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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 10 Oct, 2010 11:42 am    Post subject: Celtic and Migration era range for projectile weapons?         Reply with quote

I am interested in what historical accounts, or heuristic based data, indicates about Celtic through Migration era projectile weapon usage. Some Roman-Gaul accounts indicated as many as 3 volleys of projectiles being used against the Roman lines at the start of battle. The descriptions I have seen did not give details, but terms such as; "rocks", "clubs", "javelins", "darts", and "axes" seem to be common interpretations of weapons mentioned in those accounts.

I did not research this well, but a rough guess of credible ranges might be something like below;

Throwing Axe/ Francisca, ,or club like implement that was thrown - 4 to 9 meters practical range (Modern sport opinion based on range where utility and damage for manageable weight weapons are considered to be meaningful.)

"Historical Dart" - ? No idea what these compare to. Input welcome.

Javelin, historically similar in weight and proportion to Women's Olympic weight and length - 40 to 70 meters, range of competitive U.S. women's college distances to Olympic record distance. (Yes, thrown by modern WOMEN ATHLETES specializing in this. Don't underestimate their training, developed strength, or capabilities. That was the data I could find for an appropriate sized and weight javelin of roughly 2 meter length and believable weight.) A recent video of an accident at the Golden League Rome event shows that modern javelins are serious at competition throw range. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhT30Ov41_s The wounds caused by Tero Pitkamaki's throw to Salim Sdira were more serious than initially reported. It punched through his back into his kidney. It took him a year to recover from before returning to competition.

Bow, "European Pre- Longbow", -150 to 200 meters (just a guess on possible heavy bows, although arrows don't seem to have prominent mention in accounts of battles in my period of interest.

Stone "bullet" from sling - approximately 200 meters range, (Up to 400 meters is considered a feasible flight distance, but I can't even see that far, and suspect that it would just be a falling rock at that kind of range.)

Given these or other peoples ideas of ranges, would an opening battle projectile sequence such as; long range slings, javelins while closing distances between lines, darts, and then clubs and axes thrown on the run just before opposing lines met make the most sense?

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Paul Hansen




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PostPosted: Tue 12 Oct, 2010 9:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think you are forgetting the pilum / angon type weapons, which, as I understand it, have a flat trajectory.

Maybe Francisca range?
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Oct, 2010 7:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, the pilum is just another sort of javelin. While it *can* be thrown with a relatively flat trajectory at very close range, for any distance you have to throw in a high arc.

http://www.larp.com/legioxx/pila02.MPG

The angon would be pretty much the same.

While I'm sure that any trained ancient warrior would be able to throw farther than the average reenactor, Olympic distances may be too much. The circumstances are simply much better than in the typical battle situation.

And I have a bad feeling that many of your answers will be, "It varies!"

Valete,

Matthew
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 13 Oct, 2010 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matthew Amt wrote:

While I'm sure that any trained ancient warrior would be able to throw farther than the average reenactor, Olympic distances may be too much. The circumstances are simply much better than in the typical battle situation.


Matthew


Range with a short run or sprint and range with just an arm throw from a static position or just a step or two would be different as well as close range flat trajectories versus high angle throws would al vary.

Fitness level, lots of practice, strength etc ... is certainly a factor in range

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Last edited by Jean Thibodeau on Sun 17 Oct, 2010 3:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Oct, 2010 12:44 am    Post subject: Re: Celtic and Migration era range for projectile weapons?         Reply with quote

Jared Smith wrote:
"Historical Dart" - ? No idea what these compare to. Input welcome.


It's a pretty difficult term to define, too. What is meant by a "dart" in this context? The Roman plumbata, which was basically an arrow with a lead weight affixed in the middle? All-iron javelins like the ones used by some ancient Spanish peoples (and possibly adopted by the Romans)? Atlatl darts (not European, but more-or-less the right timeframe)? Or something more like a more lethal version of the modern parlour dart, which apparently only existed in the Far East?


Quote:
Bow, "European Pre- Longbow", -150 to 200 meters (just a guess on possible heavy bows, although arrows don't seem to have prominent mention in accounts of battles in my period of interest.


Not a very good definition either, since most Iron Age and Migration Period bows in archeological discoveries were--surprise, surprise--longbows. They might not have the draw-weight or the cast of the medieval English warbow, but they were pretty long and often reasonably powerful in their own right. This did not automatically translate to great range, however, since apparently not all archers knew how to shoot in a high trajectory--which is neither a natural nor a necessary skill if the principal use of your bow was for hunting wild animals or for individual skirmishing (as opposed to massed volleys). This is one probable reason for some ancient authors' statements that the sling could send a stone farther than a bow could loose an arrow--which would certainly have been the case if the slinger could lob a stone with an underhand swing while the bowman only had experience in level (or low-elevation) shooting!
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Oct, 2010 4:04 pm    Post subject: Re: Celtic and Migration era range for projectile weapons?         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Not a very good definition either, since most Iron Age and Migration Period bows in archeological discoveries were--surprise, surprise--longbows. They might not have the draw-weight or the cast of the medieval English warbow, but they were pretty long and often reasonably powerful in their own right. This did not automatically translate to great range, however, since apparently not all archers knew how to shoot in a high trajectory--which is neither a natural nor a necessary skill if the principal use of your bow was for hunting wild animals or for individual skirmishing (as opposed to massed volleys). This is one probable reason for some ancient authors' statements that the sling could send a stone farther than a bow could loose an arrow--which would certainly have been the case if the slinger could lob a stone with an underhand swing while the bowman only had experience in level (or low-elevation) shooting!


A sling stone or metal shot has less drag than an arrow, and can easily weigh more. Even if the arrow leaves the bow faster, the maximum range can be less. Some primitive bows can only put an arrow out to 100m if there's a strong tailwind.

The big prehistoric European bows might be powerful, but they're (or at least, some of them are) heavy-limbed, and won't have that much range. As you say, long-range shooting is specialised, and not a usual hunting requirement. But it isn't like shooting on a high trajectory is a great secret, so I doubt there's any ignorance on the part of the archers.

If said ancient writers were talking about range for effective military usage, that's straightforward. But even if they're not, if they're talking about absolute maximum range, a sling does well compared to bows that aren't specifically designed for long-range shooting.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sat 23 Oct, 2010 11:22 pm    Post subject: Re: Celtic and Migration era range for projectile weapons?         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
A sling stone or metal shot has less drag than an arrow, and can easily weigh more. Even if the arrow leaves the bow faster, the maximum range can be less. Some primitive bows can only put an arrow out to 100m if there's a strong tailwind.


All quite true. But then, not all that slings were that good either....


Quote:
As you say, long-range shooting is specialised, and not a usual hunting requirement. But it isn't like shooting on a high trajectory is a great secret, so I doubt there's any ignorance on the part of the archers.


I'd beg to disagree, since high-trajectory shooting might seem natural to modern people like us (whose wars are full of high-trajectory artillery and ballistic missile fire), but it's by no means an intuitive skill for people who have never been specifically taught to do it. I know a target archer who put years into trial and error trying to learn to shoot at high angles, but all that time and effort gave him a great deal less than the two weeks he spent later with a clout shooter whose instruction made him aware of all the mistakes he had been making and turned him into a proficient high-trajectory shooter by the end of those fourteen days. If you were a hunter whose livelihood depended on stalking your prey and then shooting them from very close ranges, it'd make sense if you never bothered to learn how to shoot high--after all, you'd also have a reasonable expectation that you'd never need to use such a skill!

(Of course, the parallel is not universal, since I won't deny that there could have been people who put their time of energy into years of trial and error on the subject of high-trajectory shooting just because they could, and then passed on the lessons to later generations who refined it further. But my friend's experience taught me that we can't assume this happened in every area where archery was practiced, let alone that every archer would eventually learn how to shoot at high angles.)
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PostPosted: Sun 24 Oct, 2010 3:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

On the subject of high trajectory shooting, I have heard (I dont know if its true or not) that the battle of Hastings was the first major battle in which this tactic was used. Probably not very helpful, I know, but I just thought I'd throw it out there.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Oct, 2010 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Not sure or convinced about how much training it takes to " shoot/loose " an arrow at a high angle but I can imagine that a single archer would find it of little use since the odds of hitting anything at very long distances would be poor unless practised a great deal to even have a chance of hitting a large target. ( Maybe 12 feet across at between 200 and 300 yards ).

If one can keep ones arrows consistently within 12 feet at these distances the arrows of a single archer would have some limited suppressive fire application or at least making an enemy " nervous ". Wink Laughing Out Loud

Now if we are talking of 50, 500 or 5000 archers all shooting at high angles it just becomes statistically effective on a distant large group of enemies. Wink Question

An untrained in long range high angle shooting 5000 versus an army of 5000 archers who where trained to use this plunging fire should make the trained archers much more efficient as most of the arrows would be in the targeted beaten zone rather than having a much wider and less efficient dispersion of arrows.

A long post to just say that even untrained a lot of archers could shoot at a high angle but the results would be less lethal than for trained archers but still something they could do but might just not think of doing if there are all trained to aim carefully at specific targets, and hesitant to waste a limited supply or arrows on what each of them would consider to be wasted arrows with a low probability of hitting. ( I assume here that unless it's a known tactic the archers would not have the large logistic supplies of arrows available for an extended in time arrow storm to make the tactic a good one ).

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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 24 Oct, 2010 1:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For military archery, one can find writers giving very little importance to distance shooting (e.g., a Japanese writer quoted in G. C. Hurst III, Armed Martial Arts of Japan, "For shooting an enemy on the battlefield, one needs, moreover, to practice shooting at a distance of seven or eight ken [approximately 15m] to be able to penetrate his armor.", Musashi noting that the bow can be useful if the enemy is within 40 yards). Further, one can find cases where bows optimised for long-distance shooting are displaced in military usage by bows optimised for short-range shooting. To be able to use long range archery with useful military effect is such that shooting at long range has, at times, not been considered useful on the battlefield, even when it was clearly known that arrows could be shot to such distances.

To be able to hit a target at long range is a far different thing from being able to hit a target at 15m. It's also a far different thing from being able to shoot an arrow to long range. When military archery was practiced and commented on in writing in civilised societies, there were thousands of military archers, who practiced. It would be a great secret of archery for none of them to discover it. I see children, with no experience of plunging artillery fire or such military things, when given bows, playing and exploring just how far they can shoot arrows - even when it is explicitly forbidden to do so. One recored use of "military" archery in primitive warfare is to shoot arrows to the maximum range of 90m or so at an enemy shouting and chest-beating 100m away.

No, I don't think that ancient archers had not discovered what children readily do - that arrows shot at higher angles go further (just like rocks and spears thrown at higher angles). I don't think this is a realistic explanation of bow range vs sling range descriptions. Far more plausible, IMHO, that it's either about effective military range, or about good slings vs bad bows.

(I find that a short sling, vertical plane shooting, with poor ammunition, gets over 90m easily, with brief and casual training. A sling needs to know about trajectories to get near the target. If the archers watch slingers at practice, they'll learn any "secrets" about trajectories they haven't discovered yet.)

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 31 Oct, 2010 2:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hey, I'm not disputing the idea that ancient archers could (and did) try to shoot arrows over high trajectories without the benefit of any prior art. Neither am I denying that the lack of range attributed to ancient bow might have been due--in many cases--to the bow being either poorly designed or paired with the wrong kind of arrow for long-range shooting. What I'm pointing out is that they wouldn't necessarily see the need for (or the point of) developing this kind of high-angle shooting for fun into a useful military practice--and this, too, cannot be ruled out as one of the reasons for the relatively short range attributed to bows in ancient Greek sources. In such situations, yes, high-trajectory shooting was not a secret, but it wasn't seen as being sufficiently practical either to be worth the bother of further development for a military purpose. After all, not all ancient bows were necessarily that bad. If I'm not mistaken, Bob Kooi's mathematical modeling revealed a large variation in strength and efficiency among the Iron Age bows discovered so far in the general area of northwestern Europe, and the few best specimens weren't that much worse off than their medieval counterparts. The only thing we lack right now is actual physical reconstruction and shooting experiments to see just how good (or bad) these bows were.

And, lest we forget the main thrust of the argument, let me reiterate that my original post said

Quote:
This is one probable reason for some ancient authors' statements that the sling could send a stone farther than a bow could loose an arrow


Just one probable reason, and that means "one probable reason among others." Not the reason, which implies the only probable reason. So please don't argue with me as if I'm proposing this theory as the only explanation for the shorter range of bows vis-a-vis slings in some (not all!) ancient authors' accounts.
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PostPosted: Sun 31 Oct, 2010 4:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
After all, not all ancient bows were necessarily that bad. If I'm not mistaken, Bob Kooi's mathematical modeling revealed a large variation in strength and efficiency among the Iron Age bows discovered so far in the general area of northwestern Europe, and the few best specimens weren't that much worse off than their medieval counterparts. The only thing we lack right now is actual physical reconstruction and shooting experiments to see just how good (or bad) these bows were.


It's been done.

David Gray, in "Bows of the World", has a brief discussion of prehistoric European bows. Only the Holmegaard bow is discussed in any detail, since this is the one he's shot a reproduction of. Modern target arrow at 150 feet/sec, so 45m/s. That beats a sling in terms of speed (at least, a sling short enough to vertical-plane sling, which typically manages about 30m/s single-swing slinging). How this translates into range, I don't know (for the bow; the sling at 30m/s will do about 90m with stones, over 100m with lead shot). I don't have a figure for how the bow performs with a more authentic arrow (Davis is brief). If one takes sling performance figures from the possibly over-hyped end of sling propaganda, the sling easily and thoroughly outperforms this.

Kooi has looked both theoretically and experimentally at the Holmegaard, and it isn't very efficient.

It's in the Traditional Bowyer's Bible, but I've not read this, so can't say how much.

The Holmegaard bows are the only prehistoric European bows I've seen anything on.

For bows, we can reliably say that lighter limbs, longer draw, and higher draw weight all give more energy, and more speed, of arrow. The Central Asian composite bow, the front-runner for being the best pre-modern bow (highly optimised, and making use of the best materials at significant cost in manufacturing time and expense and maintainability) beats pretty much any primitive bow. A military bow optimised for armour penetration is likely to beat a general-purpose bow in terms of energy. Compared to the best bows, a Holmegaard bow isn't so great. But that doesn't mean it's bad. Certainly functional. The point is that we can't speak of a generic bow in a useful quantitative sense, since the technology changed so much over the centuries, and, more importantly (until modern materials), the technology was adaptable and adapted for different purposes. So, the tests on reproductions are a good start. They don't seem to be done in a very useful systematic way, though - a few tests are very well done, but "few" is not "systematic". There's room for more! But looking at the controversy over draw weight of the medieval English military longbow, what can be said about older bows, with fewer finds? (Fewer for certain if one includes the Mary Rose bows, though not so medieval; without these, maybe not fewer.)

It's been said that the original Holmegaard bows aren't as optimised as the good modern reproductions. I don't believe that this is due to any great ignorance on the part of the original makers, but more that there wan't any real point in going to the effort of such optimisation. Indeed, there are reasons not to maximise arrow speed in a hunting bow - a faster (and further-shot) arrow is easier to lose. The original arrows would say something about this; I haven't seen anything about finds of arrows (haven't looked specifically for this, or much at prehistoric archery).

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

And, lest we forget the main thrust of the argument, let me reiterate that my original post said

Quote:
This is one probable reason for some ancient authors' statements that the sling could send a stone farther than a bow could loose an arrow


Just one probable reason, and that means "one probable reason among others." Not the reason, which implies the only probable reason. So please don't argue with me as if I'm proposing this theory as the only explanation for the shorter range of bows vis-a-vis slings in some (not all!) ancient authors' accounts.


By the way, exactly which ancient authors are under discussion?

There's Xenophon, Anabasis, who comments that Rhodian slingers could out-range Persian archers (by context, greater effective battle range rather than maximum range). But Xenophon also notes that the same Rhodian slingers out-ranged the Persian slingers as well, so it's more a comment on Rhodian superiority rather than sling superiority.

Vegetius suggest 600 (Roman) feet as the practice distance for both archers (staff-)slingers. If his 600 feet does really apply to the archers (rather than just staff-slingers), his archers outrange his conventional slingers (noting that he recommends single-swing slinging). But then, being Vegetius as opposed to Xenophon, he's not writing about the same bows. I don't think Holmegaard bows could manage this distance as a useful target practice distance; these are seriously long-ranged bows. That's about traditional Korean target range, and you're not going to find a traditional bow that's faster than a Korean traditional bow.

Is there any other relevant source?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 31 Oct, 2010 9:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have assumed some devices such as javelins would be used in high angle trajectories. (This is pretty much how modern athletes use them.) I have not seen anyone use the atlatl, but expect it would be flatter. I have more interest in the Western European and Germanic tribes of migration era. There is very little use of the bow attributed to them that I know of, but Persian counterparts do seem to have a recurve - longbow in the same period.
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Nov, 2010 8:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
The only thing we lack right now is actual physical reconstruction and shooting experiments to see just how good (or bad) these bows were.


It's been done.


Unfortunately, not to all of them....


Quote:
The Holmegaard bows are the only prehistoric European bows I've seen anything on.


No wonder--they're the only ones that have been so extensively studied. There's also the Koldingen bow, but nearly all of the literature on it is in German so it doesn't seem to have attracted as much attention as it deserves in the English-speaking world. As for Kooi's stuff, the only relevant article I can find online so far is one that appears to be his preliminary work, which only describes the bow finds without modeling them. Let me dig further for the one that has actual models and speculations in it.


Quote:
It's been said that the original Holmegaard bows aren't as optimised as the good modern reproductions. I don't believe that this is due to any great ignorance on the part of the original makers, but more that there wan't any real point in going to the effort of such optimisation. Indeed, there are reasons not to maximise arrow speed in a hunting bow - a faster (and further-shot) arrow is easier to lose. The original arrows would say something about this; I haven't seen anything about finds of arrows (haven't looked specifically for this, or much at prehistoric archery).


True. I haven't seen much I the way of arrow finds either, but I keep getting reminded of the statement in King Modus that a hunting bow shouldn't be heavy so that the arrow wouldn't have enough energy to bust its way clear entirely through the target.


Quote:
By the way, exactly which ancient authors are under discussion?


Xenophon, of course, and one of the authors in the taktika genre--probably not Arrian or Aelian, but rather one of the less well-known ones. I also recall reading an account of slingers outranging archers in a Roman campaign, but if I'm not mistaken the writer was Greek too (though probably not Polybius). Of course, any or all of these authors could simply have been following a literary topos, which was likely started by Xenophon's account in the Anabasis. One thing for sure is that all the text mentioning this are in Greek and there aren't many of them.
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PostPosted: Mon 01 Nov, 2010 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As a reply to both of the previous posts:

The Hebedy bow has also been done - reproduced (in a variety of draw weights) and shot. I don't have a source at hand, but I suspect there's something in Traditional Bowyer's Bible. There is stuff scattered on www, especially on traditional archery forums. Essentially, poor range. Maximum ranges of 140-180m, IIRC, depending on draw weight, with the top end from 100+# bows (which is about the estimated draw weight of the find, 105#). Overall, similar in many ways to Holmegaard. It's heavy-limbed, and thus slow.

It's the usual wooden self-bow problem. Wood is not the best material for a bow. For a long draw, the bow needs to be long, and generally ends up heavy-limbed. Even the longer ones often have relatively short draw lengths, which limits the energy. Sure, you can lighten the limbs by making them shorter, but then you get hit in draw length, and probably draw weight too.

So, the maximum range of these bows is often 100-150m. You shouldn't see much below 100m, even for a slow heavy-limbed longbow. Looks like the heavier end - which will tend to be purpose-built warbows - will maybe do up to 200m. IMHO, this extra range is more of a side-effect of increasing the energy at short range, rather than wanted long range as the main goal. Extra energy = better armour penetration. Expect war arrows used with such bows to be heavy! English longbow arrows seem to have been 80-90g.

This doesn't translate into a very long effective military range. The weapon is at its best at short-range direct fire. 15m is great - very flat trajectory, especially for the high draw weight bows, and very little energy is lost due to drag. I'd say that you want the target to be within 30-40m. This is all in accord with Japanese military archery, which made use of a similarly sluggish longbow (of laminated wood/bamboo construction, mildly recurved-reflexed, but very long and heavy limbed).

An arrow will go further than that, but it becomes more and more of a lottery ticket, rather than a likely-to-be-effective shot. Better to use arrows when they can be effective, rather than shoot them in the general direction of the enemy, with the main effect being to increase the enemy's arrow supply.

Such longbows were in use in Europe for a long time, from the Neolithic through to approx AD1000. So, plausible Migration Period bows. Made from local materials, affordable, useful for hunting, useful in war, lacking in range.

What other alternatives were there? There was the Central Asian composite bow. Shorter, much lighter limbed, and a much faster bow. Therefore, longer ranged. Military practice ranges could be over 150m - Vegetius gives 166m, East Asian archers shot at targets at 150-170m, Ottoman at about 170m. Used militarily from something BC to modern rifles (they co-existed with older handguns for a long time).

There are two key differences. This bow is expensive. It's slow to make, requires skilled specialist makers. it's hard to maintain. (The cost difference was a key element in the Muscovite switch to handguns; the Qing kept the bow alongside the musket - but a Qing/Manchu bow cost more than 2 muskets, and was a friendlier design to make than the range/speed optimised composite bow.) Humidity destroys it - a significant problem as one moves into Western Europe. (This limited the spread of the composite bow into India and SE Asia too.)

Secondly, you need well-trained archers to be able to hit targets at 166m. This is really a weapon for a professional standing army rather than a part-time militia.

It's also at its best with light arrows. For Ottoman bows, a "heavy" arrow was 40g or so, a flight arrow 20g.

The Migration Period migrations came from areas where the composite bow was used. So, it's also a plausible Migration Period bow. The Scythians used it, the Avars used it, the Huns used it, the Romans used it. Depending on who is included in "Migration Period peoples", it is definitely a migration period bow. I don't know the geographical extent of its use into Europe.

A long-range sling, with a good slinger, will put lead shot to 200m. Rhodian slingers used lead shot, Persians used stones, so Xenophon is plausible (as he should be), even if his Persian archers used the composite bow (at least some Persian archers of this time appear to have, but there was room for variety in a Persian army). In my experience, this kind of range needs a long sling, so the slingers need to swing horizontally, so they need more room, and a lot more practice to hit targets. In comparison, the short-sling vertical plane style, with the Vegetius-recommended single swing, has less range, but is much less demanding on skill. Takes less space, too. For this latter style, I'd recommend 40-80m with stones as the best military range. A bow gains tremendously in accuracy as the range is shortened, and a sling does not. So less benefit for the risk of short range shooting. I find I must look at my sling when reloading, so I lose sight of the target. This could be most unpleasant when the target is running at you. A sling is also less defensively useful to have in hand when they do close with you. Thus, my recommendation of 40+m. The former style, with lead shot, and long slings, will be useful at longer range, but is a specialist weapon.

With the Central Asian composite bow, the best military archers can apparently hit targets at 300m or so, but this is a remarkable level of skill. Flight shots will go past 400m (and so will extreme sling shots), but this isn't as useful in battle.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 6:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
With the Central Asian composite bow, the best military archers can apparently hit targets at 300m or so, but this is a remarkable level of skill. Flight shots will go past 400m (and so will extreme sling shots), but this isn't as useful in battle.


The range of the composite static-recurve bow is usually a bit overemphasized. While the average Hun or Saracen military bow would likely have been able to send a light arrow out to longer ranges than an English longbow, its preferred engagement ranges were much shorter--not that different, in fact, from the best contemporary European archers. Taybugha, writing in the 13th century (pretty much the zenith of military archery technology in the Middle East), expected single-target accuracy only to some 70-75 meters with a typical (i.e. fairly heavy) arrow; if I'm not mistaken, a near-contemporary work states that at 300 m or so (the distance you mentioned) an archer was considered to have acceptable accuracy if he could hit a target the size of a cavalryman (i.e. a man mounted on a horse) with one out of every four or five arrows, and a hit was definitely far from a guaranteed kill at this range. Let's not even mention horse archers, for whom 50 meters was a pretty long shot and the best range was just outside the reach of the enemy's hand-to-hand weapons (literally, the closer the better).

Returning to the original topic, there's an interesting article by Andrew Halpin on medieval Irish archery; it deals with a rather later period than what we're discussing here, but its treatment of archaeological discoveries of bows and arrows might help illuminate the matter a bit: http://www.deremilitari.org/resources/pdfs/halpin.pdf
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 7:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo very interesting post and I learned a great deal from it.

Lafayette, also good additional information.

One thing I get from this is that even if one can give theoretical statistics about range of various weapons the effective tactical use often makes the possible long range shooting less than optimum tactically and logistically so that even if it might at times be useful to shoot very long range volleys it was depending on the situation better to save ones arrows for close range and more effective use and in the case of the sling the useful range is more medium to long range with close range being dangerous as the enemy can close in faster than one can aim and shoot.

In any case, the tactical subtleties are something to think about. Wink Big Grin Cool

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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 8:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:


A bow gains tremendously in accuracy as the range is shortened, and a sling does not. So less benefit for the risk of short range shooting. I find I must look at my sling when reloading, so I lose sight of the target. This could be most unpleasant when the target is running at you. A sling is also less defensively useful to have in hand when they do close with you. Thus, my recommendation of 40+m. The former style, with lead shot, and long slings, will be useful at longer range, but is a specialist weapon.



I find that with enough practice the sling can be loaded without looking quite easily, actually. The arrow is about as difficult to nock and line up as the sling is to load in my experience, especially if one uses the "Apache" method of loading up with the left hand behind the back, shot being taken from a belt pouch or something like that.

I also think the sling's accuracy would increase with shortened range... When one gets the feel for it, using a sling isn't much different from a straightforward throw with just the arm. I don't know about you, but I can certainly hit things with more accuracy with thrown object if the target is close. I do agree that the straight trajectory of the bow is perhaps more accurate at close range--it's more akin to aiming a gun right at your target. But I do believe it is misleading to say that the accuracy of a sling does not increase with decreased range.

Connor
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 4:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Connor Ruebusch wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:


A bow gains tremendously in accuracy as the range is shortened, and a sling does not. So less benefit for the risk of short range shooting. I find I must look at my sling when reloading, so I lose sight of the target. This could be most unpleasant when the target is running at you. A sling is also less defensively useful to have in hand when they do close with you. Thus, my recommendation of 40+m. The former style, with lead shot, and long slings, will be useful at longer range, but is a specialist weapon.



I find that with enough practice the sling can be loaded without looking quite easily, actually. The arrow is about as difficult to nock and line up as the sling is to load in my experience, especially if one uses the "Apache" method of loading up with the left hand behind the back, shot being taken from a belt pouch or something like that.

I also think the sling's accuracy would increase with shortened range... When one gets the feel for it, using a sling isn't much different from a straightforward throw with just the arm. I don't know about you, but I can certainly hit things with more accuracy with thrown object if the target is close. I do agree that the straight trajectory of the bow is perhaps more accurate at close range--it's more akin to aiming a gun right at your target. But I do believe it is misleading to say that the accuracy of a sling does not increase with decreased range.


Oh, the accuracy increases, but IMHO not tremendously. When I sling a stone, it comes from below my knee, compared with an arrow from almost in line with my eyes. On the plus side, accuracy decreases with increasing range more slowly than a bow (in absolute terms, this must depend on the bow and the sling, but in relative terms, one could consider accuracy at a distance of, say, 80% of the maximum range).

For loading blind when slinging, how much does it slow you down? I'm sure I could do it all by feel, but I don't think I could do it fast enough. Looking at what I doing, less than 6 seconds to load and shoot, picking my rock up from the ground, less than 5 seconds if I don't need to bend over to pick up. This is hasty aiming, and I prefer to take about 10 seconds for the whole thing, but if there's an obvious target closing with me at speed, I can imagine that hasty aiming would be better.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Connor Ruebusch




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Nov, 2010 5:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
Connor Ruebusch wrote:
Timo Nieminen wrote:


A bow gains tremendously in accuracy as the range is shortened, and a sling does not. So less benefit for the risk of short range shooting. I find I must look at my sling when reloading, so I lose sight of the target. This could be most unpleasant when the target is running at you. A sling is also less defensively useful to have in hand when they do close with you. Thus, my recommendation of 40+m. The former style, with lead shot, and long slings, will be useful at longer range, but is a specialist weapon.



I find that with enough practice the sling can be loaded without looking quite easily, actually. The arrow is about as difficult to nock and line up as the sling is to load in my experience, especially if one uses the "Apache" method of loading up with the left hand behind the back, shot being taken from a belt pouch or something like that.

I also think the sling's accuracy would increase with shortened range... When one gets the feel for it, using a sling isn't much different from a straightforward throw with just the arm. I don't know about you, but I can certainly hit things with more accuracy with thrown object if the target is close. I do agree that the straight trajectory of the bow is perhaps more accurate at close range--it's more akin to aiming a gun right at your target. But I do believe it is misleading to say that the accuracy of a sling does not increase with decreased range.


Oh, the accuracy increases, but IMHO not tremendously. When I sling a stone, it comes from below my knee, compared with an arrow from almost in line with my eyes. On the plus side, accuracy decreases with increasing range more slowly than a bow (in absolute terms, this must depend on the bow and the sling, but in relative terms, one could consider accuracy at a distance of, say, 80% of the maximum range).

For loading blind when slinging, how much does it slow you down? I'm sure I could do it all by feel, but I don't think I could do it fast enough. Looking at what I doing, less than 6 seconds to load and shoot, picking my rock up from the ground, less than 5 seconds if I don't need to bend over to pick up. This is hasty aiming, and I prefer to take about 10 seconds for the whole thing, but if there's an obvious target closing with me at speed, I can imagine that hasty aiming would be better.


Ah, I see. Looking at your original comment, I can see that you meant that the increase in accuracy is not nearly as dramatic with the sling as with the bow. I would have to agree with you there--aiming calmly down the shaft of an arrow will always be more accurate than what is effectively a very long-armed throw at point-blank range. The slinging style is also a consideration. What style do you use to throw?

Regarding your second question... To be honest, I'm not much of a slinger. I just haven't had enough time to practice with it, though I'd love to really pick it up. I can reload without looking in about seven seconds by grabbing the stone from my belt, pulling the sling through the fingers of my left hand until reaching the knot, placing the knot in my right hand ready to cast, and then sliding the "cocked" sling through my right hand again, placing the stone in the pouch. Slinging.org seems to think that good slingers of antiquity could throw over twelve times a minute, so your five second hasty aiming is actually pretty good.

Also keep in mind that you don't really have to aim in most warfare situations. The sling is a great weapon for flanking fire (sorry to use a firearm anachronism) and long-range volleys. The advantage of the slingers and peltasts in antiquity is that they could open ranks to lessen the impact of cavalry, and easily outrun heavy infantry, hopefully getting themselves to a more comfortable range to use more massed shooting techniques.

Connor
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