Baltimore, MD, USA: The Shot Tower

By wasatch | Jan 15, 2022
North America > United States > Maryland > Baltimore

Once a mainstay of advanced high tech manufacturing, only few shot towers remain in the world. One of the most accessible is in Baltimore. For about a half a century the Baltimore shot tower (235 ft high) was the tallest man made structure in the USA. The shot tower operated from 1828 until 1898, manufacturing “shot”.

To understand what ‘shot' is, lets start with the modern bullet, properly called a cartridge, which has four parts, case, primer, powder, and bullet. The case is the brass shell that holds it all together. The primer is an explosive with a low ignition temperature so that the friction of firing sets it off. The explosion of the primer then ignites the powder, which expels the bullet down the barrel at a very high speed. The bullet is a cone of metal that tapers to a point at one end. Shotguns do not use bullets. Shotguns shoot a bunch of shot, a bunch of BBS.

For most of the history of guns, guns shot shot, not bullets. The shot tower was, for its time, the high tech way to make shot. In a room at the top of the shot tower, a pot of lead was melted and then poured through a metal sieve to break up the falling stream of hot lead into drops of hot lead which, as they fell toward the bottom of the shot tower, were pulled by gravity and by surface tension into perfect round balls of hot lead, just right for ammo. At the bottom of the shot tower, the hot balls of lead dropped into a pot of water that cooled and solidified them into perfect shot.

Maryland North America Things to do United States Baltimore History

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Written by wasatch
1st international trip: 1965. ~57 EU vacations. Visited 6 continets. Extensive USA travel. You can email me at

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