Miniature Cannon Packs A Punch, Shows Off Manual Machining Skills

CNC machine tools are getting ever more affordable for the amateur machinist, and they’re an enabling technology for many projects. But you’ve got to respect the old school approach to turning hunks of metal into finished parts with no computer control. [Ticktock34] shows off his skills on a WWII vintage manual lathe with a photo album of his .75 caliber miniature black powder cannon build. What starts as a 3″ diameter actuator from a front end loader ends up as a beautiful replica of a full-sized cannon, along with a half-filled barrel of nicely blued scrap metal. Particularly impressive is the nicely proportioned ball end, cut by hand with no more instrumentation than a set of calipers. [Ticktock34] also shares a few tips for getting the trunnions exactly squared and aligned.

Good looking, and functional – stay tuned after the break for a video with the impressive blast from a test firing – with only a quarter charge of powder, mind you.

Want something a little safer for the kiddies and less likely to result in a visit from the police? Perhaps this PVC pirate cannon is more your speed.

[via reddit]

43 thoughts on “Miniature Cannon Packs A Punch, Shows Off Manual Machining Skills

    1. Sure, why not? It’s essentially just a noise-maker. Even if he did load it with shot, my understanding is there is very little regulation on black powder weapons.

      1. loading with shot is problematic because that depends on city or county local ordinances. Same with the noise. But possession is pretty much free. I don’t light off Grandpa’s bronze cannon because even a half charge properly wadded can crack windows pretty easy. If I had acreage like my family had, that’d be different. We’d light it off on the 4th and at midnight on New Years. Demonstrated the speed of sound and calculated distance when over at a friends’ house 2 miles away LOL

      1. In most cities of the US, firing this thing in your front yard would result in a visit from the local uniforms, and a “stern talking to”, as well as an inquiry to the ATF, and Homeland Security databases to see if you are a suspected terrorist or other “person of interest”.

          1. Me too. A friend of mine does, and he gets away with the occasional bottle rocket or two, but if he makes too much noise the neighbors call the cops.

      2. In South Australia you’d get locked up, minimum 6 years!!!

        replica black powder cannons have always needed a pistol license, because of the length!

        it puts them into the “concealed weapon” category.

        I always had an image of some robber running into a bank, setting up his cannon, yelling “THIS IS A HOLD UP!!!”

    2. In the US; muzzle loading firearms are essentially completely unregulated. Additionally anybody can build a conventional firearm from scratch legally, as long as they’re not otherwise prohibited.

    3. So long as you’re legally allowed to own firearms in the US you are allowed to manufacture them (even modern designs) for your own private use. You just can’t make it w/ for the purpose of selling it.
      It’s preferred that you add a ‘manufacturers mark’ but not federally required.

      1. last I checked a felon can even own a flintlock or even cap and ball muzzleloader, as well as any pneumatic actuated rifle or pistol of any velocity. Makes a lot of sense, no? especially with 30 and 45 caliber precharged pneumatic rifles that can deliver killing energy at 100 yards with much reduced report. “suppressing” an air rifle is still legal and unregistered too so far.

    4. There are only a few (federal) restrictions on homemade firearms. Assuming you can own one (i.e. not a felon), you can’t manufacture one with the intent to sell, although you can choose to sell it at a later date. Additionally, suppressors, short barreled rifles and shotguns and ‘destructive devices’ (like grenades) require you to fill out an ATF form 1 and pay a $200 tax stamp.

      Black powder and muzzleloading firearms are a special category, federally, in that they aren’t actually considered weapons. The same is true for any firearm manufactured before 1899. You can buy one mail-order. So this cannon is doubly unrestricted, being homemade and a muzzleloader.

      1. I would one up you and say the right to bear arms cannot legally be infringed…and that law trumps all
        The rest is all hot air and if they try to enforce it it would “18 U.S. Code § 242 – Deprivation of rights under color of law” and be a feloney

        1. Yeah, you can tell the BATFE agents that when they show up at your house and take your shit. They follow the CGA and NFA, and those don’t contradict 18 U.S. Code § 242 because they are specific federal laws pertaining to firearms, not generic civil rights laws like 18 U.S. Code § 242. Tell your attorney to use 18 U.S. Code § 242 as a defense while you sit in prison trying to figure out how to pay your attorney’s fees, and you will still loose because you ignored the GCA and NFA.

          1. To elaborate: you would need the Supreme Court to hear/accept your appeal challenging the GCA/NFA’s constitutionality as there is existing case precedent where the SCOTUS already affirmed the constitutionality of the GCA/NFA. This is something they aren’t obligated to do, and would be most likely be disinclined to do electively.

            For further reading: See “United States v. Miller”

            Since the argument that the GCA/NFA are unconstitutional would be considered specious/frivolous by almost every lower court: you’ll have to “buy” the opportunity to have take it to the Supreme Court by sitting in jail/prison(because they aren’t going to let you out on bail while waiting for your appeal to get heard).

            Unless the GOA/NRA has a sympathetic test-case they want to sponsor: your best bet is to pay your respects to Marbury v. Madison and accept that “Judicial Review” trumps your laymen interpretation of the 2nd Amendment( “Animal Farm”/George Orwell won’t protect you from the US Marshal Service)…

    5. I have a .56 caliber naval 24 pounder. In the USA these cannons are considered muzzle loaders. I’ve never had any problems shooting blank loads in front of my house; even when the neighbor who is an FBI agent was around. I suppose its like anything else: don’t be a moron and you should be okay.

        1. Howdy there who needs keys.. There’s a lot of old Vets that believe that gun-grabbing fascist stormtroopers have an equal opportunity to die full of our bullets in our yards just like any other criminal element who disrespect our rights as free men.. Yup, just like Randy Weaver, we realize it may be death for us also, but we love our freedoms more than fear of death, & actually welcome the opportunity to stand against tyranny! Even the feds don’t mess with old combat Vets with a death-wish! They’re essentially, much like electrons & flow toward the weaker resistance… Cowardly peasants of tyrannical governments definitely are safer to mess with! So aren’t those who safely follow the lead sheep in thought & action (or lack of it).. Just my nine cents…

  1. In Europe, it’s all about the projectile’s energy value. If it’s more then a threshold specified in the law, you need a permit, or else it’s illegal. The source of the projectile’s energy doesn’t matter, it could be a bow, or a firearm, or whatever.

  2. When my father was younger, he built a number of cannons out of various materials. The ones he fired were built from steel or iron (not sure which, I was a toddler at the time), and the ones he built for show were made out of brass. I have a couple of bookends he made that could probably be made to fire with very little effort.

      1. If you’re following a design from prior to 1899 and uses black powder it -might- fall under the antique firearms exemption. There’s actually a specific exemption for ‘…antique, obsolete, bronze or iron cannon…’ in the definition of ‘Destructive Device’. Though it’s in the context of existing pieces. I’ve heard of people building black powder artillery pieces before, and a few re-enactment groups have them.

        1. Good point. Definitely a preexisting antique gun of that design would be fine to have, but the question of making a breach loading device of larger than .50 caliber (even from old designs) and not requiring destructive device registration would be a question for the ATF firearm technology branch.
          Even if you plan to use black powder, it would be difficult to prove the device could not fire self contained modern cartridge ammunition.

          1. That’s actually trivial. Lack of a firing pin and/or chamber diameter that is the same or smaller diameter than the barrel would be solid indicators. Also the lack of appropriately sized cartridges in it’s vicinity would prevent a ‘constructive’ charge against you. That is if you have all the parts, though not assembled, for a restricted gun in the same place you’ll get arrested.

          2. Why do you need a firing pin? Use a 209 primer placed dead center (and touching) a .50 BMG cartridge that has been shortened (neck and shoulder removed) and loaded with a .700 WTF projectile.

            Alternately use the .700 Nitro Express. It’s harder to find and much more expensive, but it is a rimmed cartridge, so it would be easier to work with in this device.

            No firing pin, no change in bore diameter.

            This is why the ATF firearm technology branch would need to inspect the weapon for a ruling of it’s legality.

          3. @Mark
            Both .50BMG and .700 nitro cases taper 0.100″ and 0.050″ over the length of the main case body. Excluding the shoulder taper/final neck in the instance of .50. So chamber diameter isn’t consistent. Even if ‘straight’ cases were actually straight you still need a step to account for the thickness of the case material over top of the projectile which, again makes the chamber larger than the barrel.
            As for your firing pinless design, I can’t picture how this works w/o using a fire pin to hit the primer. If you think you’ll be able to slam fire it using the breach mechanism to squash the primer, good luck beating Newton in a race. You’d also be adding a telltale shoulder where the rim of the cartridge sits, making it painfully obvious that this is no longer an antique design.

            Lastly, if you wait until you’ve already made a questionable firearm to get ATF approval, you’ve possibly already committed a felony. You need to send them a machinists blue print before construction begins.

          4. You could pretty easily place your touch hole dead center in the back of the breech, then if you want to use fuze with black powder you can, when you want a firing pin you put in your temporary firing pin for your modern custom made cartridge. Alternately you could use electric M52A3 primers up against the primer of the modern cartridge. No firing pin needed.
            You would need to cut down and stretch the .50 BMG casing to a uniform case diameter (no taper), and then turn a step into a custom projectile (so there is no step from case to projectile). The throat depth doesn’t matter here, since there is no rifling. You will need to have the bolt face hold the round and screw into the breech as done in some single shot .50 cal rifles. Then the there is no difference in chamber diameter verses bore diameter, and no step in the back of the breach for a cartridge rim. Apply HBN liberally to the cartridge liberally before insertion.

          5. Thanks Brian, those are some good ideas. I have a whole box of those M52A3’s left, and was looking for something to do with them. When I get more of those .50 APIT rounds we can go out for a shoot.

        2. “Any Other Weapon” which can include firearms made after 1899 for which the ammunition is not commercially produced. There’s also the “Curio and Relic” classification. Examples would be Gyro-Jet pistols and carbines and the Dardick Pistol and Carbine that use the plastic trochoidal Trounds. Got a revolver that takes .44 Russian or a .303 Savage rifle? New ammunition for those is rarely made and usually converted from other cases that are close in dimension.

          In other words, nobody is expecting an insurrection to arm itself with muzzle loaders and/or firearms for which they can’t buy or otherwise acquire the ammunition from local hardware or gun stores. Except for one idiot who wanted the single shot Thompson-Center Contender included in the 1986 GCA because someone “could equip an army with them” and it was possible to fit a shoulder stock with a pistol length barrel.

          Pistols with detachable shoulder stocks made before the 1934 NFA (IIRC) are legal and exempt from the $200 tax and registration. The regulations, they make no sense at all… http://thefiringline.com/forums/archive/index.php?t-360758.html

          Owners of such guns who actually use them tend to buy all the original rounds and spent cases they can and reload it themselves. AFAIK, nobody has successfully reproduced Trounds or Gyro-Jet rockets. The spotty accuracy of the Gyro-Jet was eventually determined to be inconsistency of the base crimp. Too much roll would impinge on the exhaust holes and Coanda Effect would deflect the exhaust streams outward. Should anyone go into manufacturing it, they’d have to be very tough on quality control.

          1. trounds have been done recently-they were pretty much plastic adapters with the pistol so you can use standard 38 (tho I don’t recall if it’s 38 spl or 38 Smith. the tround adapters were 3D printed. Gyrojet, still WIP.

        3. Antique firearms exemption applies to firearms that were MANUFACTURED before 1899, not designed.

          Otherwise I wouldn’t have to pay an FFL to transfer an M1895 Nagant Revolver(C&R not withstanding).

      2. The over .50 caliber definition of “destructive device” in 1968 GCA is why Gyro-Jet reduced their bore size to 12mm from 13mm. Dunno why they didn’t just reduce it to exactly .50 since .50 BAR is NOT considered a Destructive Device. Perhaps they thought that .50 would be included in the definition but the law says *more than* .50. An extra .7mm diameter would’ve helped, just a smidge more room inside for propellant, some design optimization to keep the same range and velocity curve as the 13mm version.

  3. as a smoothbore, muzzle loading black powder weapon, it’s legal to possess pretty much everywhere-even in paranoid California. firing it however, is another trick. I inherited a bronze cast cannon, 1 inch bore, that my father and grandfather built decades ago. It only got fired in the last few years by a “pirate” group at the local ren faire. Wadding was green florist foam with a reduced charge. Big boom, smoke ring, all the fun and none of the prison time.

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