WW2 Iowa Class Battleship 16" Gun Barrel Slice


Today I received by far the most historic and amazing artifact in my collection. This 1.5 inch thick barrel slice was taken from a WW2 Iowa Class Battleship 16" gun. It is the muzzle end and weighs about 112 pounds. I’m pondering cool ways of displaying it. Hard to ponder the extreme history and bravery that took place under these battleship barrels.



Wow, what a nice piece for your collection!

The good thing about the piece you have is, there are only so many of them around! (And you have slice #3!)



Cutting that Slice (“parting off”) would have required one Humongous Navy Yard Lathe ( I saw one at Garden Island (Sydney) RAN Dockyard, back in 1965, it could do Prop shafts of Carriers, and the Barrels of HMS King George V (Battleship, 15"(?). The Operator rode in a cabin on the cross saddle, and did all the tool adjustments Hydraulically. It was built during WWII, and could handle any RN or RAN ship outside of Britain. (I think Singapore had a similar one, but it was in Japanese Hands during WW II.)

Nice Piece. All Battleships had reserves of “Tubes” in the Navy Yards, for a “0ne to one” replacement when they wore out after a certain Number of shots.

Doc AV


Awesome! Wish I had one of those and more unlikely a German 380mm…


Very nice! After Desert Storm we had to trim the extruded liners from our barrels. I was hoping to obtain a sample similar to yours, but…the device that trimmed the liners shaved the material from the circumference(?) very slowly with a sharp blade that required lots of cutting oil. Kind of like planing wood with a hand plane.


Neat item. Military cooperation? The Army had a warehouse at our now defunct Naval Annex (WW-2 Supply depot) The Army had a warehouse that had stored the type of lathe described by Doc AV up until the late 1980 early-90’s. They were a customer of mine and got a close up look at the lathe. Hunters point shipyards (San Francisco CA) also now defunct to this day still has a huge structure that looks like a bridge section. It was built to remove battleship turrets in one piece. Was never used. After the war most of the 16" coastal gun barrels were sold to Gillette so you might have shaved with one of them this morning.


I was told that the entire facility that cut this slice was certified as “Military Level” and that the saw that cut it was larger then an 18 wheeler truck and took almost 2 hours per slice. Then the slice was put on a massive lath that machine finished the face smooth.



I saw a smaller barrel slice used as a radioactive isotope chamber on one of the US government’s radiation clean up vehicles a while ago. I forget which department sponsored it. I realized what it was when I saw the rifling inside of it.


Back in the Late 1970s, a friend in my Northern Italian Town where I resided for 10 years, had a Machine-shop making Hydraulic Presses and Air Compressors. For making Hydraulic cylinders, he used Italian Army Surplus/scrapped 90mm (Sherman) Tank-gun barrels, boring them to remove the rifling, and turning the outside etc. He let me have a couple of the Muzzle Brakes, to use to make a Garden Table. ( 2 foot Long.).

Doc AV


Do you still have the table? I bet it was one of the coolest tables out there :-) Would love to see a picture if you have any, Doc :-)



Just as an aside…

My mother’s father, my grandfather, Brown Emerson Barnes, a trained machinist and, later in life, a patent draftsman, like me, worked during WW1 at the Washington Navy Yard, gauging finished naval gun barrels for acceptance by the Navy…



That is so amazing, Randy! We all owe your Grandfather a lot for making sure our gun barrels were perfect!



Sorry, when I left Italy in 1983, the Table stayed behind (too heavy to ship, with a container of personal Belongings.) I suppose it had since gone to the Scrap yard…they ( the Brakes) were no longer there in 2005, when we cleared the House for sale.

Doc AV


I noticed they polished it up too much… It barely shows the difference between the liner and the tube. I wonder if you can age it with some chemicals.


Doc, it sounded awesome! So creative and one of a kind :-)

Jester, the pics did not capture the tube separation to well but in person, you see it no prob.



Since acquiring this historic artifact I have been going full throttle trying to learn more about the history of US Battleships. I have bought a gazzilion books on the subject trying research everything I can in-order to hopefully fabricate a historically accurate display for this barrel slice. In my studies I have come across some factual discrepancies that I am hoping someone here may be able to clarify.

This barrel slice came from a 16"/50 Cal Mark 7 gun used on a WW2 era US battleship. The majority of reference material that I have read states that the 16"/50 Cal gun was only used on Iowa Class Battleships (USS IOWA - BB61, USS New Jersey - BB62, USS Missouri - BB63 and the USS Wisconsin - BB64) and that the Iowa Class predecessors, the North Carolina Class and South Dakota Class ships were all fitted with 16"/45 Cal Mark 6 guns. I have one book that states that the North Carolina Class and South Dakota Class ships also had 16"/50 Cal guns, contradicting the other books I bought and online reference material I came across. Can anyone here confirm that the 16"/50 Cal gun barrels were only used on the Iowa Class Battleships?

From what I have learned, by increasing the gun barrel from 45 Cal to 50 Cal allowed the Navy to increase the number of powder bags to 6, causing increased explosive power behind the 2700 pound projectile which in turn increased the effective distance the projectile could travel and its impact force. The books I have read so far claim the gun could fire its massive AP projectile between 24 and 30 miles accurately.

Anyhow, the point of all this is that I am trying to figure out which ships to include in my display that used the 16"/50 Cal Gun. :-)



One excellent source of info on Naval Weapons (with with only a small amount of info on ammunition) is:


Semi related, pictures from Sandy hook NJ which was the Proving Grounds from 1874-1919 testing all gun barrels, ballistic armor and variety of Ordinances thru WW1. The 16in barrels weighed 13 tons, 49.5 feet long, used 640lbs of powder charge, and had a 21 mile range. They than moved to Aberdeen MD shortly there after.
The picture of the BIG projectiles standing up: left to right 16in/60’’ tall, (2) separate 12in/42" and 32", (I think) 14in.
The others laying down are all 12in, the one with the crushed tip (next to tape measure) was found under my dads school while digging footings for a new building.
Information came from “Images of America, Sandy Hook” by Randall Gabrielan, a series of mini books on related topics.
Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area still gives tours every Saturday and you can walk into several of the old Batteries, and see the 20in Rodman, Hercules + AJAX missiles


Thank you so much for the great link to that Mega Reference Resource, John! I feel like you just sent me the holy grail of Navy Gun information. Off to go spend a few hours nerding on that site.

Wolfganggross, those picture are GREAT! What an amazing facility and piece of history to walk around. Would be cool to see WW1 projectiles and Nike Ajax Missile displays at the same place :-)



You guys must be aware that we have our very own expert right here on the Forum. Roundsworth was a Gunners Mate on the USS Missouri and can probably tell you more about the big guns than any reference that you might find.