British bomber weapons.

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Senior Airman
May 12, 2005
Why did almost all Brirish Bombers have .303 caliber machine guns instead of the .50 caliber machine gun on U.S. Bombers.
Another reason was that there was no need for a larger calibre on night bombers. It was unlikely that a gunner would see an enemy nightfighter, and even if he did, he would only get a fleeting burst. So there was no point putting bigger guns in, as they would see little use. And like trackend said, it also made life easier for the RAF in terms of munitions mangement.
yes when our bombers were being designed, .50cals were rare but we had enough .303s and ammo to supply the army several times over, we had always used the .303 and we don't like change, she was a good weapon, so why bother??
The punch of the defensive armament on heavy bombers was of relatively little import. In a nightfighting situation, it was far more likely that a gunner wouldnt hit a nightfighter, even if he saw it and got a chance to open fire on it. Rather, his fire would hopefully encourage the nightfighter to break off it's attack. So, there was little point upgrading the weapons. Such an upgrade would also have necessitated a massive field replacement scheme to replace turrets on all aircraft already operational...and new these new mounts would have to be designed, tested and manufactured and installed...the RAF simply didnt have the time, resources, or inclination to do so.
yes very late in the war, and they were plagued with problems, many crews hated them and prefered the .303s, i mean even the oil that was supposed to keep the .50cals working froze, even at 20,000ft :lol:
The problem with oil freezing was almost certainly a maintenance problem. They were likely over oiled. In Paul Tibbets' book Return of the Enola Gay, he mentions that early on they had a lot of problems with crews oiling way too much. His instructions were to clean the guns thoroughly using hot soapy water with a hot water rinse. Upon drying they were instructed to very lightly oil everything with a barely oiled rag or even their own hands which they lightly oiled. I remember him stating to add just enough oil for the metal to slightly blue. From then on out he states that gun seizures were a thing of the past!
I think its also worht mentioning that the ranges involved in night fighting were very short and at that range the 303 could still do a lot of damage.

.50 would have been best for day fighting where ranges were longer.
Bang on there Glider, I've read a bit on this out of interest and yes, for nightfighting the 303 had more than enough power/range.

The only time I've heard of gunners being outranged was with a 50cal in daylight!

The Ju290/390 was best there.

Also the point I made about 'spray and pray' made it easier for a 303 to actually hit a target.
The other side of things is that at a mile the .303 lost a larger percentage of its energy than a .50 making it a little less dangerous. In daylite you can see the other aircraft in your formation and avoid shooting at them. At night you couldn't see the other aircraft in your formation and the reduced range/effectiveness would help with friendly fire situations a little.

WM. I don't want to dissapoint you but at night only a fool would try flying in a formation at night, the accident rate would be huge.
Also a 303 firing at a mile would be lucky to penetrate the skin of an aircraft let alone do any damage. The ranges I had in mind would be around 50 to 100 yards at night.'s always niggled me about Bomber Command's lengthy use of the .303's, so I've dug into some books and come-up with these historic details........

First of all, the British hydraulic turret was one of the most outstanding design successes of the bomber war, although tragically it was fitted with the quite inadequate .303's... The last hopes of equipping Bomber Command with .5's, as C-in-C Harris had demanded for so long, vanished when America entered the War and her own needs eclipsed British hopes of .5 imports from American factories...

Early production batches of the Browning .303 guns were supplied from America until BSA and Vickers got licence-production going, these guns being officially adopted as standard bomber armament in 1937, mainly because of their rapid rate of fire...

During May 1944, mention in Roy Chadwick's book indicates they were testing a Lancaster III with a special Bristol turret mounting two 20mm cannons. Successful handling and gun trials resulted in orders for 250 designated Lancaster IV's, which would be built by Vickers-Armstrong. In turn that led to further trials with remotely controlled 20mm cannons in dorsal and ventral barbettes...I believe all this development went into the Avro Lincoln in view of anticipated PTO duties with the 'Tiger Force....

In 1944, some Lancasters were belatedly fitted with Rose twin .5 rear turrets, and they were large enough to house two gunners!....
1 Group were the main users....
A handful of Lancasters were even equipped with gun-laying radar about this time......

Of all my reading though, it would be a mistake to believe the .303's were useless in the bombers; they were deadly to nightfighters, particuarly within the 600 yd range when the 'corkscrew' manoeuvre was initiated. The gunners' alertness was the successful prerequisite to survival on operations...
Constant weaving to allow them to see as much around them also helped, but with the Luftwaffe's introduction of ''schrage muzik', most aircrew [that survived] weren't even aware until after the War that the Germans were employing this method of creeping underneath to blast them with the upward-firing cannons......



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The .303's were lethal, no doubt, I have info on planes destroyed by .303's somewhere...

The Shrage Musik wouldn't be a problem to a B17's waist gun, but then you'd have no radar, which would you prefer?

Does anyone have info on rifle-calibre weapons shooting down planes?

In particular the MG34/MG42.
Good comments Gem.
I believe that we also had a version of the ROSE turret that had its own tracking but we were not allowed to use it in case the technology fell into German hands. If this is trye (and I admit to finding it difficult to back this up) then it could have saved a lot of lives.
Where can you find it at , because I'm interested in it by the way you write it it must have preety good information.

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