The term "cannon" used to entail firing solid lumps of metal at people. Nowadays it means firing explosives at people.

When was the last time a European army or navy maintained a solid metal muzzle loading cannon firing spherical non-explosive projectiles?

I am talking about the classic round shot from a weapon aimed at formations of troops or physical structures such as ships. I do not see that smoothbore or rifled makes a difference in this context, but I know little about guns really.

I have googled the question and the answers, such as this quora one are about the definition of cannon.

  • 5
    Technically, cannons do still fire solid lumps of metal at people (c.f. APFSDS ammunition, which is essentially a DU or tungsten dart), but you're talking purely about the classic round shot from a smoothbore gun?
    – Steve Bird
    Apr 21 at 10:56
  • 3
    I suspect the last use will be a situation where a museum piece is pressed into action in some outpost, out of desperation. I think we need a working definition of "military conflict" for the question. If a dozen soliders in an old fort in the middle of nowhere fight off a similar number of rebels with the aid of an old cannon, does that count? Apr 21 at 11:27
  • 2
    Doing sufficient preliminary research on modern military projectiles, so as to ask a question with an answer other than "every few minutes in Ukraine", would generate a much more positive reception. The essence of anti-tank weapons since WW2 has been that of line-of-sight solid-projectile-firing cannon. That's called armour-piercing shot. Apr 21 at 13:12
  • 2
    Difficult to say precisely. I suspect in some colonial war at the end of the 19th century. China and various African states [still] had outdated artillery then. See e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Zanzibar_War#25_August_1896
    – Fizz
    Apr 22 at 1:01
  • 2
    Your title says "fired in anger" but the body merely says "maintained." While the Russian Empire armed monitors with 15 inch smoothbore cannons until 1873, they did not see action. For use in battle you are probably looking at the Austro Italian War.
    – SPavel
    Apr 22 at 3:13

1 Answer 1


So to answer the question as posed in the title.... 2016ish. Syrian rebel forces mounted what looks like a cannon of late 1800s vintage to a pickup truck and there is video of it firing in anger at government positions. Granted it doesn't look like the video after that of rounds detonating is from that cannon, as the cannon is on a pretty flat trajectory and those look like mortar rounds impacting. It was in action as of 2016 but who knows how long it actually served before the barrel burst or it was otherwise destroyed/abandoned.

As for European military use of such cannon, I would guess the Franco-Prussian war saw the last use of cannon that conceivably could have fired "roundshot" in the form of then-outdated "Canon obusier de 12" but I do not have my Franco-Prussian books to hand to see if any ended up employed by irregular/Republican forces. I have a fuzzy memory of some being employed by the Paris Commune but I'm not sure if that'd count for what you're asking.

  • This is exactly what I was talking about, and makes it clear that the answer is recent/ongoing. That video is amazing.
    – User65535
    May 1 at 18:13
  • The accompanying article says the "cannon" is a breech-loader, which would not be firing roundshot. May 1 at 21:09

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