50 cal Machine gun on sloop vs. 38 gun frigate... who would win?


December 23, 2006, 09:26 AM
My brother in law posed this question to me last night. Supposing it is around the War of 1812. If you mounted a 50BMG machine gun (with unlimited ammunition and theoretical barrel life) on the deck of a smaller sloop of war, with a competent operator, and set her against an average frigate of 38 guns or so, who would win?

Sailing qualities of a sloop vs square rigged ship aside, I guess this is really a ballistics question- would the .50 round penetrate a foot of oak at a mile, enough to start disabling the people aboard, before the frigate got into range to destroy the sloop with cannon fire?

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December 23, 2006, 09:40 AM
Pour on the incendiary rounds! One wood and fabric ship, gone.

December 23, 2006, 09:45 AM
Just clear the tops, destroy the rigging, and kill the people. The .50 would far outrange the smoothbore 32 pounders on the frigate.

Fu-man Shoe
December 23, 2006, 09:53 AM
I think it bears mentioning that the .50 BMG is not some
sort of mythical uber cannon. It's just a very large gun.

That is all.

In WW2, there were planes that were quite thorougly
perforated by .50 BMG fire that went onto complete thier
missions and make a safe landing.

It's a big round, but let's not start ascribing magical
powers to it.


Fu-man Shoe

December 23, 2006, 09:56 AM
what is the range of the cannons?

wait till your almost in range of the cannons to shoot. that way you dont waste ammo on harder shots at distance.

id vote the .50, providing theres enough ammo.

December 23, 2006, 10:01 AM

we are talking about boats. a hole or two in a aircraft and it doesnt fill up with water and sink.

December 23, 2006, 10:15 AM
hmmm... 32 pounder's effective range is 2300 Yards. The .50 BMG's is 2200. Sloop is pretty maneuverable, but the frigate can take a pounding. This is actually a pretty good question. I think it may come down to how good the sloop skipper is. He has to keep getting lucky. The Frigate only has to get luck once.

I’m gonna put my money on the frigate.

50 Shooter
December 23, 2006, 10:16 AM
The .50 would win hands down, stand off at a mile and riddle the boat with incendiary like Ditchtiger said. Better yet light it up with some Raufoss and watch it go down to Davey Jones locker.:evil:

December 23, 2006, 10:30 AM
It is questions like this that make THR such a special place.Is that “special” as in Special Forces, or as in Special Olympics?

Anyway, Francis Drake and the other English Sea Dog Captains in the 1500s had a similar tactical situation, but they sailed primarily small schooners against Spanish Man’o wars (Men of War?) The schooners could not defeat the larger ship, but they could sail away from them, doubling back to sink the merchant ships the war ships were supposed to be guarding.

Often in war neither side can defeat the other out right. The side that ultimately prevails is the one who can chip away at their enemy’s weaknesses and strategic “center of mass” indefinitely, while preserving their own force. Sloops with M2s would have the opportunity to do this against frigates.

December 23, 2006, 10:34 AM
I forgot about incindiary rounds. If one of those could penetrate into the powder magazine, well it's all over.

However, I would think it's hard to destroy rigging with bullets. They used to use chain shot and bar for that kind of work. also those guys used to be pretty good with their cannon, and they only have to get a couple of good shots into a sloop before it's disabled and it's manuverability is highly compromised.

The trick would be to kill enough people belowdecks so that they couldn't fire their guns effectively anymore... and they had a lot of people aboard.

December 23, 2006, 12:02 PM
I don't know enough on the relative maneuverability of various age of sail ships to comment.

If it were, say, a 1952 Chris Craft w/ the ma deuce vs the 38 gun frigate, I'd lay money on the powerboat.

December 23, 2006, 12:09 PM
50 cal Machine gun on sloop vs. 38 gun frigate... who would win?

Depends, is the frigate manned by zombies? :neener:

December 23, 2006, 12:21 PM
I know little about the speed or maneuverability of a sloop versus a frigate, but I think the armament is roughly equivalent. If the speed and maneuverability is roughly equivalent, it might come down to luck and who can take the biggest pounding.

maybe a slight edge to the .50 if it has incendiary rounds. I seem to recall that ships of the line of that time used heated shot for incendiary purposes.

December 23, 2006, 12:24 PM
The old Royal Navy tactic was to close with the enemy ship and try to take out her cannon. Once the cannon were out of commission they would board and try to capture her. They did not want to hole the ship and sink her, prize money was a huge incentive against that. The French and Spanish often used chain shot and stuff like that to clear the rigging and try to take out the masts and rigging. The added benefit of the Royal Navy tactic was that if your shot was too high and hit near the main deck you created a huge amount of wooden shrapnel that would tear up the crew on deck. If you hit too low you holed the ship and she would be taking on more water than usual.

I'm going with the frigate on this. Have any of you taken a tour of Old Ironsides and seen just how thick the hull was? All it would take to put the .50 cal out of commission is one shot hitting the deck or bulwark, debris flying everywhere and the gun gets knocked out of commission. The crew serving it would be dead or wounded, the belt screwed up and the whole thing knocked off of its mount.

December 23, 2006, 01:44 PM
Rake the stern, fewer canon, lay some good plunging fire from a mile away and gradually get closer, take out the rudder. Don't forget to take a prize crew and share the booty.

December 23, 2006, 04:12 PM
the 50 wins hands down it the range and accuracy catagory, but the cannons of the frigate win hands down in raw destructive power.

Provided the sloop can stay out of accurate cannon range, it should just be a matter of shooting the crew of the frigate.

The outcome will either be a relatively seaworthy frigate possibly with damaged rigging and but no crew or else a sloop at the bottom of the ocean with a handful of 12 inch holes in her.

December 23, 2006, 05:58 PM
What's the dispersal of the .50 over 1000 yards?

The smoothbores were actually pretty accurate, IIRC. Problem was, they're like a .45ACP. Up close hitting power is great, but much beyond a relatively short range, they're not so good. Provided you can get enough .50 on target at a range great enough that they can't shoot back effectively(and I'd go with an M2WC for the barrel life), then the sloop would win. I don't know how much energy a .50 would have after going through a foot of wood(if it could), or if you could get the concentration of firepower at range to do anything.

December 23, 2006, 06:04 PM
The sloop is also going to be much less stable on the sea, so aiming at range is reduced. The frigate could put in small shot and do spray and pray with a whole ton of shot blanketing anything in range. It would so thoroughly destroy the morale of a sloop I do not think anyone would be willing to remain on deck with tons of shot raining down injuring and taking people out. Cannons are immensely powerful. Ball and chain, shot, whizzing through the air, a single cannon ball crippling or sinking the sloop either way making it a sitting duck for follow up shots. The range difference seems greater than it is for the smoothbore gunners are great at pointing them at elevationand raining things down like artillery while the .50 is a much straighter trajectory that once it starts to drop much it drops. Yet the smoothbore trajectory is much more intuitive and gradual allowing adjusting on the fly more easily at range. Keep in mind a cannon able to sink ships, crushing hulls with a cannon ball can still sling grapeshot into the sky with plenty of force to kill any person it hits at similar range to what the cannonball still retains the power to crush hulls. The range difference on video games of cannon and grapeshot is highly exagerated for strategic purposes. It would be worthless against other warships, but against a sloop? I think grape and anti rigging shots would win the day. A chain flying through the air does not have to be aimed very well to disable the sloops rigging.

December 23, 2006, 06:36 PM
You did not state what size guns the Frigate had so I am not sure the 50cal would out range the guns on the frigate. Also with 38 guns and a full crew the frigate could take a whole lot more of a pounding then the sloop. All it takes is one lucky shot to take out the 50cal and the sloop is dead. A sloop of from 1812 is not going to be all that faster then a frigate both are fast and agile ships the frigate is just bigger and more powerful. If the frigate closes with in grape shot range of the sloop, it will be all over for the sloop.

Do not think that holes from a few hundred rounds of 50cal will even slow down a frigate. For the 50 to do real damage you have to come close and hit the frigate when its high in the water riding a wave other wise your just hitting it above the water line.

While I could be wrong I think that allot of people are confusing frigates with ships of the line(battleships of the day) slow moving and not as maneuverable, ships that a sloop could use their speed to and good advantage over.

December 23, 2006, 06:45 PM
Yeah, a frigate is medium sized... a crew of four hundred, maybe, 100 or 120 feet long say, guaging about 600 tons or so.

And by "sloop" I mean a smaller ship, actual number of masts not important, but let's say no more than two, and not ship rigged. (More properly called a brig, I suppose)....

I'm still torn...

December 23, 2006, 07:48 PM

The .50 caliber round is optimized for penetration at long ranges (about 875 yards, or 800 meters). For hard targets, .50 caliber penetration is affected by obliquity and range.

The .50 caliber round can penetrate all of the commonly found urban barriers except a sand-filled 55-gallon drum.

Continued and concentrated machine gun fire can breach most typical urban walls. Such fire cannot breach thick reinforced concrete structures or dense natural stone walls. Internal walls, partitions, plaster, floors, ceilings, common office furniture, home appliances, and bedding can be easily penetrated by .50 caliber rounds.

Number of rounds needed to penetrate a reinforced concrete wall at 25° obliquity. Wall Thickness 109 yd (100 m) Range 219 yd (200 m) Range
2 ft (0.6 m) 300 rounds 1,200 rounds
3 ft (0.9 m) 450 rounds 1,800 rounds
4 ft (1.2 m) 600 rounds 2,400 rounds

Penetration capabilities of a single .50 caliber M2 AP round fired from a 45-inch barrel. Range Armor Plate (homogeneous) Armor Plate (face-hardened) Sand Clay
219 yd (200 m) 1.0 in (25.4 mm) 0.9 in (22.9 mm) 14 in (355.6 mm) 28 in (711.2 mm)
656 yd (600 m) 0.7 in (17.8 mm) 0.5 in (12.7 mm) 12 in (304.8 mm) 27 in (685.8 mm)
1,640 yd (1,500 m) 0.3 in (7.6 mm) 0.2 in (5.1 mm) 6 in (152.4 mm) 21 in (533.4 mm)

December 23, 2006, 08:07 PM
The .50 can shoot over the sloop's bow into the frigate. The frigate has to be broadside to fire her cannon effectively. Did they mount smaller cannon (3 pounders maybe?) off the stern as well as the bow? If so, they'd be the first targets that would have to be neutralized. Also, the captain's cabin (and those of other high-rollers) would be in the stern, no?

I'd say the sloop, closing from the rear, would be able to lay down such a barrage of anti-personnel fire that the remaining command staff of the frigate would lay to and sue for surrender in short order. Plunder enough to go around that day...

December 23, 2006, 09:01 PM
Stay away from the sides, and pour fire into the rear. Disable steering mechanism, then work on the deck and masts. When it's dead in the water, look for surrender flag. Otherwise, keep at it.

December 23, 2006, 09:11 PM
But I really think it would be difficult for it to inflict serious structural damage to the larger frigate. Incendiary rounds would make a vast difference in the contest though.

Shaughn Leayme
December 23, 2006, 09:20 PM
Take a Frigate

USS Constitution

2200 tons displacement
175 feet long 204 feet overall
13 knots under sail maximum
450 crew officers, marines,sailors and ships boy's
32 x 24 pounder long guns
20 x 32 carronades short guns
2 x 24 pounder Long toms

Sloop of War

70 tons
62 feet long
14 knots or better *shallower draft and lack of sail must be considered
50 crew
12 x 4 pounder long and short

Range of guns

32 pounder long maximum 2000 yards if skipped 2900 yards
24 pounder long maximum 2000 yards
4 pounder long maximum 1500 yards

Penetration of 18 pounder gun 2' 6 inches of Oak at 400 yards more than a foot at 1000 yards

So you are on a sloop that is very low to the water and this monster of a frigate is coming into view....let's see what are we going to do? run over there and shoot her up with our cannon and .50 cal's or put on as much sail as we can and run hoping to open the range so that they can't take down rigging with the bow chasers.

Sorry my money is on the Frigate, because to get close enough to do significant damage, also means that you are close enough to feel the wrath of the guns.

On another note a British Naval officer of the time (name escapes me at the moment) devised a firing scheme that did not rely on a randomly aimed broadside, but a precision broad side, with each gun aimed at a particular point, maximizing the damage per gun and even went so far as to mark out the deck and put simple sight on each gun, this revolutionized naval warfare, so just because you cannot bring all guns to bear in a broadside, doesn't mean you cannot crank guns around in thier ports to bring more to bear. He also devised accurate range charts for each gun on the ship.

Then you have the fact that the ship you are trying to engage is maneuvering to engage you and given that you both rely on the wind to move and counter move, it would be very hard for a ship to maintain station where they could cover the stern, it's sort of like a big dance, you move they move, while at the same time trying to inflict significant damage, while escaping having the same done to you, not easy by a long shot.

December 23, 2006, 09:40 PM
ceetee and bogie have it exactly right. Stay away from the broadsides and disable the steering mechanism of the frigate. If it can't steer, it can't fire accurately. Rake the decks at leisure, cut the spars off the masts, wait for crew to surrender. Instability of aiming platform at sea would affect the 32 pounders much more than the M2. The cannon would have to be pretty close to be anywhere near as accurate as the .50 would be. If we're throwing an M2 on, why not add a Mark 19? :evil:

Shaughn Leayme
December 23, 2006, 10:01 PM
"Instability of aiming platform at sea would affect the 32 pounders much more than the M2. The cannon would have to be pretty close to be anywhere near as accurate as the .50 would be."

Actually not, you are comparing a Frigate, which is a large stable platform, against that of a sloop, so in an equal sea state, the Frigate would handle better and provide more stability, due to size and weight and draft.

A 32 pound (6 inch diameter) or 24 pound (5 1/2 inch diameter) Iron cannon ball that in the case fired from a 32 pounder with full 11 pound charge was doing 1600 fps puts the .50 cal to shame, since what makes a cannon ball so fearsome on a wooden ship, is not so much the ball, but the hail of splinters that it unleashes when it punches thru the side of a wooden ship, think claymore, but with slivers of wood, instead of ball bearings and not just 1 2 or 3 inch pieces, more like 1 2 or 3 foot pieces. That cannon ball has greater lethality than the .50 cal, in addition to it's anti material properties.

Cannons are plenty accurate, but yes they are more an area weapon, than a precision one, but when your target is 60 foot long and you are launching 1,2 or 10 projectiles or more at the enemy, who can't slam the throttles to maximum, to avoid the shot or turn on a dime, then it is enough.

High Planes Drifter
December 23, 2006, 10:03 PM
I think it bears mentioning that the .50 BMG is not some
sort of mythical uber cannon. It's just a very large gun.

That is all.

In WW2, there were planes that were quite thorougly
perforated by .50 BMG fire that went onto complete thier
missions and make a safe landing.

It's a big round, but let's not start ascribing magical
powers to it.

Funny thing about those planes that were perforated by .50 back in "dubya dubya two" - , they didnt fill up with water up in the sky:rolleyes: . As long as a plane isnt hit in something essential like a fuel or hydraulic line, or the engine, it stands an good chance of getting back to base. A ship takes in water through those otherwise "insugnificant" holes. One Ma Duece on a sloop vs. one Frigate.....my hard earned buck goes with Ma Duece.

December 23, 2006, 10:11 PM
You guys ever SEE the US Constitution ? it was once the state of the art killing machine. It's bigger than many imagine , faster , and was once crewed by people who meant serious business. She once fought a sloop and a frigate at the same time and captured both. About half the fights she was in left the enemy ship too smashed to bother capturing it , so they just burned them.

In open water the whole fight is the sailing. It could take days of manoevering before the first shots were fired , and if one captain gets it right , the other guys are in big trouble.

bear in mind we're talking upward of 20 cannonballs per barrage , one pass behind the MG boat - where the cannonballs get to rip down the interior of the ship legthwise - and everyone dies.

December 23, 2006, 10:15 PM
Shaughn Leayme great post.
For some others, not sure why you believe that the frigate is going to let you just set behind it and shoot its rudder up, both ships are just as maneuverable and just as fast at open sea. If the sloop tries to come up behind the frigate, the frigate would turn and give it a broadside to the bow. While I am a big fan of ma duce and all of her abilities the big guns on the frigate out range her and are far more powerful. Sailors in the 1800s were used to rolling waves, so yes they are able to hit things out at distances. Also it would take thousands of hits to do any real damage to the frigate.

Now if you had anti-tank missiles, mortars, RPGs, a 20mm mini guns or better yet a 30mm mini gun thats found on the A10 warthog and more then one of them, then we are talking. But as good as a 50cal is its not up to the task.

December 23, 2006, 10:17 PM
double tap ...

December 23, 2006, 10:36 PM
Depends on the weather.

50 BMG is not all that accurate from the back of a jeep bouncing through the back country at 25 mph.

After much consideration, I'd give a moderate edge to the frigate.

Oleg Volk
December 23, 2006, 10:58 PM
Roundball would likely skip along the water surface, so exact aim wouldn't be necessary. Frigate also produces its own smoke cover behind which to reload.

However, mobility would given an edge to the sloop, and high rate of fire for the 50 would mean eventual destruction of the ship by fire, IMO.

December 23, 2006, 11:13 PM
You guys ever SEE the US Constitution ?

Sure did. If I had to be on either, I'd think I'd prefer the frigate! They didn't call her old ironsides for nothing.

December 23, 2006, 11:26 PM
His 38 gun Frigate(HMS Shannon) met the USS Chesapeake in single battle and his concentrated fire devestated the American ship. A party boarded the crippled Chesapeake and Broke was seriously injured when a group of surrendered american sailors took up arms and tried to kill him while he was seperated from the rest of his party. Sadly, the wound prevented him from further service. He went on to become a gunnery specialist with the Royal Navy and was quite decorated.
The American contribution to the affair was from our own Captain Lawrence who coined the rallying cry "Don't give up the ship!"

December 23, 2006, 11:33 PM
Keep in mind that, as others have said here, many frigates packed nasty alternative ordnance like chainshot (think bolo from HELL), and grapeshot. I've seen a dageurrotype of what grapeshot did to a bridge in the Civil War. I'd not want to be on the wrong end of a round of that.

Also keep in mind that frigate crews probably drilled on how to quickly take down an approaching, smaller marauder...it was still an age of pirates, after all.

Picture if they loaded an entire broadside with grapeshot and fired one after another at the smaller vessel, adjusting range with each successive shot. The smaller ship would be a...mess, I think, and at least the gun would be out of commission?

Shaughn Leayme
December 24, 2006, 12:27 AM
I do believe that was the name, Thanks.

When ships of the sail era went to engage another first thing they did was reduce to fighting trim, taking down extra sail, that in the battle could catch fire or if rigging was shot away, cause more damage when the wind caught it. The Frigate by virtue of a greater spread of canvas over that of a sloop, would not be as disadvantage under fighting trim and in many cases was just as nimble as the smaller ship and as fast.

Then there is construction, a sloop was never intended to face a rated ship, it was used for dispatches and as a scout, but many time in battle fleets of the era a lighter frigate served the same purpose (more guns is always better).

A Sloop gets into gun range of a rated ship, the sloop can be smashed into kindling, before they can ever get the 4 pounder (standard arms for most sloops) into anything like effective range.

Another thing to mull over is that an experienced gun crew could reload a 32 pounder gun in 90 seconds, by the way a 32 pounder naval long gun weighs about 3 tons, now you have an entire gundeck firing and loading, that is a lot of iron headed your way.

Then you have a fact that many people do not know, but American and British ships of the time frame (1812) were also playing with both hotshot and exploding shot, both of which are a lot more effective than even the incendiary rounds from a .50 caliber.

Just like no Frigate would want to take on a ship of the line, unless it had no choice, the captain of the Sloop would avoid battle if it could be helped, even with numbers, his ship just couldn't take a hit from iron of serious caliber.

For those who wonder a Ship of The Line is the battle ship of the Sail era.

USS Columbus (1819) 2nd rate

2,480 ton displacement
192 feet long
780 officers and men
68 x 32 pounder long guns
24 x 42 pounder Carronade

HMS Victory (1778) 1st rate
3500 tons displacement
227 feet overall
9 knots max
850 men
2 x12 pound medium
2 x 68 carronade
Quarter deck
12 x 12 pound short guns
Upper deck
30 x 12 pound short guns
Middle deck
28 x 24 pounder long guns
Lower deck
30 x 32 pounder Long tom's extended range over conventional 32 pounders

December 24, 2006, 05:50 PM
The longer the waterline the faster the vessel will be. Sloops were generally small, in the 60 foot or less range. A coastal schooner might go up to 150 feet or so. A typical frigate, take a look at the spec for Old Ironsides. To figure out the hull speed use the formula 1.34 x the square root of the waterline length. With more speed the frigate can keep the sloop off of her stern and pound the sloop into matchsticks.

Also, don't assume that the old "square rigger" would not handle well. These ships were fast and weatherly and tough enough to take on hurricanes or to round the capes and all the weather associated with that. It would also take a whole lot of .50 cal holes before the frigate was taking on enough water to matter. Making water (taking on water through seams) was a fact of life in those days and they were well prepared with large pumps that could handle a lot of water. Powder magazines were also heavily built as protection against shot so you probably would have to get very close before the .50 with incendiary rounds had enough ooomph to penetrate the hull and the magazine.

December 24, 2006, 06:38 PM

There are frigates and then there are frigates. The Constitution was considered to be an extremely large frigate. Frigates came in many different permutations, the common factor being a single gun deck. Many frigates were armed with 12, or 18, or 24 pounder guns as main armament. Twenty four 12's was a typical small frigate in the British Navy, circa the American Revolution.

Muzzle velocity of black powder cannon runs around 1200 fps, firing round ball. The ballistic coeffiecient cannon balls does not greatly exceed that of barn doors.

I'm takin' Ma Deuce.


Shaughn Leayme
December 24, 2006, 07:28 PM
The problem is that even a light frigate is still going to be stronger structurally and still has an advantage in weight of steel and as has been shown historically, that 2000 yards plus is not unrealistic for an engagement with cannons and given the relatively light construction of a Sloop, it wouldn't take much.

Then you have the other part of it, the sloop is firing from 2000 yards with it's 50 cal and the frigate now turns and comes in on a course to close the distance with the sloop, the sloop now has to turn and run, hoping that it can out run the Frigate, which has a greater spread of canvas and most likely equivalent speed, by picking a course that allows a bow chaser to bear, they will be trying to dismast the sloop, or bounce cannon balls thru the stern windows, the 50 cal can be brought to bear, but the plunging motion of the ship and the rate of closure and the angle of approach, would all combine to make it a very difficult shot for the gunner on the 50, resulting in a dispersed cone of fire, same applies to the gunner on the frigate, but you have a more stable gun platform and he is now firing at the most vulnerable spot on any sailing ship and the fall of shot, would be easier to spot, and adjust for in relative terms, than that of the .50, which would be lost in the bow spray of the approaching frigate and any wave action.

I donot believe, that a Sloop armed with .50 cals, has any chance against a frigate, light or heavy, unless it was dead in the water an uncrewed.

December 25, 2006, 03:37 AM
The Frigate wins hands down!! Its heavier built and in the case of the USS Constellation from 1797, carried 38-24lb long cannon at 19 cannon per broadside. If only 50% of a broadside hit the sloop it would make for a real mess!

She was 164 ft. long, with a 41 ft. beam, weighed 1,278 tons, made 14 kts. and had a complement of 340 officers and men.

By contrast, the sloop carried between 10 to 18 cannon, was 40-70 feet in length on average, and weighed 40-70 tons. Even if you add a 50 cal. the sloop is still out gunned,and due to construction could not endure many hits.

I don't know how far a 24 lb. cannon can penetrate, but a 32 lb. cannon could go through 2.5 ft. of oak.

One other thing to consider besides the size of each ship is the experience of the captain.

If the sloop had the better captain (doubtful but possible), they are still at a disadvantage but the tactics used might be better. Should the frigate have the better captain (more likely), then the advantage that the frigate already has is increased even more (IMO).

Rather than worry about the steering, I would first dismast the sloop then go after gun emplacements. When the ship can't move the steering doesn't matter much anymore.

In 1813 British ships were advised not to engage US Navy frigates unless they had a minimum of 2 against 1 !

December 25, 2006, 09:17 PM
I think we need also to know what era frigate we are talking about. It is my understanding that naval warfare technology was improving, albeit slowly, as time passed. The cannon technology was much better in the war of 1812 than it was in 1752

December 25, 2006, 10:01 PM
Then there is the USS Independence, started as a 74 gun, 2 deck ship of the line. Was razeed(cut down) to a single deck frigate of 54 guns, but retained the sails of a much larger, and heavier, line of battle ship. This made her VERY fast, and since the remaining guns were her lower battery of 32lb "Long Toms" (9 1/2ft long, main charge of 15lbs of powder) VERY powerfull!!She was the most powerfull Frigate in any navy!! NO CONTEST, sloop LOSES!!!
This is what she looked like as a frigate.


She served from 1814 till 1913!!


Livin in Texas

December 26, 2006, 12:43 AM

Its a shame that more ships like this weren't kept and restored,especially one with the historical significance that this one had!

Ninetyeight years in service is way beyond exceptional! Then to meet her end as salvage ! Just doesn't seem to be appropriate for some reason!


We're talkin' naval guns from the 1812 era IIRC.

December 26, 2006, 01:11 AM
Back in the day these guys knew how to shoot naval guns and sail. Those warship would layout a lot of damage.

I think the frigate would pwn the sloop.

December 26, 2006, 02:12 AM
Being as old as I am and having seen much tragedy, not a lot can bring me to tears. But after reading the Independence' colorful history, this final entry did:

Pig iron and ballast were removed from her hold and valuable hard wood salvaged from her orlop deck knees. The night of 20 September 1919, Independence was burned on the Hunter's Point mud flats to recover her metal fittings. The sturdy veteran of the days of wooden ships and iron men had survived more than a century, 98 years of which were spent serving the U.S. Navy.

Fascinating thread, jamz ! Thanks !

December 26, 2006, 03:03 AM
very cool and informative thread...


December 26, 2006, 11:22 AM
Just found a picture of the USS Independence, dated 1913. She was a barracks and stores hulk at the time. Notice that she still has her masts and bowsprite!!


Livin in Texas

50 Shooter
December 26, 2006, 11:56 AM

December 26, 2006, 12:23 PM
Stand off at 3000 yards which is within the envelope for the Ma Duce and rain death on the decks, shred the rigging and cripple the big turkey so it can't move. Then come in from the rear and start chewing up rudder and cabins when close enough under the stern use your four pounders to sink her.

December 26, 2006, 01:39 PM
IIRC, Constitution had closer to 3 feet of wood as armour. What's the penetration of wood on the .50 at 2000yds?


December 26, 2006, 02:12 PM
In open water the whole fight is the sailing. It could take days of manoevering before the first shots were fired , and if one captain gets it right , the other guys are in big trouble.I think this is the key. During all those "days of maneuvering", the .50 would be chewing up the larger ship (and more importantly its crew) while it was trying to get into position for a cannon shot.

The sloop might not sink the big ship, but it's hard to imagine how a sailing ship could operate while its decks are continually being raked by a .50BMG. I would think that after a relatively short time, the frigate would be trying to get away.

Library Guy
December 26, 2006, 03:04 PM
If you don’t mind a new guy putting in his 2˘…

Fine, the frigate has the advantage of speed, firepower, and armor.

But what hasn’t been taken into account is the element of surprise. Is the frigate captain expecting the sloop to be armed with a 20th century heavy machine gun? How will the psychology of the frigate crew be affected by this new and inexplicable weapon?

It’s tough call. I’d put money on a stalemate.

LG Roy

December 26, 2006, 03:30 PM
Range of skipped cannon shot 2900 yards vs. stand off out of range at 3000 yards and pick her to pieces with the .50 ~~~~~~~~~~huuummm, kinda cuttin it close Besides that frigate is going to go straight at that sloop in a fight and minimize exposure and penetration until it runs it down with it's greater speed and gets in close enough for a sure kill broadside. These naval captains were proud pricks and would lose their careers if they ran from a much smaller ship. The only time I would give the edge to the 50 is in flat seas, where it's accurracy could hold an advantage; if the frigate captain were stupid enough to attack it then in daylight instead of "danceing" with them until night fall or heavy weather. If the frigate captain knew what he was faceing, the sloop would lose.

December 26, 2006, 03:54 PM
Shaughn makes a convincing argument... at least to one who knows as little about sea-going warfare as I do. One thing's for sure: This would be an interesting fight... to watch from the deck of the Nimitz.

December 26, 2006, 04:26 PM
Okay, if the ships we're equal in speed the m2 would have an advantage of range. If the frigate persued the sloop and the m2 was rear mounted assuming the frigate didn't get within cannon range the frigate would eventually lose. THe trick is in the armor piercing incendiary rounds. Stick aboud 500 of those in the side of the frigate and it would burn up in no time because you'd be basically sticking hot coals into wood, if they couldn't overpenetrate it wouldn't matter, they'd still burn. Now if there were two sloops or multiple m2's onboard, the sloop would be victorious. Cause were assuming the two captians are equally competant.

BTW an 8mm mauser will reportedly penetrate 30" of oak, a .50 cal AP should do alot more.

December 26, 2006, 05:47 PM
If you can't get 2000 yards easy from a sniper in a stable position, I doubt you're gonna get it with a machine gun in a ship. Which means that the M2 is actually close to being outranged here. However, at that range, while getting hit with it may not be nice, most ships would handle the blow. You needed to be close not because the cannon were inaccurate, but becuase like a pisol round, they lose power. You can hit a guy at a hundred rounds with a 1911. Question is, will it put him down? Most of the stuff I've read about old marine warfare says that part of the reason to get close is to make sure you have the punch to actually damage the other ship.

Stainless Chili
December 26, 2006, 06:00 PM
The sloop, with the weather-gage, coming from the stern.
Disable the rudder, sails, lines, tackle.

The long cannons were pretty accurate, however ...

I can't see the larger ship lowering her flag.

December 26, 2006, 06:03 PM
Doesn't matter if the 50 can outrange the cannons. What matters is will the 50 have enough punch at that extreme range? The answer is no. The sloop has to close to be able to do anything. Close to cannon range where it can't damage the frig fast enough to stop that one broadside that is all the frig needs (and it has two of them).

Jeff Timm
December 26, 2006, 06:55 PM
At 1000+ yards from dead astern, fire 50 rounds of mixed tracer, incendiary and Armor piercing Incendiary. Nothing like a little fire in a wooden ship.

Who has fired a .50 or two. :D

December 26, 2006, 07:38 PM
I once shot completely through a 3ft diameter red oak tree with my 30-06 and fmj ball ammo surplus from about 70 yds. I wouldn't be surprised if the 50 cal would punch through 3ft of ship at a much longer range. I am going with the sloop.

December 26, 2006, 07:52 PM
As for the fire on a wooden ship. It was standard procedure when the ship was "Beat to Quarters" that the decks be sanded, and hoses from the pumps be set. There were also several barrels of seawater on each deck w/buckets ready. There were nets rigged from the bulwarks to the lower yards and across thw deck. This was to prevent shot down rigging and blocks ( some of them weighed several hundred pounds)from falling on the gun crews. The crew lived with the fear of fire 24-7.
A single shot from a 32 pounder at 2-300 yards will penetrate the sloops hull from one side to the other! Spreading large crew killing splinters, upsetting guns, and generally raising havoc ! The sloops 20 pound carronades will, at the same range, with double charges and extreme luck, dent the hull of a Frigate!

Livin in Texas

December 26, 2006, 08:21 PM
I love the fact that we're having this discussion. :)

Shaughn Leayme
December 26, 2006, 09:26 PM
Another advantage of a frigate is mast height, they will see the sloop long before the sloop will detect the frigate and they will investigate, to prevent a surprise by an enemy fleet, since many times a frigate was used as a screening force for the main fleet, given that they were as fast as a sloop, but better armed.

Again, why is anyone thinking that the captain of the frigate , is going to let any ship, sloop or otherwise, sail right up his stern, Frigate captains were usually very experienced, even daring and quite often inspired commanders and a Frigate was what everyone wanted, they ranged ahead of the fleet and were well suited to taking prizes (capturing enemy vessels or merchant men) and unless there was another ship insight, the captain got the majority of the prize money when the ship was bought into the service (a percentage went to the admiral in charge of his squadron) and the crew also got a percentage, you take this personality and a Frigate and you would be very foolish, to assume that he is going to let anyone get in position on him.

The Captain of a sloop is generally a junior officer and it may very well be his first command, it's the perfect platform on which someone can get the grasp of what it takes to command a fighting ship, without risking or impeding the performance of a vastly superior and more efficient fighting platform and being young and relatively inexperienced, he is already behind the curve when it comes to the tricks and deviousness, that a more senior experienced captain will most likely have at his disposal, add to it that his crew will have some experienced sailors, but will most likely comprise of equally fresh crew, ships of the line and frigates, were known to requisition, the more experienced men from lesser ships into thier crew's..

Basically the mast head watch detects the Sloop, the captain or indeed admiral of the squadron, should he be attached to one, will order that they begin to alter course to close and put him in an advantageous position, to first determine the what and the who and to allow him to run down this ship and either put it on the bottom or capture it.

As far as tricks, there were many tricks pulled by both sides in war, thing's like reinforcing a section of the ship and mounting a 24 pounder, removing the gun on the opposite side, to allow room for recoil, or replacing a 9 pounder bow chaser with a set of 12 pounders, even so far as mounting a pair of 24 pounder stern chasers, in place of a couple of carronades and since, it may not be policy or in the original design spec's, it could be an very nasty suprise.

Morale/psychology effect on the crew: A new weapon may indeed have an effect on the frigate crew, but I pose one better what is the effect on the Sloop's crew when this (in the case of the USS Constitution) 2200 ton behemoth with guns run out is headed for them, and every man of thier crew knows even a moment under those gun's is going to spell death (if they are lucky) and destruction and if any had served in a line ship or frigate, they know exactly what is coming, plus with a 50 cal, you won't have the immediate and physical feedback as would be caused by a cannon ball, so this too would have an effect on the crew of the sloop.
It works both ways.

So, if A frigate were to allow a sloop to close on his stern, then I for one would not want to be there, because the captain of that frigate, wants you there and given that he can quickly tack around to bring his gun's to bear and you at a 1000 yards, you turn either direction and he can place his broadside across your length, keep coming and he is sending cannon balls into the bow of your ship, then he tacks again and the other full loaded battery has a go at you.

It is not a static battle and since he knows it is a sloop he is after, the jockeying that would normally happen, with 2 ships of equal fighting ability, would not be present, he knows you are in serious trouble, should he get you into the firing arc of any of his gun's and he is going to come after you with all he has.

Money still on the Frigate :D

December 26, 2006, 10:29 PM
Yup, stern chase? HAH!! The frig will turn and present that fearsome broadside to disintegrate the sloop's bow (and the 50) in a basic Crossing the T maneuver. After the first one, it will go round and fire the other one while the first battery reloads. Also, have any of you seen the sights on a 50 mounted on a ship? It's just a glorified peep sight. You don't get the fancy dial sight because it is worthless afloat. So you have to walk your splashes. Anyone here wanna try that @ 1000 yards? With the recoil and the primitive sights you won't get any telling hits before the frigate sends you to the bottom.

December 27, 2006, 12:32 AM
The sloop is manned by highly-trained Mall Ninjas with NVGs, and strike at night. Gunkid, the ship's patron sniper, shatters the rudder chain with a lucky shot from his .22LR AR, and the vessels close.

Gecko45 shells the rear of the ship mercilessly with the .50 - then sends Gunkid and the Tactical Team aboard. The Tac Team gets up first, and receive a blast of grapeshot. Gecko's multiple trauma plates protect him from death, but his Special Weapons MP5 clone is no longer functioning. Some of the team is wiped out, and Gunkid decides to join in the fray. He clambers up the rope and fires off a 10-round magazine of .22LR in full auto - suppressed, of course. Two crewmen are taken out, but the cannon is almost loaded. Gunkid drops the rifle and pulls the .22 pistol from SOB... and shoots himself in the posterior. A few crewmen rush at him with cutlasses - and he fends them off for a minute with his AR. The suppressor comes off to the first mate's blade - but just then, Gecko returns, tossing a flash-bang. Wielding twin Glocks with Bar-sto barrels, he blazes away at the stunned throng... and manages to kill the ship's monkey just before achieving slide lock. Gecko and Gunkid go below - where Gecko's Ninja boots will do more good.

Gunkid fashions a silencer for his .22 pistol from a tactical banana and pickle assembly, tightly wrapped with cotton cord. Gecko puts out the lights and waits with NVGs and NEF .300 Magnum single-shot. Gunkid decides to adopt Gecko's Plan A and absorb enemy fire. Gecko seems to have forgotten that Gunkid does not have Second Chance body armor and Level IV trauma plates.

The crew, with pikes, pistols, and muskets, charge the hold. Gunkid double-taps the captain's wig, then performs a tactical reload. Gecko takes out the lead man with the NEF rifle. The G36 selective-fire comes out - complete with tactical rails holding two surefire lights, one visible red laser, one visible green laser (for brighter light), one infrared laser, a foregrip, red-dot sight and Starlight scope, etc. The gun is run dry, taking out the first line.
Gecko takes up the PSG-1 and fires five rounds from the hip, smashing the iron hoop on a barrel of apples.

Gunkid knows that that fate of the world is in his hands, and performs another quickdraw of his .22 pistol - with the same results as previously experienced. He pulls the gun out of his waistband and fires the remainder of the magazine. The first wave is down - but there are many more crewmen. Gecko reloads and waits. Gunkid fills his ten-round magazine with Aguilla .22 subsonic and prepares for the final moments. The captain has decided to up then ante, and has the muzzle of one of the guns pointed at the deck just above our two heroes. A gaping hole is now present. Gecko tosses up a flashbang, setting some of the rigging ablaze. Quick work with water buckets eliminate this problem, and more shots are fired.

Gecko and Gunkid decide to make a last great charge. Gecko mounts a bayonet on his G36.

The outcome of the battle is history. The low-grade Wolf .223 Gecko had smuggled into the country in 'Mortal Kombat' arcades jammed the gun badly, and the Mall Ninja Master pulled his Kahr P-9.

Gunkid went down bravely... well, he wanted to. He shot the captain down and decided to celebrate by spinning the pistol around his finger... and shot himself three times.

Gecko walked on walls and threw flying stars - but found it to be of no avail. He duelled and parried cutlasses with his ASP baton until a lucky shot... accidental shot, really... by Gunkid took him down.

The two were buried at sea, with all Ninja honors. Gunkid was sent down to be with his beloved Assault Wheelbarrow.
Thus the tale ends.

December 27, 2006, 02:04 AM
I just did some elementary geometry. If I recall it correctly and not taking into consideration the curvature of the earth, the angle subtended by a 204' long frig (The Constitution) @ 3000' (1000yd) if both sloop and frig are directly opposite each other is 204/3000 = .068. The angle whose tangent value is .068 is 3.89 degrees. So this means the M2 gunner is shooting a HARD recoiling machine gun with open sights on a platform that bobs up and down at a target that only takes up less than 4 degrees of the horizon (assuming I did everything correctly).

And if the frig keeps the distances wider, it is the sloop that will have difficulty hitting.

December 27, 2006, 02:24 AM
Thus the tale ends.

Can't... Breath!
Can't... Stop... Laughing!

December 27, 2006, 10:10 AM
The 50 is accurate and effective on something like the Frigate at one MILE plus distance. If ammo is unlimited and the barrel life is unlimited this is a no-brainer. Stay out far enough to keep damage from the 1% of cannon ball that might possibly be able to make it to you minimized and hammer them with the 50. The 50 isn't that hard to shoot from a small boat either.

I have shot well over 100K rounds from an M2 50 cal, including at targets much harder than a wooden boat even if it is 3 feet of oak. I have also fired at vehicle sized targets from a mile out and further.

The frigate wouldn't stand a chance.

Shaughn Leayme
December 27, 2006, 12:08 PM
Shooting any gun from a moving boat, is not easy, I know I have done it.

But we are now (hypothetically anyway) trying to shoot a M2 browning accurately at a moving target that is at 2000 yards away (the accepted maximum effective range for this platform area shooting, point targets effective range 1500 meters) on a ship that relies on wind to be able to move, so if we have enough wind to move said ship at maximum speed, which for the sake of the discussion we will say 13 knots, that is a significant sea state, and we aren't talking a gentle swell, but a good rolling sea, which means the ship is going to have a lot of movement to it and with a standard pintle mount, with no shock buffers and basic sights (no electric ranging sights, no electricity) getting hit's at this range would be very hard, not impossible, but very hard.

But at 2000 yards, you are within the envelope of the guns, at the extreme, but within range., but the Frigate will not be running from you, it will be running towards you and this means, if you want to keep the range open, you must run. The captain of the frigate will choose a course that will allow him to use his bow chaser and since you are trying to keep the range open, you are going to need to travel as straight as possible as close to the wind as possible, but then you can begin to heel over to such a point that you begin to almost skip across the sea, and that is very inefficient way to sail, you lose speed and if too much sail is pressed on you can capsize, then you can also spill wind from your sails, in this maneuver, losing speed.

The frigate in the same situation, will not heel over anywhere as much and can put up more sail and due to draft, weight and length, more efficiently make use of the available wind and remain a very stable gun platform.

But let's now address the M2 and it's ammunition, a machine gun is an area weapon, much like a cannon is, but whereas the cannon fires one shot, the machine gun fires several at a time, but for it to be effective in battle it must have dispersion and with most loads used in an M2 we are looking at a mean radius for ammunition of 10 - 12 inches at 600 meters.

So we have a bobbing platform, a built in accuracy factor for the ammunition (mean radius), the ability to accurately estimate range and angle and closure rates and changing wind conditions (in your head or on paper, no computer) and to accurately call the fall of the rounds, when firing at extreme range, because the guy with the spy glass is going to be bobbing up and down just like the M2 gunner, then you have the other guy, lobbing 9 or 12 or 24 pound cannon balls your way, which may or may not be exploding shells (1812 time frame) and he doesn't have to look for little fish splashes to figure out higher or lower, left or right, he has a serious splash that can be seen at distance, making ranging a lot easier.

Sorry to sound like a broken record here, but my money will be on the Frigate, because the 50 cal is in reality a very small part of the whole picture of a naval encounter at sea under sail.

cracked butt
December 27, 2006, 01:36 PM
Sloop w/m2 vs Frigate?

Its conceivably possible to win with the sloop if you make really lucky hits in the righ places and stay out of range of the Frigate. Then again, its conceivably possible to take down a grizzly bear with a .25 raven handgun so long as you stay within the effective range of the cartridge, make really lucky hits in the right places, and stay out of range of its claws.:D

Shaughn Leayme
December 27, 2006, 01:43 PM
cracked butt,

Right to the heart of the matter :D

Where were you earlier:scrutiny: ;)

Could have saved myself some typing:neener:

December 27, 2006, 01:50 PM
Probably the sloop with the .50 BMG would win. However, One does have to take into account that those early 19th Century sailors were as tough as nails. Life on those vessels was simply awful and they were hardened by years of tough physical labor and genuine suffering.

December 27, 2006, 02:02 PM
If we're going to compare apples to apples we have to forget that theoretical unlimited ammo and other such unless you want to apply same to the frigate.

While I admit that the psychological effect of a .50 -might- carry some weight, any crew that would stand and fight in the face of 12 inch cannon balls and chain shot ripping along a deck (see Master and Commander if you want an idea) is probably NOT going to be very shocked by a .50 in action.

Sailing up the stern of a Frigate isn't going to be any easy feat either as there were things like stearn chasers (often Long Toms) and swivel guns mounted there. Also a Frigate isn't exactly slow or wallowing itself.

Fire crews might have a tough time with incendiary rounds, but not much worse than heated shot or cannister.

Also, everyone seems to be forgetting that sometimes frigates carried bombards (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombard_(weapon)) with an even greater range and the ability to throw "greek fire". It was not an unknown (although dangerous) tactic to make a "fire raft" with kegs of greek fire and tow it behind a wartime sailing vessel. If another ship attempted an "up the kilt" shot the raft would be lit/exploded creating a lake of fire behind the ship and denying any following craft access for a time.

As someone else said, the sloop would have to be EXTREMELY lucky for an extended period of time. The Frigate would have to be lucky only once.

(now if a Frigate had a .50 to repel borders..... :evil: )

December 27, 2006, 03:31 PM
SnWnMe I just did some elementary geometry. If I recall it correctly and not taking into consideration the curvature of the earth, the angle subtended by a 204' long frig (The Constitution) @ 3000' (1000yd) if both sloop and frig are directly opposite each other is 204/3000 = .068. The angle whose tangent value is .068 is 3.89 degrees. So this means the M2 gunner is shooting a HARD recoiling machine gun with open sights on a platform that bobs up and down at a target that only takes up less than 4 degrees of the horizon (assuming I did everything correctly).

And if the frig keeps the distances wider, it is the sloop that will have difficulty hitting.

Yet the frigate can simply skip cannonballs on the waters surface without being as limited by line of sight problems. If the seas are at all rough then even more advantage goes to the larger more stable ship. Pretty obvious the sloop does not stand a chance.

December 27, 2006, 05:34 PM
well, hate to say this, and possibley the only person to say so after reading all the posts. It would work out to be dead even.

I am retired Navy, and a GUNNERSMATE! I know i have shot well in excess of 200k in my twenty years, and the .50 M2 was my baby! Shot from rolling decks and even keel.

When it comes to the frigate, her smaller guns topside would have been 1 and 2 lb swivel guns that could have shot ball, or heated shot. these guns were able to be aimed, unlike the the mounted deck guns of the era that would be shot in salvo in hopes of hit with the variety of elevations to get the range. but just to cut it short and not long winded, it would be a draw, 38 plus gun (including swivel guns topside on the rails) verses the one bow mounted .50

December 27, 2006, 06:04 PM
Our GMs on the USS Anchorage, using M2s and 60s, failed to sink the killer tomato on Family Day cruise. :o

December 27, 2006, 06:24 PM
but i wasn't on the anchorage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
uss forrest sherman
uss pugent sound
uss harlan county
uss orion
uss oak hill

December 27, 2006, 07:03 PM
Another possibility...

If the .50 were a Barrett a good marksman could take out the Captain and other senior officers as well as the bosun one at a time pretty quickly. At that point the frigate becomes a lot less effective.

December 27, 2006, 07:07 PM
The tactic of a swoop was always to get in close to a frigate (ie 'swoop' in) or other larger ship as fast as possible while maneuvering to avoid incoming gunfire, and then engage the ship as far inside the ship's turning radius as possible - ie, akin to standing by the driver's side window while he tries to turn and hit you. Except you're a track star, and the car is some slow, low-acceleration Euro import. :) Usually you'd want one or two sloops, IIRC, as a single ship presented too easy a target to keep in sights; two made getting closer much easier for both.

So basically, you're going to decimate the enemy with a .50 cal on a swoop. Especially with HE rounds. :)

Shaughn Leayme
December 27, 2006, 08:37 PM
If a sloop, which is armed with pop guns (4 pounder cannons) wants to try and swoop in on a frigate, which for all it's size is just as nimble and usually as fast as the sloop, it won't really matter, they will be hammered into kindling in a short period of time.

A sloop was ideally suited to the scouting role and transporting dispatches and as coastal patrol vessel's and for use by revenue men and pirates and smugglers, it's shallow draft , small size and light weight allowed it to go places that a larger ship like a frigate, cannot go. It was a capable commerce raider though, since many merchant men carried a very light amount of iron, because a gun deck, used up valuable cargo space and guns and gunners weren't cheap and most merchant men were slow, they were designed for cargo carrying, not speed and I imagine 8 knots would be a top speed for some. Most sloops were capable of 14 knots.

Those advantages are also the reason, one would not go up against a Frigate in it, even if there was 3 or 4 of them, they just lacked the iron to do serious damage and they lacked the crew to board a frigate and their light construction would result in a cannon ball from even a 12 pounder, being able to punch right thru them from one side to another, were they close enough to try and press any kind of effective attack.

A Barrett rifle and sniping at sea......It takes great skill to use one on dry land (at long range), which is not riding up and down and maybe with a slight roll to it at the same time, trying to hit a target that will also be obscured by rigging and sail, also plunging up and down.....

In a way we are pitting a flower class corvette of WWII against a battle cruiser and we all know what the outcome of that fight would be and in some cases was.

Flower Class Corvette
950 tons
205 feet long
16 knts maximum
95 crew
1 4 inch gun
1 2 pdr AA
2 20 mm single barrel AA

Gneisenau Class Battle Cruiser
31,552 tonnes
235 feet long
33 knts max
1968 crew
9 x 11 inch
12 x 5.9 inch
14 x 4 inch
16 x 37 mm AA
38 x 20 mm AA
6 x 21 inch torpedo's

Admiral Hipper Class Heavy Cruiser
14,227 Tonnes
206 feet long
32.5 knts
1600 crew
8 x 8 inch
12 x 4 inch
17 x 40 mm
8 x 37 mm
28 x 20 mm
12 x 21 inch torpedo's

December 27, 2006, 10:14 PM
There are several "sloop" types. One is the civilian 2 or 3 masted, light weight vessel which carried 4-8 light guns for self defence.

A "sloop of war" was a totally diffrent animal. Three masted and square rigged it it carried between 10 and 20 large bore cannon, a mix of cannon and carronades, 12-20lb. The USS Constellation, which carried 25 cannon.
She was launched in 1854, and is a floating museum today.
25 guns:
• 16 × 8 inch (203 mm) chambered shell guns
• 4 × 32 pounder (15 kg) long guns
• 1 × 20 pounder (9 kg) Parrott rifle
• 1 × 30 pounder (14 kg) Parrott rifle
• 3 × 12 pounder (5 kg) bronze boat howitzers


Typical rigging of a 32 pounder "Long Tom"

Civilian trading sloop


Livin in Texas

Shaughn Leayme
December 27, 2006, 10:42 PM
True enough, but those were later developments, mostly brought into service after 1830's. The gun's were getting better all the time and tactics were evolving and the US Navy was actually right behind the French as far as Naval inovations were concerned.

Up to 1800- 1820, the standard was more or less as we were discussing previous, with exceptions, but given the scenario as originally presented and the time frame, you would be more likely to encounter the earlier type of Sloop of War.

There are a lot of good books out there on the subject and if you are lucky enough to get down to several of the maritime museums, you can stay there for hours (bring a towel to wipe up the drool :D )

December 27, 2006, 11:02 PM
Got a GREAT museum near here, I volunteer as a guide. It is the only surviving WW1 battleship in the world, the USS Texas!!


Livin in Texas

Shaughn Leayme
December 27, 2006, 11:55 PM
Lucky you!!!

I hope this year to have more time to make it to some museums and I have an invite from a friend of my father, to come and look at a private collection of naval guns, falcons and swivels up to a 42 pounder and some more modern stuff :what: and if they are doing a "show" I might even get to see a few of them fired :D

Biggest pre 1900 gun, I have fired and loaded and sighted was a 12 pounder Napolean and a breech loading Whitworth and a mountain howitzer, though the mortars are spectacular, it is the long guns that I really like.

December 27, 2006, 11:58 PM
Visited the Texas years ago. Was A double treat as I was A post War II Iron Ranger of 1-16th Inf. Texas and 1-16 were at Normandy D Day.
I was the BN master Gunner, trained solders to fire M2's.
I think the Frigate can be taken. Plunging fire from the fifty will pierce the main deck.
Don' forget the advantage of a free gun compared to a gunport. Think Moniter verse the Merrimack.
Can I have a J Class Sloop?

Shaughn Leayme
December 28, 2006, 12:07 AM
Like this one?

www.jclassyachts.com look under endeavour

A gun in a port was still able to traverse in a limited fashion and captains and gunners were known to do it, but it was a new way to look at naval gunnery and it took time for the techniques to be developed.

If anything the British Navy were like any other entity and they did not like change, it took a sound thrashing at the hands of the young American Navy for them to realize they were losing the race for supremacy on the open sea's and they began to adapt and catch up.

There was a growth spurt or if you will an arms race in the early part of the 19 th century, with France actually leading the way, with America not too far behind, then the British, in the end the British won out.

Anyhoo :D back to the topic at hand, we still come back to range and capabilities of both ships, the limited arcs of fire available to the 50 and range of cannons and the frigate's construction.

I actually like this thread, get to talk about a favorite subject......and it is a gun of a sort :)

December 28, 2006, 12:18 AM
Sniping in the open sea. That's a good one.:scrutiny:

December 28, 2006, 12:30 AM
This business of sloops overwhelming frigs with 2 to 1 fights is good also.

The USS Constitution CAPTURED two British men of war off Madeira in 1815 after beating them both down with superior seamanship and gunnery.

December 28, 2006, 12:48 AM
About a year ago on TV I watched a cannon shoot off of different cannons from the 1800s and the winner then went up against the US army with the army’s newest light weight 105mm. While the 105 would by far outrange the 1800s guns they chose a target out at I believe was 500 to 600 yards. It was a 4x8 plywood sheet, and the crew with the old gun hit it dead on every shot, but the Army never had a direct hit with their modern 105mm.

While we are talking about at sea and longer ranges, the sailors of the day practiced and where good at what they did. It has been stated several times that it only takes on good shot from the frigate to kill the M2, but it will take hundreds if not thousands to do any real damage to the frigate. While I am not a expert I would not think that shooting a 50cal on any US Navy ship would be anywhere close to shooting one on sloop of that era, unless it was some sort of light PT boat.

Don' forget the advantage of a free gun compared to a gunport. Think Moniter verse the Merrimack. Neither ship won that engagement, both retired in the evening leaving it a draw. What the Moniter and then the Dreadnaught gave us was, that the advantage of gun turrets was the ability to have bigger guns far bigger, not ease of movement. Which the frigate would have over the sloop.

One question to anybody that might know, do incinerators have the same range as AP ammo.

December 28, 2006, 01:17 AM
While the 50 maybe able to traverse, it is not as stable on its pintle as the guns on the Monitor's turrets. Also the range of the Merrimack/Monitor fight was very close.

The problem of shooting a 50 on a pintle mount on the high seas against a frig at standoff range is that

the gun has no sophisticated sights (those nice dial sights are useless at sea)

the gun is jumping up and down (imagine that you are offroading in a Jeep)

the target is far, far away by necessity for your survival and thus is small.

the gun, in bouncing, describes variations in aiming which is BIGGER than the size of the target on the horizon

firing the gun doesn't help with aim and accuracy (now you're offroading on a Jeep and firing a 50 cal and trying to stay on target)

the frig is faster and can close to bring the fight to you while you cannot put enough lead into it quick enough to stop it (machine guns don't pour lead into neat devastating rows like they do in the movies)

I'm not even taking into consideration the fact that the frig can throw (heavy) rounds well outside the 50's real world effective range.

December 28, 2006, 01:43 AM
I'm still gonna stick with the frigate!

1)The frigate has more cannon of a larger size (and longer range)
2)frigate has better construction (can take more of a pounding)
3)frigate captains are usually much more experienced

Instead of crossing the stern of the frigate with the sloop like some have mentioned, suppose the frigate did it instead and let loose with a broadside, came about, then dismasted the sloop. GAME OVER!

As I mentioned earlier it wouldn't take a full broad side to hit in order to cause problems.

OR.....a worst case scenario

I'll put a M61 Vulcan in for a bow chaser! LOL!

December 28, 2006, 03:49 AM
The USS Constitution CAPTURED two British men of war off Madeira in 1815 after beating them both down with superior seamanship and gunnery.No, she captured a British 5th rate (32 gun) frigate and a sloop. Not even Old Ironsides would've been able to stand up to one 1st or 2nd rate, and even one 3rd or 4th rate would've been a challenge (The Connie was a 4th rate), let alone two.

December 28, 2006, 12:31 PM
A Man of War is a generic name for an armed naval vessel. This is broken down into rates but the name does not exclusively apply to ships the size of HMS Victory. The Constitution captured the frigate Cyane (24 guns) and the sloop Levant (18 guns). You must be thinking of the Java (32 guns, actually 38 when she faced Ironsides) or Guerriere (32 guns).

Merriam Webster


Some nautical site


December 28, 2006, 12:59 PM
I voted for the fact that is questions like this that make THR such an interesting place, and I have not been disappointed.

So far, I think that the frigate is winning out over the sloop. Hearts of Oak.

December 28, 2006, 01:03 PM
No, I was thinking of the Cyane, but the first page I found on her said she was a 32 gun frigate. I probably should've kept digging. :)

Still, the point is that while capturing two ships at once is quite impressive, both ships combined still didn't equal the Constitution's tonnage or armament.

And for the record, I think a decent sized frigate is going to turn the .50 armed sloop into so much floating debris.

Jeff Timm
December 28, 2006, 09:53 PM
I suspect you underestimate the power of the phosporus compounds to ignite fires. The war load for a .50 is every round an incendiary, or API, or tracer.

Ball is for practice.

The incendiary compound scatters and starts multiple fires, people who get hit by it are generally no longer concerned with anything except putting out the fire, which is NOT EASY. Hitting a target with a .50 is not extreamly difficult, cross reference WWII PT boats.

Who would ideally wait until the frigate was hove to near an island, and move the .50 ashore to a vantage point and send plunging fire down into the magazine.

Shaughn Leayme
December 28, 2006, 11:32 PM
The warload in an incendiary or API round as you put it is small.

The compound is generally around 32 - 34 grs, if memory serves.

Another point that occured to me today, was that the trace element used in the 50 caliber rounds burned out somewhere after 1600 yards, granted it has been along time since I played with an M2 with tracers, so I don't know if this is still the case, but if it is, this would make engagement beyond 1600 yards harder.

The biggest factor with the .50 at sea in this situation is range, we are not within 500 yards of a target, but 2000 yards, because the sloop is trying to keep from becoming flotsam, this and the motion of the ship and the actions taken to avoid the frigate trying to maneuver to a position of advantage, will degrade the accuracy and overall effectiveness of the M2 and the 50 caliber in this situation.

There is difficulties with dealing with a fire at sea, but then again, trying to put out a 18/24 or 32 pound hot shot, would present an equally hard task.

December 28, 2006, 11:37 PM
Great question! I've wondered about it myself. The sloop o' war with the .50 up front has the advantage of being able to fire without presenting a broadside, and has a much flatter shooting projectile. The .50 would essentially work as a super accurate chaser. But at close quarters or given the right wind situation the frigate would still rip the sloop apart. The .50's advantage would be on the long chase or in still air, but it wouldn't be too good for sniping people. For one thing most of them would be below decks. For another they're hard targets and everything is constantly moving and pitching.

The superior tactic would be to target heavy .50 ball at the MASTS. It has enough juice to cut through, and a few hits would start doing serious damage. Once unmasted, the frigate is a useless tub.

I think some folks here don't really understand what a Napoleonic cannon could do! A "mere" smoothbore 32 pounder sent out MASSIVE iron ball at supersonic speeds and could hit targets many nautical miles away. A whole broadside of them could rip a ship to shreds, sending hardwood shrapnel out with enough force to rend skin from bone and pierce the heart.

December 28, 2006, 11:59 PM
Given that we are talking about a frigate and sloop from the 1812 era the frigate would have an advantage in light winds because she can set a lot more sail and much higher up. A sloop using modern technology would be a different story. The sloop will be limited to the main sail, jibs and staysails and maybe some type of a topsail set above the gaff. Not only can the frigate set a lot more sail they can launch more boats to tow the ship than a sloop could.

Shaughn Leayme
December 29, 2006, 12:33 AM
I think hitting the mainmast or any mast for that matter at range consistently (2000 yards/meters in our theoretical discussion) would be even harder than just hitting the frigate, as an added impediment, the mast is rounded, so just like shooting into brush, which can deflect bullets, only a small percentage of bullets striking the mast would actually be penetrating rounds, many would cause only surface damage or be deflected without penetrating.

The Frigate captain, is not going to give you the time to dance around and try any of this, they are going to be coming at you, with fang's and claws hanging out and their one intent is to sink you or capture you, that's it if you don't strike your flag, then to the bottom you go, that's it, that's all.

These guy's were go getters, they wanted the honour and the prestige, that being the best you can be, will bring them, honor's awards, prize money, social standing among their peer's, the chance to get to flag rank all of this and more and sinking and capturing ships was their best route to accomplishing this.

One must also remember that captains lower on the senority list, were also clawing their way up to the top and you could be a good captain, but when it came to the time between wars, good, may not prevent you from being put on the shore (cutbacks), but a captain, with a reputation of capturing alot of prizes (more money in his admiral's pocket) and public acclaim (ship's and captains were the sport's hero's of the day) then they remain on active duty, especially with an admiral or two pulling for them.

4v50 Gary
December 29, 2006, 01:34 AM
Given that the seamanship is equal and the sloop can keep her distance, the sloop can fleet and shoot the frigate to pieces. The Whitworth of Civil War fame was capable of penetrating several inches of oak at 1880 yards so a modern .50, so long as there's ammo, with its umph will easily punch holes into the frigate and disable its crew. Now, if that frigate ever catches up, bye-bye sloop.

December 29, 2006, 01:40 AM
PT boats did not engage targets with 50s at extreme range (they carried guns up to 40mm). They also did not take on bigger ships in one on one battles. They will be ripped to shreds in short order if that were the case. They attacked at night, in packs, against merchant convoys, using torpedoes and cannon for any crippled stragglers. It would be safe to assume that the 50s were not the primary weapons of these things.

December 29, 2006, 01:41 AM
The sloop does not carry enough sail to outpace a frigate. Seamanship will not make up for the lack of propulsion.

December 29, 2006, 11:47 AM
As far as the frigate filling up with water from .50 cal holes, aint gonna happen unless you have tens ofl thousands of holes. Can a .50 cal penetrate at the extreme distances neccesary, and most importantly, right at or under the waterline? Does the .50 have the accuracy that it does on land while at sea?

For the sloop to be in range to shoot at the frigate effectively , it will also be in range of the frigates guns. The frigate is not going to be a sitting target, it will be firing back. Odds are IMHO, the frigates captain will just bear down on the frigate taking light damage and then once he is in relatively close range, hook a 90 degree turn and give her a full broadside.

December 29, 2006, 12:40 PM
Don't forget that the frigate will also be carrying quite a few Marines, and they'll be some damn good shots. I don't know what range an 1812-era musket has, but the top men will also have lights guns up to 1lbers or so.
Anyone wanna send this to "Mythbusters"? That'd be a GOOD episode!

December 29, 2006, 12:52 PM
We'll solve this (in favor of the Frigate, of course!) for once and for all. I'm going to figure out how to email them and see if they are interested.

December 29, 2006, 12:55 PM
Mythbusters - great idea - did you see the death ray episode - not to hijack this awesome thread!!

A question - did the ships of those days have rifled longarms for plunking officers? Might not the frigate have several folks who might take the 50 BMG crew under fire if the range closes?

Shaughn Leayme
December 29, 2006, 02:20 PM
Usually, the marksmen in the fighting top, would normally only be used, once the ships were grappled together and the battle was down to pistols and cutlass and other weapons, the muskets of the time were accurate to about 50 yards, lethal well beyond that distance. You had marines on the deck and sailors too would have access to muskets, blunderbusses and fowling pieces in addition to swords,pistols, boarding axes, pikes and what ever else could be used as a weapon.

Just as the ships would be closing to grapple, the swivel's and any other light gun's and carronades would unleash a hail of cannister and grape shot, to sweep the enemy deck's clear and force others to go to cover, giving the boarding party a chance to get on board.

Rifle's did exist on both sides, but I do not recall the wide spread use of them on board naval vessels. The British Marines and sailors used the Brown Bess .75 caliber flint lock, the Americans had a mix of French .69 caliber, Brown Bess .75 and home grown/designed Flintlocks.

This is not to say that private weapons or rifles were not used by American sailors/Marines, I have only seen a few references, nothing definitive, it is also possible that should a British warship have infantry on board then you could possibly encounter a Baker Rifle, but usually it was smooth bore guns.

On another point, the British Royal Navy, so highly respected the USS Constitution and her sister ships, that they considered them the equal of a fourth rate and no English frigates were to ever engage one unless the odds were at least 2 to 1.

December 29, 2006, 04:18 PM

You owe me a new keyboard, mine is now covered in Diet Coke and snot!:D

December 29, 2006, 04:19 PM
Just like the Marines were called Devil Dogs by their impressed enemies, Old Ironsides was christened as such by her British opponents. Such was their respect for her.

December 29, 2006, 04:40 PM
I think it's granted that in a close fight, the frigate wins. A couple of questions.

1) How fast can a frigate close 2000yd distance?

Considering sloop may be zigzagging all this time to avoid hits, it won't be fleeing away at fullspeed, but still moving away. The frigate may take twice as much time as it would normally to close in on stationary target.

2) How heavily armored is the bow of the frigate?

This is good consideration as .50cal would be trying to hit frigate as it speeds toward the sloop. Most of the hits would land on the bow area of the ship unless sloop could circle away from the path. If the 50cal could disintegrate the bow as the frigate closes in, then sloop may have a chance to inflict the critical damages that might win the day.

Shaughn Leayme
December 29, 2006, 05:15 PM
It's not the frigate that need to close the distance to engage, but the sloop that need's to stay out of range of the frigate's guns, the frigate can engage from 2000 yards, anything less plays right into the hands of the captain of the frigate. The sloop just does not have the structure to withstand a broadside or even multiple hits from guns of medium to heavy caliber, and many frigates mounted 12 , 18 and occasionally 24 pounder long tom bow chaser, it sometimes resulted in losing a gun from the broad side to make room for it, but in a stern chase, that bigger piece of iron can come in handy.

The bow of a ship is made to withstand the sea hammering on it when 2200 tons are behind it with winds blowing enough to give the ship a speed of 13 knots and in large engagements ships were trading broadsides with cannon ball of up to 42 pounds and many survived, the encounter to be refitted and fight another day. It is going to take alot of fire to do damage and it will be upper structure damage, not the more import below the waterline damage, so relatively minor, when you consider the 6 inch holes 32 pounder shot can punch thru the rail and bulkheads.

If the sloop is zigzagging and the frigate is on a course, that allows it's bow chasers to engage ( a smart move by any pursuing ship's captain), the sloop will be run down in no time at all, remember any course change with a sailing ship can result in a reduction in speed, your propulsion system is sail and the wind, so in a stern chase, you want to set a course that allows you the best draw of the wind, which in turn gives you the best speed, so zig zagging will allow a ship in pursuit to gain on you, because if you cross his bow to avoid one gun, he has another that will have been adjusted to similar to the other and within a few shot's they are ranging on you once again.

The sloop does anything but run and that equally as fast and equally nimble frigate is going to be a lot closer and may have a chance to tack onto a course that allows it to employ more guns, while the sloop is changing back onto a tack that allows it to try and open the range again.

The sloop need's to fire a lot of rounds from a .50, and we have discussed the problems and difficulties of shooting an M2 at sea, the frigate only need's a few hits to accomplish the same amount of damage and with the small crew of a sloop, you cannot afford many casualties, the frigate can loose a lot more before, it can affect ship operations.

December 29, 2006, 05:35 PM
That sounds reasonable Shaughn. I don't think 50cal can do much to frigate bow, unless one stray bullet hits the Capt in a lucky shot.

Another scenario would be to have the sloop to grapple the frigate and board it with the few brave souls carrying the 50cal onto the frigate deck. In this scenario the frigate guns will be of no use and the 50cal could be used tactically to eliminate the frigate crew in a fire fight.

Shaughn Leayme
December 29, 2006, 05:43 PM
:D :D :D :D :D

The sloop would be flotsam long before that ever played out, the frigate would pound it to pieces before they even had a chance to think about boarding the frigate.

The captain would be looking for you to strike your flag and surrender, if you failed to do so and still offered resistance, he would sweep your decks with grape and cannister, if you were lucky, or just sink you from a safe enough distance, that blowing your magazine wouldn't do damage to his ship.

December 29, 2006, 05:48 PM
:D :D :D :D :D

Come on now, just think of how heroic the sloop crew could become when facing such astronomical odds.....the 2nd officer bravely leads the "assault" team while leaping onto the frigate deck with the M2, a shipmate with the tripod, and galley boy with boxes of ammo in tow........

December 29, 2006, 06:02 PM
Air power.

Figuring 30 degree zigs off of straight, the sloop is going 86% of 13 knots, this comes out to 11.18 knots in the line of sight. The frigate is doing a full 14 knots in the line of sight for a closing rate of about a hundred yards a minute.

While it would take the frigate 20 minutes to close 2000 yards, how long before it could close enough to use its weapons accurately?

December 29, 2006, 06:53 PM
Considering the difference in deck heights between a frigate and a sloop I would love to see people trying to manhandle that Ma Deuce up onto the frigates deck without dropping it or falling between the vessels and drowning. I've boarded everything from fishing vessels to large container ships at sea and it isn't that easy to get on board with just the ol' M9 let alone a .50 BMG.

December 29, 2006, 09:14 PM
the mast is rounded, so just like shooting into brush, which can deflect bullets, only a small percentage of bullets striking the mast would actually be penetrating rounds

This is true for roundball and shot, but NOT for the fifty. No rounded hardwood can deflect a big 750 spire point. That's one advantage it has over the cannons--both superior BC and VASTLY superior sectional density. For penetrative power the modern fifty will totally outclass the cannons. I agree this is pointless for sinking the frigate, but it's very nice when it comes to knocking down the masts.

Shaughn Leayme
December 29, 2006, 09:32 PM
Not deflecting it by virtue of hardwood, but by surface area, a rounded surface can act in a similar fashion to sloped armor and a round that would hit an bite on a flat surface may just skid of from a rounded one.

December 29, 2006, 11:46 PM
Hmm, after thinking about it for a night, I have to say that Jamz cheated with the way he phrased the question. The amount of ammunition would almost HAVE to be a factor here. If we assume the .50 would win, it'd obviously take a LOT of rounds to sink the frigate. Would a sloop be able to carry enough ammo to do this?
In order to sink the frigate, you have to punch holes below the waterline. You want to let the water in, hits above the waterline just provide a pleasant breeze for the crew:D . So you have to make enough hits to chew through the copper anti-fouling plating (keeps barnacles and algae off the wood, reducing drag and increasing speed.), at least 24 inches of HARD oak armor (possibly more, if the round strikes where the framing is. Some of the 'knuckles' on the Constitution are the better part of 3 feet thick!), and have the round penetrate in such a way that the wood doesn't spall and fill the hole enough to stop the water flow. The round also has to penetrate completely, otherwise it is what we refer to as a 'plug'. Don't forget that the crew is capable of pumping out the bilges, emptying the water as it comes in. These pumps have the capacity to handle several hundred, if not a thousand gallons, of water per minute. They were designed to work against roundshot, which didn't really punch holes in the planking, but certainly would rattle that plank loose from it fittings, referred to as 'starting' a plank. That creates a leak around most of the perimeter of the plank. Throw in damage control teams to plug leaks, just a simple blob of tarred wool will do for that.
Now, is the .50 going to be able to make enough holes, and BIG enough holes, in the frigate to sink it, before the sloop runs out of carrying capacity?

Okay, when you realize the main threat to ships of that period is FIRE rather than sinking (sailing vessels are pretty much a list of parts labelled 'flammable') then you just go crazy with the API rounds, and eventually it'll catch, right? Well, not necessarily. People who spend a lot of time on highly flammable objects generally try to put out the fire, and a frigate is not exactly in danger of running out of ocean water.

Man, this could get complex! Now I understand why Sid Meier never smiled.

December 30, 2006, 12:03 AM
You've got a .50 caliber machine gun with unlimited ammunition. Put the gun at 45 degrees and hit 'em beyond cannon range. Use API and tracers, and rain fire on 'em till the ship goes down. One or two rounds may not go through the wood - but when you start pumping a few hundred rounds into the same area, the structure's pretty severely compromised.

December 30, 2006, 02:07 AM
Here's some history regarding the USS Constitution, her armament and the engagements she was in. I hope y'all find it of interest. The info about the cannon that were used might help in this "discussion"!

Constitution's gun batteries began with the letting of a contract on 8 August 1794 with the Furnace Hope in Rhode Island. Optimistically, it called for thirty 24-pounder long guns to be delivered by 1 May 1795 for a price of $106.66 per ton, or about $225 a gun.

A "24-pounder" long gun was a muzzle-loading long-barreled cannon capable of firing a solid iron shot weighing 24 pounds. Mounted on a four-wheel carriage, it had a maximum effective range of about 1200 yards and could be fired about once every three minutes by a trained crew of twelve men and a boy (the "powder monkey"). The Furnace Hope model was 8' feet long and had a bore diameter of about 5 5/6". Each unit was cast solid and bored out. On its carriage, a 24-pounder weighed about 6000 pounds. Because cannon of such size never had been produced before in the United States, the manufacturer was unable to meet the contract schedule. The full battery of thirty guns was delivered to Boston in August 1797, however, ready for the ship which had yet to be launched.

Because some of the casting and boring problems became apparent early on at Furnace Hope and the only other contractor, the Cecil Iron Works in Maryland, and because no other foundry was interested in this type of work, contracts for the smaller caliber long guns intended for the frigates' upper decks were not let in a timely fashion. Contracts had been let, however, for twenty 8" brass howitzers, split equally between Paul Revere in Boston and James Byers in Springfield, Massachusetts. It appears that four of these 1700-pound weapons were to go to each of the four authorized large frigates and two each to the two smaller frigates. When the builders attempted to install the howitzers in Constitution, it was found that they were incompatible with the bulwark around the after half of the ship's spar (upper) deck. They were sent ashore, never to return.

In late May 1798, less than two months before she first put to sea, Constitution had only the thirty 24s on her gun deck. In desperation, the Federal government persuaded the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to loan the Navy sixteen of the 18-pounder long guns known to be languishing in Fort Independence in Boston harbor. And then, in the following three weeks, the ship also received fourteen 12-pounder long guns from an unreported source. No details have come down to us on these particular weapons but, in general terms, each 18 weighed on the order of 4700 pounds and was 8' long; each 12 was about the same length but weighed about 4100 pounds. Both were muzzle-loaders. Their crews were proportionately smaller that those for the 24s, but the firing rate was the same.

To sum up, USS Constitution, rated as a 44-gun frigate, carried thirty 24-pounders, sixteen 18-pounders, and fourteen 12-pounders -- sixty long guns, in all -- when she entered service. She carried this huge armament through the Quasi-War with France, and until she was laid up in reserve in June 1802.

Returning to active duty the following summer, she sailed to the Mediterranean to face the Barbary pirates without the 18-pounders, which had been returned to their owners. After six months on station, Commodore Edward Preble, her commander, decided he wanted more heavy fire with which to batter the Bashaw of Tripoli. He borrowed six more 24s from the King of Two Sicilies at Naples, who was only too glad to have someone else work on the "pirate problem." After bashing the Bashaw through the summer of 1804, Preble was replaced as squadron commander and shortly thereafter returned the borrowed cannon.

Captain John Rodgers took over command early in November, just as Constitution received eight 32-pounder carronades from the United States. A "carronade" was a shortbarreled, large bore, relatively lightweight muzzleloading weapon of murderous short-range (400 yards maximum effective) smashing power. Only 4' long and weighing just about 2000 pounds, it used a smaller gun crew and, because of its lightness, could be mounted in larger numbers higher in the ship than long guns. Unlike the long gun, it was mounted on a slide bed that was pivoted under the muzzle so it could be aimed. A weapon new to American manufacture, these eight almost certainly were cast by Henry Foxall at his Columbia Iron works in Georgetown, Maryland, a suburb of the Federal capitol. Constitution's initial allotment was mounted in the waist (amidships), four on each side, forward of the long 12s. Her armament, then, from November 1804 until December 1807, when she again went inactive, was thirty long 24s, fourteen long 12s, and eight 32-pounder carronades.

Constitution was still overseas in September 1807 when an order was placed with the Cecil Iron Works, now skilled in cannon casting, for a new battery of 24s for her. The Furnace Hope pieces had proven to be too short for efficient use, and her imminent homecoming would be the first opportunity for an upgrade. At about 6400 pounds and 9' 6" long, the new pieces were longer and heavier than their predecessors.

Upon her return from the Mediterranean, then-skipper Captain Hugh Campbell, in his concluding report to the Secretary of the Navy, strongly recommended that the ship's 12-pounders be landed and replaced with carronades. In the winter of 1808, the Secretary of the Navy acted on Captain Campbell's recommendation, directing Henry Foxall to manufacture two dozen for the ship. They were delivered later in the year as the ship lay in ordinary.

Constitution returned to active duty in March 1809 carrying the thirty new Cecil Iron Works long 24s on her gun deck and the twenty-four Foxall carronades above on the spar deck. At some time between then and the outbreak of the War of 1812 in June of that year, a single 18-pounder long gun had been added as a chase gun. It was with these fifty-five guns that Constitution defeated HMS Guerriere on 19 August 1812 and earned her nickname of "Old Ironsides."

Following his succession to command of the ship on 15 September 1812, Commodore William Bainbridge eliminated the 18-pounder, simplifying his ammunition loading and handling problem by dropping one caliber. The gun had been virtually useless, anyway, since the ship's bow structure was not well suited to the accommodation of a chase gun. The remaining fifty-four long guns and carronades were sufficient to end the service of HMS Java on 29 December 1812.

Constitution had one more major battle during the war. By that time, 20 February 1815, Captain Charles Stewart had been in command for a year-and-a-half and had had her to sea on one unremarkable war cruise. Be that as it may, it had given him the basis for a further change in the ship's armament. He reduced the number of carronades to twenty and added two 24-pounder "shifting gunades" recently captured from the British by an American privateer. Designed by Sir William Congreve in 1814, each was 8' 6" long, but being of thinner barrel construction weighed only about 5000 pounds on carriage. The design was an attempt to combine the range of a long gun with the lighter weight of a carronade. The pair sat on carriages like the long guns, and it was expected that, since they were lighter, they could readily be shifted from side to side as combat required. To overcome the ship's weakness in firing straight ahead, he removed the officers' telephone booth-like "spice boxes" (johns) from their places forward on the gun deck so that 24-pounders could be fired dead ahead through the bridle ports. Both these changes contributed to his success in simultaneously defeating HMS Cyane, a frigate, and HMS Levant, a corvette, on the above date.

By the time Constitution returned to active service in 1821, some of her 1807 24s had been transferred to the new ship of the line Independence. To make up her usual gun deck battery of thirty, they were replaced by 1816 24s from the same foundry. There was little difference between the two designs. On the spar deck, it was decided to ship only sixteen 32-pounder carronades and the two shifting gunades.

Following seven years on duty in the Mediterranean, and another seven in reserve, Constitution went back into service in 1835 with twenty of her original twenty-four carronades on the spar deck. The shifting gunades were moved below to the gun deck, where that battery had been reduced to twenty-five of the long 24s. Because they were expected to shift easily, the gunades would permit either side to have essentially its normal full battery in any one-to-one ship duel where only one side was engaged at a time.

Technology caused the next change in the ship's armament, in 1842. That summer, she received four 68-pounder (8") shell-firing Paixhans guns on her gun deck. These muzzle-loaders of French design, for the first time, gave the ship the capability of firing exploding projectiles. They were 8' 10" long and weighed about 7700 pounds on carriage. With them on the gun deck were twenty-six of the 1807/1816 24-pounders. Above, on the spar deck, were twenty of her 1808 32-pounder carronades and the two shifting gunades. But for the landing of the gunades, this was the battery she later carried on her 'round the world cruise, 1844-46.

While the ship was on her extended voyage, the Navy Department conducted a study of ship armament and decided upon a new system which involved arming its ships mainly with guns of varying length and weight, but all of the same caliber: that of a 32-pounder (about 6"). Under this plan, Constitution spent her final seven years of active duty (1848-55) carrying a spar deck battery of twenty 32-pounder long guns 7' 4" long and weighing some 4100 pounds each, and a gun deck battery of the four Paixhans guns and twenty-six 32-pounder long guns 8' long and weighing about 5200 pounds apiece.

During her years at the Naval Academy (1860-71) and as an apprentice training ship (1876-81), she generally carried fewer than twenty 32-pounders of both weights. These were used primarily for the exercise of her trainees, and only rarely were they fired at all.


December 30, 2006, 02:17 AM
One single belt of incidiary ammo into the upper structures of the friggate and it's game over, period. Even a small fire can take out a ship like that, and it will certainly cripple it to a point where the crew will strike their colors before you can even begin clearing the decks with another belt.

Really the fact that the 50 is on a turret pretty much ends the battle before it begins. The agility of a sloop can keep it away from the broadsides and it can lay constant fire on the frigate from any angle (think monitor vs merrimak (sp)).

December 30, 2006, 02:40 AM
Can't post yet but I am waiting for them to approve my password and give me access.

Two points to make here.

The first is that I have been sailing, rowing, etc. since I was 14 and at one point was really into the whole square rigger thing after seeing the parade of tall ships in 1976. The scantlings, or specifications, of a frigate are much more massive than a lot of people here think. These ships were made to stand up to point blank barrages of cannon fire. I won't argue that a .50 could eventually sink a frigate (see point #2) but I do know that it would take more than just thousands of hits. You would have to literally riddle the hull below the waterline to sink the frigate. Incendiary rounds seem like a good answer till u realize that they were prepared for this. The same huge bilge pumps that were designed to dewater the frigate in a battle could also be used to put a LOT of water onto a fire.

The second point is that it is really hard to hit a target at sea with a machine gun. How many here have fired a machine gun from a moving vessel at another moving target? I have fired .50s from a Navy LKA and frigate at targets and they were not easy to hit. As an Army reservist I was a boat operator (88K) and fired the M16 and M60 from a LARC and Mike boat at targets on the water. As a Coast Guardsman I have fired the 25 mm chain gun,.50 cal, and M16 from a 110' patrol boat at targets on the water, and the M60 and M240 from small boats. My point is not to brag but to point out that if it is hard to hit a target or 55 gallon drum from 100 yards with any of these weapons ( it is hard, especially in any kind of sea) just imagine how hard it would be to hit a frigate at 2000 yards with a machine gun while the frigate is shooting back at you. Lofting rounds at the frigate sounds easy till you realize that just a degree or two of roll results in a huge spread when the rounds hit the water a mile away. You not only have to compensate for your vessel moving up and down, you have to compensate for the other vessel moving up and down. That is why the Navy has spent so much money on fire control equipment and computers.

Both of these points put the sloop at a huge disadvantage in the gunnery department. When you combine that fact with the frigate having greater speed due to it's longer waterline length and sail area the equation becomes very lopsided. The sloop would have to get too close and spend too much time chewing away at the frigate, thus exposing itself to the frigates cannon fire. The argument of shooting away the rudder sounds good to landlubbers(:evil: most of you guys) but it is possible to sail and steer a vessel that has lost its' rudder, just by the trim of your sails. It isn't easy but by the time you get to be the captain of a frigate you have a good bit of experience. I demonstrated this to quite a number of officers in the Navy while I was stationed at NETC Newport, RI. I would show my students (I taught sailing for the Navy Marina in exchange for free used of their sailboats on my liberty time) how to trim the boat and use the sails and steer with no rudder.

Now I'm just going to pose this question on the Mythbusters forum and wait for them to prove all you sloop guys wrong!!!!!:neener:

December 30, 2006, 06:22 AM
You've got a .50 caliber machine gun with unlimited ammunition. Put the gun at 45 degrees and hit 'em beyond cannon range. Use API and tracers, and rain fire on 'em till the ship goes down. One or two rounds may not go through the wood - but when you start pumping a few hundred rounds into the same area, the structure's pretty severely compromised.I'm reminded that nobody's answered one of my first questions-most machine guns are designed to put their bullets on a "beaten zone". You rarely get a bullet going through the previous hole, especially at range. So, question is, at the ranges we're talkign about(1500 yards plus), what kind of dispersion is the M2 giving? I'd have imagined that the people who have shot the gun would have answered by now.

December 30, 2006, 09:48 AM
DM for those of us who have not tried shooting little machine guns at things in the middle of the ocean, it is hard to grasp the BIG difference between land and naval gunnery.

December 30, 2006, 01:16 PM
Maybe I missed it but there is one thing that would be blindingly obvious to sailors of that time that everyone seems to have missed. If you loaded the .50 with tracers, the fight would be over very quickly. The sailing ships of those days were extreme firetraps with all of the dry wood and canvas and everything being covered in tar and pitch. The greatest danger to any ship was any accident involving fire.
When the Virginia attacked the blockading ships before the Monitor arrived, they weren't sunk by holing the hull, they burned from fires started from shell fragments. That was the end for wooden warships when exploding shell came in. You wouldn't have to be accurate, just spray the tracers and set fire in 100 different places.

December 30, 2006, 01:55 PM
As was pointed out earlier, at the range that the sloop has to keep, the tracer/incendiary bullets would've burned out their pyro material already by the time they arrived at the frigate's location.

December 30, 2006, 01:57 PM
Really the fact that the 50 is on a turret pretty much ends the battle before it begins. The agility of a sloop can keep it away from the broadsides and it can lay constant fire on the frigate from any angle (think monitor vs merrimak (sp)).

What are we thinking? I do not understand the references to the Monitor vs. Merrimac? Neither ship won the engagement they both retired from the fight. The big advantage the Monitor had was that most of her structure was below the water line making her a harder target. Having a couple of guns in a turret gives you no advantage over 20 plus guns of equal size, Turrets are useful because they allow you to trade a lot of smaller guns for great big guns and then still have traversal of those big guns.

December 30, 2006, 02:45 PM
You might want to rethink the frigate being a firetrap also, while a fully engaged fire can gut a wooden ship quite readily, allowing one to get to that point likely is not going to happen.

I doubt if an incindiary bullet would ignite a sail as it passed through it due to the length of time the sailcloth was exposed to the heat..

Pitch does burn readily when ignited, but to get it to ignite takes quite a bit of time and heat.

Igniting timbers? Try starting a railroad tie on fire sometime. While it will burn quite well if you can get it started, it aint going to start from a small source of heat that burns out in a second or two especially if the fire your trying to start is at the closed end of a two foot long hole in the hull being blocked by the bullet itself. I have accidentally started fires on railroad ties before with thermite, they tend to burn very slow because of the limited surface area and likely would take considerable time if ever to develope into a full conflageration. I imagine ship timbers would act much the same.

The fire on the Virginia quite like had a lot of help getting started from the kindling provided the exploding shells.

What are we figuring as the true effective range of the .50 cal at sea?
What are effective range of the frigates guns?
Is there an effective fighting range for the sloop that is outside the range of the frigates guns?
How long would it take the frigate to close that distance.
How much damage would the frigate take from a .50 cal in that time and at that range.

Figuring a one knot difference in speed, the frigate will close at a rate of 33 yards a minute. Any manuvering by the sloop changes this all the way up to 466 yards per minute closing rate.

The sloop may be more manuverable, but it is not faster than the frigate. I doubt if the sloops manuverability, making a nominal 23.3 feet per second, will allow it to dodge projectiles moving at a nominal 1400 feet per second.

December 30, 2006, 03:16 PM
"You rarely get a bullet going through the previous hole, especially at range."
Not the same hole - same general area. Let's take a piece of ice. You can't (hypothetically) punch through a 2-foot slab of ice, so you hammer away with a pick. You don't hit the same spot each time - but you're tearing up the surface all the same. Continued hits weaken the structural integrity, and with enough time your pick will go clear through the ice. I see the same thing happening with the M2 and a wooden ship.

In answer to another question, I have no experience with frigates, sloops, smoothbore cannon, or M2 machine guns - on land or water. I'm armchair admiralling here.

December 30, 2006, 03:32 PM
THing is, I'm pretty sure(unless someone can say otherwise), that you'd be getting a three or four foot patch that the bullets are hitting, possibly more. Then you have to add in the pitch and roll of the ship and all that crap. If the beaten zone is even bigger at 2000 yards, you get even less concentration of power that you need to cause problems.

Shaughn Leayme
December 30, 2006, 04:30 PM
You guys have me dredging up things from memory I haven't needed to think about in years :D

As I recall for the .30 cal, burst fire (4-10 rds) had an effective beaten zone of 55 yard long by 4 yards wide on level ground from a fixed position at 2000 yards on a calm day. With the gun sandbagged down on a heavy tripod, not a pintle mount.

The 50 cal will be similar, but because of a larger allowed mean accuracy rate, 10 - 12 inches at 600 yards versus 7.5 inches for the 30 cal and 7.62 Nato it will be larger.

Add in the movement of the ship, wind, deflection,time of flight of bullet in relation to target's movement, variation in barrel's, lot's of ammunition and the gunners and you are going to have to fire a lot of rounds to be able to inflict any kind of serious damage.

When the ship rides up a wave and rolls, this will both lengthen and widen the cone of fire and the point of impact changes in relation to the sights, when the weapon is anything but vertically aligned, canted, the bullet is going somewhere other than where it was aimed, not a lot at close ranges 1-200 yards, but when you are talking 2000 yards it adds up and no I am not going to do the math:neener:

December 31, 2006, 04:19 AM
THing is, I'm pretty sure(unless someone can say otherwise), that you'd be getting a three or four foot patch that the bullets are hitting, possibly more. Then you have to add in the pitch and roll of the ship and all that crap. If the beaten zone is even bigger at 2000 yards, you get even less concentration of power that you need to cause problems.

Uh yeah. Are we forgetting that these exact same factors apply to the gunnery of the Frigate as well? The exponentially greater accuracy, range and rate of fire of the .50 still place the gunnery advantage unto the sloop. You dont have to engage at 2000 yards, you only have to engage beyond the effective range of the frigate. Considering that the frigate is fighting in identical conditions to the sloop with inferior weaponry (in terms of range and accuracy) then the advantage will remain with the smaller ship.

Remember that the frigate cannot put fire on the sloop without placing the sloop to it's broadside. The smaller ship doesnt have to out manuever the guns, it only has to out turn the frigate, and it will do so all day long, particlarly with the sloop's ability to tack up wind, in which case it is in fact much faster than the square rigged frigate.

The sloop may be more manuverable, but it is not faster than the frigate. I doubt if the sloops manuverability, making a nominal 23.3 feet per second, will allow it to dodge projectiles moving at a nominal 1400 feet per second.

I dont understand the assumption here that the frigate is always going to be faster than the sloop. In nearly all sailing conditions save for a perfect wind off the stern, the sloop is faster than the frigate. Put a square rigged ship into the America's cup and the winners will be home in their beds before it is halfway through the trip. Have you *ever* seen a square rigged ship even participating in a race in the last 200 years? Why not? Because sloop rigs are faster under more varied conditions than square rigged ships, period. The only condition in which the frigate will outpace the sloop is if the wind is dierectly to it's stern, that means that the frigate is faster for only 10-20 degrees of the compass. That leaves 340 degrees in which the sloop is the faster ship. The sloop is better armed, faster, and more maneuverable than the frigate. The fight is over before it starts and if the skipper of the frigate knew the firepower aboard the sloop he would put his stern to her and hope that the wind was in his favor.

There is a reason why sloops, ketches, yawls,and schooners etc. survived well into the age of steam and square-rigged ships didnt. They were a technological improvement. Even in the age of fighting sail, the only dissandvantage that the sloop has is severly inferior armament. We solve that problem quite happily with the inclusion of the ma deuce.

Shaughn Leayme
December 31, 2006, 07:25 AM
In the America's cup we are talking about the absolute refinement of the sloop, not the case in 1812, the Frigate could put guns on the sloop, because no ships captain would be chasing from dead astern, he will set up so that a bow chaser can be brought to bear. In a stern chase, the captain, could and would manhandle a large gun around to it's maximum allowable arc, to get the biggest gun he could to bear on target.

The normal maximum range of the frigate guns is 2000 yards, without skip shotting, which can extend that range to 2900 yards, the preferred maximum range is 1600 yards, with the closer the better.

The cannons of the age were not inferior and were quite accurate and they only need a few hits, to do serious damage to the sloop, because a sloop at 70 tons is a whole lot lighter than the 2200 ton USS Constitution, then too the limited crew onboard the sloop versus that of the frigate.

Historically the speed of a sloop was anywhere from 10 - 14 knots, which is the same speed as most of the frigates, many larger first and second rates were capable of 9 knots under sail.

Try to call the fall of shot of 4-10 .50 cal bullets beyond 1600 yards, when the trace element is burnt out or almost burnt out, then do the same thing with a 9,12,18,24 pounder cannon, I know what is easier. Also reference the beaten zone in previous post, 55 yards long = 165 feet by 4 yards wide= 12 feet for a burst, this means you are shotgunning at this range with burst fire or even sustained fire, adn this without figuring in the movement of the sloop and other problems associated with long range firing.

The captain of the frigate will also be firing on the uproll, when both the bow is climbing the next wave and rolling slightly, he will do it at the exact same point, from his much stabler platform and the splash of the round shot is much easier to see at range.

A sloop is better armed and a frigate will run from it?

Armament of the sloop of the day (1812), not the later upgunned and better designed sloops of the 1830's and onwards, was up to about 16 guns (depending on source quoted) with the standard being 4 pounder, but 6 pounder's were sometimes encountered, the standard armament of even a light frigate, was 9 pounder bow chasers and 12 pounder longs, the larger ships had 18's, 24's and 32 pounders, not counting carronades and mortars, that sometimes found there way onto ships.

The sloop with a .50 is no more a threat to the frigate, than it was with the 4 or 6 pounder guns, because it has to get close to do any type of significant damage and that plays right into the hands of the Frigate. any attempt to beat upwind of the frigate, play's into the hands of the frigate, with it's greater weight of steel. He just need's to place you within range of his gun's and will alter his course to do that.

The reason that the sloop, ketches, yawls and the like remained viable was they were small, easily handled and fast, while at the same time could handle a fair sized cargo and operate close inshore. The larger ships, disappeared directly due to steam and the wooden sailing warship disappeared, due the introduction of both exploding shell's and steam. Though many navies retained them much longer, because of the cost of replacing them, for unlike a commercial venture, the government derived no income from the construction of new ship's to help defray construction cost's.

December 31, 2006, 12:12 PM

In order for the sloop to stay clear of a broadside while the frigate is turning, It would have to be able to turn and then clear about (pi)*.5 nautical mile during the time it takes the frigate to turn to bring a broadside about to be able to stay clear of the frigates guns. This is figuring a initial 2000 yard engagement range, the distances the sloop has to move to stay clear of a broad side get larger the farther the sloop is away from the frigate up to the effective range of frigates guns.

December 31, 2006, 12:21 PM
The cannons of the age were not inferior and were quite accurate and they only need a few hits, to do serious damage to the sloop, because a sloop at 70 tons is a whole lot lighter than the 2200 ton USS Constitution, then too the limited crew onboard the sloop versus that of the frigate.

The cannon of the age certainly is inferrior to modern weaponry, thats why we dont use them anymore. A .50 BMG will likely penetrate better than any roundball fired from a cannon of the 19th century. Again, this is why we switched.

The normal maximum range of the frigate guns is 2000 yards, without skip shotting, which can extend that range to 2900 yards, the preferred maximum range is 1600 yards, with the closer the better.

Yeah, in the same way that the maximum lethal range of a .22LR is over a mile. The actual range at which one could effectively employ the weapons (as in actually hitting their taget) was significantly less, are are talking about smoothbore roudball being fired from a cannon that is aimed by "walking in" here. The effective range may well be 2000 yards, meaning that the ball is still moving fast enough to hole a ship, but the range at which the cannon can be aimed and expected to hit the target is more like 250 yards. Take away that mythic 1600-2000 yard range and the battle swings back to the sloop which *can* put effective fire into the ship at that range.

For a better illustration of the effectiveness of the 50BMG against wooden boats one could consider that WWII aircraft with the same armament could easily straffe a wooden boat to oblivion in short order. The gun is capable of the job, has longer range than cannon of the era, and fires at an exponentially higher rateof fire.

[QUOTE][Try to call the fall of shot of 4-10 .50 cal bullets beyond 1600 yards, when the trace element is burnt out or almost burnt out, then do the same thing with a 9,12,18,24 pounder cannon, I know what is easier./QUOTE]

As far as walking in your shots the rate of fire of the .50 compared to the bow chasers of the frigate is going to make the job easier for the sloop. Yes, the splashes will be harder to see, but rather than firing and spending the better part of a minute reloading, the sloop is laying a constant stream onto the frigate to make the job a lot easier.

December 31, 2006, 12:45 PM
How soon do you have to replace the barrel on the 50 BMG and how does that interact with giving the frigate time to do whatever? Does the sloop have unlimited barrels?

December 31, 2006, 01:26 PM

You gotta remember, the effective range of that .50 cal at sea is not going to be 2000 yards either, IIRC from other posters from experience, it was used at ranges of around 300 to 400 yards. How much penetration is the .50 going to have at 2000 yards?

While the frigates guns were generally used at much closer range historically, they were also fighting much heavier armored ships also and needed to be that close. At 2000 yards, I imagine a 24 pound ball would still penetrate the sloops hull quite readily, if its skipping, it will be penetrating very close to the waterline.

Figuring 38 guns, the topic premise, 19 guns on each side, and a 90 second reload cycle, the frigate can effectively shoot a new cannonshot every five seconds continuosly. I imagine the cannon crews will have the range ball parked pretty quickly. How long till they get lucky enough to hit an object with the dimensions of the sloop?

I understand that technology changes, and that black power cannons are antiquated, but just because the .50 cal is a modern weapon does not make it all powerful compared to all older weapons, weapon systems and superior manpower. It is like saying that one guy with a ma duece can fight off 600 men with black powder rifles coming after him.

Shaughn Leayme
December 31, 2006, 01:31 PM
The barrel of a 50 cal is figured to be burned out at 3000 rounds when used in a sustained fire role.

The engagement range is taken from period pieces that list several battles and if the guns were so inaccurate and inefficient then the navy's of the time would not have developed such detailed firing charts and determined the most effective and maximum ranges, the information is out there, in print.

The evolution of the cannon is ongoing, smooth bore rather crude to whitworth rifled breach loaders and parrot rifles, to 16 inch guns on a battle ship and from the napolean 12 pounder to modern 105 mm howitzers and other guns, that is why we quit using the original, they became obsolete, but it was not an instant change.

But the effectiveness of your 50's was because there was 4/6/8 guns mounted in the wings and the plane was coming in at a high rate of speed and in most of the wooden ships and freighter's had no real means of repulsing the attack, and it was several strafing runs at close range, so I don't see the relevancy. put 1 50 on the plane and see how long it takes, you would probably run out of ammo before you sank it.

We have acknowledged that the 50 can do damage, but what we are discussing is how effective it can be at range and even if you are using the 50 in the sustained fire role, what about the beaten zone at 2000 yards, the fact that the ships are moving the fact that the frigate is not going to be sitting there letting you shoot unmolested, the fact that you are going to need to somehow constantly figure the range and deflection and walking fire onto a target at sea, the effective trace is only about 1600 yards with you bobbing up and down is not easy.

The maximum point blank range according to charts of the British /Spanish and French navies for a gun in the 18-32 pounder long barrel cannon was 1700 yards and maximun know range to a hit was 2000 yards.

So we have a 50 with a shotgun pattern at 2000 yards, but then at 1600 yards we still have a shotgun pattern and we are now within the pointblank range of the ships cannons.

How many minutes would it take for a competent gunner to range on a target at 1600 yards, he already knows where his gun shoot's at 1600 yards and at 2000 yards and with careful addition or subtraction of powder and maybe a little elevation adjustment, he is going to take very few shots before he is on and the sloop is in trouble.

The 50 caliber is not a cannon and it's value is in short range engagements, reason why cannons 20 mm or larger generally fill the need for medium antiship roles and for early anti air role.

December 31, 2006, 04:17 PM
You gotta remember, the effective range of that .50 cal at sea is not going to be 2000 yards either, IIRC from other posters from experience, it was used at ranges of around 300 to 400 yards. How much penetration is the .50 going to have at 2000 yards?

Probably not much, but the point here is that all the factors that limit the range of the .50 are limiting the range of the frigates guns too, only more so due to the nature of 18th century gunnery. If the .50 is going to be unusably innacurate at 400 yards then the frigates guns will be even more limited.

December 31, 2006, 04:31 PM
[There is a reason why sloops, ketches, yawls,and schooners etc. survived well into the age of steam and square-rigged ships didnt. They were a technological improvement.]

c yeager,
The sloop of 1812 was gaff rigged with canvas sails, hemp rigging, etc. The reason why the frigate is going to be faster is the longer waterline length and the ability to set more sail. The formula for calculating hull speed is as follows: 1.34 x (square root of the waterline length). A vessel with a 100 foot waterline has a theoretical max hull speed of 13.4 knots or about 15.41 miles per hour. A vessel with a 50 foot water line has a speed of 9.38 knots or 10.8 miles per hour. A knot or nautical mile per hour is 1.15 mph.

[Have you *ever* seen a square rigged ship even participating in a race in the last 200 years?]

The speed of a clipper ship was about 17 kts on average. For quite a while the transatlantic and transpacific speed records where held by Yankee Clippers even though steam power had come into use. Given the choice of crossing either ocean in a race against a modern sloop in the 50 to 60 foot range I would take the frigate. Or better yet, the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle.

[For a better illustration of the effectiveness of the 50BMG against wooden boats one could consider that WWII aircraft with the same armament could easily straffe a wooden boat to oblivion in short order. The gun is capable of the job, has longer range than cannon of the era, and fires at an exponentially higher rateof fire.]

The wooden boats you are talking about were PT boats or small wooden trawlers or yachts converted for wartime use. PT boats were made of plywood. Frigates had hull thicknesses measured in feet.

You brough up some good points but if you go back to the original post you will see that we are talking about a frigate and sloop from the same era. A modern large racing sloop may be able to outsail a frigate but not the type of sloop that was around in 1812. The simple physics of hull length and drag give the speed advantage to the frigate. Because the have the same sail and hull and rigging materials the sloop will not be able to sail that much closer to the wind to make a difference, and on a reach or run it will be soundly trounced.

As far as the ineffectiveness of a cannon vs the .50, I'd rather stand behind 3 feet of oak and have someone shoot at me with a .50 from 2000 yards than stand behind 1 foot of oak and have someone shoot a 32 pound cannon ball at me from the same range.

Shaughn Leayme
December 31, 2006, 04:36 PM
The point you may be missing here is that the Frigate is a much more stable platform in an equal sea state versus the sloop, so while you are bouncing around (for the sake of brevity) more on the sloop and most likely heeling somewhat more due to the press of sail, since you are trying to keep out of the frigates optimum gunnery range and still be able to engage with the 50, the frigate is not rolling any where near the same and while the 50 has to keep firing when in the trough or coming up the crest of the wave, which will play havoc with your target acquisition (no compensating gunsight or mount and plain old iron sights), the frigate can choose to fire at the most advantageous moment, thereby cutting down the variables and if anything improving the odds of getting a solid hit.

The time frame 1800, saw a rather large leap in gunnery, sights and flintlock firing systems were beginning to be common place, more care in casting the guns (metallurgy) and shot were being employed, the early introduction of exploding shell's and even the employment of hot shot while at sea:what: double shotting and the various forms of nastiness that were being fired out of the cannons and carronades, bar shot, chain shot, cannister and on and on.

It was the start of another arms race and many of the basics of naval gunnery used today started and were refined in the 18th century.

December 31, 2006, 09:14 PM
The sloop of 1812 was gaff rigged with canvas sails, hemp rigging, etc. The reason why the frigate is going to be faster is the longer waterline length and the ability to set more sail. The formula for calculating hull speed is as follows: 1.34 x (square root of the waterline length). A vessel with a 100 foot waterline has a theoretical max hull speed of 13.4 knots or about 15.41 miles per hour. A vessel with a 50 foot water line has a speed of 9.38 knots or 10.8 miles per hour. A knot or nautical mile per hour is 1.15 mph.

Right, the hull speed for the frigate is higher than the sloop. Noone is denying that. The difference is sail layout, and that difference is what makes the sloop faster in most conditions than the frigate. The frigate cannot tack into the wind as the sloop can. As I said before, in all circumstances save for a tailwind, the sloop is faster. Hull speed doesnt make a vessel faster than it's sails.

Additionally, the quick-and-dirty method for calculating hull-speed assumes that all other factors are equal. Assuming that the two ships are of identical proportions then it gives accurate enough results. The dimensions of a sloop and a frigate are not proportional, and therefore the comparison is far from perfect. But yes, the frigate does have a faster hull speed, just not as much faster as it may seem, and again, irrelevant outside of a vacuume.

December 31, 2006, 09:55 PM
Reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch from the 1980's when Kirk Douglas was a guest on the show: "What if Sparticus Had a Piper Cub"

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