How the Master Gunner Fires a Four Pound Carriage Gun

How the Master Gunner Fires a Four Pound Carriage Gun

This week, Ship’s Boy, Tommy Carter introduced the role of Master Gunner on #TallShipTuesday. The Master Gunner is a warrant officer that held the responsibilities of maintaining and firing the guns onboard a ship. Providence held a fluctuating amount of guns in her time. She had anywhere from 4 to 12 swivel guns that could be moved around the ship, and 6-12 carriage guns. There are records that show her having different numbers depending on her captain, provisions, crew, and other factors. To fire one of these guns, the process is relatively straightforward.

Worm the Gun

We first use the worm to scrape out the inside of the bore to remove any burnt powder or wadding left from the previous firing. It is important that there is nothing left inside the gun before adding in the new gunpowder and shot.

Extinguish the Flames

Next, we take a tool called a wet swab (or wet sponge) and dip it in a bucket of water. The wet swab is used to extinguish any embers that may still be lit from the previous firing. This helps prevent a misfire when we load the gun with powder.

Dry the Gun

Then we take a dry swab, which has not been dipped in water to dry the water from inside the gun. This step is important the first time, but then becomes less important the more times the gun is fired. The gun would get so hot it actually dried itself.

Load the Gun

We then pack the gun with a cartridge of powder, which is typically wrapped in a flammable canvas. To compress the powder and allow for rapid combustion, we use a ram. Before adding in our shot, we add a bit of wadding. Wadding is typically some cotton or canvas that separates the shot from the powder.

Finally, we load the shot, position and aim the gun, take a small prick and puncture the powder cartridge through the touch hole, pour some very fine powder into the touch hole, and stand back. When everything is ready, take the linstock, a long pole with a lit slow-match at the end, and the master gunner shouts,


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