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A Turner Bugler, 2004

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A Monster Gun.


November and December 1863

From The Missouri Democrat, Friday, December 11, 1863.


Trial of Sir Wm. Armstrong’s Six Hundred-Pounder.

[From the Manchester Examiner, Nov. 21.]

This monster gun, which weighs about 22 tons, is 15 feet long over all, and has a bore of 18½ inches, was submitted to a trial at Shoeburyness on Thursday.  It carries a conical cast-iron hollow-headed shot weighing 600 pounds, and capable of containing a bursting charge of no less than 40 pounds of powder.  The charge used on Thursday with shot was 70 pounds, with shell 60 pounds.  By the time every thing was ready the interest of the spectators had reached the highest pitch; and it was amid exclamations of surprise and wonder from even veteran artillerists, that the men serving the gun put into it and rammed home first the powder, looking like a terrible bolster, and next the conical cast-iron hollow-headed shot, measuring nearly 30 inches in length, by 18.3 inches in diameter.  The shot is first placed in the cradle and lifted to the mouth of the gun by means of movable shear legs provided with the blocks and pulleys.  The cradle hinges on to a couple of hooks on the mouth of the piece, and holds the ponderous shot in the proper position for being rammed home.  The gun was given one degree of elevation, and the word passed that all was ready.  The last bugle call was sounded, and the great gun was fired for the first time.  The ponderous shot burst from the mouth of the piece with a terrific rush and roar, striking the sand at about 700 yards from the shore, leaping and dashing onward, ricocheting five or six times, and finally burying itself near the 4,000 yards target.  After nine rounds had been fired with the solid shot, three rounds were fired with blind shell, and the range obtained was, the first shot, 1,860 yards, and the second 1,890 yards, the elevation being five degrees.  The steel shells that are to be employed for the gun, and which will possess penetrating power superior to ordinary solid shot, will contain fifteen pounds of powder, or about equal to the charge of powder for a 68-pounder.  This monster gun will be able to send one of these steel shells a distance of 1,900 yards, and on striking an object, its effect will, it is said, be equal to that of placing the muzzle of a 68-pounder close to or through a ship’s side or fort, and firing into it with the full service charge.  Notwithstanding the men were new to the gun, it was worked with comparative facility, and after the first two or three rounds, the time required for loading and firing was ten minutes.  Twenty men were sufficient to wash, load and fire the piece.  The recoil ranged from nine feet to nine feet six inches.  The result of the trial was considered satisfactory in the highest degree.  Taking into account the weight of the gun, and of the projectile, the comparatively small charge of powder, the range and accuracy attained, the War Department have full reason to be satisfied with the gun.  The 600-pounder’s ultimate range, with higher degrees of elevation, and with seventy-five pounds of powder, may, says the Morning Post, be safely set down as 10,000 yards, or as falling short by two or three hundred yards only of six miles.