List of the largest cannon by caliber

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Early 15th-century Flemish supergun Dulle Griet at Ghent (caliber of 660 mm)

The list of cannons by caliber contains all types of cannons through the ages listed in decreasing caliber size. For the purpose of this list, the development of superguns can be divided into three periods, based on the kind of projectiles used:

  • Stone balls: Cannon of extraordinary bore, which fired stone balls, were first introduced at the turn of the 14th to 15th century in Western Europe. Following a logic of increasing performance through size, they had evolved from small handguns to giant wrought-iron or cast-bronze bombards within a span of just several decades.[1]
  • Iron balls and shot: By the 16th century, however, a general switch from stone balls to smaller, but much more effective iron projectiles was in full swing. This and the parallel tendency towards standardized, rapid-firing cannon made the enormously costly and logistically demanding superguns soon obsolete in the European theatre (with the exception of the odd showpiece).[2]
  • Explosive shells: In the industrial age, artillery was again revolutionized by the introduction of explosive shells, beginning with the Paixhans guns. Breakthroughs in metallurgy and modes of production were followed up by new experimentation with super-sized caliber weapons, culminating in the steel colossi of the two World Wars. In the post-war era, the development of extremely overpowered artillery was gradually abandoned in favour of missile technology, while heavy guns are still demanded by various arms of the service.

As artillery pieces of the different periods, due to the dissimilar characteristics of their projectiles, are practically incommensurable in terms of their bore size, the following list is split into three sections.

Cannon by caliber[edit]

Stone balls[edit]

Heyday: 15th to 16th centuries

Caliber (mm) Name Type Produced Place of origin Made by
A view of the Tsar Pushka, showing its massive bore and cannonballs. 890[CB 1] Tsar Cannon Bombard 1586 Herb Moskovia-1 (Alex K).svg Tsardom of Russia Andrey Chokhov
Backside of the Pumhart von Steyr 820[CB 2][3] Pumhart von Steyr Bombard Early 15th century House of Habsburg,  Holy Roman Empire
745[CB 3] Basilic Bombard 1453 Ottoman Empire Orban
Engraving by Johann Georg Beck from 1714. The upper banner runs: "The largest cannon of Germany, called the Faule Metze". 735[CB 4][6] Faule Mette Bombard 1411 City of Brunswick,  Holy Roman Empire Henning Bussenschutte
The Malik E Maidan.jpg at western ramparts of Bijapur fort 700 Malik-i-Maidan Bombard 1549 City of Bijapur Muhammad Bin Husain Rumi
The Dulle Griet at Ghent, close to the Friday Market square in the old town 660[7] Dulle Griet Bombard First half of 15th century City of Ghent,  Holy Roman Empire
Dismantled Dardanelles Gun in 2007 at Fort Nelson 635[8] Dardanelles Gun or Great Turkish Bombard Bombard 1464 Ottoman Empire Munir Ali
Modern, fanciful illustration of the Faule Grete in action at the siege of Friesack in 1414. Contrary to the ordnance depicted, the Faule Grete was not assembled from wrought-iron bars, but a cast cannon. 520[9] Faule Grete Bombard 1409 Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights Heynrich Dumechen
Mons Meg with its 50 cm caliber cannonballs 520[10] Mons Meg Bombard 1449 Duchy of Burgundy,  Holy Roman Empire Jehan Cambier
Bronze bombard of the Knights Hospitaller cast in 1480. 510[CB 5][11] Bombard 1480 Knights Hospitaller

Iron balls and shot[edit]

Heyday: 16th to 19th centuries

Caliber (mm) Name Type Produced Place of origin Made by
Kanone Greif 280[12] Kanone Greif Scharfmetze ("medium size") 1524 Electorate of Trier Master Simon
The Jaivana cannon 280 Jaivana 1720 State of Jaipur
Dalmadal 286 Dalmadal/Dala Mardana 18th century[13] Bishnupur Kingdom
Zamzama 240 Zamzama 1757 Durrani Empire Shah Nazir

Twenty-inch (508 mm) Rodman and Dahlgren smoothbore cannons were cast in 1864 during the American Civil War. The Rodmans were used as seacoast defense. Although not used as intended, 2-20" Dahlgrens were intended to be mounted in the turrets of USS Dictator and USS Puritan.

Explosive shells[edit]

Heyday: 19th to 20th centuries

Caliber (mm) Name Type Produced Place of origin Made by
Mallet's Mortar with 36 inch shells which would have contained 480lb (217kg) of gunpowder 914 Mallet's mortar Mortar 1857 United Kingdom United Kingdom Robert Mallet
Little David at the Aberdeen Proving Ground 914 Little David Mortar 1945  United States
The Schwerer Gustav (in black) compared to a modern missile launcher 800 Schwerer Gustav Railway gun 1941  Nazi Germany Krupp
The Schwerer Gustav (in black) compared to a modern missile launcher 800 Dora Railway gun 1942  Nazi Germany Krupp
The Mortier monstre 600[14][15] Mortier monstre Mortar 1832 France France Henri-Joseph Paixhans
60 cm Karl-Gerät "Ziu" firing in Warsaw, August 1944 600 Karl-Gerät Mortar 1940  Nazi Germany Rheinmetall
French 520 mm howitzer on cradle sliding recoil railway mount.jpg 520 Obusier de 520 modèle 1916 Railway howitzer 1918 France France Schneider et Cie
20-inch cast-iron naval gun.jpg 508 Perm Tsar Cannon [2]
508 mm/9.6 smooth-bore naval gun
Naval gun 1868 Romanov Flag.svg Russian Empire Motovilikha Plants
The Japanese battleship Yamato under construction 460 46 cm/45 Type 94 Naval gun 1940  Empire of Japan
Boche Buster at Catterick, 12 December 1940 457.2 BL 18 inch railway howitzer Railway howitzer 1920 United Kingdom United Kingdom Elswick Ordnance Company
On monitor HMS General Wolfe 457.2 BL 18 inch Mk I naval gun Naval gun 1916  United Kingdom Elswick Ordnance Company
Elswick 100-ton gun at Gibraltar 450 RML 17.72 inch gun Naval gun 1877 United Kingdom United Kingdom Elswick Ordnance Company
One of the first Big Berthas being readied for firing 420 Big Bertha Howitzer  German Empire Krupp
Side view of a Gamma-Gerät 420 42 cm Gamma Mörser Mortar  German Empire /  Nazi Germany Krupp
2B1 Oka 420 2B1 Oka Howitzer 1957  Soviet Union
BL 16.25 inch naval gun 412.8 BL 16.25 inch Mk I naval gun Naval gun 1888  United Kingdom Elswick Ordnance Company
406 mm gun from Japanese battleship Mutsu 410 41 cm/45 3rd Year Type Naval gun  Empire of Japan
16 inch Coastal Defense Gun at the US Army Ordnance Museum 406 16"/50 caliber M1919 gun Gun 1920  United States
Guns of HMS Rodney at maximum elevation, 1940 406 BL 16 inch Mk I naval gun Naval gun 1927  United Kingdom
Batterie Lindemann gun, 1942 406 40.6 cm SK C/34 gun Naval gun  Nazi Germany Krupp
2A3 Kondensator 406 2A3 Kondensator 2P Howitzer 1956  Soviet Union
A 406 mm/50 B-37 naval gun in MP-10 test mount 406 406 mm/50 B-37 naval gun for Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleships Naval gun 1937  Soviet Union Barrikady Plant, Stalingrad
A cutaway of a turret mounting 16-inch guns 406 16"/50 caliber Mark 7 gun for the Iowa-class battleships Naval gun 1943  United States Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The bombard has a conical bore of 82.5–90 cm.
  2. ^ The bombard has a conical bore of 76–88 cm.
  3. ^ Bown[4] indicates a larger bore of 36 in (914 mm), but Hollenback[5] says that Kritoboulos, a contemporary source, indicates a circumference of 12 spans and concludes that in this case the smallest of three possible sizes of span is the correct unit, giving 0.745 m for the bore. Hollenback also notes that granite cannonballs dating from the siege of Constantinople had a diameter of 0.711  and could have been shot from this weapon using a wooden sabot.
  4. ^ The bombard has a conical bore of 67–80 cm.
  5. ^ The bombard has a conical bore of 45–58 cm.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Schmidtchen 1977b, pp. 228–230
  2. ^ Schmidtchen 1977a, pp. 153–161
  3. ^ Schmidtchen 1977a, p. 162; ball diameter is 20 mm less (p. 171, Fn. 41).
  4. ^ Stephen R. Bown (2005). A Most Damnable Invention: Dynamite, Nitrates, and the Making of the Modern World. Penguin Group. ISBN 0-670-04524-1. 
  5. ^ George M. Hollenback (2002), "Notes on the Design and Construction of Urban's Giant Bombard", Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 26 (1): 284–291 
  6. ^ Schmidtchen 1977b, p. 222; ball diameter is 20 mm less (p. 171, Fn. 41).
  7. ^ Schmidtchen 1977a, p. 164; ball diameter is 20 mm less (p. 171, Fn. 41).
  8. ^ Royal Armouries
  9. ^ Schmidtchen 1977b, p. 218; ball diameter is 20 mm less (p. 171, Fn. 41).
  10. ^ Schmidtchen 1977a, p. 166; ball diameter is 20 mm less (p. 171, Fn. 41).
  11. ^ Schmidtchen 1977b, p. 236, Fn. 103
  12. ^ Archiv für die Officiere der Königlich Preußischen Artillerie- und Ingenieur-Korps, Vol. 19, Berlin, Posen, Bromberg 1846, p. 101
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, Vol. 14, Leipzig 1908, p. 160: "Mörser": caliber of 60 cm
  15. ^ Journal des Sciences Militaires, 2nd series, Vol. 22, Paris 1838: caliber of 22 pouces = 59,6 cm (p. 49); outer diameter of the barrel: 1 m (p. 54)

References[edit]

  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977a), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (2): 153–173 
  • Schmidtchen, Volker (1977b), "Riesengeschütze des 15. Jahrhunderts. Technische Höchstleistungen ihrer Zeit", Technikgeschichte 44 (3): 213–237