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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Nov, 2020 8:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a fairly clear image of the front page of one of these invitations (from Pforzheim in 1551), unfortunately the rules are on the back page and I can only find that in low-res,



This is the back side of another invitation from 1606, I'm not sure what city but possibly Coburg. The circle on the bottom is the size of the target. Resolution is aaaalmost enough to make out the text but maybe not quite. If it follows the pattern of others I've seen ten years ago, the distance to the target and other details should be indicated in that text. The circle indicates the size of the target, and the line is (I believe) the length of their unit of measure, as they were different in each town back then.




...still working on it! I have a line on two more from 15th Century origins.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 20 Nov, 2020 9:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is another one, fully legible, found by Olivier Dupuis who very kindly shared this with me. It is from Landshut, Bavaria in 1549.

https://digital.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/werkansicht/?PPN=PPN1022206435

EDIT - I have tentatively confirmed the following:

"Screwed" [rifled] barrels are not allowed. Crossbowmen have 24 shots at the distance of 96 Landshuter cubits, riflemen 18 shots at 260 cubits (the measurement given at the bottom of the invitation is 1/4 Landshuter cubit).

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sat 21 Nov, 2020 5:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean thanks for providing all those sources.

What I was wondering is if there was any sort of standard target size and distance across the multiple Germanic cities in crossbow and handgun competition. How did guns and crossbows typically stack up relative to each other and what was a reasonable target size they could expect to hit.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Nov, 2020 6:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Hi Jean thanks for providing all those sources.

What I was wondering is if there was any sort of standard target size and distance across the multiple Germanic cities in crossbow and handgun competition. How did guns and crossbows typically stack up relative to each other and what was a reasonable target size they could expect to hit.


That is one of the interesting things about these - there is no standard target size or distance. If you look at these invitations, such as the one I posted above from 1606 (possibly from Coburg), or the one from Landshut in 1549, you will always see a circle and almost always see a line. The outer circle is the physical size of the target. The innermost circle is the maximum width of the bolt (why they have a maximum width for the bolt, I don't know). The rectangle you see coming out of the circle on the 1606 one and the black line on the 1549 one, represent their unit of measure (the black line on the 1549 invite represents 1/4 of a cubit, according to the text).

This was part of the problem back then, each of these little city states and principalities had their own units of measure. Some might be consistent across a region, say Bavaria, others might be specific to and different from one town to another just 10 or 20 miles away. So they always gave you an example of what they meant by an 'ell' or a 'pace' or a 'foot' or a 'cubit', and then in the rules it says how many of these units of measure the targets will be away from you.

So for example in the 1549 one from Landshut, as I noted, it says crossbowmen will shoot 24 shots at a target 96 "Landshuter" cubits away, while the handgunners had 18 shots at a target 260 cubits away. The size of the target is, again, indicated by the circle on the bottom of the invitation.

I still don't know precisely how long a Landshut cubit is, but very generally speaking a cubit was usually about 1.5 feet. I suspect this one from Landshut is a bit longer than that, but we can use it as a baseline. So based on that, the crossbow targets are 144 feet or roughly 44 meters away, while the handgun targets are 390 feet or 118 meters away. Again I don't know this for certain I still have to find out how long the Landshut version of the cubit is, but if this rough estimate is accurate, the level of accuracy expected is very high both for crossbows and for smoothbore firearms of that era. Considerably higher than most military histories would have us believe.

Most historians suggest the typical effective range for a smoothbore handgun or musket was roughly 50 meters to hit a man sized target. But this target in the shooting contest is much smaller. Again this is a very rough estimate but basing it on the size of the 1/4 cubit on the target, we were estimating the target was about maybe 8", and that might be generous. Call it 10". That is still considerably better accuracy than what we would expect based on most historiography of the military use of firearms.

Now this is only one tentative example from one tentative translation of just one of these invites, and we still don't know the base unit of measure yet, but my understanding is it is within the range normally seen on these - I've seen actually slightly longer range for other contests- the crossbows 70-90 meters and the guns around 200 meters. But the size of the targets does vary widely, some of them look like maybe a meter wide. And it's always a good idea to survey the sources, obviously, and now that I started looking into this again (for the first time in ten years!) I have at least one more of these from Strasbourg in 1494 (located by my friend Olivier Dupuis) and I may be able to find a few others, plus there are the song books I still haven't been able to track down again. (I had one with records of 5 events but I apparently lost it on an old hard drive)

Anyway the plan is to survey these and we'll maybe be able to establish some kind of range of expected accuracy, which is one of the most interesting aspects of this whole phenomena.

Now military historians do allow for the existence of 'sharpshooters' who could do much better than regular handgunners, arquebusiers or musketeers - with effective accuracy up to 200 meters or more for shooting smoothbore firearms at an individual human target. The Italian artist Benvenutto Cellini was able to do this for example, quite famously during the Siege of Rome in 1527.

I suspect the schützenfest, and the Italian and Central and other North-European equivalents, are part of the answer to this. In the medieval period, people in general and towns in particular trained for war in large part by inventing warlike games and martial sports. I've done a couple of lectures on this in the past. This method is rather alien to the way the Romans trained or the way we train for war today, but it seems to have worked, and worked quite well. It also helps explain how some of these larger Free Cities seemed to be well nigh invulnerable on defense. Schützenfest - these rowdy festivals of combat sports, were also very important diplomatic events, which helped bond these quasi city states with one another and helped in forming military alliances. For Strasbourg quite famously on two occasions with Zurich and the Swiss Confederation. When you invite some prospective friends to come over for a military competition, and you see they can shoot the legs off of a fly at 120 meters with a smoothbore arquebus, it is encouraging toward making that alliance!

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Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Sun 22 Nov, 2020 7:50 am; edited 2 times in total
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 21 Nov, 2020 7:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I know that was a lot but, does that make sense?
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