The dynamic response of shells plays an important role in structural dynamics. In the present paper, one of the widely used shells of revolution, a circular cylindrical shell, is analyzed for its dynamic response due to different types of transient loads. A first order shell theory with shear deformation and rotatory inertia (improved) is used for the solution in conjunction with a higher order subparametric axisymmetric finite element with 25 degrees of freedom per element. The effect of material damping on dynamic stress response is also studied. Isotropic and laminated shells of different boundary conditions are considered for the solution. © 1993 Academic Press Limited.