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Model 1885 U.S. 3.2in

Breech-Loading Field Cannon

The 3.2 US Model 1885 Field Cannon superseded the 3-inch Ordnance rifles in U.S. Army service and improved performance through its breech-loaded action.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 5/21/2018
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Year: 1885
Manufacturer(s): State Arsenals - USA
Production: 3,500
Capabilities: Fire Support/Assault/Breaching;
Crew: 6
Power: None. This is a towed artillery piece.
Operators: United States
The 3.2" Field Cannon Model 1885 appeared after the bloody experiences of the American Civil War (1861-1865) and succeeded the popular 3" Ordnance Rifle line. It improved upon its predecessor in being a breech-loaded weapon with a rifled barrel unlike the breech-loaded, rifled 3" Ordnance Rifle. Design of the weapon was traditional for the period and included twin, heavily-spoked road wheels along a single axle containing the mounting and trailing tow arm. The barrel was affixed to the mounting system and tapered along its length, producing three visible divisions leading to the muzzle. A screw-type device allowed for limited elevation values to be achieved while traversal was handled by simply moving the gun about its wheeled carriage. Basic road transport was via horse (or similar beast-of-burden) while an iron-framed, two-wheeled limber provided the ammunition supply and four-wheeled road functionality (when towed over distance).

The Model 1855's breech incorporated a screw-type arrangement hinged to open to the left and expose the breech of the gun. When closed, it protected the crew and sealed the chamber for the detonating action within. The breech-loading system of operation allowed for greater rates-of-fire to be achieved and improved the tactical value of the field gun in general. These guns were also fitted with a simple form of recoil dampening - whereas basic guns throttled rearwards after firing (and moved back into position by the crew), the Model 1885 recoiled rearwards and then was thrust forwards automatically, landing near the original site of firing. This lessened the time and manpower required to realign the gun for a successive shot. The action earned the cannon the nickname of "grasshopper" and the weapon went on to serve in the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine American War (1899-1902).


1 x 3.2" (81mm) main gun barrel.

Dependent upon ammunition carrier.

Variants / Models

• 3.2 US Model 1885 - Base Series Designation
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