WHAT IS GRAPESHOT?


If you have had the opportunity to watch even just one period navel or pirate film, the chances are that 'grapeshot' is going to be mentioned at some point. Unsurprisingly it has nothing to do with firing vine fruits at the enemy, so what exactly is 'grapeshot'?

Unlike other forms of artillery shot, Grapeshot is not just one solid element but a mass of small metal balls or slugs, usually of lead or iron, packed tightly into a canvas bag. Typically, the balls were held in clusters of three by iron rings and combined in three or four tiers by cast-iron or wooden plates and a central connecting rod. This assembly had the appearance of a cluster of grapes which is reflected in its name. It was used mostly as a cannon charge, and when the weapon was fired the grapeshot broke up and spread out in flight like a shotgun charge.

Grapeshot was widely used in wars of the 18th and 19th centuries in both land and naval warfare. It was fired at short range, primarily as an antipersonnel weapon, being most effective against massed troops.

When used in naval warfare, larger grapeshot balls were also cast so that there were able to cut rigging, destroy spars, blocks, and puncture multiple sails.

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WHAT IS GRAPESHOT?

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