The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Mass of a Cannonball

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Bibliographic Entry Result
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Serway, Raymond A. College Physics. Seventh ed. Pacific Grove, CA: Thomson-Brooks/Cole, 2006. "The cannon fires a 200-kg projectile at a velocity of 125 m/s directed 45.0° above the horizontal." 200kg
Rittgers, Sarah J. "Guns and Ammunition - Artillery." The New Book of Knowledge. Danbury, Connecticut: Grolier, 2003. 424. "One famous cannon, called Dulle Griete (Dutch for 'Mad Margaret'), had bore of 33 inches (84 centimeters) and fired a 600-pound (270-kilogram) stone ball." 270kg
British Cannonball Sizes. Arc Miscellany. 25 May 2009. "Borgard is credited with standardising on the cannonball weights of 4lb, 6lb, 9lb, 12lb, 18lb, 24lb, 32lb, and 42lb (where 'lb' denotes pounds 1lb = 0.45kg). [See table below.]" 1.8kg-19.1kg
Richard Symonds, Charles Edward Long, British Museum. Diary of the Marches of the Royal Army during the Great Civil War. Printed for the Camden Society, 1859. 57. "This day wee mainteyned in all parts what wee had gott in the night, many of the enemies great shott of 9lb. being shot at our men." 4.1kg
Weapons of the American Civil War. The American Civil War Home Page. 16 February 2002. "Almost all Civil War cannon were muzzle loading; breech-loading models, such as the British 12-pounder rifled Armstrong and Whitworth cannon, were generally unreliable and awkward." 5.4kg

A cannon ball is a missile, usually round and made of iron or steel, designed to be fired from a cannon. The cannon is said to be invented by a German monk, Berthold Schwarz, in the early 14th century. The earliest cannon was first fired using stones or metal balls. But soon it was made of iron.

The mass of a cannon ball depends on the material it was made of and the size of the ball. Because a cannon ball is a sphere, the size of it is its volume

V = 4/3 π r3

Then using density of iron, 0.2841 lb/in3, we can find the mass. Mass is equal to density multiplied by volume

m = DV

Then substituting the equation

m = D * 4/3 π r3

In the 18th century, Albert Borgard, in charge of the Royal Ordnance made the British standardized the weight of cannon balls to be the following:

Mass of Iron Sphere
 4 2.99
 6 3.43
 9 3.93
12 4.32
18 4.95
24 5.44
32 5.99
42 6.56

These were considered standardized because the diameter of each would be close to next half inch, i.e. 4 lb was 3 inches in diameter, 6 lb was 3.5 inches in diameter, 9 lb was 4 inches in diameter and so on.

The mass of the cannonball can range from 1kilogram to 300 kilograms depending on the era it was in and what it was used for. Beginning from the early 14th century, it was the heaviest (to destroy fortifications), and the through the years, the ball for smaller and lighter (to have better aim and shoot further distance). During the civil war, the average cannonball size was 12lb or 5.4kg.

Jennifer Chung -- 2009