The mystery of Cape Town’s disappearing gun [1885]


Executive Member
Jul 5, 2009
But imagine being on the pointy receiving end of one of them shells!
Indeed! However the range was extremely limited compared to 20th century weapons, and not much of an advance on the cannons used by Van Riebeek. If you miss the target, it could be out of range before the next shot is ready. Very different from the battles shown by Hollywood...
The gun crews could only fire a projectile once every six minutes. Muzzle velocity was 472 m/s and maximum elevation was 10° 30'. At maximum charge (204 kg?) and maximum elevation, a projectile could achieve a range of only 5,990 meters, but at that distance the projectile could still pierce 394 mm of steel (it is not clear if it was mild or hardened).
Impractical too:
The barrel on the gun at Napier cracked during firing trials; this was because the crew had managed to stress the gun by firing one shot every 2.5 minutes. The wrecked gun was not easily repairable so it was used as a foundation for a building.
Edit: The one installed on Lion's Head was slightly more practical breech-loader: