Difference Between a Howitzer and a Cannon

What is the difference Between a Howitzer and a Cannon? A howitzer has a curved trajectory, while a cannon has a straight trajectory. Additionally, a howitzer has a shorter barrel and a larger chamber, whereas a cannon has a longer barrel and a smaller chamber.

The projectile fired by a howitzer is usually larger and heavier than that of a cannon. Moreover, a howitzer has a slower rate of fire than a cannon. In terms of range, a howitzer has a longer effective range than a cannon. Lastly, a howitzer is typically used for indirect fire, while a cannon is used for direct fire.

Let’s Explore the Difference Between a Howitzer and a Cannon.

According to the current definition of artillery, artillery refers to the use of mechanical energy, chemical energy, electrical energy, etc., to project projectiles with a caliber of not less than 20 mm.

There are many classification methods of current artillery, such as use, structure, ballistics, and loading methods. The howitzers and cannons we will discuss today are classified according to their ballistics. The trajectory of the howitzer is relatively curved, while the cannon’s trajectory is fairly straight.

The word “Cannon” of the cannon comes from the Latin Cannon, which means “tube.” The cannon’s characteristics are that the barrel is relatively long, the caliber multiple is relatively large, and the initial velocity of the shell is relatively large. The shooting elevation angle is relatively small (less than 45 degrees).

Its shooting trajectory is relatively straight and low and mainly aimed at direct shooting. Tank, anti-aircraft, anti-tank, naval, coastal, and other well-known artillery are all cannons.

The cannon barrel is longer, the ballistic is direct, and the range is long, but if there is an obstacle in front of the target, the shell will hit the obstacle and miss the target.

The range coverage of the cannon is low. Due to the low extension of the ballistics and too few charge classifications, the cannon cannot be hit in many areas within the effective range.

From the 14th to the 20th century, the cannon occupied a very important position in the artillery field. However, since the middle of the last century, countries basically stopped developing new cannons and were gradually replaced by howitzers.

The English name of the howitzer is a howitzer, and its characteristics are just opposite to that of the cannon. Unlike the straight-to-straight shooting method of the cannon, the howitzer has a curved and parabolic trajectory.

Difference Between a Howitzer and a Cannon
M777 Howitzer

It can bypass the obstacle line and hit the target through the parabolic trajectory to a certain extent. It is more suitable for hitting those targets hidden behind other objects.

The range coverage of the howitzer is very large, mainly because the firepower can cover most of the areas within the maximum range through the flexible combination of higher firing angles and multi-stage charges.

Before World War II, the distinction between cannons and howitzers was very strict, and these differences were caused by the different ratios of barrel caliber to barrel length. Cannons usually have high bore pressure and short barrel life. For example, the barrel life of China’s 59-1 130mm cannon is only 800 rounds.

The chamber pressure of the howitzer is relatively low, and the lifespan is very long. For example, the 54-type 122mm howitzer has no problem with several thousand rounds.

With the development of technology and demand, the barrel of the howitzer is also continuously extended, eventually blurring some of the boundaries between it and the cannon. Western countries later unified them into howitzers.

The concept of the cannon howitzer came from the Soviet Union after World War II. As the name suggests, the howitzer combines a cannon and a howitzer and has both characteristics and advantages.

The howitzer barrel is longer, and the chamber pressure is higher. It mainly controls the ballistic characteristics by adjusting the shooting angle and the number of fuels to act as a cannon or howitzer.

For example, when acting as a cannon, the cannon howitzer will use a large charge and set a relatively small shooting elevation angle so that the shooting trajectory is straight and low.

When used as a howitzer, the cannon howitzer will use a small charge and set a relatively large firing angle to make the trajectory more curved.

The diameter of the howitzer is close to that of the traditional cannon, but with a larger number of charges, it can shoot at a low elevation angle like a cannon or shoot at a high elevation angle like a howitzer.

However, by increasing the barrel length of the howitzer, Western countries directly replaced the cannon with the howitzer, so the concept of the cannon does not exist. In fact, since the Second World War, the cannon howitzer has become the largest member of the barrel artillery.

Most of the new barrel artillery developed and equipped by various countries after the war were cannon howitzers. It is just affected by factors such as conceptual division, and Western countries are accustomed to calling them howitzers.

The line between howitzers and cannons has become increasingly blurred and is usually not strictly distinguished. Currently, most of the barrel artillery in various countries are cannon howitzers, but they use curved fire, that is, indirect aiming, and mainly perform fire suppression tasks.

In the past two or three decades, Western countries have determined 155mm howitzers with 39 times and 52 times the caliber as the main field artillery, and our country has also adopted the 155 gun system with 52 times the caliber.

The chamber pressure of this 155mm gun is very high. The barrel is very long. It can flexibly exert its firepower in the range by adjusting the ballistic angle and the graded charge. It has both the advantages of a cannon and a howitzer.

Difference Between a Howitzer and a Cannon

But if the goal is to blow up houses and kill people, high-explosive ammunition is the most powerful way to do that. They can easily make a huge variety of kills that cover a wide area. One shot can send the house skyward, and the pieces will kill dozens of them.

Of course, you can also use the cannon to fire a grenade, which is mostly used to get rid of obstacles and kill people. Modern artillery combines the cannon and the howitzer to make the howitzer, which has the best features of both and can change its charge to meet different firing angle needs. Howitzers are almost always used to make up modern artillery.


In conclusion, the article highlights the key differences between howitzers and cannons. While both are types of artillery, they vary in terms of trajectory, barrel length, chamber pressure, ammunition, and use. Howitzers typically have a curved trajectory, shorter barrel, and larger chamber, while cannons have a straight trajectory, longer barrel, and smaller chamber.

These differences affect their rate of fire, range, and effectiveness in different scenarios. However, modern artillery often combines features of both, blurring the traditional distinctions between howitzers and cannons.