[MR] History Blog: Medieval Hand Cannon Sold at Flea Market

Garth Groff and Sally Sanford mallardlodge1000 at gmail.com
Fri Jun 23 02:41:51 PDT 2023

Noble Friends,

Today the History Blog reports on the interesting story of a medieval hand
cannon which was sold at the British equivalent of a flea market for £20.
The weapon has just resold at auction for over £2,500.

"Handgonnes" like this were often mounted at the end of a long pole which
screwed into the butt of the weapon, and are generally referred to as
"socket guns" today (an example is shown in the blog post). The auction
house claims the recently sold weapon was probably mounted on a board
(likely by metal bands). The cannon was loaded from the muzzle and fired by
applying a slow match (a smouldering piece of saltpeter-infused rope) to a
touch-hole, much like ship's cannons you have seen in pirate movies (the
pirates usually apply a more spectacular flaming torch, but hey!, that's

Hand guns of the type were recorded in Europe as early as 1380. Given the
somewhat primitive state of metallurgy at that time, they often exploded,
wiping out the gunner and anyone else nearby. Dangerous weapons, these hand

The story is at https://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/67580 .

Henry VIII had a small calibre "handgonne" with three barrels built into a
walking stick. One wonders if Henry had a servant follow him around with
the smouldering slow match. The rather impractical weapon was, and probably
still is, on display at the Tower of London:

Yours Aye,

Mungo Napier, Laird of Mallard Lodge  🦆
Keeping Merry Rose relevant for 16 years.

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