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Explosive Cannonballs

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Essayons!

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One of the reasons the wall thickness between the bore and the outside of a mortar is so great is so the mortar could withstand the blast if a mortar failed to fire and the "bomb" went off while it was still in the bore.
The thick walls of the mortar also added a lot of weight to it and this weight helped to reduce the recoil from firing a heavy mortar shell.

A little off topic, the mortar ships, which had multiple mortars on board used leather for their sails. Although the sails were usually furled during bombardment, cloth sails could catch fire from the blasts of the mortars.
Never heard of leather sails! Their weight would be astronomical. Critically thinking, why would they use leather sails if 99% of the time would be sailing to the destination. When the mortars went into action, the ship was anchored and the sails were furled. If you've ever been on a sailing ship, the canvas is pretty heavy as it is.
 

steam1993

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Please be advised that it is against Federal law for us peasants to own or shoot exploding projectiles. Big Brother says no!
What i have been told is you need a pyrotechnician's license. I own 5.8 in bore bronze mortar that i do live fire demo's with, use solid shot, checked on exploding ones and was told i would have to be a licensed pyrotechnician, so guess what i will try for next year.
 

tenngun

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I had read Minie’ original design had a plug in the base that would push in to the hole to expand it in to the rifling. It was found not to be necessary.
Warped in apaper cartridge how would Billy know the zinc one?
I guess it could be just the last in the pack or maybe colored, or I wonder if you would note the extra weight. Or maybe you would see it when you de papered the ball????
 

tenngun

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Never heard of leather sails! Their weight would be astronomical. Critically thinking, why would they use leather sails if 99% of the time would be sailing to the destination. When the mortars went into action, the ship was anchored and the sails were furled. If you've ever been on a sailing ship, the canvas is pretty heavy as it is.
I too had never heard that but bombs were heavy special use vessels, so I thought could be?
Siege was stable work, bombs only brought in to ‘safe’ anchorages. Often mast were struck down to the lower mast and the main yard, almost the length of the vessel tied to the chain plates on one side. Even a bare poll can rock the boat, and they wanted minimal movement.
 

Zonie

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Never heard of leather sails! Their weight would be astronomical. Critically thinking, why would they use leather sails if 99% of the time would be sailing to the destination. When the mortars went into action, the ship was anchored and the sails were furled. If you've ever been on a sailing ship, the canvas is pretty heavy as it is.
I might have been wrong about leather sails but I recall reading it somewhere. I just can't find it now......

It seemed possible though. Even with all of the sails on the forward masts furled during firing, the cotton canvas most sails were made from could easily catch fire from the muzzle blast of the mortars. Black powder makes for a very large fireball from the muzzle of a gun that is shooting it.
 

Coot

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I might have been wrong about leather sails but I recall reading it somewhere. I just can't find it now......

It seemed possible though. Even with all of the sails on the forward masts furled during firing, the cotton canvas most sails were made from could easily catch fire from the muzzle blast of the mortars. Black powder makes for a very large fireball from the muzzle of a gun that is shooting it.
I agree with the comment about leather being very (excessively?) heavy for sails. It would seem more expedient to strike the smaller sails below & to wet down the larger sails & rigging with buckets of water. Wetting the sails was a common navy trick to swell the canvas tighter in very light winds.
 

csaduck

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Bears repeating: The fine folks at BATF take a very dim view of ANY projectile that will explode after leaving the barrel of the weapon that fired it. And they will not particularly care if it's black powder.
But yet at Gun Shows you can buy "Exploding" handgun bullets loaded with magnum primers and a small amount of BP into the hollow-point of the round. They even have for sale 22's that explode with a small charge in them. (like the ones used to try and kill Pres. Reagan). The BATF might just have an allowance for small explosives in rounds ???
 

Jay Templin

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I might have been wrong about leather sails but I recall reading it somewhere. I just can't find it now......

It seemed possible though. Even with all of the sails on the forward masts furled during firing, the cotton canvas most sails were made from could easily catch fire from the muzzle blast of the mortars. Black powder makes for a very large fireball from the muzzle of a gun that is shooting it.
Sails were pretty much NEVER made of cotton in the age of sail. Linen and hemp canvas were the primary fabrics in the western world, though I have seen references to wool being used by the Norse. Cotton was more expensive than linen and hemp until the mid 19th century. It’s used some today by people who think it’s traditional.
Jay
 

Zonie

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Thanks for the information but, linen and hemp fabric also burns and burning was the subject of my comment. :)
 

Artificer

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Sorry, no.

Artillery time fuzes of the era used black powder trains. i spent over 20 years in US Army EOD units. For three years i was stationed at Fort Bragg, NC where we responded to numerous calls involving Civil War explosive ordnance. The most prevalent time fuze was the Bormann.


For a good understanding of Civil War explosive ordnance buy this book by my late friend John Bartleson:


There are also fuzes that cause detonation on impact. Rounds having the Tice concussion fuze are very dangerous. That Tice fuze contains a vial of acid that breaks on impact. We responded to the home of a man who was inerting and selling Civil War projectiles. The round that detonated had contained a Tice concussion fuze. i'm personally familiar with several deaths caused by Civil War explosive ordnance.

A USMC EOD man was seriously injured in the late 1980s while inerting a Civil War Parrot round. The last Marine casualty of the Civil War.
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In the early 1980's, for some unusual reason, I went to the Mess Hall at noon to eat aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA. (I almost never ate lunch in those days.)

Anyway when I came back, I looked to the rear of the shop and there stood a retired Marine MSgt, who ran our test shed, and he was blasting away on something in the large bead/sand blasting cabinet. No one minded him using the machine, but I was curious as he had never used it before. So I asked another NM Armorer what he was blasting? He told me, "Aw, Tommy brought in some old Civil War Cannon ball and wanted to clean it up....."

I gulped out something I can't mention on this forum and ran back to see what Tommy was blasting. When I saw it was round 12 lb Artillery shot, I pulled the plug on the machine and drug him away from it. That blasting machine gave off an incredible amount of static electricity and you could get seriously zapped just walking past it, let alone touching it. Now if it had been a solid shot, no problem, but our EOD Marines warned us heavily about static electricity around Civil War exploding shot/shells. Thank God Tommy trusted me as I drug him away from the blasting cabinet and explained the danger he might be in. There weren't many of us in the shop yet, but I had everyone move well away from the cabinet for 10 minutes.

I probably should have called EOD, but I didn't and went back and very carefully pulled the shell out of the blasting cabinet. As I turned it around in my hands, sure enough you could now see the round outline of the fuse, that had been covered with crud/corrosion before blasting. At that point, I carefully took it out of the shop and down into an area it wouldn't hurt anything if it did go off. FINALLY I called EOD and they said they would come get it, but if it hadn't gone off already, it probably wouldn't go off. So I let it sit down there the rest of the afternoon and on my way home, I gave it to a Relic Hunter who had loads of experience inerting those shells and was glad to drive away.

Gus
 

sgtsquid

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But yet at Gun Shows you can buy "Exploding" handgun bullets loaded with magnum primers and a small amount of BP into the hollow-point of the round. They even have for sale 22's that explode with a small charge in them. (like the ones used to try and kill Pres. Reagan). The BATF might just have an allowance for small explosives in rounds ???
I looked up the regulations a while back, for, uh, reasons... Apparently it's ok if there's no more than 1/4 oz. of low explosive like BP. Anything bigger is considered a destructive device and you would need an SOT and a bunch of paperwork to make one legally. High explosives are out of the question, of course. If you wanted to make an exploding shot with less than that, purely for recreational purposes, the ATF wouldn't care as long as it isn't rocker propelled.
 

desi23

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I had read Minie’ original design had a plug in the base that would push in to the hole to expand it in to the rifling. It was found not to be necessary.
Warped in apaper cartridge how would Billy know the zinc one?
I guess it could be just the last in the pack or maybe colored, or I wonder if you would note the extra weight. Or maybe you would see it when you de papered the ball????
The zinc washer bullets were know as "Wiliams Patent Cleaner" bullets if I recall correctly. At least some of them were known to be loaded in colored paper and surviving rounds have reportedly been found in blue, green and red paper instead of the normal tan or "buff" color. These were supposed to be packed one in every pack of ammo issued (5 round packs) to the soldier for the period they were in use. There may be examples loaded in the regular color paper as well with the packet wrapper simply stating one was enclosed. There was no significant weight difference that I know of. Once loaded in the soldiers pouch it probably didn't matter whether one was fired every fifth shot or randomly through a string of fire, the washer would perform a scraping action on whatever residue was in the bore
 

Okie Hog

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EOD has this handy dandy device called a .50 caliber dearmer. The dearmer consists of a barrel about one foot long that uses a special .50 caliber blank cartridge to project a slug about one inch in diameter and about three inches long (The slug was originally a roller bearing from the M4 tank). That slug will rip the fuze off an artillery projectile or bomb.

Our unit personnel at Fort Bragg used the dearmer to tear apart loaded Civil War ordnance, it busted black powder loaded cannon balls wide open. . We tested the black powder filler and found it to work well in muzzleloaders. Some of the case shot contained a matrix of sulfur, some had pine rosin and sulfur.

Tool Set MK2 Mod 1 (army.mil)
 

Bon Sauvage

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Leather sails have been around for a long while. The Celtic fleet at the battle of Morbihan, in 56 BC, were equipped with leather sails and were much more superior blue water vessels than the Roman galleys..
 

Grumpa

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The Arsenal in Pittsburgh turned out these exploding cannonballs by the thousands during the Civil War. An accidental explosion killed the most civilians of any incident in the War (mostly women employees). Same day as Antietam, so the story was lost in the bigger account.
There is now an elementary school and a City park on the site. Some years ago, workers excavating discovered a storage building buried underground, loaded with cannon balls. My Brother, a Pgh policeman, was put on guard, until the EOD people could get there. One of the balls followed him home. It was pretty cool. a sizeable portion of the outer casing was broken away, and the fuse was gone. Clearly visible were the large iron (?) projectile balls, packed in what must have been the explosive charge, though both appeared to have suffered from exposure to moisture, and seemed one solid mass. We have ancestors who fought in the CW, so it was a neat artifact. There was a divorce, and his wife called the police bomb disposal folks. Probably a good thing.

Richard/Grumpa
 

Col. Batguano

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I looked up the regulations a while back, for, uh, reasons... Apparently it's ok if there's no more than 1/4 oz. of low explosive like BP. Anything bigger is considered a destructive device and you would need an SOT and a bunch of paperwork to make one legally. High explosives are out of the question, of course. If you wanted to make an exploding shot with less than that, purely for recreational purposes, the ATF wouldn't care as long as it isn't rocker propelled.

so given that 1/4 oz of explosive / detonation charge is legal, has anyone tried to make one themselves? If so, what were your results?
 

Essayons!

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so given that 1/4 oz of explosive / detonation charge is legal, has anyone tried to make one themselves? If so, what were your results?
When you say "looked it up" , what is your source? What regulation or directive are you citing?
 

SOLANCO

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I too am curious about your source.

That said, you are talking about 110 gr, near as makes no nevermind. Presuming impact detonation with some sort of mechanism using a percussion cap the shell almost has to be stable in flight. (Would it detonate no matter how it hit?) So it needs a certain amount of mass.

Thinking about it for a black powder copy of a Stokes mortar. Fires soda cans weighted with cement. Lots of variables.
 

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