By definition, a mortar is an indirect fire device. It is designed to launch projectiles a short range at a low velocity. A mortar is a traditional weapon used to propel explosive shells, called mortar bombs, at high-arching ballistic trajectories. The mortar is usually a muzzle-loader with a short and usually smooth-bore about less than 15 times its caliber.
Modern mortars are typically light and easy to transport, but traditional mortars were huge solid casts—like those dating back to the British Royal Armories from the 1400s. This proves mortars have been in use for hundreds of years and was originally prominent in siege warfare. Historians actually consider the first use of mortars to be in the 1453 siege of Constantinople by the army of Mehmed the Conqueror. Another account from 1456 also highlights the use of a mortar in the siege of Belgrade where the Ottoman Turks used seven of them to fire “stone shots one Italian mile high.”
This means the use of mortar weapons is certainly historically significant, and they have not fallen out of use today. They have been re-designed with newer materials that allow for weight control and transport, and they’re now used for close fire support. Today’s mortar weapons work with a variety of different ammunition types. One of the most common mortar weapons in use today is the M120 Mortar, which American Soldiers still use. It was produced by Israeli and is liked for its high portability and durability.
There are various mortar types that can be traced back throughout history. They are often on display in museums but due to their traditional size and weight, very few civilian collectors have gotten their hands on one. Historical museums around the world, however, feature a variety of mortar weapons from hundreds of years back to recent decades.