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Close-up of grapeshot from an American Revolution sketch of artillery devices Grapeshot treatise closeup.jpg
Close-up of grapeshot from an American Revolution sketch of artillery devices
Model of a carronade with grapeshot ammunition Carronade mg 5105.jpg
Model of a carronade with grapeshot ammunition

In artillery, grapeshot is a projectile that is not one solid element, but a geometric arrangement of round shot packed tightly into a canvas bag [1] and separated from the gunpowder charge by a metal disk of full bore diameter. It was used both in land and naval warfare. When assembled, the shot resembled a cluster of grapes, hence the name. On firing, the balls spread out from the muzzle, giving an effect similar to a giant shotgun. [2]


Grapeshot was devastatingly effective against massed infantry at short range, and was used against massed infantry at middle range. Solid shot was used at longer range and canister at shorter. When used in naval warfare, grapeshot served a dual purpose. First, it continued its role as an anti-personnel projectile. However, the effect was diminished due to a large portion of the crew being below decks and the addition of hammock netting in iron brackets intended to slow or stop smaller shot. [3] Second, the balls were cast large enough to cut rigging, destroy spars and blocks, and puncture multiple sails. [4] [5]

Canister shot, also known as case shot fired a larger number of smaller projectiles loosely packaged in a tin or brass container, possibly guided by a wooden sabot. The later shrapnel shell contained similarly smaller projectiles, and used a timed bursting charge to expel those projectiles from the front of the container. [2]

Langrage is a type of improvised round that uses chain links, nails, shards of glass, rocks or other similar objects as the projectiles. Although langrage can be cheaply made, its ballistics are inferior to metal spheres. [6]

See also

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Shrapnel shell Anti personnel, carries shot near target and ejects it

Shrapnel shells were anti-personnel artillery munitions which carried many individual bullets close to the target and then ejected them to allow them to continue along the shell's trajectory and strike the target individually. They relied almost entirely on the shell's velocity for their lethality. The munition has been obsolete since the end of World War I for anti-personnel use, when it was superseded by high-explosive shells for that role. The functioning and principles behind Shrapnel shells are fundamentally different from high-explosive shell fragmentation. Shrapnel is named after Major-General Henry Shrapnel (1761–1842), a British artillery officer, whose experiments, initially conducted on his own time and at his own expense, culminated in the design and development of a new type of artillery shell.

Kinetic energy penetrator type of ammunition designed to penetrate vehicle armour

A kinetic energy penetrator is a type of ammunition designed to penetrate vehicle armour. Like a bullet, this ammunition does not contain explosives and uses kinetic energy to penetrate the target. Modern KEP munitions are typically of the armour-piercing fin-stabilized discarding sabot (APFSDS) type.

Armor-piercing shell type of ammunition designed to penetrate armor

An armor-piercing shell, AP for short, is a type of ammunition designed to penetrate armor. From the 1860s to 1950s, a major application of armor-piercing projectiles was to defeat the thick armor carried on many warships. From the 1920s onwards, armor-piercing weapons were required for anti-tank missions. AP rounds smaller than 20 mm are typically known as "armor-piercing ammunition", and are intended for lightly-armored targets such as body armor, bulletproof glass and light armored vehicles. The classic AP shell is now seldom used in naval warfare, as modern warships have little or no armor protection, and newer technologies have displaced the classic AP design in the anti-tank role.

Shell (projectile) projectile

A shell is a payload-carrying projectile that, as opposed to shot, contains an explosive or other filling, though modern usage sometimes includes large solid projectiles properly termed shot. Solid shot may contain a pyrotechnic compound if a tracer or spotting charge is used. Originally, it was called a "bombshell", but "shell" has come to be unambiguous in a military context.

Flak jacket protective vest or jacket containing overlapping plates of steel, aluminum, or bonded fiberglass, to protect against shell fragments and shrapnel

A flak jacket or flak vest is a form of body armor. A flak jacket is designed to provide protection from case fragments ("frag") from high explosive weaponry, such as anti-aircraft artillery, grenades, some pellets used in shotguns and anti-personnel mines, and other lower-velocity projectiles. It is not designed to protect against bullets fired from small arms such as rifles or handguns. However, certain flak jackets are able to sustain certain gunshots, depending on the armor, the projectile, the angle at which the shot was fired, and the range from which the shot was fired.

Canister shot Class of ammunition used by artillery

Canister shot is a kind of anti-personnel artillery ammunition. Canister shot has been used since the advent of gunpowder-firing artillery in Western armies; however, canister shot saw particularly frequent use on land and at sea in the various wars of the 18th and 19th century. Canister is still used today in modern artillery.

Air burst Detonation of an explosive above a target for increased pressure wave damage

An air burst or airburst is the detonation of an explosive device such as an anti-personnel artillery shell or a nuclear weapon in the air instead of on contact with the ground or target or a delayed armor-piercing explosion. The principal military advantage of an air burst over a ground burst is that the energy from the explosion is distributed more evenly over a wider area; however, the peak energy is lower at ground zero.

Naval artillery artillery mounted on a warship

Naval artillery is artillery mounted on a warship, originally used only for naval warfare, later also for shore bombardment and for anti-aircraft use. The term generally refers to tube-launched projectile-firing weapons and excludes self-propelled projectiles like torpedoes, rockets, and missiles and those simply dropped overboard like depth charges and naval mines.

Round shot type of ammunition

A round shot is a solid spherical projectile without explosive charge, launched from a gun. Its diameter is slightly less than the bore of the barrel from which it is shot. A round shot fired from a large-caliber gun is also called a cannonball.

Field artillery in the American Civil War artillery weapons, equipment, and practices used in the American Civil War

Field artillery in the American Civil War refers to the artillery weapons, equipment, and practices used by the Artillery branch to support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field. It does not include siege artillery, use of artillery in fixed fortifications, or coastal or naval artillery. Nor does it include smaller, specialized artillery classified as small arms.

Naval artillery in the Age of Sail

Naval artillery in the Age of Sail encompasses the period of roughly 1571–1862: when large, sail-powered wooden naval warships dominated the high seas, mounting a bewildering variety of different types and sizes of cannon as their main armament. By modern standards, these cannon were extremely inefficient, difficult to load, and short ranged. These characteristics, along with the handling and seamanship of the ships that mounted them, defined the environment in which the naval tactics in the Age of Sail developed.

Twelve-pound cannon

The twelve-pound cannon is a cannon that fires twelve-pound projectiles from its barrel, as well as grapeshot, chain shot, shrapnel, and later shells and canister shot. It was first used during the Tudor period and was commonly used during the Napoleonic Wars, 1799–1815. At this time 12-pounders were the largest caliber of long-barreled field pieces, and were used both at long range against fortifications and troop concentrations using round shot and against attacking infantry and cavalry using canister shot. As such the 12-pounder was a favorite weapon of the Grande Armée. Later, redesigned 12-pounders were named after Napoleon III and found heavy use during the American Civil War.

QF 1-pounder pom-pom 37 mm British autocannon

The QF 1 pounder, universally known as the pom-pom due to the sound of its discharge, was a 37 mm British autocannon, the first of its type in the world. It was used by several countries initially as an infantry gun and later as a light anti-aircraft gun.

Ammunition General term for a wide range of weapon items such as bombs, missiles, mines and projectiles

Ammunition is the material fired, scattered, dropped or detonated from any weapon. Ammunition is both expendable weapons and the component parts of other weapons that create the effect on a target. Nearly all mechanical weapons require some form of ammunition to operate.

Canon obusier de 12

The Canon obusier de 12, also known as the "Canon de l’Empereur" and was a type of canon-obusier developed by France in 1853. Its performance and versatility allowed it to replace all the previous field guns, especially the Canon de 8 and the Canon de 12 as well as the two howitzers of the Valée system.

Gun weapon designed to discharge projectiles or other material

A gun is a ranged weapon typically designed to pneumatically discharge solid projectiles but can also be liquid or even charged particles and may be free-flying or tethered.

Secret howitzer

The 95 mm howitzer M1753, called secret howitzer or Shuvalov's secret howitzer, was an 18th-century Russian cannon, a type of muzzle-loading howitzer, devised and introduced into service by artillery commander, General Peter Ivanovich Shuvalov.

3-inch Ordnance rifle

The 3-inch Ordnance rifle, Model 1861 was a wrought iron muzzle-loading rifled cannon that was adopted by the United States Army in 1861 and widely used in field artillery units during the American Civil War. It fired a 9.5 lb (4.3 kg) projectile to a distance of 1,830 yd (1,670 m) at an elevation of 5°. The 3-inch rifle was not as effective in firing canister shot as the heavier 12-pounder Napoleon, but it proved to be highly accurate at longer ranges when firing shell or shrapnel. There was only one reported case of a 3-inch Ordnance rifle bursting in action. This was in stark contrast to the similarly-sized cast iron 10-pounder Parrott rifles which occasionally burst without warning, inflicting injury on the gun crews. The Confederate States of America lacked the technology to manufacture successful copies of the 3-inch Ordnance rifle. However, the Confederate States Army respected the weapons and employed those captured from Federal forces.

10-pounder Parrott rifle

The 10-pounder Parrott rifle, Model 1861 was a cast iron muzzle-loading rifled cannon that was adopted by the United States Army in 1861 and often used in field artillery units during the American Civil War. Like other Parrott rifles, the gun breech was reinforced by a distinctive wrought iron reinforcing band. The gun fired a 9.5 lb (4.3 kg) projectile to a distance of 1,850 yd (1,692 m) at an elevation of 5°. The 10-pounder Parrott rifle was capable of firing shell, shrapnel shell, canister shot, or solid shot. Midway through the war, the Federal government discontinued the 2.9 in (74 mm) version in favor of a 3.0 in (76 mm) version. Despite the reinforcing band, the guns occasionally burst without warning, inflicting injury on the gun crews. The Confederate States of America manufactured a number of successful copies of the gun.


  1. Old Humphrey (1799). The old sea captain. Religious Tract Society. p.  227.
  2. 1 2 Miller, Francis Trevelyan (1957). The Photographic History of The Civil War. Five: Forts and Artillery. New York: Castle Books. p. 177.
  3. Davis, Charles Gerard (1984). American Sailing Ships: Their Plans and History . Courier Corporation. p.  109. false.
  4. Henry Burchstead Skinner (1853). The Book of Indian Battles from the Landing of the Pilgrims to King Philips War. p. 141.
  5. Martin, Tyrone G (1987). "Isaac Hull's Victory Revisited". American Neptune .
  6. Page, Courtney. "Langrage". Queen Anne's Revenge Project. Retrieved 10 June 2019.