Ordnance and Munitions in North America 1492-1914
Allow me to introduce myself, Iím Mike Sterling, the CEO of ISSI UXO and Consulting LLC.,

We are essentially a Commercial Bomb Disposal Company that works globally, we are also the oldest surviving Ordnance Remediation contractor in North America. We also provide technical consulting and research services for the Department of Defense and Corps of Engineers. All of us at ISSI are former (or National Guard) Military Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, so we know what we are doing with these munitions and the data we are collecting.

We have a project that we are working on with a number of Archaeologists and Historians.

The Project is an attempt to type classify and gather data on all the types of Munitions and Ordnance used in North America during the pre-contemporary period (The Black Powder era in the munitions industry) which is essentially the period from 1492-1914Ö. Iím sure you can imagine what a daunting task this is.

We have broken the period down to Several sub-periods based around the Wars fought in NA during the time period, such as the United States Civil War....I've got so much information on that time period, we're drowning in it...the munitions are incredibly well documented!
Most of the rest are not so well documented! For example, all stacked, just the published books and manuals for the US Civil war stacked up come to 4ft 7inches..... all the rest of the period (notwithstanding the Spanish American War sub Period) combined totals 3 inches!

Folks, we are looking for help, and data, or if you know someone who has this type of data and might be willing to share it, please contact us, or have them contact us. Either way, we're working to save lives, because black powder doesn't go bad for the most part!

Please feel free to contact us any time,
Thank you,
I would contact the Native American Museum in Washington DC. They have a marvelous collection of weapons from 'Europe and the United States' used against Native Americans.

I do not want to get in to politics, but the NAM is very political so these are all called "Weapons used against Native Americans". Regardless they have a fine collection of weapons from the 1400s through 1960s on display.

My default position is the stuff that a museum has in the back room is far more interesting than the things a museum has in the display case
Thanks Mr. Smith, I'll put that on my POC list, when did you retire BTW?
me: 1987-2009, USA SFC (Ret)

So, as I said, I need data and heres where we sit so far:

- The British Royal Ordnance Museum was quite nice and helpful, they are packaging a lot of information to send me now.
- The French havenít even acknowledged my E-mail (big surprise?)
- I donít have any POCís of use in Sweden, the Netherlands, or Germany
- The Mexicans were very nice, but told me Iíd have to dig through their archive in Mexico City personallyÖ. And itís a paper archive.
- The folks in Moscow and Murmansk donít seem to be returning my emailsÖ.no more Dťtente?

These are the breakdown periods Iíve come up with so far along with need levels:
- Conquistadorez Pretty simple, some data on handÖammunition was mostly stone, so no worries about Fuzes!
- King Williams War 1688-97 no data on hand
- War of the Spanish Succession 1701-1714 no data on hand
- War of the Austrian Succession 1740-48 no data on hand
- Seven Years - French and Indian War Some Data on hand, mostly the basics from the British
- Russian Pacific NorthWest 1733-1867 Next to nothing availableÖworking with State of AK
- American War of Independence lots of data available, little on hand, still not sure if Hessian Artillery used Hessian guns or British?
- War of 1812 lots of data available on British guns, American records are terrible!
- Texas War of Independence 1835-1836 some data available
- Mexican-American War 1846-1848 some data available from US Sources currently.
- Mexican-Indian Wars I honestly havenít dug into this yet
- Mormon War I honestly havenít dug into this yet
- U.S. Civil War 1860-1865 Iím BURIED in data!!! Let me know if you need any!
- American-Indian Wars I honestly havenít dug into this yet
- French Intervention in Mexico I honestly havenít dug into this yet
- Spanish-American War 1898 Lots of data
- Mexican Revolution 1910-1920 little specific data, but it seems that everything from 12pounder Napoleons to 77mm Krupp guns were used!

it's gonna be a LOOOOONG research mess....I mean project...yeah
I don't have any personal knowledge, but one of the first places I would check in with is the Cody Firearms Museum, part of the Buffalo Bill Center Of The West, in Cody Wyoming. It is a world-class museum and boasts "the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world" with "over 7000 firearms with more than 30,000 firearms-related artifacts." It is a great place. It would certainly have a lot of the Indian Wars firearms, but so much more. I remember several very old firearms as well, from the 1500s at least.


Also, I suppose Beretta Arms being the oldest continuously-owned maker in the world should have some interesting things.

Neat project, if a little overwhelming. Please keep us all informed.
The Cody Museum reminded me

the NRA Museum.

I fear your work is going to take on a life of its own, a bit like cthulhu

please, only electrons in print the Library of Congress will pail in comparison

October 1st, 2012. United States Army, Special Operations Command. 38B5PS00
Gentlemen, I'm VERY HAPPY to say that my portion of the project has NOTHING to do with small arms!

I'll just be sticking with High End Ordnance, Hand Grenades, Munitions, the like....got an Archaeologist/Gun Geek that makes me look like a complete FNG when it comes to period firearms,

I'm sure our research will overlap, but he's unavailable out digging up bones in South America or something.

The Cthulu reference is about right.....it's gonna be an ongoing project for several decades.

Thanks guys!
Robert Sterling wrote:
Gentlemen, I'm VERY HAPPY to say that my portion of the project has NOTHING to do with small arms!

I'll just be sticking with High End Ordnance, Hand Grenades, Munitions, the like....got an Archaeologist/Gun Geek that makes me look like a complete FNG when it comes to period firearms,

I'm sure our research will overlap, but he's unavailable out digging up bones in South America or something.

The Cthulu reference is about right.....it's gonna be an ongoing project for several decades.

Thanks guys!

you may be in luck in the case of cannons anyway.since artillery designs and models tended to be kept for a lot longer than small arms, and their usage and typologies documented a lot more extensively,

for the earliest periods id also cross reference with european museums since obviously most of the colonists were off shoots and settlements of established european kingdoms, mostly england france and spain.. so checking with the royal armouries, and the tower of london, and the major spanish armories would provide good info. especially in spain since american conquest takes up a large part of spanish historical achievement.
Welcome, Robert! If you haven't already done so, you should be in touch with these folks in our own back yard:


IIRC, Bob Bradley specializes in munitions and they have pretty much everything you can imagine in the reserve collection.

I wrote this many years ago so I'm not sure all these folks are still at ADAH, but they would still be around somewhere and the collection isn't going anywhere.
Dear Robert,

This may be entirely obvious; however, what you are going to find is that in the spherical shot and shell period predating the rifled shot developed and used just prior to and throughout the Civil War period, all basic artillery munitions were round shot, either solid or fused and of a generally fixed size. Based on the colonial experience, both the British and French systems of shot size predominated and was used right to to the Civil War period. I would imagine this is due to two reasons. (1) During the American colonial period (1603 - 1815) - I consider the War of 1812 to be the actual end of the colonial period, not 1776 or 1783 - most of the artillery used here was based on the English system, i.e. 3lb, 6lb, 9lb, 12lb, 18lb, 24lb., etc. Again, except for grapeshot, all solid or fused round cast ball. Shrapnel, of course, is a later innovation. (2) Having said that, you have the French influence from the War of Independence using their own unique system which varied only in particulars from the British, mainly in the gunpowder loads and published ordnance tables. In both instances, the American army used captured or left behind ordinance which means a continuation of the older sizes for shot and shell. In the very early colonial period, the predominate artillery projectile was again English but the archaic sizes that varied based on method of manufacture (bell bronze, cast iron or banded, breech-loads). There is a very good series of articles about these archaic sizes in the two-volume "Weapons of Warre" published regarding the archeological data from the recovery of the Mary Rose. However, I hasten to add that it seems before the first attempt at standardization of calibers in the British ordnance system (the Royal Artillery was a totally separate, specialist branch of service under the Board of Ordnance), the size of cannons and their projectiles was more of a set of suggestions than anything else. As there were not any major conflicts fought on NA soil before the Seven Years War, projectiles from this period were either simply lost or defective and disposed of...so not much evidence. From c. 1750-1783, at least, the system I mentioned above was the standard. The U.S. didn't invent anything new other than cannon styles and related carriages, limbers, caissons, etc. and these were usually only improvements on the continental systems.

Finally, you do get a smattering of Spanish influence in the Floridas (East and West), the Alabama coast and Louisiana. However, these, I think would be very rare indeed.

One reference book I would suggest is by the late, noted author Harold Petersen "Round Shot and Rammers" which contains quite a bit of useful information from this period.

Sorry I can't help after 1815 as, frankly, I lose interest. But I can say everything is going to be very monotonous from the end of the archaic period predating the standardization of ordnance up to the development of all of the various rifling schemes (Parrott, Blakney, etc. ad n.) just before the Civil War. During this early modern period, I think you will find everything was pretty much the same old boring stuff! Oh, and by the way, mortars were the same story except that by necessity all of the shells were obviously fused.

Good luck!

Dr. Glenn Osborne
Thanks Sir, and yes, I have all of that information because Round Shot and Rammers is an amazing book as a historical primer!

The "Archaic Artillery time period" is going to be a challenge, but it does seem that nearly all the European powers began a system of standardization around the early 1700's and nearly all of them began experimenting with a black powder charge around the mid 1600's and Fuzing beyond the standard "peg and wick" style in the 1820's with the US Civil War becoming an incredible leap forward in Fuze technology and innovation! Nothing quite spurs innovation like the business of killing each other!

The British Standardization system you refer to is the Armstrong system from the 1730's
The French the Valliere System from the same period. followed by the Gribeauval system at the end of the 7 Years War. They adopted the Armstrong system just in time for the Napoleonic Wars like most of the rest of Europe.

The Swedes had their own system throughout!

I have no data at all on the Germans and in particular what the Hessian formations fighting under the British used.

What a lot of people forget is that Mexico belonged to a lot of people and used Spanish, French, British, American, and Domestically produced Guns in their turn. Still part of North America.

The Russians used the Archaic style and eventually adopted the Gribeuval System, totally skipping the deValleire system but still retained the Archaic systems at the same time for over a century!! Their records for what they brought to Russian America are terrible. We just worked the evaluation of a recovered "Falcon" Shot from the Native fortification at Sitka...the Russians apparently took the VERY Russian approach to colonialism with the very liberal use of cannon against anyone that looked sideways at them!

Still working it!
I would suggest categories for the (English) colonial and early federal periods.

The Virginia muster of 1624-5 lists all arms in the colony, including light artillery. I'm sure the northeast colonies could supply the same kinds of records.

The 18th c. in the southeast is a fascinating study, with the English, French and Spanish all supplying arms and other goods to Native Americans to secure their loyalties against the opposing superpowers. All that led to the Battle of Horseshoe Bend and the removal period.

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