01 November 2007

The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight?

BBC History Magazine has devoted two articles to the Spitfire and the battle of Britain. They don't appear to have much online content, so you'll have to look in your local supplier if you want to have an idea of whether it is worth reading. Here's the article where I first came across the story. At this stage I don't know what to make of it. You'll find some discussion of the matter at this rather odd place, together with a link to another newspaper article. Certainly, I remember from numerous books I read in the middle 1980s that one of the perceived strengths of the Spitfire and the Hurricane was the 'shotgun effect' of their eight .303in wing-mounted machine guns, which didn't require the same level of marksmanship skill as the German Me 109's armament of cannon and machine guns (some allusion to it is made at post 74 ). If you can't shoot straight, throw a lot of lead in a wide area to maximize your probability of getting a hit. However, that would require opening fire at close range, but thankfully the British have always found 'grit' when they need it.

1 comment:

Stilgherrian said...

Seems like your memory of “those books” in the 1980s (and 70s) is much like mine. Here’s my recollection...

As they came “fresh from the factory”, the Spitfire and Hurricane had their machine guns set to fire in a slight fan so that, yes you got the shotgun effect of a wider cone of fire. Less accuracy needed.

However I also remember reading that certain British fighter aces re-adjusted their guns so that the guns all focussed on a point a certain distance ahead of the aircraft — enabling these better pilots to concentrate a short, intense burst of fire directly on the target aircraft.