RML 16 pounder 12 cwt

RML 16 pounder 12 cwt gun

Gun on Mark II carriage
Type Field gun
Place of origin  United Kingdom
Service history
In service 1871 - 1908
Used by British Empire
Production history
Designer Woolwich Arsenal
Manufacturer Woolwich Arsenal
Variants 16 pdr 12 cwt Mark I (Land Service) only
Weight 12-long-hundredweight (600 kg)
Crew 9

Shell 16 pounds (7.3 kg) (common shell)
16 pounds (7.3 kg) (shrapnel)
Action RML
Breech none – muzzle-loading
Muzzle velocity 1,330 feet per second (405 m/s)
Effective firing range 3,500 yards (3,200 m)

The RML 16 pounder 12 cwt gun was a British Rifled, Muzzle Loading (RML) field artillery gun manufactured in England in the 19th century, which fired a projectile weighing approximately 16 pounds (7.3 kg). "12 cwt" refers to the weight of the gun.

Design and manufacture

RML 16 pdr 12 cwt gun barrel diagram, 1877

The gun consisted of an 'A' tube of toughened steel, over which was shrunk a 'B' tube of wrought iron. The gun was rifled using the system developed by William Palliser, in which studs protruding from the side of the shell engaged with three spiral grooves in the barrel.

The gun was fitted with a set of side sights on each side of the barrel. This enabled the gun to be sighted for indirect, or direct fire, from either side of the gun. A flat surface was machined on top of the barrel for a clinometer to be used, enabling the gun to be levelled, or to provide an alternate method of indirect sighting.


Fully horsed 16 Pounder with crew, 1880

The 16 pounder was normally deployed in batteries of six or four guns. Each gun was pulled by a team of six horses. It had a crew of nine men – five crew who could be mounted on seats on the limber and gun, three drivers and a gun commander (number one) mounted separately.

In addition to each gun, a limbered ammunition trailer was also horse drawn. Field Artillery was designed to move at the same speed as infantry, with Horse Artillery being used where greater speed was required.

16 pounder RML shrapnel shell Mk III diagram

Guns were fired using a silk bag containing a black powder propellant. They used three types of ammunition – Common shell (for use against buildings or fortifications), shrapnel shell (for use any Infantry or Cavalry) and case shot (for close range use against 'soft' targets. Ignition was through a copper lined vent at the breech end of the gun. A copper friction tube would be inserted and a lanyard attached. When the lanyard was pulled the tube would ignite, firing the gun.[1] A number of different fuzes could be used enabling shells to either burst at a pre-determined time (and range), or on impact. A typical rate of fire was one round per minute.

Service history

16 pdr RML Shropshire & Staffordshire Volunteer Artillery, 1897

The 16 pounder 12 cwt Rifled Muzzle Loader was the field gun selected by the Royal Artillery in 1871 to replace the more sophisticated RBL 12 pounder 8 cwt Armstrong gun, which had acquired a reputation for unreliability.

The 16 pounder saw action in the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879 and the First Boer War of 1881, as well as the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882, where four Batteries were deployed.[2] It remained in front-line service with the Royal Artillery until the late 1880s when replaced by the 15 pounder Breech-Loading gun.

Many were re-issued to Volunteer Artillery Batteries of Position from 1889 and most remained in use until 1902. In 1906 the 1st Shropshire and Staffordshire Royal Garrison Artillery Volunteers took them to their annual camp in Bare, Morecambe.[3] The last were not finally withdrawn until 1908.[4]

16 Pounder RML as time gun, Bordon Camp, c1910

Surviving Examples

British 16-pounder RML at Fort Nelson

See also


  1. Moore, David. "List of British Service Artillery in Use During the Victorian Period". www.victorianforts.co.uk. Victorian Forts and Artillery. Retrieved 29 December 2015.
  2. Goodrich, Caspar F (Lt Cdr), Report of the British Naval and Military Operations In Egypt 1882, Navy Department, Washington, 1885, p.231
  3. Derek Harrison,, "A History of the Shropshire Artillery Volunteer Corps, Spink & Son Ltd, 2015, p313
  4. Lt Gen Sir James Moncrieff Grierson, Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force 1859–1908, William Blackwood & Sons Ltd, 1909, p.116


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