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A type of lightweight cannon introduced in 1779 by Carron Foundry of Falkirk, Scotland, principally for use at sea. Carronades were designed to achieve a significant saving of both weight and manpower over standard ('long') guns. This was achieved in three principal ways:

  • The cast-iron barrel was much shorter than that of a standard gun and consequently lighter. The overall weight of a 32-pound long gun was about 55 hundredweight (2.75 imperial tons or 2.8 metric tonnes) and its length over 9 feet (2.75 metres); the figures for a carronade of the same calibre were about 17 hundredweight (865kg) and little more than 4 feet (1.22 metres) while in smaller calibres the difference was still greater.
  • While the traditional gun was mounted rigidly on a four-wheeled carriage so that the entire assembly recoiled when fired, the carronade barrel was mounted on a bed which remained permanently in place, the recoil being absorbed by a channel or slide which allowed the barrel to move lengthways in relation to the bed (which, from this feature, was itself sometimes called a slide). This had at the inboard end two wheels, which unlike the conventional wheel or truck were designed to swivel like castors for greater ease of traversing (i.e. swinging the gun from side to side); the outer end was pivoted on a peg driven into the deck.
  • All except the earliest carronades were fitted with a vertical threaded rod passing through the end of the cascabel, allowing the vertical angle to be adjusted much more easily than by the old method of quoin and handspike.

All this meant that a large carronade could be handled by four men instead of fourteen, so that a frigate, a sloop or even a brig could carry 24- or 32-pounders without overstraining either her timbers or her crew. In fact, increasing the broadside-weight of small vessels was probably the most popular usage of carronades. (HMS Surprise herself sometimes carried 32-pounder carronades in place of her usual 9-pounder long guns.) However, carronades could also be used on the upper decks of a ship of the line, where they would give extra weight of firepower without making the ship top-heavy; thus the Victory carried two 68-pounders (the largest size) at Trafalgar. Carronades were not free from drawbacks: the short barrel, projecting only a little way beyond the gun-port when run out, created some risk of setting the vessel's own rigging on fire, and (more seriously) it considerably reduced the effective range of the gun. Nonetheless, these guns (distrusted at first, partly because of initial faults in the casting process and partly through the innate traditionalism of the Navy) came to be very popular in the fleets of all nations. Napoleon, who as a former gunner specialist may be considered a good judge of this aspect of naval practice if not of any other, had a particular liking for carronades and constantly urged his Minister of Marine to issue more of them.

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