3"/23 caliber gun

The 3"/23 caliber gun (spoken "three-inch-twenty-three-caliber") was the standard anti-aircraft gun for United States destroyers through World War I and the 1920s. United States naval gun terminology indicates the gun fired a projectile 3 inches (76 mm) in diameter, and the barrel was 23 calibers long (barrel length is 3" x 23 = 69" or 1.75 meters.)[1]

3"/23 caliber gun
A 3"/23-caliber gun being fired aboard the United States Navy submarine chaser USS SC-291 sometime between 1918 and 1920.
Place of originUnited States
Service history
In service1913—1946
Used byUS Navy
WarsWorld War I
World War II
Production history
VariantsMark 9, 13, and 14
  • Mark 9: 749 pounds (340 kg) (with breech)
  • Mark 13: 531 pounds (241 kg)
  • Mark 14 Mod 0: 593 pounds (269 kg) (with breech)
  • Mark 14 Mod 1: 658 pounds (298 kg) (with breech)
  • Mark 9: 77.05 inches (1.957 m)
  • Mark 14: 79 inches (2.0 m)
Barrel length
  • Mark 9: 69 inches (1.8 m) bore (23 calibres)
  • Mark 14: 71 inches (1.8 m) bore (23.5 calibres)

Shell16.5 lb (7.5 kg)
Caliber3-inch (76 mm)
Elevation-15° to +65° or +75°
Rate of fire8 – 9 rounds per minute
Muzzle velocity1,650 feet per second (500 m/s)
Effective firing range
  • 8,800 yards (8,000 m) at 45.3° elevation (WW I)
  • 10,100 yards (9,200 m) at 45° elevation (WW II)
  • 18,000 feet (5,500 m) at 75° elevation (AA)


The built-up gun with vertical sliding breech block weighed about 531 pounds (241 kg) and used fixed ammunition (case and projectile handled as a single assembled unit) with a 13-pound (6 kg) projectile at a velocity of 1650 feet per second (500 m/s).[2] Range was 10100 yards (9235 meters) at 45 degrees elevation.[2] Ceiling was 18000 feet (5500 meters) at the maximum elevation of 75 degrees.[2]


The 3"/23 caliber cannon was the first purposely-designed anti-aircraft cannon to reach operational service in the US military, and was a further development of a 1 pounder cannon concept designed by Admiral Twining to meet the possible threat from airships being built by various navies.[3]

A partially retractable version was mounted as a deck gun on the US L-class, M-1 (SS-47), AA-1 class, and O-class submarines.

When World War II began, the 3"/23 caliber gun was outdated, and surviving United States destroyers built during the World War I era that were armed with the 3"/23 caliber were rearmed with dual-purpose 3"/50 caliber guns. Where there was no air threat during World War II, the 3"/23 caliber gun was employed in the surface to surface role for use against submarines, and was mounted on submarine chasers, armed yachts, and various auxiliaries.[2] Some major warships carried 3"/23 caliber guns temporarily while awaiting installation of quad 1.1"/75 caliber guns.[2]

The 3"/23 caliber gun was mounted on:


  1. Fairfield 1921 p.156
  2. Campbell 1985 p.146
  3. "New American Aerial Weapons" Popular Mechanics, December 1911, p. 776.
  4. Fahey 1939 p.14


  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
  • Fahey, James C. (1939). The Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet, War Edition. Ships and Aircraft.
  • Fairfield, A.P. (1921). Naval Ordnance. The Lord Baltimore Press.
  • Lenton, H.T.; Colledge, J.J. (1968). British and Dominion Warships of World War II. Doubleday and Company.
  • DiGiulian, Tony Navweaps.com 3"/23 caliber gun
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