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Short-range artillery piece with a short barrel and low muzzle velocity that fires an explosive projectile in a high-arched trajectory. Large mortars were used against fortifications and in siege operations from medieval times through World War I. Since 1915, small portable models have been standard infantry weapons, especially for mountain or trench warfare. Medium mortars, with a caliber of about 3–4 in. (70–90 mm), a range of up to about 2.5 mi (4 km), and a bomb weight of up to 11 lbs (5 kg), are now widely used.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on mortar, visit Britannica.com.