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Bismarck Artillery Turrets
A view of the forward turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" from the forecastle. Summer of 1940.

Main Battery.

Eight 38 cm guns comprised Bismarck's main battery. The principal purpose of these guns was to destroy surface targets at sea, although they could also be used for shore bombardment and, exceptionally, against aircraft. Designed in 1934, the 38 cm SK C/34 were the most powerful guns ever mounted on a German warship. These were housed in four armoured twin turrets alphabetically arranged from forward to stern. Thus, turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" were located forward (frames 192.55 and 174.35), while turrets "Cäsar" and "Dora" were aft (frames 64.35 and 46.15). Each turret weighed 1,056 metric tons, and was supported on a roller track platform. Below there were a series of levels that extended from the upper deck down to the bottom of the ship. The turrets were especially big compared with 38 cm twin turrets of other foreign warships, and the barrels were very separated from each other, therefore reducing interferences between them. Each gun barrel could fire and be elevated independently of the other. A special characteristic of these guns was their high muzzle velocity and low shell trajectories with a short flight time, which permitted to obtain a very accurate and rapid fire. This was fully demonstrated in the morning of 24 May 1941 during the naval engagement with the British battlecruiser Hood.





The ammunition supply comprised 1,004 projectiles categorised into three different types:

38cm Psgr. L/4,4 (m.Hb), Panzersprenggranate L/4,4 (mit Haube). These were Armour Piercing (AP) shells, base fused with windshield (mit Haube). The task of the armour piercing shells was to penetrate armoured plates of heavily protected targets such as battleships and detonate in the interior causing severe destruction to vital parts (boilers, magazines, etc). If used against light or unarmoured targets/surfaces, AP shells would simply penetrate these and pass through exploding beyond the target or without even detonating due to the insufficient resistance to activate the fuse. A total of 93 projectiles of this type were fired at Hood and Prince of Wales during the battle of the Denmark Strait on 24 May 1941.

38cm Spgr. L/4,5 Bdz (m.Hb), Sprenggranate L/4,5 Bodenzünder (mit Haube). These were High Explosive (HE) shells, base fused (Bodenzünder) with windshield. The penetrating capabilities of the high explosive shells with base detonating fuse were inferior than those of AP shells, however the effects of the detonation were greater since HE shells contained a larger explosive charge. This type of projectiles was utilized against relatively lightly armoured targets such as cruisers.

38cm Spgr. L/4,6 Kz (m.Hb), Sprenggranate L/4,6 Kopfzünder (mit Haube). These were High Explosive (HE) shells, nose fused (Kopfzünder) with windshield. The principal effect of high explosive shells with nose detonating fuse was the action of splinters due to their large explosive charge. Nose fused projectiles had very limited penetrating capabilities and were intended to be used against soft targets such as destroyers or merchantmen.

Type Weight Explosive
Cap weight
(without windshield)
Length Fuse
Psgr. L/4,4 (m.Hb) AP base fused 800 kg 18.8 kg 112.50 kg 1.672 m Bdz 38
Spgr. L/4,5 Bdz (m.Hb) HE base fused 800 kg 32.6 kg 69.35 kg 1.710 m Bdz 38
Spgr. L/4,6 Kz (m.Hb) HE nose fused 800 kg 64.25 kg - 1.748 m Kz 27

38cm 15-inch Shell Left: A 38 cm Spgr. L/4,6 Kz projectile on display at the Wrackmuseum in Cuxhaven. Its nose has been removed. These projectiles were 1.7 m high and weighed 800 kg. Photo courtesy of Maurice Laarman.


Designation: 38 cm SK C/34
Number: 8 (2 x 4) in four twin turrets two forward, two aft
Barrel length (L/52): 19.630 meters
Bore length (L/48.5): 18.405 meters
Barrel weight: 110.7 metric tons
Barrel rifling:
 · Groove depth:
 · Groove width:
90 grooves, right handed twist.
4.50 mm
7.76 mm
Turret weight (without barbette):
 ·  Anton:
 ·  Bruno:
 ·  Cäsar:
 ·  Dora:

1,048 metric tons (without 10.5-m rangefinder)
1,056 metric tons
1,056 metric tons
1,056 metric tons
Elevation range: between -5.5° and +30°
Training range:
 ·  Turrets Anton and Bruno:
 ·  Turrets Cäsar and Dora:

215º - 0º - 145º
035º - 180º - 325º
Training rate: 5.4°/second
Elevation rate: 6°/second
Rate of fire: 2.4+ rounds/minute/barrel
Maximum range: 35,550 meters at 30° = 38,880 yards at 30°
Muzzle velocity: 820 meters/second = 2,690 feet/second
Shell weight: 800 kg = 1,764 lbs
Propellant charge weight: 212 kg = 467.3 lbs
Ammunition supply:
 ·  38cm Psgr. L/4,4 (m.Hb):
 ·  38cm Spgr. L/4,5 Bdz (m.Hb):
 ·  38cm Spgr. L/4,6 Kz (m.Hb):

353 base fused AP shells
338 base fused HE shells
313 nose fused HE shells
Barrel life: 200-300 rounds
Loading angle: 2.5°

Click here to see the range and penetration table for the 38 cm SK C/34.

Secondary Battery.

The ammunition supply comprised 1,288 projectiles categorised into two different types:

15cm Spgr. L/4,5 Bdz (m.Hb), Sprenggranate L/4,5 Bodenzünder (mit haube). High Explosive (HE) shells, base fused (Bodenzünder) with windshield (mit haube).

15cm Spgr. L/4,6 Kz (m.Hb), Sprenggranate L/4,6 Kopfzünder (mit haube). High Explosive (HE) shells, nose fused (Kopfzünder) with windshield (mit haube).

Designation: 15 cm SK C/28
Number: 12 (2 x 6) 3 twin turrets by side
Barrel length (L/55): 8.25 meters
Barrel weight: 9.08 metric tons
Barrel grooves: 44
Turret weight (without barbette): 108 metric tons
110 metric tons (central)
Elevation range: between -10° and +40°
Training rate: 8°/second
Elevation rate: 9°/second
Rate of fire: 8 rounds/minute/barrel
Maximum range: 23,000 meters at 40° = 25,150 yards at 40°
Muzzle velocity: 875 meters/second = 2,871 feet/second
Shell weight: 45.3 kg = 99.8 lbs
Propellant charge weight: 23.5 kg = 51.8 lbs
Ammunition supply:
 ·  15cm Spgr. L/4,5 Bdz (m.Hb):
 ·  15cm Spgr. L/4,6 Kz (m.Hb):

622 shells
666 shells
Barrel life: 2,500 rounds

Heavy Anti-aircraft Battery.

Designation: 10.5 cm SK C/33
Number: 16 (2 x 8) in 4 double mounts by side
Barrel length (L/65): 6.825 meters
Barrel weight: 4.56 metric tons
Mount weight: Mounting C31: 27.350 metric tons
Mounting C37: 26.425 metric tons
Elevation range: Mounting C31: between -8° and +80°
Mounting C37: between -10° and +80°
Angular velocity: Mounting C31: vertical: 10°/sec, horizontal: 8°/sec
Mounting C37: vertical: 12°/sec, horizontal: 8.5°/sec
Rate of fire: 18 rounds/minute/barrel
Maximum range: 17,700 meters = 19,357 yards
Vertical range: 12,500 meters at 80º
Muzzle velocity: 900 meters/second = 2,952 feet/second
Shell weight: 15.1 kg = 33.1 lbs
Ammunition supply: 6,825 shells

Medium Anti-aircraft Battery.

Designation: 3.7 cm SK C/30
Number: 16 (2 x 8) in 4 double mounts by side
Barrel length (L/83): 3.071 m
Elevation range: between -10º and +80º
Rate of fire: 80 rounds/minute/barrel
Maximum range: 6,750 meters = 7,382 yards
Muzzle velocity: 1,000 meters/second = 3,281 feet/second
Shell weight: 0.745 kg = 1.64 lbs
Ammunition supply: 34,100 projectiles

Light Anti-aircraft Battery.

Designation: 2 cm MG C/30
2 cm Flak C/38
Number: 10 (1 x 10) in 10 single pedestals
8 (4 x 2) in 2 quadruple mounts
Barrel length (L/65): 1.3 meters
Elevation range: +90º
Rate of fire: 200 rounds/minute/barrel
Maximum range: 4,800 meters = 5,249 yards
Muzzle velocity: 900 meters/second = 2,952 feet/second
Shell Weight: 0.132 kg = 0.291 lbs
Ammunition supply: 44,000 projectiles

* To get the length of a barrel we have to multiply the thickness of the barrel by its length in caliber lengths. Therefore, a 38cm/L52 rifle would be 38 cm x 52 = 1,976 cm

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