Autoloaders, Semi-Automatic Guns, and Autocannons
Most vehicles in-game use a traditional single-shot, breech-loaded cannon as the main gun. Rounds are loaded by human hands, aimed, and fired one at a time. However, there are certain guns and vehicles deployed in-game that have a variation on this single-shot concept, all of which involve automating the gun loading process. The terms used in-game to describe these three variations areas follows.
- Autoloaders are robot-like, mechanical devices that are part of the tank, not the gun, and automatically reload the main gun after a shot, without intervention of human hands. Schematic
- Semi-Automatic Guns, as the term is used in-game, refer to certain guns which are designed to be reloaded from a stick-type magazine, which is integrated onto the gun at its breech.
- Autocannons are weapons that rapid-fire a burst of multiple rounds with a single click of the trigger.
Autoloaders are built into the tank, not into the gun. Early generation Autoloaders were most often installed on tanks with Oscillating Turrets. In an Oscillating Turret design the main gun is fixed to the upper turret half and elevation and depression of the gun is accomplished by movement of the entire upper turret half on its hinge with the lower turret half. This means the gun's breech does not move up and down inside the turret as it does in a Conventional Turret. Therefore, the Autoloader can be fixed in the proper position adjacent to the gun's breech and move up or down with the breech inside the upper turret half. It is possible to fit an Autoloader in a Conventional Turret, but in such case it must be mounted on or near the breech of the gun and independently move up and down in sync with the breech, making elevation and depression and reloading the magazine unwieldy. Only two in-game Chinese tanks, the 59-16 and the WZ-131, have this option for an Autoloader in a Conventional Turret, and then only on one available gun choice.
The Autoloader retrieves new rounds from a magazine which typically in-game holds 3 to 6 large calibre (75mm to 155mm) rounds. Using an Autoloader, rounds from the magazine can be loaded and fired one at a time, but in quick succession with only a 2 or 3 seconds delay between shots. However, when the Autoloader's magazine is empty, it must be reloaded by human hands. This process takes 25 to 60 seconds in-game, depending upon the vehicle, and leaves the vehicle defenceless and vulnerable.
The Autoloader's magazine is often referred to in-game as a "drum." In-game Autoloader magazines are modeled on real life equivalents that originally used a drum shaped carousel, resembling the cylinder on a revolver. Modern day Autoloaders on Main Battle Tanks are much more sophisticated than these early generation models.
The most successful real life Autoloader tank of the era equivalent to the in-game vehicles was the French AMX-13, produced between 1953 to 1985. It sported two 6-round drum magazines, aligned on either side of the breech block, permitting a gunner to select a HE round from one drum or an AP from the other. The big drawback of this system was that these two drum magazines could only be reloaded and replaced by the crew from outside the safety of the tank.
In-Game Use and Performance of Autoloaders
- Playing vehicles equipped with Autoloaders requires substantial adjustment to play-style from the hand loaded tanks in order to accommodate the long magazine reload time.
- Autoloader tanks excel at hit and run tactics and can quickly finish off wounded tanks or exposed lower tier enemies with their quick firepower, but the Commander must always be on the lookout for a good escape route to a safe reloading place and this attitude must become second nature.
- Autoloader tanks instill fear in many opponents, and they will be cautious about rounding a corner into your line of fire if they don't know whether you have a round ready or not. Take advantage of these moments to bluff, feint, and stall for reload time.
- Pressing the keyboard's C key in-game will cause the Autoloader's magazine to reload even though it may only be partially empty. This is handy when the tank is in a safe position and can take the time to top up the magazine for the next assault.
- Remaining available ammo in the Autoloader's magazine is displayed on the battle interface in 2 places. The total rounds remaining in the magazine appears in the lower right corner of the "ammo type" and total amount of ammo remaining in the vehicle box at bottom center on most screens. The number of "bursts" of ammo remaining in the magazine are graphically displayed as bullet shaped icons in the reticle area. These are referred to as "containers" in the settings/reticle panel.
In-game, Semi-Automatic Guns contain 3 to 6 rounds per magazine, and fire only one shot with each trigger click. Semi-Autos are restricted to smaller (37mm to 40mm) calibre cannons. Rounds in the magazine can be fired every 0.25 seconds or so until the magazine is empty. A longer time period of from 4 to 10 seconds is required to restock the magazine. This is a much shorter restock time than that required to reload the magazine of an Autoloader.
In-Game Use and Performance of Semi-Auto Guns
- In game, Semi-Auto guns are options on smaller calibre guns for certain vehicles from Tier-1 through Tier-4.
- The accuracy of Semi-Auto Guns is on a par with the game's hand-loaded guns and far superior to that of the Autocannons often encountered in the same tiers.
- The principle advantage of Semi-Auto guns is the ability to get a few shots off very quickly.
- Pressing the keyboard's C key in-game will cause the gun's magazine to reload even though it may only be partially empty. This is handy, when the tank is in a safe position and can take the time to top up the magazine for the next assault.
- Remaining available ammo in the Semi-Auto magazine is displayed on the battle interface in 2 places. The total rounds remaining in the mag appear as a number in the lower right corner of the active "ammo type" box at bottom center on most screens. The larger number there is the amount of rounds remaining in the vehicle. The number of Semi-Auto shots remaining in the mag are also graphically displayed as bullet shaped icons in the reticle area. Each bullet shaped icon represents a round in the mag. These are referred to as "containers" in the settings/reticle panel.
As used in-game, the term Autocannon refers to a rapid-fire gun, ranging from 7.92mm up to 37mm calibre, which fires multiple projectiles in a single burst of 2 to 8-shots upon a single click of the trigger. The number of bursts that can be fired before reloading the magazine is dependent upon the magazine capacity. As long as the magazine still holds rounds, these guns fire bursts almost as fast as you can click the trigger.
In real life, these weapons are capable of fully automatic fire, with rounds fed to the Autocannon continuously from a magazine, consisting of a belt, a spring-driven box or drum, or are gravity fed, depending upon the gun's design. By historical convention, the term "machine gun" is applied to fully automatic guns that fire solid bullets and typically have a calibre smaller than 20mm. The term "autocannon" is used to describe fully automatic guns that fire shells, typically 20mm or larger, which can be armor-piercing, filled with high-explosive, or variations thereof (APCR, API, etc.). Since there is no difference in the way these two weapon types function in the game, they are lumped together here.
In-Game Use and Performance of Autocannons
- In game Autocannons are available as smaller calibre guns for certain vehicles from Tier-1 through Tier-5.
- The accuracy of Autocannons is poor compared to other guns in the game. The first shot may impact the aim point but the following shots in a single burst may disperse widely.
- Autocannons are generally small calibre weapons and are best utilized at short range where the multiple hits effect offsets a single round's poor damage and penetration characteristics. Up close their firepower can be devastating on tanks of their own Tier or below.
- Pressing the keyboard's C key in-game will cause the Autocannon's magazine to reload even though it may only be partially empty. This is handy when the tank is in a safe position and can take the time to top up the magazine for the next assault.
- Remaining available ammo in the Autocannon's magazine is displayed on the battle interface in 2 places. The total rounds remaining in the magazine appears in the lower right corner of the "ammo type" and total amount of ammo remaining in the vehicle box at bottom center on most screens. The number of "bursts" of ammo remaining in the magazine are graphically displayed as bullet shaped icons in the reticle area. These are referred to as "containers" in the settings/reticle panel.