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Ranging Shots

Naval Action is aimed manually which makes it difficult to hit targets especially at longer ranges. The best practice is to fire single shots and watch where they fall to judge where to aim rather then wasting a whole broadside. Single ranging shots can be fired using the Space Bar and rounds can then be spotted through the telescope using Shift key. Eventually when the aim is good, the broadside can be released with the Left Mouse


Gun damage is highly dependent on the ability of your shot to penetrate the opposing ships armor. Shots that do not penetrate do minimal (5-10%) damage, essentially bouncing off the other ship. Shots that do penetrate will do up to the listed amount of damage to that armor, crew, or structure.

Penetration is guided by a few factors: caliber and type of gun, type of shot, range, targets armor thickness, and angle to target.


The size or caliber of a gun is expressed in pounds. The heavier the shot the better it's chances for penetration. The information popup for each type of gun provides a bunch of useful information.


The longer the barrel the flatter the shot (see angles) and the faster it's muzzle velocity and ability to penetrate. Carronades, having the shortest barrel have the worst velocity and lowest penetration value pound for pound. Their advantage is that they have much higher caliber per class. Medium cannons are heavier and generally interchangeable with long cannons. Mediums have lower velocity (hence penetration) and accuracy with the advantage of slightly higher damage and faster reload. Medium shots drop faster, meaning they have a different angle at a given range.

Shot Types

Each shot type has intrinsically different penetration ability. Captains perks allow the use of double charge and double shot. In order of penetration ability, lowest to highest:


Grape shot is used to kill crew and has a very low penetration ability. In order for the shot to kill crew it must make it through the armor and will do almost no damage if it fails.


Chain does very very little damage to armor and can barely penetrate anything other than the ships sails.

Double Shot (double)

Loads two cannon balls into the barrel, at the cost of shot speed. Thus they have lower penetration ability (-25%?) but the extra ball does more damage (+25%?). Against fresh armor on a comparable ship they are much less likely to penetrate than ball shot.


The standard shot. The value in the tooltip penetration table is for ball shot.

Double Charge (charge)

Double charge adds double the powder to the gun when firing, increasing the shot speed and penetration value (+25%?). Most useful against fresh armor on a comparable ship where your upper deck guns might not have high enough caliber to penetrate. Remember that damage difference between gun sizes is small (double the caliber adds roughly only 5% more damage) so even small guns can do comparable damage if they manage to penetrate. Double charge will also give higher penetration at higher ranges, allowing you to penetrate from roughly 25% further away.


The effect of drag on each shot slows it over distance, robbing the shot of its ability to penetrate armor. The penetration table for the gun tool tip lists the amount of armor each shot can penetrate at a variety of ranges.

Target Armor

Armor thickness values are listed in millimeters and a pool value representing the amount of armor present overall. If a shot's penetration value at a given range and angle are higher than the armor thickness, the shot will penetrate and do full damage. If it does not penetrate it will do very little damage, effectively wasting the shot.

If a ships section (side, bow, stern) loses 50% of it's armor pool, the armor's thickness for that section is reduced by half - making further shots easier to penetrate.

Striking Angle

A shot that strikes a ship perfectly flat will have much less armor to traverse in order to do damage. This has a substantial effect on the ability of any given shot to do damage, as a shot hitting at a high angle will have to go through up to 2 to 3 times as much armor to penetrate. Naval action certainly accounts for horizontal angle (the direction each ship is facing) but it's not clear if it accounts for vertical angle. For example you can shoot a lightly armored trader from any angle and do full damage, but a ship larger or comparable to yours with fresh armor you will need to be almost perpendicular to penetrate with anything but your largest guns.

Compensating for Heeling

Heel Diagram.png
While sailing, your ship will heel away from the wind. This can prevent you from elevating you guns high enough when firing leeward or lowering your elevation enough when firing windward

This can be compensated for by lowering the sails enough to straighten out your ship. Using the B key for battle sails or the T key to depower can be enough to fix excess heeling.

You can also reduce heel by using Q and E or Z and C keys to trim your sails to be perpendicular to the wind directon

Rough seas will heel your ship unpredictably and require patience and timing to hit the enemy.  

Points of Sail

Points of Sail.png

The heading of a ship relative to the wind is a large factor in performance and is decribed as the Point of Sail.  Different ships will perform better at certain points than others.  This largely depends on their type of rigging.

In Irons (A)

When a ship is facing close enough to the wind that the sails no longer work, it is in irons.  

Close Hauled (B)

This point is when a ship is sailing as upwind as it can without going into irons.  When a ship crosses through Irons from one close hauled side to another it is called tacking.

Beam Reach (C)

When a ship is at right angle to the wind.

Broad Reach (D)

A ship heading downwind but not running is said to be in a Broad Reach.

Running With The Wind(E)

A ship heading directly downwind.  Suprisingly it is not as fast as a Broad Reach for most ships.

Manual Sails and Tacking

Manual Skipper

By default, theAuto Skipper on your ship will adjust your sails to their best position for speed.  Naval Action allows you to change the direction of your sails on the foremast (Q and E) and aftmast (Z and C).  When you change the direction of your sails, the ship enters Manual Skipper and the sails will maintain their angle indefinetely.  The Auto Skipper can be re-engaged with the F key.


Ships smaller than a Brig can usually rely on their inate speed and manuverability without having to utilize Manual Skipper.  As you get into larger ships however, it becomes advantageous to use manual sails to increase maneuverability, but even then you will most definitely notice the difference on all square riggers.

Tacking with Manual Sails

When tacking, a ship must turn from one side of the wind to the other.Smaller ships can rely on having enough momentum to maintain steering through irons and resume sailing on the other close haul.  Larger ships have a harder time getting through the wind and can end up dead in the water atcritical moments.  It's important to watch the speed of the ship duringa tack to know whether the steering is reversed.

  1. Steer the desired course until the ship starts reversing negative speed
  2. Steer the opposite direction when the ship starts to sail backwards
  3. Turnthe rear sail perpendicular to the wind (Z or C).  The foresail should continue to push the ship backwards and force the bow to the other side
  4. Return to Auto Skipper (F) and steer hard over until underway

Stern Camping and Counter

Stern Camping is a term referring to a tactic that can be employed usually by a smaller ship vs a less maneuverable opponent.  The stern camper attempts to stay directly behind the enemy ship while periodically raking their stern. This allows the smaller ship to avoid their broadside and do damage to an especially vulnerable part of the enemy ship.