75mm Shrapnel (?) ID needed


A friend is trying to identify the 75mm projectile shown in the photos below.
I assume the solid nose plug is a shipping plug, or perhaps a dummy fuze for use as an inert drill or practice item
Only markings are the letter C in a six sided shape stamped on the side near the base, and the letter H in a similar six sided shape stamped on the base.

Thanks in advance for any info or suggestions.



This may one of several different versions of 3.2-inch shrapnel shells tested and briefly used by the U.S. Army in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Or it could be German, or? The use of cast iron separators does not appear to have been employed for very long most probably due to the cost of production. In addition the bursting charge in the head of shell was soon replaced by having the bursting charge in the base of the shell which proved more effective in distributing the shrapnel.

From The Handbook of the 3.2-Inch Field Battery, 1914

"The body is made of steel tubing, machined on the outside and threaded at its two ends for head and base. It is weakened for fracture by longitudinal grooves cut upon its interior. It contains
a charge of 162 balls, 1/2 inch in diameter… arranged in seven layers of 22 each, with a bottom layer of eight. These are separated by cast-iron plates, with beds conforming to the shape of the balls.

The separators are designed to prevent the deformation of the balls under the shock of discharge and also to furnish additional fragments of effective size."

I have more information and will post it when I find it.



This looks much like an “universal shell” design where depending on the fuze setting different effects where achieved.
The head section and likely the room inbetween the locator discs and balls was filled with HE.
Setting on time (airburst) created a shrapnel effect as known. Setting in impact gave a HE-Frag effect.
This is just my assumption from what I see here and know from similar European designs.


Here is a shrapnel shell diagram (with added info) from the American Ordnance Co. 1894 catalog:

Shrapnel shell description from the American Ordnance Co. 1894 catalog:



Awesome document you got there Brian!
Thanks a lot for clarification. Seems there is some differences between European and US designs and thoughts.


3.2 inch shrapnel shell developed by Hotchkiss and the American Projectile Co. (American Ordnance Co.?), Appendix 47, Chief Of Ordnance Report, 1892

Things to note:

During this time Frankford Arsenal was also developing and testing shrapnel shells, using cast iron separators of different designs to hold the shrapnel balls in place, in 7", 6", 5", 3.6" and 3.2’.

The driving band on the unidentified projectile at the beginning of the post is .704" wide while the projectile shown in the Ordnance report is .5" wide. The distance from the shell base to the bottom of the driving band on the unidentified projectile is 1.35" while this distance for the projectile in the Ordnance report is .625". One possible reason for this difference is the unknown round is a projectile used in a fixed round cartridge while the Hotchkiss shell is for a bag gun and did not use a cartridge case. Tube diameter for the unknown shell is 2.96" (the diameter for early 3" projectiles?) while the tube diameter of the Hotchkiss shell is 3.185". So is the unknown round an early 3" shrapnel shell using the same design as the 3.2" Hotchkiss/American Ordnance shell? Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will chime in.



Brian, thanks again! Awesome docs you got there.

So Hotchkiss was cooperating woth other companies in ammunition development?



From the looks of the American Ordnance Co. 1894 catalog, they were promoting an extensive line of Hotchkiss guns and munitions.


PM sent


Great information. Thank you all.

Any idea which countries might be using these in 75mm?

Any idea when this design was replaced by the more common WW1 style Shrapnel with the powder charge in the base for expelling the contents forward?

Do the markings of the C or H within a six sided shape (sort of like a holly leaf) suggest a possible maker?


John, great find, thanks for posting. To the excellent information submitted by Brian I can add that the maximum diameter of the shell and distance from rotating band to base is correct for a 76 mm (3") Hotchkiss shell as used in the US mountain-gun. The matching case measures 135 mm long, having a neck length of 43 mm and a rim diameter of 85.7 mm.

Below is 1888 drawing of a very similar Hotchkiss Shrapnel shell, although the loading is different.




Fede, great drawing! The fuze featured is an Armstrong Design. Does this have a meaning here as for who used the one in your drawing?



Great information!

Thanks for posting.



Alex, this was the fuse type adopted by the U.S. Army for this specific caliber and load, and it is usually described as the Armstrong-Elswick time/concussion fuse. Also, it is illustrated mounted in a 3’’ Shrapnel shell in the U.S. Handbook for Light Artillery published in 1896, as seen below.


Fede, again thanks. I have a hard time digging my docs and actually finding stuff.


Fede- I am always amazed at how much you know about all types of ammunition, and the incredible files of documents you share with others.

I am trying to pin down the correct designation for the gun or cartridge this is for. You said
"… the maximum diameter of the shell and distance from rotating band to base is correct for a 76 mm (3") Hotchkiss shell as used in the US mountain-gun. The matching case measures 135 mm long, having a neck length of 43 mm and a rim diameter of 85.7 mm."

The closest case match I can find in Robert Hawkinson’s superb book is a 75 x 136mmR (with no rim diameter listed) for 75mm 12 pounder mountain gun. There is also a 2.95" mountain gun using a 75 x 167mmR with 85mm rim diameter case. There is also a 76.2 x 166mmR with 85mm rim for a 3 inch 12 pounder Hotchkiss mountain gun. Can anyone narrow it down among these different possibilities, preferably with the official designation of the gun?

Thanks again to everyone who has helped!


John, you are right, this would be the 75x136R 12 pdr listed by Hawkinson, because the specified case length is actually between 135 and 136 mm (5.336" = 135.53 mm). Also, the metric weight of the common shell is 5.450 Kg, which converts to 12 pounds.

Regarding the gun designation, I must point out that in French Hotchkiss literature it is indistinctly called a 75 or 76 mm L/13.5 Mountain Gun (e.g., Canon de montagne de 76 millimètres, L/13,5), so both metric caliber designations are correct in this case.

Below is a picture of the gun and a drawing of the round loaded with a common shell. The case is of the Hotchkiss separated ignition type (primerless), which means it has a vent pierced through the head that is filled with musket powder and sealed with wax. Ignition is produced by means of an external friction primer and aided by five eccentric holes surrounding the vent that lead to the propelling charge.



Note: There is a mistake in this drawing, since the groove between rim and head actually measures 0.05" (0.15+0.05+0.5+2.436+.5+1.7 = 5.336"/135.53 mm).


Thanks again, Fede!

I was able to confirm U.S. use of these guns in a document called Artillery Circular Number 1, series of 1893. It has all sorts of interesting info on all type of artillery in use at that time and their ammunition. (Even though the shrapnel shell shown for the 12 pounder Mountain Gun is the later type with the base expelling charge, not the front bursting charge which started this thread). Others may find it interesting. There are several other editions and related books which will show up if you do a Google search for Artillery Circular Number 1 if anyone wants to dig through those.


Included is one color plate just after the title page showing projectile colors at that time. This may be of interest.


John, thanks a lot for the link to that book.


The dummy(?) fuze shown with the shrapnel shell at the beginning of this thread is in the style of a Sweet’s double action (combination) fuze.

From American Ordnance Co. 1894 catalog:

Good discussion and pictures here: bocn.co.uk/vbforum/sweets-do … 70149.html