There’s an amazing event held every fall located deep in the countryside of Lancaster County. Partygoers bring civil war era Gatling guns, Cannons and Mortars and let them rip from 10 AM to 2 PM. The event includes shooting pumpkins, reactive targets, and cars. Onlookers bring lawn chairs and enjoy the show while enjoying complimentary hot dogs and lemonade.
Our Adventure Begins
After arriving in Nottingham PA, we stopped for breakfast at the Nottingham Inn. We scanned our phones to check the weather. Warm cloudy and no wind! The weather was going to cooperate, thank God! I can absorb a cold rain, but high winds at the range are in November are brutal. That positive news in conjunction with the steady flow of coffee made us anxious to get going. It had been over four years since we attended, and we had forgotten when the blasting started. We didn’t want to miss the action.
Greeted by Charlie’s Massive 5,500 Pound Siege Cannon
We arrived just a few minutes before 10 AM and the first thing we noticed was Charlie Smithgall’s grossly oversized siege cannon. The thing was unbelievable at twice the size of a normal gun. Smithgall announced to the attentive crowd that he had test fired it for the first time in over 130 years the day before. It was the gun’s 140th year anniversary so it was fitting to let it rip for the spectators. Its purpose was to blow holes through fort walls and he explained that when fired the cannonball buries itself 4 feet into the dirt backstop.
Seven Pounds of Black Powder
The Civil War-era gun is designed to use seven pounds of black powder during combat. If you were paying retail, it’d cost around $175 a shot. It’s called a “Full-Service Charge,” but Charlie cut back the amount to just two pounds. For those wondering. The reduction in powder keeps things safe because it stops the carriage from rolling into Chester County.
Shooting The Car – This Time The Engine Worked
It’s a tradition to use a car as a target for the shoot. Most years the car is beyond repair, but this time the car looked new. The make was a 2006 Volkswagen Jetta. I followed Barry to the car and filmed him as he started it. He wedged wood onto on the accelerator. The car screamed to life. The rev limiter (Does a Jetta have a limiter?) seemed to be broken because the car’s engine would bog down and then spool up violently. It’s wasn’t a good sound.
The Car Never Wins at the Lancaster Gatling Gun Shoot
Charlie aimed the barrel right at the front grill and fired. The car was 200 feet away, so the cannon was deadly accurate. The explosion was deafening. The cannonball smashed the engine block, and the screaming engine was abruptly silenced. The smoke cleared and the hazard lights were seen blinking. The orange glow of flames could be on the ground below driver side of the car.
By the time the second shot was ready to go the car was at full burn. The flames were 20 feet high. All four tires had popped, and now the airbags were exploding with sparky reports. When the cannon fired a second time, the impact stoked the fire. Attempts were made to put it out but it was too hot, and it was left to burn.
Sumter Is Avenged!: The Siege and Reduction of Fort Pulaski
Charlie mentioned a book during his talk while standing in front of his siege cannon. The take over of For Pulaski is in Savannah Georgia is unique because the owners of the fort thought that no cannon could penetrate its walls. This opinion was NOT FACT. The massive siege cannons (Charlie’s gun is one of them) blew the hell out of the fort in just one day. Get the book and read the full story. Our countries history is INCREDIBLE.
Curt Wolf Cleared the Range For Gatling Guns
Many interesting Gatling guns showed up this year. There were at least three Colt 1877 Bulldog Gatling Guns reproduced by Curt Wolf, owner of U.S. Armament Corporation. Charlie had his original 1862 on an original carriage which makes the piece priceless. If memory serves, I think someone brought out a reproduction Claxton which I’ve never seen before. Another attendee shot a Cofee Mill gun which uses a heavy cylindrical cartridge that holds the cap power and bullet. Another attendee brought an original Maxim machine gun with its flailing charging handle.
Below is a full list of Gatling guns seen. Correct me by commenting below if I’m wrong with this list.
- Ager Coffee Mill gun (I think I saw one there)
- Several 1877 Bull Dogs
- Charle’s original Model 1862
- Nordenfelt Rapid-Fire Gun (I think)
- Gardner Rapid-Fire Model 1877
- Claxton Machine Gun (comment if I’m wrong on this one)
- Maxim Machine Gun
- A custom hand-cranked Gatling gun that shot like a GAU-17
When The Gatling Guns Finished, Line Cannons Were Next
These little cannons are small but deceivingly powerful. They were designed to shoot a thin rope over ships that needed to be pulled into port. Upon successfully shooting the rope to the ship a larger rope would be attached, and the boat would be pulled safely to port.
Tim’s Waffle Gun
A highlight of the Lancaster Gatling Gun Shoot was Tim’s Waffle Gun model F-B made by Naval Company Inc. which is still in business to this day. The gun has an unusual waffle pattern towards the end of the barrel which gives it its nickname. His first shot was a surprise. The aluminum projectile was lighter than anticipated. When he fired, the projectile flew 1,000 feet (estimated) beyond what was anticipated. The entire length of string attached to the projectile was pulled out, and it landed deep in the woods beyond the edge of the field. I’m sure he found it assuming the rope was still attached. When fired the blast surprised the hell out of me. I quietly moved from behind the gun to better vantage point after that shot.
The Mortars Pounded The Car This Year
There were four 24 pounders on the firing line. This part of the shoot is always a crowd pleaser because everybody laughs and cheers when the mortar balls hit the car. The sixteen pound balls typically don’t penetrate the car’s sheet metal they just dent the car with a thud. It makes for a good laugh. It happened at least six times this year.
The Lancaster Gatling Gun Shoot Is Americana On Steroids
I’m glad we made the effort to go the Lancaster Gatling Gun Shoot this year. It was good to see my cannon shooting friends from the North-South Skirmish Shoot. Specials thanks to Tim for bringing his brand new fully automatic BB gun. That thing was fun to shoot. Also special thanks to Charlie Smithgall for setting up the event. I imagine it takes a good chunk of time and effort to set the event up. We all appreciate it.
If you’re lucky enough to get an invite to the Lancaster Gatling Gun Shoot, make it a point to go. You won’t be disappointed