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Michael Wiethop




Location: St. Louis
Joined: 27 May 2012

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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jun, 2014 9:38 pm    Post subject: Surprising arquebus rate of fire         Reply with quote

I recently rediscovered a video in which a Japanese reenactor squeezed off three shots with an arquebus in 37 seconds. The weapon was already loaded when the time began, but even so, his rate of fire amazed me. I always was led to believe that arquebuses and matchlock muskets generally took a whole minute to fire that many rounds, even with a skilled shooter. This rate of fire seems comparable or superior to even a flintlock musket. I have read somewhere that many 16th and 17th century firearms in Europe used smaller windage than 18th century muskets, resulting in more accuracy but a lower rate of fire. Were Japanese arquebuses significantly different from European firearms at the time?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-lGCtbg580

Could anyone explain to me how this reenactor might accomplish this? Thanks in advance!
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jun, 2014 10:34 pm    Post subject: Re: Surprising arquebus rate of fire         Reply with quote

Michael Wiethop wrote:
I recently rediscovered a video in which a Japanese reenactor squeezed off three shots with an arquebus in 37 seconds. The weapon was already loaded when the time began, but even so, his rate of fire amazed me. Were Japanese arquebuses significantly different from European firearms at the time?

Could anyone explain to me how this reenactor might accomplish this? Thanks in advance!



The use of preloaded tubes made loading and firing much easier and faster. Practice allows you to follow the necessary repetitive reloading steps in the right order without having to stop and think.

Quote:
Hayago (quick loading tube) and tama (matchlock bullet), the hayago holds a pre-measured amount of gun powder and bullet, using multiple hayago allowed for a much faster rate of fire.




Quote:
Douran, box for holding hayago (quick loading cartridges) and kayaku-ire (coarse gunpowder flask).

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Radovan Geist




Location: Slovakia
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PostPosted: Sun 22 Jun, 2014 11:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i have seen this video before and it has been discussed (on another re-enact. forum). One factor is that he is probably not using the ramrod - he just hits the ground with the but of the musket. Also, I don´t see him taking off the match-cord from the holder - something you would typically do with the European musket (purely for security reasons, especially when firing in larger formations).
Back to your question: technically, the difference between the Japanese and European matchlock muskets was not big. BTW - some years back, on one 17th c. re-enact event, we have tried maneuvering and firing in a larger body of men (around 70 people). We have managed some 2 shots per minute. Of course, there are so many factors at play - we were constantly on move, which slowed the charging. On the other hand, the level of stress (compared to real battle) was significantly lower - even though our sergeants tried to be real beasts:). We did not use balls, only black powder, so again plus for us compared to "real firing". The weather was quite good and terrain was even, which made things easier, etc etc.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 6:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sir John Smythe wrote that a competent archer could shoot four or five arrows before a harquebusier could fire a single shot, assuming the latter started charging as the former took arrows to shoot. Without a definite time for either the archer or harquebusier, this doesn't necessarily tell us much, but it's notable Smythe described archers as nocking, drawing, and releasing "almost in an instant." He also wrote that some gunners could shoot faster than this, but they were the worst sort, because they hardly ever accomplished anything with their shot beyond scaring birds.

Based on Smythe's ratio, we get the following:

If harquebusiers took a full minute to charge and shoot, then archers only shot 4-5 arrows per minute.

If harquebusiers charged and shot in 30 seconds, then archers shot 8-10 arrows per minute.

If harquebusiers charged and shot in 20 seconds, then archers shot 12-15 arrows per minute.

If harquebusiers charged and shot in 15 seconds, then archers shot 16-20 arrows per minute.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Tjarand Matre




Location: Nøtterøy, Norway
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jun, 2014 11:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quite similar rate of fire with a handgun here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD6SbAzdvc8

He could probably have used more time for proper aiming, but with some training I think this could be a realistic rate of fire.
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Ralph Grinly





Joined: 19 Jan 2011

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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jun, 2014 6:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This just goes to show what a *skilled*, modern-day person is capable when not overly stressed by battlefield conditions. It does *not* mean that your average , semi-skilled soldier of the period could achieve anything like this in the stress of battle. Much same sort of thing was said about the British soldier and his Brown Bess flintlock musket. But even I've managed to get off 2 to 3 reasonably well aimed shots in just over a minute..and hit the target at 100 yd . And in no way would I consider myself a great shot with a Brown Bess flintlock musket. . So the video doesn't surprise me in the least Happy
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jun, 2014 9:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While poorly trained gunners under stress might have shot more slowly, remember that sixteenth-century captains prized skilled shooters. I tend to think the best period gunners far surpassed most if not all contemporary reenactors and enthusiasts. On the other hand, as we know from Smythe's comments, shooting fast wasn't necessarily effective.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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John Hardy




Location: Saskatoon SK Canada
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jun, 2014 6:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Radovan Geist wrote:
i have seen this video before and it has been discussed (on another re-enact. forum). One factor is that he is probably not using the ramrod - he just hits the ground with the but of the musket. Also, I don´t see him taking off the match-cord from the holder - something you would typically do with the European musket (purely for security reasons, especially when firing in larger formations).
Back to your question: technically, the difference between the Japanese and European matchlock muskets was not big. BTW - some years back, on one 17th c. re-enact event, we have tried maneuvering and firing in a larger body of men (around 70 people). We have managed some 2 shots per minute. Of course, there are so many factors at play - we were constantly on move, which slowed the charging. On the other hand, the level of stress (compared to real battle) was significantly lower - even though our sergeants tried to be real beasts:). We did not use balls, only black powder, so again plus for us compared to "real firing". The weather was quite good and terrain was even, which made things easier, etc etc.


Couple other factors too, for both this video and the one of the guy using the 'Handgonne':

1. Not loading ball. Just loading powder and possibly a wad. The Handgonner was at least still using a ramrod, but the Samurai may not have been. That makes a big difference to speed.

2. The pre-loaded cartridges in the cartridge box. The switch from powder charges dangling on a bandolier - with the balls themselves in a separate pouch - to pre-loaded paper cartridges containing both the powder and the ball (with the paper itself used as the wad) was probably the biggest factor in speeding up rate of fire in Europe. (The next was likely the adoption of iron ramrods in place of wood ones that swelled, warped, weebled and broke.) The Samurai was apparently using wooden powder-and-ball holders in a cartridge box - the Japanese equivalent of the European pre-made paper cartridges.

and 3. Size of firearm. That Japanese matchlock is about the size of a modern Winchester 94 carbine. A 16th or 17th century European matchlock was about 6 feet in overall length and weighed about 15 pounds or so - which is the reason they were normally fired from a rest. That extra length increases loading time, as does the weight, as does the need to manipulate the rest as well as the musket.

Regarding #2: The switch from matchlock to flintlock didn't actually speed up the rate of fire much if at all. What it did was greatly improve the reliability of the arm, especially in rainy weather, by putting a weatherproof pan cover over the priming powder and replacing the glowing match with a source of fire that was much less susceptible to wind and rain. And finally, it improved accuracy by cutting the locktime by about a factor of four. (Instead of pressing the trigger and then having to hold the firearm on target while the matcharm swung down several inches into the priming pan, ignited the powder, and the trail burned into the main charge, you pulled the trigger and the sparks hit the powder almost instantly...)
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jun, 2014 11:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John Hardy wrote:
and 3. Size of firearm. That Japanese matchlock is about the size of a modern Winchester 94 carbine. A 16th or 17th century European matchlock was about 6 feet in overall length and weighed about 15 pounds or so - which is the reason they were normally fired from a rest. That extra length increases loading time, as does the weight, as does the need to manipulate the rest as well as the musket.


Muskets weren't the only type of matchlock used during the period in question. Terminology varied, but in late-sixteenth-century England, arquebuses or harquebuses were the smallest of the long guns, typically weighing under 10lbs. By some accounts arquebuses and calivers - the intermediate long gun - could shoot twice as fast as the heavy musket.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Jul, 2014 12:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's nothing unusual or strange about such a high rate of fire for matchlocks. I've done four shots in a minute myself on a fairly long arquebus (starting with an empty/unloaded weapon), though I took some non-historical shortcuts such as not taking the match off the cock, tucking the scouring-stick (the ramrod) between the fingers of my left hand rather than properly putting it into the slot on the weapon, and not casting the weapon about (swinging it from one side of the body to the other) the way period drills told us to. I don't know if I can still pull it off today since I haven't touched a muzzle-loader for a couple of years.

One thing for certain is that I wouldn't have taken most of those shortcuts if I had to use a matchlock in a real battle. I would have taken the match out of the cock after every shot and put it back in only at the very last moment before raising the weapon to my shoulder; put the scouring-stick back in its slot after every use; cast the weapon about for a number of reasons (the most important being keeping the match as far away as possible from the parts of the weapon that contained any powder until it was really needed); indeed, if I had a musket rest, I would have used it even if my weapon was light enough to be fired without one. These things would have slowed my shots down significantly but 16th- and 17th-century tactical manuals didn't really seem to envision many situations where any single firearm-carrying soldier would have had to load and fire in a great hurry. Two well-aimed shots a minute was more than enough, and even that would have been a rate the soldier seldom had to sustain.

As for whether better soldiers would have loaded slower or faster, it's worth keeping in mind that widespread standardisation of doctrine wasn't around just yet. Preferences could have varied widely between regiments in the same army, and indeed between companies within the same regiment; and while more experienced soldiers would have had the capability to load and fire faster, they'd probably also have the discipline to slow down or even hold their fire altogether when there was no immediate danger that must be suppressed or neutralised quickly. Remember that in well-trained armies today -- in the 21st century -- the average soldier fires much more slowly than his weapon's potential rate of fire. It's not rare to see a disciplined rifleman only fire one or two shots in a minute (and never flick the safety lever beyond semi-automatic) even while the enemy is trying to spam him with full automatic fire.
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Eric S




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PostPosted: Tue 01 Jul, 2014 1:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

John Hardy wrote:

and 3. Size of firearm. That Japanese matchlock is about the size of a modern Winchester 94 carbine. A 16th or 17th century European matchlock was about 6 feet in overall length and weighed about 15 pounds or so - which is the reason they were normally fired from a rest. That extra length increases loading time, as does the weight, as does the need to manipulate the rest as well as the musket.



Actually Japanese matchlocks varied in size from very small pistols to huge semi-cannon. I have a Pinterest page with images of Japanese matchlocks and accessories.
http://www.pinterest.com/worldantiques/japane...rai-era-t/

Japanese matchlock pistol and case.


Japanese matchlock dated 1643, 137cm barrel.
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Shahril Dzulkifli




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PostPosted: Thu 31 Jul, 2014 5:32 pm    Post subject: Surprising arquebus rate of fire         Reply with quote


Wow! That's an immense arquebus! Eek!

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 01 Aug, 2014 3:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tjarand Matre wrote:
Quite similar rate of fire with a handgun here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD6SbAzdvc8

He could probably have used more time for proper aiming, but with some training I think this could be a realistic rate of fire.


I love the video but I am not sure if people in the era of handgonnes had access to pre packed paper cartridges.

I would really love to see a formation of about 200 folks advancing in countermarch though .
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 01 Aug, 2014 5:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And we can be sure they did not have modern powers as well. I think this is a key ingredient often glossed over in these sort of reenactments.

RPM
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