The 14-inch (360 mm), 50 caliber gun was the weapon chosen as the main armament on the Lexington-class battlecruisers when they were originally designed, but it was later switched to the 16"/50 caliber Mark 2 gun in a 1917 redesign. The ships were eventually canceled in 1922 after the Washington Naval Treaty was signed.
The 14"/50 caliber gun was designed in 1916 and entered service in 1918 on the New Mexico-class battleships. The guns were capable of firing a 1,400 pounds (640 kg) armor-piercing (AP) projectile at an angle of 15 degrees, to a range of 24,000 yards (22 km). Each gun weighed approximately 179,614 pounds (81.472 Mg), including the breech, and was 714 inches (18.1 m) long. The propellant charge used for the ammunition weighed 470 pounds (210 kg) and was contained in four bags.
Each Mark 4 built-up gun consisted of a tube, liner, and a screw box liner with a separate screwed-on flange. Three hoops and two locking rings were also included. The Mark 6 was slightly different in that it contained a single step taper liner and uniform twist rifling. Downward-opening Welin breech blocks and Smith-Asbury mechanisms were used on both Mark 4 and Mark 6 types. The Navy encountered dispersion problems at extreme ranges with these guns in the 1920s. Several methods were used to correct these problems, including correction of range tables for errors, addition delay coils, reduction of chamber volume, and improvement of shot seating.
The Mark 7 was designed in the 1930s and entered service in 1935. This gun included a smaller chamber, a shell-centering cone, a single-slope band seat, uniform rifling, and a tube locking ring. Mark 11 was introduced later, with chromium plating added to the bore. New Mexico- and Tennessee-class battleships were rearmed with 14"/50 Mark 11 guns, with the Tennessee receiving the upgrade in 1942. The dispersion problems that existed with Marks 4 and 6 were corrected with these guns.
A newer version of the 14"/50 caliber gun, Mark B, was designed in 1937. It was the original gun intended for use on the North Carolina-class battleships. Although it was simpler and lighter than the older versions, the Mark B was the most powerful 14 inch weapon ever designed by the United States. However, the prototype of this gun was not completed.
The 14"/50 caliber gun was installed on five battleships: New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho, Tennessee, and California. Although both Tennessee and California were damaged during the attack on Pearl Harbor, both of these ships' guns, along with the other three, were used in the Second World War in shore bombardment duty. Mississippi, Tennessee, and California all participated in the last line battle to date: the Battle of Surigao Strait. As shore bombardment platforms, these five battleships participated in all phases of the war, such as the Aleutian Islands Campaign (Idaho, Tennessee), the Battle of Kwajalein (New Mexico, Mississippi, Idaho, Tennessee), and the Battle of Guam (New Mexico, Idaho, Tennessee, California).