Artillery Barrel and Carriage Design

XVII Century Polish Artillery


(c) 2001 richard j. orli




Comparitive Cannon design


Swedish Regimental Gun

Design Issues

See also

Horse Artillery in the XVII Century?

A XVI Century Polish Artillery Manual, by dell'Aqua

A XVII Century Polish Artillery Manual, by Casmir Siemienowicz

This Old Wheel


Boleslav Orlicki’s Horse Artillery's field gun ('Kismet') carriage design, illustrated below, is appropriate for general field artillery and for horse artillery use.  Advanced designs of this type were developed in the mid 17th C.  This actual illustration is from a French source, documenting 1730's revisions to a 1690's design (Diderot’s Le Encyclopedia Des Armaments).


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Comparative Carriage Design

At Right, an early to late 17th Century carriage of the older 'Spanish' style.  This is a much larger piece, a 24 pdr., which might have been used in the field but was more likely a siege gun.  The carriage is nevertheless typical of the period.

Wheels were shod with strakes (iron bars reaching from mid-point of each felloe). The single-piece hoop-tyre method was not invented until 1820.   Wheelwrights gradually stopped using strake bands in the late 17th C. for lightweight wheels for light pleasure carriages. It is possible that light horse artillery also started to use wheels without strake bands relatively early. However, strake bands continued to be used on heavy freight and cannon wheels as late as the19th C.  See my article This Old Wheel for more than you ever wanted to know about wheels.EnglishCanonCar.jpg (60342 bytes)


Right, an English carriage of the 1640s, quite similiar to the Spanish design.




Right, a mid 1500's Polish design, Agunncarriage.gif (36613 bytes)very advanced for its time, from dell'Aqua.  The gun is fairly short. The second illustration detials the ironwork for the carriage.  Note the proportion of the wheel in relation to the cannonball-size as a measuring standard. Note also that the entire cheek is shod in metal. ACarriageMetalwork.gif (17673 bytes) This allows the whole carriage to be lighter, yet still stay strong - critical for light and mobile artillery.  An entirely metal-shod carriage is a major forward-looking design feature, that would become standard in the 18th C.

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Left, a Polish falconette (2 pdr) of the late 1500s.  Note the very light and comparatively large wheels.  To the right, a Polish barrel of the late 1600s.



PolArtilAtOrza.jpg (11147 bytes) Left, Polish Artillery at Orza, 15th C.

LeftDruer1527.jpg (62666 bytes), early version of practical field artillery, illustration by Druer, 1527.  I don't know if the fancy elevation mechanism was used in practice, but it's possible. The big advance in the 1400s was the invention of the trunnion.


drawngun.jpg (43253 bytes)These two illustrations to the left show medium-light (perhaps 3 or 4 pounders) artillery pieces entrained.  They are being pulled by a team of horses, however, they are not using a limber, so there is only one axle.  The balance of the gun is close to even, with only 30-50 pounds extra on the rear of the trail. The pull of the horses alone lifts the trail, which has a skid beneath it.  Definitely a slow-moving foot artillery rig.   DrawnGun2.jpg (44109 bytes)Larger guns, such as the 24 pdr above, were more likely to use limbers as a matter of practicality.


In contrast to the 'Spanish' style foot artillery carriage, the Polish horse artillery carriage typically had the following features: 1) Larger yet lighter wheels (for easier rapid movement), 2) greater use of metal reinforcement, allowing greater strength with less weight (the mid 1500's Polish carriage above is the oldest design I know of that is entirely metal-shod), 3) Use of a limber with full-sized wheels, and a traveler trunnion position to balance the load, 4) some hardware to facilitate rapid limbering and unlimbering, 5) hand-spikes, for rapid field movement, aiming and re-orientation.  They seem also to me to have wider distance between wheels, but that may be an illusion as the pieces are generally smaller - they may all have been of the same standard wagon distance, to make use of road ruts (although, this was not a universal standard, and even varied county-by-county in England).  Horse artillery guns also were the first pieces to use screw elevation quoins (probably 1660s), which made for fewer parts to misplace on the battlefield.

The parts (right) from a six pdr. 17th C. Polish Carriage PolCannonCarriage.jpg (59194 bytes)(detail from R. Brzezinski, Polish Armies 1569-1696, Osprey, 1987; this is in the Warsaw military museum and was revovered from the river and thought lost after the battle of Warsaw, 1656)  seem to be of  the Spanish foot artillery carriage type.  Note the strake bands are exactly as illustrated in Fig. 3 above, and one can clearly see the two types at the felloe and strake joints.

15thCPolArtillery.jpg (13298 bytes) Left, ca. 1500 Polish Artillery entrained.


GalloperGun.jpg (26612 bytes)The carriage to the left is a 'galloper' - a specialized type of horse artillery.  This particular example is very early, from the 16th Century.  It is the earliest example I know of that uses a screw elevation mechanism. 

Galloper18thC.jpg (35017 bytes)Another Galloper - English ca 1740.  This is for a 1 1/2 pounder, although some were made for 3 pounders.  The single horse is harnessed directly to the cart-like carriage.  This is from John Muller, who was so impressed by these he suggested their use for 6 pounders.


Agalloper.gif (25559 bytes)A galloper of sorts, mid 1500's Polish.  This wagon-mounted one-pounder is probabally intended to be used within a tabor wagon train. This is the sort of rig Jan Tarnowski referred to, in his essay on mobile firepower.



Swedish Regimental Guns

The Swedish regimental field gun (right and left) of the 1630s seems to share some characteristics of both the older and newer carriage forms.  The barrel shown has an unusual design, with the touchhole angled sharply back to the rear of the gun - this design may not have been standard.  CanSwedCarriage.jpg (11900 bytes).SwedeCannon.jpg (9489 bytes)   Its most significant design feature - one shared with Polish light guns of the period - is its short length and light weight.   The tapered charge area is also a new feature for the period - the English were using conical bores in their latestSwedish 1650 Artillery entrained(17129 bytes) high-tech cast-iron tubes. Note the Gustavus Adolphus cipher and Vasa 'wheat sheaf' device.

Turkish Cannons

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Those devious Turks will stop at nothing!  Must assume there is another cannon on the other side for balance.  Notice the lit match - ready to fire?!?!   Well, T. Kosciuszku in his 1800 treatise Maneuvers of  Horse Artillery (prepared for the American army, published 1808) mentioned that when he first brought up the concept some officers apparently thought that he meant that the artillery pieces were to be strapped on the horse's back. 

Seriously, though; the image may be an accurate portrayal of cannons in transit, and the artist may have misunderstood... the lit match may be a bit of his imagination.  In fact the Turks' most numerous cannon in the field army was the one and half-pounder, called shahi zarbzen , which wieghed 125 pounds.  Two such were carried by a strong packhorse; and a camel would have no problem with such a load plus rider as well.  The field carriages were carried dismantled on other pack horses, or in wagons; or tripod firing stands could have been constructed in the field from local materials.  (The Scots used a similar system, with their lightest cannons.)

The Turks were effective engineers and their artillery use was good, really excellent in sieges.  Because so many of their operations were hundreds of miles from their major cities, they mastered the practice of casting large cannon locally, when preparing for a siege.  For example, five 70 pdrs and three 50 pdrs were cast in preparation for the siege of Baghdad, and rafted the remaining few miles to firing position. (R. Murphy, Ottoman Warfare 1500-1700)

Kismet's Design Issues

A culverin of this period would likely have been more ornamented than Kismet. While many late 17th C. guns had plain dolphins, usually one or more devices (gun’s name, General of Artillery coat of arms, King’s crest) would have been cast into the barrel. Many plain barrels were, however, made; some have recently been found in a recovered shipwreak in Sweden.

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The wheels were constructed with hoop-tyres, which is achronistic until the 1830s, but are modified to appear strake-constructed. Strake bands will be added at some point, which would have been typical though most of the 17th C.

The carriage varies from the design above primarily in having a wood axle, instead of an all-metal axle. We believe that the all-metal axle came into use after 1700. The quoin elevation screw is probably also a post 1650 invention - an alternate quoin platform and wooden quoins (wedges) is switched in for prior-to 1650 impressions. All other aspects of the carriage, including the alternate traveler position, trunnion hardware, etc. is accurate for at least 1630 through to the Napoleonic era.

WLightArt.jpg (11726 bytes)If I could start over again, I would make larger, lighter wheels, as shown in the Polish 2 pdr. to the left.  Instead of 39 inch, that would be about 41-42 inch wheels, with a lighter construction. 

The carriage is painted royal blue (a medium-dark blue which looks light blue in the picture, because of the sunlight), because my research at the time led me to believe that was the color of French artillery (who usually picked blue to go with Bourbon white), and it would work well enough for a Swedish or Polish or even American Rev War militia gun. I have since learned that French artillery was painted bright red in the late 17th C., but they likely were varied colors prior to 1680, or even in 1690 the red color may have applied only to the larger ordinance. (Spanish guns were painted all black, but perhaps not until after 1700).   Most guns of the 17th C were NOT painted gray, contrary to modern expectations.


Guns similar to Kismet

Kismet – Bronze undecorated, 2000

Length 900 mm

Caliber 57 mm (2 pdr)

Length/caliber ratio: 16

Location: My garage

Existing Polish cannons (armat or dzial (‘dz-aow’)) like Kismet. The following all have private (or palitinate or ‘county’) markings rather than Crown or Lithuanian markings, so were not part of the ‘official’ artillery establishment.

Bronze Marked with arms in design of waves and helmet, 1637

Length 899

Caliber 60 (2 pdr)

Length/caliber ratio: 15

Slaskie Museaum of Worclaw

Bronze., Almost undecorated and undated, simple design. 1660s-1680s,

Length 1384

Caliber 70 (2.5 pdr)

Length/caliber ratio: 20

Army museam of Warsaw

Bronze, arms of Galley 1682

Length 1100

Caliber 68 (2 pdr)

Length/caliber ratio: 16

Army museam of Warsaw

Bronze, arms of Korczak 1666

Length 1120

Caliber 73 (2.5 pdr)

Length/caliber ratio: 15

National Mueasm at Cracow

Brass, arms of Donhoff 1681

Length 1780

Caliber 53 (2 pdr)

Length/caliber ratio: 33

Army museam of Warsaw

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see also Horse Artillery in the XVII Century?

and  A XVI Century Polish Artillery Manual, by dell'Aqua

and  A XVII Century Polish Artillery Manual, by Casmir Siemienowicz

and more on wheels This Old Wheel

some pictures reproduced with kind permission from Polish Renaissance Warfare by S. A. Jasinskiht.htm