BIG BANG: Cannon Loading in the 18th Century

    Modern shooters have it good. Load a cartridge, pull trigger, bang, and the case is easy to remove. Our older brethren did not have it so easy. Traditional black-powder cannons are quite a bit more involved, requiring multiple steps to clean, load, and ultimately fire.

    1. The loading sequence starts with the Worm or Wad-Screw, which is similar to a wine uncorker, used to remove any remaining bag or wadding.
    2. Then a large sponge is inserted into the bore to clean out any remaining powder or smoldering debris that the wad-screw missed.
    3. Then, the charge is loaded into the bore and pushed back to the rear.
    4. A “pricker” is inserted through the bag while held to the rear and the ram-rod is removed from the bore.
    5. If loading for real, the projectile is loaded in, rammed to the rear, and held in place with rope wadding.
    6. A “quick-match” is inserted into the hole created by the pricker.
    7. Now ready-to-fire, a slow match is lit attached to a “linstock” (wooden dowell that holds the flammable rope slow-match.
    8. The slow-match then lights the quick-match and the cannon detonates.

    Of course, while all the loading is going on, the crew chief holds his thumb over the the touch-hole using a leather thumb-stall to keep any drafts from enter the bore and pre-igniting the charge.

    With all of this and a good crew, time between shots was about 90 seconds. Impressive.


    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.