Military Pay Scale Military Ranks Aircraft / Aviation Vehicles & Artillery Infantry Arms Warships & Submarines

Davis Gun

Recoilless Aircraft Rifle

Infantry / Small Arms

1 / 6
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
2 / 6
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
3 / 6
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
4 / 6
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
5 / 6
Image copyright www.MilitaryFactory.com; No Reproduction Permitted.
6 / 6
Image from the Public Domain.

The Davis Gun recoilless rifle was the first of its kind, fitted to some U.S. Navy seaplanes around the time of World War 1.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 5/3/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
Even as early as World War 1 (1914-1918) - the war that introduced the aircraft as a viable combat platform - aircraft engineers were attempting to fix artillery-caliber weaponry onto fighters and bombers. Many tests were carried out though few found mainstream success until airframes were able to evolve along their own lines and grow into stronger gunnery platforms like those seen in the subsequent World War of 1939-1945.

American Commander Cleland Davis of the United States Navy (USN) was working on a device intended to mitigate the recoil forces of these large artillery weapons aboard aircraft and eventually delivered his "Davis Nonrecoiling Gun" for U.S. military service. The basic concept seen during 1911 used a gun tube that was open at both of its ends - breech and the muzzle. The tube was rifled along its inside walls to impart a rotating action upon the exiting projectile. A propellant charge and projectile were set within the tube while a recoil weight, consisting of a mixture of grease and lead balls, was set aft of the propellant/projectile pairing to act as a counterweight. When the charge was ignited, both the propellant and the counterweight were discharged from the gun tube in opposite directions, neutralizing (to an extent) the recoil force that would normally be at play with such a weapon.

Despite its value, it was only the USN service that took on the weapon in a notable role. These were mainly fitted to the larger flying boat seaplanes then in use and provided considerable firepower against enemy surface vessels (including surfaced submarines) and Zeppelins. In a typical arrangement, a Lewis-type trainable machine gun was fitted over the Davis Gun and used as a ranging instrument while retaining its basic anti-aircraft function. The USN would go on to use three different caliber of recoilless guns - spanning 47mm, 65mm and 75mm types - with each firing anything from a 2-pound to a 12-pound projectile. The British considered the Davis Gun for a time but elected not to pursue its large scale use.

The recoilless principle still remains in service today - though appropriately modernized in shoulder-fired weapon systems primarily used to defeat armor and fortifications. The Swedish Carl Gustav family of weapons is one of the most famous of the modern options.


State Factories - USA
National flag of United Kingdom National flag of United States United Kingdom; United States
Overall Length:
2,133 mm (83.98 in)
Barrel Length:
2,133 mm (83.98 in)
Recoilless (Counterweight)
3 rounds-per-minute
Davis Gun - Base Series Name; variable calibers and projectile weights implemented by the USN.

Disclaimer | Privacy Policy | Cookies

2021 Military Pay Scale Army Ranks Navy Ranks Air Force Ranks Alphabet Code DoD Dictionary American War Deaths French Military Victories

The "Military Factory" name and MilitaryFactory.com logo are registered ® U.S. trademarks protected by all applicable domestic and international intellectual property laws. All written content, illustrations, and photography are unique to this website (unless where indicated) and not for reuse/reproduction in any form. Material presented throughout this website is for historical and entertainment value only and should not to be construed as usable for hardware restoration, maintenance, or general operation. We do not sell any of the items showcased on this site. Please direct all other inquiries to militaryfactory AT gmail.com.

Part of a network of sites that includes GlobalFirepower, a data-driven property used in ranking the top military powers of the world and WDMMA.org, the World Directory of Modern Military Aircraft.

Facebook Logo YouTube Logo

www.MilitaryFactory.com • All Rights Reserved • Content ©2003-