Cannon operation (18th century)

Cannon operation (18th century)

The cannon was an important type of firearms at the beginning of modern history, widespread both on land and water.



cannon, cannon operation, artillery, barrel, carriage, cannonball, gunpowder, fuse, botefeux, weapon, modern history, thrust, wadding

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Firearm on a carriage

The cannon is a muzzleloader artillery weapon.
Its history is closely related to the use of black gunpowder invented by the Chinese. It was probably brought to Europe by the Arabs and Mongolians.

One of its first – proven – military uses was during the Hundred Years’ War between the English and the French. It had first been used for the siege of fortresses and castles. Later on, it appeared in battles as well, where the opposing parties expected to break the enemy’s order of battle using the cannon. In the 16th century, the cannon appeared on warships as well, and spread to all parts of the Earth with the conquerors.

During its development, the weight of cannons decreased, while their efficiency was increased (mainly due to the appearance of steel). Several types of cannons were developed. Modern armies also use this type of artillery.


Structure of a cannon

  • barrel
  • carriage
  • fuse
  • pricker

Structure and operation

The most important structural part of a cannon is the barrel. At the beginning barrels were made of bronze, later of copper and iron. Steel was first used as a material for cannon casting in the 19th century. With respect to the length and diameter of the barrel, the range of artillery produced during the centuries is quite diverse.
Another important part of a cannon is the support structure, also known as the carriage. Several types of support structures have evolved depending on the purpose of the cannon. The two basic categories are fixed and moving carriages.

When loading the cannon, first gunpowder is loaded into the bore. Then the projectile, or cannonball, is loaded, and finally the wadding, which serves as a sealing layer. The ignited fuse blasts the gunpowder, and the explosion results in a vast thrust against the bullet.
The projectile leaves the barrel at high speed, and moves in a flat trajectory, having a long range of explosion.

Cannon cutaway

  • barrel
  • carriage
  • black gunpowder
  • muzzle
  • cannonball
  • wadding
  • fuse
  • pricker
  • ramrod
  • gunpowder spoon
  • botefeux

Cannon operation


The first step was to load gunpowder into the bore with a spoon. The powder was then packed and wadding pushed into the bore with a ramrod. Then a cannonball was loaded into the bore. The load was sealed by more wadding and a fuse was inserted in the vent. Finally, the fuse was ignited by a botefeux. The explosion of the powder produced an enormous thrust on the projectile, which left the bore at a very high speed, this often caused the cannon to recoil if it was not fixed properly.

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