Wooden warships had attained their optimum length, their multiple gun decks making them unstable. Warrior’s ingenious deign incorporated just one long, very stable gun deck -100 feet longer than any previous warship. Her firepower could blow any other vessel out of the water. While wooden ships carried 32-pounder guns, Warrior had 68-pounders and 110-pounders. She was the ultimate deterrent.
Of the two types of heavy gun carried by Warrior the 68 pounder was most numerous, with twenty six on board. This gun was designed in 1846 by Colonel Dundas, weighing 6 tons on its elm carriage. 18 men were required to man the position and could achieve a rate of fire of one round every 55 seconds.
Although equipped with fitted sights, the trajectory was erratic. Due to the smooth bore nature of the gun effective range was limited to 2,000 yards.
Complementing the 68 lb muzzle loading guns were ten 110 pound guns.
The Admiralty opted for these relatively untried breech loading guns, designed in 1859 by Tyneside engineer, William Armstrong and weighing 4.1 tons. Again a gun crew of 18 men were required to discharge one round every 50 seconds.
One innovation was the barrel’s rifling. This made the shot fly true and spin so that the tapered point hit the target first. This heralded the introduction of the percussion fuse, which detonated the shell on impact.
Another new feature was the loading method. The guns did not have to be drawn back into the ship; both projectile and charge were loaded through the breech screw and the chamber sealed with a block.
Equipped with tangent elevated sights and a rifled bore, accuracy up to 4,500 yards was expected, making it far more efficient than any smooth bore gun in use at the time.
The guns were not as impressive at sea as first hoped. It proved impossible to create a gas tight seal between the block and breech, reducing the ability to fire rapidly and safely.