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Gun vs. Cannon vs. Howitzer


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k9catforce #1 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 06:50

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Basically, what is the difference between a gun, a cannon, and a howitzer? From my flight sim days, I know that a gun shoots non-explosive bullets, while a cannon shoots explosive rounds; but where does a howitzer fit in? And what is a gun/cannon considered if it fires both AP and HE?

Genesis0071 #2 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 06:53

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Gun
Posted Image

Cannon
http://www.swordsand...ture_Cannon.JPG

Howitzer
http://www.cabq.gov/...mm-howitzer.jpg

The_Chieftain #3 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 06:57

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View PostGenesis0071, on Nov 15 2012 - 06:53, said:

Gun
Posted Image

Dear God, no, that's a pistol.

There's a reason this is called a Gun Motor Carriage
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The main difference between a gun and a howitzer is traditionally the arc of the round. Cannon can refer to the barrel/breech assembly of either a gun or a howitzer. I guess theoretically a cannon can be either a gun or a howitzer depending on the mount.

It's 1am, if nobody else answers this before me in more detail, I'll be back tomorrow.

Otto_von_Boris #4 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 06:58

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Howitzer has a low shell velocity and fires with a arc.

Anti-tank guns are the other types of guns on tanks. They fire with a low arc and have a high velocity.

Edited by Otto_von_Boris, Nov 15 2012 - 07:01.


Genesis0071 #5 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 07:03

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To be a little more constructive, I can't speak for current day weapons but a cannon is a direct fire weapon where as a howitzer I think is used more like a mortar for firing over things.

AlteredCarbon #6 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 07:04

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View Postk9catforce, on Nov 15 2012 - 06:50, said:

Basically, what is the difference between a gun, a cannon, and a howitzer? From my flight sim days, I know that a gun shoots non-explosive bullets, while a cannon shoots explosive rounds; but where does a howitzer fit in? And what is a gun/cannon considered if it fires both AP and HE?

Lifted entirely from Wikipedia:
Spoiler                     

Hope that helps. :Smile_glasses:

sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howitzer

Daigensui #7 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 07:11

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To be technical, it generally depends on the length of the gun compared to the bore (think caliber).

Mortar: Less than 15 times the caliber of the gun
Howitzer: 15 to 25 times the caliber of the gun
Cannon: More than 25 times the caliber of the gun

Gun has a different definition depending on what particular military culture you're in, but as a general rule it refers to either all the three types of artillery (since even tank guns are technically artillery, just that they are fired horizontally) or to cannons.

KaiserWilhelmShatner #8 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 07:41

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Gun is naval.  Cannon is land.  Howitzer is a low velocity cannon that uses an oversized shell compared to the propellant charge in which the shell has an arching trajectory in which at the end of its flight time comes nearly straight down.

http://www.globalsec...7-90/fig7-3.gif

VRMoran #9 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 07:47

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I'll avoid the obvious Full Metal Jacket reference that can be made here....

As it was explained to me, a gun refers to a crew served weapon. This traditionally means artillery, but can extend to things like a tanks main weapon or a naval battery.

Cannons I've always taken to be anything around 20mm on up used for direct fire purposes. This counts a broad range of weapons, from weapons fitted onto aircraft up to the traditional cannons you see in movies about 18th and 19th century warfare.I don't know if this is technically the correct answer, but it's served me well. Perhaps indirect fire weapons can also be called a cannon, but you can also refer to them by a more specific type [for example, below]

Howitzers are a type of artillery, charectorized by the relatively flat trajectory of the shot (as opposed to mortars). As such, they tend to have rather long barrels.

diain #10 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 07:53

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Nov 15 2012 - 06:57, said:

Dear God, no, that's a pistol.

This reminded me of back when I was a kid, my dad was an artillery officer and I remember that he used to correct me everytime I used to refer to a handheld firearm as a 'gun'.  :Smile_veryhappy:

CaptnBoots #11 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 08:21

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This could be pushed further while I was a Infantry man in the Aussie Army we were told time and time again that a gun is a crew served weapon. Example given to us by our sargents at the time 1986 to 89 was a sub machine gun can be called such as the first ones were crew served  gunner and up to three ammo carriers and commander depending on wether u were Italian or german but both used crews for the first time. machine gun either light heavy or medium or GPMG SAW ie gunner loader commander . If you called a rifle or pistol or revolver anything else especialy GUN u were in big trouble . Thats it for the small stuff at the moment in the Aussie Army anyway Duty First.

Dirizon #12 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 09:02

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A cannon typically refers to a light caliber long barreled automatic weapon fit on armoured cars, personnel carriers, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, and jets. Typically in the ranges of 2cm to 7.5cm and firing at high velocities.

A gun, field gun actually, is a dual purpose weapon designed for long range support. They have long barrels, fire shells with thick walls to take the pressures, and fire at moderately high velocities. Though primarily and firstly not designed for anti armour operation, they were found suitable for the task when new ammunition were developed for them. Caliber ranges were various, from 7.5cm to 4O.6cm (naval arms)

Anti tank guns for most purposes are modifications and *daughters* to field guns, they are developed with long barrels for accuracy, and to fire thick walled shells not really suited for support tasks. These shells tend to be solid in their mass instead of being filled, and exit the weapon in extremely high velocity with the goal of striking & breaking through a hard surface (unlike the goals of other artillery) lt seems AT gun development stopped at the 15cm caliber, though these were largely experimental.

A howitzer, a WWl novel idea, was quickly put to use and continued development and production for many advantages. These weapons did not fire with excessive velocity, meaning many things. Exit pressures were not high, so shell walls did not need to be thick. Allowing for more filler, to devastate infantry & obstacles. Recoil was not excessive. And barrels did not need heavy forging, unlike AT guns or tank weapons. The lowered velocity also allowed for shells to not bury themselves in striking the ground. And finally, allowed the weapon to arc its attack over range (dropping into trenches/firing over hills) With these advantages, came disadvantages of course. There ranges were short, AT performance was poor, accuracy was poor (crosswinds hurt their performance a lot)

GP_Large #13 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 10:29

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I'll take this one further....

In the US Army (and some one already mentioned "cultural" differances).  It was a 105mm Gun on the M-60 tank (and the first M1):  It was rifled, thus a gun.

The M1A1/A2 has a 120mm smooth-bore cannon.... At least I remembered something from Ft Knox....

Tin_Omen #14 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 12:17

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The terms “cannon” and “howitzer” are inherited from a time of horse drawn artillery.
By the time of world war one these terms seem to get confused and the meaning of the words start to blur before world war one

Generally speaking a Cannon (Gun) is used in only direct fire mode. A cannons gun carriage mounts (trunnions) don’t allow enough elevation for indirect fire.

An example of an American civil war era M1857 12-Pounder "Napoleon" smooth bore cannon
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The Howitzer has a bit of Variety. A howitzer can have a barrel shorter than a cannon and fire rounds at a lower velocity than cannon.
Or the gun-howitzer, which has a barrel and round velocity similar to cannon. Both are generally are capable of higher firing elevation than standard cannons.
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A mortar is generally used with high-arcing of fire in indirect mode. The usually have short barrels and fire at lower velocities. You could say they “lob” their rounds.

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An example of a civil war era “Parrott rifle” and would be considered a muzzle loading rifled cannon

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An example of an Armstrong gun which is considered rifled breech-loading cannon. This one is mounted on a disappearing carriage.
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After world war one everything kind of goes pear shaped. With the advent of new metallurgical techniques and the invention of high explosives artillery really hit its stride. Now for the time you could shoot at people you never saw and shoot at them safely from miles away (indirect fire). The lethalness of new and improved artillery was one of the factors in the rise of trench warfare. If the enemy could figure out where you were on the map, an artillery bombardment would soon follow.

Because of the changing battlefield the direct fire mode of cannons fell to the wayside and if possible would be used as an option of last resort. I.e. your position being overrun, direct line of sight to you enemy….  

Because of national differences and the march of progress, no clear cut rules to determining what is called what.
In the present day “artillery” is thought of as indirect fire that comes from out of nowhere. A “howitzer” is thought of as name for type of artillery. A “cannon” is thought of as really big gun (as in the 44 magnum is hand cannon). A siege mortar is thought of as an out of date type of artillery. A mortar is thought of as a man portable system capable high-arcing ballistic trajectory with a smooth bore barrel.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule

An example the M777 you could call it “gun-howitzer” because it's long barrel (like a cannon)can be used in direct and indirect fire.

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Self-propelled guns (SPG) could be considered "gun-howitzers" because they are capable of direct fire (like a tank) and indirect fire (shooting at stuff beyond view range)

The type of ammunition involved really doesn’t matter in artillery’s naming convention. For example the M60 Patton tanks gun is capable of loaded canister rounds which effectively turn its cannon into huge shot gun for those up close personal encounters with soft targets.

Edited by Tin_Omen, Nov 24 2012 - 16:12.


hipcanuck #15 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 13:16

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wow, just about everyone has a different answer. These definitions change when you go to different countries and often gun and cannon (Kannone) are interchangeable (but shouldnt be). Everything was a cannon until the advent of the breach block, Off the top of my head I believe the French came up with that, but could be wrong.

Gun = rifled barrel, breach loading, sights

cannon = non rifled, very limited and very low trajectory.

Howitzer = high trajectory, low velocity artillery, no sights

To clear something else up.

Direct fire: This is a "crew directed weapon", it has sights on it and the crew directs the fire, even if using 'area' fire, targeting a space and not something specific in that space. Mortars are capable of both direct and indirect fire, depending on how/where they are positioned in the field. Some WW2 mtr's were small 50mm, and had limited range (500m or less), these would most certainly be direct fire weapons.

Indirect fire: This is a spotter controlled weapon. By radio, perhaps by satellite today. Artillery often operates this way, but GUNS are capable of both types of fire. Howitzers generally don't have sights.

Edited by hipcanuck, Nov 15 2012 - 13:33.


The_Chieftain #16 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 14:36

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View PostTin_Omen, on Nov 15 2012 - 12:17, said:

The terms “cannon” and “howitzer” are inherited from a time of horse drawn artillery. By the time of world war one these terms seem to get confused.

Generally speaking a Cannon (Gun) is used in only direct fire mode. A cannons gun carriage mounts (trunnions) don’t allow enough elevation for indirect fire.

A howitzer is used in direct fire and indirect fire mode and is hybrid of a cannon and a mortar. A howitzers gun carriage looks the same as cannons except the trunnions allow for enough elevation (45 degrees or more) for indirect fire.

No, I'm going to disagree with you there. I believe a cannon is any large-calibre (usually 20mm or bigger) piece. The cannon itself is just the bit that goes bang, not the mount, aiming systems, trails, chassis etc. When you add in everything else, it then becomes part of either either a howitzer or a gun.

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A mortar is used only in indirect fire mode. A mortar mount is configured so the ground will take most of the recoil force generated when a round is fired and is incapable of being pitched forward enough for direct fire.

There are several mortars capable of being fired in the direct fire mode, such as those found on the ALM-60 or 2S23 armoured cars.

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Most self-propelled guns (SPG) would be considered howitzers because they are capable of direct fire (like a tank) and indirect fire (shooting at stuff beyond view range)

Again, I'd tweak that. Pieces such as the M40 GMC I pictured above are designed primarily for the indirect fire role, but don't have as high an arc as the HMCs.


View Posthipcanuck, on Nov 15 2012 - 13:16, said:

Gun = rifled barrel, breach loading, sights
cannon = non rifled, very limited and very low trajectory.
Howitzer = high trajectory, low velocity artillery, no sights

No, the M68 cannon is a very obvious counter to that point, it's rifled. The M284 cannon is another example, it's the one fitted to the M109A5 howitzer.

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To clear something else up.

Direct fire: This is a "crew directed weapon", it has sights on it and the crew directs the fire, even if using 'area' fire, targeting a space and not something specific in that space. Mortars are capable of both direct and indirect fire, depending on how/where they are positioned in the field. Some WW2 mtr's were small 50mm, and had limited range (500m or less), these would most certainly be direct fire weapons.

Indirect fire: This is a spotter controlled weapon. By radio, perhaps by satellite today. Artillery often operates this way, but GUNS are capable of both types of fire. Howitzers generally don't have sights.

I would add semi-indirect to that list, and modify direct. Semi-indirect is when you can see your target yourself, so do not need a spotter, but you are still firing a high arc and aiming by use of indirect fire technique. That's where the 50mm mortars etc come in.

Canti_ #17 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 16:59

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View PostThe_Chieftain, on Nov 15 2012 - 14:36, said:

I would add semi-indirect to that list, and modify direct. Semi-indirect is when you can see your target yourself, so do not need a spotter, but you are still firing a high arc and aiming by use of indirect fire technique. That's where the 50mm mortars etc come in.

This is an exact description of how I lob 105mm shells over hills with my Hetzer.  (Also the only time I recommend using arcade view.)  But the question is, does that mean I have a gun or a howitzer?

DV_Currie_VC #18 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 17:41

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I think that we can all agree that the definitions depend on the expert you ask. It is difficult to discuss when you include different types of weapons: tanks, anti-tank, aircraft, artillery, etc.

For the purpose of describing in this game, cannon would not normally be used in English, but kannone would work for German tanks. I would still call a German main armament a gun, not a cannon. Even the low velocity weapon on my vehicle, the L5A1 76mm from the British light tank, Scorpion (Canada used the Scorpion turret on the AVGP Cougar) was called a gun, despite only having a muzzle velocity of 533m/s.

A howitzer would be a short barreled, low velocity artillery piece, like the SU-26's gun. Very high arc, short range. Most other artillery in the game would be guns. Even here, the definition gets blurred, because the Germans (or course!) call the GW-Tiger and GW-E top guns "morsers," suggesting a SU-26 type weapon. They do have shorter range and higher arc than the Obj 261's gun. The German guns would be called howitzers, then.

As for indirect fire, most tanks have the capability to do this by use of a quadrant fire control, much like an artillery piece's direct/indirect fire sight. At longer ranges for low velocity guns like the Scorpion/Cougar, we could fire beyond 2000m but the gun elevation would be so high, the target would not be seen through the sight. Using the QFC, and bracketing fire techniques, we could bring fire on a target up to 3750m away.

I remember reading a story about a Canadian tank regiment in WW2, the British Columbia Dragoons, or the British Columbia Regiment (IIRC) who used their Shermans as artillery by driving them up on the slope of a hill, then using an artillery spotter to call their fire in just like an artillery battery.

Mieter #19 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 21:26

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View Postdiain, on Nov 15 2012 - 07:53, said:

This reminded me of back when I was a kid, my dad was an artillery officer and I remember that he used to correct me everytime I used to refer to a handheld firearm as a 'gun'.  :Smile_veryhappy:

Well, after all, a pistol is a 'Handgun' (yes, it actually is an official term), and there are Submachine Guns and Machine Guns also. So, yes, they can be called 'guns'. That's what they are. Firearms, handheld weapons, boomsticks... just a game with words.

FordRaptor542 #20 Posted Nov 15 2012 - 23:14

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View Postk9catforce, on Nov 15 2012 - 06:50, said:

Basically, what is the difference between a gun, a cannon, and a howitzer? From my flight sim days, I know that a gun shoots non-explosive bullets, while a cannon shoots explosive rounds; but where does a howitzer fit in? And what is a gun/cannon considered if it fires both AP and HE?

Gun - Weapon used to fire a projectile at a target. Can be any size, shape or material. Can use any type of energy to propel the projectile.

Cannon - Large Caliber, direct fire gun using an explosive charge to propel a projectile onto target. Cannon "shells" do not have to be explosive. AP/HE/HESH/APCR ect have no bearing on the term.

Howitzer - Short barreled cannon that fires projectiles at high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent.

Mortar - Indirect fire weapon that fires in high-arcing ballistic trajectories down on the target.

Paint shop pic to demonstrate. (Gun) Cannon / Howitzer / Mortar
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