Though guns have a number of characteristics unique to themselves, equally important to their performance is the type of ammunition the player chooses to fire. Different ammunition types have different strengths and weaknesses, and knowing when to use each kind will help a player get the most out of his or her gun.
Shells come in two principal forms - standard and premium. Standard ammunition is always bought with credits. Premium ammunition can be bought with either gold or for a large number of credits. Premium ammunition usually boasts enhanced capabilities compared to the standard available for the same gun. Premium rounds should be used sparingly, as their great expense makes indiscriminate usage an expensive endeavor.
- 1 Relevant Terms
- 2 Shell Types
- 2.1 Armor Piercing (AP)
- 2.2 Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR)
- 2.3 High Explosive (HE)
- 2.4 Premium High Explosive (HE)
- 2.5 High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT)
- 2.6 High Explosive Squash Head (HESH)
- 3 Characteristics at a Glance
- 4 The Controversy of Premium Ammunition
- See also: Glossary
Shells are categorized by a number of terms that describe their characteristics. These terms are important to know when analyzing ammunition types.
- Penetration - How much armor a shell can penetrate 50% of the time. Penetration values given in the game are the shell's ability to penetrate armor at 100 meters away. This penetration changes at shorter or longer ranges and to different degrees when firing certain types of ammunition. Average penetration is also subject to a random +/- 25% modifier. With most ammunition types, if the shell's penetration value is lower than the effective armor of the target it hits, the shell will likely fail to penetrate and do no damage. All types of high explosive shells have a chance to deal reduced damage if they do not at first penetrate their target.
- Damage - The average damage the shell does upon a penetrating hit. The damage value given in game is an average value, which is subject to a random +/- 25% modifier. Shells will not always do the same damage every time they penetrate, but will always do within 25% of the average damage value. The only exception to this is high explosive rounds, which can sacrifice some of the damage they do for additional penetration (see High-Explosive section).
- Ricochet - When a shell hits an armor plate that is greater than a certain angle, the shell will bounce off of the plate and continue traveling. Ricocheted shells can still impact and damage tanks after bouncing, and can damage the target they originally bounce off if they impact a weak surface after bouncing (this is sometimes known as a "shot trap" effect). Certain shell types have mechanics that decrease the chances of ricocheting off of thin armor, and different shell types have different minimum angles at which they ricochet. Note that damage from ricochets is currently disabled in WoT Blitz.
- Caliber - The diameter of the shell in centimeters, as dictated by the size of the gun's caliber. This value determines very little aside from overmatching, a mechanic by which AP and APCR shells can penetrate well angled, thin armor.
- Normalization - An effect that causes the angle of AP and APCR shells to decrease on impact. This decreases the effective thickness of the armor and makes it easier for AP and APCR shells to penetrate angled armor plates.
- Overmatching - A mechanic for AP and APCR shells that allows them to penetrate thin, but well angled armor if their caliber is high enough. Shells which impact armor half the thickness of their caliber get increased normalization values, but will still bounce if they impact at a ricochet angle. Shells which impact armor a third of their thickness will automatically penetrate, no matter what angle they impact from.
- Muzzle Velocity - The measure of the speed a shell travels right as it leaves the barrel of the gun. Muzzle velocity determines how much lead must be given to hit a moving target, as slower moving shells will need a greater amount of lead to hit their intended target. Different shell types fired from the same gun can also have different muzzle velocities.
Armor Piercing (AP)
Armor piercing shells are shells which use kinetic energy to punch a hole in armor and do damage to the crew and internal workings of a vehicle. The penetration ability of an AP shell is heavily dependent on how much energy it carries, so a high velocity, large caliber shell tends to penetrate armor better than a small caliber, low velocity shell.
AP is the standard shell for most direct-fire tanks in the game. On some artillery AP shells can be premium. AP with enhanced penetration or damage is also sometimes premium ammunition on some direct-fire tanks (this is common in Japanese pre-Cold War designs).
AP shells penetrate armor better when moving faster, which means they lose penetration ability over distance as they slow down. AP shells are subject to five degrees of normalization. This is the ammo type that makes them ideal for getting through well angled armor. AP shells can also overmatch armor, further increasing their ability to penetrate thin but well angled armor. These mechanics can be used to exploit thin armor plates (often thin roof plates on other tanks) that are at an angle that would otherwise make them difficult to penetrate.
When to Use
Compared to the other types of ammunition, AP shells don't have many inherent disadvantages, except being usually inferior to both APCR and HEAT. Because of this and the comparable cheap price tag, AP is the shell of choice on most anti-tank guns in most situations. Low velocity howitzers and indirect-fire artillery are usually best when firing HE, as will be detailed in its respective section. AP is mostly used due to economic pressure, as it is cheaper than APCR and HEAT while having enough penetration to handle most targets.
Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (APCR)
Armor piercing composite rigid shells are shells made of a dense, sub-caliber core surrounded by lightweight, full-bore outer casing. APCR shells are designed to do the same thing as AP shells - penetrate armor using kinetic energy. APCR shells have the advantage of being lighter than AP shells while still having dense penetrating cores.
APCR is the premium ammunition for most direct-fire tanks. On some high tier tanks (usually high tier medium tanks), APCR is the standard ammunition rather than AP.
APCR shells have faster muzzle velocities than corresponding AP shells due to their decreased weight. This means that they can penetrate armor more effectively than AP shells. The increased muzzle velocity also means that APCR shells move faster through the air and less lead needs to be given to hit moving targets. They also have decreased normalization ability, with only two degrees of normalization as opposed to AP's five. APCR shells can also overmatch thin armor similarly to AP shells, however their double-overmatching bonus is less noticeable due to their lower base normalization. APCR shells lose speed (and often as a result, penetration) faster over distance than AP shells, however they always have more penetration than an AP shell, even at maximum range. APCR shells losing more penetration over distance is only a general rule, with a variety of exceptions, such as when a tank has APCR as its base round, in which case it usually does not lose its penetration faster than regular AP rounds. Penetration decay can vary significantly from tank to tank.
When to Use
APCR are usually very expensive, especially when they are considered premium ammo (as they are on most tanks). As a result, APCR is best used only when needed. APCR is usually best used when AP shells are not enough to reliably penetrate an enemy tank, since they usually have much more penetration. APCR shells do have some disadvantageous characteristics compared to AP which may reduce their penetration, however these are usually not enough to completely negate the penetration advantage they have versus AP rounds. In fact, many players fire APCR when they face well armored enemys, offsetting the cost by driving profitable tanks or investing real life money.
High Explosive (HE)
High explosive shells are shells filled with explosives that detonate on impact. HE shells are not designed for anti-armor applications, however HE shells with enough explosives can still penetrate armor by burning through it with sheer explosive power.
HE is one of the standard ammo types for most direct-fire tanks in the game. It is often packaged alongside AP as standard ammo on many tank guns and is even cheaper than the AP ammo, although on most guns its is advisable to only keep a small stock of HE shells (see When to Use). HE is the sole standard ammo on some direct-fire howitzers and is the sole standard ammo for almost all artillery.
HE shells are unique among ammo types, and have the most complicated penetration and damage mechanics. HE shells usually have more base average damage than AP, APCR, or HEAT shells. If an HE shell penetrates, it explodes and does damage to any internal module within a conical range of where it penetrated. HE shells tend to have very low base penetration values, but can still do damage even if they do not penetrate. If an HE shell hits armor with effective thickness greater than its penetration value, the shell can use its explosive strength to "burn" through the armor and penetrate. This allows the shell to still do damage when it hits, although less than if it were to penetrate. HE shells which need to burn through large amounts of armor can end up doing very meager amounts of damage, and shells which aren't powerful enough to make burn through the remaining armor will do none whatsoever.
As stated before, HE shells explode on impact. This means they have a splash radius, or an area around the impact point of an HE shell where the shell's explosion does damage to targets. This can be large enough to hit multiple tanks or too small to notice depending on the model and size of the shell. Since HE explodes on impact, it can pre-detonate when hitting spaced armor or external modules. In this case, the only damage it will do to the vehicle it impacts is splash damage. HE shells also tend to have lower muzzle velocities than AP and APCR shells, so they require more lead when being aimed at moving targets. Despite this, HE's penetration is not affected by its speed (and therefore, distance) since it penetrates by nature of explosive force.
When to Use
HE shells have very complicated and difficult to understand characteristics, and thus always knowing when to use them on most guns mostly boils down to experience. Still, there some cases where HE is an obvious choice. Low-velocity howitzers with AP available rarely have good penetration with this type of ammo. The large HE shells fired by these guns are powerful enough to burn through even thick armor, and such shells are more suited for the inaccurate, low-velocity nature of howitzers.
Most guns in the game are designed for armor penetrating ability, and are best used with AP or APCR most of the time. There are a few specific situations where using HE on such guns is advisable. Because HE can do small amounts of damage even to things it doesn't penetrate, large enough HE is reasonably good for damaging enemy tanks on the cap point in order to reset the cap timer. Also, HE shells' higher damage can be used to do more damage to very poorly armored targets (such as artillery) than AP or APCR would. Guns with sub 100mm of caliber should generally refrain from firing any HE at all. Guns with less than 120mm should not fire HE in tiers higher than 7.
Premium High Explosive (HE)
Premium high explosive ammo is a specially designated form of HE. Mechanically, premium HE is the same as regular HE, but usually has some sort of enhanced capability such as a larger splash radius.
Premium HE is found from many SPGs. Only non-SPG vehicle with special premium HE shell is T49 and Sheridan with 152 mm guns. Type 4 Heavy and Type 5 Heavy also have premium HE shells, but they are labeled just as "premium version of normal HE", not as actual special "Premium HE".
High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT)
High explosive anti-tank shells use a shaped explosive charge to sear through armor. HEAT ammunition explodes on impact to create a concentrated stream of molten metal which punches through a vehicle's armor.
HEAT is premium ammo on some direct-fire tanks. Since HEAT shells' penetration ability is dictated by the number of explosives they carry (rather than muzzle velocity), it is the ammo of choice for penetrating armor with a large caliber, low-velocity guns such as howitzers. HEAT is premium ammo for most artillery in the game because of this and is also premium ammo on some high tier, high caliber guns.
HEAT ammunition can be thought of as a specialized, armor-piercing version of HE. HEAT ammunition gets some of the highest average penetration values in the game, outperforming even APCR in many situations. This comes at a cost, as HEAT has a number of odd characteristics which can greatly decrease its effectiveness in some situations. HEAT reacts adversely to angled armor, as it is not subject to normalization like AP and APCR and cannot overmatch thin armor. HEAT shells, like HE shells, can also pre-detonate on spaced armor or external modules. Unlike HE, however, HEAT has no splash damage, and will not damage targets it pre-detonates on or explodes near. HEAT generally has a slower muzzle velocity than AP or APCR but does not lose penetration over distance. HEAT shells lose 5% of their penetration value for every 10cm traveled after hitting the first layer of armor.
When to Use
Since HEAT takes the place of APCR on many vehicles as premium ammo, it is used in similar situations for the same reasons. Special consideration must be taken for its mechanics though. HEAT should never be fired at tracks, gun mantlets, or other pieces of thick spaced armor, as it will pre-detonate and do no damage, although the sheer raw penetration power often allows a damaging shot even through spaced armor. It is also a poor choice for shooting thin, well-angled roofs or sides of tanks that would normally be overmatched by AP or APCR, as it will likely ricochet and do no damage. However, HEAT has a higher auto-bounce angle than AP and APCR, mitigating that disadvantage. HEAT is viable versus slow armored targets on the long range since they don't have the mobility to dodge the shell despite low muzzle velocity (no penetration loss ensures better penetration chances compared to AP / APCR in such a scenario).
HEAT is generally considered inferior to APCR with similar penetration values, however, it still remains an overall superior choice to AP due to significantly higher penetration power. As such many players that don't know the weak points on enemy tanks will not use AP and fire HEAT only, offsetting the cost by driving profitable tanks or investing real life money. As do the particularly skilled players and most players in high-tiers (8-10) to boost their statistics and deal damage more frequently and easily.
HEAT is also optional on many artillery but is a very risky ammo choice considering how inaccurate artillery can be and the sort of distances they are shooting at. HEAT can be helpful for self-defense situations where accuracy is not as big of an issue. As of Patch 9.18, artillery can no longer fire HEAT.
High Explosive Squash Head (HESH)
High explosive squash head shells are shells which spread a "paste" of explosives on the surface they impact, which detonates shortly after. This concentrated blast causes spalling inside of the structure it explodes on, killing the crew inside or damaging its internal parts without actually penetrating it. On some vehicle such as the M 41 90 GF, HESH ammo is called HEP (High Explosive Plastic) and has the same characteristics.
HESH is premium ammo on some top tier vehicles, and is most common in top tier British vehicles. HESH's realistic properties are not simulated in the game, and in-game HESH rounds are simply HE shells with inflated penetration values. Otherwise, they behave exactly the same and are even labeled as HE, and should be used similarly.
This table can be used as a quick reference for comparing some of the important characteristics behind different ammunition types.
|Normalization||Can Overmatch||Affected by Distance||Can Pre-Detonate||Ricochet Angle||Muzzle Velocity||Splash Damage|
An everlasting controversy in World of Tanks is the abusive use of premium ammunition(mostly APCR and HEAT) in High-Tiers(8-10) since from then on tanks which sacrifice many other capabilities, particularly mobility, for armor make an appearance. It is reasonably easy for almost any tank to penetrate a very heavily armored target of the same tier from the front regardless of the armor plate it hits due to the massive penetration capability of the premium shell. This contributes to the fact that many tanks have to fire premium ammunition in return to remain at least somewhat competitive.
This, however, leads to the conclusion that premium shells are negating the balance of the game( particularly in higher tiers) and that armor is a very unreliable survivability characteristic. (e.g. with premium ammunition being abused in high tiers most tanks with a lot of armor are left with their disadvantages and robbed of their advantage which undeniably makes them inferior tanks and less of an enjoyment to play with)