Watching the marvellous, agile and accurate shooting devices nowadays like anti-aircraft guns makes us wonder that where the idea did actually grew its roots from and when we study this, all the stems lead towards the roots to one of the greatest inventions of all times, the giant, biggest cannons.
Cannons were first pioneered in the late 14th century and as the era turned towards the shift between 14th and 15th century, cannons found themselves being used for various different purposes including defence, shifting and even executions. According to a rough estimate, the earlier cannons had a maximum range of 2000 yards and each cannon had a specialty of its own and according to the ammunition type had a different projectile.
Cannons were first engineered into three main broad categories that developed over the era 14th to 16th century and bloomed into their golden era during the two World Wars. The three categories are:
- Stone ball cannons: First introduced at the turn of 14th and 15th century in Western Europe, these cannons had enormous bore sizes as they were used to shoot large boulders mainly for defensive and attacking purposes.
- Iron ball cannons: By the 16th century, iron ball cannons were introduced having a less broad bore and this marked a remarkable shift from stone ball cannons though at an uneconomical price. However, it was seen as a great symbol of mightiness for any army that was equipped with biggest cannons.
- Explosive shell cannons: The powerful guns that we see nowadays often used to shoot down aircraft as well date back to the pioneering of explosive shell cannons. These were introduced in the industrial revolutionary period and the bore size was further reduced. They were mainly used in the famous World Wars and marked a great sense of supremacy at war and at home.
Starting from the stone ball and iron ball cannons the following marked their domination in their specific era:
Jai Singh II cast it 1720 by during the period of Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah, this cannon was reported of being so mighty that it reportedly caused a pond to form where it was tested due to its enormous strength. It is also believed that it was so powerful that the army men shooting the cannon had to dive in water quickly after shooting this cannon to avoid the shock waves. The weight of this canon is 50 tons and the length of the barrel is 6.15 m (20.2 ft.). The inner part near the tip of the barrel is 2.2 m (7.2 ft.) and that of the rear is 2.8 m (9.2 ft.). The thickness of the bore of the barrel is 11 inch (280mm) and the diameter of the barrel at the tip is 8.5 inch (216mm). The thickness regularly increases as we go up to the structure towards the rear of the barrel. Jaivana is also considered as world’s first largest wheeled Cannon in the world.
Designed by Heynrich Dumechen in 1409, it was particularly used by Frederick I of Brandenburg and was known for breaking the opposition’s gallantry within three weeks to mark the rise of his dynasty. It had a bore diameter of 520 mm, weighed 4.6 tonnes, having a length of 250cm while a barrel length of 150cm.
Designed by Jehan Cambier in June 1449, this cannon is a 20 inch bore stone ball cannon built on orders of Duke of Burgundy and was sent as a present to the Scottish King James II. Mons Meg weighs 15,366 pounds (6,970 kg), is 15 feet (4.6 m) in length. The final cost of the gun was £1,536.
This monstrous Turkish cannon designed by Munir Ali in 1464 for the Ottoman Empire marked a symbol of robustness and might in its era. It is famous for its use in the Siege of Constantinople annihilating the enemy with great might. The Dardanelles Gun was moulded using bronze with a weight of 16.8 tonnes and a length of 518 cm. It was strong enough to launch stone balls of up to 630 mm diameter (over 25 inches). It uses screw mechanism to connect the barrel and powder chamber which makes the transportation of such biggest cannons comparatively easy.
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Originating in Belgium in the start of 15th century, this cannon was first used in the siege of Oudenaarde in 1452. This cannon weighs a mighty 16.4 tonnes with an overall length of 498cm and a barrel length of 345cm. It was used to shoot large boulders of diameters up to 640mm. This was also employed as one of the superguns in various different European sieges.
This cannon was built in 1549 by Muhammad Bin Husain Rumi in Ahmadnagar. It has a large cannon, 4.45 metres (14.6 ft.) long and 1.5 metres (4.9 ft.) in diameter with a 700 millimetres (28 in) bore. It weighs a mighty 55 tonnes which makes it one of the heaviest cannons of the history; the main reason of such weight was to avoid the British carrying it home as a trophy if defeated.
Called the “largest cannon of Germany”, it was designed by Henning Bussenschutte in 1411. It is one of the few cannons having a conical muzzle which makes its bore adjustable from a diameter of 670 mm to 800 mm. However, the usual diameter that was established was 735mm. It was comparatively a relatively light weight cannon at 8.75 tonnes but had capabilities of shooting the largest of boulders even weighing up to 400kg which made it a nightmare for the rivals when used against them. It had an overall length of 305cm while a barrel length of 181cm.
Also called as ‘The Ottoman Cannon’, it was designed by a group of architects and engineers who collectively worked on its framework to build a might of its era. The three main of the group included Urban, Saruca Usta and Muslihiddin Usta. Its length was 732cm with a bore of 762mm. It was distinguished amongst many of its era for its long range of almost 1.6 km (≈1700 yards). Though inaccurate in its operation and having multiple engineering issues, it still cause a great damage when was used against Constantinople’s walls due to its long range and huge bore size. “The Basilic” ranked at number 3 in the list of biggest cannons.
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2-Pumhart Von Steyr
The second largest of all cannons, it originated from Austria in the early 15th century. Being able to shoot gargantuan boulders even weighing up to 690kg, it was one of the top artillery units for Romans during the 15th century. Its length extends to 259cm with an 8 tonnes bulky weight. It is one of the conical flask muzzled cannons with a maximum bore diameter of 820mm and a firing range of approximately 600 metres at maximum.
The Russian Tsar is by far the largest cannon by size and by bore according to the Guinness Book of World Records. This enormous stone ball cannon is designed by Andrey Chokhov. The Tsar Cannon is sculpted out of bronze metal which is its speciality being manufactured in the bronze casting revolution in 16th century. It weighs 39.312 tonnes and has a length of 5.34 m (17.5 ft.). Its bronze-cast barrel has an internal diameter of 890 mm (35.0 in), and an external diameter of 1,200 mm (47.2 in). The barrel has a total of eight rectangular brackets installed on a cast iron gun carriage consisting of three wheels to aid in the transportation of this marvellous gun.
Top 10 Biggest Cannons Ever Built in The History
- Tsar Cannon
- Pumhart von Steyr
- The Basilic
- Faule Mette
- Dulle Griet
- Dardanelles Gun
- Mons Meg
- Faule Grete