Mountain Guns

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  • BL = Breech Loading
  • ML = Muzzle Loading
  • RBL = Rifled Breech Loading
  • RML - Rifled Muzzle Loading
  • SBML = Smooth Bore Muzzle Loading
  • Cannon parts see Glossary


Muzzle loaders

Mountain Artillery was developed to allow field guns to accompany forces operating in mountainous regions. They needed to move as fast as infantry and be readied for action in the shortest time possible. The first mountain train in India was formed in 1840 and the only guns suitable for carriage by mule were the bronze 3-pounder SBML and 4.25" howitzer with a range of about 800 yards (730 metres) . Mules could carry about 100kg and the guns were dismantled into three loads (piece, carriage and wheels).


In 1865 rifling increased the range of the muzzle loader to 3,000 yards (2,740 metres). The RBL 6-pounder 2.5" was recommended to the British Army as a mountain gun in 1858. It weighed 3 cwt (153 kg) and was considered too heavy. It was superseded in 1864 by the RML 7-pounder Mountain Gun.

Screw Guns

In 1879 the RML 2.5 inch Mountain Gun was introduced. The breech and barrel were in two parts screwed together and it was carried by four mules.

Breech loaders

The RML 2.5 inch Mountain Gun was replaced in 1901 by the breech loading BL 10 pounder Mountain Gun which was in service until the end of the First World War. An improved version, the 2.75 inch Mountain Gun was introduced in 1911.

The 3.7 inch Mountain Howitzer was first introduced in 1917. It broke down into eight mule loads and was in service until 1945.


Round shot

The original projectile was the solid cannonball or round shot. Originally of dressed stone, in the colonial period they were solid iron and were for the most part fired from smooth bore guns. Hollow round shot (the first shells) were filled with explosive or incendiary material set off by a fuze. They were generally fired from mortars.


Canister shot or case shot was the anti-personnel ammunition fired from cannons. It consisted of a hollow canister filled with lead or iron balls. It was similar to naval grapeshot which had bigger balls to penetrate the hull of a ship.


Shells were developed for rifled artillery to carry explosive or other filing to the target. They were generally cylindical with a streamlined nosing and were fired from larger calibre guns.


Handbooks are available at Libraries such as the Imperial War Museums and Royal Armouries in UK, or the Australian War Museum in Canberra, Australia. At one time DP&G Publications was publishing reprints, but that company is no longer operating. A few are available online, see below. Examples of titles are

Notes on the 2.5-Inch Jointed Screw Gun 1886 by Captain Whits , Lt. Cleeve & Captain Simson.
Handbook for the Q.F. 3.7-Inch Mark 1 Howitzer On Marks 1 and II & III Carriages, Land Service 1930 "With detailed instruction and photographs of Mule carrying and Packsaddlery... Covers and shows in photographic form the full packing and transport of this gun by Mule. With good quality close up photographs of the saddlery , loads on the Mules, method of harness & pulling of assembled load plus all the Gun parts & its assembly"[1]

External links

Historical books online

Handbook for the 2.95 inch q.f. mountain gun, mark I mule equipment. 1906. Published London. With plates, including Mule plates. State Library of Victoria. Also available
Handbook of the q.f, 3.7-inch mountain howitzer, mark I, 1921 State Library of Victoria. The handbook contains text relating to the loading of mules, but not the illustrative plates which were issued separately.
There possibly may be similar online volumes also on the the State Library of Victoria website.
Within the catalogue entry, click on "Available at: State Library Victoria online viewer".


  1. In a description of a reprint edition by the now closed DP&G Publications, now no longer available.