The collection of artillery pieces of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, numbering about 800 items, is one of the largest of its kind in Russia. It was initiated by Peter I, who had a plan to erect a building of an armament and ammunition storehouse. With regard to the number of artillery rarities, the museum occupies the second place just after the Artillery Museum in Saint-Petersburg. The most ancient and remarkable weapons of the XVIth-XVIIIth centuries, including most famous Tsar cannon, were mounted on decorative cast-iron gun carriages in the 1830s. Nowadays 19 pieces of ordnance, mounted on gun carriages, surround the Arsenal building, rising above the captured cannons of Napoleon's army.
The artillery cannons were traditionally located on Red Square, partly at the Kremlin Spasskiye (Saviour's) and Nikolskiye (St. Nicholas) gates. After the Peter the Great's decree of 1706 about the registration of all memorial cannons, the cannons sent to Moscow were located by the Kremlin's Posolskiy prikaz (Ambassadorial department). In 1780-s, the other cannons were brought to the Kremlin and placed on the Ivanov Square's hill. A stone marquee was built for big cannons.
In 1812, when the French army left Moscow, there were more than a hundred foreign cannons in the Kremlin. By 1819, other 875 guns abandoned by Napoleon's army at the fields of battle were transferred here. They were to form the exhibition of the Museum of Patriotic War 1812 However, the museum was not open and the cannons were placed on a special base in front of the Arsenal (The Armoury House).
In the 1830s, the collection of Russian artillery cannons was placed in front of the Armoury Chamber. However, the building was dismantled in 1860, and the cannons were transferred back to the Arsenal.
Nowadays, the collection in front of the Arsenal's building incorporates old Russian cannons of XVI-XVII centuries, 15 foreign cannons of the same time and 830 cannons, mortars and howitzers captured during the Patriotic War 1812. Among them, there are guns of France, Austria, Prussia, Italy, Spain, Holland and other European countries.
Russian cannons of XVI-XVII centuries by Andrei Chokhov, Martyn Osipov, Jakov Dubina and other famous Russian casters are of special interest. Each tube has its specific features. Many of them are adorned with ornaments and are named according to the decor. Among them there are two cannons cast by Andrei Chokhov in 1590 called «Troilus» (with the image of the mythological king of Troy) and «Aspid» (Viper), also «Unicorn» and «Gamayun» with a bas-relief of a mythological bird, «Persian» and «Eagle» cast by Martyn Osipov (the XVIIth century). Each cannon is marked with a stamp telling the weight, date of casting and the master's name.
In 2012, 14 cannon barrels of the XVIIth-XVIIIth centuries were transferred from the Arsenal to Ivanovskaya Square to form a new exposition near the famous Tsar Cannon. All the exhibited artefacts are supposed to have used during military campaigns of the Russian army. Unfortunately, their gun carriages and ammunition were lost. Today the cannons are placed on decorative bronze stands.