The n-Gun Salute
From whence came the 21-gun salute? The origin of gun salutes is usually attributed to soldiers or other armed types demonstrating peaceful intentions by placing their weapons in a position that rendered them ineffective. As cannons and small arms came into use, a good way to "render them ineffective," thereby demonstrating peaceful intentions, was to fire them since reloading took a lot of time. At sea, seven shots became the norm. On land, gunpowder was more plentiful, and three guns could be fired for every one shot from a ship, so a salute from a ship of seven guns would be answered by a salute from the shore batteries of 21 guns. For a full-honor funeral at Arlington, a President gets 21 guns. A secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or other military officer given command over multiple branches of the service receives 19. 17 guns are fired for a four-star general, 15 for a three-star, 13 for a two-star, 11 for a one-star.