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Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions that often come up in considering a choice of model cannon type for family enjoyment.

Civil War Cannon

Are these model cannons safe to use?

The carbide or Big-Bang® model cannons are very safe to use. The amount of calcium carbide powder deposited into the combustion chamber is carefully measured by the size of the dipper or charging plunger. The original inventor made a prototype out of glass to demonstrate the low impact of the acetylene gas explosion.

The black powder model cannons use traditional gunpowder, which burns relatively slowly and explodes in a confined space with a relatively lower impact or brisance (shattering power) compared to more modern smokeless gunpowders. Nonetheless, care is required with black powder, both in storage, loading, and detonation. Only the proper grade of powder (usually F1 or F2) should be employed and the amount used must be carefully measured. Also, the barrel must be swabbed between charges to damp any sparks, and misfires must be handled carefully. The challenges posed and the care required when using black powder are definitely a step-up from the carbide models and the maturity of the child participating in the use of these cannons must be carefully judged and adult supervision is required at all times. That said, these cannons when used properly are very safe and reliable.

Are these miniature cannons legal to use?

The carbide model cannons are not capable of firing a projectile. As such, they are not firearms and do not require any registration. They may be classified as fireworks, however, and, depending on your local ordinances, may be governed by state or municipal regulations. Your local fire marshall would be the best person to ask. In most jurisdictions, there is no problem with owning and using carbide cannons.

The blackpowder model cannons are also not usually considered firearms, but they are capable of firing a projectile consistent with their bore sizes (either .50 or .69 caliber), although this is not recommended. In some jurisdictions, therefore, they may be considered firearms on that account. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, these model cannons are not considered to be firearms and therefore a gun permit is not necessary to own them. Here, the applicable statutes cover full-size cannons; permits to use them and certifications of training are required. It may still be necessary to obtain the permission of the fire marshall to legally discharge these small cannons and each owner should check with the local authorities.

How do I obtain black powder and is it legal to possess it?

Black powder can be purchased in person at select sporting goods stores and by mail order from certain internet sites. However, in Massachusetts a Firearm Identification (FID) card must be shown to retailers in order to purchase black powder. "You must be at least 18 years old (or 15 - 17 years old with parental consent) to apply for an FID card. The fee for an FID card is $100.00 and it is valid for 6 years. New applicants must complete a Mass. approved firearms safety course or a BASIC HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE." Purchasing black gunpowder by mail-order involves hazardous materials shipping costs and often a minimum purchase of 5 lbs., which then requires a storage permit.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, not more than 2 pounds of black powder possessed by a person over 18 years of age is "exempt from License, Registration, and Permit and may be kept, or stored in a building or other structure." (M.G.L.c.148 §13) Larger amounts, up to 5 lbs., may be stored with a permit for private use. Larger amounts, for Commercial Use, are not to exceed 50 lbs. and require "a certificate of competency issued by the [Fire] Marshal [sic]pursuant to 527 CMR 22.00."

Given the potential complexities, it is best to determine the ordinances governing the use and possession of black gunpowder in your particular location.

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