The Type 5002 Mark XIII. 24-Pound / 20-cwt Field Gun - more commonly, simply the '24-Pounder' - is, along with the 5" Field Howitzer (35-Pounder) is the standard artillery piece of the modern Imperial Legions. An advanced breech-loading, steel rifled gun incorporating advanced optics and a recoil mechanism, the 24-Pounder is able to deliver furious salvos of 4" / 101.6mm shells or bolts (solid shot) with impressive precision over considerable distance, even beyond visual range, at a rate surpassed only by the lighter quick-firing '15-Pounder' - a 3" infantry / cavalry support gun.
The complex and precise equipment / ordnance naming conventions used by the Empire impart an informed reader with a wealth of information at a glance. 'Type 5002', as discussed in other articles, indicates the Imperial Calendar Year in which the specific piece began production and serves as the distinguishing mark for a given weapon system or piece of equipment, similar to the 'M-Number' system used by the U.S. Military in reality. Mark XIII. indicates that the weapon in question is the 13th iteration of its design (i.e., denotes modification). 24-Pound[er] is a rough, rounded approximation of the weight of the gun's projectiles, while 20-cwt refers to the weight of its barrel and breech using an Imperial measurement comparable to our world's British / Imperial System "Centum Weight", equaling 120 Imperial Pounds (and hence this measurement is rendered as 'cwt', short for Centum Weight, in English translation). Thus, the 24-Pounder's barrel and breech together weigh 20 x 120 Imperial Pounds, or approximately 2.4 Imperial tons.
The Empire, as mentioned in other articles, maintain's two cocurrent measurement systems: the New System or Scientific System, equivalent to a base-12 version of our world's Metric System, and the Traditional System, equivalent to our world's customary systems (feet, pounds, inches, etc). Neither system is precisely the same as their real equivalents in value, with the Traditional System's units having been re-calibrated in the early years of the Empire's existence to equate to round whole-number values of their New / Scientific (Metric) System. However, they are approximately equal and can/should be treated as such by the reader.
The actual gun (barrel & breech) of the 24-Pounder is a rifled steel tube weighing over two tons (as mentioned, 2400 Imperial pounds). It uses a semi-automatic 'falling wedge' type breech in which the rear of the back end of the barrel is closed by a large wedge-shaped breechblock. Surrounding the breechblock is a hollow housing / sleeve with an open underside, a hole in the rear aligning with the back end of the barrel and rails cut into its insides that raised ridges on the block. When the 24-Pounder fires, a roller chains (similar to much-enlarged and strengthened bike chains) are pulled on by the recoiling gun and, in turn, pull the breechblock so that it slides down almost completely out of the housing, exposing the open rear end of the barrel. Rounds are fed through unobstructed sleeve into the gun and seated with a ramrod, and the breechblock is then manually raised back into position using one of the two crank wheels located on either side of the sleeve.
This self-opening feed mechanism greatly improves ease and speed of reloading. However, although the Imperials have developed fully-sealing interrupted screw breeches (in which the opening of the breech is closed by a swinging hatch), the 24-Pounder's falling wedge does not completely obturate (seal) the breech. A series of copper hoops inside the breechblock, the forward-most of which bulge from the front of it into the open rear of the barrel, provide partial obturation as the soft metal expands when subjected to heat. However, as stated, this is a less-than-perfect method and the bands will wear out as firing continues, necessitating periodic replacement. This can become an issue during sustained bombardments or in prolongued operation without reliable and consistent lines of supply.
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