In last night′s all new episode of American Guns on the Discovery Channel, Rich Wyatt and his crew at the Gunsmoke Shop received a new request by a customer. To build a Civil War era double-barrel cannon! Jeff, the client, wanted American Guns to build the double-barreled cannon for $16,000, but Rich quoted $24,000. After some haggling and Jeff throwing in some fine pistols, Rich came down to $19,500. But is this enough to build what had been a deadly experimental disaster during the Civil War?
The idea was the brain-storm of one John Gilleland, a dentist and tinkerer from Athens, Georgia. His concept was a cannon with two, closely fitted barrels which would each fire a cannon ball. Both balls would be connected by a length of chain. Gilleland tried to convince the Confederacy that such a weapon would cut down enemy troops like a ″scythe cuts wheat.″ But the technology available in 1862 came up woefully short. Instead, one barrel would fire a millisecond or twenty before the other barrel. This would send the first cannon ball, and the chain, on a deadly course around the cannon, killing or maiming the gun′s crew. Still, work went on and the cannon wound up being used in at least one Civil War battle. Today, the cannon resides as a memorial in Athens, Georgia.
The Gunsmoke team decided to use some modern technology to solve the firing problem. An electronic match would simultaneously ignite both barrels remotely using a secured radio device. During the first test firing, that aspect worked well. But as the team hunted for the spent ammo, they discovered that merely connecting the two cannonballs using I Hooks screwed into each and attaching the chain to them was insufficient. Rich told his crew to cast new ammo with the chain embedded in each cannonball.
To accomplish this, Greg and Jon used the old tried and true method of sand-casting to create a mold for producing the improved cannonballs. A sturdier chain is placed in each of the molds which are then filled with molten lead. During the second test firing, the new cannonballs remained connected after being fired. Meanwhile, Paige had arranged with a local craftsman to build a period-style gun carriage to mount the cannons upon.
So American Guns built a working replica of a Civil War era double barrel cannon. Jeff, the client, was pleased as punch to see it in action as he fired his new toy. Thanks to modern technology, the problem of firing both barrels simultaneously was solved. Oddly enough, the team had to revert back to 19th Century technology to reproduce the cannonballs.