This simple looking piece of wood is actually one of the great leap forwards in ordnance technology. This is a sabot (pronounced sa-BO or SAB-o, not SA-bot) from the museum's Cumberland collection. A shell would be bound together with a sabot and loaded into a smoothbore cannon after the power had been loaded. The sabot would create a seal between the power and the shell, preventing gas from leaking around the shell when the powder was ignited. The result was that more of the energy from the explosive gas would be used in moving the shell forward, instead of being wasted or misdirecting the shell. The result was a significant improvement in muzzle velocity, accuracy, and range. This sabot is painted red signifying that it and the shell are ready to be used.
Sabots are still used today in modern guns, particularly the smoothbore guns of main battle tanks such as the U.S. Army's M1A1 and Germany's Leopard series of tanks.