Leather Cannon

posted: 04/11/12
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As seen in "MythBusters: Bottle Bash"

Finding: BUSTED

Explanation: Back in the 17th century, Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus devised a lightweight cannon encased in leather to move around battlefields faster. Later, Irish troops supposedly took that idea a step further and built all-leather cannons.

To test whether a cowhide armory could actually work, MythBusters Tory Belleci, Grant Imahara and Kari Byron fired away at this bit of military history.

First, they shot off a Civil War-era, metal-barrel cannon to establish a benchmark muzzle velocity. The antique weapon spat out cannon balls at 389 miles per hour (626 kilometers per hour). The MythBusters then built two leather cannons based on historical records detailing the Swedish and Irish models. The Swedish iteration involved a copper-core barrel with a leather coat wrapped around it. For the Irish version, the team crafted a 1-inch barrel cannon from nothing but leather and epoxy resin.

On the MythBuster battlefield, the Swedish leather hybrid outshot the Civil War cannon, launching the explosive gunpowder at 450 miles per hour (724 kilometers per hour). But the historical myth fell apart when the Irish cannon exploded upon ignition. Even after the MythBusters reinforced the leather launcher's weak spots, its barrel still couldn't withstand the force of the exploding gunpowder, blowing the busted myth to bits.

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