Two battleship questions

Last night, fella bilong missus flodnak and I were watching a battleship documentary on TV, which left me with two questions I haven’t yet found the answers to. Can any Dopers help?

First, do any navies still have any battleships in service? I know the US Navy decommissioned the last of its ships in this class some years ago.

Second, a handheld gun fires a bullet, a ship-mounted one fires a shell. What exactly is the difference between a bullet and a shell? Is it size, or is it the structure/function (shells explode, bullets don’t)?

Once upon a time, a “bullet” was a solid projectile – for instance, there were bullets for slings even before firearms were invented.

You’re right that a “shell” is an artillery projectile that’s meant to explode – the first versions were hollow spheres you filled with gunpowder and plugged with a fuse before firing – if you were lucky, the fuse didn’t set it off in the barrel or before it reached the target…


Always a warm welcome to a prince williamite, VAYankee. Shoveled your walk yet? :smiley:

And no nation currently has a battleship in active service.

So far as I know, there are no battleships in active service in any of the world’s navies.

There are a few heavy cruisers still out there, notably with the Russian fleet.

Battleships are just too darn vulnerable to aircraft. Surface combatants are now pretty much limited to aircraft carriers and the smaller, faster, more maneuverable destroyers and frigates which protect them.

You might find the battleship question answered at . Regisration is required. Jane’s is the authority on military weapons.

I think the last US battleship decommisioned was the Missouri in 1992.

Isn’t the Arizona technically considered to be “active” even though it’s a memorial?

Regarding the second question. In military parlance, guns fire shells, a gun being technically defined as anything with a bore size larger than .5 inches or .50 caliber. Thus an M-16 rifle fires bullets but an M110 8" self propelled Howitzer fires shells.

USS Arizona was stricken from the Navy’s active list on Dec 1, 1942. See here.

Right. The 4 Iowa-class BB’s were the last operational true battleships anyone had.

The Russians have two of their very large 26,000-ton Missile Cruisers still operable and that’s about it for non-carrier capital ships above 15,000 tons these days.

OTOH a whole bunch of WW2-vintage “gun cruisers” held on into the 1980s and 90s ; some converted by adding missiles, some in the fleets of second-line navies (e.g. the Belgrano, last to be lost in battle, sunk by the RN in 1982)

First post for a nearly four year lurker. Wow.


Aside from the terminology artillery shells are very different from bullets.

Military bullets typically have a lead core with a thin jacket of relatively soft copper alloy. Soft materials are needed to allow the rifling goorves in the barrel to engrave into the bullet and give it a hearty spin which stablilizes the bullet’s flight. The copper jacket is needed because lead is too soft and will actually build up deposits inside the barrel at h igh velocities. Artillery shells contain high explosives and complex fuzing mechanisms so can’t be made of soft metals that will readily deform, particularly in the case of armor piecing shells. Shells typically have metal driving bands that are engraved by the rifling.

Thanks all!