It is powered by a dose of BP..and will toss a 16 lb. bowling ball high enough to make a Canada Goose cry Uncle. Some of you may have seen it down in the desert. So for you folks in and around Northern California, scrounge those flea markets, check with local bowling alleys, get to the Goodwill and Salvation Army thrift shops, and start gathering up some 16 pounders. If we get enough of a supply..folks can say we have a lot of balls! We just may all get together some day and try to put them in a low orbit..Imagine that you folks will want some ballistic charts on the whole affair...will work on it.
Tioga, CA, SASS 1552, WASA 339, BCVC 3, Circle T
Left to right: Wild Bill Briscoe ( with fingers over the muzzle), I.M. Nobody, and Dogface.
The mortar is recently fired and if you look close at the right side of the arrow..you will see a spot..yep, that is the bowling ball!
Left to right: Wild Bill Briscoe, Rio Justice, I.M. Nobody, Dogface, and Two Bears about to load the tube...
Boys will be boys...
We first became aware of this ultimate boy toy last summer. Had a party at my humble Rancho for about 25 cowpokes and 'pokettes. We did some shootin' all day and on toward dinner time two BCVC pards, Cyrus Sidewinder (aka Steve Moore) and his brother Jim (aka Rowdy Yates, but not the SASS Rowdy Yates...long story) brought out their bowling ball mortar. None of us had ever seen any thing like it. It weighs in at nearly 300 lbs....more if you try to lift it . The tube, which is made of schedule 100 steel pipe, was originally off of a hydraulic ram pump of some sort. Don't try this at home, folks!! Tube is mounted on a heavy welded steel frame, as you can see, and has elevation adjustment. Stamped on the muzzle is "Cal. 16 lb. Brunswick" Anyhoo, the boys asked how far it was to a certain ridge and tree line and what was behind it...."about 500 yards" I replied in disbelief. They loaded up about 1200gr. of FFG into a small sandwich bag, punched a small hole in the bag and placed it into the recessed area in the breech end. Cannon fuse was cut and threaded thru the flash hole and into the powder charge. A standard bowling ball....12 or 16 lb. juuuust fits down the barrel. At the moment of truth a large "thaaawump", a huge smoke ring and the ball launches waaaay down range. With that load it cleared the ridge line and achieved about 800 to 1000 ft. altitude. The crowd went wild and we eventually shot the thing over ten times that evening.
Because of the finger holes in the ball, it makes a whistling sound as it drifts down range. At night, packing the holes with "cyalume" sticks creates a really neat effect, I am told. We'll try such things, I am sure. UFO sightings anyone??
Frank (IM Nobody) and I have been scheming ever since to acquire one of these toys for the BCVC's newly designated "Artillary Company". We borrowed it in January for Stampede 98 where these photos were shot. Longest range achieved down there was probably about 1000 yards with over two oz. of FF. Just this past weekend at Long Ranch Showdown in Redbluff we closed the deal and it's ours. Plans are to improve it some with the addition of a carriage of some sort, leveling device and sighting system. Then we'll experiment with a few charges to get really familiar with it's performance and take it whenever we can to matches in the West where there's room for such doin's. Plans are in the works for it to be part of a side match in Stampede 99 next January. We may also try for Winter Range since they too have the room to shoot it.
The construction of such toys is not for the uneducated or inexperienced. Potential for disaster if constructed poorly is chilling to think about and severe injury or worse would be almost certain. One of the most startling revelations for me was just how powerful black powder really is....all that range with so little powder. Most folks are amazed. There's a lesson there somewhere.....