Note: This guide covers tier 6+ burst guns, not low tier autocannons.
The recent addition of american tanks with a magazine-fed gun have also led to a resurgence of "OP" and "How do I deal with this" comments. Not as many as when the french tanks first came out in early 2012, but still. To this end I'm resurrecting one of my old guides that deals with how to handle these tanks and modifying it to include the american ones.
However, let me start with the following:
'Autoloaders' is the wrong word. An autoloader is a machine that loads a shell into the breech, instead of a human loader. That's all an autoloader is. This is available for regular single shot cannons as well as the magazine-fed cannons that WoT refers to as 'autoloaders', which are simply cannons that fire out of a magazine, a box or drum like structure that holds several rounds and can feed them into the breech one after the other until the drum is depleted. So, yes, while this is a form of autoloading, not all autoloaders are drum fed guns. In fact, AFAIK modern russian autoloaders are simply one-shot-at-a-time systems, but still autoloaders.
That said ..
I still see many people trying to fight drumfeeder tanks as if they were singleshot tanks and getting their asses handed to them, then crying foul and OP. I still see people not knowing how to work with drumfeeding tanks on their own team. There is a huge lack of knowledge of what the strength and weaknesses of these burst-firing tanks are.
The repeating cannons bring something to this game that wasn't there before: burst damage. Before the french tanks you had your slow-firing, hard hitting guns (155's, 152's, BL-10's, BL-9's, etc) and your quicker firing guns with less damage (German 88's, 105's, 128 kwk's, etc). Now there are burst-firing guns. What is a burst firing gun? A burst firing gun will put out a lot of damage over a few seconds (instead of a single shot) before requiring a lengthy reload. This makes it akin to a high alpha gun, with a few benefits and drawbacks over pure alpha guns, as well as benefits and drawbacks over DPM guns like most german ones.
Compared to alpha guns (like BL-10), burst guns offer:
+ damage can be spread out over multiple tanks rather than a single target.
+ a miss isn't as big a problem, you've got 5 or 3 more rounds.
- you're exposed for a lot longer: up to 15 seconds to empty a full mag rather than 2 seconds to pop off one high alpha shot
- you're only doing marginal damage and require more time to do more damage, so your target needs to be exposed for longer to allow you to do the same damage as, say, a BL-10
Compared to high DPM guns (like 128 L/62), burst guns offer:
+ high burst damage, it takes less time to put out the same amount of damage
+ less time exposed to enemy fire, because you separate loading time from firing time
- Once you've shot your load you have arty-like reload times where you're helpless; DPM guns will have a next shell loaded in ~10 seconds, give or take
- You only have 6 or 4 shells to make count, a miss, bounce or 0-damage crit hurts you more on a burst firing gun than a DPM gun
Which tanks have burst firing guns?
French medium tree: AMX 12t, AMX 13 75, AMX 13 90, Lorraine 40t, Bat.Chat 25t
French heavy tree: AMX 50 100, AMX 50 120, AMX 50B
French TD tree: AMX 50 Foch 155
French arty tree: Bat.Chat.155
US Heavy tree: T71, T69, T54E1, T57 Heavy
Now, what do these drumfed tanks also have, that set them apart from other tech trees?
Speed. All of these listed tanks are relatively fast and agile (Exceptions: T54E1, T57 Hvy)
Lack of armor. All of these tanks have low armor values (Exceptions: Foch 155, T57 Hvy)
A bit more about the armor:
AMX 50 Foch 155 has good frontal armor, but significant weak spots. Also, the side and rear armor are very thin.
T57 Heavy has reasonable hull armor (Same hull as M103) but weak turret armor, with decent slopes. The sides and rear are also very weak.
What playstyle do these have?
12t, 13 75 and 13 90, they're evil chihuahua's. They're anklebiters. They zip around between people's ankles, see the opportune moment, then rush in and go YAPYAPYAPYAPYAPYAP into the enemy's ear before darting off again to reload. Roughly the same with the T71.
The french heavies, Lorraine 40t and american T69, T54E1 and T57 Heavy seem more like guerilla fighters. They stalk for prey, then unload into a hapless enemy without mercy before slinking off into the night, to approach from a different angle.
Bat.Chat.155, Bat.Chat 25t and Foch 155 are different, and I do not feel confident describing their playstyle, you'll have to wait until someone with more experience in them chimes in.
However, all of these tanks share a few commonalities: Their biggest strength is their ammo drum. But it's also their biggest weakness. They can put out amazing damage in a short time period, but after that they're just a barely armored piece of mobile cover, until they reload again.
What to do when there's a burst-firing tank on the opposite team:
- Stay in groups. If you're caught alone, he'll find you and put serious hurt on you. If you travel in groups, he'll pop around the corner, eat 5 shells and die.
- Count the number of shells he fires. The only french tank with variable shellcount is the AMX 50 120, which can have 6 or 4 shells per magazine, depending on the gun fitted, 6 shells for the 100mm, 4 shells for the 120mm. I'm not sure about the american tanks.
- Don't venture out into the open. This shouldn't even require saying, but: stay near cover. French tank finds you, starts unloading at you, back up into cover. Deny him his target. Don't allow him to put his whole clip into you.
- Wait for him to finish his clip and slink off like a little beatch. THAT'S when you get aggressive. He's helpless for half a minute, take advantage of it.
- There's absolutely no shame in a tactical retreat. If you see the burstfiring tank in a situation that favors his strengths while nullifying yours, reposition. If this means giving up some ground, do it.
- If you're being charged, back up against cover. Deny him his ability to circle you, deny him his ability to stay in front of your gun.
- If the burst firing tank is whaling on your teammate, step in. Take a hit or two. Sure, it gives you repair bill, but there's nothing that frustrates them more than having to split their damage.
What to do when there's a magazine-fed tank on your team:
- Got the armor to take a few hits and the speed to keep up with him? Co-ordinate with him. Support him. Let him put out his burst damage, then cover him while he reloads. Take a hit or two for him. He'll thank you for it and murder the tank that just put a shell through your radioman.
- Know what he can and can't do. He can divert to a flank, but he can't hold one. He can put out a ton of damage on top tier tanks, but he can't solo them. He can't peek-a-boo. He is not a sportsman, he doesn't have staying power: he's an opportunist. The ultimate 'NO U'. Let him be that.
- Give him the space he needs to maneuver, especially when he needs to reload. That's when he's most vulnerable.
- Giving him space includes map control. They have no armor and survive by keeping their time-on-target low while they dump a magazine, and reappearing suddenly from an unexpected direction. However, if you don't push out to any significant degree, the entire team is operating in a fishbowl and enemy arty's going to start fishing with hand grenades.
Where to shoot a burst-firing tank to annoy him:
AMX 13 90:
Red is ammorack. These tanks have a lot of them, and they're quite big.
Green is fueltank / engine. The AMX 50 models have the fueltanks flanking the engine, AMX 13 models have the fueltanks flanking an ammorack, with the engine in the front, next to the driver.
Blue is the turret ring.
Purple is the crew. Well, the important ones. The driver is always at the very front of the tank, the purple is where the commander and gunner sit, these are the ones you want to take out.
The other oscillating turret burst-firing tanks will have very similar layouts.
How does module / crew damage affect a magazine-fed tank?
Well, most modules are self-explanatory, but the ammorack has a very interesting effect: it only affects the reload time between clips, not the fire-rate of shells within a clip. Knock out the ammorack on a Lorraine, he has 1m36 reload. That's just nasty. Killing the crew also helps slow his reload down, since almost all of the crew (except the driver) double as loader. Knock out the ammorack on a Lorraine plus take out some of his crew? The poor sap now has a 2m+ reload.
Finally some wise words from ArmouredCorps, about dealing with french tanks.
The exception is the AMX50b: aim at the turret, not the glacis which is made of bouneonium; DON'T SHOOT THE GLACIS. If you're very sharp and you've divined an imminent flank / circle attack by an enemy French tank, set your next reload to HE. (tap the shell; you'll fire what's in the chamber but reload a different shell type immediately after that) If your 2nd round loads in time to hit his flat or thin side and rear armor, you could be rewarded with a nice penetration on some of the larger guns. My T-54's 100mm HE shell has penetrated consecutive Lorraine40t's for 40% and 39% on back-to-back shots. French tanks taking high damage, early on in an exchange will have all the wind taken out of their sails and might be finished off quickly by allies.
Here are the number of shots and reload times in seconds for all the magazine-fed tanks: (I will need help completing this list, I only have the 50b myself to confirm the numbers)
AMX 12t: 6 shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, ?? second full reload, 815 potential drum damage
AMX 13 75: 6 shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, ?? second full reload, 815 potential drum damage
AMX 13 90: 6 shots in a mag, 2.72 seconds between shots, 40.22 second full reload, 1440 potential drum damage
Lorraine 40t: 6 shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, 38 second full reload, 1800 potential drum damage
Bat.Chat.25t: 5 shots in a mag, 2.71 seconds between shots, 38.31 second full reload, 1950 potential drum damage
AMX 50 100: 6 shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, 47.55 second full reload, 1800 potential drum damage
AMX 50 120: 6 (100mm) / 4 (120mm) shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, ?? second full reload, 1800 / 1600 potential drum damage (100mm / 120mm)
AMX 50b: 4 shots in a mag, 2.5 seconds between shots, 28.53 second full reload, 1600 potential drum damage
AMX 50 Foch 155: 3 shots in a mag, 5 seconds between shots, 46.87 second full reload, 2550 potential drum damage
Bat.Chat.155: 4 shots in a mag, 5 seconds between shots, ~60 second full reload, 5000 potential drum damage
T71: 6 shots in a mag, 2 seconds between shots, 16 second full reload, 900 potential drum damage
T69: 4 shots in a mag, 2 seconds between shots, 24 second full reload, 960 potential drum damage
T54E1: 5 shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, ?? second full reload, ?? potential drum damage
T57 Heavy: 4 shots in a mag, ?? seconds between shots, ?? second full reload, 1600 potential drum damage
Note on potential drum damage: this assumes all shots are full pens with average damage done. In the case of the Bat.Chat.155, this is very unlikely to ever happen as it is firing HE. The other machines also have a chance of bouncing or missing under combat conditions.
I hope this sheds some light on the pros and cons of burst-firing tanks, and teaches people how to better deal with them, both on the enemy team and their own team.