5 Things You Didn’t Know About Mortars

Mortars… a rifleman’s best friend (you know, outside of A-10s, artillery, Apache’s, Cobra’s, and other high-explosive weapons. Military.com takes a quick look at a few interesting facts on the systems, which are basically unchanged since their introduction.

I have always marveled at a well-drilled and well-trained mortar team. While I do not envy them (the tubs, plate, and ammo is HEAVY, I do thank them for being able to lob high-explosives overhead quickly and accurately.

Hit the video below to improve your firearms trivia knowledge.

Nathan S

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


  • BillC

    6 minute mark, the Japanese “Knee Mortar”. But, don’t use it that way, it was a misconception/assumption and it will break it.

    • Bronezhilet

      Nonono, it wouldn’t break it.

      Unless ‘it’ was your knee.

      • BillC

        Meant the knee.

    • gunsandrockets

      A tragic mistranslation of ‘leg mortar’?

  • Tom

    I knew several of those I demand my money back.

  • Phillip Cooper

    Thanks for the info, and bringing this series of videos to my attention.

  • USMC03Vet

    They forgot spade champs. Never play mortarmen at spades.

  • Cannoneer No. 4

    Small arms, not artillery. Do we have the right to keep and bear destructive devices?

    • pun&gun

      Much of our artillery in the War for Independence was privately owned.

    • sgt fish

      the bill of rights does not say, “small arms”
      damn straight we have a right to destructive devices. plus they are fun as hell

      • Cannoneer No. 4

        Any right that can only be exercised after seeking permission and paying a “tax” is more a privilege than a right.

        • skusmc

          Rights are inalienable. Just because it’s being infringed or denied doesn’t mean it’s not yours. It’s the same as if someone were mugging you doesn’t mean that your cash and wallet doesn’t really belong to you. Given by Nature and Nature’s God and all that.

          • Cannoneer No. 4

            Do we really have the right to own what the BATFE deem “destructive devices?” IF we do, our rights are being infringed. What are you prepared to do about that?

          • skusmc

            What am I prepared to do about it? Mostly just gripe on the internet like I do about the rest of my rights being violated. That and just ignore what laws I dare to I suppose.

        • Paladin

          The 1934 NFA would certainly not be the first blatantly unconstitutional law on the books.

          That honour most likely falls to the Alien and Sedition acts, passed in 1788, barely a decade after the ratification of the constitution.

          • Cannoneer No. 4

            1798, during the Quasi-War with revolutionary France, who had guillotined King Louis XVI, who had supported the Americans to get back at the British for stealing Canada.

          • Paladin

            Whoops, you’re right, I messed up the date. Fixed.

        • Secundius

          @ Cannoneer No. 4.

          There was the Townshend Act of 1767, which literally “Taxed” Anything and Everything that people required just to Survive from Day-To-Day…

  • iksnilol

    I don’t really like mortars and arty, know about too many people murdered with it. I can still appreciate it on my side, though.

    • Bronezhilet

      And that’s why we’re working on guided artillery shells. Current guided artillery shells have insane accuracy. They’re at a point where 90%+ of all shells fall within 4 meters of the intended target. So basically, if you target a house, you /will/ hit it.

      Now compare that to WW2 era artillery, shells and ballistics where you could miss your intended target by several kilometers.

      Afaik currently guided shells are 155mm only though. But if they get implemented for smaller calibers I can safely say: If we want to hit something between 0 m and 40 km away, we will.

      Not that firing artillery at point blank range is a great idea, but hey, it’s possible.

      • iksnilol

        You kinda missed my point. I am from Bosnia, my parents and most of my family were shelled daily. So making the shells more accurate will only increase the problem during the next war.

        • Bronezhilet

          Ah I see, I thought you were talking about civilians getting hit by shells missing their targets. I can definitely understand your dislike for artillery.

          • iksnilol

            That’s a concern as well. Worst part is, who determines what’s a right or wrong target? I mean, the decision process behind drone strikes isn’t really transparent.

            Like I said, I dont mind artillery on my side. The roar of the big guns is beautiful. I could wax poetic about that but that would get people in fancy jackets on my door.

          • Canadian Vet

            He’s not talking about honest misses. The Serbs were notorious for deliberately shelling civilians.

      • gunsandrockets

        Laser guided artillery shells, like the 155mm Copperhead project have pretty much flopped, as opposed to the success of laser guided rockets and bombs.

        On the other hand GPS guided shells look like they have a bright future. Though GPS guided rockets and bombs led the way, with standouts like the GPS versions of the MLRS and the SDB (small diameter bomb).

        • Ron

          Copperhead was not really a flop, just was not a lot combat going on from the time it was fielded till its withdraw from service because of battery life. They were used successfully combat in both Desert Storm and in Iraqi Freedom, but even the second lot with 2 batteries become unserviceable around 2004. There was discussion of a SLEP for them to provide an arty PGM capability in urban environments, but that never happen

          • JSmith6

            The problem with Copperheads was simple: If you were lazing a target that has anything reflective, the round would lock onto the code of the laser and target. With reflective objects such as windows on buildings and cars, the laser would reflect or “bounce” off the target. Sometimes the round would continue to lock on the original target…..other times it would lock onto where the reflection went. In some rare cases, the reflection would return to the designator (13F) and the round would target him. For those of you wondering, a four square/94.1lb, 155mm round impacting within 50m of you is not a good day.
            Also, we are working on 120mm mortars and 105mm artillery rounds that are Excalibur-ish. One of the downsides to any of these rounds is that they are HA only. You could fire LA or DF, but that would might not work out so well.

          • Ron

            Specular reflectors are a problem for all laser seeking munitions. Part of the process of firing a CLGP was the use of both the “Ice cream cone” or CLGP templates to determine that the GVLLD or the MULE was in the proper position, with a sufficient Angle-T to provide a laser backsplash for the round to track on. Additionally the templates determined that the target was in the area that the CLGP could maneuver along the flight path of the round. I don’t think it is physically possible to achieve the required Angle-T value to designate a target in a place that a CGLP would have enough maneuver capability to hit a designator.
            The reason firing coordinate seeking munitions low angle is not recommended is the round needs the most air time possible to enable GPS update of the INS. Without the GPS update the rounds are more accurate than ballistic rounds but no where near the accuracy we have been seeing in the war.

      • Ron

        There are guided 120mm rounds and the US is the in the final stages of testing 120mm PERM for Marine M327 mortars. They have developed but yet to field an 105mm version of Excal, but they do use PGK fuzes for 105 guns right now. The PGK although not as accurate as an Excal does remove much of ballistic error from cannon artillery

      • Secundius

        @ Bronezhilet.

        Actually, not really. They Guided Projectile down 13.1mm in diameter NOW, and getting Smaller. The Smart 50-caliber is a Case In Point…

    • milesfortis

      “I can still appreciate it on my side, though.”
      You ain’t whistling Dixie, as we say. They don’t call it “King of Battle” for nothing.

      • iksnilol

        Ain’t whistling Dixie? That’s a new one, thanks.

        Yeah, arty is nice. Sometimes I watch clips from the war. Something awe inspiring when you can see what it can do. Especially when it is to your enemies.

  • Southpaw89

    The mortar seems like a perfect example of both the K.I.S.S. principal and “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” The fact that it has changed so little over so many years is a testament to its effectiveness, as well as the fact that it continues to be used in the age of precision guided munitions. The fact that it is likely one of the most cost effective ways to put ordinance on target certainly cant hurt either.

    • Phil Hsueh

      Nah, a computer is more effective for ordinances, then followed by good ol’ pen and paper.

  • joe

    Yep. The mortar has changed as little since the Civil War as the rifle.

  • Phil Hsueh

    Great video, thanks for sharing.

    Btw, an apostrophe S at the end of a word does not make it plural, it makes it possessive. So, in your first sentence, you had it right with A-10s but then you made Cobras and Apaches possessive.

  • Zebra Dun

    I wasn’t a mortar man, I did however hump the base plate (inner and outer ring) when deployed to 29 stumps for a while, a short while thankfully! Then was assigned something even more unpleasant.
    I got to hump up, prepare and stack ammo, “they even let me shoot it some!” and watch them boys work, it’s like a science.
    My old Survey team leader where I worked as the dumb end of the chain (rodman) was a mortar man with the 82d AA he said it was very similar to setting up a land survey theodolite and finding property corners except when you did you mortared them. Best job I ever had surveying.

  • Archie Montgomery

    Actually, I knew all of that except for the rifled mortar. I was last released from active duty in 1976 and I don’t think the rifled mortar was in use in the U. S. inventory at that time. I note the rifled mortar is NOT a typical drop fired device; the gun is fired manually after loading. It seems sort of a cross between a small howitzer and a mortar.

    I was not familiar with the term ‘Stokes’. I was aware that up until about the First World War, mortars were heavy, emplacement type devises. They were getting to the point where strategists and tacticians were considering them marginally obsolete. The development of the portable mortar actually generated new life into the concept.

    One possible misleading statement in the video. The speaker shows an aiming device for directing fire ‘accurately’. A smooth bore mortar is an area fire device; consequently, ‘accurate’ fire is fire which lands within the blast range of the ammunition used. But don’t get the idea the mortar is a sniper type device. (I will admit the rifled mortar is quite possibly more ‘pinpoint’ accurate than the smooth bore type with which I am more or less familiar.)

    The Japanese “knee mortar” was so called as the non-detachable base plate was a semi-circular piece of metal. This part seemed – I emphasize ‘seemed’ – to fit on the upper thigh just above the knee. Recoil is typically more than a normal human can withstand. (Bad juju.)

    Good video, however.

    • Zebra Dun

      I always mused the Japanese knee mortar was similar to an M-79 except no stock.
      Calibers and usage not withstanding.
      I wonder if that weapon led to the thump gun?
      Then again having only seen a Knee mortar in a museum and actually firing an M-79 are two different things.

  • Tothe

    If we had the right then to own military-grade arms then in use, why do we not have the same right now? Or is our right being infringed as we speak?