The internal shock loading of cylindrical shells can be represented as a step load advancing at constant speed. Several analytical models are available to calculate the structural response of shells to this type of loading. These models show that the speed of the shock wave is an important parameter. In fact, for a linear model of a shell of infinite length, the amplitude of the radial deflection becomes unbounded when the speed of the shock wave is equal to a critical velocity. It is evident that simple (static) design formulas are no longer accurate in this case. The present paper deals with a numerical and experimental study on the structural response of a thin aluminum cylindrical shell to shock loading. Transient finite element calculations were carried out for a range of shock speeds. The results were compared to experimental results obtained with the GALCIT 6-in. shock tube facility. Both the experimental and the numerical results show an increase in amplitude near the critical velocity, as predicted by simple steady-state models for shells of infinite length. However, the finite length of the shell results in some transient phenomena. These phenomena are related to the reflection of structural waves and the development of the deflection profile when the shock wave enters the shell.