"Lyle" type Life Saving Line Cannons      

  Lyle Life Saving Cannon  

(Note: Above cannons are some we have sold!)

   Manufactured in late 1800's to the middle 1900's!

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                                                                          Rescue from land
If the wreck was close to shore, a line was shot out to the vessel with a Lyle type gun and the survivors brought ashore in a breeches buoy - think of it as a rescue by clothesline, getting this equipment close to the wreck could be a problem.

A breeches buoy was simply a pair of canvas pants sewed onto a life preserver.

Lightweight rope was shot out to the wreck with the Lyle gun.

It was carefully wound on a rope-board so it would uncoil without snagging. The crews would then use this rope to haul out the heavier lines which actually carried the breeches buoy.

Wanted all types of bronze and steel Lyle Line Cannons

for consignment sales or cash purchase!

Line cannon  Line cannon wanted

 Bronze Heat Transfer Company Life Saving Cannon   Bronze USLSS Lyle life saving cannon fo rsale

Completely Restored Bronze Naval Co. "Lyle" Cannon
Restored Naval Company Bronze Lyle cannon for sale
This is another GREAT bronze Naval Company F-B "Lyle type" life saving/line cannon that has been completely restored.
Restored Naval Company Bronze Lyle cannon for sale
This is a NAVEL CO PHILA. bronze waffle barrel Lyle Gun.
There are no dates on it and there are no markings on the end of the muzzle. All markings are shown in the pictures and all are cast into the cannon except the "HSM" and "US1" shown to the right of the ignition area which have been stamped.
The bore is 28" in depth.

Lyle Bronze line cannon for sale
The barrel moves up and down freely and this gun could easily be disassembled and shipped in two boxes.
Restored Naval Company Bronze Lyle cannon for sale
Restored Naval Company Bronze Lyle cannon for sale
This item is very rare piece and very hard to find in this great condition.
Lyle Bronze line cannon for sale

Lyle Bronze line cannon for sale
It has five-barrel positions for elevation.
There is no firing mechanism included with this cannon (just the plug), but we do have them available separately or this can be set up to fire blank signal black powder charges very easily with fuse.
There is a very nice bight bronze restored patina and the bore is in excellent condition.
It is priced to sell very FAST at: $2,695 US$ + shipping by UPS/FedEx Ground.

  Lyle Bronze line cannon for sale   Lyle Bronze line cannon for sale
Located in Chesterfield, VA if you want to pick it up yourself free or it will ship to most parts of the USA for less then $200.

Rare Bronze Naval Co. "Lyle" Cannon
Bronze Naval Co. "Lyle" Cannon for sale
This is a GREAT bronze Naval Company F-B "Lyle type" life saving/line cannon.
Bronze Naval Co. "Lyle" Cannon for sale
This item is very rare piece and hard to find. It just needs a little work and painting on the base.
Bronze Naval Co. "Lyle" Cannon for sale
The weight of the cannon is about 140 lbs.
The barrel is 22 1/2" long with an outside diameter of 4 inches at the breech and 3 inches at the muzzle.
The bore (I.D.) is 2 inches at the muzzle.
Bronze Naval Co. "Lyle" Cannon for sale
New photos will be posted here very soon! (4/1/2015)
It has five-barrel positions for elevation.
There is no firing mechanism included with this cannon, but we do have them available separately or this can be set up to fire blank signal black powder charges very easily with fuse.
There is a very nice dark patina, with handling highlights just as you would expect for a 100+ year old bronze piece.
There is no significant rust on the base.
It is priced to sell very FAST at: $1,995 US$ + shipping by UPS/FedEx Ground.
Located in Stevensville, Maryland if you want to pick it up yourself free or it will ship to most parts of the USA for less then $200.

Lyle Model "C" life saving cannon from early 1900's for sale
Fantastic early Model "C" Lyle Life Saving Cannon in firing condition.

Price reduced!
Lyle Model "C" life saving cannon from early 1900's for sale 
Cast in early 1900's and it bears serial number No. 115 and Tested.
Lyle Model "C" life saving cannon from early 1900's for sale
The Carriage is metal and restored to firing condition.
This model did not use the firing mechanism, but was fired with fuse. 
One could be easily installed and we do have a brand new one available separately.  
Gun is 25 1/2 inches long and has a 35 inch carriage with a 2 1/2 inch bore.
This is the finest model of the "Lyle" cannons and the most sought after.
This Bronze Type "C" Lyle Guns in in excellent restored condition and these are VERY hard to find for sale. 
This is a fabulous piece of our nations history.
Priced to sell very fast at: $8,250 US$ plus shipping 

 Original Firing Mechanisms for Lyle Line Throwing Cannons
Three sold!
Sorry, last one has a hold on it with a "sale pending 8/5/2015:.

      Lyle Firing mechanisms for sale

Lyle Firing mechanisms for sale

These takes a .32 blank black powder cartages.
  .32 caliber Firing Mechanism for Lyle Line Throwing Cannon  
 These are USCG-type firing mechanisms, percussion, with leaf-type lanyard trigger.
  Three are brass and appear never to have been fired, but complete and in very good condition.
Stainless thread is metric 20 X 2.5. (sold)
The original lanyards are NOT included or available at this time!
     Lyle Firing mechanisms for sale
All are originals and of the best quality workmanship. We think these were made "back when" for the USCG.
The leaf sear shown in photos is included with the brass pieces.

The Lyle Gun (or bronze gun C) is a 180-lb. line-throwing cannon, developed by Lt. David Lyle of U.S. Army Ordnance at the Springfield Armory in 1878. It shoots an 18-lb. steel projectile with a loop in one end, to which is tied the line to be fired over a ship in distress. The sailors onboard then pull in the rest of the rescue apparatus including a breeches buoy. It was used by the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which was reorganized in 1915 into the U.S. Coast Guard.

The National Park Service at one time conducted regular Lyle gun firing demonstrations at Cape Cod National Seashore, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fire Island National Seashore, Gateway National Recreation Area, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Sleeping Bear is the only one that I know of that still does this every summer.

Our demonstration load is 600 grains of FG black powder, which gives a pleasing report and sends the projectile and line between 500 and 600 feet out over Lake Michigan. Original service loads were a whopping 2 ounces of coarse black powder, and were increased if the ship in trouble was well offshore. Originally it used a Civil War style friction primer, but in the 1930's the guns were converted to use a spring loaded firing mechanism that fired a .32 blank into the black powder charge.

The stainless steel one is for: Coston and Sculler guns
  These are almost impossible to find used and these are only the 4th to 7th ones we have ever had available in the last 20+ years!
Sorry, sale pending on the last one!

Price reduced to: $650 US$ each
Shipping is included anywhere in the world!

Line Gun Collection for sale!

Life saving line guns for sale

Pricing is as follows: 
  1. Schermuly rare rail mount - with GOOD markings. Price: $495
  2. Schermuly we think! Some markings Price: $350
  3. Schermuly with longer barrel. Price: $425
  4. Schermuly cased gun with original steel box: $750

All of above plus shipping.

Schermuly cased gun with original steel box #4 shown below.

Schermuly cased line gun with original steel box for sale  Schermuly cased line gun with original steel box for sale

Schermuly cased line gun with original steel box for sale   Schermuly cased line gun with original steel box for sale

Numerous more photos are available for each of the above guns on request! 

Bronze & Steel "Lyle" Type  Line Cannons Wanted!


  Lyle type line cannon

  Line cannon projectile

Wanted ORIGINAL projectiles for Bronze "C" Lyle Gun

Recent Line Cannon Sales!



Galbraith Bronze "Lyle" Line cannon

      Line cannon  Life saving cannon

 H. C Dimond Line Cannon

Note: We have sold all of the above Lyle cannons and nearly 100 more!

Information on the Lyle type life saving line cannons

Experiments in shooting tethered projectiles dates back to circa 1800.  A mortar device was credited with saving lives in 1850.  But it wasn't until West Point and M.I.T.  graduate David A. Lyle (1845 - 1937) began his research / testing that resulted in reliable efficient designs.  Thus Line saving guns are most often referred to as "Lyle Guns".

The US Government funded many line throwing gun projects.   There were about 30 companies who made line throwing guns from the late 1800's to 1952.  Famous names included, American Manufacturing, Galbraith, General Ordnance, Naval Co., Sculler and Steward.

Production ceased in 1952 in favor of rockets.  Some line guns even look like guns, such as the examples shown made by Winchester and the Naval Company.

These line guns are used primarily for shore based rescue operations.  The shooter would fire, aiming over the victims head and then pull the line within reach of the victim.  They are also useful for rescuing victims that have fallen through the ice, or are stranded on a cliff or burning building.

Boats in distress need larger lines.  Lyle guns were designed to throw projectiles weighing approximately 15 pounds, carrying heavier rope over 1000 feet.

hunt.jpg (42894 bytes)

Pictured is a early Lyle Gun made by Edmund S. Hunt, of Weymouth, Massachusetts.  David Lyle actually tested Hunt's guns.   The Hunt gun featured a unique projectile, in that it contained the line coiled inside it and played out during flight.  The cannon barrel shown is bronze, and measures 18 1/2 long. The bore is 2 1/2 across. It is mounted on a wooden base which measures 10 1/2 x 29 3/4.  Circa 1878
This iron gun was made by the Sculler Safety Co (Circa 1940).  The barrel is 28 inches long with a 2.5 inch bore.  Click on images to see larger pictures.

   Here are examples of a few line throwing guns made by different manufacturers.

lyle_small.gif (2654 bytes)lyle-5.gif (13271 bytes)lyle3_small.gif (3210 bytes)line-gun_small.gif (3054 bytes)coston.gif (46017 bytes)

Private collection

For the most part, these cannons were designed to be compact and easy to operate. Most had a elevation adjustment achieved by placing a pin in holes, which held the barrel at a certain angle.  At least one Japanese line gun has a horizontal adjustment.  It fired using 12 gauge blanks.

Lyle guns have tremendous recoil (several feet) and need to be lashed down (many people were injured just by the recoil).  All fired using black powder charges, with a couple of exceptions of those using black powder cartridges.  Black powder was used in pre-measured bags, and was coarser than the far grade, no longer manufactured.   Extensive tests were conducted to determine the optimum powder charge.  The idea being that the powder would ignite and the pressure would start pushing the projectile out of the barrel and stop burning just as the projectile exited.

Modern day shooters of these cannons should take note! The fa grade was much coarser and slower burning than today's ffg grade. It could be dangerous to put 5 ounces of ffg powder in a Lyle gun.

Barrels were made mostly of cast iron with bore diameters of about 2.5 inches.  A few were made of Bronze, and fewer of Manganese/Bronze.  

This  cannon and its projectile were made by the Naval Company, June 1944.  The waffle design barrel is made of manganese/bronze and is 34 inches long and weighs 75 lbs. (2.5 inch bore).  It was  restored to it's original factory condition.  A clear coat of urethane was applied to protect it from oxidizing.

 Earlier Lyle guns fired using standard cannon fuse. Aboard ship this proved too unreliable as most rescue operations were during turbulent, stormy weather.  Friction primers were a much better choice (these were also used during the Civil War and are in use today).  A friction primer consist of a small brass tube (3/16 inch) filled with a flash powder that gets ignited by sparks from a friction pin that is quickly pulled out of the tube using a string (lanyard) attached to the loop.   It is similar to the effect of lighting a safety match.

friction.gif (8191 bytes)

Shown is a friction primer by itself, and then one inserted in a breech plug, which is screwed into the breech of a Lyle gun.   The bolt has a 3/16 inch hole running through it.

Later, another design used a primer method consisting of a 22 or 32 caliber blank configured in a mechanical assembly.  By pulling on a string (lanyard) a spring/trigger would be released to fire the blank cartridge, which in turn ignited the powder in the barrel.

32-line.gif (21099 bytes)

Shown, is a  earlier 32 caliber firing mechanism for a Lyle gun.  These were also made in the 22 caliber size.  This device screwed into the breech section of the barrel.

More reliable firing devices came later, and included this stainless steel 22 caliber model shown below.  A 22 cal. blank was inserted by unscrewing the lower section.  The top section was spring loaded, requiring one to pull up on the head and rotating 90 degrees to the cocked position and then inserting a safety clip on the shaft. At this time the head was turned back such that it was now resting on the safety clip. The safety clip was attached to a 10 foot lanyard.   
(From the collection of T. Parks).

costo001.jpg (34113 bytes)  costo002.jpg (28145 bytes)

Lyle guns have saved thousands of lives!


Comments on "Lyle Cannons" from a website visitor! 

Seeing the Lyle guns brings back a wave of nostalgia, as from 1967 to 1969 I was a USCG seaman stationed at Fort Point Motor Lifeboat Station in San Francisco, CA., which had at least a dozen Lyle guns lying around for decoration.
We had, and trained with, the last "beach cart" on the west coast. This was a hand cart with fat sand tires that held a polished (by me) bronze Lyle gun and all its accessories.
Though we never used it in an actual rescue (we used boats for the 1,000 SAR cases a year we handled) we trained and practiced with it, mostly to impress visiting brass hats. Yes, it recoils hard (20 feet end over end across the beach) flying off its oak slide, and you must be most careful in flaking the 1/2 mile of light messenger line over the pins of the line box cover, putting the box over the cover, inverting it and withdrawing the cover with its pins without disturbing the piled up coiled flakes of line, then using the box's elevating wings to point it the right direction, as one little mistake results in an incredible mess and broken expensive things.
We built a platform and "yardarms" on a tall piling a few hundred yards down the beach to simulate a ship and our drills were timed as to how fast we could run out the cart, deploy and load the gun with its powder packets and heavy "sash weight" projectile, jerk the lanyard to fire the light messenger over the "victim" on the platform who hauls out the heavy messenger, then the manila cable and secures it to the piling, then the beach crew set up an "X" frame to hold the line up a few feet, buried the "dead man" and set the cable up with a powerful tackle. When this was done the breeches buoy was hauled out, the man on the piling jumped in, and we hauled him to "safety". I think our best time was something like four and a half minutes from alarm to man's feet on the beach. There's also a spring loaded line cutter you haul out last to cut the cable for recovery.
Even though this was 40 years ago, I can still smell the burnt powder and  feel the satisfaction of a difficult job well done with my shipmates, with whom I shared so much danger and adventure in our young lives.
by Peter Bailey, April 5, 2008

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Last up-dated on 08/05/2015