Forgotten History: World's Biggest Black Powder Cannon - a 100-Ton Gun

  • Published on Jul 10, 2018
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    The largest muzzleloading black powder cannons ever built were the Armstrong 100-ton guns which saw service with the Italian Navy and with British coastal fortifications on Malta and Gibraltar. They were purchased by the Italians first, to outfit a pair of new super battleships, each vessel having two turrets with two of these guns in each. To avoid being outclassed, the British ordered two guns for installation to protect the Grand Harbor of Malta and two more to protect Gibraltar. Today one survives at each location, and we are visiting the Rinella Battery in Malta, which was built to house one of the Maltese guns.
    These guns had a maximum range of 8 miles, and was capable of piercing 15 inches of iron armor at 3 miles. It had a 17.7 inch (45cm) bore fired a 2000 pound (900 kg) shell with a 450 pound (200kg) charge of black powder. The gun itself weighed approximately 102 tons, and with its cradle and a shell the whole assembly came in at 150 tons.
    Aside from the massive scale of the piece, the most interesting part of its design is actually the loading machinery. Because of the titanic size of the gun and ammunition, Armstrong designed a fascinating hydraulic reloading facility which makes up the body of the fortress in which the gun is set. A pair of steam engines drove a pair of hydraulic accumulators, which provided hydraulic pressure to move the gun on its carriage, to douse the barrel after firing, to hoist ammunition into position for loading and power a 60-foot (18m) ramrod to mechanically ram the charge and shell into place. Two mirror-image reloading galleries under the fortification operated in turn, giving the gun a sustained rate of fire of 1 round every 6 minutes - at least until its 120-round barrel life was exhausted.
    I am grateful for the Malta Tourism Authority's assistance in helping to make this visit and video possible, and would also like to give special thanks to Simon, our awesome reenactor guide!
    If you enjoy Forgotten Weapons, check out its sister channel, InRangeTV!

Comments • 2 849

  • Robert Murry
    Robert Murry 2 days ago

    one of the best field-trips ever... thank you gun jesus


    Love u ian

  • Garfuck
    Garfuck 3 days ago +1

    "And stop saying OK all the time!"
    All in good fun though, very nice video!

  • Andrew Jenery
    Andrew Jenery 6 days ago

    All that to hit a ship eight miles away that you might miss

  • Severity One
    Severity One 6 days ago

    Don't tell me that you recorded this in summer. Staying in the sun for more than 10 minutes is not recommended...

  • Marcus Knak
    Marcus Knak 7 days ago

    Too bad Ian didn't crawl into the cannon to show the inner workings of it.

  • wolfmanjacksaid
    wolfmanjacksaid 8 days ago

    That guide was really knowledgeable!

  • shreyas ganesh
    shreyas ganesh 8 days ago

    Disliked. No fire test

  • Dan R
    Dan R 8 days ago

    In comparison. The 16'/54 main gun (Iowa class) also fires shells weighing approx. 2000 lbs but it achieves 20+ miles range off of 6x110lbs silk bags of smokeless powder (D839) Somkeless powder provides a much smoother pressure pulse. Black powder burns almost instantly. Do not try lighting black powder with a match as you can't get your hand away quick enough.
    Must be railroad ties we are talking about. I do not think even the most purpose built armor piercing shell from the WWII era could reliability be expected to pierce 15" of WWII era armor. Now if a bomb the size of a "Tall Boy" was fitted with more armor casing (air dropped), most likely pierce and obliterate its target. Could a round from this gun,in this era,pierce 15" of the era's armor,not likely. I do not even think there was a time period accurate ship with 15" of armor.
    Even with two guns firing 1 round every 6 minutes this rate of fire would be too slow for practical protection from a ship,ships move. Sure there is that lucky shot (ask HMS Hood survivor, well not possible but there is film)

  • copferthat
    copferthat 8 days ago

    I recently visited Banburgh Castle in Northumberland, which was the home of Armstrong and if you ever get the chance to go, it's well worth it. The man was a genius. The presenter talked of the swinging bridge built by Armstrong. It was actually the Bridgewater canal, crossing the Manchester ship canal. I passed down it earlier this year on an excursion and as you approach, Armstrong's original hydraulics close off both ends of the Canal and swing the whole thing sideways, all 500 tons of it, whilst ships go up the Canal to Liverpool. The whole thing took about a minute to do, amazing.

  • illeodavinci
    illeodavinci 9 days ago

    Amazing old engineering

  • Bill Dady
    Bill Dady 9 days ago

    Armstrong's house in the north of England is an amazing place to visit also:

  • ian hoare
    ian hoare 9 days ago

    Been to this place 5 years ago marvellous day out

  • Brandon Pauli
    Brandon Pauli 10 days ago

    3 words : cool as hell

  • A Frog
    A Frog 10 days ago

    Imagine being rammed by THAT rod :p

  • Zes
    Zes 10 days ago +5

    "If you're interested in having this one yourself, there's a link in the description below to rock island catalog page"

  • interman 77
    interman 77 10 days ago

    The engineering capabilities of the English is mind blowing.

  • Matt Hunter
    Matt Hunter 11 days ago


  • Twotone
    Twotone 11 days ago

    It's pronounced Woolwich!

  • Metzger JB
    Metzger JB 11 days ago

    .com.... comeon!

  • Roland Felice
    Roland Felice 12 days ago

    I'd seen this gun reviewed before by Lloyd of Lindybeige but his was a more historical overview and didn't cover the more technical aspects that your video investigated. I have to say both videos compliment each other beautifully.

    • Feedthemeat543 F
      Feedthemeat543 F 10 days ago +1

      Personally the only thing that would make this better Is to see this thing be fired. Granted that'll probably never happen but one can dream

  • Mackenzie Ryne Bagtong
    Mackenzie Ryne Bagtong 12 days ago +1

    *God played 'Clash of Clans' in the year 1866.*

  • Jonathan
    Jonathan 13 days ago

    you look like a Colonel in the Civil War

  • james
    james 14 days ago

    Too bad they can't shoot it

  • Seth Curless
    Seth Curless 14 days ago

    That's awesome 👍

  • Rob
    Rob 15 days ago +1

    My ballistic calculator said ERROR when I tried to enter this cannons data in.

  • Daryl Johnson
    Daryl Johnson 15 days ago +8

    When he was holding that wire at 6:11 I thought it was a firing wire and he was gonna light one off. Lol

  • Jesse Brennan
    Jesse Brennan 15 days ago

    ProTip. You're shirt size is a small or medium.

  • Lehione
    Lehione 15 days ago

    O K .

  • Slivv The Shiv
    Slivv The Shiv 17 days ago

    How can anyone dislike this video? there are just too many grommits in the world!

  • Benters
    Benters 18 days ago

    Things were bleak in Britain in the fifties. Still broke after two world wars, they looked around for anything to cut up for scrap metal.

  • my_negative_world
    my_negative_world 18 days ago

    Wasn't the Tsar Pushka the biggest?

  • joppo
    joppo 18 days ago

    Okey, okey, okey, okey, oooookey, okey

  • john kendall
    john kendall 20 days ago

    Italy getting it's ass kicked LOL that seems to be a common occurrence every time they pick a fight. on a more practical note I wonder why the cannon wasn't built as a breach loader. By 1880 it wouldn't have been Impossible. and would have sped up the loading process quite a bit

  • Omar Ignacio Silvestrini

    WAIT WAIT WAIT.... SO you are telling me this whole thing ran without any electricity what so ever??!

  • A
    A 20 days ago

    I don’t remember seeing this on Gibraltar

  • Brian Richman
    Brian Richman 20 days ago

    Ian - I know its a long time ago (a year plus now), but us Brits (I was born in East London and lived there for 45 years), pronounce Woolwich as "Woolitch". The two words Wool and itch flow into each other and the "t" in itch is almost silent.

  • ReimusKlinsman
    ReimusKlinsman 20 days ago

    I'm disappointed you didnt take this apart

  • Kurt Fiteni
    Kurt Fiteni 20 days ago

    Nice vid with love from malta ❤️❤️

  • andrew root
    andrew root 21 day ago

    You should do a video on the disappearing coastal guns. The one on whidbey island in the Puget sound is amazing to see just how massive they were

  • Rio Nevin
    Rio Nevin 21 day ago

    Still can't get over imagining a guy behind the cannon pulling a tiny string to fire it... It must've been unpleasant

  • Samuel
    Samuel 21 day ago

    I never knew you actually came to my country. I actually went to a dry fire of that cannon and it was very loud

  • William Bahruth
    William Bahruth 22 days ago

    Very awesome
    Thank you

  • Dınø satay
    Dınø satay 22 days ago

    But gustav is still the biggest battery righ

  • Game_Over420
    Game_Over420 23 days ago


  • TheTaco1939
    TheTaco1939 24 days ago

    this is the kind of subject i love and i want to love the video but I can't even get myself to finish it. the audio is just to much for me

  • ianj1828
    ianj1828 24 days ago

    That man has an excellent hat.

  • Damia Savon
    Damia Savon 24 days ago

    So freaking amazing.

  • Doug Azzopardi
    Doug Azzopardi 24 days ago

    Being an Azzopardi born i Australia this is one place i will have to visit when i get over there .

  • Norah Ashe
    Norah Ashe 25 days ago

    That is some impressive audio considering the wind!

  • JB
    JB 25 days ago

    Please pass “cannon control” now!

  • Spencer Bainter
    Spencer Bainter 25 days ago

    Ian, I could hang out with you everyday 👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽

  • boiledelephant
    boiledelephant 25 days ago

    It's been a long time since I heard an accent for the first time. But that guy's....Maltese? accent is genuinely unique and I've never heard anything like it.

  • Junjun
    Junjun 25 days ago

    Iron tube, iron clog, fast burn powder and wick . As simple as that, unless it is in more than 100 tonnes.

  • Tristan Vella
    Tristan Vella 26 days ago

    How did they aim at something the size of a ship from miles away?

  • Brap Brap Productions
    Brap Brap Productions 27 days ago

    Sending the results to the enemies of the British empire was enough. This is like the equivalent of Britain’s modern day nuclear deterrent. If you come to close there will be a mighty loud bang. So just don’t come close okay? Nobody wants that, especially the poor sod pulling the string.

  • Brap Brap Productions
    Brap Brap Productions 27 days ago

    Everybody gets one turn on it... because no one lives to pull the string twice.

  • No Leavemealone
    No Leavemealone 29 days ago

    It would also be interesting to know how they solved the loading on a ship

    • 51WCDodge
      51WCDodge 26 days ago

      @No Leavemealone Pleasure.

    • No Leavemealone
      No Leavemealone 26 days ago

      @51WCDodge interesting, thank you :)

    • 51WCDodge
      51WCDodge 26 days ago +1

      They were shipped on barges. The Woolwhich Arseanl had it's own fleet of tugs and launches, plus two barges called Gog and Magog, the two giants of the City of London. They did have problems though. When loading one of the guns onto a barge at the Arsenal, the most expensive guns ever built! They dropped the bloody thing in the river. Took nine days to get it out.

  • Alcatraz
    Alcatraz 29 days ago

    A crew of ONLY 35 men.

  • Sid Schaefer
    Sid Schaefer Month ago

    You say okay so much