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Ordnance RML 7 inch gun
RML 7 inch gun and crew HMS Minotaur.jpg
7 inch 6½ ton Mk I gun and crew on HMS Minotaur
Type Naval gun
Coast defence gun
Place of origin United Kingdom
Service history
Used by Royal Navy
Production history
Designer Royal Gun Factory
Designed 1865 (7 & 6½ ton)
1874 (90 cwt)
Manufacturer Royal Arsenal
Unit cost £425[1]
Variants 7 ton Mks I - IV
6½ ton Mks I - III
90 cwt
Barrel length 7 ton : 126 inches (3,200 mm)
6½ ton & 90 cwt : 111 inches (2,800 mm)[2]

Shell 112 to 115 pounds (51 to 52 kg) Palliser, Common, Shrapnel[3]
160 pounds (73 kg) double common shell
Calibre 7-inch (177.8 mm)
Muzzle velocity 7 ton : 1,561 feet per second (476 m/s)
6½ ton : 1,525 feet per second (465 m/s)
90 cwt : 1,325 feet per second (404 m/s)
Maximum range 5,500 yards (5,000 m)

The RML 7 inch guns were various designs of medium-sized rifled muzzle-loading guns used to arm small-medium sized British warships in the late 19th century, and some were used ashore for coast defence.

Design and history

"Woolwich" rifling introduced in 1865

These guns were the first to incorporate the new "Woolwich" rifling system, a modification of the French system, of from 3 - 9 broad shallow grooves after Britain abandoned the Armstrong "shunt" rifling system in May 1865 : "...M.L. 7-inch guns in course of manufacture were rifled on this principle, upon which all all our heavy pieces since have been rifled. The 7-inch referred to, and introduced into the service in 1865, were the first of the so-called Woolwich guns, which then meant "wrought iron M.L. guns built up on Sir W. Armstrong's principle, improved upon by hooking the coils over one another, and having solid ended steel barrels, rifled on the system shown above, for studded projectiles".[4]

All versions were constructed of a steel A tube surrounded by various numbers and thicknesses of wrought-iron coils. Rifling was 3 grooves with a uniform 1 turn in 35 calibres i.e. in 245 inches.[2]

The diagrams below show the progression from the original expensive Armstrong construction in Mk I of multiple relatively thin coils, through to the simplified and cheaper Woolwich design of Mk III.

RML 7 inch 7 ton gun

Remains of a 7 ton Mk III gun on Flat Holm island, UK

This was a coast defence gun introduced in 1865 to replace the failed RBL 7 inch Armstrong gun.

RML 7 inch 6½ ton gun

This was a naval gun introduced in 1865 " a broadside or pivot gun for frigates, to replace the 7-inch B.L. and 68-pr S.B. guns, and is now very extensively used, 331 having been made... These guns are in total length 18 inches shorter than the land service [i.e. 7-ton] 7-inch gun, being a length more suited to the requirements of the Navy".[5]

The following warships were armed with the gun :

RML 7 inch 90 cwt gun

This was a lighter (90 cwt = 4½ long ton) low-powered naval gun introduced in 1874 as a broadside gun on unarmoured vessels, and not intended for attacking armour plate. Early models were made by simply turning off some of the jacket around 7-inch 6½ ton guns, as firing with reduced charges placed less strain on the coils. Some new guns were made to similar design.

The following warships were armed with the gun :


The primary projectile for 7 ton and 6½ ton guns was Palliser shot or shell for attacking armoured warships, fired with a large "battering" charge for maximum velocity. All guns were also equipped with shrapnel shells for anti-personnel use and explosive common shells for attacking unarmoured targets. The "double" common shell was much longer than the standard common shell, and hence contained approximately twice as much gunpowder. It was unstable in flight and hence inaccurate beyond 2,000 yards but was considered useful for attacking wooden warships at ranges below 2,000 yards.[6]

Surviving examples

See also

Notes and references

  1. Unit cost of £424 11 shillings 10 pence is quoted for the 7 inch 6½ ton gun in "The British Navy" Volume II, 1882, by Sir Thomas Brassey. Page 38
  2. 2.0 2.1 Treatise on construction of ordnance in the British service, 1877, Table XXIX
  3. Treatise on Ammunition 1877 and Treatise on construction of ordnance in the British service, 1877 describe a 115-pound projectile; Text Book of Gunnery 1887 and Brassey's Naval Annual 1888 describe a 112-pound 1 oz projectile. 112 lb 1 oz appears to be the weight of the empty Palliser shell i.e. without gunpowder filling which was typically 2 lb 10 oz. By 1887 palliser shell had been discontinued and existing shell converted to shot by removing the gunpowder - hence old Palliser ammunition would then be 112 lb 1 oz.
  4. Treatise on construction of ordnance in the British service, 1877, Page 91
  5. Treatise on construction of ordnance in the British service, 1877, Page 269
  6. Treatise on Ammunition 1877, Page 189


External links

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