Imperial Japanese Navy Ammunition
Color System for Large-Calibre Projectiles
The Navy system of marking projectiles for all sizes over 40mm is relatively simple and reasonably consistent. Some discrepancies exist between the standard system and recovered specimens.
The following system applies to projectiles of over 40mm, but carries over in part into the marking of smaller-calibre ammunition.
Body Color - The main color of the projectile body indicates the basic type of shell.
Type of Projectile ----- Body Color
Japanese "Ordinary"* ----- Maroon
Armor-Piercing ----- White
Illuminating (Over 40cm) ----- Red
Illuminating (Under 40cm) ----- Blue
Shrapnel ----- Gray
Target ----- Green
Smoke Tracer ----- Orange
Practice ----- Black
Incendiary-Shrapnel ----- Red with identifying characters
* Japanese classification "Ordinary" includes Common and capped Common projectiles as well as various designs of H.E. projectiles.
Color of nose - Certain additional information is indicated by the painting of the nose of the projectile as follows:
1. Green Nose - Indicates "explosive-filled". Specific identify of explosive is not made. Black Powder as well as H.E. is marked in this way.
2. Red Tip on Green Nose - Indicates "base-fuzed", but is not when ammunition is of fixed type.
3. Yellow Nose - Indicates "practice use". This is applied to standard practice projectiles, painted black, and may also be used to indicate projectiles converted from service types. Projectiles converted for practice retain their original painting except for the yellow nose.
The length of the green or yellow tip is 100mm for 12cm guns and larger, 50mm for 10- and 8-cm guns, 15mm for 6cm and smaller.
The length of the red tip is exactly half that of the green.
Center of gravity - The center of gravity of larger projectiles is indicated by a color band painted at the appropriate position near the middle of the body. The color band is varied to contrast with the color of the projectile body.
Color of projectile body ---- Color of Band ---- Width of Band
Maroon or Blue ---- Yellow ---- 50mm for projectiles 20cm and above
White ---- Red ---- 20mm for 15.5cm (and under)
Black ---- White ---- 10mm on all sizes
The center of gravity is not required to be marked on projectiles of 15cm and under, but where projectiles of these sizes already bear the color band at the point of balance (apparently from earlier requirements) repainting is not required.
Additional features of painting:
1. A black band painted on the lower edge of a projectile cap indicates a design of cap designated "Type 3-year cap"
2. Fuzes and rotating bands normally are not painted. The bourrelet is consistently painted.
3. The portion of the body between the rotating band and the base is left unpainted in projectiles of fixed ammunition, but is painted on projectiles of semi-fixed ammunition.
4. Dummy plugs resembling fuzes have the tips painted with black lacquer to distinguish them from fuzes.
Accessory markings - Type numbers or other characters are sometimes stenciled on the ogival portion of the projectile as a further aid in identification. Some of these markings are:
Filling data - On Navy projectiles of the larger sizes (8cm and above), the dates of manufacture and filling are painted or stenciled around the body of the projectile just above the rotating band, and again on the base of the projectile.
This marking usually consists of the following data in sequence as given (beginning at the right of the widest space and reading around the projectile to the right).
Rotating band marking - Certain information pertaining to the manufacture of the projectile body itself is stamped into the rotating band. A typical example follows:
Paper labels - Typically, but not without exception, there are two paper labels appearing externally on Navy ammunition, an oval one giving projectile data, and a square one giving propellant data. Both carry valuable information on the ammunition components, and may be read at least partially without knowledge of Japanese.
In fixed ammunition both labels appear on the projectile. In semi-fixed ammunition, the oval label appears on the projectile and the square propellant label is glued to the metal disc in the top of the propellant case. In both types, the propellant label is duplicated by a cloth label sewed to the bag enclosing the powder sticks.
Bursting charge label - The bursting charge for most Navy projectiles is cast in a paper container and inserted in the projectile as a separate unit and is held in place by paraffin.
A circular label on the bottom of the explosive charge carries the following data:
Color System for Small-Caliber Projectiles
Certain features of marking of large-caliber projectiles carry over into the marking of smaller sizes, but in general, sizes of 40mm and under follow no single standard identification system and are best considered as individual groups.
40mm Automatic Anti-Aircraft Weapon
This ammunition follows the large-caliber system in general.
-Maroon with green tip: High Explosive
-White with green tip: Armor-Piercing (H.E. Filled)
30mm Aircraft Cannon
This ammunition follows a system independent of the large-caliber code, but common to 20mm Navy ammunition which is likewise for aircraft cannon. Color of projectile body indicates type of projectile.
-Maroon: High Explosive
-Red: H.E. Tracer
-Yellow (greenish): H.E.I. (W.P.)
-Black with red nose, fuzeless: Tracer
A new trend in the painting of 30mm projectiles is to leave the body unpainted except for an identifying color band immediately behind the nose fuze.
25mm Automatic Anti-Aircraft Weapon
This ammunition follows the large-caliber system in part. Green tipping to indicate the presence of explosive filling was followed in H.E. and H.E. tracer projectiles of earlier manufacture, but apparently has been abandoned in more recent lots.
-Maroon (with or without green tip): High Explosive
-Red (with or without green tip): H.E. Tracer. Later lots only are self-destroying.
-Orange (with or without green tip): H.E. tracer. Identical to red non-S.D. rounds.
-Orange (with red paint around the case primer): H.E. tracer, construction of tracer differs from above
-Green: H.E.I. (W.P.)
-White (with black undercoat): A.P.T. Sometimes appears bluish-white, white-tipped, or black due to loss of white paint.
20mm Aircraft Cannon Mk1 and Mk2
Color of body indicates types of projectile. White bands indicate modification of basic design.
-No bands: Un-modified design
-One band: Modification one
-Two bands: Modification two
-Three bands: Modification three
-One wide band: Modification four
-Brown: High Explosive
-Red (solid nose): Tracer
-Red (fuzed): H.E. Tracer
-Yellow (greenish): H.E.I. (W.P.)
-White: A.P.I. (dry filling)
-Black: Practice, blind loaded
13mm Type 2 Aircraft Machine Gun (Fuzed Ammunition)
Color of body indicates type of projectile; follows aicraft cannon code.
-Maroon (fuzed): High Explosive
-Red (fuzed) brown band: H.E.T.
-Red (fuzeless): Tracer
-Yellow (fuzed): H.E.I. (W.P.)
-White (fuzeless): A.P.T.
-Black (fuzeless): Practice
Small Arms - 7.7mm, 7.9mm, 13.2mm
Identifying color is applied around the primer in the base of the case.
-Green: Incendiary Model 1 (W.P.)
-Purple: Incendiary Model 2 (H.E.)
Next Time: 7.7mm, 13mm, and 13.2mm Projectiles