In the 1840s, there were essentially four different types of artillery and four different classifications. The types were guns, howitzers, mortars, and columbiads. The classifications were seacoast, siege and garrison, field, and mountain. A short definition of each follows:
- Guns - heavy weapons with long barrels to batter fortifications with shot at long range.
- Howitzers - shorter barreled guns with "chambers" in the bores for smaller powder charges. They were designed to fire shells at higher elevations over less range.
- Mortars - short chambered pieces used for lobbing shells at great elevation into the fortifications of the enemy.
- Columbiads - long-barreled weapons combining the features of all three of the above, and were the heaviest pieces in use.
- Seacoast - heaviest types of weapons that were mounted in permanent fortifications on the seaboard.
- Siege and garrison - used to attack or defend fortifications and field works.
- Field - light artillery, more maneuverable than garrison guns, could be taken on campaign with troops in active operations.
- Mountain - used in rough country where there were poor roads. Could be disassembled and carried on the backs of mules over rugged terrain.
The types of weapons at Fort Scott were field guns, and were 6 pound smoothbores. There are currently two of these weapons at Fort Scott National Historic Site. There is also a 12 pound mountain howitzer. There is no evidence of a mountain howitzer ever being used at Fort Scott, but the dragoons would have taken a mountain piece with them when on summer campaign. During the 1844 campaign to the Pawnee villages, the dragoons had mountain howitzers with them. After a demonstration of their firepower, the Pawnee agreed to cease their attacks on the Sioux and to leave the emigrant traffic to Oregon alone.