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The Keystone Battery of Pennsylvania

Battery "A", 1st Regiment Light Artillery (43rd Volunteers)

Artillery Basics - Safety Rules

This article outlines the artillery safety rules that all cannoneers must know and follow.  In addition to the artillery safety rules detailed below, cannoneers must follow all relevant general behavior rules, general battlefield rules, general and specific weapon safety rules, cavalry safety rules, and ground charge and airburst safety rules promulgated by the Washington Civil War Association (WCWA) or set forth by their company commander.

The rules detailed below are the WCWA Artillery Safety Rules dated 11/14/2005 as published at the WCWA website.  If an artillery unit participates in an event sponsored or sanctioned by an organization other than WCWA, the unit commander is responsible to learn the governing safety rules and convey them to his troops.

Artillery Safety Rules


For the purposes of the WCWA, artillery is defined as any form of cannon, howitzer, mortar, or other firearm whose original (full-sized) bore is greater than 1.5 inches.  In this document, the terms “artillery” and “cannon” shall include all forms of these weapons.

General Rules

  1. All artillery tubes and carriages in the WCWA will be full scale and of period design and construction.
  2. The minimum distance required between guns is determined by the area required by the gun crews to work the guns safely as determined by the Senior Experienced Gun Officer and/or the Ordinance Sergeant.  A spacing of at least 20 feet, hub to hub, between artillery pieces is suggested.
  3. The safe placement of artillery is the joint responsibility of the Artillery Commanders and the Battalion Commander.
  4. Artillery pieces must have a minimum crew of four persons to fire.  When possible the larger guns should have a crew of six.  The need for a larger crew will be determined jointly by the battery commander and the Battalion Commander.
  5. All artillery must have the required equipment on site and be in a safe condition prior to firing.  Improperly equipped or unsafe artillery will be removed from the field.
  6. No projectiles or wadding of any kind are to be fired unless prearranged and approved by the Battalion Commander with concurrence by the Board of Directors.
  7. At no time will any object or material be fired from a cannon if that object or material will pass over the safety boundary or travel more than 75 feet, and thus endanger the participants and/or spectators during any WCWA event.
  8. The artillery ammunition box will be placed 25 feet to the rear of the respective cannon and a minimum of 45 feet from the spectator's line.  The lid hinge must be nearest the cannon.
  9. The artillery ammunition box is to be constantly manned whenever unlocked.  When the box is not in use it is to be removed from the field and placed in a secure location.
  10. Ammunition boxes must be fitted with self-closing lids.  Lids may not be fitted with any type of hold-open device nor may they be propped open by any external means, such as a stick, branch, etc.
  11. Artillery powder charges are to be kept within the ammunition box until ready to be used.  When ready to transport a charge from the ammunition box to the cannon muzzle each charge must be placed in a leather haversack.  The charges are then carried to the cannon where they will not be removed from the leather haversack until they are to be placed in the cannon muzzle.
  12. The thickness of the foil wrapper for the cannon powder charge is the responsibility of the Battery Commander, giving the highest regard and consideration for the safety of his crew, other crews and the public.
  13. Before each WCWA event, any new artillery, participating for the first time at a WCWA event, shall be inspected by both Battalion commanders.  Battery commanders from any battery present may participate in this inspection if they desire to do so.  Each artillery piece must successfully pass the safety inspection before being allowed to fire in any event.
  14. After loading any gun, the artillery crew will place the rammer on the wheel hub (in the case of a larger gun) or on the top of the wheel (in the case of a smaller gun) to indicate that the gun is now loaded and ready to fire.  Artillery batteries will post a red safety flag to mark a misfired gun.
  15. The maximum size of an artillery powder round is determined by the size of the bore.
  16. When servicing the piece thumbs of cannoners #1 & 2 shall be pointed down range at all times.
  17. Crew members who handle implements must wear gloves.
  18. When swabbing the piece the sponge should be damp.
  19. If a piece fails to fire after repeated tries the crew will wait 3 minutes and service the piece per the unit's mis-fire procedure.
  20. The minimum time between artillery rounds being fired from the same piece is 3 minutes.
  21. When an implement or powder charge is put into the tube of the piece the crew shall ensure the breach vent is covered.