Gun shield






The introduction of the long range magazine rifle and of the quick-firing guns so increased the volume of fire to which a field gun was exposed in action, that it was necessary to provide any cover for the gun crew. This requirement was met by the introduction of gun shield and armoured ammunition wagons. Their adoption was remarkable, since they did not reduce the mobility of the field gun. Already in 1892 General Langlois, recognizing that shorter-range artillery would be vulnerable to the infantry’s rifle fire, had suggested in his L'Artillerie de Campagne en liason avec les autres armes (pp. 92-93) that “the shield-protected carriage is the corollary to the quick-firing gun”.

The need of a protective shield was first noticed during the Russo-Japanese War, and both the opposing armies sought to make good this need. Indeed guns without shields employed in the open had proved to be far more vulnerable to attack, and were easily overrun. Therefore the Japanese, after the battle of 31 July 1904, constructed protective shields of hard wood, which proved to be very useful, while the Russians, in the course of the campaign, introduced a battery with a new carriage provided with shields. In 1908 a German commentator whose work was published in the Militär-Wochenblatt and later translated in the French Revue d’artillerie reckoned that gun shields reduced infantry fire against gunners to a sixth of its effectiveness. Tests in peace demonstrated that exposed batteries with shields could withstand the fire of field artillery. These shields enabled the gunners, especially the gun pointers, to stay under the hottest infantry fire, and allowed them to remain behind the protecting shield for all operations.

The Russo-Japanese War had also shown that it was useless to attach shields to a rigid carriage, for, since the gunners had to stand clear to avoid the recoil, they could not take advantage of them. But the introduction of quick-firing guns recoiling on carriage solved the problem, and the size and thickness of the shield were limited only by its weight.

The shields were usually made of hard nickel or nickel-tungsten steel. The best thing was to equip guns with a shield which would keep out both infantry fire and shrapnel bullets at the shortest ranges. But such a shield should have a thickness of about 6mm and with its attachments, 1.4 m high and 1.5 m wide, weighted about 102 kg. The 3 mm thickness was the last that could be relied upon to keep out shrapnel bullets weighting 10 g at short ranges, when the shell was burst close up. A 3 mm thick shield coming up to the level of the top of the wheels and hanging within 10 cm of the ground was 610 cm² in area, and it would weight only 54 kg, with its stays and attachment.

Assuming that the bullet strikes at right angles to the surface, the resisting power of the shield against the German S pointed rifle bullet, made of lead cased in nickel, was about as follows:




Max. range

for penetration

6 mm

48 kgm²

4.5 m 

5 mm

40 kgm²

75 m

4.5 mm

36 kgm²

130 m

4.25 mm

34 kgm²

165 m

4 mm

32 kgm²

210 m

3.5 mm

28 kgm²

320 m

3 mm

24 kgm²

550 m


The penetration of the French solid bronze D bullet was somewhat greater than the above. But when the bullets were made of steel, or even with steel cores or tips, their penetration was considerably greater. A pointed steel Mannlicher bullet could penetrate a 5 mm shield at about 350 m, and a steel shrapnel bullet, if the shell was burst close up, a 3 mm shield at medium ranges. In 1902 Krupp succeeded in getting 10 g steel bullets through a 3 mm shield at 3500m. Therefore in 1910s it was universally recognized that it was impossible, within service limit of weight, to carry shield capable of resisting the new pointed bullets at range under 100 m.


At the beginning of the World War I only Romania and Denmark had adopted a 6 mm shield, while most armies had chosen 4 mm shield for their field guns.




6 mm

Denmark (Krupp), Romania (Krupp)

5 mm

U.S.A. (Rheinmethall), Belgium (Krupp/Cockerill), France (Puteaux), Mexico (St. Chamond), Portugal (Schneider), Russia (Putilov)

4.75 mm

Bulgaria (Schneider), Sweden (Krupp), Switzerland (Krupp)

4.5 mm

Austria-Hungary (Skoda), Brazil (Krupp)

4.25 mm

Spain (Schneider)

4 mm

Argentine (Krupp), Chili (Krupp), Germany (Krupp/Rheinmetall), Greece (Schneider), Holland (Krupp), Italy (Krupp and Deport), Norway (Rheinmethall), Serbia (Schneider), Turkey (Krupp)

3.6 mm

Japan (Krupp/Arsenal Osaka)

3.5 mm

France (Schneider)

3 mm

China (Skoda)


The height of the shield mainly depended on the method of ammunition supply. If the wagon was behind the gun, the shield should be 1.8 m high, to cover men bringing up ammunition from the rear; but if the wagon was close alongside the gun, the shield needed not to be more than 1.4 m, which was sufficient to protect men kneeling immediately behind it. The shield was set as far back as possible, and the upper portion was usually sloped back to give additional protection. The German shield had also a top flap, which was kept down till the gun was actually under fire, and then was raised, giving a total height of 1.67 m. The top flap of the Austrian shield could be folded back horizontally, giving a certain amount of overhead cover. Since a flat square gun shield made a conspicuous target for the enemy fire, it should be painted a dull colour and mottled or clouded to reduce its visibility.

Guns with shield were regarded as shrapnel-proof at all ranges and bullet-proof over 450 m. Enfilading fire was of great importance against shielded batteries, since it attacked them on their weakest points, the sides. Under fire from the flank, shielded batteries suffered also from shrapnel. But to successfully attacked shielded batteries, the best was to use high explosive shell. An H.E. shell which struck a gun shield exploded in the act of passing through, tearing a large hole in the shield and damaging the vulnerable parts of the gun and carriage. The splinters killed not only the men near the gun, but also the men at the wagon alongside.

Side shields were proposed to protect the gunners from diagonal fire and limit the effect of the burst of a shell, while it was proposed to make shields hinged so that it could be folded up to protect against the splinters of the high-explosive shells. Rheinmetall made both a gun with side shields and a fully shielded gun, but, in spite of their advantages, they were rejected owing to the great increase of weight.


The weight of the shield was a problem especially for mountain guns. A shield high enough to give cover to the gunners kneeling and bullet-proof up to short ranges, weighted from 36 kg to 54 kg. It was hinged to fold up for convenience of carrying. The ordinary pattern of mountain gun shields, which merely filled up the space between the wheels, like in the 75mm Krupp gun adopted by the Bulgarian Army in 1904, afforded insufficient protection, and a shield extending above and outside the wheels was adopted in the improved model manufactured by all the major factories (Schneider, Krupp and Rheinmethall). A separate shield for the ammunition was usually provided. The thickness of the mountain gun shield was usually 4 mm.


Protective shields were just as essential for heavy artillery, direct as well as high angle fire, as for field guns. Even if, from their very nature, they would seldom fire from open positions, the hostile artillery would risk everything to silence these most dangerous opponents. Therefore if at first field howitzers, like Krupp 105mm M. 98/09 and 150mm M. 02, were not equipped with shields, soon they were added, the 3.5 mm shrapnel-proof thickness being usually preferred. In some howitzers a supplementary shield was fixed to the cradle to close the large opening in the shield which was needed to allow the howitzer to be elevated to 45°. At the beginning of World War I all the quick-firing howitzers of the Balkan armies had shield. During World War I almost every modern artillery piece, both gun and howitzer, from 37mm to 420mm, was fitted with a shield, even the trench warfare greatly reduced the exposure of the gunners to the enemy fire.




Rheinmethall 75mm fully shielded gun M. 1903

Rheinmethall 75mm gun with side shields M. 1904

Schneider 105mm

light howitzer M. 1909

Shield of Krupp 75mm L/14 mountain gun