BL 16-inch Mk I naval gun

The BL 16-inch Mark I was a British naval gun introduced in the 1920s and used on the two Nelson-class battleships. A breech-loading gun, the barrel was 45 calibres long ("/45" in shorthand) meaning 45 times the bore (16 in) – 60 ft (18 m) long.

Ordnance BL 16 inch Mark I
Guns of HMS Rodney at maximum elevation, 1940
TypeNaval Gun
Place of originUK
Service history
In service1927–1948
Used byUK
Production history
Mass108 tons (109.7 tonnes)
Length61 ft 10 in (18.85 m)
Barrel length60 ft (18.3 m)L/45

Shellseparate charge, AP shell
Shell weight2,048 pounds (929 kg)
Calibre16 inch (406 mm)
Elevation40° in mounting Mark I
Rate of fire1.5 rounds per minute as fitted
Muzzle velocity2,586 feet/second (788 m/s)
Effective firing range35,000 yards (32,000 m) at 32° elevation
Maximum firing range39,780 yards (36,375 m)


These wire-wound built-up guns had originally been planned for the cancelled G3-class battlecruiser design upon which the Nelson class drew.

Sir W. G. Armstrong Whitworth & Company at Elswick, Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness, William Beardmore & Company at Dalmuir and the Royal Gun Factory at Woolwich made a total of 29 guns of which 18 would be required for both ships at any time.

These guns broke with the example offered by the earlier 15-inch Mk I gun, which fired a heavy shell at a rather low muzzle velocity, and instead fired a rather light shell at a high muzzle velocity; this was not a success, as at the initial muzzle velocity the gun wore down rapidly and the accuracy was unsatisfactory, so much that it was lowered. Furthermore, a heavier shell was proposed but not adopted because of stringent budget policies of the 1930s; therefore, this naval gun wasn't seen as particularly successful.[1]

An improved weapon, the BL 16-inch Mark II was designed for the Lion-class battleship which was a successor to the King George V class taking advantage of the larger weapon allowed under the London Naval Treaty from March 1938. This "new design" of 16-inch gun fired a shell that weighed 2,375 pounds (1,077 kg). Construction of first two Lion-class battleships - each of which was to have nine 16-inch guns - was halted at the start of the Second World War; only a few months after they were laid down.[2] Work on the armament continued for a while but that was also stopped after only four guns and no turrets were produced.

See also

Weapons of comparable role, performance and era


  1. Campbell, p. 21
  2. Brown, p. 36


  • Brown, David K. (2006). Nelson to Vanguard: Warship Design and Development 1923-1945. London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-59114-602-X.
  • Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
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