 lb.
The H.C. shell is loaded with explosive filler A-3 or Expl-D , 53.3 lb.
Without explosive this could be your shell , 42 lb.

soldat251–Light blue is the standard color for TP (Target Practice) ammunition for all calibers from 20mm through large bombs in the U.S.A. Assuming the projectile has not been repainted, it is a TP round. TP rounds are normally made as such with their own design, but especially in the larger calibers, any factory inerted round, such as a High Explosive with Tracer, etc. can be redesignated as TP and painted Light Blue. This is often done so the TP round will match the original type for weight and ballistics, but without any explosive. You can have TP-Tracer, however, but most TP are just inert projectiles. The TP-Tracer will normally have a light blue body with a ring of red T-T-T-T around it at about the middle.

Thanks Western,

My shell looks to nice to be original paint. Previous owner could have repainted it, or it might have been painted that color, or repainted by him, to identify it as a practice or display round. I don’t know for sure. It’s the color of the third target practice projectile (90mm M317 TP) shown on the “Introduction to Artillery Shells and Shell Casings” page on the left side of the main page. I do have two questions for you however.

  1. What colorwould this shell have been originally?

  2. Does the code “0969F” on the shell stand for the production date which I would guess was 6/09/1969?

Any other information would also be helpful in solving this mystery.
I really appreciate you getting back to me.

From what I gather from my surfing on the web, this type of shell ( the live rounds that is) were used mainlly with destroyer escorts. Is that an accurate statement or were they used on any naval ship carrying 5 inch guns?
Also if I am correct on the date of the shell, it would have been produced during a very turbulent time during the Vietnam conflict. Preferably I would have liked it to come out of the WWII years since that is my area of interest, but if not it is historical in time just the same.

soldat251–I have no idea what types of ships used the 5" 38. The person who needs to answer this question is Ray Meketa.

USN target and/or inert loaded projectiles were painted red. Blue was the color ID for Illuminating (Star) projectiles. The body of an HC projectile would have been painted green.

I’d guess that your projectile was repainted to make it look good.

The weight (42 lbs) would indicate that it’s empty. Target projectiles were usually filled with something like sand or compacted sawdust to give them a weight approximating a loaded one.

Has it been fired? (Is the rotating band engraved?)

Are you positive the “tip” is aluminum? Target projectiles generally had a dummy fuze or, more often, a plain steel nose plug.

An HC projectile was used against unarmored surface targets, shore objectives, or personnel. Since no penetration was required, explosives more sensitive than Explosive D could have been used. Original stenciling on the body and the color paint on the ogive would have identified the filler.

The 5"/38 was the most common of the 5" guns during and immediately after WWII. It was found on all sorts of ships, from the largest to the smallest. They were mostly phased out by the 1980s but many of the guns were sold to other nations for use on their ships.

Got photo?


BTW, “0969F” would be part of the lot number, not a date.


To answer your questions. No engraving on the rotating band ( I guess you mean scratch marks from the barrel, just the info stamped on the base of the shell. Yes, it’s an aluminum tip. Just tried a magnet and it won’t stick. I have pictures but will need to send them to you to post since I don’t know how to do it on this forum if that’s ok.

Here are the photos from soldat251.

I’m positive that the projectile has been freshly painted. A few years ago it was possible to buy projectiles that had not been fired, such as this one. They usually had a small torch cut in the fuze threads to de-mil them. It was possible to fill the torch cut by welding, or with epoxy, and then finish and repaint. Take a real close look around the junction between the body and the fuze and you may be able to see the repair. Of course, it’s also possible that the projectile was never de-milled.

The “fuze” looks like one that somebody made from aluminum stock and screwed or glued it into the body. They did a good job.

It’s possible to strip that blue paint off and you may find traces of the original paint underneath or in some of the nooks and crannies. That would tell you what the projectile was last used for.

If you want to re-finish it to be more authentic you can use a spray can of Hunter Green Satin which is close to what an original HC projectile would have been painted. Leave the rotating band and the “fuze” unpainted.

Of course, you can also leave it as is.

If anyone has any comments, or corrections, please have at it.


Target practice projectiles designated BL&P or BL&T (blind-loaded and plugged or blind-loaded and tracer) were made using many of the standard High Capacity projectile or other explosive (Anti-Aircraft Common or Common) projectile bodies, and the stamped designation would remain unchanged on them. The final mark and Mod would be indicated by the paint color and the stenciled markings.

The info on the Navy using red color for practice rounds is correct, but only through about 1950 or so, when the Navy switched to using the Army type color codes, with blue for the BL&P or BL&T rounds.

I have no info onthe Mark 52 High Capacity 5 inch projectile, and it does not appear in the 1969 Navy Ordnance Pamphlet 1664 U.S. Explosive Ordnance.


We were still using 3" and 5" ammunition with the WWII USN colors up until at least 1955. I can’t say when the actual colors may have changed after that but there was so much ammunition from WWII and the Korean War that I would expect it to be more than a few years.

I’m not personally familiar with the MK 52 projectiles so can’t say how they differed from earlier ones. The one pictured appears ordinary so it may have to do with the fuzing.


If your shell is a redesigned H.C. into a BL&P it has to be marked:
Mk 110 MOD 4
This is the only BL&P with the Mk 52 body.
The one in the picture below has the Mk 35 body marked:
Mk 110 MOD O
The difference is in the base hole. Your Mk 52 has a 2 inch hole.
The Mk 35 has a 1.5 inch hole.


Thanks for sharing that information and photo. Now we know what the MK 52 is - a different base fuze.

Are you able to buy projectiles such as this without them being de-milled?



I don’t understand your question. Until now I could not find a 5" shell
of any type. It would be nice to find one to complete with my brass casing.
But I am on the wrong side of the ocean . Of course any shell should be explosive free.



I assumed that the projectile in the photo belonged to you.

Here in the U.S. we are able to buy projectiles that have been deactivated and sold as scrap. To make sure that they cannot be used, a welding torch is used to make a cut in the fuze threads. But, every once in a while I find an unfired, empty projectile that does not have the torch cut.

The one in the photo looks like it is all original, including the nose plug.



I found the information in the technical manual SW030-AA-MMO-010.
NAVY GUN AMMUNITION, Description, Operation, and Maintenance, 1999

The picture I found on the internet and posted to illustrate the way it is marked.


Then Western can I conclude that my shell is an unplugged BL& P that hasn’t been torch cut? One that slipped through, or one some sailor slipped under his coat and snuck of base. It looks the same as your picture minus the torch cuts, the painted fuse and a fresh paint job.

Found this link/page from a 1957 printing:

Color coding info near the bottom.


That’s the color coding that was in use in late WWII and still in use in the 1950s even though it was supposedly changed in 1950.


Only you can tell if your projectile has been torch cut. It could have been repaired and painted over. The paint on yours is obviously new. Underneath could be another color. Again, only you can find out.

I don’t believe that the “fuze” on yours is original to the projectile. There is no provision for a wrench to install it, it has not been staked, and I question whether or not aluminum was used for target and/or inert projectiles. But my own personal contact with Naval ordnance ended in the mid 1950s so I could be completely wrong when it comes to your projectile.

Only you can decide whether to leave it as is or refinish it. If you’re a fan of target and/or inert projectiles you could refinish it to look like the one Western showed. If you’d prefer it to look like a real projectile you could refinish it with the appropriate colors and markings. Either way, I’d get rid of that glossy paint. It turns me off, but I’m a nit picker.