19th century artillery

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by heythrop, May 21, 2010.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. I know the 19th century seven pounder was a RML (Rifled Muzzle Loading) gun, but can somebody please tell me how it was loaded. Was a bag of powder (?Black powder?) inserted down the barrel to act as a propellant, with the shell then being stuffed down after it, and what shape was the shell. Was it a conventional shape like we know today. And what was the method of ignition?.
    I have a lot more questions along these lines for the Hotchkiss, and the Nordenfelt, and have looked for a suitable book of reference on Amazon but have not found one, so any help welcomed please.


  2. Not being a gunnery-type I can't help but the guys on this site know absolutely everything about Victorian kit !

  3. Many thanks Dubb. That looks like a great contact. Much appreciated
  4. Gremlin

    Gremlin LE Good Egg (charities)

    Rather than searching by era (ie C19th or Victorian) I would suggest a search by Campaign/War which may yield better results.

    Napoleonic Field Artillery for example is pretty successful, for example:


    May cover some of your needs. Alternatively contact either Firepower or the IWM to see if they have a recommended reading list.

    From memory (which is decidedly dodgy) some vague answers to your questions based on British Muzzle Loaders are:

    Charge Bags were the source of propellant.

    They were rammed down the barrel and then a paper fuse was inserted into the bag via the vent after a hole had been punched through.

    All British Cannon (AFAIK) were match/lint lit post 1770 or so although there were a few flintlocks about, unlike the Frogs who converted to flintlock almost exclusively.*

    Shell design depended purely on Load; ie whether it was Ball, Shot, Canister, Fuse, Chain etc etc

    Wasn't the 7lb RML a Naval piece?

    *Caveat: The Navy adopted Flintlock, but then they are just plain weird! :D
  5. Thanks for that gremlin. I think the 7 pdr RML was taken into service by the Royal Navy, but like other weapons of its day was unshipped as needed and flogged to the blokes asjore. My particular interest in it is its use during the Matabele War of 1893/94 and the M<atabele Rebellion of 1896/97. I have a lot of facts on the gun itself, including some history of a couple of guns used in those two wars, but all the reference books I have looked at say nothing about the ammunition.

  6. 1. Place propellant in muzzle (making CERTAIN the ignition vent is covered completely)
    2. Load Shell.
    3. Ram home the above
    4. Prime
    5. Lay the gun on target
    6. Fire!

    All the rifled Muzzle loading artillery I have seen in use during the American Civil War had elongated shells, to inter-act with the rifling. (One even had a hexagonal barrel and rounds as I recall!).

    Ignition was either by a friction quil, or a standard fulminate cap and hammer system.
  7. Most RML guns used studded projectiles...

    The shell was shaped much like a modern one, but without the tapered base and with a stubbier point. Instead of a driving band, the shell would have a series of copper studs let into the shell body which would engage the rifling. In addition a copper "gas check" would be fitted to the base. This looked rather like a copper saucer, with a curved rim.

    The powder charge would be contained in a bag and then the shell would be rammed down on top. The gas check would have a smaller diameter than the bore at this point and the copper studs would fit into the rifling. You would literally screw the shell down the bore until it sat on the top of the powder. Some shell designs had sockets for the rammer either side of the fuze. The rammer had a forked end which engaged the sockets allowing a rotation to be made to the projectile. This also allowed you to extract the shell by reversing the process...

    The gun was fired using a radial vent at right angles to the bore. A short gunpowder filled tube wit a friction igniter on the top was placed into the vent and a lanyard attached. A sharp pull on the lanyard would ignite the powder in the tube, which then flashed down the vent igniting the charge. The gas pressure in the chamber would then flatten the gas check against the base of the shell, forming a gas seal with the bore. As the sell moved up the barrel, the studs would engage the rifling therby imparting spin...


    The British went back to RML guns for a while after several spectacular failures of early breechloaders in the 1880s. The Navy had several warships fitted with turrets carrying RML guns. The guns were loaded via a hydraulic ram set into the deck. After taking a shot, the turret would traverse to place the gun muzzle into the loading port where cart and shell would be rammed automatically...
  8. Fantastic. Fifteen minutes on this site gives me information I could not find in hours of going through my reference books. My sincere thanks; I now have something to work on.

    I imagine the methpod of loading, etc, was much the same for the 2.5" Screw gun.

    Incidently, I am working for a degree in
    South African and Zulu history, with particular bent towards the Matabele. It is sponsored by the anglo Zulu War Historical society, and I first heard of it on this web site about a year ago.


  9. Del Please explain
    1. Place propellant in muzzle (making CERTAIN the ignition vent is covered completely)

    Gen interest as other day a TV show (Yank) was saying they had to clean out with a WET sponge before each reload.

  10. Gremlin

    Gremlin LE Good Egg (charities)

    Both took place- ie the wet sponge and covering the vent.

    The vent was covered to prevent a rush of air down the barrel and out of the vent, which might ignite any remaining sparks, which in turn might ignite any residue powder and thence set off the charge.

    This (covering the vent) also applied when swabbing the barrel, as in the past ignited residue (again fired by the draught) had been known to blow the mop/sponge out of the weapon with some rather unpleasant results for the gunner using it!

    The No2 (who fired the gun) would usually wear a leather glove or 'stall' for the purposes of blocking the vent.

    The barrels should have been swabbed after each shot, but in the heat of battle this was not always the practice!
  11. Thanks for all the great information. Please advise, would the same procedures apply to the 2.5" Screw gun.

  12. A Standard US Civil War Gun crew was 8 Men. a Gunner and No.'s 1-7

    At the Command LOAD, Number 1 Sponged the Tube (this ensured no embers to ignite the powder bags).

    No.2 took a round of ammunition (Fixed Bag) from No.5 and placed it at the Muzzle.

    No. 1 Rammed the round Home, while No.3 held his thumb(with a Thumbstall) over the Vent(this ensured no air could fuel any embers)

    Gunner sighted the Piece. Once loaded No.3 took his place at the trail and moved the piece L_R using the trail spike as directed.

    No.5 then received another round from No's 6 & 7 at the Limber where No. 6 cut fuses (if needed for Case & Shell)

    The Gunner statisfied with the aim stepped clear of the Piece to observe the effect of fire and gave the Command READY

    At the Command, No. 1 & 2 stepped clear of the piece, No.3 pricked the powder bag through the Vent with a vent pick.

    No. 4 attached the lanyard to a friction primer and inserted the primer into the vent. No.3 covered the vent with this thumb until No.4 was clear of the piece at the rear.

    At the Command FIRE

    No.3 stepped clear of the wheel, No. 4 yanked the lanyard.

    On the way

    The Gunner then would order the piece run back up and the process repeated as neccessary.

    The Hexagonal shells were British Whitworth 12 pounder (2.75")

    And the usual Sabot was Paper mache for rifled guns and wooden sabot on the charge
  13. Enjoying this tread.
    As young lads where where always encourage to heave/pull on ropes with the Command 2-6 heave.
    The tale was that on HM Ships Gun numbers 2 and 6 where the two men who Heaved the gun back into firing position.

  14. So that's where the 2 : 6 came from. I heard it used many times and always wondered. Thanks. Excellent thread, BTW.