By David Alan Johnson By the latter part of the 15th century, armor worn by knights in the field had reached its pinnacle. It was stronger, lighter, and offered better protection than anything that had been available before. The long bow was still able to penetrate armor plate, but the weapon that would finally make the suit of armor obsolete was the cannon and, to a lesser extent, the clumsy musket and arquebus. Most cannon were cast from bronze using the same technique that was used to make bells: Molten metal was poured into a mold that was then broken when the metal had cooled. Because bell foundries had the facilities, many cannon were actually made by the same people who manufactured church bells. One fairly early bronze cannon was the two-ton “Messager,” which was made at the Tower of London armories in 1408. The few iron cannon in existence were made from long iron bars that were welded together and reinforced with metal hoops. These tended to be extremely awkward and were not the safest of weapons to fire. The Science of Ballistics The science of ballistics was still in its infancy in the 15th century and the reliability of artillery was uncertain at best. Not very much was known about how much stress a casting could withstand or how much blast a cannon’s breach could resist. The amount of gunpowder that should be used to fire a cannonball, which was usually a large stone, was also far from standard. This is not surprising since there were few standards


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