Cutaway Oerlikon Cannon

So a funny thing happened on the way back from the Naval training faciliity…

We were at a museum in Europe looking around with a guide, and noticed a nice Oerlikon cannon on a naval pedestal mount. Our guide laughed, and mentioned that it had come from a naval training facility that was being closed down – they had used it as a decoration and minor training aid, and not really paid much attention to it. The mainspring was painted bright red, and the outer shroud had been cut with a bunch of holes, much like a deactivated cutaway. The base was just trying to get rid of the thing (Oerlikon’s are heavy, y’know), and was offering it to anyone willing to take it away.

Oerlikon AA cannon
Picture this, cleaned up with a bright red mainspring

A representative from this museum happened to be the first on there, and while not really interested in a cutaway Oerlikon, they jumped at the opportunity to take possession of the gun.

Turns out it wasn’t a cutaway at all, but actually a live AA cannon that was being given away. The Oerlikon design features a heavily ventilated shroud over the spring, and the base administrators had no idea that the gun was still functional. They just assumed that between the holes and the red paint it was a dummy.

The moral of the story, of course, is to always take a look, even when you don’t think you want something. You never know what you’ll actually find…


  1. I remember discovering that a few of the M1903 Springfield used by my JROTC class in high school appeared to be functional aside from badly repair stocks from repeated dropping. Most of them had their strikers shortened and bolt faces welded. I always thought that some of the bolts must have been broken by clueless high school students and someone dropped another bolt in thinking that the gun was deactivated in some other mysterious way. It was obvious the bores were clear, if worn, and the chamber was intact.

  2. Pretty scary when military men cant even tell if a gun is live or not. Doesnt instill much confidence.

    • At least with the Oerlikon it’s such a weird and old weapon it’s understandable why they didn’t know it wasn’t deactivated, but with those Springfields… that’s just stupidity.

      • In their defense, those rifles had been in the school inventory for at least 50 years. That’s a lot of time for things to go awry. Remember that high schools used to have real shooting teams that used explosives to propel metal at things.

        • True, in that sense it’s easy to see how they got by. It’s sometimes hard to disconnect oneself from the mind of, “Ooh, a Springfield! I’ve got to take it down and see its condition and how it works! [even if I’ve gone through it with a dozen others of the same make and model]” (I have trouble disconnecting from that when I’m at museums, let alone when someone hands me a rifle). I hadn’t thought of rifle shooting teams – that’s my father’s generation, not mine. When I was still in school I got sent to the principal’s office more than once for showing interest in guns at all, let alone shooting them – thank god they never found out that on occasion I forgot about leaving bullets in pockets and backpacks after shooting on weekends!

  3. My grandfather had a lot of experience with these types of cannon during WWII in the USN. My grandmother would tell us stories of how he used to shake at night from shooting these things against the Japanese Kamakazie planes in the Pacific. I would love to put a drum or two through one.

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