37 mm Gun M3

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Summary

The 37 mm Gun M3 was anti-tank gun introduced in 1940, which was the first widespread anti-tank gun in American service. The gun fires 37×223mmR rounds that proved suitable during the first few years of its introduction. It was adapted into a tank armament role as the models M5 and M6. While adequate for the time of its introduction, it was soon outdated by the evolving tactics of tank warfare. As a tank armament, it was succeeded by the 75 mm gun on the American medium tanks.

Variants

  • M3 - Anti-tank gun, towed version, manual breech.
  • M5 - Tank armament with a shortened barrel.
  • M6 - Tank armament with original barrel length and semi-automatic breech.

Users

M3

M5

M6

Ammunition

Historical

Available rounds for the gun:

  • M74 AP Shot - Standard AP round.
  • M51 APC Shot - APCBC round.
  • M63 HE Shell - Standard HE round.
  • Mk II HE Shell - HE round, British service
  • M2 Canister Shot - Shot gun round with 122 steel ball bearings.
  • M51 TP Shot - Target practice round.

Game Statistics

M3/M5

Ammunition Penetration in mm @ 90° Type of
warhead
Velocity
in m/s
Projectile
Mass in kg
Fuse delay in m: Fuse sensitivity in mm: Explosive Mass in
TNT equivalent
in g:
Normalization At 30° from horizontal: Ricochet:
10m 100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m 0% 50% 100%
M74 shot 78 76 59 43 31 22 AP 792 0.87 N/A N/A N/A -1° 43° 30° 25°
M51 shot 67 66 58 50 43 37 APC 792 0.87 N/A N/A N/A -1° 42° 27° 19°

M6

Ammunition Penetration in mm @ 90° Type of
warhead
Velocity
in m/s
Projectile
Mass in kg
Fuse delay in m: Fuse sensitivity in mm: Explosive Mass in
TNT equivalent
in g:
Normalization At 30° from horizontal: Ricochet:
10m 100m 500m 1000m 1500m 2000m 0% 50% 100%
M74B1 90 89 69 50 37 27 AP 883 0.87 N/A N/A N/A -1° 43° 30° 25°
M63 Shell 2 2 2 2 2 2 HE 807 0.73 0.1 0.5 38 +0° 11° 10°
M51B1/B2 79 78 69 59 51 43 APC 883 0.87 N/A N/A N/A -1° 42° 27° 19°

History of creation and combat usage

Development

The US Army failed to develop any structure of anti-tank units, or even any equipment for such units in the mid-1930s. The only weapon of noteworthy was the .50 caliber Browning M2HB, which was becoming less capable to fight against the more heavily armored tanks being developed. The Spanish Civil War in 1936, however, put some hindsight into the US Army's future development in a dedicated anti-tank gun, as seen by the performance by the German 37 mm PaK 36 in the war. So in January 1937, Ordnance vouched for the development of such weapon, with two PaK 36 guns available as reference. A light weight gun was desired for easier mobility by the infantry so the 37 mm caliber was still used. The development continued until late 1938, when on December 15, a prototype T10 gun on a M5 carriage was officially adopted as the US Army's 37 mm Gun M3. The gun started manufacturing at Watervliet Arsenal and Rock Island Arsenal, where it would deliver 18,702 guns in the span of early 1940 to 1943.

In 1939, the M3 gun was to be adapted for use on a tank. This practice is not the first, as the base model was already used on the M2 medium tank, but that did not enter widespread service. The M3 gun was shortened by 130 mm for a shorter barrel and was called the M5. The M5 would serve on many early American tank designs, mainly pre-war models. Later, the M5 was upgraded with a semi-automatic breech and with the full-length barrel reattached, this model was the M6 and is seen on the later tank models that still use the 37 mm, such as the M5 Stuarts and M3 Lee.

Service

The 37 mm's first actions were positive and were in the Pacific theater against the Japanese in the anti-tank gun variant and on tanks. It was used during the defense of Philippines in 1941 and the Guadalcanal campaign in 1942, where its usage was well-received against the Japanese armor and infantry. The 37 mm on the Stuart light tanks gave it a good punch against the Japanese armor, though the two were still considered equal in performance. The gun doubled in an anti-tank role and as infantry support due to the variety of shells available for the gun. The gun was found lacking against enemy fortifications due to the small HE filler in the shells, but the lightweight and utility of the gun and its vehicles kept it around in the Pacific Theater a lot longer than the European Theater.

The 37 mm gun in conflicts at Europe was not as well received. The North African Campaign already showed that the gun was nearly obsolete in towed and in tanks when against the better German Panzer III and Panzer IV tanks. Not only that, the light tanks fielded by the Allies was inable to do its job as well due to the inferiority against the German tanks. The guns fared better in the Italian campaign due to their less impressive tank forces, but then the Tiger arrives and made the 37 mm once again unable to do its job. Thus, the 37 mm was taken out from the European service gradually by mid-1944 and to be replaced by either the 57 mm Gun M1, or otherwise known as the British 6-pounder gun. The 37 mm was officially retired on all fronts by the end of the war.

Images

Videos

Forgotten Weapons presents the M3 gun.





Additional information (links)