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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 type of shot that is not one solid element, but a mass of small metal balls or slugs packed tightly into a canvas bag. [1] It was used both in land and naval warfare. When assembled, the balls 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.

Artillery class of weapons which fires munitions beyond the range and power of personal weapons

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons built to launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry's small arms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility providing the large share of an army's total firepower.

Grape spherical berry from vines of Vitis spp.

A grape is a fruit, botanically a berry, of the deciduous woody vines of the flowering plant genus Vitis.

Shotgun smoothbore firearm which can fire one or more projectiles in a single firing

A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug. Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore up to 5 cm (2.0 in) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, single-barreled, double or combination gun, pump-action, bolt-, and lever-action, revolver, semi-automatic, and even fully automatic variants.


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. [2] Second, the balls were cast large enough to cut rigging, destroy spars and blocks, and puncture multiple sails. [3] [4]

Canister shot, also known as case shot, was packaged in a tin or brass container, possibly guided by a wooden sabot. The later shrapnel shell was similar, but with a much greater range.

Canister shot class of ammunition used by artillery

Canister shot or case shot is a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. It was similar to case and the naval grapeshot, but fired smaller and more numerous balls, which did not have to punch through the wooden hull of a ship. 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. The canister round is similar to a case and is still used today in modern artillery, particularly in the main armament of tanks with smoothbore cannons.

Tin Chemical element with atomic number 50

Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn (from Latin: stannum) and atomic number 50. Tin is a silvery white metal that characteristicly has a faint yellow hue due to slight oxidation. Tin, like indium, is soft enough to be cut without much force. When a bar of tin is bent the so-called "tin cry" can be heard as a result of sliding tin crystals reforming; this trait is shared by indium, cadmium and frozen mercury. Pure tin after solidifying keeps a mirror-like appearance similar to most metals, however most Tin alloys such as in Pewter, the metal soldifys with a dull gray color. Tin is a post-transition metal in group 14 of the periodic table of elements. It is obtained chiefly from the mineral cassiterite, which contains stannic oxide, SnO2. Tin shows a chemical similarity to both of its neighbors in group 14, germanium and lead, and has two main oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4. Tin is the 49th most abundant element and has, with 10 stable isotopes, the largest number of stable isotopes in the periodic table, thanks to its magic number of protons. It has two main allotropes: at room temperature, the stable allotrope is β-tin, a silvery-white, malleable metal, but at low temperatures, it transforms into the less dense grey α-tin, which has the diamond cubic structure. Metallic tin does not easily oxidize in air.

Brass Alloy of copper and zinc

Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, in proportions which can be varied to achieve varying mechanical and electrical properties. It is a substitutional alloy: atoms of the two constituents may replace each other within the same crystal structure. Bronze is an alloy also containing copper, but instead of zinc it has tin.

Langridge (or "langrel") is an type of improvised round that uses chain links, nails, shards of glass, rocks or other similar objects as the projectiles. Although langridge can be cheaply made, it is generally less effective than purpose-made projectiles.[ citation needed ]

Chain series of connected links which are typically made of metal

A chain is a serial assembly of connected pieces, called links, typically made of metal, with an overall character similar to that of a rope in that it is flexible and curved in compression but linear, rigid, and load-bearing in tension. A chain may consist of two or more links. Chains can be classified by their design, which is dictated by their use:

CSS <i>Georgia</i> (ironclad)

CSS Georgia, also known as State of Georgia and Ladies' Ram, was an ironclad warship built in Savannah, Georgia in 1862 during the American Civil War. The Ladies' Gunboat Association raised $115,000 for her construction to defend the port city of Savannah.

See also

Beehive was a Vietnam war era anti-personnel round packed with metal flechettes fired from an artillery gun most popularly deployed during that conflict. It is also known as flechette rounds or their official designation, antipersonnel-tracer (APERS-T).


A salvo is the simultaneous discharge of artillery or firearms including the firing of guns either to hit a target or to perform a salute.

Shotgun shell self-contained cartridge loaded with lead shot or a shotgun slug which is designed to be fired from a shotgun

A shotgun shell is a self-contained cartridge often loaded with multiple metallic "shot", which are small, generally spherical projectiles. The shells consist of a paper or plastic tube mounted on a brass base holding a primer. The shot is typically contained in a small container inside the shell casing. Shot has traditionally been made of lead, but steel, tungsten or bismuth is frequently used due to restrictions on lead. A shotgun shell can contain a single, large projectile known as a shotgun slug. They can also be made with specialty non-lethal rounds such as beanbag rounds, and rubber. Shotguns have an effective range of about 45 meters. An old non-lethal round consisted of a shotgun shell loaded with rock salt, which could inflict very painful, but rarely deadly, wounds, and was popular for scaring away trespassers.

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Shrapnel shell anti-personnel artillery shell which carried a large number of individual bullets

Shrapnel shells were anti-personnel artillery munitions which carried a large number of 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.

High-explosive anti-tank warhead type of shaped charge explosive that uses the Munroe effect to penetrate thick tank armor

A high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead is a type of shaped charge explosive that uses the Munroe effect to penetrate thick tank armor. The warhead functions by having the explosive charge collapse a metal liner inside the warhead into a high-velocity superplastic jet. This superplastic jet is capable of penetrating armor steel to a depth of seven or more times the diameter of the charge but is usually used to immobilize or destroy tanks. Due to the way they work, they do not have to be fired as fast as an armor piercing shell, allowing less recoil. Contrary to a widespread misconception, the jet does not melt its way through armor, as its effect is purely kinetic in nature. The HEAT warhead has become less effective against tanks and other armored vehicles due to the use of composite armor, explosive-reactive armor, and active protection systems which destroy the HEAT warhead before it hits the tank. Even though HEAT rounds are less effective against the heavy armor found on 2010s main battle tanks, HEAT warheads remain a threat against less-armored parts of a main battle tank and against lighter armored vehicles or unarmored vehicles and helicopters.

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.

Air burst

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

A round shot is a solid projectile without explosive charge, fired from a cannon. As the name implies, a round shot is spherical; its diameter is slightly less than the bore of the gun from which it is fired.

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.

APCBC ammunition shell type

The armour-piercing capped ballistic cap (APCBC) is a type of armor-piercing shell introduced in the 1930s. The ballistic cap was a thin shell, typically metal, that fit over the rounded nose of an otherwise unchanged armour-piercing round to improve its aerodynamics. This allowed the APCBC shells to retain higher velocities, delivering more energy to the target, especially at long range. On impact the shell crumpled, allowing the armour-piercing component to impact as normal.

Chain shot

In artillery, chain shot is a type of cannon projectile formed of two sub-calibre balls, or half-balls, chained together. Bar shot is similar, but joined by a solid bar. They were used in the age of sailing ships and black powder cannon to shoot masts, or to cut the shrouds and any other rigging of a target ship.

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.

Fragmentation (weaponry)

Fragmentation is the process by which the casing of a projectile from a bomb, barrel bomb, land mine, IED, artillery, mortar, tank gun, or autocannon shell, rocket, missile, grenade, land mine, etc. is shattered by the detonation of the explosive filler.

Twelve-pound cannon

The twelve-pound cannon is a cannon that fires twelve-pound projectiles from its barrel, as well as grapeshot, chainshot, 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 lbers 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 lber was a favorite weapon of the Grande Armée. Later, redesigned 12 lbs were named after Napoleon III and found heavy use during the American Civil War.

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.

Gun weapon designed to discharge projectiles or other material

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


  1. Old Humphrey (1799). The old sea captain. p. 227.
  2. Davis, Charles Gerard (1984). American Sailing Ships: Their Plans and History. p. 109.
  3. Henry Burchstead Skinner (1853). The Book of Indian Battles from the Landing of the Pilgrims to King Philips War. p. 141.
  4. Martin, Tyrone G (1987). "Isaac Hull's Victory Revisited". American Neptune .