Blackpowder Cannons/artillery pieces


Rusty Shackleford
April 13, 2010, 11:03 PM
Alrighty, so I'm pretty darn interested in blackpowder cannons. I saw a few of them fired(blank obviously) during a Battle of Cowpens re-enactment when I was a kid and I've loved them ever since.

One day, I dream of owning a fully functional, full sized replica of either a Napoleon 12 pounder, or some sort of 3 inch rifled cannon. It would be sweet in the front yard, plus I'd be the automatic winner of the unofficial July 4th neighborhood explosives contest. I have a bunch of questions that I'm having trouble finding the answers to...

Are they legal???
Do I have to "get permission" and/or pay the BATFE?
How much do they run?
Where in the world would I find one assuming I could afford it?
Do they manufacture functional, full sized replicas now a days?

Any and all info you guys know would be appreciated. Thanks.

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April 13, 2010, 11:20 PM
Because they are black powder they dont fall under BATFE regs. They are legal everywhere as as I know. Here's some links for ya. These should get you started.

April 14, 2010, 09:40 AM
I'll take this from the top.

Yes, they are legal. At least at the Federal level, and usually most states.

No, there is no paperwork associated with them.

They are EXPENSIVE. You can get into a mortar for about $1200, but a full-blown, full-sized artillery piece will set you back ~$15K with all accoutrements. Think of it as a boat you can shoot.

My advice is to go over to the North-South Skirmish Association BB's cannon forum at and ask around. Those guys shoot live rounds in competition...and have a truckload of good information that they are willing to share.

April 14, 2010, 02:01 PM
Hey rusty I am one of them guys who shoot live cannons in those compititions previously mentiond, only we have a 6 pounder not a 12. Find a reenactment and ask those guys where they do live shoots and goto one if public is allowed(dont know how its run in ga). youll get a hell of a show.


April 14, 2010, 02:22 PM
In some states anything over a certain caliber can be a problem. Zoning ordinances may control noise, there are some really bizarre things local gov'ts and state governments do when a bureaucrat gets a burr up his/her butt. Depending on what police dept is called around here, you will be told that it (1) is ok, (2) it is illegal, or (3) you need a pyrotechnics display permit to fire it.

Some folks have no sense of humor and will do anything to prevent a person from having too much fun. On a 4th of July at a family picnic near Gettysburg, a guy was firing blanks in a home made cannon. It blew up and a family member was killed. The cannon owner was charged with criminal reckless endangerment. Don't know if the charges stuck. I do know he was looking at time in the state pen and had to mortgage his house to hire a lawyer.

I know folks with cannons regularly gather across the river from here, but what rules and regs are enforced over there, may be completely different than here, and both sides are in pa.

April 14, 2010, 03:20 PM
Beware of bargain cannons or used cannons; they use enough powder to cause serious injury or death.

April 14, 2010, 03:58 PM
Some folks have no sense of humor and will do anything to prevent a person from having too much fun. On a 4th of July at a family picnic near Gettysburg, a guy was firing blanks in a home made cannon. It blew up and a family member was killed. The cannon owner was charged with criminal reckless endangerment.


In the above scenario, who was the humorless person preventing people from having too much fun, the cannon owner whose cannon killed somebody or the survivors of the person who was killed? And who was the person who got deprived of having fun by this person without a sense of humor?

Loyalist Dave
April 14, 2010, 05:29 PM
You can get into a mortar for about $1200

HUH? I got into my full size, brass, grenade sized, 18th century cohorn for about $200. Small, but I still win at the 4th of July bang-contests!

My Revolutionary War buddies and I had a 2 pound galloper for a while, and we had it magnafluxed at the local airfield to make sure it didn't have any cracks or air gaps when cast.

The problem with a full sized Parrot or Napoleon, in addition to the fact it's probably more expensive than a brand new compact car, are the huge amounts of powder needed to get a really nice bang. I have found that a mountain howitzer is louder with less powder, if you like CW pieces. A galloper or grasshopper is lowder than 6 pound field piece, again with less powder. Also..., much less expensive.


April 14, 2010, 05:48 PM
You'll need about $1200 for a competition-grade mortar. Lots of fun.

April 14, 2010, 06:36 PM

See you are in Atlanta, GA. There are a couple of N-SSA teams in your area that shoot cannons. 37th GA comes immediately to mind. We do also but are further away.

Might want to touch base with some of the 37th through the Deep South Web Site. That way, you can fire the cannon a bit before buying one. find out for sure if you want to own one.

Al LaVodka
April 14, 2010, 08:46 PM
HUH? I got into my full size, brass, grenade sized, 18th century cohorn for about $200. LD
Really? U got a good deal -- why don't you tell everyone exactly where to go to share in it please!
PS: Does it look anything like the absolutely beautiful authentic, bronze, reproduction in the foreground here?

April 14, 2010, 09:25 PM

I had this swivel made for me by a nice guy in PA for under 500 - it shoots golf balls and is too much fun to be legal...but it is!

rusty from italy
April 15, 2010, 10:56 AM

Cannon and other!! The howitzer is hand made, the bronze color is fake, under the paint the barrel is carbon steel, very nice cloud of smoke ad big blast with only 1/2 pound of cannon grade black powder.
To built it we need 6 months, from october to march.

Loyalist Dave
April 15, 2010, 12:34 PM
No mine is 1/2 that size, and was the smallest of the "full sized" used. It was to toss hand grenades farther than a fellow could chuck them.

I got mine at the Ft. Frederick Market Fair, which is next weekend this year. Ft Frederick State park, Big Pool MD


April 15, 2010, 12:45 PM
Hey Dave you have any pics of your mortar?

Al LaVodka
April 15, 2010, 11:06 PM
Yeah, I'd like to see one too. The one in the picture (in front of our 3 lb'er grasshopper is, in fact, mine and is a French/Spanish repro F&I grenade-size (beer-can) launching steel-lined mortar. The English were almost exactly the same and there was nothing smaller. In fact, they were considered personal weapons and there is no known drill for them. There were some smaller shoulder-fired "belles" but I'd love to see the cites for a coehorn smaller than the one in the photo...

I'm just thinkin'... Farby. And no-one is buying an authentic repro for $200. Of any "gun" come to think of it.

Ft. Frederic is great. Better for buying pelts than crew-served weapons though.


April 16, 2010, 06:44 PM
Here's a dandy Cohorne.

Shoots V-8 juice cans a couple of hundred yards slicker than a whistle.

Al LaVodka
April 16, 2010, 09:13 PM
I hate V-8 also!
Seriously, I presume you are filling it with cement...

April 16, 2010, 09:30 PM
Yup, Cement and a loop of wire for a fluorescent streamer so I can find them and re-use them.

I also have a Sea Service Gun that fires 35mm film cans filled with cement or a 1/2 lead semi-wadcutter.

THat one will go clear through a pickup body at 100 yds or more.

April 16, 2010, 09:58 PM
Cool mortar Iggy! Whats the dimensions on it? Got any pics of it in action?

Al LaVodka
April 18, 2010, 05:16 PM
Bit of a difference...

April 18, 2010, 05:20 PM
You guys have me wanting a mortar

Al LaVodka
April 18, 2010, 05:33 PM
I also have a small swivel gun. Great for decks and defensive positions (as well as demonstrations and display). I tell nosey people its a sun-dial...

April 18, 2010, 05:37 PM
I'd like one of those for the bike. Or a small Napoleon.

April 18, 2010, 05:37 PM
Whats the bore size on that?

Al LaVodka
April 18, 2010, 06:04 PM
A little over two feet long, steel lined, about 1" bore.

April 22, 2010, 07:49 AM

I'd sell that one of mine if the urge overwhelms you.:evil:

April 30, 2010, 09:37 AM
Bore sizes using Carbon Mechanical Tubing

Beer can

OD 4.00 Wall .688 ID 2.624

Golf ball

OD 3.00 Wall .6525 ID 1.695


4v50 Gary
May 1, 2010, 09:16 PM
At the last meeting of the Company of Military Historians, John Morris brought out his swivel gun collection. His knees were hurting the next morning from hauling all that weight around.

May 1, 2010, 09:39 PM
If you just want to make a big boom, get a thundermug. They range from teacup size to something that looks like an over-sized beer stein. Simple modern ones are pretty cheap (

Here's what an 1860s model looks and sounds like when it is fired:

Al LaVodka
May 1, 2010, 10:52 PM
Where'd such a neat thing take place!

I think the real original "mugs" were actually the breech of re-loadable cannon which could also be used as little cannon/mortar in a pinch. These guns typically go back before the 18th C. (at least the larger ones do).


May 9, 2010, 11:40 PM
Wow, I never knew you could have a cannon. From my browsing, it looks like the majority of the cost is the carriage and not the cannon itself.

Al LaVodka
May 10, 2010, 09:49 PM
To be more precise, the wheels. Making the proper, stupid, artillary wheels. Regular carriage wheels won't even do (maybe on a galloper, I dunno). Chiseling the holes for the spokes. Shaving the heavy spokes. Putting the tires on. We've spent thousands on a replacement pair and had to drive 1/4 way across the country and back to get 'em.

May 10, 2010, 11:58 PM
I hear ya al our weels on our 6 pounder are 500 a pop. Sigh and we need 2 repaired or replaced this year


May 17, 2010, 07:25 PM
HUH? I got into my full size, brass, grenade sized, 18th century cohorn for about $200. Small, but I still win at the 4th of July bang-contests!

Sounds like a small mortar I bought several years ago. It appears to be a 1/2 scale repro of the English Coehorn mortar used during the late 1700's. Cast brass barrel, 2-1/4 inch bore, weighs about 25 pounds altogether.

One of my books states that "there were 2-1/4 and 3-1/2 inch mortars apparently designed for throwing hand grenades. These light weapons do not appear on any official ordnance list that has yet been found, but there are surviving specimens which tests show to have been potentially effective weapons and not just toys or models. They may well have been designed as experimental infantry weapons like the modern trench mortars. If so, it seems that they would have performed well in this role, for they throw grenades accurately far greater distances than they could be hurled by hand."

May 17, 2010, 10:51 PM
About 25 yrs ago, there was an old man near Peach Bottom, Lancaster county, PA that had a small back yard foundry and made both cannons and thunder mugs. I got a small cannon tube from him and should have bought a thunder mug. His had 1 inch bore and stood 14 inches tall, made of bronze. bases were about 7 inches in diameter.

Wonder what a group buy would cost for a couple dozen thundermugs

May 18, 2010, 06:27 AM
Several years ago I attended the High Plains Rendezvous in Larned Kansas. A gentleman put on a demonstration firing his mortar. He used bowling balls as projectiles! What fun! I've been wanting one ever since.

Cap n Ball
May 18, 2010, 09:56 AM
Here is our authentic 1832 Fort Pitt cast iron 6 pounder. In action and at rest. My friend who bought the gun and carriage wife left him for a while when she saw how much of the family funds he paid out for it. Before we had the tube sleeved for reenactment purposes we thought we would like to hear it bark. After a few beers we set it up on the shore of a nearby lake and rammed home two orange juice cans filled with concrete and wrapped in duct tape thick enough to act as a drive band to take the grooves in the tube. Thinking it would land in the lake and just splash. We had the elevation wrong and too heavy of a charge. When we fired it the cans and concrete became shrapnel and instead of hitting the lake it pretty much destroyed the end of an old barn and killed a cow. A $2000.00 mistake. NEVER mix alcohol and artillery.

May 18, 2010, 04:01 PM
I bet that didn't go over very well with your friend's wife, either....

September 12, 2010, 11:44 AM

Thought this would be a nice thread to post this link in. From AMF4 in Sweden.

September 12, 2010, 01:52 PM
they had a cast bronze swivel at a local curio shop. About 1 1/2'' bore. Looked like a dragon,probably three feet long.I wanted it bad, but the $800.00 price tag was more than the ol' lady could bear.

September 13, 2010, 09:39 PM
I have a King's howitzer...2.25" bore...cast...never fired (the fuse hole hasn't even been drilled yet). It's approx. 19 inches long and weighs close to 100 pounds! One day I'll drill it and make a carriage...although not sure what the proper carriage is for it though.
Anyone have any experience with these?

September 15, 2010, 02:33 AM
Found some info on my Daniel King's Howitzer and two showing the correct carriage!
Seems the howitzer itself sells for $3,200...I got mine in a trade.
Unfortunately, the carriage sells for close to $5,000 :banghead:
These guns were used up to and through the War of 1812...

September 15, 2010, 10:56 AM
You can get a full sized coehorn for about 1500 carrage and all. The artillery group im part of is actually lookin into getting one to supplament out cannon.


September 15, 2010, 05:59 PM
Mortars are OK, but.....

September 15, 2010, 07:32 PM
Since a howitzer is a cross between a cannon and a mortar...I'll stick with my can do the job of both!!!! :neener:

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