Military-Grade Awesome

Battleship, 16 Inch Gun Training Film

Fresh on the heels of yesterday’s USS Iowa Post, comes this period training film on the loading and firing of the Iowa class’s massive 16 inch/50 cal Mk7 gun. Here you will see the inner workings of the turret, as well as projectile and powder-bag handling. This may come in handy someday if you suddenly find yourself on a re-commissioned WWII battleship.

Hey, it could happen. You gotta be prepared.

Below is a cutaway diagram of the major parts and general arrangement. It’s kind of like an angry flaming iceberg, where you only see a small part above the surface… if you can call 3 gigantic 16 inch diameter 66 foot long guns “small”.

16in Gun Turret USS Iowa

This gives a general idea of the 16″/50 caliber Mk7 gun and turret layout below decks as you follow along in the movie. The 50 caliber here refers to the gun’s length from breechface to muzzle, which is 50 times the barrel’s bore of 16 inches, or 50 calibers, at 66 feet. Each gun weighs 267,900 pounds, and fires 2 explosive or inert projectiles per minute weighing between 1,900 to 2,700lbs at 2,690 feet per second, up to 24 miles.

A typical propellant charge consisted of 6 silk 110lb bags, of extremely high burn-rate smokeless-powder, and Flight Time was an astounding minute and a half at maximum range.

That’s what you call a “Big Stick”! Enjoy!


And as an added bonus, here is video of a live firing exercise conducted by the USS Missouri (BB-63) as shot from an adjacent ship, the USS Princeton (CG59) en-route to Desert Storm, in a film appropriately titled “Shock and Awe”… watch for the cameraman shaking from the percussion a split second after each round, and the puff of white smoke from the barrel clearing system. A compressed air charge clears the bore of hot gasses, sparks and debris after each firing.



  • The Professor

    Another excellent post! Hey, you might want to think about doing this on a regular basis…
    The training film was great, it's too bad that it's been damaged over the years, but we're lucky that it still exists. Duty in one of those big turrets must be tough, I'd hate to be one of those powder monkeys.
    The perspective that the camera man had in the fire exercise was kind of odd, it really makes the Missouri look a lot smaller than she is. The concussion from the rifle fire really smacks him though, and you can tell that the sailors really love the old battlewagon.
    I love 'em too.

    • Thanks!

      Having sailed alongside the Wisconsin in the first Gulf War, I can tell you the perspective gets all out of whack at sea. She was definitely a lot further away than it looked. In my post yesterday the lead photo showed the Iowa a good quarter mile away at zero elevation, whereas this video was probably filmed a good half mile away (or more) at 80 feet or so above the waterline. Here's a gratuitous pic of the Wisconsin from the top of the USS Midway's island at around the same distance. I have several more showing the ship closing in on us, and one with my ugly mug standing there & smiling like a total ship-nerd, trying (failing) to look cool. 🙂

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  • Damn, I used to huff 50 pound sacks of flour and sugar all day in the bakery. I guess at some point I got strong enough to carry two at a time, but I would not want to stay on that powder handler detail for very long. Not to mention the threat of instant disintegration that comes with the payload.

  • texlenin

    Shame they insist on making museum exhibits outta Big Mo, the Cheese,etc. They would make excellent
    flexible multi-mission platforms with some well thought out upgrades. had an excellent
    write-up on the advantages they still have even now.
    Imagine, say all the old powerplant removed and all electric Z-drives installed; say one forward and two aft?
    Or adding a hanger off the stern for some Harriers and/or Ospreys? Upgrade the shells to a Copperhead
    type guided round, with rocket boosters? Lottsa potential.