In Real Life tankers have a variety of ammunition to select from but they can be boiled down to two types: Kinetic and chemical. Kinetic, or sabot as they're often known (for 'saboted slug') used a hardened tip and kinetic energy to penetrate and hopefully damage a vital system of an opposing tank. Chemical rounds more often refers to explosive shells, such as HESH (High Explosive Squash Head), HE, and HEAT (High Explosive Anti-Tank). Tanks may also employ anti-infantry shots like canister shot. Also of note is that it is against the Geneva Convention to use a round designed to defeat armor against human targets. In addition, explosive rounds were virtually unheard of in artillery such as 10lb. Napoleon cannons before the 1800's and still wasn't primarily used until WWI. Cannons at the time fired either "ball" shot to take out infantry or batter fortifications, or "grape" shot to act as a large shotgun against infantry. Naval guns might also employ chain shot for taking out masts. Not so in video games, where the designers just assume every tank shell is explosive, unless it is in a tank simulation game. The explosive shells will be used against all targets, though if there isn't much enemy armor in the game there will just be infantry deaths from player actions. This may be because Stuff Blowing Up is an action trope, or they just feel lazy. Can also be a case of Dan Browned and the developers did assume that every tank shell explodes on their own, which isn't the case. This is primarily a video game trope, but can crop up in other media. In historical movies one will often see a cannon fire a shot, then a piece of a hillside or plain exploding, and possibly soldiers being flung into their air, regardless of the period the piece is set in.
- Most James Bond games that had tanks have featured this, starting with GoldenEye (1997).
- All versions of the Scorpion in Halo had explosive shells
- Every tank in the Command & Conquer had HE rounds
- World in Conflict is an aversion, as explosive rounds are a special attack with a cooldown.
- In Iron Man, during Tony's first combat test of the suit, he gets shot down by an tank using an explosive shell, probably because it had been busy blowing up houses at the time. Ironically, if it had actually used a normal kinetic round, it would have won the battle right there.
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