Likely many, if not most, will not remember this mechanic. Iirc CCP Fozzy had it patched out, not understanding the emotional connection it created through the excitement of it happening. Just like he wanted to patch out cool names like the old gas microwarpdrive, or the Y-S8 afterburner.
If you never experienced it, you never experienced the thrill and surprise of it happening, and you never experienced the desperate hopes of it actually happening. It was fun! And satisfying!
Basically, what happened on the surface, was that when your Alpha/Volley was strong enough to reach through less than 25% armor, and through half structure + some numbers, the ship instapopped despite actually having some structure left.
That happened with NPCs as well, of course. It made using Artillery exceptionally fun to use and it never has been a guaranteed win-button, based on lack of any complaints about it. It was not just the lucky roll with a wrecking shot! It was a distinct mechanic in the game!
It’s really just for fun. It creates surprising, unexpected instapops, which … which … are fun and seriously satisfying ! As a long term Artillery user regardless of size, I hereby ask you, CCP, to reintroduce this.
Edit: Corrected the title to more accurately reflect what this is about.