Royal Ordnance L7
The Royal Ordnance L7 is a 105 mm L/52 rifled gun developed by the British in the 1950s as a successor to their 20 pounder gun. The L7 fires large 105x607mmR and 105x617mmR shells. The L7 earned much success as a widely exported design, first with the Americans, who adopted the gun as the 105 mm Gun M68. The gun went on to be use in many different countries on many different vehicles, and served well due to its versatility and firepower. Though succeeded by more modern tank guns developed by the 1990s, the L7 is still in service worldwide and seems to be staying for a long while, making it one of the most prevalent NATO tank armament available.
- L7A1 - Standard British production model.
- L7A3 - Redesigned model to fit in German Leopard 1.
- M68 - American-built variant of the L7.
- DM13 / M728 / M392A2 APDS - Armor-piercing discarding-sabot round.
- M900 / M833 / M774 / M735 APFSDS - Armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot round.
- DM502 HESH / M393 HEP - High-explosive squash head (or high-explosive plastic) round.
- DM12 / M456(A1/A2) HEATFS - High-explosive anti-tank fin-stabilized round.
- M546 APERS-T - Anti-infantry round containing 8,000 fletchettes.
- M490A1 TP - Target practice round.
- M724A1 TPDS - Target practice discarding-sabot round.
|Ammunition||Penetration in mm @ 90°|| Type of
Mass in kg
| Fuse delay
| Fuse sensitivity
| Explosive Mass in
| Normalization At 30°
|M392A2 / DM13 / Shot L28A1||303||302||296||277||257||252||APDS||1478||5.8||N/A||N/A||N/A||+1.5°||15°||12°||10°|
|M393 / DM502 / Shell L35||127||127||127||127||127||127||HESH||730||15||0.4||0.1||4,310||+0°||17°||13°||10°|
|M456 / DM12||400||400||400||400||400||400||HEATFS||1173||11||0.0||0.1||1,270||+0°||25°||18°||15°|
|Ammunition|| Type of
Mass in kg
| Screen radius
| Screen time
| Screen hold time
| Explosive Mass in |
* - Only available on the M60A1, M60A1 RISE (P), and Type 74.
** - Only available on the M60A1 RISE (P), Type 74 and M1 Abrams.
*** - Only available on the Leopard A1A1.
**** - Only available on the M1 Abrams.
Note - Ammo listed here does not necessarily mean all L7 guns have the same list. For accurate list of what ammo types are available per tank, visit their respective pages.
The L7 began in the early 1950s at Britain in an attempt to replace the 20 pounder gun then in service. During the development, the Hungarian Revolution brought a huge surprise to the NATO forces. Hungarian rebels were able to capture a Soviet T-54A tank and deliver it to the British embassy at Budapest. The tank was examined thoroughly and came to a ghastly conclusion. The T-54 had armor nearly impervious to the 20 pounder and the 90 mm gun the British and Americans had respectively on their tanks. The 100 mm gun on the tank was also vastly superior to anything the NATO forces had on their tanks. This discovery led to an arms race that called for the mounting of a 105 mm cannon onto a tank in order to defeat the new Soviet tank.
A benefit with the L7 design was that it was designed around the mount of the 20 pounder gun, making the adaption of the gun onto existing British tanks easier. The evaluations of the L7 began in 1959 and the first tank mounting the gun was the Centurion. It was accepted the same year and a program to reequip most of the British armored forces with the L7 commenced.
Meanwhile in America, the military was looking for a new gun to mount onto their evolving tank designs to compete against the Soviets. While they had their own designs, the British L7 was also a contestant in the contest to determine which gun is the best suited for US service. Testing the different gun's accuracy, damage on target, rate of fire, and penetration ability, the L7 was chosen as the next standard armament on US tanks, starting with the M48 Patton then onto the M60 main battle tank. The L7, designated as the 105 mm Gun M68 in American service, was first imported over from Britain until production lines could be established for the licensed version. The L7 would continue to see adoption by many other countries in NATO or other allegiance with the money to buy it, such as the German Leopard I as the L7A3, Israel's Merkava tanks as the M68, the Korean K1 as the KM68A1, and much more.
The L7's versatility and extreme firepower at its introduction made it very popular in the defense market. In some countries, the L7 and its variants are still used today despite slowly becoming inferior to newly developed tank armaments. Though phased out of American and German service by the Rheinmetall 120 mm gun and the British with the Royal Ordnance L11A5, it still sees service as a mobile gun system such as the M1128 MGS Stryker, meant to give the infantry a fighting edge in low-intensity conflicts across the globe. The L7 gun does not seem exiting military service anytime soon.