Black Powder Mortars

Black Powder Mortars

The Mortars pictured ars commercial and sell for $295.00. I think a little research from our excellent members ougth to be able to figure out how to build them. Looks like fun...

Mortars have had a long history of use from the 1300’s to the present day. Modern mortars are generally lightweight thin-walled tubes that propel small bombs weighing one to five pounds in to a very high orbit using only a very small charge of powder. They will launch the bombs up about 100 yards and hit the target anywhere from 50 to 500 yards away. The reason they are useful in warfare is that the bombs even though small can be accurately dropped on the target and will explode either above the target or on impact.

WARNING – The BATF has ruled black powder muzzle loading mortars legal to have and fire BUT making ammo that in any way explodes in the air or on impact is totally banned and will result in a very long federal prison sentence and you will never be able to own any firearms for the rest of your life. Don’t do it.

Many parts of the U.S. have black powder cannon shoots and muzzle loading mortars are always welcome. Often there is a competition to drop mortar rounds in to a 10 or 20-foot circle from 100 – 300 yards away. Try it, its great fun!

To Get Started

First, you’ll need real black powder – Pyrodex & Triple 7 powder will not work. You’ll also need a loading rod. You can make the loading rod by taking either 1”x1” or 2” x 6” wood stock. If you have a table saw, cut the wood 5 inches longer than your mortar tube (2 pieces). Then cut two or three 1” x 1½” lengths of 1” x 1” pine. Glue the three pieces of pine between the two long pine 1” x 1” boards near one end so that the long 1” x 1” will reach the bottom of the mortar tube. Whittle and sand one end of the long board to a round smooth tapered end that you will use as a grip.

Why do you need to make this loading stick? All muzzle loading guns can contain sparks after they are fired and cannons and mortars are especially notorious for this. Once you put the fuse in and dump in the black powder, anything you put in or over the muzzle during loading will be blown away if the mortar goes off – including hands and heads! So you must never place any part of your body over the muzzle when loading. Instead the loading stick will enable you to safely load without ever having your hand over the muzzle. The short pieces glued between the two sticks are meant to break if the mortar goes off while loading and the smooth tapered handle will slide out of your hand if the joint between the two sticks doesn’t break.

Most people make a mop out of rags nailed to the end of a broom tick and dampen it with water to swab the bore between shots. This puts out any sparks. You can use a portable air tank to blow out sparks and debris between shots, but always wait a full five minutes between shots. After the full five minutes, look in to the unloaded tube to examine the bore for debris that could hide sparks.

Before loading you’ll need to make or procure sand bags to place on the feet of the mortar. This stabilizes the mortar. You are risking your and others lives if you ever shoot any tripod mortar without them. Group shoots always require them.

You will need an adjustable black powder measure that goes up to 100 grains. You’ll need full sheets of newspaper for wadding and water to dampen these wads as they are a fire hazard in hot dry weather.

Buy 1/8th inch cannon fuse – it’s really smaller than 1/8th inch, but will slide in a 1/8th inch fuse hole in the mortar. You’ll need PVC pipe that is 3½” outside diameter that you cut in to 4½” (never shorter) to 5½” pieces. You set these on newspaper and fill them with concrete. That’s your ammo – hint, if you put a U-shaped loop of wire (cut ends in to the wet cement) you can tie a tail of cloth to it – this makes finding your “shot ammo” easier. REMEMBER to load your ammo with the wire and tail facing up.

Finally, you’ll need an 800-yard open space. This is a minimum – also make sure there are no live stock, animals, buildings, people, vehicles or anything else that can be damaged or killed by a 1 – 3 pound round falling 100 yards from the sky! Kids, family and spectators must be at least 50 feet away from any mortar. Of course the mortar is pointed in the other direction!

Don’t allow anyone but yourself to load or light the fuse. Always get back at least 20 feet after lighting fuse. Never point the mortar at a near 90º angle as wind may carry the projectile over spectators. Likewise don’t point the mortar at too low an angle as the projectile can travel over 800 yards distance.

If the mortar fails to go off, wait at least 20 minutes as the fuse or paper wadding could be smoldering. I f the mortar doesn’t go off after 20 minutes, knock it over away from people while standing to the side. If it should happen to go off when you knock it over and you’re too close in back of it, the recoil could seriously hurt or kill you.

Proofing

Every miuzzleloading gun must be proofed out to be sure it will handle normal pressure in firing. To do this, cut a 6-inch piece of 3½” piece of PVC pipe. Glue a cap on it or fully cover over one end with duct tape. Fill it completely with dry fine sand. This will make a projectile that is heavier than normal. Also the sand will be ejected as the projectile spins in the air so it won’t go too far. Put 250 grains of black powder in the mortar and one complete sheet of newspaper that has been wadded in to a ball. After you put in a long fuse and the PVC pipe stand be hind a barrier at least 50 feet away. The barrier should be at least one sheet of ¾ inch plywood or a car.

Once you’ve proofed the barrel, never use more than 200 grains maximum of black powder and at lest 4½ inch to 5½ inch long PVC pipe filled with concrete. Don’t ever use projectiles shorter than 4½ inch or it could turn in the bore and become stuck – this could result in the mortar tube blowing up.

Safety

Chain saws and mortars are both fun toys, but both can and will hurt or kill you or someone else unless you think about all the consequences of each of your actions. Think before you act. Be informed – go on the Internet and visit various muzzle loading sites. Become familiar with mortars by reading books and articles. Visit black powder muzzle loading cannon shoots as that may give your more useful information than anything else. Have fun and be safe.

3 Comments

6 years 25 weeks ago, 5:58 PM

Schuyler

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which I did commercially for many years. Same principles apply. 8 inch is the largest I've fired. Fireworks have a built in fuse, so you light it off with a car flare taped to the end of the stick. The mortars are just steel tubes buried in sand in a 55 gallon drum. Our team could shoot off $10K in half an hour by going as fast as we could. We usually shot off a barge in the middle of Liberty Bay where we could use pleasure boats as targets (Send a 'salute' their way and they WOULD back off.) I've shot off land, but it's a lot harder and more dangerous. The guy in charge, who had a pyrotechnician's license, started freaking out about liability and wanted us all to wear asbestos suits, so my 'in' to this fine hobby dried up, but it was fun while it lasted. I only caught on fire once.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
6 years 25 weeks ago, 6:03 PM

runawaygun762

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I thought your avatar/icon/pic/whatever was just the emperor from Star Wars, but I guess it's you after the fire, huh? Um, looks good. Uh, yeah.

"I have always been a soldier. I have known no other life. The calling of arms, I have followed from boyhood. I have never sought another." From The Virtues of War, by Steven Pressfield.
6 years 25 weeks ago, 6:23 PM

Schuyler

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General
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when the magazine caught on fire. That was exciting for a few minutes. Kind of stopped the show. I miss it. I like the explosions - a lot.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - Edmund Burke
samD's picture
Posted by: samD
6 years 25 weeks ago
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