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"Breech-loading artillery with multiple breech blocks" Topic

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Warspite130 Sep 2023 4:16 p.m. PST

Although a 16th/17th century weapon and dress is shown in this film, guns of this type were in use as far back into the 15th century. We had one dated to that period when I worked in the former Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich in the early 2000s.

YouTube link

Of interest is the use of multiple pre-loaded breech blocks, each acting almost like a large cartridge.

In documents of the 1470s Lord Howard complained that he lost several guns on a ship that were equipped with three breech blocks each. This has led to speculation on my part that such weapons, on land or sea, could have been capable of a fairly fast rate-of-fire and it is interesting to note that the gun crew here crack off several shots in quick succession. Informative!


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP30 Sep 2023 7:08 p.m. PST

Thank you. Yes, very interesting. Could the system be used--and was it used--with the solid shot you might want in a naval action?

GurKhan01 Oct 2023 5:09 a.m. PST

A while ago we had a short thread on Scottish war-carts in the 1470s, and IIRC the guns on those were to be furnished with two breech chambers apiece.

Griefbringer01 Oct 2023 5:18 a.m. PST

Could the system be used--and was it used--with the solid shot you might want in a naval action?

My understanding is that they were typically designed for use with solid shot.

However, the solid ball was not loaded into the separate breech, but inserted from the muzzle – the breech contained the powder charge.

cplcampisi03 Oct 2023 6:49 p.m. PST

They didn't seal the breech very well, so the pressure would drop fairly quickly, limiting the effective range and power. "Wrought iron" versions couldn't handle very high pressures anyway (although cast versions existed too). While a similar system may have been used for some larger cannons (typically stone firing), solid cast bronze cannons were a better and safer option. The little breechloaders held on as anti-personnel weapons for longer, where low pressure multi-shot projectiles could be used. But even they would eventually be replaced by muzzleloaders (a well trained crew could probably reload a muzzleloading swivel gun almost as quickly).

I've heard that sometimes the breechloaders would violently expel the retaining wedge when fired . . . so there was that too.

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