What’s an Autoloader Anyway?

Source: EU Portal

Reading our articles, you might have come across the terms “autoloader” and “autoloading guns”. But we never took the time to dig into the history of this technology. Fortunately, our latest Top of the Tree, dedicated to the AMX 50 Foch B,  is the perfect opportunity to talk about this mechanism and its origins.

The Basics

As you can probably imagine, loading the gun of a tank takes quite a while, especially when you have to do everything manually. In fact, tank specialists consider that 70 to 75% of the time necessary to fire a shot is spent loading the gun. Consequently, if you want to increase your firepower, one of the first things you can tweak is the reloading time. This question was asked pretty early on in tank history, and one of its answers is automating the loading process. Hence the name “autoloader” which we can define as the complex mechanisms that ensure loading the gun can be done without the participation of a human loader.

A Tiny Bit of History

Believe it or not, autoloaders are closely connected to the history of tanks in general, and the most essential qualities of these vehicles. Because of the early developments of tanks in World War I, such as the British Mark I and its side-mounted guns, the typical tank became a turreted vehicle. The Renault FT embodied this vision, and aboard this tank, all firing actions, from guidance to the aimed shot, were performed by one person.

The Renault FT (image source: Wikipedia)

This setup remained the same on most vehicles from World War I to early World War II, and was only refined by new mechanisms assisting these actions and their performers, whether that would be one or more persons. However, tank battles of the Second World War revealed the striking capabilities of different types of ammunition. Transitioning from one to the other with ever-increasing calibres confirmed the importance of rate of fire and cemented the need for a change from manual to automatic loading.

The First Autoloaders

As a result, the first efforts at developing autoloaders began during World War II, although the first functional system only appeared in 1945. It was made by the United States and was supposed to equip the T22E1, a medium tank. However, all vehicles from the T20 family designed for autoloaders never entered mass production. This pushed the development of autoloaders back to the late forties and then the fifties.

The T20, “father” of the T22E1 (image source: Wikipedia)

Thus, autoloaders would have to wait for another couple of years and new masters to rise. This is when Europe comes into the picture. The Old Continent progressively became the patron of this new technology, thanks to vehicles such as the AMX 13 light tank, developed in France, or the Strv 103 tank, or S-Tank, developed by Sweden in 1961.

How Does It Work?

With such vehicles, it becomes easier to understand how an autoloader works, plus what it’s good or bad at. The main advantage is pretty straightforward: a higher rate of fire. For example, the prototype of the AMX 13 was able to fire 12 rounds per minute thanks to its 2 revolver-like stacks of 6 shells. To put it simply, autoloading basically relies on the same technology as semi-automatic firearms, but much bigger. They use the recoil of the gun to move another shell into the barrel bore.

The AMX 13 turret (image source: Wikipedia)

This brings a better rate of fire, but also takes (quite literally) the weight of shells and their reload off the crew’s shoulders. Autoloaders are actually so great at this job that they usually require at least one less crew member, which allows the tank to become much smaller in size.

The Drawbacks

That said, autoloaders have some limitations, mainly: the base of the gun and the magazine need to be connected. Because of that, most autoloaders have very specific if not odd setups, such as the oscillating two-part turrets of the AMX 13 or AMX 50. Such a type of turret was deemed fragile by the Americans when they were looking at buying these technologies from France in the fifties.

The S-tank (image source: Wikipedia)

A more drastic example is the Strv S tank, a turretless vehicle with a gun motionlessly fixed to its hull, but linked to several magazines, for an estimated 50 rounds. But turreted or not, the proximity between the gun and its ammo always puts the crew at risk and forces military engineers to think about new, safer setups that will not sacrifice the tank’s rate of fire. This may explain why certain nations or even modern vehicles were reluctant about this technology. In any case, you can have a nice preview of its potential by playing the AMX 50 Foch B line throughout the month.


0 thoughts on “What’s an Autoloader Anyway?

  1. There is an inflation of autloaders in wot, and not only that there are also a bunch of autoreloaders which can shoot normal when they run out of clip. I think it is retarded to have these autloaders, specially those who have enough armor to bounce normal ammo.

    Progetto 46 for example is cancer for tier 8 gameplay, no wonder it performs best out of all tier 8 MTs. Yeah it has no armor but that doesn\’t matter as its 212mm standard pen can pen almost all other MTs with ease.

    1. i really can not understand how this tier 8 is so good and its tier X brother is not that high rated…

      are same thing ! how are so different the stats??

      about other things i agree…idiotism like Sumoa should not exist ! it just make AMX 50100 to look useless.
      Not to talk about that retard IS3A…

    2. I agree, but only half way. There is a way to make a autoreloading and autoloading tank at tier 8 balanced.
      For example, take the Bat-Chat 25t AP at tier 9. It\’s safe to say that most agree it\’S far for being good, even below average.
      Same for most french light tanks (tier 6 to 10). Not OP at all…
      My points are these : autoloading and autoreloading have their place in the game, as long as balance is there. And guess where is the problem ?!
      So yeah, that p2w autoreloading italian tank is OP. A nerf would solve the problem, but they sold it, so they can\’t (and don\’t want to, because money…)

  2. Regular autoloaders have been power creeped by the autoreloaders and the soon to be twin barrel tanks.

    At least the regular autoloaders had a trade-off with a long reload time which made them vulnerable, especially in close quarters battle.

    The auto-reloaders are not balanced because they do not play by that rule of a real trade-off.

    1. Autoreloader has a tradeoff. A lot of the times you don’t want to shoot the entire clip because your DPM will drop through the floor. You need to think more when playing them.

        1. Oh yeah, that IS3A. I remember when people were crying how broken and OP is is. IS3A that\’s way slower than an actual IS3. IS3A that has a gun that can\’t hit a barn from the inside. IS3A that can shoot normally after using the entire clip but it takes approximately 5 years to load full clip back again. Damn, so OP.

          1. mobility is 99% same, even if normal is3 is a bit more agile its very VERY insignifiant difference.
            accuracy is same for all, pure RNG puke..wich of course, can be lowered by paying, what a surprise (food consumable).
            Who cares how much it needs to reload entire clip if without waiting is just…a normal is3?? This is really the problem because means exactly 0 drawbacks.

            and even worse?? You remember normal IS3 weakpoints?? that tiny cupola and overmatchable roof?
            Well guess what…on is3a ONly that roof is present.

            so yeh…not only OP but pure P2W wich is the worst thing…

            1. Gun dispersion on the move and when turning: 0.25 vs 0.2, when turning the turret it\’s 0.15 vs 0.08
              Gun accuracy 0.44 vs 0.38
              Specific p/w 10 vs 14
              Effective traverse on hard terrain 27 vs 33, on other terrain it\’s just a bit lower
              The only thing that keeps IS-3A from being completely unplayable is this autoreloader gimmick which is not even that good in the first place, because you hit like 1 out of 3 shots maybe and then you\’re stuck with that clip reload. \”Duh, after shooting the entire clip you can play as a normal IS-3\”. Wow, great, why wouldn\’t you play an actual IS-3 then instead which is, you know, good?

  3. \”They use the recoil of the gun to move another shell into the barrel bore.\”

    no tank autoloader work as such! Revolver-like mechanism (and revolver handguns itself) doesn\’t use recoil to reload! After a shot nothings happens. You need to pull the trigger to make revolver ammo chamber to spin.

    In tanks rammer which is used to load next shell is hydraulic or electric

    1. there are several automatic revolvers (who use recoil to operate), like for example the webley fosbery

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