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Cannon Maintenance


Timothy
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Having read several of the historic novel series written around the English warships of the 18th century, I'm lead to believe that the dawn of each morning during a time of war was greeted with the ships being at general quarters with cannon loaded and run out. With all of the precautions that went with handling gun powder, and the several steps to load a cannon, once everything is rammed in the bore, if the cannons were not fired, how were they unloaded? 

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While I'm unsure during what condition the guns would be kept loaded...always when underway or only when enemy action was likely or expected, I doubt they were loaded and unloaded daily.  It was though probably common, at least in well-run warships, to exercise the guns regularly.  Probably have the gun crews go through all the motions except for actually loading and firing (to conserve powder and shot). I can't cite a reference nor do I have direct experience with muzzle-loaded artillery, but I suspect once the guns were actually loaded, they normally stayed in that condition until fired (with a tampion in the muzzle to keep moisture out). I'm sure there were tools for removing the wadding, shot, and powder in case of a misfire, but this operation was (is) probably inherently dangerous.  Hopefully someone else here has a good reference and can give a more accurate answer.

 

HTH,

 

Keith

 

 

 

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When fast torpedo boats and aircraft came into their own, going to Action Stations or General Quarters in a war Zone for Sunrise and Sunset became the norm, because attacking from out of the sun just coming over the horizon or dipping into it was advantageous, with the Radars and Gun Control Systems of today, not so much. Although ready service ammunition was at the gun or very close to it, it was not normal to load it, in the days of sail there was plenty of time for that and as Breach Loaders became the norm, it did not take long to load the guns. Muzzle loaders had, as part of their equipment a large screw device with a pointed end to the screw all mounted to a ramrod. It was used to work the projectial loose so it could  be withdrawn or rolled out on it own and the powder bag also was hooked and withdrawn with that tool. Fixed ammo for a breach loader all is contained and held together by the cartridge case that is manufactured with a way to control head space and to extract the cartridge with or without it being fired. With rifled guns the lands and groves do not start abruptly, there is a forcing cone built into the barrel that allows for transition for the rotating band or brass bullet jacket to fit itself. On Semi Fixed or Bag type guns, all that is there but the rammer does not ram the projectial far enough into the forcing cone that it can't be backed out with a ramrod through the muzzle if it does not follow the cartridge out with a raised muzzle for Semi Fixed Ammo, Bag Guns require the ramrod after the powder bags have been withdrawn. and are a pain in the butt unloading in any manner but through the muzzle, in other words, shooting the dam thing. Never had to unload a Bag gun, we did not load them unless we intended to shoot and the loading was done on command, not an automatic part of manning the guns. Have unloaded many times misfires from 3"50s and a few 40MM Bofers, but always attempted to get them to fire by rigging a firing circuit or in the case of the 40 MM Bofers re-cocking the firing pin. Re-cocking the firing pin on a Bofers is not taught, because it involves unlocking the breach, but by marking the side of the housing at the point the cocking lever can be moved to, too re-cock without moving the breach can safely be done. The first thing I did when going aboard a ship with Bofers was to determine that spot, and mark it with red paint. Photo of some ready service ammo and a few empty's, Mt 46, Harnett County LST 821, TF 116, TU 76.8.3, RVN 1967.

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