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Small lead or steel balls contained in a shrapnel case which is fired from an artillery piece; the balls are projected in a forward direction upon the functioning of the fuse.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



originally an artillery shell filled with round shot. Shrapnel is primarily intended to strike live, exposed targets. It was named for an English officer, H. Shrapnel, who in 1803 proposed filling an artillery shell with cast-iron case shot, thereby intensifying the shell’s effect. Exploded in the air at a predetermined distance from the target, shrapnel was highly effective and was widely used in World War I.

Shrapnel was replaced in the 1930’s by the more powerful fragmentation and high-explosive fragmentation shells. The late 1960’s witnessed the introduction of shrapnel-type artillery shells filled with dart-like projectiles, or fléchettes, intended to strike unconcealed enemy personnel. There are up to 8,000 such projectiles in the US 105-mm shell, each fléchette 24 mm long and weighing 0.5 g. Thrown from the shell as a result of centrifugal force and the pressure of the powder gases of the bursting charge, the fléchettes are scattered in a conical pattern.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The First World War was Europe's first experience of industrial warfare, and blast injuries from shrapnel shells could destroy limbs, lacerate flesh and leave deep holes in soldiers' bodies.
During the company's first year, Shelby won a government contract to produce 150,000 shrapnel shells for the U.S.
It is understood they were 18 lb shrapnel shells packed with ball bearings.
At that time, Birmingham women were already working in munitions factories making shrapnel shells and the lighter parts of machine guns and rifles and an estimated 50,000 women were working in industry nationwide.