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Tag: carronade

Book Review. The Trafalgar Chronicle – 4


New Series 4

Edited by Peter Hore

Softcover.  £20 RRP.  Seaforth Publishing.


“Dedicated to Naval History in the Nelson Era”, the fourth volume in this series contains 21 essays, richly illustrated, and clearly reflecting the fact that the authors are enthusiastic, knowledgeable and articulate about their subjects.


This is a book to be read from cover to cover.  It has classy feel, the illustrations and maps are excellent, the topics interesting and eclectic within the period.


I particularly enjoyed the chapters “The Decaturs”,  “Nelson Was an Irishman”, “Russians on the Tagus”, “Captain John Perkins” (the first black officer in the Royal Navy) and “The Carronade”.  The last because this reviewer has a particular interest in carronades.  If I might take the liberty of showing a personal item….

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Photo 1  Model carronade made by the reviewer 2015

The essay by Anthony Bruce is the best description of the history of carronades which I have read.  Particularly the descriptions of naval actions where carronades made a significant contribution.


I eagerly look forward to further volumes in this series.


More Scale Stuff


There is the 1464 Turkish bombard (black), 17 tons, 307kg granite ball;  the 1779 long naval gun off USS Constitution or HMS Victory 24lb balls; and a 32lb carronade.  All 1:10 scale.  Interesting to see them together on my kitchen table?



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Models 24lb long gun and 32 lb carronade.  1:10 scale.

In a shoot out, which would win?

Doubtless, at this range, there would be no winner.

But there were quite a few battles between ships equipped with these weapons in the Napoleonic wars, the first American civil war (the War of Independence), the 1812 war between Great Britain and the US, and many others.

The long gun, manned by 9-11 highly trained gun crew, fired a ball of 24lbs weight, up to 2000 yards, with some accuracy.  The largest long guns mounted on the biggest battleships (like “Victory”) fired  balls up to 42 lbs.

The carronade was operated by 4-6 men, and fired a ball in this case of 32 lbs, at three times the rate of a long gun, but with dismal accuracy beyond 500 yards.  They were much less expensive to buy and operate, and very popular with the bean counters.  Carronades fired balls up to 68 lbs.

Since most sea battles were fought at ranges much less than 500 yards, carronades were credited with many spectacular victories.  The British were so impressed that they installed carronades in addition to the usual long gun armament, to increase the overall firepower of their ships, but later they replaced the long guns with carronades in some ships.

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In the war of 1812 between the Brits and the US, while the Brits were simultaneously engaged in a life and death struggle with the Napoleon, they were often beaten by the newer and more powerful frigates of the small US navy.  One factor cited is that the British ships had fewer and less powerful long guns, and partly because they had changed over to carronades.   The US ships remained out of effective range of the British carronades while causing huge damage with their long guns.


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Short squat and ugly vs long and elegant and expensive.  Note: no SWMBO comments.


The carronade was used by the British navy for only half a century, vs 3 centuries for long guns.

They were both replaced by guns which were rifled, fired explosive shells, and were breech loaded.

For a very detailed analysis of these weapons, including original results of British Admiralty trials and summaries of many sea battles, see Adrian Caruana’s book, “The History of English Sea Ordnance” Vol 2, 1997.  If you can locate a copy.  I found one at the State Library of Victoria.



My model carronade has quite a few very small metal (mostly brass) components.  They are fiddly and a bit difficult to hold while finishing (filing and sanding and polishing).

So I bought a tumbler which is designed for polishing metal jewelry and gemstones, and gave it a go.


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Enter a caption

It cost just under $300, including a kilo of stainless steel bits, and some polishing compound.  It is designed to run for weeks at a time when polishing rocks, but I find that 30-90 minutes is enough for my brass parts.




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The drum will hold 4lbs of parts.  Shown here are the stainless steel polishing bits.  The drum revolves quite slowly, about 30rpm.  Water is added so that the drum is just under 1/2 full.


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The before


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after 30 minutes.  It could use another 30-60 minutes of tumbling.  Not all of these bits are for the carronade.


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This is the sight for the carronade.  Complex and tiny and has sharp edges.  Ideal for the tumbler.  The CNC program diagram on the screen.

I am still experimenting with the tumbler.  So far I have used only the stainless steel shapes to do the polishing.  I will try some abrasive compounds soon.  Garnet dust seems to be the commonest abrasive.


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More bits for the tumbler


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A preview.  Almost finished.












It has been a while since I posted, but I have been busy.

Some of that has been in the workshop making a scale model carronade.

A carronade, in case you are wondering, was a muzzle loading cannon, made 1776-1852 in the Scottish town of Carron, by the Carron company.  And subsequently much copied elsewhere.

It is a cannon which is short, squat and ugly.

Weighs about 1/3 as much as an equivalent bore long gun, (see previous posts), requires only 3 men to operate (compared to 9-11 for a long gun), and can fire balls or other nasties at 3 times the rate as long guns.

2 carronades, 68 pounders,  were on the foredeck of Nelson’s “Victory”, and they caused huge damage  at Trafalgar.   Can you imagine loading a 68 pound cannon ball into the muzzle of a hot cannon?   Many actions proved the killing power of carronades, and the British Admiralty were so impressed that they replaced long guns with carronades on many of their ships.

The French, and Americans were less rapid to  access this new technology, although Napoleon, who was an artillery officer, was adamant that the French navy should have the carronades installed as quickly as possible.

The British equipped some of their ships almost exclusively with carronades, and at close quarters they were devastating and they won some notable victories.

Unfortunately, although they were devastating at close quarters, they did not have the accuracy or range of long guns beyond about 500 meters.

So in the war between the Brits and the Yanks in 1812, the Americans found that all they had to do to win at sea and on the Great Lakes, was for their frigates to remain beyond the carronade range, and shoot their long guns, with many victories, and great frustration of the Brits, who were not used to losing naval battles.

Carronades were commonly installed on merchant ships, privateers, pirate ships, and small naval vessels, due to their relatively light weight, and small gun crew. But the Royal Navy stopped using them from 1852, when breech loaders were the latest new technology being installed wherever possible.

I decided to make another 1:10 scale model cannon.  A 32 pounder carronade, the same scale as the previously blogged 24 pounder long gun, to put them side by side for comparison.

It is almost finished.  I will post some photos soon.  Look forward to squat and ugly.