shrapnel


shrapnel
/shrap"nl/, n.
1. Mil.
a. a hollow projectile containing bullets or the like and a bursting charge, designed to explode before reaching the target, and to set free a shower of missiles.
b. such projectiles collectively.
2. shell fragments.
[1800-10; named after Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), English army officer, its inventor]

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Originally, a type of projectile invented by the British artillery officer Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), containing small spherical bullets and an explosive charge to scatter the shot and fragments of the shell casing.

A time fuse set off the explosive charge late in the shell's flight, when it was near opposing troops. The resulting hail of high-velocity debris was often lethal; it caused most of the artillery-inflicted wounds in World War I. In World War II a high-explosive bursting charge that fragmented the shell's iron casing made shrapnel balls unnecessary; the term shrapnel came to be used for the shell-casing fragments.

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      originally a type of antipersonnel projectile named for its inventor, Henry Shrapnel (Shrapnel, Henry) (1761–1842), an English artillery officer. Shrapnel projectiles contained small shot or spherical bullets, usually of lead, along with an explosive charge to scatter the shot as well as fragments of the shell casing. A time fuze set off the explosive charge in the latter part of the shell's flight, while it was near opposing troops. The resulting hail of high-velocity debris was often lethal; shrapnel caused the majority of artillery-inflicted wounds in World War I.

      During World War II it was found that a high-explosive bursting charge fragmented the shell's iron casing so effectively that the use of shrapnel balls was unnecessary, and it thus was discontinued. The term shrapnel continued to be used to designate the shell-casing fragments. Before explosive projectiles were used, the purposes of shrapnel were served by charging a cannon with small iron balls, called grapeshot (q.v.), or with lengths of chain.

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Universalium. 2010.

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