3-inch gun M1903
3-inch gun M1903
|Type||Rapid-fire seacoast gun|
|Place of origin||United States|
|Used by||United States Army Coast Artillery Corps|
|Wars||World War I and World War II|
|Shell||Fixed ammunition, 15 lb (6.8 kg) shell|
|Caliber||3-inch (76.2 mm)|
|Breech||interrupted screw, De Bange type|
|Recoil||hydrospring, 45 inches (114 cm)|
M1898: masking parapet (retractable)
|Elevation||-5° – +16° (+15° for M1898 and M1902)|
|Traverse||360° (limited by emplacement in most cases)|
|Rate of fire||12 rounds/minute (up to 30 rounds/minute maximum)|
|Muzzle velocity||2,800 ft/s (850 m/s)|
|Effective firing range||
M1902: 10,988 yd (10,047 m)
at 16° elevation
|Maximum firing range||12,000 yd (11,000 m) approx.|
The 3-inch gun M1903 and its predecessors the M1898 and M1902 were rapid fire breech-loading artillery guns with a 360-degree traverse. In some references they are called "15-pounders" due to their projectile weight. They were originally emplaced from 1899 to 1917 and served until near the end of World War II. These 3-inch guns were placed to provide fire to protect submarine mines and nets against minesweepers, and also to protect against motor torpedo boats. In some documentation they are called "mine defense guns". The 3-inch guns were mounted on pedestal mounts (or a retractable "masking parapet" mount for the M1898) that bolted into a concrete emplacement that provided cover and safety for the gun's crew.
The 3-inch mine defense guns were part of a comprehensive plan of new fortifications specified by the Endicott Board of 1885. The new forts included guns up to 12-inch (305 mm) on disappearing carriages, to conceal the fort from observation from the sea. The 3-inch guns were the smallest of these guns, intended to protect remotely controlled minefields against minesweepers. For most of their service they were operated by the United States Army Coast Artillery Corps.
The M1898 was the first of the new 3-inch guns developed. It was manufactured by Driggs-Seabury and was on an M1898 "masking parapet" retractable carriage, conceptually similar to the disappearing carriages of the larger guns. 111 of these weapons were emplaced 1899–1905. It was eventually determined that retraction and extension of the carriage significantly impaired the firing rate, and the retraction feature was disabled, with the modified carriage designated M1898MI. The weapon was in any case small enough that the risk of observation from the sea was minimal. Most or all of the M1898 guns and carriages were removed from service in 1920 due to obsolescence and probably the manufacturer's bankruptcy.
An unusual emplacement for the M1898 guns was at Fort Mott, New Jersey, near Fort Delaware. Two guns were in a massive casemated emplacement named Battery Edwards. At this location it was determined that the minefields needed maximum protection.
The M1902 was functionally similar to the M1898, but was manufactured by Bethlehem Steel and was on a non-retractable pedestal carriage. 60 of these weapons were emplaced 1903–1910. It was not the same weapon as the 3-inch M1902 field gun.
The M1903 was a slight improvement on the M1902 with the bore lengthened from 50 calibers to 55 calibers for increased range. References vary as to whether the bore was lengthened or not, but the increase in overall length supports that it was. It was manufactured by Watervliet Arsenal and was on a non-retractable pedestal carriage. 101 of these weapons were emplaced 1904–1917.
Basis for anti-aircraft guns
The 3-inch gun M1917 was a World War I-era US-made anti-aircraft gun based on the 3-inch gun M1903. It was designed for a fixed mounting and remained in service, primarily at Coast Artillery installations, through World War II. It was determined that the weapon was too heavy and had too much recoil for mobile mountings, so a new weapon based on the lighter and less powerful 3-inch gun M1898 was developed, designated the 3-inch Gun M1918. This was the standard US anti-aircraft gun until replaced by the 3-inch gun M3 in 1930. There is some controversy as to whether any seacoast guns were actually converted into anti-aircraft guns in the development of these weapons.
As part of an across-the-board modernization, all types of 3-inch seacoast guns (with some exceptions) were replaced by the 90 mm Gun M1 in 1940–44 during World War II, usually in new locations. The new weapons were called Anti Motor Torpedo Boat (AMTB) guns. As they were replaced, most of the 3-inch guns were scrapped, along with almost all older Coast Artillery weapons. Almost all remaining weapons, including the new 90 mm guns, were scrapped shortly after the war ended in 1945.
The 3-inch guns M1898, M1902, and M1903 were used at most of the coastal forts that were built under the recommendations of the Endicott Board and Taft Board. A total of 272 were emplaced worldwide 1899–1917. The number of guns in each battery varied from one to four (six in one case), but was most commonly two. The number of batteries in a fort also varied; many forts had only one 3-inch gun battery, while some had as many as four.
Design and construction
3-inch Gun M1903
The gun barrel is of the built-up type. The jacket fits over the rear end of the tube and projects beyond it. The breech bushing is screwed into the end of the jacket and the breech mechanism is assembled into the bushing. The breech bushing bears interrupted threads for the breechblock.
The function of the breech mechanism is to close the breech, and thereby hold the cartridge case in place. The breechblock is the main part of the mechanism. It closes the breech and is hinged so that it can be swung open for loading. It is moved by an operating lever. The lever and breechblock are connected by an operating bar, operating in a T-slot in the breechblock carrier. Thus connected, complete motion of the operating lever to the right will cause the breechblock to rotate and to be swung clear of the breech recess. Swinging the operating lever fully to the right engages cam surfaces of the breechblock carrier and extractor, causing the extractor to eject the empty cartridge case.
The firing mechanism is known as the continuous pull, percussion type; that is, no cocking of the firing pin is required other than a pull on the lanyard or trigger shaft.
Pedestal Carriage M1903
The gun carriage consists of a pedestal, bolted rigidly to the concrete emplacement, and of a gun-supporting structure, which rests on the pedestal and is capable of traversing upon it. The pedestal is the foundation piece of the gun carriage. On the M1903 carriage the pivot yoke is mounted in the pedestal and rests upon a ring of ball bearings on the base of the pedestal. The entire weight of the gun and top part of the carriage rests upon this ring of ball bearings. The bushings for the pivot yoke form two supports against the thrust of firing. At the upper end of the pivot yoke, on either side, trunnion bearings are provided for the cradle trunnions. The shield and shield supports are bolted to the pivot yoke. The opening for the gun in the shield is prolonged underneath to allow for the removal of the piston and springs from the recoil cylinder.
A gun battery consists of one or more gun emplacements, and is under the command of the battery commander. The battery commander is assisted by a battery executive and an assistant battery executive. These positions are filled by officers.
Each gun in an emplacement is manned by a gun section consisting of a gun squad of 15 (war strength) or 12 (peace strength) enlisted men including one noncommissioned officer, the chief of section, and an ammunition squad of 9 (war strength) or 6 (peace strength) enlisted men including one noncommissioned officer, the chief of ammunition.
The ammunition for this gun is fixed and of a weight that can be handled entirely by hand. The ammunition is brought from the magazine to the gun and held ready for loading. To load, push the shell home into the breech recess of the gun with a moderately quick motion of the hand.
Ammunition for the 3-inch gun M1903 is issued in the form of fixed complete rounds. The term "fixed" signifies that the propelling charge is fixed (not adjustable) and that the round is loaded into the gun as a unit. The propelling charge is assembled loosely in the cartridge case which is crimped rigidly to the projectile. A complete round of ammunition comprises all of the components necessary to fire one round.
Dependent upon the type of projectile, ammunition for these guns is classified as high explosive, target practice, blank, or drill. The high explosive projectile contains a high explosive filler. The target practice projectile contains no explosive; it consists of either a solid projectile (designated shot) or a heavy-walled projectile with an empty base cavity. The blank ammunition has a black powder (low explosive) charge in the cartridge case and no projectile. The drill ammunition consists of completely inert cartridge which simulates the service ammunition.
All projectiles are painted to prevent rust and corrosion and by the color to provide a ready means of identification as to type. The projectiles of the ammunition described herein are painted as follows:
|3-inch Gun M1903|
|Practice (Projectile is inert.)||Black||White|
|Drill or dummy (Round is inert)||Black||White|
|3-inch Gun M1903|
|Length, total over-all||175 in (4,445 mm)|
|Length of bore||50 calibers|
|Maximum diameter of chamber||4.31 in (109.47 mm)|
|Weight, including breech mechanism||2,690 lb (1,220 kg)|
|Type of construction||Built-up|
|Rifling:Twist||R.H. increasing from 1–50 at origin to 1–25|
|Number of grooves||24|
|Width of groove||0.2927 in (7.43 mm)|
|Depth of groove||0.03 in (0.76 mm)|
|Width of land||0.10 in (2.54 mm)|
|Type of breechblock||Slotted screw|
|Type of breech mechanism||Lever pull|
|Number of handles to operate||1|
|Type of firing mechanism||Continuous pull|
|Muzzle velocity, maximum||2,800 ft (853 m) per second|
|(Using Shell, H. E., M42 and M42A1)||10,943 yd (10,006 m)|
|(Using Shell, H. E., 15 lb, M1915)||11,328 yd (10,358 m)|
|(Using Shell, H.E., MK1)||9,177 yd (8,391 m)|
|Life of gun (full charge)||2,500 rounds|
|Rate of fire (normal)||12 rounds per minute|
|Rate of fire (maximum)||30 rounds per minute|
|Carriage, 3-inch M1903|
|Total weight||3,310 lb (1,501 kg)|
|Maximum elevation||+16 degrees|
|Minimum elevation||-10 degrees|
|Type of bearing||Ball|
|Mean diameter of roller path||3.3 in (83.8 mm)|
|Maximum traverse||360 degrees|
|Pedestal, outer flange diameter||42 in (1,067 mm)|
- Two 3-inch guns M1902M1 (#6 and #7 Bethlehem) at Battery Irwin, Fort Monroe, VA
- Two 3-inch guns M1903 (#11 and #12) at Battery Trevor, Fort Casey, Coupeville, WA (guns moved in the 1960s from Battery Flake, Fort Wint, Grande Island, Subic Bay Philippines)
- One 3-inch gun M1903 (#17) at Battery Wansboro, Fort Flagler, Nordland, WA (gun moved in the 1960s from Battery Jewell, Fort Wint, Grande Island, Subic Bay Philippines)
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#120 Driggs-Seabury), Central Park, West Rutland, Vermont
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#75 Driggs-Seabury), Town Hall, Lacey Road, Forked River, New Jersey
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1, Valhalla Firehouse, Valhalla, NY
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#122 Driggs-Seabury), Pulaski Square, Cleveland, OH
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1, Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Elbridge, New York
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1, Copper Street Cemetery, Vernon, NY
- Three 3-inch guns M1898M1, (#27, 28, 85 Driggs-Seabury), Valley Forge Military Academy and College, Wayne, PA
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#92 Driggs-Seabury), Town Hall, Brighton, NY
- Two 3-inch guns M1898M1 (#37 and #38 Driggs-Seabury), American Legion post, Penfield, NY
- Two 3-inch guns M1898M1 (#11 and #118 Driggs-Seabury), Schell Memorial Cemetery, Boyertown, PA
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#60 Driggs-Seabury), Route 22, Harrisburg, PA
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#88 Driggs-Seabury), Orange, MA
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (#39 Driggs-Seabury), American Legion Post 397, Shrewsbury, MA
- One 3-inch gun M1898M1 (Unk. mfr.), Oregon Military Museum (closed since 2009, plans to re-open), Camp Withycombe, Clackamas, OR
- Four 3-inch masking parapet mounts M1898, FL Historical Resources Conservation Laboratory, Tallahassee, Florida (discovered at Fort Taylor, Key West, FL)
- One training dummy M1911 (#2 Watervliet) on barbette carriage M1912 (#1 Cowdrey Machine), U.S. Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center, Fort Lee, VA
- One training dummy M1911 (#unk Watervliet) on barbette carriage M1912 (#unk Cowdrey Machine), Battery McCorkle, Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island, SC
- List of U.S. Army weapons by supply catalog designation SNL E-2
- Seacoast defense in the United States
- United States Army Coast Artillery Corps
- 3-inch M1902 field gun
- 3-inch Gun M1918
- 90 mm Gun M1/M2/M3
- Ordnance QF 17 pounder
- Coastal Battery Gun data at FortWiki.com
- Berhow, p. 61
- "TM 9-421 3-Inch Seacoast Gun Materiel". Internet Archive.
- Berhow, pp. 70–71
- Berhow, pp. 200-226
- Poor’s Manual of Industrials, 1916, Vol. 7, New York: Redmond & Co., pp. 1722-1726
- Berhow, p. 200
- Berhow, pp. 72–73
- Berhow, pp. 74–75
- Berhow, pp. 250-252
- Excerpt from online book A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island by Robert J. Cressman
- List of all US coastal forts and batteries
- "FM 4–90 Seacoast Artillery : service of the piece, 3-inch rapid-fire gun". Internet Archive.
- Photos of surviving seacoast guns
- Berhow, pp. 239-240
- CDSG Newsletter, May 2016, p. 3
- War Department TM 9-421 3-Inch Seacoast Gun Materiel
- War Department FM 4–90 Seacoast Artillery: service of the piece, 3-inch rapid-fire gun
- Berhow, Mark A., Ed. (2015). American Seacoast Defenses, A Reference Guide, Third Edition. McLean, Virginia: CDSG Press. ISBN 978-0-9748167-3-9.
- McGovern, Terrance and Smith, Bolling, American Coastal Defences 1885–1950 (Fortress series, Book 44), Osprey Publishing 2006, ISBN 1-8417692-2-3
- Cressman, Robert J. (2013). A Magnificent Fight: Marines in the Battle for Wake Island. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1-4823914-1-4.
- FortWiki gun type list
- List of all US coastal forts and batteries at the Coastal Defense Study Group, Inc. website
- FortWiki, lists most CONUS and Canadian forts
- Coast Defense Study Group
- Lohrer, George L. Ordnance Supply Manual, U. S. Ordnance Dept., 1904, pp. 295–300