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Basic Information

Armour Piercing Discarding Sabot rounds were developed in principle in 1940 by engineers working for the French defence manufacturer Brandt, but given that France in 1940 was not a place where a man could get on with his job in peace they evacuated to England and continued their developement work until the first practical rounds were deployed in 1943.

The APDS round is a form of armour piercing ammunition consisting of a sub-calibre 'flechette1' of dense metal surrounded by a multi part 'sabot2' of light alloy that fills the remainder of the bore. Most of the mass of the round is concentrated in the flechette, but the whole cross-sectional area of the round is available to adsorb energy from the firing charge and so far more energy can be imparted than if the sabot was fired from an own-calibre weapon. When the round leaves the muzzle the sabot falls away under gravity and the flechette continues towards the target carrying most of the kinetic energy that was imparted to the round as a whole which, being quite narrow, it delivers to a very small impact area.

The principle of the round has not changed much since - the early rounds were smooth, spin stabilised and made of tungsten alloys, whilst the acme of modern kinetic armour piercing is the stabilised by fins and made of depleted uranium3 (APFSDS-DU), but otherwise very similar.

The fin stabilised variety is pretty much restricted to ordnance calibres - most small arms are low calibre enough that the flechette would be impracticably narrow - although some experiments were made with shotgun ammunition, so far no-one has developed a round worth the added trouble. That said, the same basic principle is used in the design of SLAP (saboted light armour penetrating) rounds (a sub-calibre tungsten round in a plastic sabot) which are produced in calibres as low as 7.62NATO.


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