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Alain D.





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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 3:49 pm    Post subject: Handgonnes         Reply with quote

I'm wondering just how common early handgonnes were and who used them. I've seen some period art depicting handgonners, but they seem to be far less common than bows and crossbows. I'm also wondering how practical such a weapon would have actually been. I've heard that they were primarily used to scare the enemy, but it seems like it would be very difficult to actually aim with a barrel on the end of a wooden rod.

Thanks

-Alain
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Hadrian Coffin
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Location: Oxford, England
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 5:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Having shot handgonnes I can speak from experience. They are not particularly difficult to aim, but very difficult to aim accuratly. They give a nice explosive boom, and do startle horses not used to explosives. The shot is only accurate/powerful enough for about 25 yards (22.86meters). The shot in general will not penetrate plate armour, nor pierce maille. If your shot is a bunch of small stones (or small pieces of metal), you may get lucky and hit a vulnerable spot like the ocular, hand, groin, etc. In general the handgonnes were harder to load and less powerful than a longbow. Handgonnes could and would kill and maim people, but in general a simple bow would be more effective. A few of the benefits of a handgonne over the bow: the terror efect, dispertion of shot, durability, and inexpense. A bow takes a skilled craftsman, any blacksmith could make a hanndgone, on top of that, bows break easily whereas handgonnes can take repeated heavy use. Handgonne shot was everywhere, anything from broken nails to small stones; arrows, on the other hand, were expensive to make and broke easily. Should a gunner get overrun his handgonne would make a fine club (this would not have been the case in later periods with firearms such as the wheelock, matchlock, or doglock as they were MUCH more expensive).
That's all I have time for at the moment, I am sure someone else will chip in with more information.
Best,
Hadrian

Historia magistra vitae est
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Gregory J. Liebau




Location: Dinuba, CA
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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 5:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
A few of the benefits of a handgonne over the bow: the terror efect, dispertion of shot, durability, and inexpense. A bow takes a skilled craftsman, any blacksmith could make a hanndgone, on top of that, bows break easily whereas handgonnes can take repeated heavy use.


Another important bit, along the lines of requiring little skill to make, would be that the handgonne required little skill to use! Becoming a proper archer and possessing the strength necessary to shoot repeatedly over the course of a battle was a strenuous task to accomplish. Archers dedicated much time to their activity in order to be successful soldiers. A serf with a handgonne need not have such considerations for training or even upkeep (some work was required to maintain a gun, but not as much as a bow).

-Gregory

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Zach Gordon




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PostPosted: Wed 23 Sep, 2009 5:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A quote from something I read online a while back, reffering to the early use of handgonnes "...cause' guys like things that go BANG..." Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud Laughing Out Loud
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Bartek Strojek




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Sep, 2009 12:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.musketeer.ch/blackpowder/handgonne.html

Here is very interesting site about modern take on handgonne.


Very accurate reconstruction is made, as well as some differently done gun to compare.

This site is about construction and stuff, so doesn't really go to into any "effectivenes".

But about sheer "power" - it shows that such simple gun is able to achieve kinetic energy that cannot be really comparable with any bow.


EDIT: On the other hand "shooting the handgonne" movie thouches the subject of "effectivenes" a bit - even considering that it can be certainly done much more ably, the process of loading the handgonne is not something I would like to do at the battlefield....
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Sep, 2009 12:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From what I have seen on average the number of crossbows and bows to handguns during the 15th usually has more bows and crossbows. It is really during the second half of the 15th century that shows an increase, perhaps even the last quarter and some of the 15th. From what I can tell even after this in much of Europe the handgun is still not numerically superior to the traditional missile weapons, most of the times not even close. You hear of several stories people, especially reenactor gunners ( Razz ), tell of where there were massive, huge, gigantic armies of gunners etc. but those I have check have not shown this out or were from sources of a hundred or two hundred years after the event which is once more leaving us in question.

Part of the issue is that every region is not the same and really needs a decent bit of research into existing musters which to my understanding has not ever been done. That said these were becoming more and more a part of day to day warfare by the early 15th maybe late 14th. Another issue is that we have little idea of how much powder was being used which greatly influences the projectiles power so an argument of if a bow or gun is more powerful never can be known with certainty unless we find joe gunners journal with that info. That said I’d imagine the larger of the handguns being able to punch some mean holes into things much harder than an arrow…. If the ball could hit the target that is.

I found the musketeer website to be packed with good info but his testing is a bit silly. Guys shooting twice this distance with a bow or crossbow have been laughed offline at such distances…. At any realistic distances I think the results would be startlingly different.

Think of the period for handguns as its development like the 20th century was with the development of the fighter plane/jet. Guns had that much more difficulty getting into the scene as they had a great deal of good competition!

RPM
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Alain D.





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PostPosted: Thu 24 Sep, 2009 5:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the responses everyone, this is all very helpful information!

-Alain
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Thu 24 Sep, 2009 5:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We should note that armor could actually be thicker than 2 mm in addition to being hardened. Most 15th-century breastplates averaged around that thickness, while some later ones got up to as much as 6-7 mm.
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Andreas Auer




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2009 12:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

hi folks...

a good handgunner can fire 5 to 6 shoots in a minute, i seen it and i done it..(when i do shooting, i always got twenty shots or so in my bag) ( i own a Tannenberg büchse replica). i always thought hitting a target with this thing...hmmm...rather not...but scare the hell out of them and their horses. maybe rumors like "in the last battle loud and smokie snakes killed thousands of guys, and noone saw the snakes spitting their death" made the round...dont know really.

Andreas

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to keep that pointy end thingy away from you...
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Eric Hejdström




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2009 10:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Early types of handgonnes seem to be quite scarce on the battlefield but there is an chronicle mentioning a notorious english handgunner who shot several important frenchmen during a seige in the early 15th century. The french finally hit him and he went down. But soon he popped back up again and ran for cover behind the english lines. This might offcourse be a bit exaggrated but the cronichles mention him as very skilled with the handgonne as he shot several officers dead. If you look at early pictures they are not uncommon during the 15th century and if you take a peek att the picture below you'll see lots and lots of handgunners in the marching army. Picture is from the Wolfegg Hausbuch and is most likely dated to 1482.

Larger version of the picture can be found HERE.

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Mikael Åkerman




Location: Kingdom of Sweden
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2009 11:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

At least one handgonne was used at the battle of Brunkeberg (present Stockholm) on october 10 1471. The danish king Kristian I was hit in the mouth by a handgonne shot and had to withdraw from the battle (missing a couple of teeth).
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Eric Hejdström




Location: Visby, Sweden
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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2009 12:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There were numerous handguns in use at the Battle of Brunkeberg 1471. According to one source there were over 300 skerpentines (serpentines) present at the battle. The serpentine is usually refereed to as a breechloaded long fieldcannon, however, the swedish term "skerpentin" also means handgonne. The name derives from the s-shaped lever used to fire the primitive "rifle". You can see these lever triggers on several depictions frpm 14th century and onwards.

Unfortunately I can't confirm the source for the above statement since I don not currently own the book it was in. But most likely there were at least some firepower involved in the battle.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 25 Sep, 2009 4:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric,

I think you may have that story backwards.... it is a French handgunner I think from 1429, though the story is from the mid 15th or later. You have the story right though otherwise. He keeps pretending he is dead and then slowly reloads the fires then repeats. I think his name is Je(h)an d' Orleans. The earliest account is a retelling coupled with the Joan d' Arc trail I think.

If you blow the picture of the wagon lines up in detail you will find that while there are lots of handguns that perhaps as many are with crossbows and more interesting that a great number of the men in the missile armed blocks are unarmed with crossbow or gun.... This picture has gotten a great deal of attention but it is rather funny to really look at it and see that first impressions may not be right. The dating is also subject to debate, perhaps to the early 16th.

Something to also keep in mind is that 300 seems to be rather analogous (is that the right word?) for medieval writers for a heck of a lot! It is very doubtful that any writer went out and personally counted each person or weapon but the usage of 300 is very common so likely it is a writing tool of the time.

Andreas,

I have never heard of anyone doing 5-6 in a minute on a replica medieval handgun. That sure is fast shooting! Most people I know can do 1-3. Regardless that is some good shooting. That said what type of powder are you using? Modern powder and their medieval counterparts are like comparing a 1909 model 'T' to a 2009 mustang... lot of advances in that time.

RPM


RPM
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Andreas Auer




Location: Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria, Europe
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Sep, 2009 1:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sure...forgot to say...modern standart black powder...modern starter(zundkraut)...modern fuse(cotton)...and no filling horn, but powder preportioned...it only works for 3to 4shots...just too many handgrips and too low powderpressure for good shots..

Andreas

The secret is,
to keep that pointy end thingy away from you...
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Eric Hejdström




Location: Visby, Sweden
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PostPosted: Sat 26 Sep, 2009 11:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall, you might be right there. As said, I didn't have the sources at hand at the moment of writing. And surely the suthor didn't count the guns but it still gives you an idea that guns were in use and not at few as might have been belived earlier.
And the story seems right with the gunner being french too. Damn, I really need to find that source again. Unfortunately there are way too few books on medieval artillery and firearms out there...
And according to the Wolfegg picture I only said it's not uncommon. Not that it's more than the crossbows. But a force with half and half crossbows and handguns as missile troops should be considered quite well equipped with handguns right?

*Edit

Found a webpage on the notorious frenchman. Enjoy!
http://xenophongroup.com/montjoie/jean-m.htm
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Alain D.





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PostPosted: Sat 26 Sep, 2009 4:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nice picture and good story. Thanks for the information guys, this is exactly what I was looking for.

-Alain
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Alain D.





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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 8:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've been doing more reading on handgonnes and I can't help but wonder why they were used at all if they are really as ineffective as they seem beyond 25 or so yards. The short range combined with the difficulty of loading seems to make the handgonne a very ineffective weapon. It seems like armies would have been better suited if those handgonners had fought with close range weapons. Is there anything to justify the use of handgonnes? It seems to me like it wouldn't be worth having soldiers armed with gunpowder weapons solely for the purpose of frightening the opponent.

-Alain
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Andreas Auer




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PostPosted: Wed 30 Sep, 2009 11:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

it was a new weapon back then...maybe it was Hip to have them in the ranks, but maybe it was effective in its role. if i recall correctly a crossbow also was no snipergun. what i have learned is that no weapon was "useless" but maybe we have lost to use it the proper way.

Andreas

The secret is,
to keep that pointy end thingy away from you...
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Eric Hejdström




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2009 12:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Even if it's trickier to reload a handgonne it's easier to teach a soldier to use it than the years of practice needed to be a good archer. Same with crossbows. Just to aim and fire and hope for the best. I wouldn't wanna be on the wrong end of a gonne even if it's a complete idiot firing...
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Andreas Auer




Location: Innsbruck, Tirol, Austria, Europe
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PostPosted: Thu 01 Oct, 2009 1:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

btw... if anyone is interested this is almost a combat situation...:-) a fun battle we did this summer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ni25-Cz1MoE&am...rofilepage

im the guy with the kettlehat.

Andreas

The secret is,
to keep that pointy end thingy away from you...
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