A weapon that missed its window: The 3.7cm Luftschiff-Kanone Krupp

    Right side view of the Luftschiff-kanone

    In every arms race, there are some weapons that are revolutionary, and some that just miss their opportunity to make a tactical impact.  it is interesting to think what would’ve been if incendiary rounds didn’t effectively end the age of the airship in combat.  In 1916, Krupp was nearing completion of a gun to be mounted on Zeppelins with the purpose of knocking enemy aircraft out of the sky with a single hit: The 3.7cm Luftschiff-Kanone (1.5in Airship Gun).  Rounds were fed from a top-mounted 10 round curved removable magazine.  With a remarkably short 21.5in barrel in order to be mounted inside the gondola, the muzzle velocity topped out at 1050ft/s with a maximum range of 2,200 meters and a cyclic rate of fire of 120rpm.  When it was almost ready to field, however, the Royal Flying Corps had succeeded in widely issuing John Buckingham’s incendiary rounds, ending the combat viability of the hydrogen-filled behemoths.  Ready by 1917, the guns were then reissued to the artillery of the Imperial German Army for use in light anti-aircraft batteries by mounting it on a pivot with a seat. Luckily, some very good footage of one of these “Sockelflaks” as they were also called, exist courtesy of the Bundesarchiv.  One definitely didn’t want to accidentally step behind one of those guns, and the muzzle blast seems quite close to the gunner.  (At 56 seconds, the video changes to the much more successful 3.7cm Maxim). 

    In a ground role, however, its deficiencies started to show.  Being designed for use in the relatively clean confines of a Zepplin’s gondola, it was no match for the mud and dirt of WW1 trench warfare.  Furthermore, it was found to be less than useful in an ground-to-air antiaircraft role with such low velocity and range.  The gun ceased production and became another casualty of the ever changing war of technology.

    Left-side view, note the gunner's seat

    Left-side view, note the gunner’s seat

    Rusty S.

    Having always had a passion for firearms, Rusty S. has had experience in gunsmithing, firearms retail, hunting, competitive shooting, range construction, as an IDPA certified range safety officer and a certified instructor. He has received military, law enforcement, and private training in the use of firearms. He is fortunate enough to have access to class 3 weaponry as well.


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