08 June 2023

Old Elementary: Cannon Fodder - parts 84943 & 2527 analysis and MOCs

Posted by Tom Loftus

In 1989 LEGO® took to the high seas with their first wave of pirate-themed sets. Shooting Cannon (84943) and Cannon Base 2x4 (2527) were quite literally flagship elements for the theme, and they’ve been a mainstay of the LEGO parts inventory ever since. But is there more to these parts than meets the eye-patch? Today it's my task to find out.

Shooting Cannon, part 84943

Appearing in 70 sets since 1989, the shooting cannon (84943) is a rare example of a LEGO launcher that's never received a major overhaul. However, it's not the only cannon variant out there.

  • In production from 1989 to 2001, Weapon Cannon Non Shooting (518), was more ornate with moulded details on its barrel. However, as the name suggests, it wasn't much good for shooting anything as it was a single piece with no moving parts. 
  • Weapon Cannon Non Shooting Black Handle (84943a) used some components of its functional relative but had a different handle design that rendered it harmless. This variant is quite rare, only appearing in 6 sets in certain regions from 1989 to 1991.

Aside from the 3.18 bars either side of the barrel, connection points on 84943 are limited - legal ones at least. It may look like a towball/Mixel ball, but the tip of the handle is actually quite a bit smaller. Likewise, the handle itself is just shy of a regular bar thickness so anything clipped on just dangles limply.

As the saying goes though, the real treasure is within. But how to get to it? Hilariously, the answer is…

…fire in the hole! Any two parts with an accessory peg should do the trick but there’s no way I was going to pass on that pun. I found it's easiest to disassemble while pressing both locking tabs at once. 

The bounty revealed. There are four components to a single cannon: the end cap, the spring, a one piece tuning fork MOC and the barrel. 

I’m not the first to disassemble one of these things, Barney Main (aka Sly Owl) did the same back in 2008 - although his motive was more destructive than mine as this humorous Eurobricks thread shows. 

When assembled, the cannon may lack connection points, but its component parts do not. As it turns out, the not-quite-a-Mixel ball on the handle is near enough to a spherical stud. The visor attachment feels the most legal of the bunch and is even possible on an assembled cannon.

MOCs using Shooting Cannon, part 84943

Besides a tuning fork, the firing pin element instantly reminded me of the Mandalorian’s phase-pulse blaster. It’s not a perfect match for the ‘real’ rifle’s twin-prong tip but it definitely gets the idea across.

Next up: Aero-Aquatica, the unlikely speeder bike racing duo. This MOC isn't new but because it uses the cannon end caps for the engine intakes I just had to sneak it in.

Cannon Base 2x4, part 2527

Launched in 1989 alongside the cannon itself, 2x4 Cannon Base (2527) has been included in 66 sets in a variety of colours but is most commonly found in red.

A fun feature of part 2527 I never realised until recently is that its sides are stepped in one-plate intervals. This allows for a satisfying interlocking effect when a pair of them are put together.

The stepped sides actually feature on real naval cannon carriages. So far as I can tell, they're used as pivot points to change the cannons elevation with the aid of a wooden pole or 'handspike'. And there was me thinking the element designers just took a creative liberty to bring the part more in-System. 

The element's side walls are just the right thickness to act as a dubious stud inverter or SNOT brick. Although it's not the most secure connection, it still may have some good potential for MOCs.

Like this staircase tablescrap. Sure, you could achieve something similar with more traditional parts but where's the fun in that? 

The spacing between the walls also allows for a 4 plate tall stack to slot into place - perfect for an upcycled cannon base deckchair, complete with cup holders. 

Which neatly leads us to its bar connections.

The cannon base has two vertical clips for placing accessories – flaming torches, piña coladas – standard pirate stuff. These are aligned on-grid to the studs below. Less useful are the clips used to secure the cannon which sit in-line with the height of a plate rather than the usual 1/2 plate offset. The unusual placement makes the element tricky to integrate in System - but not impossible, as demonstrated by the sideways green 1x2 brick with LEGO Technic axle hole.

As ideas for MOCs began to flow, I thought it would be nice if the recessed area between the side walls could be embellished somehow. As luck would have it, 6 curved quarter circle tiles arranged correctly  have just enough friction to fill the space... most of the time. Strangely, some tile colours perform better than others. Fortunately, the colour I wanted for my MOC held true.

The Sky Lighthouse 

I thought the stepped edges and exposed clips of the cannon base could look quite ornate en masse. After playing around with different configurations, I settled on using four of them around a core of SNOT bricks as the basis of a tower. 

The curved quarter tiles and stacked leaves looked a bit like dragon scales so I leant into that aesthetic, using bold colours throughout the build.

The result is a light house in the sky, helping airships manoeuvre through the treacherous cloud tides. 

Building the stylised rocks and clouds was a lot of fun, I hope they contrast well with the intricate tower. I briefly considered using the tuning fork trigger from the cannon innards for the tip of the tower but I'm glad I refrained.

Closing thoughts

Naturally, fans of LEGO® Pirates hold these elements in high regard but I suspect for a lot of MOC builders they're the kind of theme-specific parts that lurk at the bottom of dusty parts bins. While they're far from the easiest elements to use, I definitely have a new-found fondness for the duo. Plus, they led me to learn some obscure (possibly erroneous) trivia about cannons which surely counts for something.

Whether you judge them useful or not, I hope you've found this article illuminating.

Are there any other old elements you'd like to see us cover like this? Let us know below!

READ MORE: What are the new LEGO® parts for June 2023 and which sets contain the most?

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  1. The top clips on the bases are sadly fragile, I don't think more than 10% of all mine survived from their original purchase even without any stress or use.

    1. Hmmm they are rather brittle yes, I should probably have mentioned that.. Now that you mention it, I'm surprised the mould has not been updated to include more robust clips.

  2. Imagine my disappointment as a kiddo to receive my second Pirates set, and find that the cannons didn't shoot. :(

    Dad to the rescue! He took them apart, inserted a spring (from a pen or ?), and my sister and I had functional cannon again.

    I'm unclear on how they were disabled to begin with. Was there an internal rigid part taking the place of the spring? Were there molded tabs or something that had to be snipped? I don't remember exactly, just that dad saved the day.

    1. Ah interesting! Sounds like there was some potential life to those seldom seen black handle ones afterall. If that's the case then the internals can't be too dissimilar... wonder if there's anyone out there with non-firing one who is willing to dismantle...

    2. Well I'm about to make a BL order anyways, might as well add a black-handle cannon so I can find out!

    3. OoooOo do tell if there's anything interesting inside! Thank you for your dedication haha!

  3. Am I wrong in remembering that there was an older version of the cannon in old dark grey that didn't shoot/have any other parts? I thought the shooting version was the overhaul the piece got a number of years ago, could be wrong though

    1. If it's a single mould, it sounds like the 518 canon mentioned in the article. Doing a bit more digging, it seems that was the only variant avalible in some regions for some time even though the shooting version was available elsewhere. Eventually the shooting version became the defult so that might explain why you think of the non-shooting type as a more recent arrival?

  4. I love using these canon as exhaust on my cars and motorcycles MOCs. I have pics to share, if interested...

    1. Ah that sounds like a great use for them! Yes please, if you have a link I'd be interested.

  5. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't there a thin rod in the central bore, such that you can only fire 1x1 round bricks that have a hole in the stud? Again, my childhood memory is that we tried 1x1 round plates (trying to achieve greater distance from a lighter projectile), but at that time there was no such thing as a 1x1 round plate with hollow stud so it didn't work.

    1. Of course now I look closer I can see it in your pics! Sorry for the redundant question.

    2. No worries haha! I was surprised to find that rod is actually part of the barrel mould. Feels like it should be a seperare peice but evidently not!

  6. I dismantled a non-firing cannon earlier. As far as I could tell it was exactly the same as a firing cannon on the inside, except in the place of the spring there was a small plastic cylinder which looked similar to a 18654 but slightly larger. It couldn't attach to a stud.

    1. Thanks! Now I REALLY want my ordered non-firing cannon to show up, because there's a certain fun in using obscure parts, and a slightly different cylinder size could be lots of fun.

    2. Thank you for your assistance!