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Sorry I got off tangent Le Loup. I have been on my soap box ever since I got internet back at the apartment. I got distracted from the original intent and questions in the OP.

Black powder cannon should not be left fully loaded for very long. And while they can be unloaded, it is a very dangerous task that often ends up very badly.

Since part of the loading process that is the slowest is the prepping of the cannon for reloading after it has been fired, the actual loading time for a cannon that is already in condition to be loaded is not very great. Even starting unloaded, the first shot can be fire quite quickly if a trained crew is at hand, and everything else is set up for rapid reloading.

Unlike reloading a ship's cannon, reloading a land based cannon is relatively less dangerous, as there is more room, and (usually anyway) the crew is not being subject to being tossed about as they are in a ship, and the powder can be kept further away from the firing point. Not to mention, as long as it is stored in powder bunkers, quite a bit more can be at hand than on a ship.

During the US 1860 - 1865 war, good 7-person crews on 12-pounder Napoleon field cannon could maintain a four round per minute rate of fire, baring major problems.

Now, since not only has technology advanced significantly from the heyday of black powder cannon, so have tactics, construction techniques, and strategies. So, for a prepper with the means and wherewithal to have one or more black powder cannon, and the trained crew(s) to fire them, things can be set up to take the most advantage of the cannon, and protect the cannon crew extremely well.

And while it is not likely (though certainly possible) a prepper will not be firing cannon from a castle wall, through an embrasure. Also, there is no need, if prior preparations and planning are done, for a prepper to be standing out in the open with the cannon, subject to the vagaries of the weather, and being shot by the attackers.

Castles might not be needed, but having defensive areas set up for the best and safest use of any cannon would be a good idea. Similar in idea of a ship-of-the-line's lower deck gun port that had a hatch that could be closed, to keep out waves and such, a 'gun port' can be created so the crew is under full cover at all times except for the moments just before, during, and after the cannon is fired, all other work being done with the 'gun port' closed.

It does not need to be like a ship's gun port. Just a way to have enough mass between the crew and any attackers to prevent harm to the crew. Many different methods can be used. Some would be determined by location and available materials.

Another factor in using a modern black powder cannon is the fact that quite a few modifications to the old ammunition systems, and loading and firing systems, can be done to make things safer, and increase the rate of fire without increasing risks.

So, even though one would not want to leave a black powder cannon loaded, it can be in a very ready state, with only a slight delay between the time the decision to fire it is made, and the projectile leaves the barrel.

Just my opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #22 ·

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
How hard can it be?

I agree with Jerry. What I am trying to find out is how long cannon can stay loaded for, and how easy they can be unloaded.

Having them ready is obviously the preference, trying to load them during assaults is more problematic.

So can they be loaded and left for several days or more? Or can they be emptied and reloaded fresh each day/week to ensure they are always capable of firing?
I have never loaded a cannon before, but it is just a muzzle-loader, how hard can it be? I would think that a cannon could be loaded pretty fast when needed, but should also think that you could protect a loaded cannon pretty easily. Plug & cover the touch hole & cover the whole cannon.
Keith.
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Good one.

Sorry I got off tangent Le Loup. I have been on my soap box ever since I got internet back at the apartment. I got distracted from the original intent and questions in the OP.

Black powder cannon should not be left fully loaded for very long. And while they can be unloaded, it is a very dangerous task that often ends up very badly.

Since part of the loading process that is the slowest is the prepping of the cannon for reloading after it has been fired, the actual loading time for a cannon that is already in condition to be loaded is not very great. Even starting unloaded, the first shot can be fire quite quickly if a trained crew is at hand, and everything else is set up for rapid reloading.

Unlike reloading a ship's cannon, reloading a land based cannon is relatively less dangerous, as there is more room, and (usually anyway) the crew is not being subject to being tossed about as they are in a ship, and the powder can be kept further away from the firing point. Not to mention, as long as it is stored in powder bunkers, quite a bit more can be at hand than on a ship.

During the US 1860 - 1865 war, good 7-person crews on 12-pounder Napoleon field cannon could maintain a four round per minute rate of fire, baring major problems.

Now, since not only has technology advanced significantly from the heyday of black powder cannon, so have tactics, construction techniques, and strategies. So, for a prepper with the means and wherewithal to have one or more black powder cannon, and the trained crew(s) to fire them, things can be set up to take the most advantage of the cannon, and protect the cannon crew extremely well.

And while it is not likely (though certainly possible) a prepper will not be firing cannon from a castle wall, through an embrasure. Also, there is no need, if prior preparations and planning are done, for a prepper to be standing out in the open with the cannon, subject to the vagaries of the weather, and being shot by the attackers.

Castles might not be needed, but having defensive areas set up for the best and safest use of any cannon would be a good idea. Similar in idea of a ship-of-the-line's lower deck gun port that had a hatch that could be closed, to keep out waves and such, a 'gun port' can be created so the crew is under full cover at all times except for the moments just before, during, and after the cannon is fired, all other work being done with the 'gun port' closed.

It does not need to be like a ship's gun port. Just a way to have enough mass between the crew and any attackers to prevent harm to the crew. Many different methods can be used. Some would be determined by location and available materials.

Another factor in using a modern black powder cannon is the fact that quite a few modifications to the old ammunition systems, and loading and firing systems, can be done to make things safer, and increase the rate of fire without increasing risks.

So, even though one would not want to leave a black powder cannon loaded, it can be in a very ready state, with only a slight delay between the time the decision to fire it is made, and the projectile leaves the barrel.

Just my opinion.
Good post Jerry, thank you.
Keith.
 

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I have never loaded a cannon before, but it is just a muzzle-loader, how hard can it be? I would think that a cannon could be loaded pretty fast when needed, but should also think that you could protect a loaded cannon pretty easily. Plug & cover the touch hole & cover the whole cannon.
Keith.
I served on a 10pdr Parrott Rifle while re-enacting for awhile, plus I own a 24pdr Confederate Iron Expedient Mortar (5.82 inch bore diameter). You can't leave a cannon loaded for extended periods of time because black powder attracts moisture. Also, you will need to treat a loaded cannon with respect due to the possibility of static electricity.

Rapidly firing muzzleloading artillery is tempting fate, especially for the number one man who swabs and rams the bore. If an ember/spark is left in the barrel, it can ignite the next charge while it is being rammed. Numerous reenactors over the years have lost an arm or worse by not being properly trained in the "school of the gun". One contributing factor is not having properly assembled charges.

A safer alternative available in the US is the legality of breechloading artillery as long as the piece uses a separate projectile from the charge and it is ignited by an externally applied ignition via fuse/friction primer. Good examples are the reproduction Whitworths and the Williams Gun.
 

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I am not sure how a black powder cannon would be helpful in a defensive role. It would have to be an awfully specific use. The US military hardly ever used artillery in post invasion Iraq.

But for fun factor they can't be beat.
During 2005-2006, we used a good bit of artillery in counter battery against indirect fire attacks. 155mm VT (variable time) will ruin an insurgent mortar team's day. Mortars were used for most missions, but 155's got a work out also, especially when we were in al-Anbar.

When I was deployed 2009-2010, seems like everything was covered by UAS platforms. It changes with the intensity of the conflict. Later when the US started seriously engaging ISIL, we started relying on artillery support again.

Artillery is the King of Battle.
 

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Here is some more info for those interested, but nowhere do I see any instruction on unloading! Having used muzzle-loading guns for many years I don't think I would have any problem unloading a cannon, but I would like to have seen some info from someone who knows more about cannons than I do.
https://www.nps.gov/stri/upload/18th-Century-Artillery-Manual.pdf

http://www.acwsa.org/ACWSA_Misc_Files/ACWSA_Artillery_Rules.pdf

http://www.thepirateking.com/historical/cannon_practice_of_gunnery.htm
There are a couple of major differences between a muzzle loading hand weapon and a cannon. The main one affecting unloading a cannon is the fact that most of the projectiles are solid metal (not lead) and it is nearly impossible to latch onto one to pull it out.

Muzzle loading hand arms, for the most part, use lead projectiles. They can be retrieved with a screw ball retriever. The wads and such with a wire screw, and then turn the rifle or shotgun barrel down and recover the powder into a container. If it is a shotgun, the shot could have been retrieved by dumping it after removing the top wad.

On a cannon, not only is it nearly impossible to remove an iron cannon ball, but only a few can lower the muzzle enough to get the powder out very easily. Using the loading scoop can get some of it, of course, but it is a major risk trying to force the scoop into the powder.

The best way to unload a black powder cannon, safety wise, is to fire it. I suppose, if you had the powder and cannon balls to spare, you could fire it every evening at lights out, and reload for the night and following day. Kinda noisy and wasteful.

The only way I see of making unloading even a little bit safer is to have a few special cannon balls that are used for the 'prepared to shoot' cannon(s). If you form the cannon balls with either a small ring, or, better yet, a dimple with a bar across it, you can load the cannon ball with it toward the muzzle. If not fired, you can use a retrieval hood designed for the purpose to pull the ball from the cannon. Then, with a lift mechanism in place, you can raise the rear of the cannon carriage enough so the powder will free fall from the muzzle after it is gently (very, very, very gently) loosened just a tiny bit so it will pour out. Remember, it has been rammed, and while not a solid mass, it will be compacted and not likely to just slide out. Still very dangerous, but by having cannon balls specifically to be kept loaded, it might be doable.

Just my opinion.
 

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If you are loading any cannon that isn't a toy, your powder should be in a plastic bag inside aluminum foil. Never, never load loose powder!

Here is an example of a 500 gr charge for a 2pdr.

 

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If you are loading any cannon that isn't a toy, your powder should be in a plastic bag inside aluminum foil. Never, never load loose powder!

Here is an example of a 500 gr charge for a 2pdr.

Definitely the best way, but not legal everywhere. And taping the projectile to the contained powder charge makes loading easier, too. Also VERY not legal in even more places.

Can only use new tech with old tech up to a point. Then TPTB start getting nervous.

Just my opinion.
 

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During my 'smithing days, I had to pull a cannon shell once. Gun had been spiked with a load in place back in 1865.... I took a plumber's friend and six tubes of JB Weld, stuck it to the nose of the shell, and let it set up. Jacked it out with a bumper jack. Propellant powder was bad from the damp. Powder in the shell was just fine.
 

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During my 'smithing days, I had to pull a cannon shell once. Gun had been spiked with a load in place back in 1865.... I took a plumber's friend and six tubes of JB Weld, stuck it to the nose of the shell, and let it set up. Jacked it out with a bumper jack. Propellant powder was bad from the damp. Powder in the shell was just fine.
Wow. Ingenious!

Just my opinion.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
No Ball?

There are a couple of major differences between a muzzle loading hand weapon and a cannon. The main one affecting unloading a cannon is the fact that most of the projectiles are solid metal (not lead) and it is nearly impossible to latch onto one to pull it out.

Muzzle loading hand arms, for the most part, use lead projectiles. They can be retrieved with a screw ball retriever. The wads and such with a wire screw, and then turn the rifle or shotgun barrel down and recover the powder into a container. If it is a shotgun, the shot could have been retrieved by dumping it after removing the top wad.

On a cannon, not only is it nearly impossible to remove an iron cannon ball, but only a few can lower the muzzle enough to get the powder out very easily. Using the loading scoop can get some of it, of course, but it is a major risk trying to force the scoop into the powder.

The best way to unload a black powder cannon, safety wise, is to fire it. I suppose, if you had the powder and cannon balls to spare, you could fire it every evening at lights out, and reload for the night and following day. Kinda noisy and wasteful.

The only way I see of making unloading even a little bit safer is to have a few special cannon balls that are used for the 'prepared to shoot' cannon(s). If you form the cannon balls with either a small ring, or, better yet, a dimple with a bar across it, you can load the cannon ball with it toward the muzzle. If not fired, you can use a retrieval hood designed for the purpose to pull the ball from the cannon. Then, with a lift mechanism in place, you can raise the rear of the cannon carriage enough so the powder will free fall from the muzzle after it is gently (very, very, very gently) loosened just a tiny bit so it will pour out. Remember, it has been rammed, and while not a solid mass, it will be compacted and not likely to just slide out. Still very dangerous, but by having cannon balls specifically to be kept loaded, it might be doable.

Just my opinion.
I was thinking more along the lines of a powder bag & small shot in a form of sabot. Both should be relatively easy to extract I would think. What are your thoughts on this Jerry, you know more about cannons than I do?
Keith
 

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I was thinking more along the lines of a powder bag & small shot in a form of sabot. Both should be relatively easy to extract I would think. What are your thoughts on this Jerry, you know more about cannons than I do?
Keith
If you were to bag 'em in burlap, you could use a worm similar to those used with black pwder shotguns to draw the charge. The original loads of canister and grapeshot were usually bagged.
My thoughts exactly.
Keith.
Very true, and probably doable. Though I would not count on being able to recover anything bagged intact. Remember, both the powder, whether loose or bagged, and the shot, solid or a bagged form, have both been very firmly rammed into place.

While not a rifled barrel, and of a size that allows the proper size solid shot to be both loaded and fired, it is still a pretty tight fit to make it as efficient as possible and as little blow-by as possible.

The worm will definitely capture the wrap, pretty much no matter what it is. But there is a good chance it will tear. Not much of a problem with sub-caliber projectiles (or a saboted round, which can have a retriever specific to it), as they can be raked out if the bag does break.

That pretty much goes for bagged charges, too, with one major exception. The powder will compact much more than any projectile group. It is highly likely the charge bag will tear. If it does, then you have 'loose' powder again. Though not all that loose. It has been rammed into place. It will probably need to be loosed up with a probe of some kind, and then scooped out. After as much powder is removed as can be with the scoop, then some type of wet swab would have to be used to get the remaining powder. It might be possible to leave a bit in the cannon, and just load over it. I am not sure how that would affect things.

As I have thought about this, I believe that if specific tools are made too do this, it becomes much easier, and somewhat safer. But I do think it will always be a major risk, be time consuming, and be a waste of resources.

But yes, with the right preparation, tools, and plan, I think it is viable. Just not what I consider a good option.

Just my opinion.
 

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Jerry, if I get the projectile out, I'll squirt the propellant charge out of there with a water hose. Ramming a metal scoop into a pack of rammed gunpowder is a fine way to wind up with the scoop handle protruding from portions of the anatomy that one might prefer to maintain inviolate...
 
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