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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Aug, 2008 6:24 pm    Post subject: The End of the Bow and Crossbow         Reply with quote

I've been trying to get a clearer idea of when the various types "cold missile weapons" went out of style. By these I include bows, crossbows, and slings, though I'm also interested in various thrown weapons though they don't seem to have survived much into the Renaissance, at least not in Europe.

As to the latter category, one of the last users of the javelin seems to have been the Gallowglass. I don't know much about them, but the ubiquitious Wikipedia mentions them using "throwing spears". How late would they have been using such a weapon? (I gather most other other thrown weapons - plumbata, franciscas, etc., went obsolete in previous centuries. And then there is always Hollywood's favorite, the throwing knife, but I know nothing of this weapon.)

The Scots look to be the traditionalists of the Renaissance. From George Gush's excellent article I learned that the Scots were using bows as late as 1638 (even after the big claymores seem to have fallen out of favor). Are these English/Welsh-style longbows? I would expect they are, but most sources that deal with that weapon in Britain refer to them strictly as "longbows", so I'm not quite sure about these "plain old bows" the Scots were using. (If not, I really don't know what you call a non-composite short bow.)

(As to the longbow itself, last use seems to have been used a little in the English Civil War, but only by the Cavaliers. 1642 comes to mind.)

The composite bow has a huge area of usage (looks like Hungary to Japan) but I can't tell when it went obsolete. I gather that the Japanese adopted and then banned the matchlock for a time, during which they surely would have continued with their magnificent dai-kyus. Details?

The Ottoman Empire is said to have been at a distinct disadvantage at Lepanto (1571) due to its reliance on the composite bow, vis a vis the Christian employment of crossbow and arquebus. (Echoes of the Scots, who, like the Turks, seem to have developed fine cannon while neglecting musketry.) Any ideas how long they held onto bows after that? Google hits imply they were still using them at Vienna, 1683.

How about the Poles and Hungarians? Lots of sites talk about hussars carrying bows, but they tend to be vague about dates. Was this weapon peculiar to hussars or would the same armies have also featured archers on foot? (Hussars seem to overshadow the other types of central European soldier a bit, at least in the stuff my cursory search has turned up.)

I have no sense at all when the sling and crossbow fall out favor as weapons of war. Cortez employed crossbowmen in his invasion of Mexico, but after that my trails run cold. I surmise that slings would been abandoned as the family traditions of father-to-son sling training were broken, but as to when that was, I don't know. (It could have been before the Crusades, for all I know.)
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D. Austin
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Aug, 2008 11:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure how late the Gallowglass used javelins, but if I'm not wrong, they were active well into the 16th century. I found a picture of others however, from a French manuscript from the 1470s, showing a javelin being thrown. The trouble with this picture though, is that the central character (the small one) is Marcus Aemilius Lepidusis, a Roman from long before the picture was painted. Whilst during the 15th century it was not uncommon to depict historical characters with 15th century clothing and equipment, it may have been that the artist was attempting to depict an item which had been recorded in history as being used at the time and was not a common 15th century weapon.


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Danny Grigg





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PostPosted: Mon 25 Aug, 2008 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. Austin what's the name of that manuscript / painting you posted?

Do you know where a can find a bigger picture?
Perhaps in a book that I can purchase or borrow from a library and scan so I can get a good look at the Javelin / Dart.

Thanks

Danny
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D. Austin
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PostPosted: Mon 25 Aug, 2008 2:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Danny,

This illumination is from a manuscript kept in the British Library. The catalogue number for the image is 014926. If you search www.imagesonline.bl.uk for this number, you should be able to find it.

Darren.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Aug, 2008 7:36 am    Post subject: Re: The End of the Bow and Crossbow         Reply with quote

Peter Jensen wrote:
The Scots look to be the traditionalists of the Renaissance. From George Gush's excellent article I learned that the Scots were using bows as late as 1638 (even after the big claymores seem to have fallen out of favor). Are these English/Welsh-style longbows? I would expect they are, but most sources that deal with that weapon in Britain refer to them strictly as "longbows", so I'm not quite sure about these "plain old bows" the Scots were using. (If not, I really don't know what you call a non-composite short bow.)


The longbow was technically already present by the time the Vikings raided Britain; the Vikings themselves used it extensively and did a great deal to influence the spread and growth of archery techniques over Northwestern Europe. So I don't think it'd be unreasonable that the Scots could have had longbows as well. (What did the Scottish archers in French service use, I wonder?)


Quote:
The composite bow has a huge area of usage (looks like Hungary to Japan) but I can't tell when it went obsolete.


Because there were so many kinds of composite bows made for so many different purposes! Obviously, under this kind situation there can be no single universal date for the composite bow's obsolescence. It's worth remarking, though, that late 16th-century firearms technology seemed to have been sufficiently effective to give firearm-based (or firearm-and-bow) armies a parity or even a general advantage over strictly bow-armed ones.


Quote:
I gather that the Japanese adopted and then banned the matchlock for a time, during which they surely would have continued with their magnificent dai-kyus. Details?


The Japanese adopted the snapping matchlock in the 16th century, and severely restricted its use and possession after the unification of the land under the Tokugawa shogunate in the early 17th century. Of course, they went on using the bow side-by-side with the firearm for different purposes; since the Japanese didn't seem to have adopted pistol-based shock cavalry tactics, the bow remained the primary weapon for their cavalry, and even the infantry might still use bows depending on where they were trained (some areas had a reputation for producing exceptional bowmen, who were much sought after as mercenaries and retainers like the Saiga arquebusiers).


Quote:
The Ottoman Empire is said to have been at a distinct disadvantage at Lepanto (1571) due to its reliance on the composite bow, vis a vis the Christian employment of crossbow and arquebus. (Echoes of the Scots, who, like the Turks, seem to have developed fine cannon while neglecting musketry.)


Really? I'm afraid the information you got was misleading or incomplete, since in the 16th century the Turks were still a leading power in terms of firearm adoption--their Janissary corps in particular included some of the best firearm-equipped soldiers in the world. As for Lepanto itself, I guess John F. Guilmartin's article on the battle is still one of the most readable treatments available online.


Quote:
Any ideas how long they held onto bows after that? Google hits imply they were still using them at Vienna, 1683.


For warfare, they probably still had bow-armed irregulars until the sweeping military reforms in the 19th century, or even until the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire itself in 1918--though of course not necessarily as the most dominant part of the army.


Quote:
How about the Poles and Hungarians? Lots of sites talk about hussars carrying bows, but they tend to be vague about dates. Was this weapon peculiar to hussars or would the same armies have also featured archers on foot?


Bows didn't seem to have been a particularly widespread weapon among hussars, though there were probably some hussars who did carry bows. As for the rest...well, Matt Haywood's wargaming page has a pretty decent overview of Eastern European warfare up to the turn of the 16th century.


Quote:
I have no sense at all when the sling and crossbow fall out favor as weapons of war. Cortez employed crossbowmen in his invasion of Mexico, but after that my trails run cold. I surmise that slings would been abandoned as the family traditions of father-to-son sling training were broken, but as to when that was, I don't know.


I don't know about the sling, but European armies seem to have largely abandoned the crossbow by the end of the 16th century, though the process of abandonment was a long and untidy one. Even then crossbow remained as viable weapons for assassinations and personal defense in civilian contexts. The Chinese had even stronger ties to the crossbow because they had been using it for one and a half millennia by the time matchlock firearms (inspired by Western designs) began to replace them, so the replacement process took a bit longer and wasn't complete until after the Manchu/Qing takeover in the mid-17th century. Like in Europe, though, firearms seem to have overshadowed the crossbow by the end of the 16th century.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Aug, 2008 8:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In 1548, Fourquevaux wrote favorably about horsemen using double-pointed javelins.
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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Mon 25 Aug, 2008 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"Really? I'm afraid the information you got was misleading or incomplete, since in the 16th century the Turks were still a leading power in terms of firearm adoption--their Janissary corps in particular included some of the best firearm-equipped soldiers in the world. As for Lepanto itself, I guess John F. Guilmartin's article on the battle is still one of the most readable treatments available online. "

Looks like I was hasty with the Ottomans. I think the information I had used was speculative, and it applies mainly to the Ottoman navy in 1571. A better source has the majority of Ottoman soldiers armed with the composite bow, but also mentions (p. 61) the firearm-packing Janissaries you've noted. Also, I wasn't factoring in the point that, while bows may have outnumbered firearms in Ottoman service, pikes outnumbered firearms in the Holy League (even at sea, apparently - not such a surprise considering the importance of boarding tactics, but it still makes me wonder if the naval pike is as long as the army pike - 15-18' of weapon seems like a lot to use on a sailing vessel). So the Turkish fondness for the bow didn't slow firearms development in that Empire, any more than extensive polearm use prevented it in Europe.

As to archers in irregular service up until the 20th Century! This I did not know. I do remember something about the flagship of their Persian Gulf squadron being a brigantine or something like that ... the rest of the vessels being German-built torpedo boats. So the Ottomans are obviously worthy of a second look....

And a big broad thanks to everyone who replied.
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Joel Minturn





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PostPosted: Mon 25 Aug, 2008 8:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well found this book, The tacticks of Aelian, originally written in 1616. It had a nice wood cut of cavalry throwing javelins. I thought it was odd but maybe it was more common than I thought, which wouldn't be too hard as I didn't know existed. Not sure it the was depicting current tactics or something that was out of fashion.

Also had placement for slingers w/ where not with the archers or rifles. if i remember right

It really was an interesting book would recommend anyone who can get the book through ILL. Had some other nice wood cuts of what the well equipped soldier should wear, cavalry wearing 3/4 armour w/ 12 gauge carbine. Foot soldier w/ pike and rapier - thought that was a bit odd in a British book. wish i had scanned in those wood cuts.
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William Elder





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PostPosted: Tue 26 Aug, 2008 3:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joel Minturn wrote:
Well found this book, The tacticks of Aelian, originally written in 1616. It had a nice wood cut of cavalry throwing javelins. I thought it was odd but maybe it was more common than I thought, which wouldn't be too hard as I didn't know existed. Not sure it the was depicting current tactics or something that was out of fashion.

Also had placement for slingers w/ where not with the archers or rifles. if i remember right


Is this the illustration with the crescent of infantry defending with javelins against a "rhomb" of cavalry? Man, "rhomb" was my favorite word for months after I first read that.

If I recall correctly, this book spends a good deal of time discussing "Auncient" tactics as context for contemporary ones, so I'd be hesitant to accept this as an indicator that slings and javelins were still in common (or even uncommon) military use at the time of its publication. If you look at Smythe, though, you will find that in the 1590s he is still advocating the bow as a valid weapon for a company of foot.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Aug, 2008 2:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter Jensen wrote:
(even at sea, apparently - not such a surprise considering the importance of boarding tactics, but it still makes me wonder if the naval pike is as long as the army pike - 15-18' of weapon seems like a lot to use on a sailing vessel)


It's not really all that odd--Egyptian sailors in Greek or Persian(?) employ some time in the 5th century B.C. were known to have used long spears that may qualify as pikes, and one theory about the Iphicratean reforms in ancient Athens holds that Iphicrates might have experimented with the idea of giving long pikes to Athenian marines. Of course, you're not wrong in considering that the naval pikes used in the Renaissance might have been a bit shorter, since their descendants were indeed a lot shorter than the land-based version.


Joel Minturn wrote:
Well found this book, The tacticks of Aelian, originally written in 1616. It had a nice wood cut of cavalry throwing javelins. I thought it was odd but maybe it was more common than I thought, which wouldn't be too hard as I didn't know existed. Not sure it the was depicting current tactics or something that was out of fashion.


Bingham's work, isn't it? As far as I know, it was an attempt to translate the work of the ancient (Greco-?)Roman writer Aelianus Tacticus as part of the Neoclassical trend in Renaissance warfare--of course, with some amendments and updates to suit the new realities of gunpowder weaponry. So it has an eclectic mix of classicizing references and up-to-date ideas, which was a fairly common thing among contemporary works on military theory.
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Henrik Zoltan Toth




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PostPosted: Thu 28 Aug, 2008 11:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi!

I heard that the last usage of arrows and bows in large number in a european war was in 1813, in the battle of Leipzig. The russian army had bashkir mounter archers, who fought in the battle.
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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Aug, 2008 2:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, Henrik Zoltan Toth, The Bow in Culture, Music and Surgery, as Craftman's Tool and Weapon (quite a title!) by Richard Kinseher backs you up. A French officer (Col. Marbot) got himself arrowed by one the Allied achers. Also ... the first time rockets were used in European warfare ... by the British (who I didn't even know showed up to that battle until I saw that source!) That is the kind of information I'm looking for.

(Back to the rockets for a second ... these are the same Congreve rockets mentioned in the USA's national anthem. Not bad technology for the time, though as I recall Kublai Khan's forces brought some types of multiple rocket launchers when they invaded Japan in the 13th Century.)
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Marc Pengryffyn




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Aug, 2008 6:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Henrik Zoltan Toth wrote:
I heard that the last usage of arrows and bows in large number in a european war was in 1813, in the battle of Leipzig. The russian army had bashkir mounted archers, who fought in the battle.


Peter Jensen wrote:
Yes, Henrik Zoltan Toth, The Bow in Culture, Music and Surgery, as Craftman's Tool and Weapon (quite a title!) by Richard Kinseher backs you up. A French officer (Col. Marbot) got himself arrowed by one the Allied achers.


Bless you both! I knew the Russians had used horse archers against Napoleon, but I just couldn't find the reference! It's been bothering me for days- Thank You!

Cheers

Marc

Tradition is the illusion of permanence.
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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Sep, 2008 8:30 am    Post subject: Re: The End of the Bow and Crossbow         Reply with quote

Peter Jensen wrote:

I have no sense at all when the sling and crossbow fall out favor as weapons of war. Cortez employed crossbowmen in his invasion of Mexico, but after that my trails run cold.


The crossbow seems to have been employed by the Spaniards in their colonial possessions up to the end of the 16th Century. Hernando de Soto had more crossbowmen than arquebusiers in his expedition to "la Florida" in 1539, while Coronado certainly had them in about equal numbers with his arquebusiers for his more-or-less contemporary expedition to present-day Kansas. Interestingly enough, the crossbows were found superior by de Soto's men in the damp climate of the American South-East, while Coronado's men had constant issues with their bowstrings breaking in the dry climate of the South West.

The last documentation that I know of concerning crossbows is in the manifest of Don Juan Ponce de Leon's offer to colonize the present State of New Mexico in 1595. The winner of the contest, Don Juan de Oņate, listed none of them in his offer.

Cheers!

Gordon

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Sep, 2008 8:52 am    Post subject: Re: The End of the Bow and Crossbow         Reply with quote

Gordon Frye wrote:
Peter Jensen wrote:

I have no sense at all when the sling and crossbow fall out favor as weapons of war. Cortez employed crossbowmen in his invasion of Mexico, but after that my trails run cold.


The crossbow seems to have been employed by the Spaniards in their colonial possessions up to the end of the 16th Century. Hernando de Soto had more crossbowmen than arquebusiers in his expedition to "la Florida" in 1539, while Coronado certainly had them in about equal numbers with his arquebusiers for his more-or-less contemporary expedition to present-day Kansas. Interestingly enough, the crossbows were found superior by de Soto's men in the damp climate of the American South-East, while Coronado's men had constant issues with their bowstrings breaking in the dry climate of the South West.

The last documentation that I know of concerning crossbows is in the manifest of Don Juan Ponce de Leon's offer to colonize the present State of New Mexico in 1595. The winner of the contest, Don Juan de Oņate, listed none of them in his offer.

Cheers!

Gordon


Making crossbow bolts was probably easier than making their own gunpowder if their supply was limited also ? Don't know if this was a factor but I would think that even if they found the chemicals to make their own powder setting up a powder factory, even if small scale, would have to wait until they established some sort of colony or fortified base of operation. Well, by 1539 they had some permanent settlements in the New World so I'm thinking more about the early days/months.

Also, without any armour to pierce, except cotton armour, the crossbow must have been just as effective as the archebuse except of the noise and smoke being of psychological warfare value ?

As to the very end of crossbow use: Don't some special forces still use them for quiet sentry removal ? Or at least in theory as even the most silenced firearm still makes more noise than a crossbow. ( If there is a bit of noise with the " twang " of the bow cord there must be ways to minimize it a great deal ) .

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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Sep, 2008 1:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interesting points about Spanish use of the weapons in the Americas. As to making crossbow projectiles vs. lead and powder, I don't know much about that, but I gather that one of the last uses of the trebuchet was in the Americas, where one may have been made on-site by Spaniards around. It damaged itself, indicating maybe some of the finer points of its construction had been lost. In any case, being thousands of miles from home would have changed the possibilities for fabricating new weapons ... something I hadn't thought of.

I have also heard of the creation of Big Joe and Little Joe crossbows during the Second World, but I don't think they were ever used. Not a bad idea, but firearms suppressor technology was starting to get reasonably effective by then so I suppose they went with pistols and submachineguns with can-and-baffle devices.
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Sep, 2008 1:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, about a crossbows - aside from what Jean Thibodeau said, I think that good crossbow had quite a lot other advantages over the guns up to 1550 - 60 period or so. Thus, despite of many obvious advantages of firearms, it was still used.

Crossbow was probably more managable and overally practical weapon, it was silent, and most certainly much more accurate than arqebuzes and early muskets. In many battlefield of Europe it didn't have such matter, but in smaller scale batles, ambushes, hunting et cetera it certainly had.
Quote:

Also, without any armour to pierce, except cotton armour, the crossbow must have been just as effective as the archebuse except of the noise and smoke being of psychological warfare value


Actually, against unarmored target, archebuse was probably more effective - crossbow is deadly weapon, but 15mm + calibur lead ball going trough ones body is just... brrrr.

And against cotton armour, crossbow could actually prove more effective, beacuse of different missile's properties.
Soft, padding substances prove to be quite effective at stoping quickly moving objects - archebus round energy could be relatively easily disspersed upon the elastic armour and body.

In comparison, bolt was usually heavier, had far higher sectional density, and it's head could be really sharp and pointy, so would have chance of ripping trough such armor.

Also, the bolt's head could be really various and specialized - while firearm missile is round metal thing, and that's all.

The process of reloading/shooting from crossbow was greatly different from archebus, and those differences were certainly important - even in terms of simple personal preference of shooter.

At least it seems so to me. Tell me what you think, please.
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Peter Jensen




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2008 6:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek, those a good points. I've read a lot comparing bow to gun, but little comparing crossbow to gun. Obviously bows had rate-of-fire advantages over both gun and crossbow, I just don't know which of the latter had the advantage. Loading a matchlock apparently takes more steps, while loading a crossbow is probably much more strenuous.

As to training - it takes more training to get the full accuracy potential out of a crossbow, because it's so much more accurate. I don't know if it is particularly hard to fire a crossbow to the level of accuracy possessed by an arquebus.

Expense? I know guns were much more expensive than swords in early 17th Century America (thanks to Sean Flynt), but I don't know how much crossbows cost. I think crossbows were generally more expensive, and probably somewhat more fragile. Any information from the era?

As to the armor, your post made me realize: while guns didn't exactly make armor vanish from the battlefield instantly (as I've heard asserted in some places), guns certainly did seem to make mail obsolete. Plate can deflect bullets, layered cloth can absorb the blow, but chain is just a bad way to defend against bullets. On the other hand, mail may actually be better against crossbows than layered-cloth armor. Does that sound plausible? (I've often thought that the large number of coats of mail at Jamestown, 1624-1625, may have been intentional, since it seems like a decent way to protect against flint arrowheads, but others seem to feel that the mail was obsolete even in America.)

It seems like boiled leather would be reasonably effective against both weapons (with the usual caveat that this wouldn't apply to close range or orthogonal angles of impact). I have no idea how good brigandine would be against either.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2008 11:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Something to keep in mind is that not all armour used not expected to be proof against all weapons. Mail was still in use into the 17th century from what I can tell for certain jobs, even the WWI with Tank helmets I think made of mail curtains. Most battles until recently were decided in the hand to hand melee so armour could be designed for this As well not just missile cover.

The gun took a long time to over come the bow and especially crossbow. It was not just tradition. You knew your weapon could kill and hurt people so why change. Early guns were either massed with crossbowmen, until c.,1500 typically the crossbowmen in predominance after this begins to shift, though countries still fielded entire groups of crossbowmen in the16th and in the 16th for the first time you see units of only musket men unmixed. The gun to crossbow as far as rate of fire and amount of time needed to learn to use are comparable but the differences, noise level, manner of reloading and accuracy would vary.

RPM
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 02 Sep, 2008 11:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Something to keep in mind is that not all armour used not expected to be proof against all weapons. Mail was still in use into the 17th century from what I can tell for certain jobs, even the WWI with Tank helmets I think made of mail curtains. Most battles until recently were decided in the hand to hand melee so armour could be designed for this As well not just missile cover.

The gun took a long time to over come the bow and especially crossbow. It was not just tradition. You knew your weapon could kill and hurt people so why change. Early guns were either massed with crossbowmen, until c.,1500 typically the crossbowmen in predominance after this begins to shift, though countries still fielded entire groups of crossbowmen in the16th and in the 16th for the first time you see units of only musket men unmixed. The gun to crossbow as far as rate of fire and amount of time needed to learn to use are comparable but the differences, noise level, manner of reloading and accuracy would vary.

RPM


In general the crossbow would be more accurate except for a rifled gun with decent sights. Loading speed depends on the type of crowbow: A windlass or cranequin crossbow would as slow or slower than a musket/archebuse, a goat's foot lever or belt hook crossbow would have less power but could be faster to load than a muzzle loading gun by a small margin depending on the loading style of the gun: If used with paper cartridges the gun might be as fast or faster to load ?

Depending on variables, gun or crossbow might take anything from 2 minutes to load or as much as to 4 to 6 shots per minute I think ? People with practical experience with both could refine my estimate more precisely.

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