Ordnance QF 6-pounder

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Summary

The Ordnance QF 6-pounder is a British anti-tank gun developed in 1940. It is chambered in 57×441 mmR cartridges. It became the primary anti-tank gun of the British Army in the majority of World War II and also saw widespread use among the armoured forces. It replaced the older and smaller 2-pounder in 1942 and provided much needed additional firepower against the gradually improving German tanks.

During the North African campaign, the United States military took an interest with the 6-pounder as well, and began production of their own version, the 57 mm Gun M1 in early 1942.

While never replaced in front line services until 1951 in the British Army (1950 in U.S. Army), it served alongside the more powerful OQF 17-pounder starting in 1943. The gun was also bored out mid-way in the war from 57 mm into 75 mm to form the OQF 75 mm tank gun, which is compatible with the American 75 mm shells.

Variants

  • Mk.I - Limited production model with a L/50 barrel.
  • Mk.II - Mass produced variant with a shortened L/43 barrel to fit manufacturing requirements.
  • Mk.III - Tank version of the Mk.II
  • Mk.IV - Production model with a L/50 barrel and a single baffle muzzle brake.
  • Mk.V - Tank version of the Mk.IV.
  • Molins Class M gun - A 6-pounder with an automatic loader from the Molins company. This saw use on the Mosquito planes of the Royal Air Force.
  • 57 mm Gun M1 - U.S. built variant. A Mk.II with a L/50 barrel.

Game Usage

The 6-pounder is a substantial increase in firepower in comparison to the 2-pounder, giving the British tank extra range and penetration power against the enemy. The 6-pounder also has a respectable reload rate that allows for a steady rate of fire to pepper the enemy. A variety of ammunition is also offered for flexibility in attacking enemy tanks, however the standard ammunition should be the Shot Mk.9 APCBC round due to its favorable characteristics.

Guns of comparable performance

Users

Mk.III

Mk.V

M1

Ammunition

Mk.III

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%
Shot Mk.5 101 100 83 67 51 45 AP 807 2.8 N/A N/A N/A -1° 43° 30° 25°
Shell Mk.10 4 4 4 4 4 4 HE 807 3.0 0.1 0.1 153 +0° 11° 10°
Shot Mk.5 HV 112 111 92 74 57 50 AP 853 2.8 N/A N/A N/A -1° 43° 30° 25°
Shot Mk.8 94 92 83 72 63 52 APC 853 2.9 N/A N/A N/A -1° 42° 27° 19°
Shot Mk.9 113 112 100 90 84 80 APCBC 801 3.2 N/A N/A N/A +4° 42° 27° 19°

Mk.V

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%
Shot Mk.8 103 101 91 79 69 57 APC 883 2.9 N/A N/A N/A -1° 42° 27° 19°
Shell Mk.10 4 4 4 4 4 4 HE 807 3.0 0.1 0.1 153 +0° 11° 10°
Shot Mk.5 HV 122 121 100 81 62 55 AP 883 2.8 N/A N/A N/A -1° 43° 30° 25°
Shot Mk.9 127 126 112 101 94 90 APCBC 847 3.2 N/A N/A N/A +4° 42° 27° 19°

M1

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%
M70 129 128 106 84 66 58 AP 900 2.8 N/A N/A N/A -1° 43° 30° 25°
M86 111 110 98 88 82 79 APCBC 822 2.7 1.2 20 41.16 +4° 42° 27° 19°

History

Development

Before the 2-pounder saw service in the British Army, its faults were already recognized and thus an effort in 1938 was made to produce a better weapon. Woolwich Aresenal was the head of this project, and the new caliber was determined to be 57 mm; as the Navy already use that caliber, it would simplify the manufacturing process. The design for the new gun was complete by 1940, but the carriage was not until 1941. However, its procurement by the British military was delayed due to the events of World War II and the loss in the Battle of France. This loss and the possibility of a German invasion into the British Isles prompted a prioritized production of the proven 2-pounder guns, delaying the production of the 6-pounder from November 1941 to May 1942.

U.S. Interest

The United States Army Ordnance had interest in the 6-pounder as early as February 1941 and wanted to produce it domestically for usage in the U.S. Army. The U.S. received two units from Britain, and the U.S. produced variant was the 57 mm Gun M1. Production in America started in 1942 and was made standard issue with their army in 1943. The U.S. produced M1s were given out to Allies in part of Lend-Lease, United States kept 2/3 (10,000) of the produced M1s, Britain received about 1/3 (4,200) of the produced guns and Russia received 400 gun units as well. The Free French forces during the preparations for Operation Overlord also received the M1 guns.

Service Life

The 6-pounder in British service were given to the Royal Artillery anti-tank regiments in the infantry and armoured divisions, replacing the 2-pounder in their roles. They were first issued with only regular armor-piercing rounds, but newer rounds started coming in by January 1943, such as the armor-piercing capped (APC) and armor-piercing capped, ballistic capped (ABCBC) rounds. Unlike its predecessor, the 6-pounder was issued with an adequate high-explosive shot for use against unarmored targets and fortifications. The 6-pounder were also adapted to fit in the British tanks. Some replaced the original 2-pounder armament with the 6-pounder, such as the Valentine, Crusader, and Churchill tanks.

First combat with the 6-pounder was in the Battle of Gazala in May 1942. It's effect in the battlefield was very noticeable by all sides, being able to penetrate any Axis tanks in service. A noticeable event during the Second Battle of El Alamein was when the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade destroyed more than 15 tanks at the 'Snipe' area. The tank version of the 6-pounder first saw combat at the Dieppe Raid in August 1942 on Churchill Mk.III tanks. The raid ended with a disaster, and all the tanks deployed were lost. The remaining ones were sent to assist the battlefield effort in North Africa. The 6-pounder only began to become insufficient when the German introduced their heavier and more armored tanks such as the Tiger. The Tiger proved impervious to the 6-pounder shots to the front, requiring a precise shot to the sides and rear of these tanks to make a penetration. Thus, the 6-pounder still accounted for disabling two Tigers in North Africa by a close-range ambush to the sides of the tank. The 6-pounder in the Churchill tanks of the North Irish Horse also knocked out a Tiger tank in Tunisia by jamming the turret ring, forcing the crew to abandon it and allowing the British to capture it intact, which would become Tiger 131. The 6-pounder remained under-powered against these German tanks until the development of the APCR and APDS rounds for the 6-pounder in 1944, allowing the 6-pounder to fight the Tigers and Panthers frontally. In the later part of World War II, the 6-pounder were bored out from its 57 mm caliber into 75 mm to form the OQF 75 mm tank gun, which provides similar performance to the American 75 mm guns on their M4 Shermans.

In American service, the 57 mm M1 gun began to replace the smaller 37 mm M3 gun. Though objections were made by the Infantry Board that the gun would be too heavy for its role, it became the standard anti-tank gun of the U.S. infantry by mid-1944. Its rapid adoption meant that only regular armor-piercing rounds were available for use, with high-explosive shells only arriving after the Battle for Normandy in Operation Overlord (though some HE shells and the other shells in British service were procured from the British Army). Airborne and Cavalry units rejected the gun as unfit for airborne operations due to its weight. In the fighting in Normandy, the M1 was often used as an infantry support weapon, which made the shortage of high-explosive shells more relevant. The large number of Panther tanks limited their use as anti-tank guns due to the thick front armor, requiring a shot to the sides to ensure a direct and effective hit. The hedgerow terrain of France also limited its usage due to the restrictions on mobility, but the guns served much better in defensive operations. Also in Normandy, the M1 was rapidly being replaced by the new towed 3-inch Gun M5, which proved only a marginal increase in anti-tank performance that doesn't really justify its bulky size and heavy weight in comparison to the 57 mm Gun M1.

After World War II, the American and British retained the 6-pounder for only a few years before its retirement, but some have seen service during the Korean War. The 6-pounders and M1s were supplied to other countries during and after World War II. It was given to the Free French Forces, USSR, and Brazil as part of Lend-Lease in World War II. After the war, Israel obtained 6-pounders and used them in anti-tank battalions, but it is not known if they were used in the wars against its Arab neighbors.

Images

Additional information (links)