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Sailing Ship Armament Glossary

Ballistics—the science dealing with the motion of projectiles.

Barbette carriage—as used here, a traverse carriage on which a gun is mounted to fire over a parapet.

Bomb, bombshell—see projectiles.

Breechblock—a movable piece which closes the breech of a cannon.

Caliber—diameter of the bore; also used to express bore length. A 30-caliber gun has a bore length 30 times the diameter of the bore.

Cartridge—a bag or case holding a complete powder charge for the cannon, and in some instances also containing the projectile.

Casemate carriage—as used here, a traverse carriage in a fort gunroom (casemate). The gun fired through an embrasure or loophole in the scarp of the room.

Chamber—the part of the bore which holds the propelling charge, especially when of different diameter than the rest of the bore; in chambered muzzle-loaders, the chamber diameter was smaller than that of the bore.

Elevation—the angle between the axis of a piece and the horizontal plane.

Fuze—a device to ignite the charge of a shell or other projectile.

Grommet—a rope ring used as a wad to hold a cannonball in place in the bore.

Gun—any firearm; in the limited sense, a long cannon with high muzzle velocity and flat trajectory.

Howitzer—a short cannon, intermediate between the gun and mortar.

Lay—to aim a gun.

Limber—a two-wheeled vehicle to which the gun trail is attached for transport.

Mandrel—a metal bar, used as a core around which metal may be forged or otherwise shaped.

Mortar—a very short cannon used for high or curved trajectory firing.

Point-blank—as used here, the point where the projectile, when fired from a level bore, first strikes the horizontal ground in front of the cannon.

Projectiles—canister or case shot: a can filled with small missiles that scatter after firing from the gun. Grape shot: a cluster of small iron balls, which scatter upon firing. Shell: explosive missile; a hollow cast-iron ball, filled with gunpowder, with a fuze to produce detonation; a long, hollow projectile, filled with explosive and fitted with a fuze. Shot: a solid projectile, non-explosive.

Quoin—a wedge placed under the breech of a gun to fix its elevation.

Range—The horizontal distance from a gun to its target or to the point where the projectile first strikes the ground. Effective range is the distance at which effective results may be expected, and is usually not the same as maximum range, which means the extreme limit of range.

Rotating band—a band of soft metal, such as copper, which encircles the projectile near its base. By engaging the lands of the spiral rifling in the bore, the band causes rotation of the projectile. Rotating bands for muzzle-loading cannon were expansion rings, and the powder blast expanded the ring into the rifling grooves.

Train—to aim a gun.

Trajectory—curved path taken by a projectile in its flight through the air.

Transom—horizontal beam between the cheeks of a gun carriage.

Traverse carriage—as used here, a stationary gun mount, consisting of a gun carriage on a wheeled platform which can be moved about a pivot for aiming the gun to right or left.

Windage—as used here, the difference between the diameter of the shot and the diameter of the bore.

parts of a cannon

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