600 pound barrels

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Senior Member
Hi, everyone,
Could you help me out with this sentence:

Two modern day 155 mm artillery shells have the same explosive power as 600 pound barrels of old fashioned gunpowder.

What is the purpose of the word "barrels" here?
Here's the way I see it: a 600-pound barrel means "a barrel holding 600 lb", but if you have barrels (in plural), don't you also need a quantifier - for example, "two 600-pound barrels of gunpowder"? Obviously, I'm missing something.

  • Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi sophi

    Assuming the context is this or something similar, it's the word "pound" that's wrong in your sentence. To quote from the linked page:

    Because this is a military test range it’s strictly off-limits to the public, but the explosives experts here have let Mark in for a brief glimpse of what they get up to in their usually top-secret world. Inside a concrete blockhouse, they’ve positioned 2 155 mm artillery shells containing just 24 kilos of modern high explosives. That’s equal to no fewer than 600 barrels of old-fashioned gunpowder. As the countdown begins, everyone wonders just how big the bang’s going to be …


    Spanish. Spain
    Greetings Sophi,
    I suspect that there may be a subtle English usage that is not obviously apparent here and I will state at the outset that I consider the sentence to be appallingly written.
    I would rewite it as follows;

    One modern day 155 mm artillery shell has half the explosive power of one 600 pound barrel of old fashioned gunpowder.

    To address your specific question;

    Two modern day 155 mm artillery shells have the same explosive power as 600 pound barrels of old fashioned gunpowder.

    This is a generalised comment rather than a specific reference so the plural is used to indicate that the comment is referring to 600 pound barrels of old fashioned gunpowder in general not to any specific 600 pound barrel but to average 600 pound barrels.

    The rather odd construction of the sentence leads me to the conclusion that there is something specific about the explosive qualities of 600 pound barrels of old fashioned gunpowder and this is due to the properties of gunpowder.

    Gunpowder does not explode so it is not really an explosive as much as an extremely rapid oxidisation agent which is just flash talk meaning that it burns really quickly so in order to obtain any explosive effect the gunpowder must be placed in a pretty substantial container to confine the initial burning. Many kids at school are amazed to see the teacher pour enough blackpowder for five or ten shotgun cartridges onto a tray and set a match to it and all that happens is a bright flame straight up in the air with a sizzle but no and a huge cloud of white smoke but if the same amount of gunpowder were to be confined in any number of containers and then ignited a very serious explosion would result.

    The end result is one of the most weirdly convoluted sentences I have seen for a while.

    It's been a blast



    Senior Member
    USA English
    Moreover, I don't think black powder was shipped in either one-pound barrels or 600-pound barrels.

    One is too small to be useful and the other impossible to handle aboard ship on horse-drawn wagons supporting artillery.


    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hi sd

    Does that mean that you think, as I do (post 2) that the word "pound" needs to come out of the original sentence?
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