Battleship USS New Jersey BB-62
This page was a concerted effort by a number of people. The planning started a few months ago when Larry Sackett, from the USS North Carolina contacted me about a 'popcorn shot' he had heard about on the USS New Jersey. I put him in contact with Tom Helvig, who writes The Jerseyman for the USS New Jersey, in Camden, NJ. From there, Larry became acquainted with Ken Kersch who loads and shoots the gun. Larry drove up there, shot this video while Ken demonstrated and narrated, then later edited it as presented here with his permission. This took place on July 23, 2011.
6 1/2 minute video
One of the purposes of a powder case or cartridge is to seal the breech or rear of the gun so the poison gases cannot get back to the personnel operating the gun. The powder case fits pretty loosely in the gun chamber and is easily removed before the gun is fired. When the powder charge detonates the pressure inside the barrel builds instantly to about 40,000 PSI., then the projectile begins to move and the pressure reduces to about 20,000 PSI. This pressure forces the powder case against the wall of the powder case chamber very forcefully. Now the powder case is well stuck inside the gun and requires the extractors to pull the expanded case out of the gun. The case is so hot it will burn you very badly and the hot shell man that catches the spent powder case used to wear asbestos gloves that went almost up to his shoulders.
If there is no projectile in the gun when the powder charge is detonated and no pressure builds up and the extractors would not be required to extract the spent powder case. The full powder charge for a 5"/38 gun firing a 55 pound projectile is 15 pounds. That charge will fire the 55 pound projectile horizontally about 18,000 yds. A half charge is 7 1/2 pounds and will fire the projectile about 10,000 yds.
When cease fire is given there are usually loaded guns and probably all guns that were firing are loaded. We did not open the breech on a gun and especially a hot gun, to remove the full powder charge and replace it with a half charge to unload the gun. Much too dangerous. We went ahead and fired the guns as they were to unload the guns. We carried some half charges but they were used for saluting purposes only.