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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I want to get involved in black powder cannons. Specifically I would like to buy a scaled down barrel and build a carriage for it. I value historical accuracy and the build process, but I don't have an excess of time to build something like a field carriage (I have 3 young kids and perhaps a naval carriage would be more manageable). my primary interest is in learning about cannons, while enjoying shooting. I have access to a stellar private black powder range in Des Moines, IA. I have a lot of black powder experience and have read nearly every post on this forum, but I still don't know where to put my money.

I started down the rabbit hole with Coaches Club Cannons, but heed to the warnings brought up by folks on this post. The tensile strength of modern steels is astounding, but I believe I would like something safer.

1" bore seems reasonable to a single Cannoneer, though I can't shake the feeling I want to go a bit bigger. I was nearly set on buying a Brooks 24 pounder and building a naval carriage, but the tube seems too short. As stated above my purpose is to learn about cannons and shoot. I want something that is long enough for a full burn and something I can really peg targets with down range. I have 50 years of lead in a hillside to cast.

I would like to stay around $1000.00 dollars all said and done with barrel, carriage construction, implements, ball mold and powder (if possible). I can forge and build a carriage and implements on the cheap. The last time I bought powder (for a competition flintlock build), it was $200.00 bucks for 5 lbs because of hazmat shipping.

So, in summary, what should I purchase that will satisfy #1 - safety, economy, time, build, accuracy, and beginner cannon itch? Does anyone have something for sale?


I prefer phone conversations, if someone has an interest in helping.


-J
 

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I suggest something with a 1.750 bore (golf ball size). That way the balls are cheap.
WM sells low grade golf balls cheap. At least they used to.
At a max 200 grains of 3FG (140 shots per pound of bp) you won't break the bank.
You'll get at least 400 yards from that.
 
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-J

Welcome to the board, always nice to see a new face around here. You have come to the right place and already got some great ideas.

At best you are going to shoot no more than 100 yards. with the size cannon we are talking about here. The 400 yards Jeeper talks about is optimistic. But having shot that far, it is not impossible.

Inch bore is a good way to go. Any gun you build in this size is going to be a substantial gun. Projectiles are available. See the active discussion post on that on the board.

I have a couple of inch bore guns. I have an upscaled model of the 1841 42 PDR that is on the U.S.S. Cairo "docked" at Vicksburg Battle field. And I have a Brooks Napoleon. these are good size guns, but well capable of being crewed by one man. But they weight in around 65 to 75 lbs.

Jeeper who has been around here for a very long time has a great idea about Golf ball bore. I think he has a gun of that size. Jack Hern offers up his Carronnade, but I wish he did that gun with an 1-3/4 liner so you could shoot golf balls.

We have a Golf Ball bore gun in our house but it hasn't been shot as it has a stepped reduced chamber which we hope to get fixed soon. This make up into a very nice size gun right at the top of the one man shootable gun size. I have a 2 1/8" bore gun that I have only shot blanks from and it is chore to work with a one man crew.

Golf balls are horrible projectiles, but if you have a cannon that will shoot them, you must do it. Rotometals does have zinc golf ball bore size balls.

If I were looking for a project gun right now, I would look at Brooks and ask for an Inch gun in his 32 PDR or get a Hern 1841 6 PDR in half scale. The 1841 pattern can be made up into a field gun or put on a naval carriage.

I will be passing through Des Moines Friday. I don't think I would have time to stop. We have a stop in Newton and then will over night in Bethany Mo.

Check you PM's.
 

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I agree with the 1 inch bore for both one man crew and a new person to cannons.

There are so many advantages to this size gun. Weight being a big one, just pick it up, put it in the car and off to the range you go. Maybe I’m just old and weak, but they are convenient in that regard.

Economics of firing, at 180 grains and relatively cheap ammo if you live fire, you can’t beat it. You can still fire lead rounds at one inch, this being about the max bore you want to fire heavy lead rounds and lead is inexpensive to cast yourself. Zinc rounds from rotometals a good option too, while there compare the costs of the larger balls. rotometal.com.

1 inch guns still pack a punch and you and whomever else is watching will be impressed. Sure you have watched some videos.

I have two of Michael Brooks brass one inch. A standard 1 inch 32 pounder and a custom 1 inch 32 pounder. The standard one looks almost the same as the 24 pounder, same dimension, just the profile of the 32 pounder. The custom tube is 20 inches long and looks really good. This will bust your budget, but for something that will be with you the rest of your life, worth waiting on.

I love bronze cannons and that drove me towards Brooks when I was first starting out.

Makingthe carriage is still affordable at the one inch size with standard red oak from your big box hardware store.

There are certainly virtues to a golfball size cannon, but for me the 1 inch bore gun was the right fit. The guns made by Hern are beautiful as well as the other makers who support this site. I really felt comfortable purchasing a gun from one of the site sponsors here as they all post regularly and are available to help with questions. They all have a passion for cannons.
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Good luck and keep posting as this project comes together. There are some very helpful build threads when you get to the carriage stage posted in the stickies, especially helpful to me were the ones from Douglas DD documenting his SAMCC build and Zulu with his naval carriage builds. I used those to build the ochre carriage pictured which is also on the stickies.

The book Building 18th Century Naval Carriages, Privateer Media was a very valuable resource. It is out of print, but you can find used copies and the publisher/author is promising a second edition within months (truth be told this has been promised for a long time, but eventually.
 

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If the publication..."THE ARTILLERYMAN" is in print I suggest you subscribe to it. Its a wealth of information...Vendors....and Sources.

TiredIron
 

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If the publication..."THE ARTILLERYMAN" is in print I suggest you subscribe to it. Its a wealth of information...Vendors....and Sources.

TiredIrin
I was offered a 13 inch barrel in 1 inch bore, l opted for a .75 caliber, simply because 0.735 musket balls are widely available and fairly cheap. Something to think about.
 

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If the publication..."THE ARTILLERYMAN" is in print I suggest you subscribe to it. Its a wealth of information...Vendors....and Sources.

TiredIrin
Yes, The Artilleryman magazine is still in publication and very worthwhile. Thankful I stumbled across it and makes my day when it arrives.

 

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-J

We have a Golf Ball bore gun in our house but it hasn't been shot as it has a stepped reduced chamber which we hope to get fixed soon.
Can you expand on what you mean here? By "stepped reduced chamber", do you mean the bore is reduced back at the breech? Please explain why is that a problem. I have a golf ball cannon that has a stepped reduced bore chamber. The chamber is just about the size of a plastic film canister. I have fired this cannon, both with and without a golf ball, hundreds of times. Here is a picture of the bore, to make sure we are talking about the same thing.
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I suggest something with a 1.750 bore (golf ball size). That way the balls are cheap.
WM sells low grade golf balls cheap. At least they used to.
At a max 200 grains of 3FG (140 shots per pound of bp) you won't break the bank.
You'll get at least 400 yards from that.
Isn't FFF awful fast for a cannon? For blanks in my golf ball cannon, I use a full film canister of Skirmish Grade 1 powder (about 450 grains weighed), and about 3/4 film canister with a golf ball.
 

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I suspect you are using loose powder and you are tipping the barrel up to load. Is that correct? With larger heavier cannons this is awkward and thus a bit unsafe. Larger cannons should be loaded with a foil cartridges That way muzzle can always be controlled and pointed down range and you can load without getting body parts in front of the muzzle. . .

Example often seen and what we have in our gun. 1.72 golf bore stepped down to 1 inch chamber. The chamber being 1 1/2" deep. Powder is loaded in foil cartridges. How do you get that 1 inch diameter cartridge in the 1 inch chamber 18-20 inches down the bore?

Mortars can be loaded loose because you can use a funnel to load as the barrel is at an angle fixed in place.

Some howitizers had reduce chamber but they usually had a tapered chamber and a special sabotted round with tapered charge attached.

There seems to be practice making stepped or reduced chamber just to use a smaller piece steel and have a larger. bore.

The safety guidelines recommend that the wall over the chamber be one caliber thick minimum. If the diameter of the chamber is 1 inch then the wall should also, I you are making a cannon with 1 inch bore then diameter of the barrel over the chamber should be 3 inches.

If you made a golf ball cannon your barrel would need to be 5.16". (3 x 1.72") To avoid having to use this large piece steel people use the 3 inch steel, leaving the chamber 1 inch and the forward part of the bore 1.72".

Some have built special funnels to load the cartridge and that is fine. But with out special tools you have tip the gun up and load loose powder. Tipping a cannon this size up for loading is hazardous.
 

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Thanks for the info. Yes, my cannon is angle adjustble, but it usually sits at about a 45 degree angle and I load it by just dumping loose powder in from a plastic film canister, being careful to keep head & hands away from the muzzle. It's small and light enough that, if necessary, I can just stand the whole thing on end so it is vertical, but usually I just leave it set at 45 degrees.

I've had a much bigger cannon barrel (from Dixie Gun Works) for years, but just haven't had time to make a carriage for it, so I've never fired it. I plan to use powder capsules in aluminum foil with that one.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Take a look at the half scale carronade on the Hern Iron Works website. That might be something you may like.
1-½” bore. 72#. Several in stock.
This is definitely on my list. Does this come in golfball sized bore? I believe you state on the website that the 1.5" bore is to accommodate the narrow neck.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I agree with the 1 inch bore for both one man crew and a new person to cannons.

There are so many advantages to this size gun. Weight being a big one, just pick it up, put it in the car and off to the range you go. Maybe I’m just old and weak, but they are convenient in that regard.

Economics of firing, at 180 grains and relatively cheap ammo if you live fire, you can’t beat it. You can still fire lead rounds at one inch, this being about the max bore you want to fire heavy lead rounds and lead is inexpensive to cast yourself. Zinc rounds from rotometals a good option too, while there compare the costs of the larger balls. rotometal.com.

1 inch guns still pack a punch and you and whomever else is watching will be impressed. Sure you have watched some videos.

I have two of Michael Brooks brass one inch. A standard 1 inch 32 pounder and a custom 1 inch 32 pounder. The standard one looks almost the same as the 24 pounder, same dimension, just the profile of the 32 pounder. The custom tube is 20 inches long and looks really good. This will bust your budget, but for something that will be with you the rest of your life, worth waiting on.

I love bronze cannons and that drove me towards Brooks when I was first starting out.

Makingthe carriage is still affordable at the one inch size with standard red oak from your big box hardware store.

There are certainly virtues to a golfball size cannon, but for me the 1 inch bore gun was the right fit. The guns made by Hern are beautiful as well as the other makers who support this site. I really felt comfortable purchasing a gun from one of the site sponsors here as they all post regularly and are available to help with questions. They all have a passion for cannons.
View attachment 254114 View attachment 254115


Good luck and keep posting as this project comes together. There are some very helpful build threads when you get to the carriage stage posted in the stickies, especially helpful to me were the ones from Douglas DD documenting his SAMCC build and Zulu with his naval carriage builds. I used those to build the ochre carriage pictured which is also on the stickies.

The book Building 18th Century Naval Carriages, Privateer Media was a very valuable resource. It is out of print, but you can find used copies and the publisher/author is promising a second edition within months (truth be told this has been promised for a long time, but eventually.
This is exactly what I think I am looking for. Very beautiful work. I figure if Brooks were to make a custom tube at 20" it would be close to the price of the napoleon, maybe a bit less as the 32 pounder taper is more strait and probably takes a bit less turning work. What did you pay, and what was the turnaround once you contacted Brooks if you don't mind me asking?

Not to beat a dead horse about loads on this forum, but I thought I would ask:
I have read everything I can about cannon charges, and it varies across the board from extreme to sub-military loads. Everyone on this forum points to the Switlik charts, which I think make intuitive sense, but are a bit undercharged. As I stated in the beginning, I am all about safety, but I also want to shoot 2 - 300 yards and make hits. I plan to work up loads within safe constraints, in the same manner that I have done for various other black powder firearms. I am generally more interested in accuracy than making ears bleed, but I would like to have confidence in stouter loads (for a firearms example, I compete with 50gr. FFFg in my .54's at 25 and 50 yards, but shoot 85 gr. at 100 yards. I hunt with 100gr. and shoot 125 gr. at 200 yards). Does anyone load with 3Fg as mentioned earlier in the thread?

Fredstaple, what kind of loads does your bigger Brooks 32 like for blanks, and for live fire? I plan to contact Brooks as well on his recommendations if I decide to go that route. DoubleD, and others - What do your 1" bore guns like?

This is great help. Thanks guys.
 

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This is a Brooks Napoleon on one of my carriages. They very nice barrels.

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This is a video of one of these things firing a blank charge. It appears to me to be overloaded.



These guns can be seen on my website here.
Zulu

 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
This is a Brooks Napoleon on one of my carriages. They very nice barrels.

View attachment 254143

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This is a video of one of these things firing a blank charge. It appears to me to be overloaded.



These guns can be seen on my website here.
Zulu

This is awsome. Thanks! You do beautiful work. Some day I may commission you.
 

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Not to beat a dead horse about loads on this forum, but I thought I would ask:
I have read everything I can about cannon charges, and it varies across the board from extreme to sub-military loads. Everyone on this forum points to the Switlik charts, which I think make intuitive sense, but are a bit undercharged.
Switlik has been involved in the developing the Load charts for the North South Skirmish Association. He did pressure gun test using an original 3 inch Ordnance Rifle with black powder. The small gun chart we post comes from Switliks Book, the "The More Complete Cannoneer". Long out of print, expensive when found and long past promised for an updated edition. The Chart is spin off of the pressure tests and is posted here by permission. Switlik warns in his book to start ridiculously low and work up. it is sound advice. The recommendation on his chart is a maximum loads. And, you don't always need to go that high to achieve your goal.

So far I have yet to see, in 20 years sitting on this forum and 36 years shooting small cannon any other credible load chart for small cannon. I have seen a number charts put out that have no source and seem to be just pulled out of a hat. The worst are those suggest by small cannon makers/sellers who come and go. And don't get me started with "good ole boys" who say, " I have been shooting this load for years with out a problem". That phrase is the same one we hear said after almost every cannon accident.

My first real cannon sits over in the corner. (1841 Pattern scaled from 42 PDR on the USS Cairo, pictured below). Built in 1984 of 4140, the barrel with 1 inch bore is well capable of far exceeding the maximum loads on Switliks chart. The gun with platform weighs 65 lbs. I shoot 180 grains of cannon grade in it. I use a lead round ball in this gun. This gun shoots quite well with this load. I have never shot at target further than 100 yard with this gun. I have a inch cylindrical mould that casts slugs that weighs 7 ounces. Using the maximum load from Switlik chart and that 7 oz. slug, the recoil is vicious enough to flip that gun up of the ground in full recoil even with arresting gear and platform.

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While the barrel of my cannon strong enough to deal with the pressure developed firing this gun, the carriage is not. Fire to many of these loads and your carriage will start to loosen up and even break.. I no longer fire this slug in this gun. I shoot strictly round ball


As I stated in the beginning, I am all about safety, but I also want to shoot 2 - 300 yards and make hits. I plan to work up loads within safe constraints, in the same manner that I have done for various other black powder firearms. I am generally more interested in accuracy than making ears bleed, but I would like to have confidence in stouter loads (for a firearms example, I compete with 50gr. FFFg in my .54's at 25 and 50 yards, but shoot 85 gr. at 100 yards. I hunt with 100gr. and shoot 125 gr. at 200 yards). Does anyone load with 3Fg as mentioned earlier in the thread?
This pretty optimistic and I won't say impossible, because we have done it a number of times. But it is not practical. Normally the full scale NSSA guns shoot at 200 yards. But they also have a couple of matches-Grayling comes to mind where they shoot further, 1000 yards. I won't try to discourage you either. Go for it! But I say to start focus on learning how to make your gun shoot at 50 or 100 yards. Then start moving out to those longer ranges, incrementally. keep good notes.. But if you start at 300 you are going to be searching for the target and get discouraged very quickly.

Keep us advised here on progress and problems, somebody here my be able advise and guide you

I say no to FFFG in cannons. Switliks test with full size guns included test with Cannon grade and Fg powders. He found that equal charges of FG produced a 40% increase in pressure with no meaning full increase velocity.

I shoot .75 Musket and a 577/500 No. 2 Express both with 130 grains of Fg. These give very impressive recoil and first timers seldom want to try a second shot. But these are shoulder fired weapons that we can control, not a cannon that is in free motion when recoiling.

I spent 10 years building a bowling ball mortar to shoot a bowling ball a mile. I did it. But the very first shot of a bowling ball out of the gun only went about 25 yards.

Fredstaple, what kind of loads does your bigger Brooks 32 like for blanks, and for live fire? I plan to contact Brooks as well on his recommendations if I decide to go that route. DoubleD, and others - What do your 1" bore guns like?

This is great help. Thanks guys.
[/QUOTE]

My blank loads for the inch guns is 180 grains of Cannon grade fronted by an equal volume of flour. Same load as when I shoot round ball. Here is a video of the blank fire I do every 4th of July.


That gun recoiling back is a golf ball bore model of a 8 inch siege and a blank load. I have not fired this gun live fire yet. If the gun recoils this much from a blank load, I am concerned how much it might recoil with a round ball.

My inch guns

1841 pattern upscaled model of the 42 PDR mounted on the U.S.S. Cairo now on display at Vicksburg Battle field. I built the barrel in 1984 carriage in 1986 it is inch bore and weighs 65 lbs with platform.
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My Brooks Napoleon is serial number 001. I drew up the plans and sent them to Michael Brooks and he started building from those plans. From there I had the barrel sent to Mike Elledge and he built my carriage. Here is a link to Michaels webpage featuring my cannon


I have another inch gun. I also built this barrel in 84, a carriage started in 87. I never finished this carriage as life got in the way. The gun on a field carriage was built from William Greens plans. The wheel had spokes made for dowels. Several years ago I got a 1 inch rifled liner from Seacoast Artillery and had Ed at HMR install it. I no longer have a welding gear so I no longer have a means to heat metal and forge. So recently I had Dom Carpenter and Mike Elledge help me with some iron work. Amish craft made a set of wheels with proper style spoke. I am now ready to do final assembly on this gun, I think, I hope.

After that I learn how to make projectile for a muzzle loading rifled barrel. Now this should be 300 yard gun.

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One piece of advice I will give you for building your first carriage. Get a set of plans for a real carriage. Look the plans over very carefully. Look proportions and locations. Where are trunnions located in relation the front and back? Where are axles attached? How are things attached, screws or through bolts? Capsquares are almost always attached with through bolts. Trunnion plates on the top of cheeks will have through bolts, not screws.

None of those things arbitrary. Location thing like trunnions establish balance or preponderance of the gun and/or distribute the stress of recoil Through bolts for example indicate a point stress and or reinforcement. Screws in stress points will loosen or tear out.

Remember measure twice and cut once. But before that ask questions. We will be glad to share our experience.

Oh one other thing. we like pictures. Step by step of you build and how you do things are awesome. We can learn from the way you do things.

We all learn here. Some things seem so simple and turn out wrong. Couple of years ago I was drilling holes through wood and having difficulty with the drill drifting and not coming out where I wanted. Never had that serious of a problem drilling metal. Micheal Elledge- Zulu point out how simple this was to do. And it was an "oh duh" moment.

Start your hole on the outside where you want it. The drill another hole on the other side where you want it to come out. Use the tip of the drill to wallow out the wood inside where two holes meet, nobody will see that and the outside will look perfect.

Good luck with your project. Keep us updated.
 

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JLowe

A few specifics on the Brooks 32 pounder. The tube is a total of 21 inches long. The breech is 3.5 inches and the trunnions are 1 inch. Total weight with carriage is 40.2 pounds.

Douglas ans your questions quite thoroughly. Like DD I shoot a max load of 180 grains and I use 1F or FG. I believe this gun could handle a higher load, but have never felt the need to push it beyond what Mr Switlick recommends as max. I fire this regardless of shooting a 1 inch zinc ball or a blank round loaded with flower.

There is lots of smoke and sound at this max load and that is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this endeavor for me. My range is small and 50 yards would be the max shot for me. I don’t discourage you from shooting out to 100 yards and beyond, but without sights as these naval guns are they are going to be much more difficult to aim with any level of precision that far out. Still it could be fun to try.

Napoleonic era Naval guns were never designed for long range accuracy, it was more of a close up slug fest.

Douglas has been to a club shoot in South Africa where accurate shooting is highly valued, maybe he can tell us what range they were shooting at. That visit was the reason behind the creation of the SAMCC gun that Michael sells in .50 cal.

I spent a long time coming up with the size plans for the large 32 pounder. I wanted something with the same impact as the 1 inch Napoleon which has been a very popular gun on this site. Did a lot of cut out scale models and came up with the gun that was made. It was a one off custom build, but I am sure Michael could make another.

I don‘t remember what the cost was as that was four years ago. I think it was roughly in line with the cost of the Napoleon, but I might be off. It has more brass than the Napoleon.

It’s a striking gun, and if you like naval guns, this is certainly as nice as you can get in a brass gun. Best I recall it took about a year once the dimensions were worked out for the gun to be finished and shipped. This was a long wait, but Michael was inundated with work at that time and if I recall may have had a health impact too. It was worth the wait.

Give him a call and ask, he is great to talk too and will tell you if this is something he can do at this time, what it will cost and the timeline to complete it.
 

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JLowe


Douglas has been to a club shoot in South Africa where accurate shooting is highly valued, maybe he can tell us what range they were shooting at. That visit was the reason behind the creation of the SAMCC gun that Michael sells in .50 cal.
I shot with the South African Miniature Cannon club, in Durban, SA 2006-2008. They shoot cannon .75 and smaller at 20 meters. Sights were not allowed and sighting was done by looking down the barrel. They shoot on a Standard B17 target. They fired two strings of 6 shoots, best five scored possible 50 points. . It was not unusual or the winning score to be 50 points. Sadly right now all the pictures i have for back then were lost to the Cloud fire last spring.
 

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The SAMCC gun is really nice looking and I have always thought that would make a nice 1 inch cannon.

Michael just wondering if you could make the SAMCC gun in a one inch version?
 

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George drew the original plans for of the SAMCC barrel. I wonder if he still has them, mine were lost in the Cloud fire?

There were two version of that gun, one with an enlarge muzzle swell and the Second with a more traditional swell. I myself would opt for traditional muzzle.

The Pattern gun I would like to see Mike Brooks is the 1841 Pattern 6PDR Field gun. The lines of the Pattern 1841 are almost elegant, if a cannon can be called elegant.

This barrel would also look good on Naval carriage. My !inch Cairo gun is a Pattern 1841. Although mine is patterned after a rifled 42 PDR. and is mounted on Naval carriage.

I don't know what a brass barrel would cost-metal prices are sky high right now.
 
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