One of the guns on Archie's ship in the war was a 5" 38. It also had 3" 50s He had no idea what that meant so he asked me.
I told him it was like the .45-70 used in a Trapdoor Springfield. Or .30-40 used in the Krag. So a 5 inch 50 was a five inch diameter shell propelled by 38 grains of powder. Naturally.
No no no.
Thanks to the glory of the internet, we confirmed a theory I had that was more... uh... true. The 5 inch is the diameter of the shell, the other number was the barrel length in number of that diameter. So this gun was 5 x 38 inches long. 190 inches. Almost 16 feet. A 3" 50 has a 150 inch barrel.
I didn't want to go into the British system of measuring their guns as "X Pounders" referring to shell weight and dating back to front stuffers. Our privateers in the War of 1812 preferred 9 pounders mounted forward that were longer than usual and called Long Toms. Though the moniker Long Tom ended up getting pasted on many types of artillery.
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