“Why on earth do you want a cannon?” These were the exact words that left my wife’s mouth when I explained to her that I had spotted a sweet new replica cannon barrel, the 10lb Parrott Rifle to be exact, just begging for a new home. Preferably in our front garden. Now my wife has had to put up with a lot where my “hobbies” are concerned. But you’d think that after all these years married to an avid collector of ancient armoury and weaponry, she’d be fairly used to my eccentricities. This is especially true when you consider that I’ve made an art form out of sneaking various items, replicas and historic pieces, into the house which are later, after discovery, explained away with a shrug and a, “It was always there,” comment. Words that are usually met with another shrug and a roll of the eyes from my dear wife. But when a six foot six inch length of polyethylene made to look exactly like the original cannon is the item in question, I felt it best to front up and be honest. Besides, why should I hide it? In the current world of big boys’ toys, if you’ve got a replica cannon, flaunt it.
My plan was, in my naivety, to mount the cannon near the front gate facing visitors. Pride of place in our front garden. Not only would the cannon add a certain regal air to the property but it would also ward off certain unscrupulous visitors who might feel less inclined to approach the property of a man who has a huge cannon pointing at their face. At least that’s how I explained it to my wife, which raised a laugh or two and a begrudging acceptance that the huge lump of realistic looking fake metal be mounted, much more tastefully in her opinion, on a patch of grass to the right of our front door. After much discussion, I did get her to concede to letting me aim the barrel down the path – something I insisted on to ensure that anyone entering our large and pleasant garden would get full view of the beast’s six and a half foot menace. To coin a phrase, they would truly be looking down the barrel.
While my new “baby” is a high quality, and much more light weight (just 6kg or 14lb), replica of the cannon most popularly used during the American Civil War, it’s dimensions still make it a formidable beast and especially so when mounted on my very own custom built carriage which took no “insignificant” amount of effort on my part to construct. But after all this effort the question I suppose on many of your lips is: Why go to so much trouble? Why are replica cannons so popular these days?
Well outside of eccentric idiots and their understanding wife’s like me, there are those people who keep the replica cannons as ornaments. Cannons are highly collectable and real ones do not regularly come up for sale, even at specialist arms and armour auctions. David Williams of Bonhams auctioneers reported recently that you should put aside a minimum of $1,500 US to buy a small, plain iron cannon. It is usually “the bigger the better” but that has to be tempered with quality and provenance; an example from a known battlefield or a famous owner should always attract a premium. Bonhams recently sold a huge French, 19th-century, engraved bronze field gun for £21,600 in the UK, showing that the popularity of historical military equipment and armaments are not hampered by size.
So why replicas? Well, at the sorts of prices we’ve just seen for real cannons, the $499.00 for a replica 10lb Parrott Rifle from Cannons Direct (www.cannonsdirect.com) that to all intents and purposes looks exactly the same as the real thing, seems like a drop in the ocean. This is especially true when you factor in the free shipping and consider replica cannons carry none of the rules and regulations that a real cannon brings with it.
Of course, you won’t be able to fire the replica. But with even more regulations governing the use, purchase and storage of the necessary black powder to do so, a replica is for many people a safer, but no less pleasing on the eye option to have.