5 inch High Explosive High Capacity AAA Shell markings

I have been working on restoring an old 5 inch High Explosive High Capacity AAA Shell to it’s original color and markings for a MK51. I have not been able to find a color picture of the round anywhere. all of the pictures are in black and white and just tells you that it’s painted green with yellow ogive for the HE markng.If anyone has a good color picture of one can you please reply to this post. Thankyou much!


Can you be a little more specific? 5"/?. Circa? Gun? Country? Maybe a photo. I have photos of a lot of different US 5" projectiles and may be able to help.


Ray, I just want to know how you got those in your duffel bag without scratching them.

Pete - You very carefully pack all of your socks, skivvies, trousers, and jumpers around them. The scary part is when you’re getting ready to board the Greyhound bus and the driver wants to put your sea bag in the luggage compartment. :-0


P.S. - If you BATF&E guys are reading this, I’m only kidding.

Ray–Your tongue-in-cheek comment reminds be of a true story about when I returned from Vietnam in 1969. I was a weapons specialist stationed at Camh Ranh Bay AFB. Many people do not realize that there were small contingents of military units from many countries besides the U.S. in Vietnam. Many of these small units had a few combat aircraft, most of which were either stationed at Camh Ranh Bay or were serviced there. Each country had their own ammunition supplies stored in the Bomb Dump at Camn Ranh Bay. I would periodically go through the stores and grab one round of anything I did not have in my collection, especially 20mm rounds. By the time it came time to return to the U.S. I had over 100 different 20mm from all over the world.

I packed them all inside socks, wrapped in skivvies, etc, as you said, and put them in the bottom of my duffel bag. The bag weighed over 100 lbs when I was done. When I got to customs at McCord AFB in Washington I could barely drag the bag and I hoped nothing would go Clink-Clink. I am also an entomologist and had made a large collection of insects while in Vietnam. I packed my boxes of insects in the top of my duffel bag so they were the first thing the customs agent saw. When they opened my bag and saw all those “Bugs” the guy just said anyone crazy enough to drag home bugs can’t be dangerous and passed me though without further inspection. So, ended the happy part of my story.

Now for, as Paul Harvey used to say on the Radio (Boy, that will date any of us who remember him), “The rest of the story.”

When I was discharged from the Air Force in 1971, I was stationed at MacDill AFB in Tampa. Florida. I was moving back to Michigan and had to ship my Cartridge Collection by Fire Proof storage, separate from the rest of my household goods. I packed it all in 20mm Ammo Cans. When it got to the storage warehouse, the guys there thought it would be neat to look at my cartridges. In the top of the first can they opened was a 100 round belt of WW-I U.S.C.Co. aircraft machine gun ammo. They panicked and called base EOD. Of course, they saw it was old ammo and perfectly safe and legal to own. But then they continued to dig, just out of curiosity, and soon found all those 20mm HEI, Tracer, Incendiary, etc. rounds. Obviously, they confiscated my collection on the spot and called me in (even though I had been officially discharged the day before) to explain what I was doing with all those 20mm rounds.

Well, in the end, I made a deal with them, that in exchange for not court marshaling me for illegal possession of Government Property, and since it would be a major headache for them since I had already been discharged, that they would keep all the 20mm but let me have the rest of my collection back. At that point, as sad as I was to lose all those 20mm rounds, especially after all the sweat going through customs with them back in 1969, I agreed and high-tailed it off base and headed north to Michigan.


As a Gunners Mate I had access to all sorts of SAA, big ordnance, and de-milled weapons. So I liberated a lot of it, just like you did. The only problem was that back then I was more interested in cigarettes, beer, and girls, and so I traded most of it to feed those 3 bad habits. I can tell you honestly though, that if I had it to do over again - I’d probably do the same thing. ;-)


Ray, that reminds me of a story concerning George Best, one of the best footballers in the world in the 1970s. He is alleged to have said something like: “Eighty percent of the money I earned went on women and booze. The rest I wasted.”


Can you be a little more specific? 5"/?. Circa? Gun? Country? Maybe a photo. I have photos of a lot of different US 5" projectiles and may be able to help.


I’m sorry I can’t upload a picture for you on this forum. But I can give you more detail. The shell is 16.5 inches long, it does not have a taperd base. The marking stamped on the rotating band ID’s as MK51. I suspect this is a WW2 era round or earlier.

You can take a look on a very nice 5"/38 MK51 shell here:
gunauction.com/search/displa … um=6465389


The MK 51 is a WW II 5"/38 projectile. The one that Western shows is typical of post war markings and colors.(Actually, the change took place around 1957).

I can probably dig up more photos of 5"/38 projectiles if you’d like to look at different color patterns.


Ray, can you post a picture of a 5in/L25 for me ??? I would like to see what one looks like. Thanks, Bill

Bill - I don’t think I have a photo of a real 5"/25 but here’s an old photo of one in action. The colors would be the same as on any other 5" projectile.


Thank you for the pictures. My understanding is that those shells are 24 inches long. Is that correct ?? Regards, Bill

Bill - The projectile is about 20 inches long and weighs approximately 55 pounds. The entire cartridge weighs about 80 pounds.


Thanks, Ray. I wish I had one. Bill

The cartridge case of the 5 inch L25 is 25 inches long, compared with just under 27 inches for the more common dual-purpose L38, and 38 inches for the older surface-action L51 also used by the USN in WW2.

Thanks, Tony. That 5inch/l25 is a hard one to find and I wonder why. The others are pretty common, especially the 5/l38. Thank you for the response. Bill

I just noticed that you guys are using an “L” in the nomenclature. I’m embarrased to say that I have no idea what the 5"L/25 or 5"L/38 is. Can someone educate me?


The designations, as I expect you’re aware, refer to barrel lengths (5" L/25 = 5x25 = 125 inches). The L/25 was a naval AA gun, the L/38 a dual-purpose gun used by USN destroyers and as a secondary weapon on larger ships, the L/51 was a high-velocity surface gun fitted to some older ships.

To read (lots) more, try these:




Tony, That is interesting that they had guns for the 5/51. I have a 5"/51 case that is marked CATAPULT AMMUNITION

The bottom says:
5-IN-51 CAL-MK-3 CATAPULT NS-3 1942 J.C.A. US LOT 5
The case is 6.26 in. inside diameter and is 33 in. long whereas the standard 5 in. case is 5.4 in. in diameter.

Thank you the links. Bill