How Does a Cannon Work?

••• Cannon


Preparing the cannon for firing started with placing a cartridge of black powder, which is gunpowder, made from paper, flannel or wool. How much powder was used varied based on the distance to the target, the size of the gun and what type of projectile is used. In order to get the cartridge to the bottom of the tube a pushed into the tube, breach, with a rammer (long stick).


A friction primer is used to ignite the black powder that is in the tube. The friction primer consists of a hollow tube that fits into the vent hole. At its top there is an opening through which a serrated wire can be inserted. The wire has a loop on it through which a lanyard, or rope, is attached.

When it is time to fire the cannon the rope on the friction primer is pulled. The serrated wire creates enough heat from friction to ignite the black powder that is in the primer tube. This fire ignites the black powder in the breech. The explosion that results from the breech powder being ignited propels the projectile out the end of the tube.


Aiming the cannon is done by pointing the piece, the cannon, with a breech sight for the up and down elevation and the cannon was moved left or right for lateral positioning.

About the Author

Joan Reinbold is a writer, author of six books, blogs and makes videos. She has been a tutor for students, library assistant, certified dental assistant and business owner. She has lived (and gardened) on three continents, learning home renovation in the process. She received her Bachelor of Arts in 2006.

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