Nope, this isn’t, say, a tube for an Artillery Luger (we already got one) or a Smith M29, nor is it something to SBR your AR with. It’s not 8 inches long, it’s 8 inches in diameter. From land to land. Repeat after us: “that is one BFG.”
Somebody is now in a position to say: we’ll see your Barrett .50 and raise you 7 1/2″. A rare, apparently not demilled, 1978 barrel for the Vietnam-era M110 8″ howitzer was on eBay earlier this month, for sale in San Pedro, California. The gun probably once stalked the deserts of Fort Irwin or the National Training Center, before being surplused. The seller did say he was selling without the breech block.
Somebody bought it for $4,000, less than we’ve paid for some much smaller hardware. According to the seller, that was his reserve, and barely more than the scrap value of the barrel.
Of course, it’s the bare barrel, missing not only the vehicle that hauled it but also the elevating, traversing and recoil mechanisms. And it’s not exactly man-portable: removing this testament to Watervliet Arsenal’s metal-shaping skills from its resting place in the weeds in San Pedro must have involved riggers, heavy equipment, and a truck big enough to haul the 26’6″, 7 1/4 ton monster away.
Interesting to us, the nomenclature engraved on the barrel appears to be M201. We thought the barrel was the “M2A1.” Could Watervliet have made a typo?
But if you collect US military arms, that’s one hell of a collection centerpiece. Or you can just park it in the front garden and keep the damn kids off your lawn. (Laugh if you will: we once knew a retired general who kept an MG08 on sled mount at the top of the walk in front of his tidy split-level. He said it cut down, not only on kids chasing stray balls, but Jehovah’s Witnesses chasing stray souls as well. Wish we could remember his name; he’d been on Patton’s staff as a junior field grade).
The M110 was a self-propelled version of a WWII howitzer that used the same chassis and trails as the 175mm Long Tom. The WWII 8-inch’s projectile and barrel were based on a WWI-vintage British 8-inch howitzer design. The M110 entered service in 1963 alongside the M107 SP version of the Long Tom, and left active duty by 1990, leaving the USAR in 1994 as all USAR combat-arms units were disbanded or reconstituted in the National Guard (while support and service-support units flowed the other way). The guns and howitzers alike were deployed in Divisional, Corps and Army Artillery units. (The Army-subordinate units were later called “Echelons Above Corps” in one of those military jargon changes that gets some O-6 his retirement Legion of Merit). They were one of the principal delivery systems envisioned for W33 and W79 tactical nuclear warheads and GB nerve agent (aka Sarin), before the US’s unilateral chemical disarmament in 1970 and unilateral tactical nuclear disarmament in 1992. This video is an overview of the then-new SP guns and the development of their chassis.
This barrel is from an M110A2, the muzzle brake being used only on the A2 variant. The A2s were not new production, except for the barrels (like this one from 1978). The chassis and mechanism (elevation, traverse, recoil, etc) came from the M107s that were being decommissioned at that time.
What sent the 8-inch (aka 203mm) howitzer and before it, the 175mm gun, to the showers, was the march of technology. New 155mm projos could fly farther and hit harder, making the bigger guns obsolete (yes, they could have chosen to make the larger projos fly even farther and hit even harder, They didn’t, choosing to use the technology to simplify and streamline logistics while keeping combat power and reach at least the same as it had been). The MLRS took away some other big-gun use cases; and US abandonment of chemical and nuclear weapons pulled the rug out from under one of the major justifications for this weapon.
Occasionally you see an M110 chassis for sale (or a recovery vehicle built on the same chassis, which must be useful if you have a lot of tanks). But the barrels are exceedingly rare, and not just for the reason you’d think (that the USG insisted the SP guns be thoroughly demiled before sale). You see, many of the retired 8 inch/203mm barrels got a new lease on life as a new kind of weapon entirely: they were used to form the casings of the deep-penetrating GBU-28 “bunker buster” bomb.