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View Full Version : Got a Real-World Weapon or Armor Question? Mk. VI



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Liliedhe
2009-12-22, 05:20 AM
http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/Previews/15-929

Is that a special type of sword the guy in the foreground is using? Or just something the artist made up because it looked cool?

Spiryt
2009-12-22, 06:45 AM
If you mean sword without almost any form of guard, then swords with very minimal ones existed, although I've never seen minimalism of StarWars level.

Sword as whole is of course made up, it's fantasy after all.

Fhaolan
2009-12-22, 10:22 AM
If you were to make a custom modern equivalent to the longbow for someone who can do a 100lbs.-ish pull how would you go about it? At first I thought about using a modern pulley assist but I vaguely recall some talk about such a thing being fine for sport shooting but the mechanism being too finicky and unreliable to trust your life to it in a combat situation.

I've heard that too, but I have no proof whatsoever. I've found compound bows annoying to use myself, but that's probably because I have very little experience with them so I'm likely 'doing it wrong'.


Also what is the upper limit for pull multiplication using modern materials?

Huh. Don't actually know. Sorry.


http://www.darkhorse.com/Comics/Previews/15-929

Is that a special type of sword the guy in the foreground is using? Or just something the artist made up because it looked cool?

It's made up, but there's nothing particularly unreasonable about it. There were blades like that, guards like that, grips like that, and pommels like that. I've just not seen that particular combination in a historical piece. :smallsmile:

ashmanonar
2009-12-22, 11:06 AM
The roman empire was about as advanced as people in the 19th century, except that they didn't have steam power.
But I'd say in society and politics, they were on an equal level.
Though there are lots of problems with the term, it's called "Dark Ages" for a reason.

The Greeks did have steam power, they simply didn't do anything with it.

Similarly to atomic theory, which they pioneered, but didn't have the technology to do anything with.

Liliedhe
2009-12-22, 11:08 AM
Thanks both of you. :)

I liked the look of it and wanted to take it for the sword of my priest in a fantasy campaign. Just needed to know if I'd have to specialise in something special or if calling it a "sword" is sufficient ;)

Galloglaich
2009-12-22, 12:37 PM
Thanks both of you. :)

I liked the look of it and wanted to take it for the sword of my priest in a fantasy campaign. Just needed to know if I'd have to specialise in something special or if calling it a "sword" is sufficient ;)

That is essentially what I would call a spatha.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/Spatha_end_of_second_century_1.jpg/150px-Spatha_end_of_second_century_1.jpg

The distinction of a weapon of this type is: short single-handed grip, very little if any cross-guard, strait more or less parallel blade, double-edged, an organic or non-ferrous pommel which doesn't act as a counterweight.

Swords like this were used widely in Europe from the 1st Century BC through roughly the 7th Century, when they began to be replaced by the 'viking' type swords with a deeply fullered cutting blade, an iron pommel acting as a counterweight and a small cross for hand protection. These in turn were gradually replaced in the 10th -11th Century by proper arming swords which had more of a cross and were often pointier.

The Romans adapted the Spatha type swords in the 1st Century AD and
Swords similar to the Spatha were used in the Middle East, Persia, India (see the Khanda, particularly the earlier types), North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and China (see Jian, though Jian could be single handed, hand and a half, or two-handed) from the early Iron Age well into modern times.

It's worth noting on a practical level, the lack of hand protection on a sword like this very generally means they were typically used in conjunction with a shield or a buckler.

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-22, 12:53 PM
Whilst these are authentic terms, I have no idea as to how old they are or if they are modern inventions in Japanese. :smallbiggrin:

I think they are old terms, though they didn't always mean the same thing in each era. Musashi refers to the 'long sword' and the 'short sword' referring to the Katana or Tachi and the Wakisashe or something similar.

With terminology, it is tricky. Modern industrial concepts of categorization don't fit neatly with hand-made, pre-industrial artefacts. But if you are talking about a time period more than a generation or two you need to make some categories to understand weapons in different eras. That is why I believe it makes more sense from a modern standpoint to categorize weapons by functon and design, wheather you use ancient or modern terms is somewhat irrelevant. As pointed out upthread, the most typical designation for any kind of sword in historical documents was just 'sword', or spatha, mec, spada, schwert, and etc., which all mean the same thing.

That said they did distinguish between long and short swords in late Medieval and Renaissance era documents. The from circa 1400 on out the term 'long sword' ('langen schwert' etc.) referred to what most RPG's would call a Bastard sword, a hand-and-a-half strait sword around 4 feet long. Other specific terms were used: montante, spadona, epee a guerre etc. but that term is very common in the fencing Manuals and records of the time.

Also, it has gone back and forth but I think the term Zweihander is back in current use for the really big 16th century two-handed swords.

Short swords did also exist but often tended to have their own name, like the gladius, or the very similar Russian / Central Asian Kindjal. Some others include the akinakes, the Swiss baselard, the German Katzbalger, and the Cinquedea, just to name a few.

Re: longbows. You basically in period had two different broad categories of bows, a 'regular' bow similar to the type you might use for archery practice today (non compound) which would be called a bow but could reasonably be called a 'short bow' for modern purposes. These were for hunting essentially. Then you had military bows. Your long bow and war bow are military bows. Draw weight and length go up substatially, the former harder than most untrained people can handle (upwards of 120 - 150 lbs). As someone mentioned upthread you had a different shape. I also understand a lot of times the part of the bow stave which compresses was cut out and replaced with a different type of wood. These type of bows seem to have been known in Scandinavia as far back as the Bronze Age, show in Wales in early Medieval times and were adapted by the British in the Middle Ages shortly after the conquest of Wales.

On the steppe you have recurves of different strength, all dual-purpose weapons intended both for hunting and for warfare. The 'Composite bow' which incorporates different materials such as bone, sinew and horn is the most dangerous. The scythians, Parthians, the Magyars, the Huns, the Mongols, and the Turks all gained a good part of their reputation from these lethal and efficient weapons, very powerful and also small enough to shoot whle riding a horse.

Interestingly the European answer to these weapons was also made of composite materials, at least initially. The increasingly powerful Medieval Arbalest (a very heavy crossbow) which began to alarm people around the 11th century (though referred to in legal documents centuries before that) was made of composite materials. Eventually arbalests got steel prods which were less succeptible to weather.

The Indians were also formidable archers and they even made steel bows, somewhat similar to modern types (except without the pullies) Here is an image of one:

http://www.ancient-east.com/collection/bow-cls-web.jpg

G.

Kurien
2009-12-22, 02:04 PM
Hello, this is my first time posting in this thread -- heck, this is my first time posting in this entire forum (Roleplaying Games), and I have a few questions to which my weak search fu cannot reveal the answer. (I didn't bother reading the entire thread because that take too long, so I just read the last few posts.)

(1) What is the practicality of using a sword that has room for two hands on the hilt? I assume that is the defining characteristic of a longsword, but what use is it on a lighter weapon such as arming sword size?

(2) What are the differences between a spatha and jian? Are later designs of swords superior to these weapons?

(3) When did basket hilts start to appear? Solid metal plates as a guard?

(4) What blades fit the bill of a medium sized sword with versatile attack options; suitable for both cutting and thrusting; a guard that can protect the hand; and a pommel that acts as a counterweight?

(5) I've read that katanas are renowned for their quality because the swordsmiths spent more effort making it to make up for poor iron in Japan. Therefore I would assume only the wealthy would own such swords because they are expensive, and common troops would be stuck with spears and the like. Would a european, middle eastern, or indian weapon be superior over the katana if the swordsmiths invested similar effort in making their weapons?

(6) Is a lenticular cross-section of a blade inferior to a diamond cross-section?

Galloglaich
2009-12-22, 02:34 PM
Hello, this is my first time posting in this thread -- heck, this is my first time posting in this entire forum (Roleplaying Games), and I have a few questions to which my weak search fu cannot reveal the answer. (I didn't bother reading the entire thread because that take too long, so I just read the last few posts.)

Welcome to the forum Kurien, I'm kind of new here too.



(1) What is the practicality of using a sword that has room for two hands on the hilt? I assume that is the defining characteristic of a longsword, but what use is it on a lighter weapon such as arming sword size?

Generally speaking, if there is room for an extra hand it is because you want to sometimes use an extra hand to hold the sword, i.e. it is a 'hand and a half' weapon. Some shorter swords which had longer grips apparently because of the secondary advantage of a longer handle, namely leverage that you can use for hooking moves in disarms, locks and etc. which are used in various martial arts systems. You see these sometimes in South East Asian Martial systems such as Escrima / Arnis / Kali, Silat, and some of the Thai fencing systems using weapons like the Dha, as well as with the German Renaissance fencing with the Messer (which you can see in the fencing manuals) and probably the Turkish Yataghan.

The vast majority of swords which had a grip long enough for two hands were at least sometimes used two handed though. That includes the Katana and the European Longsword.



(2) What are the differences between a spatha and jian? Are later designs of swords superior to these weapons?

Both terms are pretty generic and both weapons were made in quite a range of quality and technical specification over the course of many Centuries. The Jian even existed in Bronze form. Some Jian were very sophisticated, featuring advanced metalurgy and sophisticated properties of balance, most of these were hand and a half weapons. Jian were associated with the Aristocracy and the high bureaucracy and became a civilian weapon in a niche somewhat similar to a Rapier during the late Renaissance (Ming Dynasty) They were restricted from use by common people. The Dao (saber) in various forms was the preferred weapon for issue to the military.

Similarly some very sophisticated Spatha were found, particularly some of those made by Germanic tribes during the Migration era. There seem to have been a large number made of very high quality, just a few weeks ago a horde was found in the UK which had over 80 beautifully worked gold sword hilts from what were very likely Spathae type swords. Most Spatha made for the Roman Army would be simple, but there were some very elaborate ones found made with sophisticated pattern welding using 'Norric Steel' from the Balkans.



(3) When did basket hilts start to appear? Solid metal plates as a guard?

Around 16th Century, evolving from so-called 'complex hilts'. Cup hilts and solid plates became more common in certain areas later in the 17th Century IRIC.



(4) What blades fit the bill of a medium sized sword with versatile attack options; suitable for both cutting and thrusting; a guard that can protect the hand; and a pommel that acts as a counterweight?

Most European swords from the 11th - 19th Centuries match these criteria. Most swords in other parts of the world, with a few exceptions, didn't have the same kind of pommel as European swords so usually had a balance point further down the blade.



(5) I've read that katanas are renowned for their quality because the swordsmiths spent more effort making it to make up for poor iron in Japan. Therefore I would assume only the wealthy would own such swords because they are expensive, and common troops would be stuck with spears and the like. Would a european, middle eastern, or indian weapon be superior over the katana if the swordsmiths invested similar effort in making their weapons?

Katanas really were not superior to the top quality European swords, that is a popular myth.



(6) Is a lenticular cross-section of a blade inferior to a diamond cross-section?

Neither, just different. Blade cross-sections, fullers etc. had different purposes for different types of swords.

G.

Jacob_Gallagher
2009-12-22, 02:54 PM
(5) I've read that katanas are renowned for their quality because the swordsmiths spent more effort making it to make up for poor iron in Japan. Therefore I would assume only the wealthy would own such swords because they are expensive, and common troops would be stuck with spears and the like. Would a european, middle eastern, or indian weapon be superior over the katana if the swordsmiths invested similar effort in making their weapons?

Absolutely. Many of the defining traits of the katana, such as the folding technique in forging or the bent blade, were attempts to compensate for the quality of the iron that was used. Any finely-made European sword would best a katana in overall quality, not to mention versatility- the curved blade of a katana is suitable only for slicing, while a longsword can be used to stab and cut with both sides.

fusilier
2009-12-22, 03:21 PM
(4) What blades fit the bill of a medium sized sword with versatile attack options; suitable for both cutting and thrusting; a guard that can protect the hand; and a pommel that acts as a counterweight?

In the 16 century, there were swords that I believe were referred to in contemporary sources as "cut-and-thrust" swords -- I assume to distinguish them from rapiers. They were popular military weapons, as some authorities didn't consider rapiers suitable for soldiers. I think they were also known as broad swords (again, probably to distinguish them from rapiers, or later small swords), but I'm not sure when that term was in use.

At reenactments (circa 1600), I encourage my comrades to simply call their weapons "swords", or "espadas", when talking the public, and simply point out the features. Otherwise there's too much confusion. Although I do see the need for creating categories when studying swords.

Kurien
2009-12-22, 03:57 PM
Most European swords from the 11th - 19th Centuries match these criteria. Most swords in other parts of the world, with a few exceptions, didn't have the same kind of pommel as European swords so usually had a balance point further down the blade.

Katanas really were not superior to the top quality European swords, that is a popular myth.

Neither, just different. Blade cross-sections, fullers etc. had different purposes for different types of swords.

G.

(1) What do you mean by having a balance point on the blade?

(2) I must have worded my question wrong. I do believe the design of the katana is not superior to swords from other areas, due to the lack of effectivesness of thrusting/stabbing attacks.

(3) But is it true that a diamond cross section has a stiffer spine, and is better for thrusting against armour than a lenticular cross section, which will bend?

(4) What are the advantages/disadvantages of setting the weight of the blade farther from or closer to the hilt? What I mean is a blade that widens and/or thickens closer to the point, versus a blade that is thickest closer to the handle and tapers towards the point?


In the 16 century, there were swords that I believe were referred to in contemporary sources as "cut-and-thrust" swords -- I assume to distinguish them from rapiers. They were popular military weapons, as some authorities didn't consider rapiers suitable for soldiers. I think they were also known as broad swords (again, probably to distinguish them from rapiers, or later small swords), but I'm not sure when that term was in use.

(5) On the battle field, such a "cut and thrust" sword would be a sidearm, yes? With a polearm as the main weapon? Or would infantry not carry sidearms at all?

Karoht
2009-12-22, 04:04 PM
Hello, this is my first time posting in this thread -- heck, this is my first time posting in this entire forum (Roleplaying Games), and I have a few questions to which my weak search fu cannot reveal the answer. (I didn't bother reading the entire thread because that take too long, so I just read the last few posts.)

(1) What is the practicality of using a sword that has room for two hands on the hilt? I assume that is the defining characteristic of a longsword, but what use is it on a lighter weapon such as arming sword size?As someone who is very much a fan of the bastard sword, AKA hand-and-a-half design, the real strength comes from versetility and practicality. I can (not often do I choose to though) use a bastard sword and shield together, or bastard sword alone. It is also much easier to wield a bastard sword, and remove one hand from the hilt to grapple or perform catches (a very VERY difficult and situational tactic, which I have seen both fail and succeed depending completely on the situation), should close quarters become an issue, without losing a major amount of balance. This has saved my ass more times than I can count.


(4) What blades fit the bill of a medium sized sword with versatile attack options; suitable for both cutting and thrusting; a guard that can protect the hand; and a pommel that acts as a counterweight? Any sword below 30 inches I would call a medium sized sword (I am going to assume you mean one handed), and just about any guard can and will protect the hand. Even cross hilts from typical broad swords will do this. If you are being hit in the hands often, it is either the fault of one who is specifically aiming for your hand, which is a no-no in just about all good company, there is an issue with your guard and swing and possibly even your grip. If you want total protection for your hand, I'd go with a basket hilt, as they are super comfortable, very well balanced and weighted, and will protect your hand no matter what. But I would be sure to analyse your grip guard and swing first, as most basket hilted weapons tend to be a bit more expensive.
Or invest in better hand protection. GDFB does a great pair of hourglass gauntlets, but they do require some customization once you get them, but anyone can do it.
Incidently, cup hilts and baskets also came about because it was cheaper and quicker to dish out a piece of metal, or build what amounts to a mesh, than it was to forge a solid piece of steel to take the same level of abuse, and it was easier to maintain or repair. And as duels became more cuthroat, aiming for the hands and wrists became an acceptable target option. As for pirates and such, if prisoners were desired, a clean slice around the hand or wrist takes someone out of the fight, and they aren't going to be fighting again for a while with only one working hand being their off hand, unless the person is seriously ambidexterous.



(5) I've read that katanas are renowned for their quality because the swordsmiths spent more effort making it to make up for poor iron in Japan. Therefore I would assume only the wealthy would own such swords because they are expensive, and common troops would be stuck with spears and the like. Would a european, middle eastern, or indian weapon be superior over the katana if the swordsmiths invested similar effort in making their weapons?Regarding Katanas, you are correct. Japan had very little coal for smelting iron, and the iron ore from japan has an incredible amount of impurities. The folding process was ingenius, in the fact that it works as a cheater tempering process. However, old school Katanas were notoriously brittle. Sharp as hell, great for unarmored targets. But very easy to damage. Sword on Sword action, like all the kung fu/sword fu movies (I refuse to call them samurai movies) out there portray, would destroy the edge on such a weapon, or even cause breakage.
Using modern metallurgy techniques and proper steel, a folded weapon would be remarkable, but again, this technique causes quite a bit of brittleness in the blade. Done with a proper temper, a folded weapon would again be quite remarkable, but it would hold no amazing qualities vastly above and beyond a simple hammer forged sword of similar steel quality.
Don't also forget, that the flex you see in a sword is actually a testament to it's steel quality and temper. Metal does not rely on hardness, but it's 'metal memory' to return to it's correct shape. The tempering process seeks to improve on this quality. The Hank Reinhardt test was to bend any sword over his head by 30 degrees, and if it snapped back to the shame shape and line, the temper was good. If not, the temper was poor. An old school katana most likely would not have survived such a test.

Sword expert Hank Reinhardt answered this question really well. The man had studied some 2000 different swords, handled all of them, prior to his passing. He said "A sword is a sword is a sword. There really is no better sword, there are just some swords better than others at specific things." What that means is, curved weapons are going to be better for slashing and broad cuts, while any straight edge weapon will generally be superior for cut and thrust action. Hank also tested quite a few weapons, both unarmoured and armoured. He used pigs from his property, and would test cut against ones which were already slaughtered. He also put chainmail on dead pigs and tried test cuts with those as well. On an unarmoured target, a curved weapon does better, hands down, because the cutting surface stays on contact better with the target than a straight edge. On an armored target, the straight edge conveyed more kinetic energy, and therefore did more damage to the target under the armor. I don't think he bothered to test plate with swords, he left that for axes and maces and such.
Hope that answers that for you.


(6) Is a lenticular cross-section of a blade inferior to a diamond cross-section?Again, as another poster pointed out, depends on the blade entirely.

Karoht
2009-12-22, 04:24 PM
(1) What do you mean by having a balance point on the blade?Exactly what it sounds like. The point of balance of the blade. Easy way to find it is try and balance the weapon on one finger held out horizontally. The point where your finger sits, acting as the fulcrum, is the balance point, roughly.



(3) But is it true that a diamond cross section has a stiffer spine, and is better for thrusting against armour than a lenticular cross section, which will bend?I'd rather a weapon that bends and doesn't break, over a stiffer weapon which, yes, has a higher chance of piercing, but has a very high chance of damaging or breaking in the process. Moreover, if you are talking about piercing anything tougher than chain mail, why are you using a sword in the first place? Using a sword against someone in plate will just damage your sword. It might apply on something like a pick or a spear, or the back pick on an axe, but also on these weapons, the steel would be vastly thicker than that of a sword as well, to prevent/avoid damage.
Lenticular and fullered weapons were designed with this shape in mind, mostly because it slid into and out of the human body much easier. Sure, a diamond shape will pierce a human body fine, much more likely to remain there just from muscle and blood pressure holding it in place, due to suction. While you are digging your weapon out the person you just killed, his body offs you. Enjoy.
Lastly, the Italians used to make triangular bayonet points. Why? No reason other than they were super easy for a not so well trained smith to hammer out. And while they made for great stabbing impliments, they broke often. They were eventually outlawed due to the fact that a stab from such a weapon was virtually impossible to stitch close at the time, wouldn't heal properly on it's own, and the victem would bleed to death if they didn't die from the wound outright. Again though, these were notorious for breaking, though I don't know if that had more to do with steel quality than design. I'd have to look into that.


(4) What are the advantages/disadvantages of setting the weight of the blade farther from or closer to the hilt? What I mean is a blade that widens and/or thickens closer to the point, versus a blade that is thickest closer to the handle and tapers towards the point?Balance point closer to hilt (pommel heavy) = easier to swing, less strain on the wrist, less kinetic energy delivered to the target per impact. Balance point further out (tip heavy) equals harder hits but somewhat harder to control without straining the wrist. Lower balance point is better for thrusts and precision strikes while the tip heavier weapons are better for raw power. This however, is a very generalized explanation and it varies from sword to sword.




(5) On the battle field, such a "cut and thrust" sword would be a sidearm, yes? With a polearm as the main weapon? Or would infantry not carry sidearms at all? If a polearm is your main weapon, odds are you would still have a side arm, because polearms do break. Also, if things got really rough in close quarter, a sidearm of some sort would be beneficial, as a polearm really does need lots of room to be effective.

Old addage for melee combat of all kinds. If they are trying to keep you at range, close in. If they are trying to close with you, keep them at range. This especially applies with two handed weapons. Their biggest advantage is reach. If someone closes with you to the point where you can't get a proper swing, you are useless. So a sidearm is the plan b weapon for that exact purpose. I don't suppose all that many pole arm users got to use their sidearms, but there would be no reaosn not to send them with one. It would be the same as sending archers with sidearms really.

Galloglaich
2009-12-22, 04:27 PM
Absolutely. Many of the defining traits of the katana, such as the folding technique in forging or the bent blade, were attempts to compensate for the quality of the iron that was used. Any finely-made European sword would best a katana in overall quality, not to mention versatility- the curved blade of a katana is suitable only for slicing, while a longsword can be used to stab and cut with both sides.

The pattern welding / laminated 'folding technique' used to make Katanas was also used to make swords in almost every other part of the world at one time or another. Usually this was due to a lack of good quality homogeneous iron, but it could also be done intentionally to get a wider range of properties in different parts of your sword, which is definitely the case when you are talking about higher quality 16th century or later Japanese weapons. You also see similarly sophisticated techniques in Migration era German Swords, Viking Age Scandinavian swords, many Renaissance era German and Italian Swords, Indian swords, Chinese swords and swords found in the Philippines and Malaysia.

Also, in Europe until around the 11th Century good quality iron wasn't very widely available either.

No offense or anything but to say a katana is inferior or superior is kind of silly. You can most definitely thrust with a katana or a tachi. You can also very definitely 'chop' like an axe though slicing is a preferred technique. We should be cautious that in rejecting some old cliches about Japanese and Europoean swords

Katanas are specialized weapons to some extent but so are rapiers, kurkri knives, smallswords, grossmessers, sabers, and etc. It doesn't make them inferior weapons to more 'generalist' types. A saber is better in many respects for cutting from horseback than a strait sword is, for a variety of reasons. A strait sword may be more versatile in some respects but it isn't necesssarily better in all situations. In fact I think you could say all swords are specialized in some way.

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-22, 04:34 PM
I agree with the rest of this post, good answers to his questions... except this part:


This especially applies with two handed weapons. Their biggest advantage is reach. If someone closes with you to the point where you can't get a proper swing, you are useless. So a sidearm is the plan b weapon for that exact purpose. I don't suppose all that many pole arm users got to use their sidearms, but there would be no reaosn not to send them with one. It would be the same as sending archers with sidearms really.

Thats true but only if you don't know how to use the weapon mate ;) In the Renaissance fencing manuals you are taught how to fight at all ranges with swords, staves, polearms etc. Same in most Eastern martial arts.

G.

Fhaolan
2009-12-22, 04:52 PM
(1) What do you mean by having a balance point on the blade?

(4) What are the advantages/disadvantages of setting the weight of the blade farther from or closer to the hilt? What I mean is a blade that widens and/or thickens closer to the point, versus a blade that is thickest closer to the handle and tapers towards the point?


I'll deal with these at the same time. :)

Basically, all objects have a balance point. A point where if you manage to hold it by that point there is equal mass on either side of it. One of the big things about pommels, is that they're big weights that moves that balance point closer to the hand. The farther away the balance point is from the hand, the 'choppier' or axe/mace-like the weapon is. This makes the weapon harder to change direction during or after a swing, but it also makes the weapon impart more impact to the target (because it's harder to change direction, you see?) The closer the balance point is to the hand, the easier it is to direct the weapon, making it feel more lively and move faster. Part of combat is constantly adjusting the motion of the weapon to be able to hit targets that are also constantly adjusting their position in space. It doesn't matter how hard you hit, if you never make contact. Conversely, it doesn't matter how often you hit, if the weapon doesn't hit hard enough to damage the target. Weapon design is all about balancing those and other factors.

As a note, I've handled weapons where the balance point is right at the hand or behind it, and that's *very* weird and uncomfortable in a hard-to-describe way.


(3) But is it true that a diamond cross section has a stiffer spine, and is better for thrusting against armour than a lenticular cross section, which will bend?

If all other variables are the same (temper, coss-sectional area, etc.) then yes but unless the blade is very predominanty diamond-shaped (almost square) the difference isn't going to be that much. For that matter, grooves down the blade also stiffen it. It's the same principles as to why I-beams are better than solid bars of steel, and why they put holes in bricks.


(5) On the battle field, such a "cut and thrust" sword would be a sidearm, yes? With a polearm as the main weapon? Or would infantry not carry sidearms at all?

Pikemen, archers, halbediers, etc. would likely have swords or long knives as sidearms. One of the standard front-line stances for a pikeman during the English Civil War was to be kneeling with the pike braced in the off-hand in a way that's very difficult to describe without a picture, with the sword drawn.

Single-handed swords are almost always considered to be a sidearm, with something else as the primary.

fusilier
2009-12-22, 05:04 PM
(5) On the battle field, such a "cut and thrust" sword would be a sidearm, yes? With a polearm as the main weapon? Or would infantry not carry sidearms at all?

At the time period I typically deal with it was expected that all soldiers were equipped with a sword, although I'm sure local conditions varied and emergency levies might be caught without them. My knowledge is mostly limited to the late Renaissance period, and by that time I believe swords could be "mass-produced" relatively quickly and be of decent quality.

Some authorities did feel that rapiers were perfectly acceptable on the battlefield. It also appears that they were issued to common infantry -- because there are warnings against doing so. One source said that if you issued common infantry (at this time musketeers and pikemen) with fine rapiers, they would attempt to clear brush and gather firewood with them, and you would have a lot of broken rapiers. Others suggested arming them with hatchets and falchions instead.

Sidearm:
I was surprised to discover that as late as the Thirty Years War some infantry were still carrying swords as their primary weapon, combined with good-sized round steel shields. They seem to have been deployed in front of pike formations. So while the majority of infantry would have had swords as a sidearm, there were still some that carried them as a primary weapon.

fusilier
2009-12-22, 05:22 PM
Basically, all objects have a balance point. A point where if you manage to hold it by that point there is equal mass on either side of it. One of the big things about pommels, is that they're big weights that moves that balance point closer to the hand. The farther away the balance point is from the hand, the 'choppier' or axe/mace-like the weapon is. This makes the weapon harder to change direction during or after a swing, but it also makes the weapon impart more impact to the target (because it's harder to change direction, you see?) The closer the balance point is to the hand, the easier it is to direct the weapon, making it feel more lively and move faster. Part of combat is constantly adjusting the motion of the weapon to be able to hit targets that are also constantly adjusting their position in space. It doesn't matter how hard you hit, if you never make contact. Conversely, it doesn't matter how often you hit, if the weapon doesn't hit hard enough to damage the target. Weapon design is all about balancing those and other factors.

As a note, I've handled weapons where the balance point is right at the hand or behind it, and that's *very* weird and uncomfortable in a hard-to-describe way.

As far as the balance affects the handling of the blade, it hasn't been directly stated, but a slower blade will probably be more difficult to parry *with*. That's been implicit in the conversation so far.


Pikemen, archers, halbediers, etc. would likely have swords or long knives as sidearms. One of the standard front-line stances for a pikeman during the English Civil War was to be kneeling with the pike braced in the off-hand in a way that's very difficult to describe without a picture, with the sword drawn.

Single-handed swords are almost always considered to be a sidearm, with something else as the primary.

Except of course those armed with a shield and sword. Although they tend to be a minority of the infantry -- at least in certain time periods(?).

That pikemen stance is for use against cavalry. Actually the stance involves having your hand on the sword, but it's not actually drawn (it may be partially drawn). I assume that if a horse impacts the pike, it may be broken or easily knocked out of the grip, so the pikeman must be ready to draw his sword. It's kind of awkward, and you really have to wear your sword correctly do it. It's also the reason I stopped wearing a really thick, padded leather doublet at reenactments. I was tired of the bruises on my arms!

fusilier
2009-12-22, 05:30 PM
I forgot to mention, that we are dealing with battlefield weaponry. In personal combat a sword and dagger were a pretty common combination during the later renaissance. Of course, if a military battle degenerated into close hand-to-hand, you could expect to see those personal tactics being used. As Galloglaich pointed out there were techniques for getting around long weapons like pikes, although in formation with halberdiers to back them up it would be more difficult.

Stephen_E
2009-12-22, 07:00 PM
Also what is the upper limit for pull multiplication using modern materials?

IIRC when Adain? has talked about it there isn't any significant actual pull multiplication, but it reduces the strength required to hold it after the draw.

Note: This is merely my memory of the lessons of the experts, so I could be wrong.

Stephen E

Fhaolan
2009-12-22, 07:23 PM
As far as the balance affects the handling of the blade, it hasn't been directly stated, but a slower blade will probably be more difficult to parry *with*. That's been implicit in the conversation so far.

Yep. Although a slower, heavier weapon will technically *block* better, if you can get the weapon into place in time. (Block being quite different from parry, for those following at home. :smallamused:)



Except of course those armed with a shield and sword. Although they tend to be a minority of the infantry -- at least in certain time periods(?).


In the time periods I normally work with, even soliders who are 'primary' sword and shield more often than not start out with spears/javelins/darts/small blunderbuss and switch to sword once they've thrown/fired their small stash of missiles. That's not to say there aren't primary single-sword or sword and shield users, but just that they're relatively rare compared to those who use sword as a sidearm.



That pikemen stance is for use against cavalry. Actually the stance involves having your hand on the sword, but it's not actually drawn (it may be partially drawn). I assume that if a horse impacts the pike, it may be broken or easily knocked out of the grip, so the pikeman must be ready to draw his sword. It's kind of awkward, and you really have to wear your sword correctly do it. It's also the reason I stopped wearing a really thick, padded leather doublet at reenactments. I was tired of the bruises on my arms!

Once I figured out the exact stance and how to strap the sword right, I can comfortably hold that position for an hour or more, and be able to draw the sword. Sheathing it while holding the position... I haven't mastered that yet. And the best I have for that period is a standard buff coat, I wouldn't be able to do it in the really heavy padded doublets others use. Of course, I'm usually being whacked in the head by pike of the idiot standing behind me but what the hey, that's the price of being part of a pike band. :smallbiggrin:

Karoht
2009-12-22, 07:31 PM
Of course, I'm usually being whacked in the head by pike of the idiot standing behind me but what the hey, that's the price of being part of a pike band. :smallbiggrin: This is why I'm a sword and shield guy. WAY less chance of being hit in the back of the head by such, even in formation.

That and I loves the shield bash way WAY too much for my own good, or my opponents. :smallbiggrin:

arguskos
2009-12-22, 07:32 PM
My apologies gentlefolks for disrupting thy discussions, but I have a material-related question, if I may.

I have heard of a material called laminated steel (also called electrical steel sometimes), and am curious as to this material's properties in relation to more common steel alloys used in weapons.

My question is this: is laminated steel different enough to cause differences in the abilities of a weapon (say, a sword and a shorter blade, such as a knife or dagger) made from it, as opposed to normal materials?

Again, sorry for the disruption, but I'm very curious about this topic (working on some material-based homebrew for D&D 3.5, and was wondering about laminated steel as a possibility, and I like to have facts on my side).

fusilier
2009-12-22, 07:41 PM
Once I figured out the exact stance and how to strap the sword right, I can comfortably hold that position for an hour or more, and be able to draw the sword. Sheathing it while holding the position... I haven't mastered that yet. And the best I have for that period is a standard buff coat, I wouldn't be able to do it in the really heavy padded doublets others use. Of course, I'm usually being whacked in the head by pike of the idiot standing behind me but what the hey, that's the price of being part of a pike band. :smallbiggrin:

lol! I can totally relate. I've heard that pike commanders wanted to make sure that at least the front ranks had helmets -- because the men in the rear ranks had a tendency to drop their pikes on their heads! I wish we could get more people to events, the most we've ever had was eight pikemen and a drummer. The drill goes so much smoother with a drum. :-)

Fhaolan
2009-12-22, 07:55 PM
My question is this: is laminated steel different enough to cause differences in the abilities of a weapon (say, a sword and a shorter blade, such as a knife or dagger) made from it, as opposed to normal materials?


I'm somewhat familiar with the modern material that is being called Laminated Steel, and I'd have to say I don't think it would make a very good weapon material.

First off, the term laminated steel can apply to pattern welded and folded steel, but that's not what is being refered to here. This stuff has been around since the 1990's and the current trade name for it is 'Quiet Steel'. It's normally used in making car body panels and a limited number of mechanical parts. Basically it's two thin sheets of steel sandwitched around a polymer core. The idea being that the core is viscoelastic and as such it dampens vibrations. It's easier, and cleaner, to deal with than the normal sound-deading foam used in cars. Otherwise it's mechanical properties are very similar to normal sheet steel. Except for one thing that prevents it from being used in more mechanical parts, and weapons.

The bit that makes it poor for weapon use is that while it dampens vibrations, enough of a shock will cause it to delaminate. Yeah, that's a problem. :smallsmile:

arguskos
2009-12-22, 10:23 PM
Ah, I see. Thanks, Fhaolan, that's very helpful. :smallsmile:

Galloglaich
2009-12-23, 08:07 AM
Very generally speaking the steel manufactured today is good for making I-beams, rebar, car doors and washing machines, but not necessarily ideal for making swords or body armor.

I happen to know that the Department of Defense analyzed some Renaissance made tempered steel breastplates during the 1990s, with an interest in making similar steel for armored vehicles. Their conclusion was that the manufacturing process was too expensive.

Steel, how it is smelted, forged, and heat-treated, is a very, very subtle thing that frankly is not as well understood today as you might think. People have a lot of confusion over the idea of modern super-metals like Titanium, which is actually physically something like extra hard aluminum - it would make a rather fragile sword. It is stronger than steel by weight, because steel is relatively heavy, but not by volume. A tempered steel sword could probably hack right through a titanium one.

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-23, 08:19 AM
Sidearm:
I was surprised to discover that as late as the Thirty Years War some infantry were still carrying swords as their primary weapon, combined with good-sized round steel shields. They seem to have been deployed in front of pike formations. So while the majority of infantry would have had swords as a sidearm, there were still some that carried them as a primary weapon.

Those would be skirmishers. The precedent for this in the pike warfare world would be Spanish rodeleros and rotella men who proved to be the key to finally defeating the Swiss in the 16th Century AD.

Skirmishers have been around since Classical times, and tend to come in two types; light missile armed troops and close-combat skirmishers. The former included the famous Greek Peltasts and the Roman Velites

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peltast
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velites
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodelero

The early Swiss had a lot of skirmishers too but they were gradually phased out in favor of shot and pike, which proved to be a mistake making them vulnerable to the Spanish Rodeleros.

I would say broadly speaking, swords, and this also includes longswords, were almost always sidearms. The primary weapon of the Roman legionairre was the pilum (javelin), the primary weapon of the knight was the lance. But the thing to remember, unlike today where ammunition is small and plentiful, the sidearm was more critical in ancient times. A knight typically carried (or his squire or attendants carreid) 3 lances into battle. These broke very quickly, after which his sword was his primary weapon. Legionnares threw 3 pilum in their charge, and then relied upon the sword to finish their work. So the sidearm was still a very important weapon.

Many of the Swiss used Bastard swords as sidearms which apparently gave them a major edge over other troops who typically had short swords.

The Lansknechts preferred the katzbalger, a weapon specifically designed for the confusing aftermath of the push of pike, an efficient chopper with a heavy blade balanced by a heavy pommel, and a broad S-shaped guard to protect your hand so you could actually block with it. These are fun weapons, I have a replica of one.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/Katzbalger.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katzbalger

Other troops used the buckler and the arming sword, your typical 'Swash and Buckle' men or 'Swashbucklers'.

Anyway, I could go on and on but have to go to work. :)

G.

fusilier
2009-12-23, 12:35 PM
I guess I have a mental block when it comes to accepting throw-away weapons like pila as a primary weapon. Of course, in a literal sense it is the first weapon to be used (i.e. "primary"), but once it's thrown it's not going to be used in that battle again and the legionnaires carried only a couple of them. I'm trying to recall my undergrad Roman history class, but I believe pila were used as a preparatory weapon before closing in with the sword and shield. The Romans are usually considered to be one of the world's few (only?) sword armies. While the point is probably overstated, and the full breadth of their tactics often overlooked, in my mind the sword was the Romans' primary weapon (if by primary, we mean "main" weapon).

The sword-and-buckler men from the Thirty Years War (not sure if "buckler" is the correct term - it's a good sized shield), are shown in the new Osprey book. Yes they often carried pistols, but again, early single-shot pistols in melee would have a similar preparatory function. (Although I seem to recall there being pistol-armed cavalry that used a caracole tactic, they performed a different battlefield function).

ondonaflash
2009-12-23, 12:44 PM
I am thinking of a piece of armour that was probably popular around renaissance era. As far as I know it was made of leather, it was designed to strap around the waist and rest on the hips, and had a large piece that came up to protect the stomach. What was this piece of armour called? Does anyone know?

Matthew
2009-12-23, 01:07 PM
I guess I have a mental block when it comes to accepting throw-away weapons like pila as a primary weapon. Of course, in a literal sense it is the first weapon to be used (i.e. "primary"), but once it's thrown it's not going to be used in that battle again and the legionnaires carried only a couple of them. I'm trying to recall my undergrad Roman history class, but I believe pila were used as a preparatory weapon before closing in with the sword and shield. The Romans are usually considered to be one of the world's few (only?) sword armies. While the point is probably overstated, and the full breadth of their tactics often overlooked, in my mind the sword was the Romans' primary weapon (if by primary, we mean "main" weapon).

The sword-and-buckler men from the Thirty Years War (not sure if "buckler" is the correct term - it's a good sized shield), are shown in the new Osprey book. Yes they often carried pistols, but again, early single-shot pistols in melee would have a similar preparatory function. (Although I seem to recall there being pistol-armed cavalry that used a caracole tactic, they performed a different battlefield function).

With the corollary that we do not really know how the Romans fought, I think I can explain why the pila is generally viewed as the primary weapon of the Roman soldier...

The first thing to bear in mind is that the object on the battlefield is not to kill the enemy in a stand up fight, but convince him to run away. With that in mind, imagine you have 12,000 Roman soldiers on the field. They march up to around 90 feet of the enemy line and then groups of them begin rushing forward in unison and hurling their pila into the enemy line. They can keep doing this until they have hurled 24,000 pila. What the commander is watching for are signs that the enemy formation is breaking up. At that point he orders the charge and the whole Roman line surges onto the enemy, who will hopefully not fight at all, but turn and run away.

This is exactly the same idea that early medieval armies use, except instead of javelin armed footmen, they use combinations of javelin armed horsemen and bow armed foot. Their object is to break up the enemy line sufficiently that it will break when charged by cavalry. The horsemen themselves have either a javelin or lance as their primary weapon, but when the real killing begins it will be swords, just like the Romans before them.

Fhaolan
2009-12-23, 01:11 PM
I am thinking of a piece of armour that was probably popular around renaissance era. As far as I know it was made of leather, it was designed to strap around the waist and rest on the hips, and had a large piece that came up to protect the stomach. What was this piece of armour called? Does anyone know?

If it was made of metal, it would be called a Plackart. I'm not familiar with one made just of leather.

fusilier
2009-12-23, 01:56 PM
With the corollary that we do not really know how the Romans fought, I think I can explain why the pila is generally viewed as the primary weapon of the Roman soldier...

The first thing to bear in mind is that the object on the battlefield is not to kill the enemy in a stand up fight, but convince him to run away. With that in mind, imagine you have 12,000 Roman soldiers on the field. They march up to around 90 feet of the enemy line and then groups of them begin rushing forward in unison and hurling their pila into the enemy line. They can keep doing this until they have hurled 24,000 pila. What the commander is watching for are signs that the enemy formation is breaking up. At that point he orders the charge and the whole Roman line surges onto the enemy, who will hopefully not fight at all, but turn and run away.

This is exactly the same idea that early medieval armies use, except instead of javelin armed footmen, they use combinations of javelin armed horsemen and bow armed foot. Their object is to break up the enemy line sufficiently that it will break when charged by cavalry. The horsemen themselves have either a javelin or lance as their primary weapon, but when the real killing begins it will be swords, just like the Romans before them.

Yes, that's really the point of any charge, and it is often misunderstood.

I think one of the problems is trying to extract the individual soldier out of the system they are a part of. Even troops who were armed with little more than a sword in later conflicts (certain kinds of Napoleonic cavalry for instance), were typically used in conjunction with other forces armed in different fashion. But what does that mean for the individual? If a charge with swords was intended to frighten the enemy into running away -- isn't the sword still the primary weapon from a tactical viewpoint? Even if it is "hoped" it won't have to be used? A lot of emphasis is put on the "bayonet" during the post-Napoleonic period precisely for charges, where, as stated before, the point isn't necessarily to fight your enemy, it's to get him to run away. Returning to the individual's perspective, if battles are expected to become sword fights after the soldiers' very limited number of javelins are discharged, then what's the individual going to consider his most important weapon? I'm not saying there is an obvious or easy answer to this, but just that it doesn't seem so simple to me.

Let me give you another example, but I'll preface it by saying it is rather hyperbolic:

Claiming that the primary weapon of the Roman soldier was the pilum, is almost like claiming that the primary weapon of a WW1 Infantryman was a massive artillery barrage! (I did warn you). If all went as planned they should be able to occupy the enemy positions without ever firing their rifles!

So, yeah, the soldiers and how they function are part of bigger system that is often overlooked. I'm not totally convinced that you can determine what their primary weapons are based upon an overview of tactical doctrine. In some cases I think it's pretty clear: a pikeman's pike is his primary weapon, a lancer's lance is his primary weapon. But Roman soldiers who are armed with both a ranged weapon, and a close combat weapon, and can reasonably be expected to use both during the course of single battle . . .?? Interpreting how they are used and which is the "primary" weapon I suppose could be contentious. My recollection of Roman military prowess, was that it was based around the sword (not limited to it). The sword is a very effective weapon, but it requires a much larger amount of training (and therefore resources) to be used effectively, especially in formation. Meaning troops armed with spears and pikes will be more typical.

Matthew
2009-12-23, 01:56 PM
That is essentially what I would call a spatha.


http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/59/Spatha_end_of_second_century_1.jpg/150px-Spatha_end_of_second_century_1.jpg


The distinction of a weapon of this type is: short single-handed grip, very little if any cross-guard, strait more or less parallel blade, double-edged, an organic or non-ferrous pommel which doesn't act as a counterweight.

Swords like this were used widely in Europe from the 1st Century BC through roughly the 7th Century, when they began to be replaced by the 'viking' type swords with a deeply fullered cutting blade, an iron pommel acting as a counterweight and a small cross for hand protection. These in turn were gradually replaced in the 10th -11th Century by proper arming swords which had more of a cross and were often pointier.

The Romans adapted the Spatha type swords in the 1st Century AD and
Swords similar to the Spatha were used in the Middle East, Persia, India (see the Khanda, particularly the earlier types), North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and China (see Jian, though Jian could be single handed, hand and a half, or two-handed) from the early Iron Age well into modern times.

It's worth noting on a practical level, the lack of hand protection on a sword like this very generally means they were typically used in conjunction with a shield or a buckler.

Exactly so, though it may be worth mentioning that the most recent archaeological evidence points to the gladius hispaniensis of the second century BC being similar in length to the spatha, possibly even being the forerunner of both the spatha and the more familiar short bladed gladius types.



I think they are old terms, though they didn't always mean the same thing in each era. Musashi refers to the 'long sword' and the 'short sword' referring to the Katana or Tachi and the Wakisashe or something similar.

Could well be; I was thinking more pre Edo period, but it may be related to the standardisation of kanji and the increase in frequency of short swords in the Sengokujidai period. Worth investigating, it was just a passing thought. :smallbiggrin:



With terminology, it is tricky. Modern industrial concepts of categorization don't fit neatly with hand-made, pre-industrial artefacts. But if you are talking about a time period more than a generation or two you need to make some categories to understand weapons in different eras. That is why I believe it makes more sense from a modern standpoint to categorize weapons by function and design, whether you use ancient or modern terms is somewhat irrelevant. As pointed out upthread, the most typical designation for any kind of sword in historical documents was just 'sword', or spatha, mec, spada, schwert, and etc., which all mean the same thing.

That said they did distinguish between long and short swords in late Medieval and Renaissance era documents. The from circa 1400 on out the term 'long sword' ('langen schwert' etc.) referred to what most RPG's would call a Bastard sword, a hand-and-a-half strait sword around 4 feet long. Other specific terms were used: montante, spadona, epee a guerre etc. but that term is very common in the fencing Manuals and records of the time.

Also, it has gone back and forth but I think the term Zweihander is back in current use for the really big 16th century two-handed swords.

Short swords did also exist but often tended to have their own name, like the gladius, or the very similar Russian / Central Asian Kindjal. Some others include the akinakes, the Swiss baselard, the German Katzbalger, and the Cinquedea, just to name a few.

Quite so, though I believe that gladius as a designation for a short bladed sword is post medieval. I am not 100% sure, but I think gladius remains in use in Medieval Latin as a general purpose word for "sword". Of course "long sword" turns up as a cognomen long before the appearance of the weapon generally so classified now. I would love to research (or hear about research) into specific instances and their origins.



Re: longbows. You basically in period had two different broad categories of bows, a 'regular' bow similar to the type you might use for archery practice today (non compound) which would be called a bow but could reasonably be called a 'short bow' for modern purposes. These were for hunting essentially. Then you had military bows. Your long bow and war bow are military bows. Draw weight and length go up substantially, the former harder than most untrained people can handle (upwards of 120 - 150 lbs). As someone mentioned upthread you had a different shape. I also understand a lot of times the part of the bow stave which compresses was cut out and replaced with a different type of wood. These type of bows seem to have been known in Scandinavia as far back as the Bronze Age, show in Wales in early Medieval times and were adapted by the British in the Middle Ages shortly after the conquest of Wales.

On the steppe you have recurves of different strength, all dual-purpose weapons intended both for hunting and for warfare. The 'Composite bow' which incorporates different materials such as bone, sinew and horn is the most dangerous. The Scythians, Parthians, the Magyars, the Huns, the Mongols, and the Turks all gained a good part of their reputation from these lethal and efficient weapons, very powerful and also small enough to shoot while riding a horse.

Interestingly the European answer to these weapons was also made of composite materials, at least initially. The increasingly powerful Medieval Arbalest (a very heavy crossbow) which began to alarm people around the 11th century (though referred to in legal documents centuries before that) was made of composite materials. Eventually arbalests got steel prods which were less susceptible to weather.

I can never quite decide whether the crossbow ever really alarmed people. Anna Komnena certainly seems to have been, and the Royal Armouries seem to have been particularly interested in stockpiling and controlling the means of construction, but ever since it was shown that the Papal ban on crossbows extended to all forms of archery I have vacillated in my perception of them. Given that most of medieval warfare was raid and siege I can definitely see their advantage over a bow.



The Indians were also formidable archers and they even made steel bows, somewhat similar to modern types (except without the pullies) Here is an image of one:


http://www.ancient-east.com/collection/bow-cls-web.jpg



Very interesting!



Both terms are pretty generic and both weapons were made in quite a range of quality and technical specification over the course of many Centuries. The Jian even existed in Bronze form. Some Jian were very sophisticated, featuring advanced metallurgy and sophisticated properties of balance, most of these were hand and a half weapons. Jian were associated with the Aristocracy and the high bureaucracy and became a civilian weapon in a niche somewhat similar to a Rapier during the late Renaissance (Ming Dynasty) They were restricted from use by common people. The Dao (saber) in various forms was the preferred weapon for issue to the military.

I was in Taiwan a few months ago and was amazed by the similarity between the bronze age/early iron age "short swords" on display in the National Museum and those of a similar period in Europe.



Neither, just different. Blade cross-sections, fullers etc. had different purposes for different types of swords.

Indeed; this was surprising to me, but there does not seem to have been much practical difference between those blade forms. There was a good demonstration that Mike Loades did on Weapons that Made Britain a few years ago.



Yes, that's really the point of any charge, and it is often misunderstood.

I think one of the problems is trying to extract the individual soldier out of the system they are a part of. Even troops who were armed with little more than a sword in later conflicts (certain kinds of Napoleonic cavalry for instance), were typically used in conjunction with other forces armed in different fashion. But what does that mean for the individual? If a charge with swords was intended to frighten the enemy into running away -- isn't the sword still the primary weapon from a tactical viewpoint? Even if it is "hoped" it won't have to be used? A lot of emphasis is put on the "bayonet" during the post-Napoleonic period precisely for charges, where, as stated before, the point isn't necessarily to fight your enemy, it's to get him to run away. Returning to the individual's perspective, if battles are expected to become sword fights after the soldiers' very limited number of javelins are discharged, then what's the individual going to consider his most important weapon? I'm not saying there is an obvious or easy answer to this, but just that it doesn't seem so simple to me.

Let me give you another example, but I'll preface it by saying it is rather hyperbolic:

Claiming that the primary weapon of the Roman soldier was the pilum, is almost like claiming that the primary weapon of a WW1 Infantryman was a massive artillery barrage! (I did warn you). If all went as planned they should be able to occupy the enemy positions without ever firing their rifles!

So, yeah, the soldiers and how they function are part of bigger system that is often overlooked. I'm not totally convinced that you can determine what their primary weapons are based upon an overview of tactical doctrine. In some cases I think it's pretty clear: a pikeman's pike is his primary weapon, a lancer's lance is his primary weapon. But Roman soldiers who are armed with both a ranged weapon, and a close combat weapon, and can reasonably be expected to use both during the course of single battle . . .?? Interpreting how they are used and which is the "primary" weapon I suppose could be contentious. My recollection of Roman military prowess, was that it was based around the sword (not limited to it). The sword is a very effective weapon, but it requires a much larger amount of training (and therefore resources) to be used effectively, especially in formation. Meaning troops armed with spears and pikes will be more typical.

I think when it comes down to it, you have to draw a distinction between "primary" (first) and "main" (most used). Much like the (very) Ancient Greeks before them, the first weapon to be used is the javelin, and the second weapon the sword. Preferably you will never have to use your sword, but maybe you will end up doing the majority of your fighting with it. I reckon the same logic would hold true with a Pike Phalanx or a squadron of Heavy Horse.

fusilier
2009-12-23, 02:11 PM
I think when it comes down to it, you have to draw a distinction between "primary" (first) and "main" (most used). Much like the (very) Ancient Greeks before them, the first weapon to be used is the javelin, and the second weapon the sword. Preferably you will never have to use your sword, but maybe you will end up doing the majority of your fighting with it. I reckon the same logic would hold true with a Pike Phalanx or a squadron of Heavy Horse.

You're probably right about distinguishing between primary and main. From a tactical perspective: a pikeman's sword is clearly "Plan B." In the case of Roman Legionnaire, I would say that both the pila and the sword were part of "Plan A." If that makes any sense?

Matthew
2009-12-23, 04:17 PM
You're probably right about distinguishing between primary and main. From a tactical perspective: a pikeman's sword is clearly "Plan B." In the case of Roman Legionnaire, I would say that both the pila and the sword were part of "Plan A." If that makes any sense?

Certainly; I think a distinction like that is worth making. Possibly another way of looking at is to say that the gladius was the Roman footman's primary melee weapon.

Galloglaich
2009-12-23, 05:01 PM
Agree with that except that I think the Roman Legions charged as small company sized units usually, maniples or centuries depending on the specific era, charge in throw pila and then stab stab stab with the Gladius... if that didn't break the enemy line they march backward into their own formation... then another maniple charges. Of course sometimes several would charge at the same time.

This is kind of hard to visualize because for whatever reason it is never portrayed in films.

Most Iron Age and early Medieval armies basically threw javelins and spears at each other and probed one another with skirmishers and cavalry until one side crumbled under the onslaught, then the swords came out and the slaughter / rout began.

The idea of a lance or a javelin being a primary weapon and a sword being a sidearm IS a little counter-intuitive because we live in a time where missile weapons (automatic rifles) are so dominant and effective that sidearms (pistols, bayonetts, shovels etc.) are sort of a dim afterthought. There is a big difference from an Ak-47 that can spray 30 rounds of high velocity ammo instantly at targets up to 300-400 meters, vs. 3 javelins, or 3 lances. So sidearms were MUCH more important in pre-industrial times.

Swords were for close combat*, then as now, the main part of the fight in terms of time took place at longer range. A halberd or a spear is more effective on the battlefield, until the line breaks up... then it's very valuable to have a sword. However the part of the fight that was close in was often the decisive part of the fight, especially in European warfare which placed such a heavy emphasis on Shock tactics. So I think the sword was very important.


I want to also clarify that for skirmishers like the Rodoleros or the sword and buckler men in an English Civil War context, swords were probably their primary weapon. They were something of the exception to the rule.


*The other main exception to that would be the really large 'true two-hand' specialized greatswords like Zweihanders, Montantes, "Claymores" etc. which were primary battlefield weapons.

G.

Karoht
2009-12-23, 05:13 PM
Thats true but only if you don't know how to use the weapon mate ;) In the Renaissance fencing manuals you are taught how to fight at all ranges with swords, staves, polearms etc. Same in most Eastern martial arts.

And in almost any martial arts system, they teach the notion of pining large weapons such as two handed swords and polearms to the target body, rendering the weapon useless, before the target gets a swing off. It is a tactic I make use of all the time. Thanks for assuming I don't know how these weapons are used and how to counter them. Thanks also for assuming that I was speaking my opinion and not the wisdom of another, namely that of many martial arts instructors (martial arts since I was 4, live steel full contact medieval combat for the last 8 years), and Hank Reinhardt, one of the foremost experts on medieval combat, weapons, and equipment.

Yes, there are techniques for fighting with a weapon at all ranges, but when dealing with (for example) a pole arm it is undeniable that at short range your options become signifigantly limited, as compaired to longer range. Some fighters prefer the side arm (designed for that range BTW) when such a situation occurs, VS working with a limited tool.

Galloglaich
2009-12-23, 05:20 PM
Yes, there are techniques for fighting with a weapon at all ranges, but when dealing with (for example) a pole arm it is undeniable that at short range your options become signifigantly limited, as compaired to longer range. Some fighters prefer the side arm (designed for that range BTW) when such a situation occurs, VS working with a limited tool.

Sorry, I didn't mean to be insulting, just not always enough time to get the right nuance into a forum post. But generally speaking 'live steel' ren faire combat is a lot different from MA systems from the Fechtbuchs or other Eastern Martial Arts as I'm sure you know, due to the rules and safety concerns etc.

I sort of agree with your basic premise, it's definitely better to get "insde" a weapon like a polearm if you have a shorter weapon. I just think you have to keep in mind it's not always that simple.

At closer range with a longsword you use half-sword techniques, ringen am-schwert techniques (something like judo, using your sword to help you gain leverage on your opponent.) and other more complex

Some examples from the Renaissance Lichtenauer tradition, you are probably familiar with this Karoht but I'm posting for others in the thread:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6Pnw-9A8qQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIFIn6tAI3A

With polearms there are similar techniques, you go from a spear -like grip / stance (gripping at the end) to a half-staff (gripping in the middle) stance which can be quite effective at short range, again you can use the staff to trip bind or disarm, you attack with both ends, etc.

But the caveat is, and this is what I really meant, a common soldier might not know any of those techniques. A trained veteran probably would.

G.

Fhaolan
2009-12-23, 05:21 PM
Some fighters prefer the side arm (designed for that range BTW) when such a situation occurs, VS working with a limited tool.

Depending on the speed of the close and the specific weapons involved, switching to a side-arm may not be feasable compared to working with the more limited tool.

I don't really have a point beyond that, I just thought I'd mention. :smallsmile:

fusilier
2009-12-23, 07:17 PM
So, I guess, technically most swords are "side-arms" because they are worn on the "side" of the body? Like modern pistols. Massive swords like the zweihanders were just carried rested on the shoulder -- there wasn't any place to put them, while you wielded some other weapon. However, the connotation of "side-arm" is that it's a kind of secondary, or back-up, weapon.

Speaking of pole-arms versus swords, I know that there are a lot of maneuvers in the ACW bayonet drill, that involve "shortening the stock," and striking with the butt. At least one of those is designed to push the enemy away when you pinned to close. I suspect that earlier spear drills had similar techniques.

There's something I like to remind people of often, and that's it takes a lot more training to become competent with a sword than with other weapons like crossbows and spears. To master those weapons might be another story.

Galloglaich
2009-12-23, 08:20 PM
So, I guess, technically most swords are "side-arms" because they are worn on the "side" of the body? Like modern pistols. Massive swords like the zweihanders were just carried rested on the shoulder -- there wasn't any place to put them, while you wielded some other weapon. However, the connotation of "side-arm" is that it's a kind of secondary, or back-up, weapon.

That is an interesting point that I hadn't thought of. But I would guess that you are right. You know it's also the reason why riders mount of a horse from the left side, because one carried a sword on the left hip.



Speaking of pole-arms versus swords, I know that there are a lot of maneuvers in the ACW bayonet drill, that involve "shortening the stock," and striking with the butt. At least one of those is designed to push the enemy away when you pinned to close. I suspect that earlier spear drills had similar techniques.

Yes, well, certainly the surviving martial arts systems had such techniques. That is what I meant by 'half-staff', that is where you grab the weapon in the middle so you can attack from both ends. In some fencing manuals they show wielding a polearm like a bill, a partisan or a halberd, with the butt facing the enemy. Like in the lower left in this image,

http://www.chicagoswordplayguild.com/c/media/historic/marozzopolearms.jpg
also note the half-staff stance in the upper and lower right.


These manuals are mainly for judicial duels though, there is some question as to how much of these techniques would be known by ordinary soldiers.



There's something I like to remind people of often, and that's it takes a lot more training to become competent with a sword than with other weapons like crossbows and spears. To master those weapons might be another story.

Very good point, and that does dovetail with what I was trying to suggest; the techniques for fighting at close range with staff or partisan etc. did exist, but aren't necessary for training basic competency with a staff weapon. I guess whether or not an individual soldier or warrior would know such techniques boils down to how much they trained. That is probably why urban militias tended to be so good, they could afford to train more.

Clearly some professional soldiers were trained in such advanced techniques, as you can see here in this depiction of Emperor Maximillian on the cover of Sydney Anglos superb Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe (http://www.amazon.com/Martial-Arts-Renaissance-Europe/dp/0300083521/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1261618111&sr=8-1-spell):

http://www.mercierarmory.com/library/MArenaissance.JPG

G.

fusilier
2009-12-24, 02:05 PM
I was in a hurry when writing the last entry. I was primarily speculating that later musket & bayonet techniques probably had some elements in common with earlier pole-arm forms. I should also clarify that "shortening the stock" is a technique where the musket is held near the muzzle so that close-range thrusts with the bayonet can still be made (I'm guessing that "half-staff" was similar). Whereas there are other techniques for striking with the butt. I would wholly expect earlier pole-arm drills to be even more sophisticated.

For a good chunk of history professional armies didn't exist. The monarch might have some guard units but that was usually about it. If war needed to be waged the armies had to be raised, and when the war ended those armies would be disbanded. So I would suspect that well trained soldiers (commoners) would be a rarity. Except maybe towards the Renaissance when you start to see more mercenaries like the Condotierri and Landsknechts. Then, I would imagine that you would see more "veterans" who know more of the nuances to pole-arm fighting, had more practice with swords, etc. But the majority of soldiers would probably still be some adventurers with no prior training that decided to join a mercenary company, if not levies or civic militias. While I'm sure the city militias were better trained than rural levies, I would be surprised if they had a significant amount of advance training in the more esoteric martial arts.

I think that when it really comes down to it, it's knowing the proper drills to fight in formation and being able to perform the "evolutions" as a unit that's going to make the difference in pitched battles. If the two sides are closely matched on that level, then knowing the finer details of hand-to-hand might give one side an edge. Of course, factors like morale/motivation can make a huge difference in such battles, and are often overlooked in our analyses because they are difficult to quantify.

Kurien
2009-12-24, 09:23 PM
Why exactly does this thread belong in Roleplaying Games, anyway?

I've a few questions relating to horses:

Just how is fighting on horseback different from on foot? It seems the main advantages of riding horses are mobility, speed, weight, and greater elevation of the rider.

What conditions allowed cavalry to become effective? It seems to me that the rise of firearms made them useless in combat, as both the horse and rider could be shot from a distance.

What are some periods and cultures that cavalry was a dominant force on the battlefield?

What kind of anti-cavalry techniques were there before firearms and how did they affect the armour and strategies of cavalry? Did they use... polearms? Huge swords? Longbows? Slings? Javelins?

When did horses began to be bred large enough to carry a rider, instead of pulling, say, a chariot?

What weapons and strategies did cavalry use in warfare? Were... lances used? Archery?

Would a naginata work on horseback? This one in particular has caught my eye, but is purely a fantasy and not a goal to actually purchase it.
http://www.wtknives.com/knifepages/naginata/images/nag01_31.jpg
How would a single rider, or small band of riders, fare (maybe attacked by bandits)?

Is a dark coloured steel indicative of high carbon content? What is a rough ideal percentage of carbon for edged weapons? What are some names of weapons grade steel?

Heh. Warfare is one of the most interesting parts of history.
And thanks alot everyone for answering questions.

Fhaolan
2009-12-24, 10:22 PM
Why exactly does this thread belong in Roleplaying Games, anyway?

It doesn't really fit in any other of the categories either. :smallsmile:


Just how is fighting on horseback different from on foot? It seems the main advantages of riding horses are mobility, speed, weight, and greater elevation of the rider.

It's quite different. Remember that you are astride of very large living creature that is considerably stronger than you are. You can guide it, if it's trained properly, but it's not like steering a motorcycle. It can change direction on it's own whim, it can strike out at people on it's own, or throw you off. You are not 100% in control.

The primary thing about cavalry was, and still is, mobility. The biggest army in the world doesn't do you any good a day late and fifty miles away.


What conditions allowed cavalry to become effective? It seems to me that the rise of firearms made them useless in combat, as both the horse and rider could be shot from a distance.

Given that horse cavalry was used as recently as WWI, the gun didn't make that big of a difference. It was reliable tanks, trucks, and jeeps that started to make the horse obsolete because it replaced horse cavalry with motorized cavalry. Cavalry's still around. It's just not with horses. :smallsmile:

One of the big things with horses in later periods was pulling the cannons. It was these horses that were in peacetime sold to farmers as they were already trained for hauling, and eventually became the modern draft breeds.

As a note, horse breeds have changed *a lot* over the last 100-200 years. The huge draft breeds didn't exist in their current form way back when, and a lot of the racehorses are also highly... I hate to say the word refined as I personally think the highly focused breeding that's been going on since the 1900's is actually damaging the bloodlines of the horses in the same way that a lot of dog breeds have been.


What are some periods and cultures that cavalry was a dominant force on the battlefield?

If they had horses, they did cavalry. Cavalry only becomes dominant because of mobility, so if you fight a lot of wars where the enemy always comes to you in your fortress.... it's not so dominant. :smallsmile:


What kind of anti-cavalry techniques were there before firearms and how did they affect the armour and strategies of cavalry? Did they use... polearms? Huge swords? Longbows? Slings? Javelins?

The primary anti-cavalry weapon was... terrain, to be honest. Cavalry is mobile, but if the terrain slows it down to the same pace as infantry, it's not much use. Pikes were always big anti-cavalry. Horses as a rule won't charge a bunch of spikes unless they're *really* motivated.


When did horses began to be bred large enough to carry a rider, instead of pulling, say, a chariot?

Horse domestication started about 4,000-3,500 BC. Evidence of them being ridden starts pretty much right then. Chariot and cart pulling horses were actually a bit later.

There was an odd period more recently when a lot of riding horse breeds died out... well, not exactly died out, but had carriage-pulling traits (trotting) introduced into a lot of different breeds so that pure riding horses became very, very rare. This was in and around the 18th century.


What weapons and strategies did cavalry use in warfare? Were... lances used? Archery?

Yep. War lances were basically spears, archery from horseback was always very popular, as is sabers, straight swords, axes, flails, etc.


Would a naginata work on horseback?

Yep.


How would a single rider, or small band of riders, fare (maybe attacked by bandits)?

Depends on terrain. The normal tactic is to ride away, and then if you're being particular bloody-minded, you circle around and pick them off as you can.


Is a dark coloured steel indicative of high carbon content? What is a rough ideal percentage of carbon for edged weapons? What are some names of weapons grade steel?

Dark coloured steel is usually indicative of dirty oil quenching. It's just a style, really, as the carbon deposit with that is very thin on the surface and doesn't change much of the properties of the steel deeper in. It's difficult to say what the ideal percentage of carbon is for edged weapons, as it's highly variable due to the exact form of the weapon, and because usually the idea is to have variable amounts of carbon in different parts of the blade.


Heh. Warfare is one of the most interesting parts of history.
And thanks alot everyone for answering questions.

No problem. :smallsmile:

Galloglaich
2009-12-25, 11:03 PM
Great answers Fhaolan! I learned a few things myself...

G.

Crow
2009-12-25, 11:39 PM
Kurian, some good steels that modern smiths use for bladesmithing are pretty much anything in the 1050-1080 series. L6 tool steel has been used with great success as well. Do some research on these steels if you want to learn more. The carbon content in any of these is very very low (like less than 1%).

lightningcat
2009-12-25, 11:50 PM
What conditions allowed cavalry to become effective? It seems to me that the rise of firearms made them useless in combat, as both the horse and rider could be shot from a distance.
The greatest invention that made the calvary effective was the stirrup. Before its introduction, the best method of using horses in battle was the chariot, or just riding the horse to the battle and getting off to fight. Without the stirrup, attacking with a melee weapon from horseback will most likely unhorse you.
Also the calvary was used into WWI. Where it met the machine gun, and lost horribly. *Shutter* But throughout history horses were quite valuable, so if possible it was preferable to capture the horse, but killing it was a very effective tactic, especially when dealing with heavily armored knights.


What kind of anti-cavalry techniques were there before firearms and how did they affect the armour and strategies of cavalry? Did they use... polearms? Huge swords? Longbows? Slings? Javelins?
The claymore was created as an anti-horse weapon, a great hit from one could decapitate a horse and still hit the rider, but more often it was used to cleave the horse's legs. Strangely, quarterstaves were also occasionally used to break a horse's legs or just to trip them.
The pikewall is a great static/slow moving method of dealing with shock calvary (such as knights), but nearly useless against skirmish calvary (such as horse archers) unless its more of a phalanx.
Ranged weapons work equally well against both humans and horses, in fact slings are especially effective if used right. They can be used to start a horse and cause it to rear or run off. Otherwise, as Fhaolan said: use terrain, reduce their mobility, and otherwise force them to fight on your terms.



What weapons and strategies did cavalry use in warfare? Were... lances used? Archery?
The two basic types where the heavily armored shock calvary and the lightly armored skirmish calvary.
The shock calvary is your basic knight concept. You ride in with your lance and hit the enemy at full speed. Depending on location, training, and time period, they either then traded the lance for a sword or other melee weapon or broke off and set up to do it again (this was sometimes considered dishonorable).
Skirmish calvary on the other hand used hit and run tactics, and often ranged weapons. They used their maneuverability to get into position, do a little bit of fighting and get out before reinforcements could arrive.
And just in case anyone cares, the old west US calvary (such as Custer's 7th Calvary) were not actually calvary, they were dragoons. Meaning they rode to the battlefield and got off to fight.


Heh. Warfare is one of the most interesting parts of history.
I totally agree with that.:smallbiggrin:

Fhaolan
2009-12-26, 01:18 AM
The greatest invention that made the calvary effective was the stirrup. Before its introduction, the best method of using horses in battle was the chariot, or just riding the horse to the battle and getting off to fight. Without the stirrup, attacking with a melee weapon from horseback will most likely unhorse you.

Actually, current research is starting to wear away at that one. The stirrup was an improvement, and enough of an improvement to be adopted pretty universally. However, the problem was that people who originally wrote those statements about how super-good stirrups were just took the stirrups off their saddles to test it. What they didn't think through was that those saddles were *designed* to use stirrups, so just taking them off was like taking the power steering mechanism off your car and then stating 'Well, cars couldn't steer before power steering was invented'. :smallsmile:

What they're finding now is that pre-stirrup saddles were considerably different in design. The tended to have posts and other fiddly bits that held you into the saddle, for example the Roman and Celtic saddles. Stirrups are still *better* than those setups, and usually far more comfortable, but it's not impossible to use spears, clubs, and whatever from them.

Dervag
2009-12-26, 02:06 AM
Why exactly does this thread belong in Roleplaying Games, anyway?
It doesn't really fit in any other of the categories either. :smallsmile:Plus a lot of the questions are inspired by things that crop up in role-playing games, I gather.


Just how is fighting on horseback different from on foot? It seems the main advantages of riding horses are mobility, speed, weight, and greater elevation of the rider.As Fhaolan says, there aren't just advantages; there are disadvantages. Other disadvantages:
-You are on an inherently less stable platform, and one where falling off is likely to stun or injure you. If anything happens to the horse, you may wind up with crippling leg injuries if it falls on you. Stirrups, good saddles, and hellaciously well-conditioned leg muscles all help with that, but it's still a disadvantage.
-Elevation does not always work in your favor: defending your legs and the body of the horse can be difficult, because you have to reach way down to block strikes aimed at those areas and they're conveniently at eye to waist level for your enemy. Historically, cavalry who get stopped among a body of aggressive infantry in close combat tend to be cut down in short order, because they can't easily stop the infantry from circling around individual horsemen and disabling the horses.
-Raising horses takes a tremendous investment of labor, and they have to grow from infancy; you cannot just turn out more in the factory when they are killed. Cavalry tend to be very nervous in environments where their horses are likely to be killed or crippled, because they are difficult to replace.


What conditions allowed cavalry to become effective? It seems to me that the rise of firearms made them useless in combat, as both the horse and rider could be shot from a distance.This requires that the gun be a stable, quick-firing weapon accurate to long range, which was not possible until the 19th century. Until that time, guns were only effective against cavalry when braced by large blocks of spearmen (or armed with bayonets that made the guns double as spears). Otherwise, the musketeers would get one volley that might stop the cavalry... before the cavalry ran all over them with swords, lances, and pistols. The musketeers knew this, and generally ran away if charged by cavalry without a good melee defense for backup.

Through the 19th century, cavalry became increasingly ineffective in close combat. However, cavalry still had a huge advantage of tactical and strategic speed; they could literally run circles around a marching army on foot accompanied by supply wagons. Therefore, they remained extremely useful as scouts, rapid reaction forces, and raiders against enemy supply lines and troops who were marching down roads in long straight lines and thus not prepared to defend against a sudden cavalry attack.

Also, remember that cavalry armed with long-range rifles of their own can dismount, keep the horses behind cover, and fight as infantry. And since they can move faster than marching infantry, they can reach defensive positions before the infantry get there and ambush them. Cavalry used in this way (as "dragoons") remained effective against modern infantry forces up through World War Two, when the Polish lancers used such tactics to good effect against the Germans- most of whose soldiers marched on foot. Didn't do them much good in the long haul, but they managed to win a few surprising battles.


What are some periods and cultures that cavalry was a dominant force on the battlefield?Generally, anywhere big and flat. Central Asia produced armies of deadly horse archers from ~200 AD to 1500 AD that generally ran all over everyone who opposed them, and conquered virtually at will from China to the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Proto-cavalry in the form of chariots and stirrupless riders were prominent in the big, flat spaces of Mesopotamia back to the beginning of recorded history.

Cavalry were important in the wars between the US and the Plains Indians during the 19th century... for the same reasons. Again, big, flat country, as you might know if you've ever been there. Both sides fought mounted whenever possible, because distances were extremely long and speed counted for a lot. That's not a very important era or culture in the context of "world history of cavalry," but it's interesting because a fair amount of source material exists in English on it and it illustrates the way cavalry was used in the age of reasonably effective firearms.
__________


Also the calvary was used into WWI. Where it met the machine gun, and lost horribly. *Shutter*This is an oversimplification. The key was to keep the horses out of the direct line of fire, and this was already known by most sane cavalry commanders before the war started. Unfortunately for cavalry, the war in Europe bogged down into massive linear sieges (trench warfare), which made cavalry's mobility completely useless. They managed to do somewhat better for themselves on the Eastern Front in a few places, and quite a bit better in the Middle East against the Ottoman Empire (where the ratio of firepower to space was lower and there was room to maneuver around strong fixed positions).


And just in case anyone cares, the old west US calvary (such as Custer's 7th Calvary) were not actually calvary, they were dragoons. Meaning they rode to the battlefield and got off to fight.The distinction between "dragoons" and "cavalry" always struck me as a little academic. Cavalry have been fighting dismounted when appropriate for a long time: the English did it when they needed heavy infantry to brace their archer units in pitched battles during the Hundred Years' War, for instance.

The US Cavalry of the 19th century were trained to fight from horseback, and could certainly do so... but they were also trained to fight from the ground like infantry, and could do that, too.

fusilier
2009-12-27, 02:14 AM
I have a some comments.


The primary thing about cavalry was, and still is, mobility. The biggest army in the world doesn't do you any good a day late and fifty miles away.

This is generally true but it tends to be overstated. Well motivated infantry will out march cavalry over long distances.

- The Romans only switched to cavalry for their patrols when infantry discipline fell apart after the Anarchy.

- When Kearny launched his invasion of New Mexico in 1846, he insisted on having some infantry. Two companies of Missouri Volunteers eventually agreed to dismount. During the long march down the Santa Fe Trail, these two companies regularly out marched the mounted units on a daily basis.

- Cavalrymen often walk along side their horses on long marches, and to my knowledge cavalry is rarely force-marched (the horses will be too worn out to be effective in battle). The Spanish border troops in New Spain (the Soldados de Cuera) were known to bring six horses per man while on campaign, and kept changing mounts to keep the horses fresh. The Apaches could see the dust clouds generated by such huge horse herds for miles. Likewise it was almost impossible to defend such a herd while in garrison.

I would say cavalry's main advantage is in it's tactical mobility. On the battlefield it can be rapidly deployed, scout (because they can get out of trouble fast), and exploit successful advances. As such the horses needed to be well rested before the battle. While at the strategic level, mounted troops were generally considered faster, exceptions will exist.



Given that horse cavalry was used as recently as WWI, the gun didn't make that big of a difference. It was reliable tanks, trucks, and jeeps that started to make the horse obsolete because it replaced horse cavalry with motorized cavalry. Cavalry's still around. It's just not with horses. :smallsmile:

Actually there were cavalry charges during WW2 -- you just don't hear much about them. For example an Italian cavalry charge captured a battery of Russian artillery. It wasn't until 1942(?) that the US disbanded it's last horse mounted cavalry unit. With the exception of the British and American forces, horses were still the prime movers of supplies and artillery along roads during WW2.


As a note, horse breeds have changed *a lot* over the last 100-200 years. . . .

This is something that fascinates me. I don't really know too much about it though.



The primary anti-cavalry weapon was... terrain, to be honest. Cavalry is mobile, but if the terrain slows it down to the same pace as infantry, it's not much use. Pikes were always big anti-cavalry. Horses as a rule won't charge a bunch of spikes unless they're *really* motivated.

I have to disagree with the first part (totally agree about horses not charging spikes though). Yes, horses are limited by terrain -- the Incas figured that out during their "rebellion." However, throughout history whenever infantry has their act together, they have little to fear from cavalry. Cavalry was held in reserve until infantry formations were broken and scattered. Granted, when infantry is little more than a rabble, cavalry will typically have a field-day. *Organized*(edited) infantry is generally considered to have "staying-power." Infantry charging cavalry is rare. And infantry won't be able to chase down retreating cavalry and slaughter them to a man. But you don't have to do so to win a battle.



Horse domestication started about 4,000-3,500 BC. Evidence of them being ridden starts pretty much right then. Chariot and cart pulling horses were actually a bit later.

My ancient near east history professor describes a slightly different scenario. Early depictions of people riding horses shows them sitting near/on the back haunches of the horse. The belief is that at that time the horse wasn't quite big enough to be ridden effectively, especially in warfare. Thus chariots. It should be pointed out that to actually use chariots on the battlefield, you need a very large, flat plain, with next to no irregularities.



Depends on terrain. The normal tactic is to ride away, and then if you're being particular bloody-minded, you circle around and pick them off as you can.

Yup, tactical mobility. When you're ambushed just get the heck out of there!
If you're ambushed in a forest . . . watch out for your head!

P.S. I'm a long time Infantry reenactor. I don't mean to be too hard on the equestrian types. :-)

Fhaolan
2009-12-27, 03:07 AM
<snipping things I don't disagree with, and I just have little to add.>


This is something that fascinates me. I don't really know too much about it though.

I can give you a couple of examples, but they may not make much sense unless you know current horse breeds. I'll try though. :smallsmile:

There is a breed of draft horse known as the Percheron. In Shakespeare's day, it was favourably compared to the Arab in size and temperment... In modern days, Perch's average about 17 hands (68 inches) and the withers and 1,900 lbs, and some individuals are *considerably* bigger than that. Arabs, on the other hand, average 14 hands 2 inches (58 inches) and less than 900 lbs. The Perch's size increase is fairly typical for all the big draft breeds.

Let's also take the Arab. There is a trend in breeding Arabs over the last 60 years or so, to breed for what's called a 'dished' face because some old books metioned it being a breed purity indicator. In some bloodlines this has reached ridiculous levels, to the point that the poor things look like someone's stoved in their forehead with a sledge and their eyes are bugging out either side.


I have to disagree with the first part (totally agree about horses not charging spikes though). Yes, horses are limited by terrain -- the Incas figured that out during their "rebellion." However, throughout history whenever infantry has their act together, they have little to fear from cavalry. Cavalry was held in reserve until infantry formations were broken and scattered. Granted, when infantry is little more than a rabble, cavalry will typically have a field-day. *Organized*(edited) infantry is generally considered to have "staying-power." Infantry charging cavalry is rare. And infantry won't be able to chase down retreating cavalry and slaughter them to a man. But you don't have to do so to win a battle.

*grin* At a certain point, well-organized Infantry *is* the terrain. Not in a derogative way, but in a *good* way. If they can't be broken and scattered, then they are effectively a immovable and dangerous terrain feature that you don't go near as cavalry.


My ancient near east history professor describes a slightly different scenario. Early depictions of people riding horses shows them sitting near/on the back haunches of the horse. The belief is that at that time the horse wasn't quite big enough to be ridden effectively, especially in warfare. Thus chariots. It should be pointed out that to actually use chariots on the battlefield, you need a very large, flat plain, with next to no irregularities.

Possibly. It wouldn't surprise me at all, really. It's hard to tell sometimes as some of those same depictions have the people standing upright on the horse, which is really a non-recommended military maneuver on a battlefield. (It is, however, a good cavalry training exercise which is still around today. My wife is a coach of a horse vaulting team which does this kind of stuff, and that's where the sport came from, cavalry training exercises). It's also very probable that even if the horses were rideable, they weren't *militarily* rideable at first.

I've been in contact with an archeologist in a Welsh university that has been studying northern european chariots from gravesites, and he described to me something odd that they've been discovering about them. Chariots from other regions do indeed have considerably difficulty with rough and irregular terrain. However, northern tribes like the Celts and their predecesors also used chariots for a span of time, and they tended to live in much rougher terrain. The various sagas and similar poetics from these cultures metion strange feats like jumping logs, rocks, and streams, which would completely shred chariots as they were understood from other regions.

What has been discovered is that the tribes from northern Europe had come up with an innovation that nobody else had. Suspension. They had the platform of the chariot suspending by tightly twisted ropes and leather straps from the rest of the structure. This allowed them to do really odd tricks like when the horses jumped a log, that the charioteer could make the chariot actually bounce by jumping up and down at the right time and so clearing the log as well. He likened it to what people can do with skateboards now. He supposedly demoed this as part of a paper presentation (no video though, so I have no actual proof of this. Sounds cool though.)

It appears that this innovation, however, came near the end of the chariot-as-a-military-tool period and didn't get a chance to spread very far beyond those tribes.

Dervag
2009-12-27, 03:55 AM
This is generally true but it tends to be overstated. Well motivated infantry will out march cavalry over long distances.Usually, though a lot depends on the relative endurance training of horses and men, I think. The Mongols could probably outride any marching infantry in the world, however well motivated, because their horses were the equine equivalent of marathoners. Most other cavalry couldn't say the same.


I would say cavalry's main advantage is in it's tactical mobility. On the battlefield it can be rapidly deployed, scout (because they can get out of trouble fast), and exploit successful advances. As such the horses needed to be well rested before the battle. While at the strategic level, mounted troops were generally considered faster, exceptions will exist.At the strategic level, infantry might be heavily encumbered by slow-moving wagons, which slowed them back down to speeds well below what they could march at. Of course, cavalry might be too... not sure how that works out.

Narmy
2009-12-27, 08:58 AM
So, I've got a real world question. One that goes into realism.

It's not really about game mechanics, but just the realistic operation.

Question:

Which type of weapon proficiency system is more realistic; The standard/current Weapon Proficiency system, OR a Weapon Grouping System.

Just for an example, the weapon grouping system would be as such.


Weapon Group (Picks and Hammers)
You understand how to use picks and hammers.
Benefit

You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: light pick, heavy pick, light hammer, warhammer, scythe, and maulW (two handed use).
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.
Special
If you use the Arms and Equipment Guide, this weapon group also includes the lucerne hammer.

Weapon Group (Polearms)
You understand how to use polearms.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: glaive, guisarme, halberd, and ranseur.
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.


Weapon Group (Heavy Blades)
You understand how to use large bladed weapons.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: longsword, greatsword, falchion, scimitar, and bastard sword (two-handed use).
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

Weapon Group (Light Blades)
You understand how to use light bladed weapons.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: dagger, punching dagger, rapier, and short sword.
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.


For a question perhaps for suited for this thread. Were nun-chucks a farming tool?

Spiryt
2009-12-27, 09:27 AM
Definetly groups make more sense to me.

IMHO, the most sensible system in D&D was the profinenciesthing from BaldursGate, Icewind Dale and stuff.

I believe it was optional rule in AD&D?

Narmy
2009-12-27, 10:01 AM
Does it make sense for a scythe to be listed among these weapons in proficiency, compared to that of pole-arms? Realism Wise


Weapon Group (Picks and Hammers)
You understand how to use picks and hammers.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: light pick, heavy pick, light hammer, warhammer, scythe, and maulW (two handed use).
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.
Special
If you use the Arms and Equipment Guide, this weapon group also includes the lucerne hammer.

Weapon Group (Polearms)
You understand how to use polearms.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: glaive, guisarme, halberd, and ranseur.
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

If so, would it be reasonable to say that a farmer who is proficient in use with the scythe, could essentially if need be; use a warhammer, pick, or maul effectively and with proficiency enough to be a capable combatant?

Spiryt
2009-12-27, 10:05 AM
Realism wise, scythe as portrayed in Core does not have much sense at all.

I would say that it would fit among polearms rather than hammers, although it's no so important.

Narmy
2009-12-27, 10:10 AM
Tis very important to me, actually. Tis why I'd like to gather more opinions. I also believe/think currently that it would probably be more of a pole-arm.

Spiryt
2009-12-27, 10:14 AM
If so, would it be reasonable to say that a farmer who is proficient in use with the scythe, could essentially if need be; use a warhammer, pick, or maul effectively and with proficiency enough to be a capable combatant?

Not really.

Ability to swing stuff around to cut grass and grain, certainly helps a bit in general*, but certainly doesn't make you able to fight effectively with mentioned stuff.

And obviously doesn't make you able to wield something else, like warhammer, well.

Golf players aren't really 'proficient' with mornigstars, even though those are somewhat similar things.
:smallwink:


Tis very important to me, actually. Tis why I'd like to gather more opinions.

I meant that it isn't going to do so much difference if scythe is a "polearm" or a "pick".

* in sense that a peasant or worker who works with mauls or flails will be somehow more ready to fight with bill or glaive than a potter, for example.

Narmy
2009-12-27, 10:19 AM
Thought so, and thank you.

Fhaolan
2009-12-27, 11:38 AM
Re: Weapon grouping;

I find that hammers, maces, picks, and most axes all handle reasonably similarly. There's more difference between one-handed and two-handed versions of those weapons than there appears to be between the different shapes. The basic principle behind these weapons is that you have a mass on the end of a stick, and the mass is heavy enough for the shape of the mass to be less relevant with respect to handling.

However, all of them handle very differently than the tool versions. Meaning a battleaxe is almost nothing like a wood axe.

I beleive the reason they include the scythe in with that group is because tool-scythes are basically a very unbalanced pick with sharpened edges. I wouldn't personally include the scythe in that weapon group for the same reason I wouldn't include a wood axe or a proper maul. Tools are *very* different from weapons for handling.

There are, however, RL scythe weapons that are quite different from tool-scythes. Fauchards, falxes, etc. But even they are a bit weird to handle at first, so I'd put them in their own weapon group.

Philistine
2009-12-27, 12:48 PM
For a question perhaps for suited for this thread. Were nun-chucks a farming tool?

Not to my knowledge, no; but I believe they were derived from flails, which were.

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 05:28 PM
This is generally true but it tends to be overstated. Well motivated infantry will out march cavalry over long distances.

I think that depends on how the infantry and cavalry in question are coping with supplies and logistics.


- Cavalrymen often walk along side their horses on long marches, and to my knowledge cavalry is rarely force-marched (the horses will be too worn out to be effective in battle). The Spanish border troops in New Spain (the Soldados de Cuera) were known to bring six horses per man while on campaign, and kept changing mounts to keep the horses fresh. The Apaches could see the dust clouds generated by such huge horse herds for miles. Likewise it was almost impossible to defend such a herd while in garrison.

I would say cavalry's main advantage is in it's tactical mobility. On the battlefield it can be rapidly deployed, scout (because they can get out of trouble fast), and exploit successful advances. As such the horses needed to be well rested before the battle. While at the strategic level, mounted troops were generally considered faster, exceptions will exist.


Interesting anecdotes, but I would suggest this type of limitation is not necessarily the rule. The Mongols and the Huns, among others, weare apparently able to achieve remarkable Strategic, Operational, and Tactical mobility ... and so did some of their opponents in Europe and other places. As with so many questions of military history, I think this is somewhat a matter of a given time and place.


G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 05:57 PM
Question:

Which type of weapon proficiency system is more realistic; The standard/current Weapon Proficiency system, OR a Weapon Grouping System.


I think the standard grouping system makes sense on the basis of who generally would be using a weapon, some types were common weapons known to most ordinary people, some known to militarily trained people, and soem require extra training. But it actually does make more sense to group weapons by functional type in my opinion... just that these types are rather more specific than most people want to deal with.

In your examples for instance:


Weapon Group (Picks and Hammers)
You understand how to use picks and hammers.
Benefit

You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: light pick, heavy pick, light hammer, warhammer, scythe, and maulW (two handed use).
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.
Special
If you use the Arms and Equipment Guide, this weapon group also includes the lucerne hammer.

A few problems with this one. Nobody ever used a maul historically* in battle. A heavy pick in Role Playing game parlance probably means a mattock and that would not be used as a real weapon either. In both cases tools far too heavy for fighting with, you could obviously hurt someone with them but they are extremely tactically limited due to how slow they are.

Single-handed war-hammers and war-picks are somewhat specialized weapons, mostly used by cavalry. The two-handed versions (such as the lucerne hammer, which is a type of poll axe) are infantry versions and probably fall more into a polearm category.


Weapon Group (Polearms)
You understand how to use polearms.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: glaive, guisarme, halberd, and ranseur.
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

For polearms, you'd probably differentiate between proficiency in massed infantry tactics, which would be linked to the use of spears and pikes in the same manner; and proficiency in one-on-one tactics which share a lot in common with staff fighting techniques. Poll-axe, poll-hammer, partisan and staff are taught much the same way in the Medieval fencing manuals.



Weapon Group (Heavy Blades)
You understand how to use large bladed weapons.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: longsword, greatsword, falchion, scimitar, and bastard sword (two-handed use).
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

Quite a few problems here. None of these blades, with the possible exception of the falchion, were heavy blades.

Greatsword, longsword, and bastard sword would be in a group of their own.
For some reason WOTC decided to rule these weapons as being able to cut only, but in real life they were all cut, thrust, slice weapons. These types of swords were used from the late Middle Ages through the Renaissance, and require a fair amount of training to use well.

"Scimetars" would be in a group of their own along with all types of sabers, (all of which could be classed as 'scimetars' for an RPG): the Hungarian szalba, Ukranian shashka, Indian tulwar, Persian shamshir, arabic Saif, burmese dha, and the Chinese / Mongolian yanmao dao, liuye dao, pian dao, and niuweidao. These are all cavalry sabers and would be used primarily by horsemen. Their use is comparatively simple, if you look at saber training in the 19th Century it's just a matter of 3 or 4 guards and 3 or 4 cuts... but using them on foot is more complex and training can be taken to high levels of sophistication (as one can see in todays Sikh Gatka traditions) (There were also two-handed infantry sabers such as the Katana / Tachi and their European equivalents like the grossabel and the langen messer, but these don't exist in most RPGs).

The falchion would be somewhat in it's own class, or possibly grouped with somewhat similar single edged chopping weapons such as cutlasses, grossemessers, and the Philipino Kampilan. These are fairly simple weapons to use, with the exception of the grossemesser which had a sophisticated martial arts system developed around it.


Weapon Group (Light Blades)
You understand how to use light bladed weapons.
Benefit
You make attack rolls with the following weapons normally: dagger, punching dagger, rapier, and short sword.
Normal
When using a weapon with which you are not proficient, you take a -4 penalty on attack rolls.

Daggers and some types of short swords can be used similarly, though this would split along the lines of slicing oriented, thrusting oriented and chopping oriented blades. Most daggers were thrusting oriented, most civilian knives were slicing oriented effectively, some others like the seax and the kurkri knife and the falcata were specialized for chopping. Each of these would be used differently IMO. I would make at least two separate groups, cutting knives and stabbing knives.

Just to complicate it further there were specialized daggers used for off-hand defense (the main gauche for example) but most RPG systems don't account for weapon defensive values so you can probably ignore that.

Rapier would definitely be in a group of it's own along with smallswords and sideswords. These weapons require more training than most, (more than the longsword family). These are primarily civilian dueling weapons but were also used by soldiers and prestige arms. They also overlap with the cut-thrust swords which would be a subtype of arming sword, more specialized for thrusting.

Just FYI rapiers are actually heavier than a lot of longswords (bastard sword or greatsword in most RPGs)



Just for an example, the weapon grouping system would be as such.
For a question perhaps for suited for this thread. Were nun-chucks a farming tool?

No but they were adapted from agricultural flails, just like the real military flails used in Bohemia and other parts of the world.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/81/Battage_%C3%A0_Fl%C3%A9au.jpg/180px-Battage_%C3%A0_Fl%C3%A9au.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flail

G.


* Possibly a slight exxageration I'm sure somebody tried to use one more than once, say, a sapper attacked while trying to undermine a wall or something, but it was not an effective weapon and never issued as such... it is about as much a weapon of opportunity as a chair, a rolling pin, a fireplace poker, a torch holder and etc.

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 06:13 PM
Re: Weapon grouping;

I find that hammers, maces, picks, and most axes all handle reasonably similarly. There's more difference between one-handed and two-handed versions of those weapons than there appears to be between the different shapes. The basic principle behind these weapons is that you have a mass on the end of a stick, and the mass is heavy enough for the shape of the mass to be less relevant with respect to handling.

A lot of games organize them that way, but I don't agree with this approach - I think blunt crushing weapons like maces are used differently than cutting weapons like axes, also axes, war hammers and picks have built-in to their shape the ability to hook, which is an important difference in how you actually use them. You can hook shield rims, weapons, hook peoples hands and knees and pull people off their feet etc. But this is left out of most RPG systems so it doesn't matter in most games.



However, all of them handle very differently than the tool versions. Meaning a battleaxe is almost nothing like a wood axe.

Agreed!



I beleive the reason they include the scythe in with that group is because tool-scythes are basically a very unbalanced pick with sharpened edges. I wouldn't personally include the scythe in that weapon group for the same reason I wouldn't include a wood axe or a proper maul. Tools are *very* different from weapons for handling.

Agreed!



There are, however, RL scythe weapons that are quite different from tool-scythes. Fauchards, falxes, etc. But even they are a bit weird to handle at first, so I'd put them in their own weapon group.

yep... along with Glaives, Bardiches, Sparth Axe, Najinata etc.

G.

Spiryt
2009-12-27, 06:15 PM
I 2]I

the Hungarian szalba, Ukranian shashka, Indian tulwar, Persian shamshir, arabic Saif, burmese dha, and the Chinese / Mongolian yanmao dao, liuye dao, pian dao, and niuweidao.


Just for the small nitpick, "szabla" is polish word for generally saber stuff, hungarian is "szablya" (one letter, but changes it a bit AFIK)

And shashka is Caucasian/Russian - Ukrainian Cossacks were just some of users (as some Poles during WWI too).

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 06:27 PM
Does it make sense for a scythe to be listed among these weapons in proficiency, compared to that of pole-arms? Realism Wise



If so, would it be reasonable to say that a farmer who is proficient in use with the scythe, could essentially if need be; use a warhammer, pick, or maul effectively and with proficiency enough to be a capable combatant?

Most polearms were adapted from peasant farming tools, and proficiency with use as a tool would confer some ability to use it as a weapon, there is overlap but not precisely the same thing. The flail, the halberd, and various other similar weapons were invented by commoners to defeat heavy cavalry.

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 06:35 PM
Just for the small nitpick, "szabla" is polish word for generally saber stuff, hungarian is "szablya" (one letter, but changes it a bit AFIK)

And shashka is Caucasian/Russian - Ukrainian Cossacks were just some of users (as some Poles during WWI too).

Thanks for the spelling correction! I get various versions of the history from my Ukranian, Hungarian, Czech, Bulgarian and Polish friends. Not surprisingly perhaps ;) And as with all things Eastern European there is almost nothing available in English.

I do rely on Polish sources a lot for the military history of the region esp. the Henryk Sienkiewicz (sp?) novels and the wonderful films which were made from them. I like them much better than some of the recent Russian films which have come out.

For the rest o the group, in case anyone is interested:

Shashka is a saber with no guard, like this

http://www.jfsantiquearms.com/images/37as.jpg
http://www.jfsantiquearms.com/images/38as.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shashka

Szabla is a heavier cavalry saber with a cross and a partial false edge like the Turkish Killic, and later a full complex hilt like a modern military saber.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Szabla

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/0/00/Szabla_budowa.svg/210px-Szabla_budowa.svg.png

G.

Kurien
2009-12-27, 08:52 PM
What polearms were purposefully made/designed to be used in individual combat? Which were used in formations (the first to come to mind is the pike)?

How are piercing weapons such as a war lance used on horseback? I would imagine that on a pass against a footsoldier, if you impaled them, the lance would be stuck and wrenched from the hand, thus losing it.

Are sabres and other curved swords, particularly used from horseback, even effective against armour? As the primary function would be a slicing attack, even your basic "maille", should stop most damage.

Why would the Shashka have no guard? Isn't one essential for protecting the hand?

Spiryt
2009-12-27, 08:55 PM
Of course, as always with those things, it's all pretty tangled - there's czeczuga (http://alatusmortis.w.interia.pl/index_40.htm)(polish text, but pretty pictures :smallwink:) pretty popular polish szabla that also had very minimal guard.

Although there are theories that it had Tatar/Caucasian origin just like typical shashka.

Spiryt
2009-12-27, 09:18 PM
How are piercing weapons such as a war lance used on horseback? I would imagine that on a pass against a footsoldier, if you impaled them, the lance would be stuck and wrenched from the hand, thus losing it.



Loosing your lance ineed was calculated, thus why other backup weapons were essential, and why "camp" was supposed to provide knights/hussars/whoever with additional lances.



Are sabres and other curved swords, particularly used from horseback, even effective against armour? As the primary function would be a slicing attack, even your basic "maille", should stop most damage.


"Basic maille" would generally stop slashing effect from sword, axe or whatever as well. And when you smashed someone well, it always could be effective, (like most things:smallwink:) although definetly going trough metal armor wasn't the point of sabres. Or slashing/cutting swords in general.

And there are quite good theories that curved, swift blades are very good at slicing textile defences.



Why would the Shashka have no guard? Isn't one essential for protecting the hand?

Many swords have no/minimal guards. Sabres like shashka or some early tatar sabres are good examples.

And while some form of guard was usually prefered in Europe, obviously design without guard allowed to make sword with some interesting dynamics.

Cavalary swords (see spatha) often offered no decisive protection. One could argue that in cavalary use typical "fencing" situation were rare. It was all rapid horse movement, shaking, changes of directions, slashing, riding around. So protection of hand might not be so essential - and simpler, less cumbersome, and potentialy with more interesting handling "guardless" variant was preffered.

I also read one opinion from a guy who visited some blacksmith in Caucasus - he was told that one of the prefered ways of parryig/deflecting with shashka was to let the enemy blade slip towards the point insted onto the guard - that way allowed to counterattack quickly.

Someone versed in fencing here can certainly tell what (s)he thinks about it.

EDIT: And of course, one must take such speculations with good grain of salt. :smallwink:

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 10:36 PM
I think Spiryts comments are accurate ... generally speaking originally a sword like a saber was not designed for fencing or defensive use per se, one would ride by and make a cut and ride away. Spathas were designed for use with a shield or a buckler which is what would defend with.

That said the type of parrying Spiryt described is what one would call a hangen or hanging guard defense in Lichtenauer school fencing, and I believe (someone can correct me on this) the hanging guard was one of the primary guards for saber fencing in 19th Century manuals. It would make a great deal of sense in a ride-by attack.

Later sabers were sometimes made straighter and with better hand protection, designed for more sustained fencing. I believe there were different types of cavalry who used different types of weapons in the 17th-19th Centuries. Cuirassers or ultra-heavy shock cavalry like a Polish Hussar would probably use a sword designed for a sustained fight, in fact I believe they preferred the strait Pallasch sword, or the lance-like kanzer (something like an estoc) and would sometimes actually carry two different swords on their saddle (including a saber).

For lighter unarmored cavalry a very quick saber like a shashka makes a lot of sense to me....

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-27, 10:53 PM
Spiryt covered most of this, just a few other points...


What polearms were purposefully made/designed to be used in individual combat? Which were used in formations (the first to come to mind is the pike)?

I believe initially all polearms (including spears*) were designed for mass formation tactics, later individual one on one fighting specialization was invented.

Some weapons such as the Pollaxe, Poll-hammer were heavily used in one on one combats including judicial combat and the Ahelespiess (awl-pike) were specifically developed for the one-on-one fight, and the Halberd most certainly could be. You can tell weapons intended for 'fencing' of this type, usually they have roundels for hand-protection and langets to reinforce the haft against being cut through... such as you can see clearly on this awl-pike

http://i124.photobucket.com/albums/p19/De-Profundis/Ahlspiess/Ahlspiess2.jpg

(which is not a pike at all really so much as a special armor piercing spear)

Even pikes though could be used for individual fights, I believe there are some (English?) manuals extant which cover techniques for very long staves (12' or more) which would allow you to fight with one.

http://www.the-exiles.org/Images/lejuepoleaxe/image10.GIF

A weapon like a poll-axe was extremely versatile, very good for defense, capable of armor piercing, grappling from a distance with it's various hook-like features, and caused devastating wounds

http://www.the-exiles.org/Images/lejuepoleaxe/image11.gif



Are sabres and other curved swords, particularly used from horseback, even effective against armour? As the primary function would be a slicing attack, even your basic "maille", should stop most damage.

A saber would not be the ideal weapon to use against armored troops, but if you had to, I imagine you would aim for an unprotected place like the face, the neck, or the hands. Which is perhaps why cavalry helmets featured strange looking contraptions like this:

http://www.movie-armour.com/ekmps/shops/fbfxltd1/images/hussar3.jpg

http://usera.imagecave.com/emmar/Characters/Hussar/Helmet_Front.jpg

http://www.movie-armour.com/ekmps/shops/fbfxltd1/images/hussar2.jpg

The 'lobster tail' feature is to protect the neck from a ride by attack, perhaps delivered after a hanging parry in the manner Spyrit described. Many of the ridges and wings etc. are designed to mitigate the effects of a bonk on the head from a sword or a stouter weapon like a light mace which were also frequently carried by cavalry, particularly on the steppe.

In fact due to the various types of opponents and conditions one might meet on the steppe, everything from very dangerous Western European type heavy shock cavalry to Tartar archers armed with bows, sabers and lassos, Eastern European cavalry were some of the most heavily armed in the world, perhaps carrying a lance, a mace, a composite bow, a sword, and a saber.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/ee/19-v_2h_Vasnetsov.jpg/300px-19-v_2h_Vasnetsov.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:19-v_2h_Vasnetsov.jpg

Speaking of which, nobody is really certain what the purpose of the Wings were on 'winged hussars'...

http://www.keithrocco.com/store/images/lg_wingedhussars.jpg

I personally suspect it had something to do with stopping lassos which were a popular weapon for use against heavy cavalry... but it could have been to make a noise or somehow to improve the aerodynamic speed of the horse and rider.

G.

* At least since say the Bronze Age. Perhaps if you go really far back spears were for individual warriors or hunters

Mike_G
2009-12-27, 11:05 PM
I think Spiryts comments are accurate ... generally speaking originally a sword like a saber was not designed for fencing or defensive use per se, one would ride by and make a cut and ride away. Spathas were designed for use with a shield or a buckler which is what would defend with.

That said the type of parrying Spiryt described is what one would call a hangen or hanging guard defense in Lichtenauer school fencing, and I believe (someone can correct me on this) the hanging guard was one of the primary guards for saber fencing in 19th Century manuals. It would make a great deal of sense in a ride-by attack.


It was one of the primary guards. It works very well for mounted combat, and I've used it (purely experimentally) in sport fencing, and it's not a terrible guard. It makes more sense with a heavier blade. With the light competition sabre, you don't get much advantage from it. It "feels" better and more natural with my 1860 ACW sabre.

The sabre was still the defensive weapon for the cavalryman, though, since most sabre armed troops didn't have shields, and usually weren't heavily armored. Yes, the "one cut on the pass" was the ideal, but if you bogged down in melee, your sabre was both attack and defense. Even on the ride by, the very forward angled hanging guard allowed you to deflect his blow and countercut on the pass.

I would feel better with some kind of hand protection, personally.



Later sabers were sometimes made straighter and with better hand protection, designed for more sustained fencing. I believe there were different types of cavalry who used different types of weapons in the 17th-19th Centuries. Cuirassers or ultra-heavy shock cavalry like a Polish Hussar would probably use a sword designed for a sustained fight, in fact I believe they preferred the strait Pallasch sword, or the lance-like kanzer (something like an estoc) and would sometimes actually carry two different swords on their saddle.

For lighter unarmored cavalry a very quick saber like a shashka makes a lot of sense to me....

G.

The simple three bar guard or single bar knuckle bow doesn't slow the sword down any. Even a Mamluke style short crossbar would be better than nothing. You see these on a lot of Hussar sabres.

You'd be shocked how much incidental abuse your knuckles take in swordplay. Even the mostly thrusting foil fending will leave you a lot of tron gloves. I'd hate to have to parry a blow with one of those steakknife style hilts.

Galloglaich
2009-12-28, 09:45 AM
It was one of the primary guards. It works very well for mounted combat, and I've used it (purely experimentally) in sport fencing, and it's not a terrible guard. It makes more sense with a heavier blade. With the light competition sabre, you don't get much advantage from it. It "feels" better and more natural with my 1860 ACW sabre.

I'm not surprised it feels odd with a competition sabre, that is essentially a car-aerial :) It is certainly an effective guard with a single-sword, but if it's not at least partially point-forward your hand is exposed.



The sabre was still the defensive weapon for the cavalryman, though, since most sabre armed troops didn't have shields, and usually weren't heavily armored.

You are thinking of the 18th-19th Century though by which point the roles of cavalry had changed substantially due to firearms; and by which point most sabers had hand-guards. From the 17th Century on back to the Iron Age shields, helmets and armor would all be much more common.



Yes, the "one cut on the pass" was the ideal, but if you bogged down in melee, your sabre was both attack and defense. Even on the ride by, the very forward angled hanging guard allowed you to deflect his blow and countercut on the pass.

Agreed... forward angled leaves your hand less exposed and you less vulnerable to a thrust, this is how you do it with a long sword as well.


The simple three bar guard or single bar knuckle bow doesn't slow the sword down any. Even a Mamluke style short crossbar would be better than nothing. You see these on a lot of Hussar sabres.

Yes sabres with guards are still fast but the shashka may be faster still, subtle differences in just holding a weapon (like an inch or two of balance point or reach) can make a big difference in a fight.



You'd be shocked how much incidental abuse your knuckles take in swordplay. Even the mostly thrusting foil fending will leave you a lot of tron gloves. I'd hate to have to parry a blow with one of those steakknife style hilts.

I wouldn't be surprised, I'm at fencing every week with one weapon or another, including with messers which have a similar 'steak-knife' type grip though they have a sort of knuckleguard called a nagel.

Personally I prefer some hand protection as well but there are different weapons made for different purposess, katanas have very little hand protection but they are clearly effective within the martial arts system for which they were developed, I suspect the same is true for the shashka though I can't say for sure. Maybe some more people will chime in, perhaps some more folks from Eastern Europe or Turkey or somewhere they are more familiar with this weapon.

G.

fusilier
2009-12-28, 06:30 PM
I think that depends on how the infantry and cavalry in question are coping with supplies and logistics.

That's a very important question, period. A large force of cavalry will be just as restricted by their supplies, probably even more so, than a large force of infantry. How logistics are managed can make a big difference as to how quickly any force can move.


Interesting anecdotes, but I would suggest this type of limitation is not necessarily the rule. The Mongols and the Huns, among others, weare apparently able to achieve remarkable Strategic, Operational, and Tactical mobility ... and so did some of their opponents in Europe and other places. As with so many questions of military history, I think this is somewhat a matter of a given time and place.

Yes time and place must be considered. The Roman Legions marched everywhere on foot, and were often trained to carry their supplies on their own backs. Rome felt no need for cavalry as a strategic asset until that discipline disappeared. Also, as Dervag pointed out, the kinds of horses used could also make a difference. In New Mexico the US Army rejected the hardy little horses that local volunteers showed up with, because their regulations called for big horses, that are good only for a quick dash. Finally cavalry is expensive compared to infantry.

I'm not really keeping up with the conversations, so I'll try to catch up:

Lances
I don't really know much, but here's my understanding of their use. There are over-hand and under-hand ways of using lances on horse back. Over-handed is generally considered to be weaker, but provides more control(?), with less inherit risk of being thrown from the horse if the lancer hits something too solid with too much speed. Lances often have a pennant behind the spear point. Part of its function is to prevent the lance from sinking to deeply into a target. Reports of Mexican lancers in the 1846-48 war would indicate that they were more than capable of using lances in melee like situations, and not simply at the instant of charge impact. However, it should be recognized that many Mexican lancers would have been vaqueros who had grown up using lances all their lives for herding livestock or hunting.

Sabers
I'm just going to throw this out here. I've heard that technically a saber is sword designed for use on horseback. It does not need to be curved, and in fact there are such weapons as "straight" sabers (I think 19th century heavy dragoons might use them). A curved sword, however, is easier to wield on horseback?? I'm not sure I know why, my guess is that the rider is less like to hit himself or the horse when swinging it. Don't know about the veracity of that claim.

Fhaolan
2009-12-28, 07:13 PM
Lances
I don't really know much, but here's my understanding of their use. There are over-hand and under-hand ways of using lances on horse back. Over-handed is generally considered to be weaker, but provides more control(?), with less inherit risk of being thrown from the horse if the lancer hits something too solid with too much speed.

Over-hand lances was an older style when the difference between lance and spear was imperceptable. Throwing the lance was considered to be still an option, and it made it easier to stab downwards when you were bogged down so you didn't have to change weapons. This style of lance came back into fashion during the much later periods such as the French Revolution and the American Old West, where the cavalry would switch between upper-handed and under-handed holds during a fight as the needs demanded.

When the style shifted to primarily under-hand lances they were pretty much purely charge weapons. They tended to be longer and heavier than the older lances (and the ones that came after this period). It's actually not that hard to abandon an under-hand held lance quickly. For example, you don't *have* to have a death-hold onto the lance; if it's about to take you out of the saddle, let go. Don't get obsessed about holding on to this glorified spear. Now if you're dealing with a sport lance with all the hand-guards and weird tapers and bulges and the like, then you have a problem, but those kinds of lances rarely if ever saw a battlefield. They were specifically designed and used for sport jousting where falling off the horse was part of the game.

Mike_G
2009-12-28, 10:15 PM
Sabers
I'm just going to throw this out here. I've heard that technically a saber is sword designed for use on horseback. It does not need to be curved, and in fact there are such weapons as "straight" sabers (I think 19th century heavy dragoons might use them). A curved sword, however, is easier to wield on horseback?? I'm not sure I know why, my guess is that the rider is less like to hit himself or the horse when swinging it. Don't know about the veracity of that claim.

Terminolgy is, as always, highly controversial. There certainly were staright cavalry swords, but generally I have not heard them referred to as sabres. Most times I've heard the term "sabre" it has refered to curved blades.

The curve on a sword helps it to cut when drawn along a target. When swung, the curve helps to draw the edge along the target instead of just hitting it flat. The same principal applies to a katana, or other curved sword, for use on foot or mounted.

I don't think a fighter is less likely to hit himslef with a curved sword versus a straight one. But laying the edge along you enemy as you ride by, a curved blade should cut better. It's hard to use the point on a ride by, as you will likely gte you sword stuck in the enemy and have to let it go as you ride past. In bogged down, relatively stationary cavalry melee, the use of the point is well documented.

And despite what you may have been told, it is not hard to thrust with a curved balde.

fusilier
2009-12-28, 10:16 PM
Some anecdotal evidence would imply that it's not quite as simple as letting go of the lance, especially if it's tucked under the arm. Now, I'm not sure if tucking the lance under the arm is the same as a proper underhand grip. In a story from the 1860s about hunting buffalo with lances, one of the hunters attempted to use his lance in an underhand fashion. He was lifted off of his horse and subsequently trampled to death. After that, the story goes, nobody used an underhand grip for hunting buffalo.

Do you think, perhaps, that the underhand style developed in conjunction with the enemy wearing armor? It would seem to make sense from the chronology presented.

Galloglaich
2009-12-28, 10:52 PM
The curved shape of the saber is for draw-cutting (slicing) and to assist in weapon retention. Riding on a horse at 30 mph roughly doubles the speed of a sword cut making it harder to hold onto when you cut something. This is also the reason for the canted hilt and hooked pommel on many sabers*. A slice at that speed can be incredibly devastating to the person you cut - and wrenching to your cutting arm as well.

The couched lance was better for armour-piercing. It let you put the whole weight of your body into a thrust, instead of just your arm.

I have access to some anecdotes from European and Arab sources on this, but no time to dig them out right this moment.

G.

* it's also why the light-mace used on the steppe had a wrist-thong on it

Galloglaich
2009-12-28, 10:59 PM
Yes time and place must be considered. The Roman Legions marched everywhere on foot, and were often trained to carry their supplies on their own backs.

Better than that, the Roman Legionnaires carried sickles with them to harvest the fields of the peoples in whose land they operated. They were an army which could forage for itself, as well as build it's own roads, fortifications, and even towns. Very hard to imagine in a modern context.


Rome felt no need for cavalry as a strategic asset until that discipline disappeared.

I'm not sure precisely when discipline disappeared, it waxed and waned in the Empire both in the East and the West several times, collapsing more than once and reviving again after various reforms and different leadership. The Romans were remarkably resilient that way.



Also, as Dervag pointed out, the kinds of horses used could also make a difference. In New Mexico the US Army rejected the hardy little horses that local volunteers showed up with, because their regulations called for big horses, that are good only for a quick dash. Finally cavalry is expensive compared to infantry. (snip) ...many Mexican lancers would have been vaqueros who had grown up using lances all their lives for herding livestock or hunting.

That is interesting, and it explains a lot... an industrial army trying to adapt to a horse-borne existence. Cowboys or Vaqueros or Gauchos would have made better cavalry... but the American military Bureaucracy was based in the Cities of the East Coast.

This is why in antiquity most cavalry was recruited from places where the people had a natural affinity for horses and for whom riding was part of their lifestyle. The Gauls, the Numidians, were great horsemen... as were the Sarmatians and Parthians they faced in battle on behalf of Rome. Huns and Mongols even more so, they almost literally lived in the saddle.

G.

Fhaolan
2009-12-29, 09:25 AM
Some anecdotal evidence would imply that it's not quite as simple as letting go of the lance, especially if it's tucked under the arm. Now, I'm not sure if tucking the lance under the arm is the same as a proper underhand grip. In a story from the 1860s about hunting buffalo with lances, one of the hunters attempted to use his lance in an underhand fashion. He was lifted off of his horse and subsequently trampled to death. After that, the story goes, nobody used an underhand grip for hunting buffalo.

Do you think, perhaps, that the underhand style developed in conjunction with the enemy wearing armor? It would seem to make sense from the chronology presented.

There's a slight difference between under-hand grip and couching, but it's one of those tricks that gets glossed over fairly easily unless you're looking a lot deeper into lance-work than normal. Getting lifted off the saddle usually happens when you couch the lance (grip the lance tightly between your arm and your body). It's a very natural thing to do, so it gets done a lot. It's also very natural to get that death-grip this way, and refuse to let go. This was good for armour penetration, but there's the risk of getting unhorsed as everyone notes.

With the underhand grip, on the other hand, the lance is running under your upper arm. The lance presses against the underside of your upper arm by it's own weight. You have to have to have good wrist and arm strength to do this, but if you didn't, you wouldn't be up there in the first place. :smallsmile: This is a lot 'safer' than couching, but you don't get the oomph in hitting. Also, it's difficult to do this with sport jousting lances, as all the bulges and whatnot intefere with this grip.

Oslecamo
2009-12-29, 12:26 PM
Better than that, the Roman Legionnaires carried sickles with them to harvest the fields of the peoples in whose land they operated. They were an army which could forage for itself, as well as build it's own roads, fortifications, and even towns. Very hard to imagine in a modern context.

Actualy, easier than you may think. Any self respecting army nowadays has a force of engineers to build/destroy stuff on the spot, and there's still research on new ways to make a force as indepedent as possible.

For example, I recall the research of easily carrieable tools to purify water on the spot, from anything from mud to urine.



I'm not sure precisely when discipline disappeared, it waxed and waned in the Empire both in the East and the West several times, collapsing more than once and reviving again after various reforms and different leadership. The Romans were remarkably resilient that way.


The big problem there was actualy political.

Whenever good generals started to rise, the local emperor would become afraid and order his execution. Then the barbarian hordes would attack, and the emperor would call for good generals. Wich he would execute once the threat was over. The romans almost always had good generals, but the corrupt dudes in charge made it quite hard for them to do their job. This is, why would you want to do a good job if it meant a dagger(or a dozen of them, as poor Julius suffered) at your back?

Crow
2009-12-29, 06:39 PM
The big problem there was actualy political.

Whenever good generals started to rise, the local emperor would become afraid and order his execution. Then the barbarian hordes would attack, and the emperor would call for good generals. Wich he would execute once the threat was over. The romans almost always had good generals, but the corrupt dudes in charge made it quite hard for them to do their job. This is, why would you want to do a good job if it meant a dagger(or a dozen of them, as poor Julius suffered) at your back?

I am not sure where you are getting your information, but the scene you describe was hardly the norm in the days of the empire, and is quite a bit more complicated. In fact, it was quite the opposite. More emperors were killed by the legions than I can care to count. The cases when the emperors ordered the execution of generals were often due to one emperor (At times, multiple generals would style themselves as the "rightful" emperor) getting the upper hand in a civil war (of which there were many), and wanting to eliminate his former rival's supporters. Sometimes this was done before a civil war could start, which I suspect is what you are referring to. Still, there was ample incentive to be as great a general as you could, so long as you were loyal. Unfortunately, many of the generals were not (More on that later when I mention the donatives). Furthermore, it is unfortunate that so many great and loyal generals are all but forgotten, due to the treachery of their disloyal comrades. Historians rarely find interest in the loyal general, but great interest in the motives and means behind the would-be usurpers.

Many Roman emperors themselves were actually generals who fought against "barbarians" and other foes earlier in their career as commanders in the army. Many times throughout the history of the empire, these generals would have ambitions to the throne. With their men, along with the promise of substantial donatives, they would sieze power. Usually killing the previous emperor. Often, their men would invest them with the Purple before the old emperor was even dead, leading of course to civil war.

In fact, the donatives which would be awarded upon a new emperor coming to power are one of the primary reasons for the breakdown in discipline in the Roman army. Why remain loyal and disciplined when you can enjoy all this gold (Also made worse by allowing soldiers of the Praetorian legions to garrison in the city itself)? Why remain loyal when treachery can gain you even more gold?

If you are interested in this further, I highly recommend reading the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon. It is exhaustive, clear, and accurate in many areas concerning the empire. You will find most Volume 1 deals with the issue above in the most detail.

...and let us not forget that "Poor Julius" was an usurper as well. :smallwink:

fusilier
2009-12-29, 11:29 PM
I'm not sure precisely when discipline disappeared, it waxed and waned in the Empire both in the East and the West several times, collapsing more than once and reviving again after various reforms and different leadership. The Romans were remarkably resilient that way.

My recollection of undergrad Roman history basically said it was the Anarchy that destroyed Roman military discipline. After that there was no way that infantry would be willing to perform 20 mile a day marches, and cavalry came to the fore (they also switched to a defense in depth scheme). What is really impressive is that Rome managed to survive a couple centuries longer. Basically at this point, there was little to distinguish a Roman army from the barbarians they were fighting. The basic organizational elements and names were still there, but the discipline and tactics were essentially gone. Hollywood movies showing Huns defeating what are essentially 1st century AD Roman Legions, are, . . . well . . . hollywood. The East probably did better because they had more money to pay for mercenaries. There may have been small forces or guards that retained some of the older drill, but the massive, well disciplined legions were gone.


This is why in antiquity most cavalry was recruited from places where the people had a natural affinity for horses and for whom riding was part of their lifestyle. The Gauls, the Numidians, were great horsemen... as were the Sarmatians and Parthians they faced in battle on behalf of Rome. Huns and Mongols even more so, they almost literally lived in the saddle.

I've heard that France was a very horse-poor nation around the Napoleonic times -- many of their cavalry charges occurred no faster than a trot (if that), because the soldiers couldn't possibly maintain formation with anything faster.

Deadmeat.GW
2009-12-30, 08:27 AM
Actually for that Napoleonic thing, the cause was simply training.

Early on the differences in training between some of the cavalry members was as great as between someone who had never ridden on a horse before and what conceivably could have been Olympic level dressage riders.

By the end their cavalry was actually pretty good but...by then the squares and other tactics made cavalry a lot less effective then before so they stay rather unremarkable.

This lack of training was also the cause of a lot of the French tactics in that period.
The use of columns for advancing on the enemy for instance...
Slow heavy step for advancing...
Etc...

Conscripts army with a small core of volunteers.

Nanan
2009-12-30, 12:39 PM
To start this one off, I am aware that in medieval combat, taking enemy knights captive was a big part of the fight. I usually see references to people being pulled from their horses. So I am curious how one would force somebody in a suit of plate armor to surrender, and how pulling them from their horse would be so helpful (I assume that such prevents them from escaping).

Well seeing as the guy was wearing a good 80-100 lbs of plate armor just fell 5-6 foot to the ground hes already not feeling all that well and now a guy has a rapier point sticking in his throat/armpit at vitals, hes screwed.

Karoht
2009-12-30, 03:38 PM
Also, even on the battlefield, if someone had bested you, they'd bested you and that was all. Among the non-nobility, it was to the death, to the last man. Among Knights and nobility, there were rules, even in war.

Being captured wasn't so bad. Sure, you lost all the possessions you had on your person and horse, and lost your horse. On the other hand, your host had to feed you, house you, cloth you, give you medical treatment, and this was not done in squalor but in opulance. Imagine if you were an american soldier in vietnam, and when captured, you were at the vietnam equivilant of the Ritz Carlton. No disrespect to any veterans intended.

Then a ransom price would be set, the Knight would pay it in one way or another, and be set free, possibly with all his belongings again.

Sir Bertrand, a rather clever little frenchman, drove up his own ransom price on purpose, so that when he captured other knights, he could charge more for their release.

There were only a handful of cases where these rules were broken. When Sir William Marshall was captured by Guy de Lusignan, Guy practically starved him and denied him medical treatment. Then again, Guy was pretty much a **** at all points of his career.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_de_Lusignan

The whole practice, and account of Guy's poor treatment of William, is well accounted here as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Marshal,_1st_Earl_of_Pembroke

MickJay
2009-12-30, 04:58 PM
If you are interested in this further, I highly recommend reading the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon. It is exhaustive, clear, and accurate in many areas concerning the empire. You will find most Volume 1 deals with the issue above in the most detail.

...and let us not forget that "Poor Julius" was an usurper as well. :smallwink:

...of course, Gibbon's Decline... is now worth reading primarily for its historiographical value and literary style rather than his objectivity or factual accuracy :smalltongue: There's been quite a lot of good stuff on the subject written recently by, e.g., J. W. H. G. Liebeschuetz or J. Ward-Perkins.

Julius had it coming, though the Republic was already in too deep of a crisis to survive much longer anyway.

As for the plate armour, it would have been more in the range of 40-70lbs (rather than 80-100), but after a long day, it still would often be enough to hinder the knight, and on foot, he'd most likely be fighting opponents armed with longer weapons (spears, polearms) using his (backup) sword. And, like Nanan pointed out, it was easy enough to find weaker points in the armour to force the downed knight's surrender.

Crow
2009-12-30, 08:02 PM
...of course, Gibbon's Decline... is now worth reading primarily for its historiographical value and literary style rather than his objectivity or factual accuracy

Even with more recent works available, his work is considered to be the standard by which subjects on the matter are compared. While his objectivity is as much in question as any other historian, modern or ancient, his accuracy is as good or better than the work of many authors. Decline... is certainly more thoroughly researched than many other works, and as accurate as could be expected considering it was written over 200 years ago. Even as modern techniques shed more light on the empire in an anthropological viewpoint, for the political, most still defer to Gibbon.

fusilier
2009-12-31, 12:21 AM
Actually for that Napoleonic thing, the cause was simply training.

I agree with what you have to say. What I had hoped to imply was that because France was a horse-poor nation, there were few people in the country who were experienced horsemen. Thus many of her cavalry troopers didn't know how to ride a horse. More training would have helped, but at the same time, a nation that can draw its cavalry from people who have lived in the saddle their whole lives, doesn't have to worry so much about training.

MickJay
2009-12-31, 07:38 AM
Even with more recent works available, his work is considered to be the standard by which subjects on the matter are compared. While his objectivity is as much in question as any other historian, modern or ancient, his accuracy is as good or better than the work of many authors. Decline... is certainly more thoroughly researched than many other works, and as accurate as could be expected considering it was written over 200 years ago. Even as modern techniques shed more light on the empire in an anthropological viewpoint, for the political, most still defer to Gibbon.

I disagree, while Gibbon did his research thoroughly, he lacked a lot of knowledge (private letters, inscriptions and other sources unknown at the time) that is available today. While his work was (and still remains) highly influential, many of Gibbon's conclusions can no longer be sustained. Few people would still recognize the rise of a major world religion as the chief cause of the empire's fall, for example.

This isn't really on the subject here, so we should probably move the discussion (if any) to PMs :smallwink:

Galloglaich
2009-12-31, 09:23 AM
...of course, Gibbon's Decline... is now worth reading primarily for its historiographical value and literary style rather than his objectivity or factual accuracy :smalltongue: There's been quite a lot of good stuff on the subject written recently by, e.g., J. W. H. G. Liebeschuetz or J. Ward-Perkins.

Julius had it coming, though the Republic was already in too deep of a crisis to survive much longer anyway.

As for the plate armour, it would have been more in the range of 40-70lbs (rather than 80-100), but after a long day, it still would often be enough to hinder the knight, and on foot, he'd most likely be fighting opponents armed with longer weapons (spears, polearms) using his (backup) sword. And, like Nanan pointed out, it was easy enough to find weaker points in the armour to force the downed knight's surrender.

Yes, 40-70 lbs is more like it... or less actuallly. Full cap-a-pied Milanese armor may be as much as 80 lbs, German Gothic harness couild be as little as 30 lbs., many three quarters or half harness even less. And yes falling off a horse can be fatal in and of itself, especially if you don't know what you are doing, but we tend to still cling to the myth of armor as completely immobilizing. Actually it's not true. Even a modern middle aged actor can intentionally fall off a horse in full plate harness and get right back up again with no problem.... with a little training and experience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMuNXWFPewg&feature=PlayList&p=C4264F56308645E4&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=93

Now imagine a professional knight in condition like a top athlete, who had ridden horses since childhood and trained and fought in armor for decades. Something like a combination of an MMA fighter and a rodeo Cowboy and a top quality dressage rider. It's not some lumbering brute or an overweight re-enactor, or one of the cavemen we get on TV or film depictions of Medieval knights.

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-31, 09:35 AM
Actualy, easier than you may think. Any self respecting army nowadays has a force of engineers to build/destroy stuff on the spot, and there's still research on new ways to make a force as indepedent as possible.

Yes, seperate engineer units to build and destroy stuff... if they have a continuous supply train and contact with the rear. The difference is Roman Legions were engineers by modern standards, and could operate well beyond any supply lines. They, the combat arms troops, built their own fortifications, and siezed their own provisions from the ravaged local populace. We don't do that any more for a variety of reasons.


For example, I recall the research of easily carrieable tools to purify water on the spot, from anything from mud to urine.

I was a medic in the Army myself, trust me I know all about it, I was in charge of that. Most of the water purification available amounts to putting some idodine in the water or running it through the equivalent of a Brita filter. Something any civilian can do. It doesn't work on mud or urine but it can clean up ordinary (contaminated) pond water etc.

That is a far cry from a unit actually foraging for themselves. Modern armies don't have any front line combat units which can actually do that - small Special Ops groups to some extent though even they are usually dependant on supplies. The last time I know of where large units attempted to 'live off the land' in this way were the chindits and merylls marauders in WW II and they didn't exactly thrive in those conditions.



The big problem there was actualy political.

Whenever good generals started to rise, the local emperor would become afraid and order his execution. Then the barbarian hordes would attack, and the emperor would call for good generals. Wich he would execute once the threat was over. The romans almost always had good generals, but the corrupt dudes in charge made it quite hard for them to do their job. This is, why would you want to do a good job if it meant a dagger(or a dozen of them, as poor Julius suffered) at your back?

I think you are thinking of General Aëtius (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flavius_Aetius) but at least as often it was the Generals killing the Emperors as the other way around, they were all snakes fighting over a snake pit. Given the short life expectancy of a top General or an Emperor during the waning centuries of the Roman Empire it's somewhat amazing that anyone sought either position... it was still better than being a serf or a slave toiling away in some Latifundia.

Ulimately the only safe place to be was among the Barbarians, which is why the Western Roman Empire was gradually replaced by Frankish, Visigothic and Lombard kingdoms. They had become more civilized in terms of your chances of survival and basic prosperity than Rome itself (or Ravenna).

G.

Galloglaich
2009-12-31, 09:50 AM
Also, even on the battlefield, if someone had bested you, they'd bested you and that was all. Among the non-nobility, it was to the death, to the last man. Among Knights and nobility, there were rules, even in war.

No, there were no rules on the battlefield, just money and self interest. If you had money, it may have been worth more to ransom you. If you didn't, it was cheaper to kill you. Knights tended to ransom each other and kill common soliders, but it was by no means universal.


Being captured wasn't so bad.

That depended a great deal on who you were and who captured you. If you were a King or a very rich or well connected Aristocrat you may be kept in a "Ritz Calrton" setting. As often as not the prisoner would be kept in wretched conditions in a dungeon which could often prove fatal, where you may be kept for anywhere from a few months to years or decades.

Also conditions of ransom varied a great deal from place to place. The Swiss famously refused to ransom or parole any prisoners, they killed everybody they could catch who took up arms against them regardless of rank. During the Italian wars the Condottieri would typically slay French or Spanish troops regardless of rank, because the French and Spanish themselves would not ransom Italian common soldiers. As a result several French armies in particular were slaughtered almost to the last man after failed campaigns in Italy. By contrast Italian soldiers would typcially ransom Italian noblemen and often disarm and 'parole' (release) common Italian troops, many of whom may have been their own cousins.

During the high Middle Ages there was a culture of Chivalry which took place particularly in Tournaments, where capture and ransom would be carried out in a very 'gentlemanly' manner, and in certain battles such as during the 100 years war, where the ransom of knights and nobility became something of an industry, rather similar to the way the Somali pirates ransom hostages today. Many great fortunes in England were founded by common yeoman archers who captured French lords at battles like Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. But this was hardly universal, it depended very much on the 'theater' where the fighting was taking place and how bad the blood was etc. If you were captured by someone who didn't like you or your people you were just as likely to be killed as ransomed, regardless of your rank.



There were only a handful of cases where these rules were broken. When Sir William Marshall was captured by Guy de Lusignan, Guy practically starved him and denied him medical treatment. Then again, Guy was pretty much a **** at all points of his career.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_de_Lusignan

The whole practice, and account of Guy's poor treatment of William, is well accounted here as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Marshal,_1st_Earl_of_Pembroke

I think this type of situation was far more common than the reverse, actually.

G.

Fhaolan
2009-12-31, 11:02 AM
There's also the factor that while ransoms were asked for, they weren't always paid. There are several documented accounts of the family back home going 'We're better off without *him*' and ignoring the ransom request. The classic fictional example being the Robin Hood version of 'Bad King' John's response to King Richard's ransom (the actual historical version of these events are *wildly* different from the fictional version, but it's still a good example as most people will recognize it. :smallsmile:) Also, it doesn't take too many ransoms to begar someone, so if you're in the habit of getting captured...

Mauril Everleaf
2009-12-31, 02:30 PM
I've got a question regarding the trident. Was it an effective weapon at disarming foes? One of my players is suggesting that we add the "disarm" quality to the weapon in our DnD games, but I wanted to make sure that the weapon was legitimately used for disarming. He cites a wiki article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trident#Military_use) and the ranseur as precedent, but I wanted to check with people that knew.

Galloglaich
2009-12-31, 03:49 PM
There's also the factor that while ransoms were asked for, they weren't always paid. There are several documented accounts of the family back home going 'We're better off without *him*' and ignoring the ransom request. The classic fictional example being the Robin Hood version of 'Bad King' John's response to King Richard's ransom (the actual historical version of these events are *wildly* different from the fictional version, but it's still a good example as most people will recognize it. :smallsmile:) Also, it doesn't take too many ransoms to begar someone, so if you're in the habit of getting captured...

Yeah, agreed 100%.

Here is a very amusing (to me) anecdote about being ransomed from Usamah Ib Munqidh, an Arab soldier and author who wrote in the 12th Century. ... I can't figure out where I put the book right now (I may have left it at work) so I'll have to paraphrase it*, but it was about an Arab nobleman who had been captured by the Franks with a ransom set at 2,000 dinars. After a year he was still languishing in the dungeon with no word from anyone.

Then one day they threw in a poor Bedouin nomad into his cell, with a ransom of 50 dinars. The Bedouin approached the nobleman and said "O Shaiyk, secure my release and I will see to your own", but at first he refused to speak with him, thinking he was just a con. Finally thinking he had nothing to lose, he asked to speak to his captor, a Frankish lord, who agreed to add the Bedouins ransom to his own and let the Bedouin go, on the theory that he would go to the noblemans father and get the ransom paid.

The Bedouin was released but not a word came of him for several months and the nobleman once more began to lose hope. Finally one day he heard a noise in the corner of his cell and saw the same Bedouin emerge from a cloud of collapsing dirt in the corner. He struck off the noblemans chains with a pick and cried "Come o' Sheyk, and take this passage to freedom. I have been digging these four months from an abandoned village on the plain!"

The story ends with the laconic comment that he didn't know whether to congratulate the Bedouin on his fidelity or on his precision on digging a tunnel that intersected with the dungeon.

G.

* I'll update this post with the actual passage when I find my book...

Kurien
2009-12-31, 10:31 PM
I have a few questions on bows and helmets.

First, the helmet posted before by Galloglaich would be commonly called a lobster tail pot, correct? According to Wikipedia, a lobster tail pot design was used during the English Civil War.

I'm currently interested in face and head protection, so a search of helmets on Wikipedia has answered some basic questions. However...
Was there any historical use of armoured masks, or other face guards, as part of a helmet? Did anyone craft them to resemble a face, so as to inspire fear in their enemies?

Were hampered ventilation and visual obstruction major drawbacks to using full faced helms? What was a realistic balance between protection and the wearer's ability to see and breathe?

Vision is an important factor in a ranged weapon user's effectiveness, so I would guess that archers wore open faced helmets?

Would a lack of a helmet be a serious disadvantage in combat? The head is a very vulnerable part of the body, so I wonder why they seem to have diminished importance in roleplaying games. in 3.5 Edition, they don't even offer an armour bonus.

Were various projections on the helmets purely for decoration or did they help deflect blows? Were certain shapes such as conical shapes better for deflecting blows?

_______________

Does moisture have an effect on bows? I think it weakens wood and sinew, and the glue that binds composite bows together.

A composite bow consists of three layers, correct? Sinew on the back of the bow (side facing away from user), a hardwood in the middle, and animal horn or bone as the belly of the bow?

What woods were used in making bows?
The horns of what animals are used in making composite bows?

Galloglaich
2010-01-01, 12:57 AM
I have a few questions on bows and helmets.

First, the helmet posted before by Galloglaich would be commonly called a lobster tail pot, correct? According to Wikipedia, a lobster tail pot design was used during the English Civil War.

They were, they were also used all over Eastern Europe and Central Asia.



I'm currently interested in face and head protection, so a search of helmets on Wikipedia has answered some basic questions. However...
Was there any historical use of armoured masks, or other face guards, as part of a helmet? Did anyone craft them to resemble a face, so as to inspire fear in their enemies?

Yes and yes, that was actually quite common. The Romans used cavalry masks like this:

http://www.landauer.us/rome/log/wp-content/uploads/cavalry_helmet-300x259.jpg
http://www.romancoins.info/a-2005-helmet.JPG

http://www.kalkriese-varusschlacht.de/images/10_maske_k.jpg

The calm looking face masks were designed to be creepy, try to imagine that face on an armored horseman trying to spear you.

The Japanese took a more direct approach, with scarier looking masks, sometimes demonic with horns and fangs

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Japanese_armor.jpg

The European barbarians also had the same approach, possibly the most famous is the Sutton Hoo helmet

http://www.britsattheirbest.com/images/h_sutton_hoo_helmet.jpghttp://teacherpages.com/images/sutton_hoo_helmet_front.jpg

Here is a cleaned up replica to give you an idea what it looked like before sitting in the mud for 1500 years

http://www.georgetowncollege.edu/Departments/English/allen/images/HELM-SH.JPG
Also similar designs in Medieval Russia, like this:

http://c1.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/60/l_f120ea0422f944e1b3e7901eca8ef200.jpg

...though there were many other similar ones.

During the Renaissance they got positively freaky and surrealistic.

http://c3.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images01/14/l_1935a876f8bd05f255e4caf98e14f1c6.jpg

http://c1.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/132/l_6591cdad86bf4bf0b8d1f9f49786f1d0.jpg

http://c4.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/131/l_d8b5b3d997f14f38988fdf7627cbb40b.jpg

Some of the rest of these are big so I'll just post links

http://c2.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/151/l_188cb634ca0d434792927b54d884ec59.jpg

http://c2.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/146/l_a5759cfac03349bfa9d3fa45b43eb9f9.jpg

http://c3.ac-images.myspacecdn.com/images02/135/l_8e8b16db2b48420589062f288d0b8d72.jpg

...and thats just scratching the surface.



Were hampered ventilation and visual obstruction major drawbacks to using full faced helms? What was a realistic balance between protection and the wearer's ability to see and breathe?

It was a problem, but I think the Europeans did a pretty good job of solving it, the visor went a long way to dealing with this issue among other innovations. The biggest problem with plate armor in general was the heat.

As for what the best balance was, it depended on the battlefield and the type of fighting you were doing. Iron Age warriors were considered very well armored with a byrnie (a mail vest) and a helmet and a shield, and no other arm, neck or leg protection. Heavy shock cavalry and shock infantry like you saw in the Medieval and Renaissance periods which was meant to duke it out toe to toe with numerically superior enemies really needed complete coverage, medium cavalry which you started to see after the mid 16th Century could get away with much less. Light cavalry might wear only a helmet, a gorget and a padded coat, infantry increasingly wore nothing except for those men on the front ranks.



Vision is an important factor in a ranged weapon user's effectiveness, so I would guess that archers wore open faced helmets?

Typically yes, or sometimes visored helmets or helmets like sallets which could be pulled up on the top of the head and then pulled down over the face for hand to hand fighting.



Would a lack of a helmet be a serious disadvantage in combat? The head is a very vulnerable part of the body, so I wonder why they seem to have diminished importance in roleplaying games. in 3.5 Edition, they don't even offer an armour bonus.

I would say it is a very serious disadvantage in combat, the head is one of the most likely places to be hit, both by descending missiles and by hand weapons due to the basic nature of body mechanics. The helmet was for this reason by far the most ubiquitous form of body armor (many many many times more helmets have been found than any other type).

I believe the re-enactor and other HEMA and martial arts people here will corroborate my personal experience that your head is one of the places where you tend to get hit the most when sparring with weapons.

As for why they don't play a major role in RPG games, in my opinion it's because most Role Playing Games are designed by people who don't have a clue about what a fight is like, what medieval weapons are like, or what armor is etc., and most of their fan base couldn't care less.



Were various projections on the helmets purely for decoration or did they help deflect blows? Were certain shapes such as conical shapes better for deflecting blows?

My experience of armor is that almost every metal component of armor had a serious purpose, but that said there were also decorations like you see in that samurai armor, and Feudal Medieval European knights used to put cloth or papier mache heraldic ornaments on their armor as well. Some very old Celtic helmets had horns etc. which were obviously for decoration.



Does moisture have an effect on bows? I think it weakens wood and sinew, and the glue that binds composite bows together.

Yes, it could be a problem for composite bows that is why on the steppe bows were carried in a waterproof sheath, along with the arrows, called a gorytos. Crossbows which were for a while made this same way were also carried with a leather sheath over the prod (the bow part).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorytos



A composite bow consists of three layers, correct? Sinew on the back of the bow (side facing away from user), a hardwood in the middle, and animal horn or bone as the belly of the bow?

What woods were used in making bows?
The horns of what animals are used in making composite bows?
That one I don't know, hopefully somebody else can chime in on it.


Happy New Year!

G.

Dervag
2010-01-01, 04:47 AM
Actualy, easier than you may think. Any self respecting army nowadays has a force of engineers to build/destroy stuff on the spot, and there's still research on new ways to make a force as indepedent as possible.

For example, I recall the research of easily carrieable tools to purify water on the spot, from anything from mud to urine.Yeah, but that's just the trivial stuff. You're never going to see a modern army that can supply itself in the field the way the Romans could, because it takes machine tools to duplicate a lot of a modern army's consumables.


My recollection of undergrad Roman history basically said it was the Anarchy that destroyed Roman military discipline. After that there was no way that infantry would be willing to perform 20 mile a day marches, and cavalry came to the fore (they also switched to a defense in depth scheme). What is really impressive is that Rome managed to survive a couple centuries longer. Basically at this point, there was little to distinguish a Roman army from the barbarians they were fighting. The basic organizational elements and names were still there, but the discipline and tactics were essentially gone.It wasn't really that simple, at least not up until the very end, based on what I've heard. Unfortunately, I'm not really qualified to comment; I may be able to find a more authoritative reference if I ask around.


Also, even on the battlefield, if someone had bested you, they'd bested you and that was all. Among the non-nobility, it was to the death, to the last man. Among Knights and nobility, there were rules, even in war.To the death, maybe; to the last man, hardly ever. After all, screaming and running away was usually an option, and a frequently taken one: 10% casualties are considered heavy in a military unit for a reason.
_______


Yes, 40-70 lbs is more like it... or less actuallly. Full cap-a-pied Milanese armor may be as much as 80 lbs, German Gothic harness couild be as little as 30 lbs., many three quarters or half harness even less. And yes falling off a horse can be fatal in and of itself, especially if you don't know what you are doing, but we tend to still cling to the myth of armor as completely immobilizing. Actually it's not true. Even a modern middle aged actor can intentionally fall off a horse in full plate harness and get right back up again with no problem.... with a little training and experience...

Now imagine a professional knight in condition like a top athlete, who had ridden horses since childhood and trained and fought in armor for decades. Something like a combination of an MMA fighter and a rodeo Cowboy and a top quality dressage rider. It's not some lumbering brute or an overweight re-enactor, or one of the cavemen we get on TV or film depictions of Medieval knights.The armor isn't immobilizing, but if you are knocked off your horse (not "I fell on purpose"), it's going to take you a moment to get back up. If you're in a melee with a bunch of angry guys with knives and big heavy things, I'd think there would be a very real danger that you'll end up being pinned to the ground with daggers pointed at awkward bits of your anatomy before you manage to regain your feet.

Fhaolan
2010-01-01, 06:48 AM
Was there any historical use of armoured masks, or other face guards, as part of a helmet? Did anyone craft them to resemble a face, so as to inspire fear in their enemies?

Yes, it happened on many a helm. Museums and the like typically label that style as 'grotesque helms', and they range from simple flat masks through human faces to bizarre demonic creations. However it was always a relatively expensive project to make them, so they're not very common overall.


Were hampered ventilation and visual obstruction major drawbacks to using full faced helms? What was a realistic balance between protection and the wearer's ability to see and breathe?

Like the rest of the armour, helms were designed for specific purposes. Full-face helms for foot-fighting tended to have more and larger holes for ventelation than full-face cavalry helms. And Sport Jousting helms even less as the wearer was not expected to be in them long or move about much when wearing them, and they really didn't need to see much because the target area for them was relatively rigidly set and it was unlikely for them to be ambushed while in the list. :smallsmile:


Vision is an important factor in a ranged weapon user's effectiveness, so I would guess that archers wore open faced helmets?

Typically, yes. For example, wide brimmed steel 'war hats' or 'kettle helm' for archers and artillerymen were very popular for a broad range of time periods in Europe starting about in the 12th century and lasting until WWI.


Would a lack of a helmet be a serious disadvantage in combat? The head is a very vulnerable part of the body, so I wonder why they seem to have diminished importance in roleplaying games. in 3.5 Edition, they don't even offer an armour bonus.

Yes, it is important, and not having a helmet is *serious*. However, most RPGs see it as a needless complication, along the same reason why most systems don't have rules for other styles of peicemeal armour. It is simply assumed that the helm is part of the armour set.


Were various projections on the helmets purely for decoration or did they help deflect blows? Were certain shapes such as conical shapes better for deflecting blows?

Depends. There were cases of projections that were meant to break off, made of paper mache or the like. However, some of them did serve purposes. It gets a bit complicated though, as usually the designs were for use against whatever style of combat was expected. Meaning that if they were expecing lots of missiles falling from above, but not lances from the front, the helms were designed primarily for that purpose.


Does moisture have an effect on bows? I think it weakens wood and sinew, and the glue that binds composite bows together.

Yes. Moisture can badly damage a bow, which is why good bows need to be oiled constantly to keep moisture out. This affects all parts of the bow, wood, glue, etc. In fact, this is one of the reason why composite bows didn't do so well in many parts of the world. It took a lot longer to find glues that could withstand the wetter and colder climates, which slowed down the adoption of the composite bows in those areas. Bowstrings also deteriorate when they are wet, so bows were usually only pulled out and strung when they were expected to be used immediately. They weren't just carried about strung all the time.


A composite bow consists of three layers, correct? Sinew on the back of the bow (side facing away from user), a hardwood in the middle, and animal horn or bone as the belly of the bow?

The basic version, yes. There have been other combinations of material, such as spring steel, canvas, and lots of other seemingly miscelaneous stuff. It gets more complicated in detail, which is why a master bowyer is just a rare a skillset as a master swordsmith.


What woods were used in making bows?

The one most people know about is Yew. Mainly because a well-constructed yew bow is naturally composite. The heartwood of yew has considerably different mechanical properties from the sapwood, so if you know what you're doing, you can get a composite-like effect from a single piece of wood. Of course, you're still limited by the shape of the wood, while artificial composites allow you to make more radical curves. However, orangewood, rowan, hawthorn, elm, waxwood, and many, many other kinds of wood have been used to good effect. Some woods are a lot harder to work with than others, though, and may not produce a high-quality bow without a *lot* of skill in the bowyer.


The horns of what animals are used in making composite bows?

All of them... although to be honest I don't think rhino horn has ever made it into a bow as that's a considerably different material than what people normally think of as 'horn'. For composite bows, the horn (and bone) is usually used in very thin stips, in many cases different types of horn and bone will be used in the same bow at different points.

Eldan
2010-01-01, 07:52 AM
Only marginally real world question, but:
I got some of the new Warhammer Skaven for Christmas. Now, it seems that they have rather strange shields, some of them: triangular wooden shields, with, on some of them, the lower point missing and replaced by a triangular piece of chain mail hanging down.
So I'm wondering, since I've never seen this:
-Would there be any point to having loosely hanging chain on a shield?
-If yes, has this ever been done? I don't think I've seen something like that on illustrations, ever.

Dienekes
2010-01-02, 09:45 PM
So a bit of an odd question. I have always been interested in swordsmanship (particularly European longsword) and have finally decided to try and learn how to do it.

However, due to money restraints and where I'm currently living there is no groups or classes I can go to learn from.

So I was wondering if anyone here knew of any books or websites that I could try and teach myself the techniques. And of course I know this isn't nearly as good getting training and is probably a waist of efforts, but it's something I want to try and do.

So if you could point me in the right direction I'd be much obliged.

Swordguy
2010-01-02, 11:19 PM
-Would there be any point to having loosely hanging chain on a shield?
-If yes, has this ever been done? I don't think I've seen something like that on illustrations, ever.

It makes the shield a very wicked weapon - snapping somebody in the face with chainmail would hurt. Beyond that, not much reason for it. Maybe a better way to carry "spare" armor (that can quickly and easily replace a damaged armor section) than stuffing it in a backpack. I'm just brain-storming here...



So a bit of an odd question. I have always been interested in swordsmanship (particularly European longsword) and have finally decided to try and learn how to do it.

So if you could point me in the right direction I'd be much obliged.

Start with these:

Fighting with the German Longsword (http://www.amazon.com/Fighting-German-Longsword-Christian-Tobler/dp/1891448242/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262492483&sr=1-1)
The Swordman's Companion: A Manual for Training With the Medieval Longsword (http://www.amazon.com/Swordmans-Companion-Training-Medieval-Longsword/dp/1891448412/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262492483&sr=1-2)
Secrets of German Medieval Swordsmanship: Sigmund Ringeck's Commentaries on Liechtenauer (http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-German-Medieval-Swordsmanship-Commentaries/dp/1891448072/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262492483&sr=1-5)
Arte Gladiatoria Dimicandi: 15th Century Swordsmanship of Master Fillipo Vadi (http://www.amazon.com/Arte-Gladiatoria-Dimicandi-Century-Swordsmanship/dp/1891448161/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262492502&sr=1-14)
English Swordsmanship: The True Fight of George Silver (http://www.amazon.com/English-Swordsmanship-Fight-George-Silver/dp/1891448277/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262492483&sr=1-7)
Medieval Sword & Shield: The Combat System of Royal Armouries MS I.33 (http://www.amazon.com/Medieval-Sword-Shield-Combat-Armouries/dp/1891448439/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262492483&sr=1-3)

And go here:
http://www.thearma.org/

Let us know when you've gotten those and absorbed all the knowledge. We'll see you in several years. :smalltongue:

Dienekes
2010-01-03, 02:29 AM
Heh, hopefully I can find some training by then, but thanks. Can't wait to start.

Deadmeat.GW
2010-01-03, 07:37 AM
Only marginally real world question, but:
I got some of the new Warhammer Skaven for Christmas. Now, it seems that they have rather strange shields, some of them: triangular wooden shields, with, on some of them, the lower point missing and replaced by a triangular piece of chain mail hanging down.
So I'm wondering, since I've never seen this:
-Would there be any point to having loosely hanging chain on a shield?
-If yes, has this ever been done? I don't think I've seen something like that on illustrations, ever.

It was used in some parts of the world as a stop-gap to protect the legs from archery but never really popular so...take it with a pinch of salt as after this is Warhammer FANTASY :).

Eldan
2010-01-03, 09:08 AM
Oh, I guessed that it was probably just something a sculptor thought looked cool. Nice to know it could actually have a function, though. :smalltongue:

Galloglaich
2010-01-03, 11:48 AM
So a bit of an odd question. I have always been interested in swordsmanship (particularly European longsword) and have finally decided to try and learn how to do it.

However, due to money restraints and where I'm currently living there is no groups or classes I can go to learn from.

So I was wondering if anyone here knew of any books or websites that I could try and teach myself the techniques. And of course I know this isn't nearly as good getting training and is probably a waist of efforts, but it's something I want to try and do.

So if you could point me in the right direction I'd be much obliged.

Buy a book or two right away, get yourself a waster or a steel blunt, and I do highly recommend going to a forum, because that is where you can get useful advice as you are learning. But picking a place or places to hang out is a bit of a pitfall.

Actually I'd avoid ARMA, and ARMAs big rivals on the Sword Forum International forum as well but that is just my personal preference.

Places online that I have personally found to be relatively friendly include:

Schola Gladiatoria Forum from the UK

http://www.fioredeiliberi.org/phpBB3/

This is a British HEMA group but their forum is populated by people from all over Europe it is kind of the unofficial English language home of the big European HEMAC federation and it's a good way to get in touch with members of the European groups.

Pendant RMA forum in the US

http://pendant.forumotion.net/

This forum is the home of the new HEMA Alliance group which was formed partly from ex-ARMA members who left in the last 'schism'. A lot of very friendly and very well informed people hang around there, like Jay Vail and Jake Norwood. You can't go wrong talking to guys like that.

Western Martial Arts Coalition

http://www.wmacoalition.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=51&Itemid=59

Houston based group fronted by one of the top US longsword and sword and buckler fencers, Scott Brown, which is friendly with the HEMA Alliance and with the European HEMAC scene. WMAC and the HEMA Alliance are doing a big longsword tournament together in March in Houston.

And finally if you are interested in Joachim Meyer the Florida based Meyer Frei Fechter group has a lot of online resources

http://www.freifechter.com/

I'd try to focus initially on one discipline, for longsword either German (Lichtenauer tradition) or Italian (Fiore / Vadi) If you were more ambitious you could try to learn Portuguese or English longsword but that is not nearly as well understood yet.

For German fencing in particular there are dozens of videos online on Youtube and similar video aggregators. I posted several good examples upthread, you can actually see how to do just about every technique from the most basic guards and stances to the most sophisticated disarms and throws, and halfswording gambits.

G.

Swordguy
2010-01-03, 12:30 PM
ARMA was a pioneer and used to be very helpful to the HEMA community, and they still have some useful stuff on their website, but it is a closed group which doesn't deal with any other outside groups, and John Clements runs the whole thing like some kind of maoist cult, they edit peoples posts on their forum etc. I think it is a consensus in almost every HEMA group around the world that he is really one of the most obnoxious people you'll ever meet in Martial Arts circles, and that is saying something.

I can't agree with this enough. The dude's a jackass*. However, he knows his stuff, and, frankly, seemingly everybody with the ego to open a WMA school that I've attended or heard of also has a big enough ego to be a jackass. Thusly, since pretty much everybody I can think of is a jackass, I'd go with the group with the best track record. And in the US, that's ARMA.

But, regardless, I have to echo the advice to shop around for a group you fit in well with. The Sword Forum guys are pretty low-key online, so that's a good place (a LOT better than the ARMA forums!) to hang out.


*I very much respect John Clements - especially for the early work he's done in building the WMA scene in the US which makes many of the other groups really viable. However, I make my living as a stage combat choreographer, and he's gone on record (in "Medieval Swordsmanship") as saying that anybody who tries to choreograph anything short of a "real" fight - irrespective of the training status of the participants or amount of time available to work the fight - to be actively damaging to the WMA community. In short, it's better that stage combat people never pick up a sword again if they aren't willing to do it "his way". Thusly, I can maintain both points of view; that his work is immensely valuable to the WMA community, and that he is a jackass.

Adlan
2010-01-03, 01:07 PM
Does moisture have an effect on bows? I think it weakens wood and sinew, and the glue that binds composite bows together.

A composite bow consists of three layers, correct? Sinew on the back of the bow (side facing away from user), a hardwood in the middle, and animal horn or bone as the belly of the bow?

What woods were used in making bows?
The horns of what animals are used in making composite bows?

The Wet can Damage Bows, Self Bows well waxed are the most immune to this (English Warbows would be the classic self bow), but even they can be damaged (particularly long term storage being wet) and bow strings of course. On composite bows, they will actually suck mostuire out of the air, so even a slightly humid conditions slowly deteriorate the bow. Modern materials reduce this to basically nothing.

Composite bows can consist of anywhere from two or more layers, but yeah, basically the way you have described is generally correct.

Most woods are used for making bows, It depends what bow, where and when, if you want a better answer (Tudor england: Yew, Boxwood, Pre contact america: Osage Orange ect.).

The Horns of Goat, Sheep, Cattle are mostly whats used, Antler and Keretin horn (like the rhino) are not used, at least as much as I am aware. I think I can recall some bows with ivory in them, but don't ask me for a source, so take that as hersay.

Fhaolan
2010-01-03, 01:15 PM
The Horns of Goat, Sheep, Cattle are mostly whats used, Antler and Keretin horn (like the rhino) are not used, at least as much as I am aware. I think I can recall some bows with ivory in them, but don't ask me for a source, so take that as hersay.

I have some vague memories of antlers being used in places like Finland, but I'm likely wrong. In the same way I've heard tell that some Norse bows had bone from whale ribs and narwhal tusks incorporated into them. But I've never actually seen any of these, and it's entirely possible these were just arrow plates that the viewers mistakenly identified as structural parts.

bansidhe
2010-01-03, 03:07 PM
Theres few myths about weapons being made from meteoric iron but I saw a programme the other day about an american explorer who took away an inuit meteor that they used too make razors from and had the thought..Hmm I can think of at least one weapon supposed too be meteoric in origin,the egyptian knife of one of the Pharohs..I wonder if many european/asian ones are supposed/can be proved too be "from the stars"

Also,how would this affect the metal itself?..traces of carbon or other elements making it a superiour blade?...anyone know?

Gwyn chan 'r Gwyll
2010-01-03, 03:17 PM
I have a few questions on bows and helmets.

First, the helmet posted before by Galloglaich would be commonly called a lobster tail pot, correct? According to Wikipedia, a lobster tail pot design was used during the English Civil War.

I'm currently interested in face and head protection, so a search of helmets on Wikipedia has answered some basic questions. However...
Was there any historical use of armoured masks, or other face guards, as part of a helmet? Did anyone craft them to resemble a face, so as to inspire fear in their enemies?



More on this, masks were often used by various steppe people, and their neighbours. Some quick examples:

A replica Mongol helmet: http://reenactorswarehouse.com/Helmets/RW108%20Mongolian%20Helmet%20frontsm.jpg

Medieval Russian: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8f/Russian_helmet_13-14cent.jpg

A model of a Seleucid cavalryman: http://img100.imageshack.us/img100/4700/kataphract4rm9.jpg

The cheekguards on these Thracian helmets almost touch, and create a moustached mask. http://img517.imageshack.us/img517/8009/thracianinfantryrx8.jpg

Another medieval Russian mask, the model on the far left. http://www.markagame.ru/screenies/s_2/14_Blijnaja_Drujina.jpg

golentan
2010-01-03, 03:40 PM
What were the various personal firearms of 2 to 3 hundred years ago? And what were the practical differences in performance between them? So far I've got flint and wheellock muskets, rifled muskets, pistols, dragons, blunderbusses, and the like. But I don't know the misfire rates, or rates of fire, or comparative accuracy between the different weapons.

Mauril Everleaf
2010-01-03, 04:14 PM
I've got a question regarding the trident. Was it an effective weapon at disarming foes? One of my players is suggesting that we add the "disarm" quality to the weapon in our DnD games, but I wanted to make sure that the weapon was legitimately used for disarming. He cites a wiki article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trident#Military_use) and the ranseur as precedent, but I wanted to check with people that knew.

Just posting again, as I think it was lost in the shuffle.

Dienekes
2010-01-03, 04:48 PM
Thanks to both of you, again. I think I got the jist of it. Get the books, peruse the sites and ask questions and beware of jackasses.

Storm Bringer
2010-01-03, 05:32 PM
What were the various personal firearms of 2 to 3 hundred years ago? And what were the practical differences in performance between them? So far I've got flint and wheellock muskets, rifled muskets, pistols, dragons, blunderbusses, and the like. But I don't know the misfire rates, or rates of fire, or comparative accuracy between the different weapons.

okay, wall of text time:

until the invention of metallic cartridges in the 19th century, all systems worked on a two-stage ingintion system: a small charge of loose powder was lit, and this small bang was directed to ingnite the main charge via a small hole in the breech of the weapon.


Matchlock: first effective system of ignitiion. take a treated string, designed to smolder for hours on end, and attach it to a lever, with a trigger to put the match into a pan of gunpowder. Slowest, and least reliable of the methods, but easist in to make. was not replaced in some parts of the world with later methods (the indians and chinese were known to be using matchlock muskets agianst 19th century redcoast with precussion rifles). more sensitive to wet wether than later systems, and highly likey to mistfire (creating a 'fash in the pan', where the starter charge goes off but fails to set off the main charge, and hence live up to expectations). weapons of this type were the main weapons of the English Civil War, and the 30 Years War in europe.


Wheellock: a complex and relativly short-lived 'transitional' method. used a clockwork spinning fint wheel as a sparker. discovered before the flintlock system, and, while an improvment in reliablity on the matchlock, was replaced by the flintlock when that became available. Used mainly by cavalry, espically on pistols, for two reasons: 1) it could be carried loaded and ready to fire, unlike a match lock, which required you to constantly fiddle with the slow-match to keep it lit, and 2) was too expensive to equip the whole army with. Used in the 30 Years War by cavalry mainly, to my knowledge.

flintlock: works by using a spring to stike a flint over the pan, shedding sparks on it. easier to make than the wheelock, easier to load (less mucking about with the clockwork), and more robust, it quickly replaced it and became the 'standard' method of firing musket in europe. as time went on, improvments to the design brought the misfire rate down considerably (I can't quote exact figures, but it would appear to be somewhat less than 10%). was known as a 'fusil' at some early point in it's history, and led to the 'fusilier' troop type (a unit armed with flintlocks when flintlocks were not standard issue, and as such 'elite'. were used to guard cannons, it being felt safer as they didn't have burning slow-matches on all thier weapons). from 1700 onwards, was the standard ignition system for all arms. the American war of Independance and the Neopleonic Wars were both fought with flintlocks

Carbine or Dragon: shortened longarm for cavalry use. somewhat less power, but not enough to quantify meaningfuly). led to dragoons, oringally intended for a 'mounted infantry' role, where the troopers used the horses to get into position and then fought on foot.

rifle: I'm assuming you understand how rifling works (though tell me if i'm wrong on this count), so i won't explainit. massivly increases effective range (~ triples in in many cases), and discovered very early on (c 16th century). However, until the 1830s, they were very slow to load, due to the tight fit needed to enguage with the rifling. they managed at best 1-2rnd/min, compared to 3-5 for a musket. used mainly by civilians and light infantry.

Rifled-musket: after several ideas and attempts, by the 1850s/60s a workable, muzzle loading rifle was made that could be loaded as fast as a normal musket, by use of a new design of round that had an expanding base which kept it easy to load while letting it enguage with the rifling. standard armament of the american civil war, and one of the major reasons for the changes in tactics seen in that conflict (and the heavy losses as genarls tried to alter most of the assumptions on which they'd learnt thier trade).


blunderbuss: shotgun, pure and simple. had a wide bell-mouth for ease of loading (particually on a moving carridge).


as to rate of fire, range ect:

Rate of fire: matchlocks were very, very slow to load, with a lot of time spent fiddling with the match to keep it lit. they fired about twice a minute with good troops. wheelocks......I don't know how fast they were to load. they generally were not reloaded in combat. That is, the user would discharge the pistol in melee, then fight with his sword until he could disenguage and take time to reload his pistols (troopers carried three or four, mostly in holsters on the front of the saddle.).

the flintlock could be loaded much faster. raw recruits with a few weeks training could load them at 2 rounds a minute. 'average' line infantry could do 3. high quality troops, who drilled relentlessly, could manage 4 or even 5 rounds a minute. cavalry troopers would sometimes to into battle with half a dozen or so pistols on their person. when they shot one, they'd switch to another.

the slow rates of fire led to the adopting of staggered firing drills, where elements of the line would fire in succession, thus keeping up a steady fire (and ensuring that the unit always had some loaded muskets ready). their were times when the crushing power of a mass volley was preffered (for example, just before a bayonet charge), and in any extended firefight, fire disapline would tend to break down, with the indevidual troopers on both sides just loading and firing as fast as they could rather than waiting for the words of command form officers and NCOs.


Range: max range for pretty much all of these weapons was less than a hundred meters. most firefights took place at under 60 or so meters. accuracy was abysmal: modern estimates, even under the most favourable formulas (rounds fired vs casualties taken, which would include those hurt by arty, cavalry, ect) place the 'battlefield' effectiveness at around 1 hit per 500 rounds shot. partly, this was a side effect of the close order formations needed to repel cav attacks, and poor sights on the weapons. light infantry working in skimish lines were able to achieve better results, but smoothbore guns were still very inaccurate, so training stressed wieght of fire over marksmanship

rifled weapons were much, much more accruate, allowing marksmen to shoot 100-150 meters with acceptable accuracy, and crack shots to hit targets out to 300 meters.


thier is more, but i'll wait and see what others have to say, and what parts of my post they question/contradict/expand upon. if you have any questions on specific areas, go ahead and ask, and i will expand to the best of my knowledge

golentan
2010-01-03, 05:42 PM
Stuff

Yessir. I don't need the history lesson, I'm looking for specific accuracy and misfire rates. And I guess you've now taken care of most of the rate of fire questions, though I'm still looking for such things for the blunderbuss and dragons.

I know the differences between the different weapons, but only clinically, and only what a cursory research can turn up. I need to know the practical, on the ground differences, from the perspective of prospective owners. Why select a dragon over a blunderbuss, or a flintlock over a wheellock. How often the weapons might jam, or even explode, on the battlefield.

Storm Bringer
2010-01-03, 06:03 PM
well, the only solid shots fired/wounds caused figures i have seen relate to naploenic warfare, which puts the ratio as roughly 1 casualty to 500 rounds. misfires.....I dunno, really depends a lot on things like troop experince, level of panic, quality of ammunition, recent weather, and so on. I havn't seen any solid misfire rates for these guns, so i can't comment beyond a general level.

as to why choose what:

a flintlock is simpler, eaiser to maintain and more robust than a wheelock, and more reliable than the other two methods. It is also quicker to load, a very important consideration for extended firefights (but not as much in a civilain context, as a fight would be over before you had a chance to reload anyway).

a wheelock is reliable (less misfires) than a matchlock, but is somewhat more fragile. however, it could be kept in a holster in a ready to fire state, wereas a matchlock couldn't. This made it popular with horseman.

matchlocks are simple, but much more prone to misfire than the other two. however, they were the only method for a long time, and remained in use in some areas right up until the 19th cent.

a dragon or carbine was used for cavalry, with the idea that the shorter barrel would make it easier to load on horseback (are you familiar with the loading process?). blunderbussers were used mostly by civilians, sterotypically guards riding shotgun on coaches travelling the countryside, where the wide mouth eased loading.

Jams in the modern sense were uncommon: thiers just not enough moving parts for that to happen much. Ammo failed on a regular basis, but i can't put a figure to it at this time. As i understand it, the normal procedure was to just load a new round on top of the dud and carry on, taking time to clear the dud out after the battle. muskets, to my knowledge did not explode in any numbers worth mentioning. cannon did, particularly in the early days, but the casting skill of the time was good enough to make a mustket barrel free of flaws easily enough.

Galloglaich
2010-01-03, 06:58 PM
I can't agree with this enough. The dude's a jackass*. However, he knows his stuff, and, frankly, seemingly everybody with the ego to open a WMA school that I've attended or heard of also has a big enough ego to be a jackass. Thusly, since pretty much everybody I can think of is a jackass, I'd go with the group with the best track record. And in the US, that's ARMA.

Maybe 5 years ago. I don't think ARMA is really relevant any more, all their top guys left during the last schism earlier this year.


But, regardless, I have to echo the advice to shop around for a group you fit in well with. The Sword Forum guys are pretty low-key online, so that's a good place (a LOT better than the ARMA forums!) to hang out.

It's probably a matter of what suits your personality best, I find SFI a rather elitist place personally. Anybody who thinks they are, let alone calls themself a 'Maestro' in European Martial arts is self deluded IMO. I know some of the top Western Martial Arts people on the planet and they will all admit we have barely scratched the surface. There hasn't been a master of Renaissance fencing for several hundred years.



he's gone on record (in "Medieval Swordsmanship") as saying that anybody who tries to choreograph anything short of a "real" fight - irrespective of the training status of the participants or amount of time available to work the fight - to be actively damaging to the WMA community.

The bottom line is no one person has a monopoly on the martial arts of our ancestors, which is the heritage of the whole world. No one person knows how to do this, and any individual 'master' who thinks they do is a fool. Hard core martial artists, re-enactors, and stage combat expert all have a lot to learn from each other if they are honest about it.

To me the Europeans have shown the way forward with HEMAC, by working together and sharing knowledge, and coming together for competitions to actually put theories to the test rather than having endless circular arguments, many small groups have clearly advanced leaps and bounds beyond what was happening in North America (and become many large groups in just the last few years). Now we are starting to see new coalitions in North America as well which are emulating much the same open model. Many small groups work together and compare notes. This is how HEMA is going to grow.

G.

Galloglaich
2010-01-03, 07:07 PM
Theres few myths about weapons being made from meteoric iron but I saw a programme the other day about an american explorer who took away an inuit meteor that they used too make razors from and had the thought..Hmm I can think of at least one weapon supposed too be meteoric in origin,the egyptian knife of one of the Pharohs..I wonder if many european/asian ones are supposed/can be proved too be "from the stars"

Also,how would this affect the metal itself?..traces of carbon or other elements making it a superiour blade?...anyone know?

Meteoric iron is basically just purer iron. It was particularly valuable in very ancient times before the secret of smelting iron was known; because iron does not normally occur in it's natural state on the surface of the earth. Due to the oxygen in our atmosphere, iron usually occurs as rust or iron ore (compounds of iron, iron-oxide, and other minerals such as silica) trapped in rock, sand, or certain bog plants. So for example during the Bronze Age this was the only real source of iron artifacts. Pharoah Tut Ankh Amon had an iron dagger which was made of meteorite iron, it was more precious than gold because iron was far more rare than gold.

Even after the bloomery forge was invented in the early Iron Age, the quality of much of the iron produced was so inconsistent that meteorite iron was still valuable and sought after. It wasn't really until certain production centers were producing large quantities of good quality homogeneous iron that meteor iron was not as big of a deal. By the 11th - 12th Centuries sophisticated automatic forges and trip hammers powered by water wheels and wind mills had been spread across Europe by the cistercian monks, and very good quality iron had become plentiful.

Meteor iron in and of itself though isn't especially good for making weapons, it's just very pure iron, but with no carbon content to speak of, it's essentially wrought iron. Too soft to hold an edge or even hold it's shape as a sword. It could be used to make very good steel however in the hands of a good blacksmith.

G.

Fhaolan
2010-01-03, 07:45 PM
Just posting again, as I think it was lost in the shuffle.

Unfortunately, my only experience with trident-like weapons are the long polearm versions, sometimes known as warforks. I've not dealt with the short versions that the Gladiators and the like used. I do know that a varienty of weapons with projections, like curve-hilted swords and the like, can be used for disarming. However, it's one of those maneuvers that has a relatively limited use in RL combat. It's usually much easier to just kill your opponent than waste time fiddling with weapon locks.

fusilier
2010-01-04, 05:32 AM
@golentan

Unfortunately, the question you are asking is difficult to answer succinctly. These weapons were relatively complicated systems. Failures in a flintlock could be the result of poor flints. British soldiers in the Revolutionary Wars had notoriously bad gun flints; they issued two flints with every pack of ten rounds! Whereas American gun flints were thought to be excellent, and often capable of reliably firing 30-40 shots or even more, before needing to be re-knapped.

The quality of the gunpowder was another issue. Along with humidity etc. The overall quality of the weapon had to be considered, and how well trained the operator was. All these factors could effect how likely the gun was to "misfire" and how bad the misfire could be.

As for accuracy, it is believed that when soldiers have the time to load in a calm state their fire tends to be better. So the care taken in the loading procedure can have an effect. When dealing with muzzle-loading weapons, there are a ton of factors.

Is a patch being used? And what kind of material is it? Military drill usually just stuffed the paper wrapper of the cartridge down the barrel as a crude patch. Other materials were usually considered superior.

Is the barrel "warm"? Black-powder fouling is pretty severe. You will actually get a tighter fit as the gun is fired -- but this can slow down reloading. Again the military generally used an undersized ball (both for this reason, and because bullet tolerances were poor).

Condition of the powder? The Mexican army used notoriously bad powder . . . they attempted to compensate for this by simply putting more of it down the barrel. This led to very heavy recoil, and more burst breeches. American troops during the Mexican-American War were often surprised by how fast their enemy fired, and how bad their aim was. Many soldados fired "from the hip" to avoid the excessive recoil.

--------------------------
Wheellocks were complicated, and therefore tended to be expensive. Usually this meant that they were very well made, and worked very well. A cheap wheellock would be garbage. There were also snap-locks (or snap-haunces -- some sources differentiate between the two). Often overlooked are the so called "miquelet" locks, which were popular in Spain and Italy, and developed sometime in the late 1500s. These are functionally the same as a later flintlock (i.e. they combine the battery and pan cover into the "frizzen"), but use a much simpler trigger mechanism.

-------------------------------------
Anyway, I realize that this doesn't actually answer your question. Not until the development of mass produced percussion caps does there seem to be good, general statistics on reliability, and that's not until the 1840s. It would not surprise me if individual armies made comparisons between these weapons and earlier flintlocks. So you might be able to check up those statistics. But they will probably vary by army, and will reflect testing-ground conditions.

If you want to wade through a ton of detail, find a book called "Small Arms 1856." This is a reprint of the report by the US Ordnance Department on several trials conducted to find a new rifle musket using a minie ball. The focus of the report is on rifles, with various kinds of rifling and bullets. They do include some tables showing the accuracy of the percussion musket. The tables usually show the mean horizontal and vertical deviations of a series of test shots. It's a lot of info, but the only detailed published source on the accuracy of these weapons that I'm aware of.

@Storm Bringer
You covered the history very well. I just wanted to add some more info about the reloading times of muskets. Some recent information that I've read was claiming that 2 shots of minute was probably more typically. While well trained soldiers might be expected to fire "3 shots a minute" it is rarely reported. Firing rates of around 1 shot a minute are actually pretty common, even with flintlock muskets. However, for flintlocks there are "cheats" which can be performed to get firing rates fairly high. How often they actually occurred in battle, I don't know, and some stories are probably exaggerated (I've heard as high as 6 rounds a minute!).

Anyway, you can skip priming a flintlock, if the vent-hole is a bit oversized. When you load the main charge, some powder will travel through the breech to to the pan. Priming the pan on a flintlock before loading the main charge is actually a safety measure. Closing the pan-cover without priming, is probably sufficient to prevent air from rushing through the barrel and flaring up any smoldering embers. Also some troops were known to spit or blow down the barrel in an attempt to seat the ball without using the ramrod. All pretty dangerous sounding to me! Some generals didn't want to switch to percussion weapons, because they were "slower loading" -- they didn't allow any of these tricks to take place. However, I suspect that these dangerous expedients were not used as often as some think, and the greater reliability of a percussion weapon was sufficient to encourage their use.

fusilier
2010-01-04, 09:27 PM
I know the differences between the different weapons, but only clinically, and only what a cursory research can turn up. I need to know the practical, on the ground differences, from the perspective of prospective owners. Why select a dragon over a blunderbuss, or a flintlock over a wheellock. How often the weapons might jam, or even explode, on the battlefield.

Historically speaking flintlocks replaced wheellocks (and matchlocks). For some reason this took more time than one might expect. In my previous post I mentioned the simple, yet rugged miquelet lock. Developed in the late 1500s examples have been found at Jamestown. But for some reason, the lock of choice for pistols seems to have continued to be the wheellock. At least until about the middle of the 17th century.

The reason for picking a flintlock over a wheellock would be one of price. Wheellocks are complicated and must be very well made to function correctly. Also you may need to have the "timing" adjusted occasionally by a trained gunsmith. Early flintlocks may not have had the correct form to function as reliably as later ones. So while early flintlocks would have been cheaper, they may not have been quite as reliable as a properly maintained wheellock (just speculating). Later flintlocks were almost definitely as reliable as a wheellock.

As far as I can tell a dragon is a blunderbuss with a pistol grip. So it would probably be used in much the way a "sawn-off" shotgun is used.

As for sources for weapon accuracy, you must be careful about using battlefield statistics. Those might be useful if you are creating large scale wargames. But if you want to know how effective a weapon would be in the hands of an individual it's a different story. The tactics of the day called for massed volley fire, where soldiers didn't take the time to aim. While skirmishers might have more accurate fire, they couldn't lay down enough fire to seriously injure a dense infantry formation. Their main use was to find the enemy and then fall back on the main body. Small Arms 1856 is the kind of thing you are looking for, but unfortunately it's a bit late for the period you are dealing with. Although the information on rifle accuracy, with round ball, is probably appropriate for Napoleonic era rifles.

Mike_G
2010-01-04, 09:40 PM
The thing is, though, smoothbore muskets weren't designed for accuracy. The military firearms were expected to be used by massed formations against mass formations. The Brown Bess musket didn't have any sights. Practice targets were a sheet 6 feet tall and 50 yard long to simulate hitting a formation, not a single man. Much more emphasis was put into timing of fire than accuracy of fire. As others have said, an undersized ball was often used, as it was quicker to load but less accurate, and the preferrence was for volume of fire.

We still see a bit of that today, with many modern combat weapons less accurate at long range than the bolt action rifles of WWI, but able to fire semi or full automatic.

So, the average musketeer was aiming at the middle of a formation fifty yards long, the height of a man and at least three men deep. It's hard to extrapolate how many hits he'd get against a single man.

Galloglaich
2010-01-05, 12:31 AM
It's actually much the same with many if not most missile weapons before that. English longbow archers did most of their lethal shooting at far, far beyond the range at which one could aim at (let alone hit) an individual human - they practiced shooting at area targets in the form of large sheets 20' or more wide laid on the ground.

Similar with javelins. Javelins were thrown in volleys because it's fairly easy to catch an individual javelin. A whole cloud of them on the other hand, very dangerous.

G.

Galloglaich
2010-01-05, 10:31 AM
Check out this crazy Renaissance era helmet

http://www.photosfan.com/images/strange-suit-of-armour-helmet1.jpg

G.

Dervag
2010-01-05, 01:28 PM
Much more emphasis was put into timing of fire than accuracy of fire. As others have said, an undersized ball was often used, as it was quicker to load but less accurate, and the preferrence was for volume of fire.

We still see a bit of that today, with many modern combat weapons less accurate at long range than the bolt action rifles of WWI, but able to fire semi or full automatic.Those rifles were meant to be accurate to the limit of the machinists' ability to make the parts precisely enough at an acceptable price. The machinists are better now than a hundred years ago, but not that much better. Especially not when they have to incorporate the accuracy-disrupting effects of a gas blowback system into the gun.

But the biggest factor, as I understand it, is the result of WWII-vintage studies showing that most infantry combat took places at ranges of 100 m or less, with longer ranges being dominated by heavier weapons. And that most infantry weren't good enough shots to hit at ranges of several hundred meters even if you gave them rifles that could do the job.

Crow
2010-01-05, 01:37 PM
it's fairly easy to catch an individual javelin.

WHAT!!!????

Fhaolan
2010-01-05, 02:08 PM
WHAT!!!????

Surviving the catch, that's another issue. "Message for you, Sir" :smallbiggrin:

I know it's cool and all that, but I never really understood why you'd *want* to catch a javelin. Given how that would work, you'd have to move aside from it and catch it as it goes past. Why not just let it continue past? You're already out of the way of it. If you're that desperate to have a javelin of your own I think you've got bigger problems.

Galloglaich
2010-01-05, 02:59 PM
So you can throw it back quickly.

So long as the point is past you already (or beside you) it's not that risky to catch it.

When I was in high school we used to do it as a (very irresponsible) game with athletic javelins. Thrown at long range it's about as hard to catch one as it would be to catch a football, albiet with much direr consequencess if you miss. I'm hardly the only one to have noticed this.

http://regia.org/bow.htm


The art of the javelin is to throw them in a mass. This ensured that despite their slow speed through the air, some or all could not be avoided. The overall weight of the thrown spear is small by comparison to the fighting spear, however the added pace that the thrower imparted to the shaft, more than made up for it's lack of weight (snip) ... Oddly enough, a single javelin is easy to side step, and depending upon how it was thrown (a fairly flat trajectory), it can be caught and thrown back. The man in the shield wall didn't have the luxury of space to move or the choice of only one javelin to avoid. Tests we have carried out demonstrate all of these aspects, resulting in some sickening findings.

In fact the Romans thought the re-use of their javelins was a major problem which is why they designed their special armor piercing javelins (pilum) to break or bend when they landed. There are several Roman documents where they describe Barbarians (celts and Germanic tribsemen) were catching their javelins and throwing them back.

That is one problem you never have with bullets, or arrows, or crossbow bolts, or sling-stones, for various reasons.

G.

Fhaolan
2010-01-05, 03:34 PM
Yes, but I would think the wiser choice would be to pick it back up again after it had landed, rather than snatching it out of the air.

Galloglaich
2010-01-05, 03:45 PM
Agreed... if you were wise though you probably wouldn't be on the battlefield to begin with, which is why war is a young mans game.

G

Johel
2010-01-05, 03:50 PM
Actually, the roman javelin bended upon impact.
One of the reason romans threw pilums at all was because it would stuck in an enemy's shield, bend and then making said shield unwieldy and heavy, forcing the warrior to drop it or to be impeded. Both results made the warrior a fair game for the well-armored legionnaire. The "barbarians threw javelin back at us" simply means they pick it up once on the ground (or in a dead comrade...)

I don't know if it's easy to catch a real javelin in mid-air but it doesn't seem to be worth trying in the middle of a battle.

If your opponent throws a javelin at you from far enough for you to have the time to prepare to catch it, it means you have the time to raise your shield. If you don't have a shield to hide behind, just hide behind your next comrade. If you have no comrade next to you, that means you can step aside, even if it means to roll on the ground. Since your opponent is far away, you'll have the time to get up.

If your opponent throws a javelin at you at blank range, you really better jump aside and charge him while he's still out balance.

For you and your suicidal friends, I got a game : try the same but with throwing axes. :smallamused:

fusilier
2010-01-05, 04:15 PM
Those rifles were meant to be accurate to the limit of the machinists' ability to make the parts precisely enough at an acceptable price.

I would agree with this statement, with the caveat that they weren't willing to sacrifice rate of fire for a more accurate rifle. Much is made of the American riflemen during the Revolutionary War, but the British quickly learned that unsupported riflemen couldn't stand up to a bayonet charge. Even though their fire was more accurate, they just couldn't lay down enough fire to prevent their opponent from quickly closing. Rifles remained in armies as weapons for select light infantry units, until the development of the minie-ball.

The Brown Bess's bayonet lug makes a crude front sight. But also it's fairly easy to sight down the length of the long barrel. Yes, volley fire was supposed to occur against a massed formation, but the timing of the volley was generally considered more important than individual aim. I know of people who win shooting competitions against rifles with smoothbore muskets (it sounds pretty crazy). It's not impossible to get decent accuracy out of them . . . especially if you keep the range under 100 yards. It's beyond that range that muzzle-loading rifles start to get a serious advantage. At around 40 yards buck-and-ball becomes effective, and that was the standard musket load at least since the Napoleonic times.

An interesting note: The French were the first to adopt the minie-ball and muzzle loading rifles as standard armament. They actually adopted two kinds of ball. The light infantry (skirmishers) got a very accurate minie ball (almost identical to the kind the US adopted). The line infantry, however, got a flatter shooting ball with greater horizontal deviation: they were expected to be shooting at massed regiments.


But the biggest factor, as I understand it, is the result of WWII-vintage studies showing that most infantry combat took places at ranges of 100 m or less, with longer ranges being dominated by heavier weapons. And that most infantry weren't good enough shots to hit at ranges of several hundred meters even if you gave them rifles that could do the job.

Yeah, in a lot of WW1 rifles the battle sights are set really high. The Italians realized that most fighting was occurring at less than 300m, with heavy machine guns being preferred for longer ranges. The M1938 carcano had fixed sights set at 200m for this reason.

Karoht
2010-01-05, 04:56 PM
Old Viking game, catch the spear. Or at least, I heard it was an old viking game. Could be one of those common un-facts that filter around medieval culture.

As experience, it isn't that hard to catch a spear, nor to block with shields. Done both. However, if the spear catches, even a light one will pull your shield arm down, so the spear after that is probably going to kill you. Catching it with your bare hands isn't hard, it is just very hard to judge distance, as depth perception is slower than horizontal or vertical movement. A thrown spear is remarkably dangerous thing to catch, and I doubt you could do it when lots of people are throwing them anyway.

Mike_G
2010-01-05, 07:44 PM
Those rifles were meant to be accurate to the limit of the machinists' ability to make the parts precisely enough at an acceptable price. The machinists are better now than a hundred years ago, but not that much better. Especially not when they have to incorporate the accuracy-disrupting effects of a gas blowback system into the gun.

But the biggest factor, as I understand it, is the result of WWII-vintage studies showing that most infantry combat took places at ranges of 100 m or less, with longer ranges being dominated by heavier weapons. And that most infantry weren't good enough shots to hit at ranges of several hundred meters even if you gave them rifles that could do the job.

I agree.

The switch from precision rifles that could hit a man at 800 yards to a rifle that could put a 30 round mag in the general direction of the enemy was a conscious choice.

It's true that studies showed that the average infantryman wasn't adjusting his sights, carefully aiming and trying to hit foes at long range, and, as the tactics evolved, infantry weren't engaging infantry at long range in daylight, so the average rifleman was less likely to be taking deliberate shots at a distant enemy and more likely to be taking panicked shots at a close enemy.

Given the choice between a bolt action Springfield with a five round magazine, or a semi automatic M1 Garand with an eight round magazine, I know what I'd pick to repulse a midnight Banzai charge coming screaming out of the jungle.

The change from accuracy to rate of fire makes sense, given the changing nature of combat. That doesn't change the fact that the Springfield just is a more accurate weapon. Some observers of the tests didn't want to switch because of that.

golentan
2010-01-05, 08:15 PM
Well, Fusilier, I really appreciate the response. I know I asked a hard question, but hopefully you've given me a jumping off point.

lesser_minion
2010-01-05, 08:15 PM
Those rifles were meant to be accurate to the limit of the machinists' ability to make the parts precisely enough at an acceptable price. The machinists are better now than a hundred years ago, but not that much better. Especially not when they have to incorporate the accuracy-disrupting effects of a gas blowback system into the gun.

But the biggest factor, as I understand it, is the result of WWII-vintage studies showing that most infantry combat took places at ranges of 100 m or less, with longer ranges being dominated by heavier weapons. And that most infantry weren't good enough shots to hit at ranges of several hundred meters even if you gave them rifles that could do the job.

IIUC, it was possible to train soldiers to shoot fairly effectively at 1000m, but it took a ridiculous amount of effort. Two million guys who can shoot straight at 300m forms a more effective fighting force than 200,000 guys who can shoot straight at 1000m.




I have a question of my own though. Why was the firearm adopted to start with, and why did armour go out of fashion?

I'm pretty sure firearms weren't solely responsible for armour going out of fashion. They also weren't the only way to deal with it, although I can see the need for something like a firearm in the situations where armour is most useful.

At the same time, armour still had uses for a long time. If you're standing on guard over a tiny gateway in a fortress, plate armour starts to sound much more attractive.

Karoht
2010-01-05, 09:56 PM
Hello, I have some more questions. I'm sorry if I can't answer any questions myself. I have no experience with these kinds of stuff?You'd be surprised what you can learn from wiki, and from checking out websites that sell modern reproductions of this kind of equipment.



Please give me a range of weights of mail armour, such as a hauberk without coif.Most websites have a weight along with any kind of armor product they sell. It is fairly accurate, all things considered, in comparison to old school mail.
www.darkagecreations.com


How flexible is mail?
As flexible as cloth. No really, it moves just like cloth. Remember that it is designed to protect against slashing blows, but any form of blunt trauma will pretty much still be inflicted without being reduced much. I know because I once took a sledge hammer to the back with chain on. It did nothing for me, I tell you. Almost dislocated my ribs, and bounced me 2 feet into the air. Scared the crap out of the crowd. Hurt like hell for a while.



Often I've read that elves in roleplaying games and novels specialize in making a light chainmail armour. How can it be light and still be protective? Elven chainmail is usually explained as being made of some fantasy metal like mithral, correct?Not really a question for this thread, but yes.


I think they make some mail suits out of titanium now. But wait, I heard that although titanium has a high strength to weight ratio, it is not as strong as carbon steel at the same volume. Would titanium armour be not as strong as steel armour of the same thickness?Not only do I have sources on titanium gear, but I know someone with a titanium chain vest. The thing is amazingly light, and he wears it under his regular chain hauberk when fighting with us. It is comfortable, and protects very well, and it's tough. He also wears it to work, he works at some kind of machine shop.


Titanium would never have been used in ancient and middle ages armour, because the technologies used to refine/smelt/forge it were not developed until the 19-20th Centuries, correct?I want to be clear that no authentic representation has been found. It doesn't mean the metallurgy wasn't up to snuff though. That I'd have to look into. But you ar right, no one that we know of was wearing titanium on the battlefield.
___________

It seems to me that the Wet is not just bad for bows, it is bad for all iron based items. Any iron/steel equipment must be protected against corrosion. It was less of a problem during the Bronze Age because bronze corrodes more slowly than iron. When did humans recognize the relationship between moisture and rust?Probably when their metal objects rusted, I'd imagine.


How are metal objects protected from rusting? I think that oils and greases were applied to things such as swords and armour. Which raises the question: what kind of oil/grease did people hundreds of years ago use? Animal fat? Vegetable oils? Oils from the ground?Oils yes. Chain mail is relatively self cleaning, due to the fact that it is constantly rubbing itself. If it does rust, it literally takes seconds to clean. Iron weapons would have been treated by using a wetstone to maintain the edge of the weapon. Iron armor would be treated by using a wet rag of leather and a handful of sand, as a primative sandpaper. Reeds and husks were also used.


I would imagine mail is highly susceptible to rust because of the great surface area of the rings?In a way, yes, but again it is self cleaning. Wear it for a few minutes and you've done your maintenance for the day. Or just rub it against itself for a while.

Most common way to clean chain mail was stick it in a barrel with baffles and sand, and roll it down a hill. Then roll it back up the hill. Then roll it back down. You'd be amazed how clean it gets this way. Other forms of iron armor have been cleaned this way too, though they would be affixed inside the barrel, rather than falling about loosely.

Cheers.

Crow
2010-01-05, 10:15 PM
Not only do I have sources on titanium gear, but I know someone with a titanium chain vest. The thing is amazingly light, and he wears it under his regular chain hauberk when fighting with us. It is comfortable, and protects very well, and it's tough. He also wears it to work, he works at some kind of machine shop.

I want to be clear that no authentic representation has been found. It doesn't mean the metallurgy wasn't up to snuff though. That I'd have to look into. But you ar right, no one that we know of was wearing titanium on the battlefield.

Don't know how this slipped by...

Titanium is an amazingly poor material to make weapons or armor out of. Like aluminum, it is strong for it's weight. They don't build airframes out of titanium because it's strong, they do it because it is light and strong for it's weight. There's a reason cruisers are made from good old steel. Also like aluminum, almost any product produced and billed as titanium is in fact a complex titanium alloy. Not that ancient weapon and armorsmiths would want to work with it if they could.

When it comes to weapons and armor, even titanium alloys fall far short of steel. To achieve the same strength as a weapon or armor piece constructed of steel, a titanium alloy piece would need to be many times thicker, which would of course make the piece heavier, and counteract the titanium alloy's one advantage, it's weight (not to mention giving the piece unwieldy dimensions).

Not to belittle your titanium chain-shirt experience, but I highly doubt you guys are swinging steel weapons with the intent to kill eachother. Titanium alloy protective pieces are fine for industrial applications where accidental laceration protection is the intent, but it goes without saying that this is far different from mortal combat. Bottom line, when big dudes are swinging steel your direction, with the intent to kill, you want to be wearing steel too.

Zincorium
2010-01-05, 10:33 PM
What about armor made of thin tungsten alloy, basically the same weight as an item made of steel but much thinner? Maybe even with a coating of tungsten carbide to increase surface hardness.

I know it'd be pretty much impossible to make using medieval production techniques, but would modern metallurgy be up to the task?

EDIT: Or, for that matter, a sword?

Crow
2010-01-05, 10:53 PM
What about armor made of thin tungsten alloy, basically the same weight as an item made of steel but much thinner? Maybe even with a coating of tungsten carbide to increase surface hardness.

I know it'd be pretty much impossible to make using medieval production techniques, but would modern metallurgy be up to the task?

EDIT: Or, for that matter, a sword?

Tungsten, while quite hard, is still quite brittle when compared to steel. This makes it unsuitable for most melee weapons and armor. Like stainless steel, which is also brittle, a tungsten alloy could make a decent material for a knife (which wouldn't be expected to endure the same forces as say, a sword). I am not certain on that though, as it has been a while since I studied metallurgy.

A coating could feasibly give some advantage, but then how do you maintain the weapon or armor as it undergoes regular wear and tear without further expensive tungsten carbide treatments?

Dervag
2010-01-05, 11:08 PM
Yes, but I would think the wiser choice would be to pick it back up again after it had landed, rather than snatching it out of the air.A javelin that is thrown at you, as opposed to being thrown at your foot, is likely to sail past you and land behind you. Or possibly wind up embedded in the hapless fellow standing behind you who forgot to duck because he couldn't see the javelin because there was a Fhaolan standing in the way.

Either way, hunting it down and reusing it gets considerably more difficult than trying to intercept it as it goes past, I imagine. Moreover, it might well require you to turn over or bend down... which is likely to be when the enemy throws the next javelin. :smalleek:


I would agree with this statement, with the caveat that they weren't willing to sacrifice rate of fire for a more accurate rifle. Much is made of the American riflemen during the Revolutionary War, but the British quickly learned that unsupported riflemen couldn't stand up to a bayonet charge...You missed the critical point that I was referring to the bolt-action rifles of a century or more later, after the problem of breech-loading had been solved. Hence my use of the word "machinists;" so far as I know, the pre-Minie muzzleloading rifles of the 17th and 18th centuries were not machined in the modern sense of the term.


The change from accuracy to rate of fire makes sense, given the changing nature of combat. That doesn't change the fact that the Springfield just is a more accurate weapon. Some observers of the tests didn't want to switch because of that.The snipers certainly didn't. My impression is that some of the world's sniper corps are still using bolt action rifles... but then, they're the only ones for whom being able to vaporize a gnat at half a mile or whatever is actually a major part of their job description.


I want to be clear that no authentic representation has been found. It doesn't mean the metallurgy wasn't up to snuff though. That I'd have to look into. But you ar right, no one that we know of was wearing titanium on the battlefield.Since there's no evidence that titanium was even known at the time, and since it cannot be easily refined from ore in an oxygen atmosphere... I kind of doubt that they could have worked it. At least, not unless someone had specifically gone far out of their way to develop a "medieval" titanium-working technique using modern knowledge of chemistry.

Tungsten carbide is even worse, because it's similarly hard to work and brittle. Well, relatively brittle. The stuff would be pure gold* for abrasion resistance, but that's not a key parameter for armor design unless your enemies are trying to kill you with belt sanders.

*rhetorically speaking

Raum
2010-01-05, 11:55 PM
I have a question of my own though. Why was the firearm adopted to start with, and why did armour go out of fashion?To put it simply, it was a more efficient method of killing.


I'm pretty sure firearms weren't solely responsible for armour going out of fashion. They also weren't the only way to deal with it, although I can see the need for something like a firearm in the situations where armour is most useful.Similarly, it's a cost - benefit analysis. When armor is relatively effective for its cost (as it is today, see modern infantry combat gear) it is 'in fashion'. Cost isn't just money either, it's also the cost to the soldier's combat ability - so overly heavy or restrictive armors (for the conditions) won't be used long.

Galloglaich
2010-01-06, 12:20 AM
Don't know how this slipped by...

Titanium is an amazingly poor material to make weapons or armor out of. Like aluminum, it is strong for it's weight. They don't build airframes out of titanium because it's strong, they do it because it is light and strong for it's weight. There's a reason cruisers are made from good old steel. Also like aluminum, almost any product produced and billed as titanium is in fact a complex titanium alloy. Not that ancient weapon and armorsmiths would want to work with it if they could.

When it comes to weapons and armor, even titanium alloys fall far short of steel. To achieve the same strength as a weapon or armor piece constructed of steel, a titanium alloy piece would need to be many times thicker, which would of course make the piece heavier, and counteract the titanium alloy's one advantage, it's weight (not to mention giving the piece unwieldy dimensions).

Not to belittle your titanium chain-shirt experience, but I highly doubt you guys are swinging steel weapons with the intent to kill eachother. Titanium alloy protective pieces are fine for industrial applications where accidental laceration protection is the intent, but it goes without saying that this is far different from mortal combat. Bottom line, when big dudes are swinging steel your direction, with the intent to kill, you want to be wearing steel too.

Agreed 10000% on all points. People today really don't grasp what an extraordinary material steel really is, probably because they almost never deal with anything other than fairly low quality chromium (stainless) or industrial steels like in rebar or car doors. Very few people (including most re-enactors) have ever seen or held anything like a real Medieval sword let alone armor.

I happen to know for a fact that the DoD did look into using tempered steel armor, specifically examining (and in the process, destroying) some pieces of Renaissance European armor, not for body armor for individual troops but for armored vehicles as an alternative to industrial rolled steel etc. Their conclusion was it was too expensive to produce that way, but the tempered steel was far superior to modern materials for the purpose of ballistic resistance.

G.

Galloglaich
2010-01-06, 12:26 AM
Tungsten, while quite hard, is still quite brittle when compared to steel. This makes it unsuitable for most melee weapons and armor. Like stainless steel, which is also brittle, a tungsten alloy could make a decent material for a knife (which wouldn't be expected to endure the same forces as say, a sword). I am not certain on that though, as it has been a while since I studied metallurgy.

A coating could feasibly give some advantage, but then how do you maintain the weapon or armor as it undergoes regular wear and tear without further expensive tungsten carbide treatments?

Agreed, although there is evidence that some steel alloys used historically apparently included trace amounts of very rare elements such as molybdenum and vanadium (which in and of themselves were unknown to the ancients), including notably in wootz steel.

http://www.tms.org/pubs/journals/jom/9809/verhoeven-9809.html

These elements seem to have come from the clay used to make the crucibles used to forge the steel billets, and may have been an important part of what made wootz steel possible.

Phosphorus also shows up as a key element in many pattern welded swords, the Vikings used to introduce it using bird dung, this is even mentioned as a 'secret trick' of dwarves in some of the Icelandic Sagas.

Regarding armor, it's also worth pointing out that there were indeed two grades of armor in Medieval / Renaissance times; ordinary iron armor (probably 90% of armor that was made) and tempered steel armor. The latter could be made much thinner and lighter. Some complete gothic harnesses still around today weigh as little as 40 lbs, which is comparable to some modern body armor and helmet, with much more coverage and I can guarantee vastly better fitted and better distributed weight. But it still can't stop a modern armor piercing rifle bullet (neither can most modern body armor for that matter).

I have also seen very fine linked tempered steel mail, such as was often worn by Italian lords in civilian attire, as protection against surprise knife attacks and the like.

G.

Karoht
2010-01-06, 04:01 PM
Not to belittle your titanium chain-shirt experience, but I highly doubt you guys are swinging steel weapons with the intent to kill eachother. Titanium alloy protective pieces are fine for industrial applications where accidental laceration protection is the intent, but it goes without saying that this is far different from mortal combat. Bottom line, when big dudes are swinging steel your direction, with the intent to kill, you want to be wearing steel too.

And belittle you didn't, but I'll address this anyway. It was more a point that I know someone who owns the stuff and has experience wearing it. As for reinacting not striking with force that can kill, occasionally things do go wrong, blows not properly pulled. I'd say his vest gets more wear and tear at the metal shop, odds are. The point I was more trying to make is, yes it is available in the modern sense, yes, it is somewhat effective (though in no way would I say it is superior compaired to steel other than weight, and when you are wearing it, weight can make a bit of a difference difference), and it is tough enough for at least reinactor purposes. That was more where I was going with that.

Fhaolan
2010-01-06, 04:44 PM
A javelin that is thrown at you, as opposed to being thrown at your foot, is likely to sail past you and land behind you. Or possibly wind up embedded in the hapless fellow standing behind you who forgot to duck because he couldn't see the javelin because there was a Fhaolan standing in the way.

Very true. I am much more a door than a window. :smallwink:

Of course if I was to attempt a grab in that case it would be much easier, as by the time I got ahold of it it's probably already sticking in said hapless fellow so it's not moving anymore. :smallcool:

fusilier
2010-01-06, 06:56 PM
Well, Fusilier, I really appreciate the response. I know I asked a hard question, but hopefully you've given me a jumping off point.

Good luck, and if you find any really stellar info, please let us know. I'm curious to see if there is any detailed info out there. Personally I'm often suspicious of modern tests, because they rarely attempt to recreate all the historical details. The good tests are honest about this, however.


You missed the critical point that I was referring to the bolt-action rifles of a century or more later, after the problem of breech-loading had been solved. Hence my use of the word "machinists;" so far as I know, the pre-Minie muzzleloading rifles of the 17th and 18th centuries were not machined in the modern sense of the term.

Ah. The original post was about weapons 2-3 centuries ago, so I thought that's what you were referring to. Smoothbore muskets are accurate as far as they could be made, and they were certainly cheaper than rifles. That all fit with what you were saying. Now I see that you were actually referring to the late 19th century and onwards.

Speaking of WW1 era bolt-action rifles, there are a couple of things that impress me about them. The first is that they experimented with almost every kind of ballistics you can imagine. Bullet size and shape, different kinds of propellent, bore sizes, etc. A friend of mine (who is a serious collector of French WW1 era rifles), told me an illuminating story: A friend of his sent him the ballistic charts for the new 6.8mm round the US Army is going to introduce. My friend thought these charts looked really familiar. Sure enough, he found identical ballistic charts from a prototype French carbine. The army's "new" round was a recreation of an 1890s French one!

The other thing that amazes me is how well built the guns were. Most were designed (and many produced) during peace time, and a lot of effort seems to have gone into making weapons that would last a long time.


It's true that studies showed that the average infantryman wasn't adjusting his sights, carefully aiming and trying to hit foes at long range, and, as the tactics evolved, infantry weren't engaging infantry at long range in daylight, so the average rifleman was less likely to be taking deliberate shots at a distant enemy and more likely to be taking panicked shots at a close enemy.

Given the choice between a bolt action Springfield with a five round magazine, or a semi automatic M1 Garand with an eight round magazine, I know what I'd pick to repulse a midnight Banzai charge coming screaming out of the jungle.

The change from accuracy to rate of fire makes sense, given the changing nature of combat. That doesn't change the fact that the Springfield just is a more accurate weapon. Some observers of the tests didn't want to switch because of that.

It's also important to keep in mind the tactics employed. I saw a documentary where a German veteran claimed he preferred the bolt-action rifle over the semi-automatic. It encouraged him to slow down and take the time to aim. However, it must be understood that German tactics were different than the American's. In a German platoon the riflemen were there to support the machine gun. Whereas in an American platoon the light machine guns were there to support the riflemen. Also, I think the Germans tended to hand out a higher proportion of sub-machine guns. In a midnight Banzai charge, I would rather have a Thompson sub machine gun! ;-)

Mike_G
2010-01-06, 07:11 PM
In a midnight Banzai charge, I would rather have a Thompson sub machine gun! ;-)


Seconded.

Assuming my first choice of "a fighting hole somewhere else" wasn't available.

fusilier
2010-01-06, 07:20 PM
IIUC, it was possible to train soldiers to shoot fairly effectively at 1000m, but it took a ridiculous amount of effort. Two million guys who can shoot straight at 300m forms a more effective fighting force than 200,000 guys who can shoot straight at 1000m.

You are correct. The Germans got a rude awakening when the first US Marines appeared in the trenches of WW1, as they had been trained in long range marksmanship. Maintaining that level of marksmanship during wartime was just not possible. However, there are other issues. A lot of old military rifles were designed in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Prior to WW1 there was still a sense that massed infantry formations would be fighting against massed infantry formations at long range. So a lot of these guns have what are referred to as "volley sights." The theory was that the officer would determine the range, tell the soldiers to set their sights, and then have them blast away at the target -- which was supposed to be some kind of blob of enemy infantry, and not individual targets. My 1891 Carcano has an adjustable sight up to 2000 meters! WW1 demonstrated that those tactics didn't make any sense . . .



I have a question of my own though. Why was the firearm adopted to start with, and why did armour go out of fashion?

I'm pretty sure firearms weren't solely responsible for armour going out of fashion. They also weren't the only way to deal with it, although I can see the need for something like a firearm in the situations where armour is most useful.

At the same time, armour still had uses for a long time. If you're standing on guard over a tiny gateway in a fortress, plate armour starts to sound much more attractive.

I think your first question has been pretty well answered already: guns were cheap and effective, soldiers were easily trained how to use them.

I believe that firearms were the primary reason armor went out of fashion, but there were other factors that were changing as well. More troops were being employed. Armor cost more and weighed them down. Also it's effectiveness was diminished with the increased use of firearms (and field artillery as Galloglaich will point out). Armor wasn't totally useless, but you had to spend more money on it.

Finally, armor never disappeared entirely. Cuirassiers were still wearing armor in the French Army in 1914. And armor also survived for the use by sappers as "siege armor," well into the 19th century. Armor made a kind of resurgence in WW1, often times for sentries, but sometimes as an attempt to crack the stalemate of trench warfare. The only piece of armor generally readopted though was the helmet -- trench warfare led to a lot of head wounds. Likewise armor made another resurgence in the form of tanks and even armored ground attack aircraft (yes they had those in WW1).

Kurien
2010-01-06, 07:42 PM
In a midnight Banzai charge, I would rather have a Thompson sub machine gun! ;-)

I think I would prefer a modern Kriss submachine gun, it's supposed to be much more controllable and accurate than the "spray-and-pray" Thompson due to it's design which directs recoil downwards instead of back into the shoulder. ;-)

Does mail armour exist that had more than one layer of mail? Particularly made of high quality tempered steel? Too heavy?

Was scale mail, brigandine, jack of plate or lamellar armour flexible at all? Could the plates be leaf shaped?
Could it be worn over a mail shirt? Was silk used as a back material for scale mial? Which of these similar armours would you prefer?

I notice that brigandine and similar armours are similar in design with modern bullet resistant armour, in that having metal plates inside layers of cloth.

On a related note, would silk make a good material for armour?

Thanks for the answers!

Edit: Would slightly conxex scales on scale armour be better?

Zincorium
2010-01-06, 08:36 PM
I think I would prefer a modern Kriss submachine gun, it's supposed to be much more controllable and accurate than the "spray-and-pray" Thompson due to it's design which directs recoil downwards instead of back into the shoulder. ;-)

The KRISS V is a wonderful theoretical weapon. However, it has a small ammunition capacity for a submachinegun, and a short barrel. And while it does redirect some of the forces down, it still has recoil to the rear, which isn't going to change unless the bullets come out somewhere other than the front of the gun.

The Thompson was significantly heavier, but this along with a muzzle brake reduces the practical recoil significantly. It's also fairly accurate and extremely reliable. It also has the advantage of massive testing on it's side, and it's passed admirably.

The KRISS may very well be the superior gun overall, but it's not a black and white situation.

Fhaolan
2010-01-07, 02:41 AM
Does mail armour exist that had more than one layer of mail? Particularly made of high quality tempered steel? Too heavy?


Yes, although it was more a case of extra layers to reinforce specific areas, rather than all-over. No point in have double-layers in areas that are unlikely to get hit. There's also different 'weaves' of maille where the rings can be doubled up for more protection, or have a different pattern that the simple 4 rings in 1 ring which is the most common. 6 in 1, 8 in 2, japanese 4 in 1, etc. Maille can be complicated, and there are entire books devoted to just different patterns of maille. Some of which have survived in jewlery manufacture.


Was scale mail, brigandine, jack of plate or lamellar armour flexible at all?

Yes, although not as flexible as straight maille. Jack of plate being the least flexible of the set, as it had largest plates, but lamellar tends towards stiffness as well, as the plates tend to be interlaced on all sides, rather than at the top likeregular scales.


Could the plates be leaf shaped?

Yes. Scale varies from square-like plates to triangular, so leaf-shaped isn't completely unreasonable. See my answer below for a similar concept.


Could it be worn over a mail shirt?

Yes. In fact, the Romans had a form of scale armour called lorica plumata. This was very small scales that gave the impression of the wearer being covered in feathers, all attached to a maille shirt rather than a cloth backing.


Was silk used as a back material for scale mial?

It's possible, but it would be relatively rare. For cloth backing, you're more likely to deal with a canvas or duck-cloth like material.


Which of these similar armours would you prefer?

I have several different types of armour that I work with. Lorica plumata is very pretty, but to be honest brigandine and coats of plates are more practical. Scales and lamelar are a pain to clean. :smallbiggrin:


I notice that brigandine and similar armours are similar in design with modern bullet resistant armour, in that having metal plates inside layers of cloth.

Yep. There ain't much new under the sun, to be honest. There's only so many ways to build armour that fits the human body due it's shape and the ways human joints move, so when you strip off the decorative elements and reduce it down the the basics, there's really only a few different 'designs' of armour. Everything else beyond that is just down to material science and decorative elements.


On a related note, would silk make a good material for armour?

Silk was a common, if somewhat expensive, material used for quilted armour, and for the under-armour gambleson-equivalent in Oriental armour (I don't remember, unfortunately, the name for it. Sorry.) Silk is relatively cut-resistant when compared to other cloths, and the story is that samurai would wear silk so that when they were hit by arrows they could be pulled out easier because the silk wouldn't tear. I have no idea if that's true or not, but it is one of the common stories.


Edit: Would slightly conxex scales on scale armour be better?

To some extent, yes, and many scale armours (like the plumata above) did have convex scales, or had ridges and other similar things. However, the more complex the scale, the more this armour is going to cost you.

Galloglaich
2010-01-07, 09:43 AM
Agree with Faholan.

The 8 in 2 mail is essentially double mail. It was called "doubled mail" or "kings mail". Several eyewitness accounts during the Crusades make it sound all but impenetrable, but it was very heavy (almost twice as heavy as ordinary mail)

Lorica Plumata was a kind of prestige armor worn by officers and standard bearers (Aquillifers and Signifiers). It's very painstaking to make, with each scale bent 90 degrees and literally wired into the mail behind it. Something you could only make a lot of with slave labor.

http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/pics/6047side.jpg
http://www.mailleartisans.org/gallery/pics/6046beidezuruck.jpg

The Romans also had another type of scale armor called Lorica Squamata which was worn by cavalry and other special troops.

The oriental armor he was speaking of is called Khazaghand. I'm working on an RPG book on armor right now so I collected some data on it. It was also known as Jazerant or Jazeraint. It's mail sandwiched between to layers of textile armor, plus some padding, and silk was indeed a common material. This was invented by the Muslims but was imported to Europe where it was also used.

And that kind of cultural exchange went both ways. Here is an interesting descriptin of a double Khazaghand, made of one coat of Frankish mail, and one coat of Arab mail.


“Salah Al din (Saladin) stood in his place until a part of the army joined him. He then said, "Put on your armor". The majority of those did so while I remained standing by his side. After a while he said again, 'How many times do I have to say "Put on your Armor?'' I said 'Oh my Lord, surely thou does not mean me?' 'Surely' said he. I replied 'By Allah, surely I cannot put on anything more. We are in the early part of the night, and my quilted jerkin (kuzaghand) is furnished with two coats of mail, one on top of the other. As soon as I see the enemy I shall put it on.' Salah al Din did not reply, and we set off. ‘

In the morning we found ourselves near Dumayr. Salah-al Din (Saladin) said to me 'Shall we not dismount and eat something? I am hungry and have been up all night.' I replied 'I shall do what thou orderest.' So we dismounted, and no sooner than we had set foot on the ground, when he said 'Where is thy jerkin?' Upon my order, my attendant produced it. Taking it out from it's leather bag, I took my knife and ripped it at the breast and disclosed the side of the two coats of mail. The jerkin enclosed a Frankish coat of mail extending to the bottom of it, with another coat on top reaching as far as the middle. Both were equipped with the proper linings, felt pads, rough silk, and rabbits hair.'

Usama ibn Munqidh- Kitab al-I'tibar circa 1190 AD

Frankish mail was popular with the Arabs during the crusades because it was made of better quality iron.

Good thread on Islamic armor here:

http://www.myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=4427&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

G

Aux-Ash
2010-01-07, 12:45 PM
Me and a group of friends are working on our own fantasy setting, modelled after Europe and the near east around the 9th century. We decided some time ago back that we wanted to use technology that suited the period and not mix and match stuff from the late middle ages and the early.

So I was wondering, what types of weapons and armour would be suitable and which ones should we try to avoid?

Kurien
2010-01-07, 03:57 PM
Me and a group of friends are working on our own fantasy setting, modelled after Europe and the near east around the 9th century. We decided some time ago back that we wanted to use technology that suited the period and not mix and match stuff from the late middle ages and the early.

So I was wondering, what types of weapons and armour would be suitable and which ones should we try to avoid?

I would definitely avoid side-swords and rapiers, as they did not appear until the 15-16 centuries. Other than that, nothing comes to mind immediately.

Just how protective was mail, anyway? Can it stop broadhead or bodkin arrows fired from a warbow with a 150 pound draw weight? A slicing attack from a light curved sword? A heavy two handed chop of a bardiche, pollaxe or voulge? A thrust from a pike? A swing of a flanged mace, flail or warhammer?

Galloglaich
2010-01-07, 05:13 PM
In a 9th Century campaign, you would not have two handed or bastard swords, polearms (with a few exceptions), plate armor, or rapiers or sideswords as mentioned.

I'll take a stab at what arms and armor would break down like around the world, something like this:

Western Europe
Heavy Armor: Mail hauberks (pretty rare) or more commonly byrnies (short sleeved shirts) with helms and light textile armor underneath.
Light Armor: Aketons (quilted textile armor) with helms
Shields center grip, kyte type or Viking roundshield type, or small (targe) type. Shields would be very common
Main weapon: Spear
Sidearm: Spatha type or counterweighted 'viking type' single handed swords, battle axes (typicaly single handed, the two-handed 'huskarl' type came a little later though there may be some around), Sax (long knife), Short Sword, light mace, strait dagger
Missile weapons (in order of ubiquity): Spear, javelin, Fransisca (Throwing axe), 'Angon' (an armor-piercing javelin based on the Roman pilum), light crossbow (uncommon), sling (rare),longbow (very rare except in certain areas like Wales and some parts of Scandinavia)

Byzantium
Heavy Armor: Klibanion, lamellar over mail (would be perhaps roughly equivalent to "splint mail" in most RPGs)
Main Weapon: Spear
Sidearm: Spatha type sword, light mace, dagger
Missile weapons: Recurve bow, light crossbow, gastrophetes (a type of heavy crossbow), , plumbata (a sort of super lawn dart), javelins
Special: Greek fire including both greek-fire flamethrower (usually mounted on warships) and naptha hand-grenades, quicklime, "artillery" (small portable siege engines)

Middle East
Heavy Armor: Mail, Lamellar, Scale
Light Armor: Quilted textile armor
Shields: Kyte type shield
Main Weapon: Recurve bow, spear
Sidearm; Spatha type sword, battle axe, war-hammer, or Chinese dao type saber (much more rare), jambiya type curved dagger.
Special: Greek fire including naptha hand-grenades similar to molatov cocktails

Central / East Asia
Heavy Armor: Lamelar, Scale
Light Armor: Quilted textile armor
Shields: Small buckler type shields (very common), roundshields (for infantry)
Main Weapon: Recurve bows, spear
Sidearm: Chinese Dao type short Saber, light mace, dagger
Other Missiles: Javelins, thrown light mace
Special: Lasso, Noisemakers, Bee hives,

Eastern Europeans (a mix of Scandinavians, Balts, Finns and Slavs) would have a mix of Western and Eastern type weapons and armor, plus heavy maces.

I didn't include Japanese, Persian or South-Asian kit.

Armor in general would be fairly rare in this period, though the western cavalry and heavy infantry would have more 'heavy' armor generally speaking than in the other parts of the world.

G.

Matthew
2010-01-07, 05:14 PM
I
For a good chunk of history professional armies didn't exist. The monarch might have some guard units but that was usually about it. If war needed to be waged the armies had to be raised, and when the war ended those armies would be disbanded. So I would suspect that well trained soldiers (commoners) would be a rarity. Except maybe towards the Renaissance when you start to see more mercenaries like the Condotierri and Landsknechts. Then, I would imagine that you would see more "veterans" who know more of the nuances to pole-arm fighting, had more practice with swords, etc. But the majority of soldiers would probably still be some adventurers with no prior training that decided to join a mercenary company, if not levies or civic militias. While I'm sure the city militias were better trained than rural levies, I would be surprised if they had a significant amount of advance training in the more esoteric martial arts.

For the medieval period in particular it has been common in the past to start talking about really "professional" armies coming into being at the end of the thirteenth century, in particular the "household" of Edward I being cited. In fact, though, it is possible to trace the Anglo-Norman household as the "core" of the military right back to its inception in the eleventh century, with its size fluctuating depending on the fortunes of the king, and the organisation reflected in the households of his vassals. Possibly most surprising, and at the heart of J. O. Prestwich's important article "The Military Household of the Norman Kings" are the 1,000 Flemish knights contracted as mercenaries by Henry I in 1101 from the Count of Flanders.

As with most things military, and as I am sure you are aware, money and necessity brings increased professionalism, so you begin to see the formation of professional military forces whenever they can be systematically raised and retained for protracted periods, which happens sporadically on various scales all through history.



Interesting anecdotes, but I would suggest this type of limitation is not necessarily the rule. The Mongols and the Huns, among others, were apparently able to achieve remarkable Strategic, Operational, and Tactical mobility ... and so did some of their opponents in Europe and other places. As with so many questions of military history, I think this is somewhat a matter of a given time and place.

Indeed, though, it has been occasionally pointed out that their marching speeds were not as remarkable as sometimes made out. It was their organisation and scale that was impressive.



A lot of games organize them that way, but I don't agree with this approach - I think blunt crushing weapons like maces are used differently than cutting weapons like axes, also axes, war hammers and picks have built-in to their shape the ability to hook, which is an important difference in how you actually use them. You can hook shield rims, weapons, hook peoples hands and knees and pull people off their feet etc. But this is left out of most RPG systems so it doesn't matter in most games.

My view of this subject is that people initially tend to apply what they have learned with one weapon to another, and then gradually learn the nuances of the new. So somebody who knows how to use a mace would likely apply the lessons he had learned to an axe and meet with more success than if given a spear, or whatever. I agree, though, axes, picks, hammers, maces, and so on all have important differences that must be mastered to achieve their full potential.



The couched lance was better for armour-piercing. It let you put the whole weight of your body into a thrust, instead of just your arm.

I have access to some anecdotes from European and Arab sources on this, but no time to dig them out right this moment.

Ah, I think I know the anecdotes you are referring to; I know Anna Komena comments on the couched lance technique, and I am pretty certain that the Memoirs of Usamah Ibn-Munqidh also mentions it. Definitely worth posting both of those. Although the Great Stirrup Controversy has rightly marginalised the impact of the stirrup on the development of feudalism, it is noticeable that the "couched" technique appeared at around the same time as its introduction, and were uniquely placed to allow the rider to "rise" in his stirrups when delivering the charge. I think that this probably has a lot to do with why the couched technique appeared when it did.



My recollection of undergrad Roman history basically said it was the Anarchy that destroyed Roman military discipline. After that there was no way that infantry would be willing to perform 20 mile a day marches, and cavalry came to the fore (they also switched to a defense in depth scheme).

Unfortunately, we just do not really know what actually caused (or exactly when) Roman military discipline reached the breaking point. Many causes have been suggested, such as exemption from military service for the inner provinces, extension of universal citizenship, internal religious problems, population decimating plagues, and so on and so forth. It does seem likely that discipline went into decline sometime in the second century AD, and, though arrested on numerous occasions, never really recovered to levels achieved in the first century.



No, there were no rules on the battlefield, just money and self interest. If you had money, it may have been worth more to ransom you. If you didn't, it was cheaper to kill you. Knights tended to ransom each other and kill common soldiers, but it was by no means universal.

That depended a great deal on who you were and who captured you. If you were a King or a very rich or well connected Aristocrat you may be kept in a "Ritz Calrton" setting. As often as not the prisoner would be kept in wretched conditions in a dungeon which could often prove fatal, where you may be kept for anywhere from a few months to years or decades.

Also conditions of ransom varied a great deal from place to place. The Swiss famously refused to ransom or parole any prisoners, they killed everybody they could catch who took up arms against them regardless of rank. During the Italian wars the Condottieri would typically slay French or Spanish troops regardless of rank, because the French and Spanish themselves would not ransom Italian common soldiers. As a result several French armies in particular were slaughtered almost to the last man after failed campaigns in Italy. By contrast Italian soldiers would typically ransom Italian noblemen and often disarm and 'parole' (release) common Italian troops, many of whom may have been their own cousins.

During the high Middle Ages there was a culture of Chivalry which took place particularly in Tournaments, where capture and ransom would be carried out in a very 'gentlemanly' manner, and in certain battles such as during the 100 years war, where the ransom of knights and nobility became something of an industry, rather similar to the way the Somali pirates ransom hostages today. Many great fortunes in England were founded by common yeoman archers who captured French lords at battles like Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. But this was hardly universal, it depended very much on the 'theater' where the fighting was taking place and how bad the blood was etc. If you were captured by someone who didn't like you or your people you were just as likely to be killed as ransomed, regardless of your rank.


There's also the factor that while ransoms were asked for, they weren't always paid. There are several documented accounts of the family back home going 'We're better off without *him*' and ignoring the ransom request. The classic fictional example being the Robin Hood version of 'Bad King' John's response to King Richard's ransom (the actual historical version of these events are *wildly* different from the fictional version, but it's still a good example as most people will recognize it. :smallsmile:) Also, it doesn't take too many ransoms to begar someone, so if you're in the habit of getting captured...

Exactly so. And I will add that in Scandinavia the culture of ransoming was almost non-existent, whilst in the Levant it seems that vast numbers of men of all status were frequently captured and ransomed, it being seen as a "good work" for somebody to ransom Christian prisoners from their Muslim captors. Joinville provides a particularly interesting anecdote about marching to receive prisoners near Ascalon after the disastrous defeat in Egypt.



It's actually much the same with many if not most missile weapons before that. English longbow archers did most of their lethal shooting at far, far beyond the range at which one could aim at (let alone hit) an individual human - they practised shooting at area targets in the form of large sheets 20' or more wide laid on the ground.

Similar with javelins. Javelins were thrown in volleys because it's fairly easy to catch an individual javelin. A whole cloud of them on the other hand, very dangerous.

I do wonder how much real damage was done at a great distance. Military archery was definitely all about volume and "aiming" seems to have not been much of a consideration in that regard, but it is a complicated question as to what range they really were effective at versus what sorts of targets. It must have been a really taxing decision for commanders on the ground.



Check out this crazy Renaissance era helmet


http://www.photosfan.com/images/strange-suit-of-armour-helmet1.jpg



Yikes! That is one ugly mug! I should add to the helmet discussion that there is some controversy over the Roman cavalry masks and whether they were anything more than parade pieces. I suspect that is true of a lot of helmets with masks, though, that is to say they are more about image than protection.



Actually, the Roman javelin bended upon impact.
One of the reason Romans threw pila at all was because it would stuck in an enemy's shield, bend and then making said shield unwieldy and heavy, forcing the warrior to drop it or to be impeded. Both results made the warrior a fair game for the well-armored legionnaire. The "barbarians threw javelin back at us" simply means they pick it up once on the ground (or in a dead comrade...)

This is an oft-repeat myth. The pilum is clearly designed to kill. What it does as a by product of being an extremely effective armour piercing weapon is encumber the shields of the enemy. Being designed to bend on impact by the first century BC it became an increasing annoyance. However, this is very much the secondary function (or happy by product) of a deadly weapon. Likely the propensity of shields to catch thrown spears is where the Old English "spear net" appellation comes for shields.



Me and a group of friends are working on our own fantasy setting, modelled after Europe and the near east around the 9th century. We decided some time ago back that we wanted to use technology that suited the period and not mix and match stuff from the late middle ages and the early.

So I was wondering, what types of weapons and armour would be suitable and which ones should we try to avoid?

Hard question. A lot of fairly sophisticated technology would have been available in the near east by way of Byzantium, most elusively some sort of flame throwing device and possibly hand held incendiaries of a naphtha type. Basically, you can run the gamut of early medieval weaponry, including various sorts of axes, maces, and hammers - though not as common as they later seem to have become. Plate armour is pretty much out, as would be most pole-arms as "common military" weapons, knightly lances, and long bows, though that might depend on military organisation and economy.

A lot depends on exactly what you are going for. Once you know what military forces are in the area you will probably have a good idea of what weapons and armour are most common.

Galloglaich
2010-01-07, 05:23 PM
This is an oft-repeat myth. The pilum is clearly designed to kill. What it does as a by product of being an extremely effective armour piercing weapon is encumber the shields of the enemy. Being designed to bend on impact by the first century BC it became an increasing annoyance. However, this is very much the secondary function (or happy by product) of a deadly weapon. Likely the propensity of shields to catch thrown spears is where the Old English "spear net" appellation comes for shields.

Very good point... that is one of those myths which seems to always come back. Pilums were designed to 'break' so they couldn't be thrown back and would encumber shields, but first and foremost they were armor piercing weapons. Modern tests indicates how effective they were as such (very).

G.

Dervag
2010-01-07, 05:38 PM
With respect to polearms in the 9th century: As Matthew alluded to, a lot would depend on demand. Plate armor required technical advances in armor-making that hadn't occured yet, but the lack of polearms was mostly social and due to the lack of suitable infantry formations; you don't really need to do anything all that exotic to make a halberd if you already know how to make spears and axes.

If civilization is regularly threatened by big ferocious monsters as well as by rival human(oids), then polearms will be more popular as a way of cancelling out the reach advantage.

Fhaolan
2010-01-07, 05:45 PM
Just how protective was mail, anyway? Can it stop broadhead or bodkin arrows fired from a warbow with a 150 pound draw weight? A slicing attack from a light curved sword? A heavy two handed chop of a bardiche, pollaxe or voulge? A thrust from a pike? A swing of a flanged mace, flail or warhammer?

No, Yes, No, possibly, No.

Maille can't help you much against impact. All it's really good for is cuts, and a limited amount against chops and stabs by spreading the impact a bit, basically turning the edged attack into a blunt-force attack. Usually you've got padded or quilted cloth or something similar underneath to spread impacts further.

As long as the force of the blow against you would break bones/kill, it still will. It just reduces or eliminates penetration, providing the blow isn't geared specifically for penetrating maille. Bodkin arrows and bodkin stilletos, for instance, can be small enough to go right through some rings, or spread the rings so that the attack can get through.

It's the same basic principle as modern kevlar vests and the like. Its still a bad thing to get shot even when wearing a vest, because you still get the full impact of the bullet. It's spread over a somewhat larger area so that it reduces the penetration, but a good chunk of the power still transmits through. People have died from being shot even when the bullet hit the vest, because the *impact* killed them despite there being no effective penetration.

fusilier
2010-01-07, 06:04 PM
Unfortunately, we just do not really know what actually caused (or exactly when) Roman military discipline reached the breaking point. Many causes have been suggested, such as exemption from military service for the inner provinces, extension of universal citizenship, internal religious problems, population decimating plagues, and so on and so forth. It does seem likely that discipline went into decline sometime in the second century AD, and, though arrested on numerous occasions, never really recovered to levels achieved in the first century.

I don't disagree with you, and, now that you mention it, I may remember that the Roman military was starting to show cracks even before the Anarchy (I'm used to calling it just "the Anarchy", although wikipedia prefers the "Crisis of the 3rd Century"). The Anarchy went on for a long time (wikipedia says 50 years, again I thought it was longer -- probably depends upon who you ask). So it's not really a "point" in history. Anyway, what I remember is that after the Anarchy there was no going back to the "good old days" for the Roman military. The army was one of the casualties of the Anarchy, and while it may not have been a simple turning point, the decline was irreversible after then. -- I should really find my notes for that class.

fusilier
2010-01-07, 06:14 PM
No, Yes, No, possibly, No.

Maille can't help you much against impact. All it's really good for is cuts, and a limited amount against chops and stabs by spreading the impact a bit, basically turning the edged attack into a blunt-force attack. Usually you've got padded or quilted cloth or something similar underneath to spread impacts further.

Pike thrusts are performed with the legs, and not the arms. The way a pike is held (at least during the late Renaissance), means that the arms are primarily used to "aim" the pike. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, I've heard that when the Japanese went up against Chinese cavalry during one of the 16th century invasions of Korea, they found their katanas to be useless against the heavy mail armor that the Chinese wore.

Mike_G
2010-01-07, 10:17 PM
The KRISS V is a wonderful theoretical weapon. However, it has a small ammunition capacity for a submachinegun, and a short barrel. And while it does redirect some of the forces down, it still has recoil to the rear, which isn't going to change unless the bullets come out somewhere other than the front of the gun.

The Thompson was significantly heavier, but this along with a muzzle brake reduces the practical recoil significantly. It's also fairly accurate and extremely reliable. It also has the advantage of massive testing on it's side, and it's passed admirably.

The KRISS may very well be the superior gun overall, but it's not a black and white situation.

Plus, the Thompson existed during the era of the Banzai charge, and was in the arsenal of Us, UK and Australians who were likely to need to repulse one.

The Tommy gun is a nice weapon. It's heavy, but all WWII era guns are, compared to more modern ones. It throws a nice heavy round, it's accurate enough in a short burst, and it feels good fired from the shoulder. In a close quarters fight in concealing terrain or bad visibility, it's a very good choice.

Galloglaich
2010-01-07, 10:36 PM
Thompsons are very nice guns IMO. Expensive these days, but a very nice weapon. Hard to believe you used to be able to get one from the Sears catalog for $30.

I fired a Thompson full auto once at a gun store in Las Vegas where you can rent them. After that I could understand why it's so heavy. Most controllable full auto weapon I ever shot that wasn't on a tripod. Much easier to hold down than an M-16 which doesn't kick at all but will rise and move all around at 'rock and roll'.

I think in the hands of a trained / skilled gunner, like some of Al Capones hit men in the 20's, this was one of the most effective full auto weapons, due to the large magazine capacity, 'stopping power' (I know an overused term but I think applicable) accuracy at short to medium range and full auto controlability in relatively short bursts.

It's interesting that the Russians seem to have gone back to heavy subsonic calibers with the excellent new weapons they made for their new 9 x 39 mm caliber, and now the Americans have followed suit with the .458 retrofit for the M-16 / M-4.

G.

Crow
2010-01-07, 10:46 PM
I have an opportunity to pick up a mini-14 from a buddy of mine, and was wondering how reliable they are? I've had to use fullsize m14's many times when I was in the military, and never really had any issues with them other than an occasional feed issue, but it is still a different weapon, and I just wanted to get some outside input.

I was wanting to pick it up as a "survival rifle" of sorts. Something that I can stash away and that would require less maintainence than an AR-15 or their variants. I live in California so my sources of rifles are severely limited, and plus the price is right on this thing, so I was definitly considering picking it up.

Fhaolan
2010-01-07, 11:34 PM
Pike thrusts are performed with the legs, and not the arms. The way a pike is held (at least during the late Renaissance), means that the arms are primarily used to "aim" the pike. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Depends on the pike and the formation the pike wielder is in. Some had pikes large and heavy enough that the user doesn't thrust at all. He just stands still and takes the impact.


Anyway, I've heard that when the Japanese went up against Chinese cavalry during one of the 16th century invasions of Korea, they found their katanas to be useless against the heavy mail armor that the Chinese wore.

Yep, because katanas are mostly cut-based weapons, with the edge being drawn along the target. While they can get quite good penetration that way it's highly dependant on the slicing motion, which maille is exceptionally good at counteracting.

Galloglaich
2010-01-07, 11:41 PM
I have an opportunity to pick up a mini-14 from a buddy of mine, and was wondering how reliable they are? I've had to use fullsize m14's many times when I was in the military, and never really had any issues with them other than an occasional feed issue, but it is still a different weapon, and I just wanted to get some outside input.

I was wanting to pick it up as a "survival rifle" of sorts. Something that I can stash away and that would require less maintainence than an AR-15 or their variants. I live in California so my sources of rifles are severely limited, and plus the price is right on this thing, so I was definitly considering picking it up.

I think it's a good bet, doesn't have the same gas system issue as the Ar-15 family and not as delicate, though also not quite as accurate. But if I were you I'd go check on a gun-forum.

One other nice thing about Mini 14s is there are a ton of after market accessories.

G.

Galloglaich
2010-01-08, 12:05 AM
On Mail armor, from tests I've seen, Mail is almost impossible to cut through and I don't think (though this is hotly debated) you would be that hurt underneath from most hand weapons like swords, axes etc. since most hand weapons are not that heavy like crow-bars (or their equivalent farm-tools). I spar with blunt steel swords all the time without much protection and they don't break my bones.

Swords can't pierce mail easily with their points either if the mail is worn with a gambeson underneath, though the very pointy (Oakeshott type XV etc.) do better.

Mail and a gambeson is also actually pretty good protection against arrows too. This is another 'internet fault line' and I'm not going to wade into that, but most of the tests I've seen with relatively realistic riveted mail (not thin galvanized stuff) show powerful bows with armor-piercing arrows piercing through mail at very close range (under 10'-15') but not from much further out than that, and putting a gambeson over the mail (as was done in period) seems make the target almost invulnerable.

On the other hand, a really powerful bow like a heavy Arbalest (crossbow) or a real English Warbow at the maximum estimated strength, or the heaviest known examples of a Mongol Recurve Composite can probably punch through mail even at medium range, and we have seen the armor piercing points on pole-axes and war-hammers can go right through mail with no problems.

Essentially what Fhaolan said upthread is pretty accurate, Mail is good protection against anything but armor piercing weapons (like two-handed poll-hammers and very heavy Composite bows). Two other powerful armor-piercing weapons that you don't see in RpGs (as such) are daggers and spears.

But I would lean a little more on the side of mail armor being really good protection, with the caveat that it's used as historically with padding underneath.

An interesting (though completely amateur) vid, you can see the dramatic difference in the effectiveness of (in this case, really cheap galvanized) Mail with and without padding underneath.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGu4bpb4eTI&feature=related

G.

Fhaolan
2010-01-08, 03:24 AM
Essentially what Fhaolan said upthread is pretty accurate, Mail is good protection against anything but armor piercing weapons (like two-handed poll-hammers and very heavy Composite bows). Two other powerful armor-piercing weapons that you don't see in RpGs (as such) are daggers and spears.

But I would lean a little more on the side of mail armor being really good protection, with the caveat that it's used as historically with padding underneath.


Yeah, the weapons being presented as part of the question were mostly the *really* heavy two-handed choppers like pollaxes, bardiches, and so on. And while the blows from axes, maces, and the like (the one-handed crushers/choppers), might not *kill* you, they definately will hurt if you take a full-on blow. Hurt a lot. Part of wearing armour of any kind is trying *not* to take that straight-on blow. You want the blow to deflect off the armour, which means hitting you at angles. Anyone who just stands there and lets the opponent wail on them isn't going to do very well very rapidly.

Galloglaich
2010-01-08, 09:08 AM
Agreed, and I think a mace is particularly effective against armor. That is the purpose of a mace really.... if you think about it I suspect it's why kings carry maces (a kings sceptor is really a mace).

http://vamsikarra.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/lord-visnu.jpg

G.

Subotei
2010-01-08, 10:01 AM
It's interesting that the Russians seem to have gone back to heavy subsonic calibers with the excellent new weapons they made for their new 9 x 39 mm caliber, and now the Americans have followed suit with the .458 retrofit for the M-16 / M-4.G.

The British are introducing the LM7 semi-automatic 7.62 mm x 51 mm 'sharpshooter' for marksmen, as the 5.56 mm doesn't have the stopping power at ranges needed in Afghanistan. Contacts tend to be either very close or out at 500-900m - beyond effective range for 5.56 mm. Interesting how things swing back and forth. Horses for courses I guess.

lesser_minion
2010-01-08, 10:32 AM
The British are introducing the LM7 semi-automatic 7.62 mm x 51 mm 'sharpshooter' for marksmen, as the 5.56 mm doesn't have the stopping power at ranges needed in Afghanistan. Contacts tend to be either very close or out at 500-900m - beyond effective range for 5.56 mm. Interesting how things swing back and forth. Horses for courses I guess.

Interesting.

I was under the impression that marksmen would already be using a 7.62mm x51 weapon, even if it was just a modified World War II Lee Enfield (there is something slightly more modern than that, but I forget the name).

The switch from bolt action is also an interesting move.

Eldan
2010-01-08, 02:53 PM
A question from something I've seen on a movie...
Assuming a soldier, ca world war II, wore a backpack of stiff-looking, water-proof cloth, about 30cm thick, filled with more or less normal clothing, would that be able to stop a rifle bullet, or would it penetrate that?

Subotei
2010-01-08, 03:03 PM
Interesting.

I was under the impression that marksmen would already be using a 7.62mm x51 weapon, even if it was just a modified World War II Lee Enfield (there is something slightly more modern than that, but I forget the name).

The switch from bolt action is also an interesting move.

From what I hear this is not meant for specialist snipers - they'll still have their hi spec sniper rifles.

Twilight Jack
2010-01-08, 03:03 PM
A question from something I've seen on a movie...
Assuming a soldier, ca world war II, wore a backpack of stiff-looking, water-proof cloth, about 30cm thick, filled with more or less normal clothing, would that be able to stop a rifle bullet, or would it penetrate that?

It could impair a handgun round, mattering on the caliber and the velocity of the round, as well as the tensile strength of the cloth involved. You'd still have a nasty injury on your hands, but it would probably save your life.

A rifle, though, fires a much thinner and sharper bullet at much higher velocity. Most rifle rounds punch through a standard kevlar vest without a hiccup, unless the thing's got a class IV trauma plate inserted. I couldn't imagine that a backpack of waterproofed canvas is going to do much, no matter how much clothing is stuffed inside. Maybe if you filled the backpack with concrete. . .

Eldan
2010-01-08, 03:12 PM
Yeah, that's what I assumed as well. Hollywood logic, then.

Theodoric
2010-01-08, 03:19 PM
Interesting.

I was under the impression that marksmen would already be using a 7.62mm x51 weapon, even if it was just a modified World War II Lee Enfield (there is something slightly more modern than that, but I forget the name).

The switch from bolt action is also an interesting move.
I think you're confusing Designated Marksmen with the good old snipers. Designated Marksman are a concept that originated amongst the Russians, that consisted of every squad including a guy with a slightly higher-powered, longer-ranged rifle. The past couple of years, there has been a real scramble for militaries to adopt this concept, with many recent weapons being purposefully designed to fill this role.

It's kind of silly, really. The Soviets/Russians (and associated Warschaw Pact countries) have employed this kind of soldier since the early 60's, and only recently has everybody else seen the light. Only Israel and some special forces have been using it too since before 2000.

Galloglaich
2010-01-08, 03:40 PM
It could impair a handgun round, mattering on the caliber and the velocity of the round, as well as the tensile strength of the cloth involved. You'd still have a nasty injury on your hands, but it would probably save your life.

A rifle, though, fires a much thinner and sharper bullet at much higher velocity. Most rifle rounds punch through a standard kevlar vest without a hiccup, unless the thing's got a class IV trauma plate inserted. I couldn't imagine that a backpack of waterproofed canvas is going to do much, no matter how much clothing is stuffed inside. Maybe if you filled the backpack with concrete. . .

Or maybe if you had an e-tool in there...

G.

Dervag
2010-01-08, 04:12 PM
I don't disagree with you, and, now that you mention it, I may remember that the Roman military was starting to show cracks even before the Anarchy (I'm used to calling it just "the Anarchy", although wikipedia prefers the "Crisis of the 3rd Century"). The Anarchy went on for a long time (wikipedia says 50 years, again I thought it was longer -- probably depends upon who you ask). So it's not really a "point" in history. Anyway, what I remember is that after the Anarchy there was no going back to the "good old days" for the Roman military. The army was one of the casualties of the Anarchy, and while it may not have been a simple turning point, the decline was irreversible after then. -- I should really find my notes for that class.I suspect that this is a bit of an oversimplification; you might be better advised to read the books for that class.

Among other things, the Romans rallied after that and had some quite effective armies (witness Julian's* campaigns in the mid-300s)

*Also known as Julian the Apostate for being the last (one of the last?) Roman emperor to adhere to and promote the worship of the Greco-Roman gods, some fifty years after the empire had formally gone over to Christianity. Interesting guy.


The British are introducing the LM7 semi-automatic 7.62 mm x 51 mm 'sharpshooter' for marksmen, as the 5.56 mm doesn't have the stopping power at ranges needed in Afghanistan. Contacts tend to be either very close or out at 500-900m - beyond effective range for 5.56 mm. Interesting how things swing back and forth. Horses for courses I guess.Also interesting when you compare this to the kind of cartridges they used to use back in the day... when one of the most common places for the British Army to wind up fighting in was Afghanistan.


It could impair a handgun round, mattering on the caliber and the velocity of the round, as well as the tensile strength of the cloth involved. You'd still have a nasty injury on your hands, but it would probably save your life.

A rifle, though, fires a much thinner and sharper bullet at much higher velocity. Most rifle rounds punch through a standard kevlar vest without a hiccup, unless the thing's got a class IV trauma plate inserted. I couldn't imagine that a backpack of waterproofed canvas is going to do much, no matter how much clothing is stuffed inside. Maybe if you filled the backpack with concrete. . .Realistically there should be a fair amount of stuff in there made of wood and iron, so it becomes a bit more plausible that the backpack could stop a bullet in that case, or start it tumbling so that it comes to a halt in short order even in low-density material. Stuffed with cloth, there's no chance, though.


I think you're confusing Designated Marksmen with the good old snipers. Designated Marksman are a concept that originated amongst the Russians, that consisted of every squad including a guy with a slightly higher-powered, longer-ranged rifle. The past couple of years, there has been a real scramble for militaries to adopt this concept, with many recent weapons being purposefully designed to fill this role.

It's kind of silly, really. The Soviets/Russians (and associated Warschaw Pact countries) have employed this kind of soldier since the early 60's, and only recently has everybody else seen the light. Only Israel and some special forces have been using it too since before 2000.The Soviets were the first to go to "spray and pray" full automatic fire for their average front-line infantry, though, starting as early as World War II with the mass use of submachine guns on the front line. They needed the designated marksman to offset the long range inaccuracy of the rest of the unit.

The rest of the world kept flattering themselves that they could train their regular infantry to shoot accurately at long range with automatic rifles... with varying degrees of success.

lesser_minion
2010-01-08, 05:26 PM
I think you're confusing Designated Marksmen with the good old snipers. Designated Marksman are a concept that originated amongst the Russians, that consisted of every squad including a guy with a slightly higher-powered, longer-ranged rifle. The past couple of years, there has been a real scramble for militaries to adopt this concept, with many recent weapons being purposefully designed to fill this role.

It's kind of silly, really. The Soviets/Russians (and associated Warschaw Pact countries) have employed this kind of soldier since the early 60's, and only recently has everybody else seen the light. Only Israel and some special forces have been using it too since before 2000.

Ah, OK.

In the UK, that was considered to be the entire purpose behind a light support weapon (as opposed to actually firing quickly) for a while, I think.

You can't exactly suppress a position with an L86, after all.

Spamotron
2010-01-08, 06:26 PM
On firearms how were the very first ones used?

I understand that the early handcannons were in some respects fancy noismakers that were more dangerous to the user than the target and required the shooter to be a highly paid specialist to have any chance on not blowing themselves up.

What was the timespan or turning point between niche novelty to reliable mainstream weapon?

Theodoric
2010-01-08, 06:37 PM
In the UK, that was considered to be the entire purpose behind a light support weapon (as opposed to actually firing quickly) for a while, I think.

You can't exactly suppress a position with an L86, after all.
Actually, it was initially meant as a fully automatic light support weapon; the Dutch Marines used a Diemaco-type thing (that looked really ugly IRL, I might add) in much the same way; the military figured out that it ofcourse, wouldn't really work, but with its heavy barrel it could operate as a stand-in DMR. Only two weeks ago, the British army adopted a dedicated DMR :smallwink: of its own.

Spiryt
2010-01-08, 06:51 PM
On firearms how were the very first ones used?

I understand that the early handcannons were in some respects fancy noismakers that were more dangerous to the user than the target and required the shooter to be a highly paid specialist to have any chance on not blowing themselves up.

What was the timespan or turning point between niche novelty to reliable mainstream weapon?

Actualy, common hussite soldiers were using early handgonnes pretty commonly, and they weren't really highly paid specialists.

In fact, AFAIKN "decent" handgonne was usually cheaper than solid crossbow, and especially ammunition wa cheaper - good bolt is quite elaborate piece of work, while round lead ball is, well, just round lead ball. It's also easier to carry around.

Here (http://www.musketeer.ch/blackpowder/tabor_handgonne_e.html) the process of shooting from handgonne. It's not something nice to do in the middle of the battle, in this respect I would rather hav a crossbow. Generally, this site is very informative, check it.

And I won't believe those "more dangerous to user" thing, really. As you can see on the site, those guys are shooting them for fun just like that, and I don't believe that common XVth century guy would like to carry a suicide weapon. AFAIR, problems with getting a good shoot could be common, but nothing too drastic.

As for " time to mainstream weapon" - well, as mentioned, hussites were already using them commonly (as well as other primitive guns, in few modern firearm terms come from Czech). Closer to 1500, guns were getting better and more common, although this was certainly fluid process, archers with crossbows or sometimes bows were used along well into the XVI century.

Spamotron
2010-01-08, 07:27 PM
Spiryt in the video he mentions the hangonne is 15th century. I thought the very earliest handheld firearms were 13th century. So of course it would be safer than the guns I was talking about it had 200 years of refinement.

Galloglaich
2010-01-08, 09:22 PM
Actualy, common hussite soldiers were using early handgonnes pretty commonly, and they weren't really highly paid specialists.

In fact, AFAIKN "decent" handgonne was usually cheaper than solid crossbow, and especially ammunition wa cheaper - good bolt is quite elaborate piece of work, while round lead ball is, well, just round lead ball. It's also easier to carry around.

Here (http://www.musketeer.ch/blackpowder/tabor_handgonne_e.html) the process of shooting from handgonne. It's not something nice to do in the middle of the battle, in this respect I would rather hav a crossbow. Generally, this site is very informative, check it.

And I won't believe those "more dangerous to user" thing, really. As you can see on the site, those guys are shooting them for fun just like that, and I don't believe that common XVth century guy would like to carry a suicide weapon. AFAIR, problems with getting a good shoot could be common, but nothing too drastic.

As for " time to mainstream weapon" - well, as mentioned, hussites were already using them commonly (as well as other primitive guns, in few modern firearm terms come from Czech). Closer to 1500, guns were getting better and more common, although this was certainly fluid process, archers with crossbows or sometimes bows were used along well into the XVI century.

What he said. I think guns were like the other missile weapons, some people knew how to use them, some didn't. The Czechs were the among the first really effective early innovators with guns in Europe, though it's worth noting the Hussite rebellion wasn't until the 15th Century and firearms had been around since at least the early 14th, maybe earlier. Then again the Czechs made all this famous because they were so successful nobody could beat them, five Crusades were launched against them only to break like waves on a rocky shore, then they went on a rampage through Germany until they basically got bored of it. Such spectacular success really changed the game, but there were smaller examples in other places much earlier.

I think early firearms were tricky and somewhat dangerous to use (especially if you didn't understand them!) but potentially very useful, I think primarily used in the early days in sieges and to bust up cavalry charges at short range like the Hussites did.

Also as swivel mount guns on boats like you saw in the Ukraine and Russia pretty early on...

G.

Dervag
2010-01-08, 10:31 PM
I can see swivel gun for river craft being a popular application, because as long as you stay on the boat you're effectively immune to being attacked by enemy melee troops. That gives you a lot more freedom to reload your gun.

fusilier
2010-01-09, 04:21 AM
A question from something I've seen on a movie...
Assuming a soldier, ca world war II, wore a backpack of stiff-looking, water-proof cloth, about 30cm thick, filled with more or less normal clothing, would that be able to stop a rifle bullet, or would it penetrate that?

I've heard of Italian aviators being saved from British bullets by their parachutes (packed on their backs). These events occurred in early war unarmored fighters, so there may be something to a tightly packed back-pack stopping a rifle round. I wouldn't count on it however.

fusilier
2010-01-09, 04:51 AM
I suspect that this is a bit of an oversimplification; you might be better advised to read the books for that class.

Among other things, the Romans rallied after that and had some quite effective armies (witness Julian's* campaigns in the mid-300s)

I don't have any books from that class, and I probably never even bought them (I learned the hard way not to buy books for a history class until I was sure I was going to use them -- when the bookstore had it's buyback that $30 book still in the shrink wrapping was only worth $5!!). But I did find some rough notes I put together for the final:

Results of the Anarchy:
-In a sense the anarchy never really ended -- under strong leadership Rome would do well, under poor leadership long civil wars would occur.

-The army is ruined, abandons formation fighting. More barbarians, more soldiers in the army loyal to a general, not Rome. Cavalry becomes the premier force.

You seem to be accusing me of not being able to see the "trees" through the "forest" -- I'm probably entirely guilty of such an accusation. ;-)

The fact of the matter is there were no serious external threats to Rome. It's army had to deteriorate quite a bit before the barbarians became a serious threat. I'm sure under strong leadership after the anarchy Rome's army performed better. Rome must still have been formidable compared to outsiders, otherwise it would have collapsed right away. But the discipline that was present before was gone. The Roman Army looked more like a medieval "rabble." That's my broad understanding of the state of the Roman army after the Anarchy.

Galloglaich
2010-01-09, 10:30 AM
I can see swivel gun for river craft being a popular application, because as long as you stay on the boat you're effectively immune to being attacked by enemy melee troops. That gives you a lot more freedom to reload your gun.

Yeah there are some cool paintings of battles on the Dnieper or the Don where you can see big sword fights with the Ukrainians or Russians in boats with big swivel guns fighting off hordes of Tartars... when I have some time I'll track a couple down and post them

G.

Dervag
2010-01-10, 05:43 AM
I've heard of Italian aviators being saved from British bullets by their parachutes (packed on their backs). These events occurred in early war unarmored fighters, so there may be something to a tightly packed back-pack stopping a rifle round. I wouldn't count on it however.In this case, the bullet is already slowed by penetrating the skin of the aircraft (somewhat), and the backpack in question is a very dense bundle of parachute silk. Silk isn't exactly kevlar, but it's a strong fabric, and enough layers of it could certainly stop a bullet.


...But I did find some rough notes I put together for the final:

Results of the Anarchy:
-In a sense the anarchy never really ended -- under strong leadership Rome would do well, under poor leadership long civil wars would occur.

-The army is ruined, abandons formation fighting. More barbarians, more soldiers in the army loyal to a general, not Rome. Cavalry becomes the premier force.

You seem to be accusing me of not being able to see the "trees" through the "forest" -- I'm probably entirely guilty of such an accusation. ;-)The problem is that for me it's questionable whether this stuff is actually true, or whether it's a generalization (either because of your professor's lecture style, or because you oversimplified for the sake of being able to remember it all).

For example, "anarchy" is a loaded word, implying the absence of lawful government. That's a very inaccurate term to use to describe most of the Roman Empire, most of the time: there was a government, there were actual rulers whose orders would be obeyed. A string of succession crises doesn't add up to anarchy.

On top of that, if we say that the "anarchy" is an ongoing condition in which the empire does well under good rulers and badly under bad ones, that could mean anything. Nations always do well under good leaders and badly under bad ones; that's how we know which is which. If we say "oh, well, this case where Emperor Whatshisname took the throne for ten years, crushed several barbarian invasions, and reformed the bureaucracy doesn't really count, because there was another civil war after he died..." that's kind of contrived. We're force-fitting events in the Empire into this idea that it had completely collapsed, rather than looking at events and trying to see if collapse and anarchy are the right way to describe it.

And more specifically, the claim that the Roman army abandoned formation fighting outright is quite ambitious; I'd expect to see some fairly major support for something like that. Barbarians in the army don't mean the army has become indistinguishable from a Germanic tribe, and having soldiers loyal to the general and not the state was hardly new in Roman history (check out the case of Marius, roughly four hundred years earlier).

So overall, I question whether the way you represent the Romans' fate as a steady decline that set in around 200-250 AD and proceeded continuously to the collapse of Western Rome is accurate.

Crow
2010-01-10, 12:51 PM
And more specifically, the claim that the Roman army abandoned formation fighting outright is quite ambitious; I'd expect to see some fairly major support for something like that. Barbarians in the army don't mean the army has become indistinguishable from a Germanic tribe, and having soldiers loyal to the general and not the state was hardly new in Roman history (check out the case of Marius, roughly four hundred years earlier).

Quite the opposite, many of the "barbarians" were becoming more organized, and began to use more disciplined formations at the example of the Romans. Possibly what the poster was referring to was the re-organization of the Roman army? Eventually, the auxilia took prominance over the legions in the Empire, and perhaps this is what he mis-remembered?


So overall, I question whether the way you represent the Romans' fate as a steady decline that set in around 200-250 AD and proceeded continuously to the collapse of Western Rome is accurate.

It was a steady decline for the most part, with the exceptions of the rules of Diocletion, Julian, and a few others, but was by no means an anarchy. There were quite a few civil wars in this time, but that isn't anarchy. Most of the Empire actually ran business as usual if they were away from the fighting.

fusilier
2010-01-10, 09:35 PM
In this case, the bullet is already slowed by penetrating the skin of the aircraft (somewhat), and the backpack in question is a very dense bundle of parachute silk. Silk isn't exactly kevlar, but it's a strong fabric, and enough layers of it could certainly stop a bullet.

Yeah, that's why I wouldn't trust a backpack to stop a rifle bullet, but it might. The plane would have been canvas skinned (not uncommon in 1940), although the bullet would have to travel through the back of the seat, to be stopped by the parachute. Finally, as you pointed out we are talking about tightly packed silk. The round would have been .303 british.


For example, "anarchy" is a loaded word, implying the absence of lawful government. That's a very inaccurate term to use to describe most of the Roman Empire, most of the time: there was a government, there were actual rulers whose orders would be obeyed. A string of succession crises doesn't add up to anarchy.

That's what it's called, though, "the Anarchy." With a capital A. Anarchy doesn't necessarily mean everybody running around in total chaos (see Anarchists), but I agree that's often the connotation.


On top of that, if we say that the "anarchy" is an ongoing condition in which the empire does well under good rulers and badly under bad ones, that could mean anything. Nations always do well under good leaders and badly under bad ones; that's how we know which is which. If we say "oh, well, this case where Emperor Whatshisname took the throne for ten years, crushed several barbarian invasions, and reformed the bureaucracy doesn't really count, because there was another civil war after he died..." that's kind of contrived. We're force-fitting events in the Empire into this idea that it had completely collapsed, rather than looking at events and trying to see if collapse and anarchy are the right way to describe it.

Actually, that's the whole point. Prior to the anarchy the Imperial bureaucracy could handle the occasional Nero, without civil war. After the Anarchy, Rome needed a strong leader to prevent such civil unrest.


And more specifically, the claim that the Roman army abandoned formation fighting outright is quite ambitious; I'd expect to see some fairly major support for something like that. Barbarians in the army don't mean the army has become indistinguishable from a Germanic tribe, and having soldiers loyal to the general and not the state was hardly new in Roman history (check out the case of Marius, roughly four hundred years earlier).

Ok, so I've tried to do some research, and as always glanced at wikipedia. It's article on the Late Roman army, mentions the "Barbarization" theory promoted by Edward Gibbon.

The article basically rejects his claim that:
"the greater number of barbarian recruits resulted in a major decline of the army's effectiveness and was a leading factor in the collapse of the Western Roman empire"

But the argument seems to be that there's a lack of evidence for this theory, rather than direct evidence that counters it. It seems to rely upon the argument that the army was still effective. However, that doesn't mean it didn't decline in effectiveness, just that it was still effective enough to deal with the external threats. So perhaps my professor was just an adherent to the old school of thought. (On occasion he would hold up his lecture notes, demonstrating that he had been teaching the class for 30 years!). Furthermore a glance of the tactics section of the wiki article, implies that the spear was being used more over the sword . . . an indicator that the level of training had slipped? Like wise the short gladius was replaced with a longer spatha.


So overall, I question whether the way you represent the Romans' fate as a steady decline that set in around 200-250 AD and proceeded continuously to the collapse of Western Rome is accurate.

I'm sure it had it's up's and down's but it was generally a downward trend.

Anyway you have taught me a lesson, that there's clearly some contention here. :-)

firechicago
2010-01-11, 07:59 AM
But the argument seems to be that there's a lack of evidence for this theory, rather than direct evidence that counters it. It seems to rely upon the argument that the army was still effective. However, that doesn't mean it didn't decline in effectiveness, just that it was still effective enough to deal with the external threats. So perhaps my professor was just an adherent to the old school of thought. (On occasion he would hold up his lecture notes, demonstrating that he had been teaching the class for 30 years!). Furthermore a glance of the tactics section of the wiki article, implies that the spear was being used more over the sword . . . an indicator that the level of training had slipped? Like wise the short gladius was replaced with a longer spatha.


Three points:

-Lack of evidence isn't evidence of lack, but it will serve in a pinch. To steal an idea from Bertrand Russell there's no evidence that there isn't a teapot orbiting the sun somewhere out in the Oort Cloud, but that doesn't mean we should be discussing whether the teapot is white or black.

-Am I the only one who would respond to the 30-year old lecture notes by immediately adding an enormous grain of salt to everything in those lectures? Even in the field of classical history, a lot can be discovered in 30 years. And if the prof is still using the same physical lecture notes after 30 years, you can bet he isn't particularly interested in rethinking the material in response to new evidence or arguments.

-A gradual shift to spears and longer swords could have a lot of reasons, not all of which imply deteriorating discipline. For one thing, while the gladius hispaniensis might be great for breaking up phalanxes and spitting Gauls, I'd want something with a little more reach if I were going up against horse-mounted Goths or Vandals.

Galloglaich
2010-01-11, 10:40 AM
I'm not an expert on Roman history but my $.002:

From what I understand the shift to the Spatha happened fairly early, around the end of the 1st Century AD. Part of the shift toward moe cavalry was necessitated by the increasing use of horse archers among their enemies (Sarmatians, Parthians et al and later Huns) with powerful recurve bows that could punch through the Roman infantry shields, and also the increasing threat of heavy cavalry similar to amored knights (Cataphracti in the East, and much later the nucleus of European heavy cavalry with Visigoths at Adrianople)

Some of the worst defeats of the Empire by the Barbarians happened at it's inception during the reign of Augustus, most notably Teutonoburg Forest where they lost 3 legions, marking the high-water mark of their expansion across the Rhine / Danube border.

From what I have read, it seemed the problem was the opposite of anarchy - rather a State that had become too powerful, to the point that it was crushing the 'small people' (farmers who were systemtatically turned into serfs in the Latifundia, merchants and artisans who were being taxed beyond their incomes) and a threat to the 'big people' such as Senators and Generals who could be executed or financially ruined at the whim of the Imperator.

This meant that there was a constant ferment in the society, powerful people jockying for positions of control, poor people trying to escape and increasingly aligning themselves with the Barbarians simply because they were less oppressive overlords than the Roman State.

We have to remember, Rome did not 'fall', it gradually strangled itself in the West and broke up into Barbarian states, while in the East it turned in upon itself but still managed to function, as the archetypical / proverbial complex and trechearous 'Byzantine' State, the Byzantine Empire.

G.

Boci
2010-01-11, 02:40 PM
Question: Lets assume there is a special division of commandos highly equipped with state of art technology (2010). Part of their weapons is a handgun designed to have a decent chance of killing someone in a Kevlar vest.

A. Is that possible (I believe you can have armour piercing bullets fired from a handgun)?
B. What would the recoil on such a weapon be?

Mike_G
2010-01-11, 02:42 PM
Question: Lets assume there is a special division of commandos highly equipped with state of art technology (2010). Part of their weapons is a handgun designed to have a decent chance of killing someone in a Kevlar vest.

A. Is that possible (I believe you can have armour piercing bullets fired from a handgun)?
B. What would the recoil on such a weapon be?

If they're that highly trained, they should just shoot for the head. That's easier than trying to upgun a pistol round.

Jacketed pistol rounds might go through a vest, but they don't do as much to stop the guy in the vest as expanding rounds. A .22 has a decent chance of penetrating a vest, but it isn't all that lethal a round.

Crow
2010-01-11, 02:44 PM
Question: Lets assume there is a special division of commandos highly equipped with state of art technology (2010). Part of their weapons is a handgun designed to have a decent chance of killing someone in a Kevlar vest.

A. Is that possible (I believe you can have armour piercing bullets fired from a handgun)?
B. What would the recoil on such a weapon be?

Well, FN makes a pistol which fires a 5.7mm round which has a "decent" chance of killing a person through a kevlar vest. The bullet will easily penetrate the kevlar, but the tissue damage the thing causes is in debate. Either way, a shot that hits the spinal column is almost guaranteed to at least incapacitate the target.

Allegedly, recoil is less than that of a 9mm beretta.

They always trained us to shoot for center of available mass, no matter the weapon, and if it wasn't getting the job done, to change gears and go for the head shot.

Boci
2010-01-11, 02:54 PM
Well, FN makes a pistol which fires a 5.7mm round which has a "decent" chance of killing a person through a kevlar vest. The bullet will easily penetrate the kevlar, but the tissue damage the thing causes is in debate. Either way, a shot that hits the spinal column is almost guaranteed to at least incapacitate the target.

Allegedly, recoil is less than that of a 9mm beretta.

They always trained us to shoot for center of available mass, no matter the weapon, and if it wasn't getting the job done, to change gears and go for the head shot.

Okay. If they there willing to swap their weapons out reguarly, would they be able to use something with a greater penetration rate (my understanding is that the harder the bullet the more they damage the gun they are fired from)? If that is possible, roughly how many rounds could be fired beofre the gun needed swapping?

Eorran
2010-01-11, 03:20 PM
I have a related question to these past few.

Are counter-terrorism teams or special-operations units (such as SAS, Delta, etc.) ever trained specifically to take headshots? Would that be done exclusively by snipers?

I know many CT games (Rainbow Six), books, and shows often have characters making headshots in fast-moving gunfights. How believable is that? What sort of range would you be fighting at to try and shoot someone's head with a pistol? SMG?

Crow
2010-01-11, 03:27 PM
I have a related question to these past few.

Are counter-terrorism teams or special-operations units (such as SAS, Delta, etc.) ever trained specifically to take headshots? Would that be done exclusively by snipers?

I know many CT games (Rainbow Six), books, and shows often have characters making headshots in fast-moving gunfights. How believable is that? What sort of range would you be fighting at to try and shoot someone's head with a pistol? SMG?

Three of my bosses are ex-Delta, so I can get the answer to this question direct from the source, but I am off for the next 2 weeks, so it will be at least that long.

If anything, I can verify the answers that others are going to give to this question as soon as I know.

Fhaolan
2010-01-11, 03:30 PM
I have a related question to these past few.

Are counter-terrorism teams or special-operations units (such as SAS, Delta, etc.) ever trained specifically to take headshots? Would that be done exclusively by snipers?

I know many CT games (Rainbow Six), books, and shows often have characters making headshots in fast-moving gunfights. How believable is that? What sort of range would you be fighting at to try and shoot someone's head with a pistol? SMG?

I was under the impression, given conversations with some friends who were special forces in years past, that headshots are not something you specifically train for. You train to shoot a target. In practice, the target might be designated as the head, the center of mass, etc. but thats all kinds of irrelevant. It's just a target to the shooter. The only time it ever becomes a consideration is when the shooter has the time to evaluate the weakest point in the target's armour/cover. Which often *isn't* the head, as the human skull is surprisingly well armoured naturally, plus if they're wearing body armour, likely they're wearing head armour as well.

Of course, this is hearsay as I'm not trained in this way so I can't be sure.

Mike_G
2010-01-11, 04:34 PM
I have a related question to these past few.

Are counter-terrorism teams or special-operations units (such as SAS, Delta, etc.) ever trained specifically to take headshots? Would that be done exclusively by snipers?

I know many CT games (Rainbow Six), books, and shows often have characters making headshots in fast-moving gunfights. How believable is that? What sort of range would you be fighting at to try and shoot someone's head with a pistol? SMG?


It's hard to hit a small target like the head, and most military shooting is at center mass, since you can miss by six inches to a foot and still wound your enemy. At any kind of range, any bullet wound will probably make a guy stop shooting, take cover and try hard not to bleed to death. Most snipers, shooting at long range, aim center mass, since a high velocity rifle bullet will punch through a vest, and the cavitation the round makes in the body will rupture organs even if it doesn't hit them directly.

In the Marines, we were taught to shoot center mass, and that's pretty standard for most infantry.

For close quarters, a body shot may very well not drop your enemy quickly, especially with a pistol round, and moreso if the guy is wearing Kevlar. If the guy is five feet from you, he will be more worried about taking you out than his wound. He may bleed out in 30 seconds, but he can put a magazine into you/the hostages/your buddies in 30 seconds.

Andy McNabb, former SAS, Gulf War veteran and author of a handful of books, describes how he trained to use the MP5 for semi auto, just head shots for close quarters battle, since he claims that's the only way to guarantee the guy drops and doesn't shoot you first before falling.

Dervag
2010-01-11, 05:13 PM
That's what it's called, though, "the Anarchy." With a capital A. Anarchy doesn't necessarily mean everybody running around in total chaos (see Anarchists), but I agree that's often the connotation.It's called "the Anarchy" by whom, though? I have heard the term only rarely, if ever, before you started using it. If the term is not widely used, that may be because it is not considered an accurate term by the historical community.


Actually, that's the whole point. Prior to the anarchy the Imperial bureaucracy could handle the occasional Nero, without civil war. After the Anarchy, Rome needed a strong leader to prevent such civil unrest.The civil wars were invariably produced by succession crises. What about times and places where there was no active fighting over the succession going on? Was the state of those areas "anarchy," or was it business as usual for the Imperial bureaucracy and aristocrats?


However, that doesn't mean it didn't decline in effectiveness, just that it was still effective enough to deal with the external threats. So perhaps my professor was just an adherent to the old school of thought. (On occasion he would hold up his lecture notes, demonstrating that he had been teaching the class for 30 years!).That is NOT a good sign; while the past of the Roman Empire hasn't changed in the past thirty years, the study of it has changed considerably.


Furthermore a glance of the tactics section of the wiki article, implies that the spear was being used more over the sword . . . an indicator that the level of training had slipped? Like wise the short gladius was replaced with a longer spatha.Since it is very possible, even easy, to have highly trained units with spearmen or longer swords, a switch in weapons is not evidence of collapsing discipline.

Zincorium
2010-01-11, 06:39 PM
Okay. If they there willing to swap their weapons out reguarly, would they be able to use something with a greater penetration rate (my understanding is that the harder the bullet the more they damage the gun they are fired from)? If that is possible, roughly how many rounds could be fired beofre the gun needed swapping?

Penetration of common bullet types, from least to greatest:
-Glazer or other highly frangible rounds
-old style hollowpoints
-newer style hollowpoints, jacketed soft point
-full metal jacket
-FMJ with steel or tungsten penetrator
-APDS

NONE of the above will cause undue wear and tear on the barrel compared to each other. All of them have pros and cons that will have to be individually weighed for the mission at hand, and for military use only the last three should even be considered.

Typical rifle rounds (FMJ in most cases) are not consistently stopped by any kevlar type material in use- trauma plates of ceramic or steel have to be added to the vital areas to avoid penetration. Tungsten penetrators or high power rifle rounds will go through even that. I'm not aware of any armor you can wear that will actually stop a .50 BMG, and the impact alone would kill most people even if it doesn't penetrate.

Boci
2010-01-11, 06:47 PM
Penetration of common bullet types, from least to greatest:
-Glazer or other highly frangible rounds
-old style hollowpoints
-newer style hollowpoints, jacketed soft point
-full metal jacket
-FMJ with steel or tungsten penetrator
-APDS

Can all such rounds be fired from a handgun? If so what would the recoil be?


NONE of the above will cause undue wear and tear on the barrel compared to each other. All of them have pros and cons that will have to be individually weighed for the mission at hand, and for military use only the last three should even be considered.

Oh right, must have been mistaken about the ammunition damaging the gun thing.

Fhaolan
2010-01-11, 06:55 PM
I'm not aware of any armor you can wear that will actually stop a .50 BMG, and the impact alone would kill most people even if it doesn't penetrate.

Isn't there some kind of insane handgun that can fire a .50 BMG round? I have vague memories of seeing something like that on a History/Discovery Channel thing once. If it does exist, it must be a two-hander, as I can't see that *not* simply disconnecting your hand from your arm due to recoil.

Mike_G
2010-01-11, 07:09 PM
Isn't there some kind of insane handgun that can fire a .50 BMG round? I have vague memories of seeing something like that on a History/Discovery Channel thing once. If it does exist, it must be a two-hander, as I can't see that *not* simply disconnecting your hand from your arm due to recoil.


The Desert Eagle is a .50 caliber handgun, but it is not the same round as the .50 cal BMG. It's much shorter, with less propellant, therefor less muzzle velocity, less energy, less penetration, less damage.

And thus, a manageable recoil.

It's like a slightly wider .45.

fusilier
2010-01-11, 07:18 PM
Some of the worst defeats of the Empire by the Barbarians happened at it's inception during the reign of Augustus, most notably Teutonoburg Forest where they lost 3 legions, marking the high-water mark of their expansion across the Rhine / Danube border.

This is remarkable, by how badly the Romans bungled the (strategic) offensive. However, it does not demonstrate that the Roman legions were incapable of fending off barbarian invasions. Everything I've heard about this event is that it is aberration for that time period in history.


From what I have read, it seemed the problem was the opposite of anarchy - rather a State that had become too powerful, to the point that it was crushing the 'small people' (farmers who were systemtatically turned into serfs in the Latifundia, merchants and artisans who were being taxed beyond their incomes) and a threat to the 'big people' such as Senators and Generals who could be executed or financially ruined at the whim of the Imperator.

Not going to go too much into this, because my knowledge is fairly limited. However the economic despair and barbarian invasions, led more people to seek shelter in the cities. The cities were becoming overcrowded, and their weren't enough people working the farms. One of the last things the Roman Empire did was bind people to the land, in an attempt to stop the migrations -- thus creating serfdom. It was too little, too late.



This meant that there was a constant ferment in the society, powerful people jockying for positions of control, poor people trying to escape and increasingly aligning themselves with the Barbarians simply because they were less oppressive overlords than the Roman State.

We have to remember, Rome did not 'fall', it gradually strangled itself in the West and broke up into Barbarian states, while in the East it turned in upon itself but still managed to function, as the archetypical / proverbial complex and trechearous 'Byzantine' State, the Byzantine Empire.

G.

I would agree with most of what you say. Not so sure about the oppressiveness of the Roman State. My understanding is that lot of the initial barbarian kingdoms retained a lot of what was left of the Roman legal structures (and things like serfdom). Probably, if Rome was deteriorating the difference between living under the barbarians or Rome was starting to become negligible.

About the term Anarchy. Anarchy means "without government." During the Roman "Anarchy" there were tons of competing "emperors", and many assassinations. I cannot imagine that at the top level of the government there was much effective governance during such upheaval. This doesn't mean that local government ceased. Anyway, it is called the "Anarchy" by enough authority that I'm going to continue to call it that. I always use it with the definitive article, but I will try to capitalize it so you are aware that I am referring to the specific event in history, and not anarchy in general.

Let me give a slightly more detailed explanation of the collapse of the Roman army, as it was communicated to me.

First off, the power of the emperor rested on the army (true in most dictatorships). It was sometime before the Army realized this, but once they became seriously involved in determining who the emperor was, there was no going back. This was "the Anarchy" from 235-285. The army deteriorated, the soldiers became more loyal to a general, rather than to Rome. Individual generals jockeyed to become "Emperor" and the soldiers became more mercenary. They followed whichever general offered them the best loot. Generals attempting to recruit soldiers in this kind of populist manner, aren't going to insist on 20-mile a day marches, and strict discipline. While many of the initial soldiers were probably decently trained veterans, over a couple of generations they would disappear. After the "Anarchy", the state of the imperial government was such that it couldn't return to the "good old days" and the army was unable to recover. It continued a slow decay (along with other aspects of the empire), until it could no longer prevent barbarian invasions.

While I may not be able to present direct evidence for this, the theory seems consistent and provides a coherent explanation for why the empire fell to external forces.

To be honest, and I don't mean to offend anyone here, the alternatives smack of the "superiority" of the northern races over the southern types. If you assume that the Roman military maintained a good level of professionalism, training, and fighting effectiveness. The german barbarians must have defeated them because they were just "superior" warriors. Or, if as crow suggested, they gradually adopted Roman tactics. But then they would have to abandon such tactics, shortly after the fall of Rome?

I am reminded of a book I bought for my father, about the 10 greatest battles of all time. I didn't realize it was a reprint of book from the 1850s! My father said that while reading about the Romans, the author was keen to point out how Rome ruled britain, and that the British inherit from them. That is, until the battle in the Teutonoburg Forest -- then he switched, and talked about how much the British owed to the superior "saxons", blah, blah, blah.

If the Roman military did retain a high level of professionalism, why did it fall to the barbarians? I'm not saying that the barbarians would not have learned and adapted. But a high level of organization in a military, usually requires a rather high level organization in the government, and I don't see the barbarian kingdoms matching the Romans at this, until, perhaps, the end of the empire, when Rome was deteriorating. If the barbarians, somehow, managed to match Rome's high level of tactics and organizational abilities, why did they regress after the fall of Rome? To me the answer that Rome deteriorated seems more likely. Also it's hard to imagine that the deterioration of the economy and government would not have a significant impact on the state of the military.

Zincorium
2010-01-11, 07:57 PM
Can all such rounds be fired from a handgun? If so what would the recoil be?.

Not all such rounds are available for all calibers of handgun, but there are examples of each for various weapons, and you can make them yourself with a proper workshop for any given handgun you're using. Recoil will vary based on the weight of the round, but a specific type isn't going to have a single weight, there's always a range of weights.

It's complicated. If you're really interested, join an organization focused on shooting sports, like the NRA or CMP here in the US, and ask the people there about specifics.


Isn't there some kind of insane handgun that can fire a .50 BMG round? I have vague memories of seeing something like that on a History/Discovery Channel thing once. If it does exist, it must be a two-hander, as I can't see that *not* simply disconnecting your hand from your arm due to recoil.

There have been experimental single shot .50 BMG pistols, with massive muzzle brakes, and I can't imagine they were pleasant to fire regardless.
http://www.securityarms.com/20010315/galleryfiles/0600/601.htm


The Desert Eagle is a .50 caliber handgun, but it is not the same round as the .50 cal BMG. It's much shorter, with less propellant, therefor less muzzle velocity, less energy, less penetration, less damage.

And thus, a manageable recoil.

It's like a slightly wider .45.

You're right about the desert eagle firing a different round, which is called the .50 Action Express to differentiate it. But really, it isn't even the same bullet diameter as the .50 BMG, and literally everything else is wildly different.

On a side note, desert eagles are fun to shoot, but at least in my limited experience they aren't reliable at all. I think with a freshly cleaned gun I had a failure every 10 rounds.

Fhaolan
2010-01-11, 08:15 PM
There have been experimental single shot .50 BMG pistols, with massive muzzle brakes, and I can't imagine they were pleasant to fire regardless.
http://www.securityarms.com/20010315/galleryfiles/0600/601.htm


Yeah, that's the sucker I saw on TV. It was probably during one of those 'Future Weapon' things.

Stephen_E
2010-01-12, 01:39 AM
Fusilier, keep in mind that professionalism has never stopped an army been defeated (Spartacus repeatedly hammered army after army before he was eventually defeated).
The main advantage of a professional, disiplined army is that they handle defeat better.
Poor leadership, or superior leadership on the otherside can easily negate any combat advantages of professionalism and disipline.

I'd also note that using serfdom to force people to stay on the landis more than "to little to late", it's a fricken stupid idea. Slavery (which serfdom is a form of) tends to be inefficent.
And while I'm no expert on Rome, my understanding is that many of the people used to be well equipped ex-legionaires. When various policies changed that then the villages became more vunerable to been raided, which combined with ursious taxation policies, saw population flight.

Stephen E

fusilier
2010-01-12, 03:29 AM
Fusilier, keep in mind that professionalism has never stopped an army been defeated (Spartacus repeatedly hammered army after army before he was eventually defeated).
The main advantage of a professional, disiplined army is that they handle defeat better.
Poor leadership, or superior leadership on the otherside can easily negate any combat advantages of professionalism and disipline.

Oh, yes, I don't disagree. But those events aren't necessarily the norm, especially when we are talking about strategically defensive operations. Being able to handle defeat would be a great benefit in such situations. Certainly motivation is a factor that needs to be addressed. That all ties in with the thesis - troops that are less motivated to fight for the nation, are probably going to be inferior. Retention is another issue. Simply meting out harsh punishments for desertion (don't actually know if the Romans did) has historically done little to prevent it. Note that Spartacus was eventually defeated (as was Carthage). That resiliency that Rome's armies, even the Roman people, had shown seems to be ebbing away after the Anarchy. I'm sure economic factors influenced attitudes in the populace -- but I don't see why the army would be immune to such factors. Dedicated training is going to become difficult under a suffering economy, and an increasingly indifferent population.

A long string of poor military leadership, will almost inevitably result in a decrease in morale, discipline, and training. So while I don't doubt that the occasional battle would be lost due to some sort of individual incompetence (or won by some sort of individual brilliance), the Roman Army appears to suffer from systematic decay after the Anarchy. If, from time-to-time, some brilliant leadership ameliorates the situation, that doesn't mean that the system has been fixed.


I'd also note that using serfdom to force people to stay on the landis more than "to little to late", it's a fricken stupid idea. Slavery (which serfdom is a form of) tends to be inefficent.
And while I'm no expert on Rome, my understanding is that many of the people used to be well equipped ex-legionaires. When various policies changed that then the villages became more vunerable to been raided, which combined with ursious taxation policies, saw population flight.

Stephen E

Heh. :-) Well, if my recollection is correct, the Romans were big fans of slavery. That was another economic problem that they had: more and more land being worked by slaves, and not freemen. It was certainly a flawed system in the long run.

Ok, I think I've taken this much too far from the topic of weapons and armor. I like these arguments because I get to learn from them, but I'll try to refrain from this particular topic from now on. :-)

Stephen_E
2010-01-12, 05:58 AM
Ok, I think I've taken this much too far from the topic of weapons and armor. I like these arguments because I get to learn from them, but I'll try to refrain from this particular topic from now on. :-)

The surrounding conditions are in part a legitimate topic because they are so influential.
In the same way that you can discuss weapon performance and use in abstract to a certain degree, but if talking about real-life then evetually you have to take into account the conditions surrounding it's use, terrain, weather, training level, armour it faces, economy that produces it ect.

Things don't stand in isolation.

Stephen E

Theodoric
2010-01-12, 06:16 AM
Heh. :-) Well, if my recollection is correct, the Romans were big fans of slavery. That was another economic problem that they had: more and more land being worked by slaves, and not freemen. It was certainly a flawed system in the long run.
The main problem was that slavery was so very succesfull*, free farmers culdn't keep up, so they moved to the city, creating the proletarians (not in the Marxist sense :smallwink:); and the land that came available was taken over by the semi-rich or rich people or the 'government', which further increased the rich/poor split. The Marian reforms did help to alleviate that, but added in a whole new group of problems (namely, the amounts of land that are available didn't increase much after a certain point, soldiers became very loyal to their generals, etc.).

*well, for a time that was the case. Note that the 'slave' demographic was naturally decreasing, with many turning into freedmen over the years; the amount of slaves avialable was entirely dependent on any new conquests, and those did end after a while.

t's a bit hard to explain correctly, since this is a multi-century process with many things happening at the same time, but in short, the Roman Republic and Empire very very much dependent in many ways on expansion and conquest.

MickJay
2010-01-12, 07:42 AM
One of the main reasons why the Romans started losing to barbarians during late antiquity was that they were no longer dealing with bands of raiders, but rather with wholesale migration of numerous tribes that were seeking to settle on Roman soil. At the same time, Rome was constantly engaged in border war with Persia in the east, and the troops had to be often moved from one end of the empire to the other.

At that time, Romans were aware that the barbarian soldiers were, on average, simply better fighters than themselves, and they would hire the services of whole tribes to act as part of Roman forces, with the barbarian king acting as the leader of his men. In many ways it worked quite well, as the farmers could stay and work on their land (the slave population was dwindling, in no small part due lack of aggressive wars), and the barbarians would be defending the empire rather than raiding it - and they were already used to fighting with other barbarians as well.

As for the changes in equipment and tactics, well, Romans were always quick to adapt - new enemies required new approach, and the Romans simply responded to the situation.

Galloglaich
2010-01-12, 09:57 AM
I think it is a big mistake to make emotional investments in one side or another of conflicts which took place more than a thousand years ago... you as a modern person have less in common with a Roman Leginnaire or a Frankish warrior than they had with each other. Like I said, I'm not an expert on Roman history but I do know a little bit of military history, this is what I have gleaned so far:

The Romans had three initial advantages against the Barbarians.

1) Like most good infantry armies, they had a disciplined, well organized citizen militia trained to fight together. Very simiilar to the Greek Hoplites and the Etruscans from whose orbit they 'graduated'. This discipline is valuable on a tactical (holding together under fire, moving purposefully around the battlefield) as well as a Strategic level (recovering from defeats). The discipline could be imposed from above, but the esprit de corps came from below. You had to have both for this type of army to work.

2) They had excellent equipment, including armor for all of their front-line soldiers. This was largely due to institutionalized slave labor, which also I think ultimately became their proverbial achilles heel.

3) They practiced war as an art, with careful planning, and fought for victory rather than glory. And increasingly, they practiced total war.

The barbarians had the esprit de corps in droves, but lacked the discipline, lacked the standardized equipment (especially armor, which was critical), and fought for glory and prestige rather than conquest and annihilation of their enemy.

As power concentrated in the Center of Roman society, equipment got better at least initially, but esprit de corps waned. The indepednent farmers and urban artisans from whom the Legions had been recruited were replaced by slaves and serfs. So the Romans increasingly recruited from the Barbarians, not just from the north mind you, but from Spain, Numidia, Sarmatia, Parthia and Thrace, among other places.

The principle engine for the social change which weakened Roman society was the latifundia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latifundium

The power elite of Rome, Patricians and the Senatorial class, bought up huge numbers of cheap slaves who were put to work on vast villa estates in the countryside. The small farmers could not compete with these operations, but it was on them who the tax burden was placed, because they had no political power. They were literally squeezed to death. Many fled to the cities to join the urban underclass, turning Rome into a gang infested ghetto so bad that the government of the Western Roman empire relocated to Mediolanum (Milan) in 286 AD to escape it. (Ravena later became the official capitol of the Roman Empire in the 5th Century)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediolanum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravenna

Eventually those remaining in the countryside were literally bound to the land, becomming land-slaves, or serfs by order of Emperor Constantine in 332 AD. This stabilized the situation in the short term but utlimately proved a mortal wound both to Roman economic and military efficiency, because half starved serfs proved even worse than slaves at both farming and fighting, and had zero loyalty to the Roman State, to the contrary.

All of this was justified in elegant dialectical Roman logic, still preserved in surviving documents. The rural 'pagani' were seen as less than human because they were still of the old 'heathan' religion wheras the Senatorial class by this time had become Christian. The term pagani, which meant peasant, came to refer to non-believers, who were seen literally as an inferior species, much as the slaves had been already for centuries.

It is significant that the Latifundia system was copied in (formerly Moorish) southern Spain after the Reconquista, and was later imported to South and (particulalry) Central America as the Hacienda where it caused much the same type of stagnation, and was founded on the same kind of racial / religious attitude, toward the indios (native americans). It is also believed to be the ultimate origin of the agribusiness systems of the Central Valley of California.

The Roman recruiting base for their militia had been so weakened, that they created armmies from the Barbarians, to borrow from their 'esprit de corps' and combine it with the Roman military culture of discipline and tactical acumen. This worked for a time, but eventually could not be held together in the West. In the East where the Greek version of the cultural glue was stronger, the Roman Empire continued on as Byzantium.

The Barbarian zones, whether run by Berbers or Visigoths or Moors or Franks, did tend to have lower taxes and less of a strict social hierarchy. This is why many populations and entire towns went over to allegience to Barbarian leaders (like Theodoric) because they were indeed less oppressive than the Roman administration at that point. The serfdom in the north came later as the Roman (Christian) church gained power and influence over the Barbarian kingdoms, and was never universally imposed in most of Europe before it began to unravel during the Middle Ages (the exception being Russia and some other Eastern European countries on the frontier, where serfdom was established quite late but laster longer).

G.

fusilier
2010-01-12, 02:37 PM
Thanks Galloglaich for that thoughtful and well laid out explanation.


The Roman recruiting base for their militia had been so weakened, that they created armmies from the Barbarians, to borrow from their 'esprit de corps' and combine it with the Roman military culture of discipline and tactical acumen. This worked for a time, but eventually could not be held together in the West. In the East where the Greek version of the cultural glue was stronger, the Roman Empire continued on as Byzantium.

This is where my understanding varies, but only slightly. The difference is the claim that the Roman military culture of discipline and tactical acumen was already in decline by the time significant numbers of barbarians were allowed into the armies. That decline beginning with the Military Anarchy of 3rd century. Therefore the army was *starting* to resemble a barbarian army, before barbarians were actually introduced. Likewise their introduction would have reinforced or hasten the transformation. The switch to longer swords and more spears (in this theory) is viewed as evidence that the high-level of training that Roman soldiers had received was waning. The short gladius had been effective against longer swords, when properly wielded in conjunction with the shield. Furthermore, I believe the Roman infantry had actually been trained on how to fight in formation with swords -- which sounds like it would require quite a bit of dedication and practice. Not only do I accept that there could be valid alternate theories, it's also my recollection, and I easily could have mixed some things up.


It is significant that the Latifundia system was copied in (formerly Moorish) southern Spain after the Reconquista, and was later imported to South and (particulalry) Central America as the Hacienda where it caused much the same type of stagnation, and was founded on the same kind of racial / religious attitude, toward the indios (native americans). It is also believed to be the ultimate origin of the agribusiness systems of the Central Valley of California.

This is interesting, and I wish the wikipedia article supplied more detail. It's probably an outgrowth of the encomienda/repartimiento system. It evolved overtime, but it was not supposed to be slavery. The indios were to be paid for their labor and could only be forced to work for a portion of the year (giving them time to take care of themselves). It was still an exploitative system, but by paying them they could be taxed. That tax going to the crown. The encomendero's were noblemen, so while they got to exploit the labor directly, the crown couldn't tax them (classic problem of *not* taxing the people with the money). That was the theory anyhow. In practice, abuses of the system were probably routine. It could be further complicated in areas where the missions competed with secular land owners for the labor.

lsfreak
2010-01-12, 04:10 PM
@Boci:
(all of my info is subject to correction by people who know more what they're talking about :p)

Ammunition for guns varies widely. For example, there's 'normal' FMJ 9mm rounds, +P rounds (overpressure), and +P+ rounds (double overpressure). All will have different recoil, because they all have different loads of gunpowder in them, even though the bullet itself will remain the same. Not all handguns will be able to safely fire all types of ammunition, as the chambers can only handle certain amounts of pressure.

Weight of the gun itself heavily influences recoil as well. Take a heavy gun with a good sound suppressor, and a subcompact gun of the same caliber, and the heavy gun will have much less recoil (but may be unwieldy, hard to draw and aim quickly, etc.).

You'd be hard-pressed to find APDS rounds in handgun chambers. Even in rifles, they're not often used until you get into at least .50cal machine guns (though they're pretty standard for aircraft, ship, or vehicle-mounted guns from 20mm up to 120mm).

The only rounds that should actually affect gun wear noticeably will be unjacketed lead rounds (due to fouling of the barrel), which are, as far as I'm aware, never used by military or police forces. They're basically restricted to for-fun shooting, or perhaps home defense/concealed carry revolvers.

@ .50cal handguns

Keep in mind with any 'handgun' (and I use that term loosely) chambered for .50BMG probably won't have a whole lot of stopping power, compared to a rifle, unless they also tinkered with the powder load and put in much faster-burning powder (which would also drastically increase recoil). Handgun-length barrels simply won't be long enough for the powder to burn like it can in a rifle.

In .50 handgun rounds though, you've got .50AE, plus revolvers chambered for .500 S&W (and of course there's probably .50cal wildcats).

fusilier
2010-01-12, 04:50 PM
Quick correction to my last entry about the Roman army.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_history_of_the_Roman_military#Barbarisa tion_of_the_army_.28117.C2.A0AD_.E2.80.93_253.C2.A 0AD.29

It looks like "barbarians" were being introduced to the army before the military Anarchy of 235-285. Though these "barbarians" were coming from within the empire itself. The initial signs of decline in discipline seem to have started before the Anarchy. Although I still think the inevitable decline was sealed by the Anarchy. I'm not really of the opinion that the introduction of barbarians into the Roman army led to a decrease in discipline and effectiveness. However, that barbarians were being allowed into the army, probably demonstrated that the army was already slipping in those areas. Then increasing numbers of barbarians would have exacerbated the situation.

fusilier
2010-01-12, 04:55 PM
You'd be hard-pressed to find APDS rounds in handgun chambers. Even in rifles, they're not often used until you get into at least .50cal machine guns (though they're pretty standard for aircraft, ship, or vehicle-mounted guns from 20mm up to 120mm).

I'm not that familiar with the term APDS (I had to check it up): Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot. I thought that sabots were usually only used on fairly big caliber rounds (like artillery-sized), and that just plain AP was typical in rifle calibers. Are there APDS rounds for rifle caliber weapons?

thanks!

Zincorium
2010-01-12, 06:06 PM
You can get .308 sabots that hold a .223 caliber bullet fairly cheaply- I've never seen the chronograph results, but it seems like it would be very fast. And of course the military rounds for that already go through armor.

Sabot rounds for shotguns are also very common, and black powder rifles use them almost exclusively nowadays.

Like I said, if you're talking handguns (and really small arms in general) not all of those rounds will be commercially available, but all of them could be constructed. The principles are well understood and it's not complicated. Of course, the same goes for some of those and larger calibers- I've always wanted to see what a Glazer round (copper jacket with birdshot inside) would do in .50 BMG or similar.

lsfreak
2010-01-12, 06:19 PM
I'm not that familiar with the term APDS (I had to check it up): Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot. I thought that sabots were usually only used on fairly big caliber rounds (like artillery-sized), and that just plain AP was typical in rifle calibers. Are there APDS rounds for rifle caliber weapons?

thanks!

I supposed I don't really know how common it is to use them, but they're at least one type of ammo used (or at least, able to be used) in Apache and Cobra chin guns, Bradley IFV chain guns, Phalanx CIWS, the nose guns of most fighter aircraft, and so on. And then they're the primary anti-tank round for for both self-propelled, direct-fire gun (Striker, for example) and main battle tanks. They're not used in indirect-fire roles as far as I know.

In terms of infantry use, I know they exist. See here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saboted_light_armor_penetrator). Unless I'm mistaken, the American/NATO version cannot be used in sniper rifles (or rather, I've always heard not to use them. I want to say I've heard the pressures are higher than are safe). I know the 7.62mm was developed, but personally I've never heard of them actually be used.

After looking closer, a number of guns (including several heavy machine guns) that I thought used saboted rounds don't, but rather house a DU or tungsten core within a normal round.

(And it's probably worth noting that most of what I know is from what I've read, rather than any kind of first-hand knowledge.)

fusilier
2010-01-12, 11:13 PM
Thanks for the response Isfreak. That basically conforms to what I thought the situation was: sabots for bigger guns/cannons, and things like DU or other AP for heavy caliber machine guns/autocannon. I am aware that there are now smoothbore cannons on many tanks, to facilitate the firing of AP munitions.

I had not heard about the SLAP round before, that's interesting. Although I wonder if its performance isn't much better than standard AP, and maybe that's why it hasn't been adopted. It seems to be designed for lightly armored vehicle, and not personal armor. This might indicate that the bullet wouldn't do much damage to a person? I've heard that often rounds that are very good at penetrating, have a tendency to keep going and not do much damage to whatever/whoever was protected by the armor. (There are, of course, exceptions)


You can get .308 sabots that hold a .223 caliber bullet fairly cheaply- I've never seen the chronograph results, but it seems like it would be very fast. And of course the military rounds for that already go through armor.

Sabot rounds for shotguns are also very common, and black powder rifles use them almost exclusively nowadays.

Now that you mention it, I may have heard about the sabot for .308. And yes sabot rounds are fairly common for shotguns. As for muzzle-loader rifles, I've heard of sabots being used, but most people I know use either minie-balls or round-ball with a patch.

Thanks for the info.

Galloglaich
2010-01-13, 09:48 AM
Some interesting Linothorax testing. Turns out ten layers of linen could save your life....

http://news.discovery.com/archaeology/linotho...armor.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linothorax#Unive...ax_Project

http://www.uwgb.edu/aldreteg/Linothorax.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ERSx1o8wwk

Dervag
2010-01-14, 01:12 PM
About the term Anarchy. Anarchy means "without government." During the Roman "Anarchy" there were tons of competing "emperors", and many assassinations. I cannot imagine that at the top level of the government there was much effective governance during such upheaval. This doesn't mean that local government ceased. Anyway, it is called the "Anarchy" by enough authority that I'm going to continue to call it that.OK. Totally fine. Could you name the authorities for me, so I can go look up what they have to say about this?

The most common name for it I've heard is "The Crisis of the Third Century," which is a lot longer than "the Anarchy," but also a bit less questionable as a description. One might disagree about how much government there was during this period, but not when it happened.

As for the idea that Roman tactical sophistication was in decline: I'm not sure that changes in weapons are evidence for decay of the training the soldiers had with the weapons. After all, the Romans always used a mix of infantry weapons; the famous front-liner with his heavy shield, his lorica, gladius, and pila was only one part of a mixed force. He just happens to have gotten all the publicity. Especially since spears in particular lend themselves to individualized, less disciplined tactics less well than swords, as a rule; spears are more effective in a tight phalanx.


It is significant that the Latifundia system was copied in (formerly Moorish) southern Spain after the Reconquista, and was later imported to South and (particulalry) Central America as the Hacienda where it caused much the same type of stagnation, and was founded on the same kind of racial / religious attitude, toward the indios (native americans). It is also believed to be the ultimate origin of the agribusiness systems of the Central Valley of California.Also, I would argue, the plantation culture of the Caribbean and the American South... and it created cultures that were just as stagnant and trapped in a cash-crop economy as anything in Latin America.

Crow
2010-01-14, 01:54 PM
Also, I would argue, the plantation culture of the Caribbean and the American South... and it created cultures that were just as stagnant and trapped in a cash-crop economy as anything in Latin America.

Yep. They don't call them "banana republics" for nothing!

fusilier
2010-01-14, 04:02 PM
OK. Totally fine. Could you name the authorities for me, so I can go look up what they have to say about this?
Do you want the name of my tenured professor, who was a fixture in the history department for something like 30 years? Or will just quoting from a book do?


Historians often describe this period as one of "military anarchy," since few emperors reigned long enough to establish dynasties or even firm policies; most of these ephemeral rulers were rough soldiers without much in the way of education or preparation for ruling the empire.
A History of Byzantium
pg. 23-24

http://books.google.com/books?id=gXCl9P0vKS4C&dq=%22crisis+of+the+third+century%22+%22military+a narchy%22&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Wikipedia also calls it the "military anarchy".

The important thing to realize is that it wasn't merely anarchy within the military, it was the military causing anarchy within the government. If you want to talk about at what level the anarchy occurred that's fine. Assuming you don't live in the capital city of your country, if the national government devolved into anarchy, you wouldn't expect local garbage collection to immediately cease. (I suppose that depends upon how centralized the government is).

When dealing with the Military Anarchy, anarchy refers to the top level of government. Not the government at local community levels (whatever government that may have been). The Anarchy would understandably effect those national level concerns -- like the military, and the infrastructure that supported the economy (roads). My professor typically referred to it as "the Anarchy", because there was really nothing else to confuse it with.


As for the idea that Roman tactical sophistication was in decline: I'm not sure that changes in weapons are evidence for decay of the training the soldiers had with the weapons. After all, the Romans always used a mix of infantry weapons; the famous front-liner with his heavy shield, his lorica, gladius, and pila was only one part of a mixed force. He just happens to have gotten all the publicity. Especially since spears in particular lend themselves to individualized, less disciplined tactics less well than swords, as a rule; spears are more effective in a tight phalanx.

Right. To effectively fight in formation with swords requires a lot of training. Especially the spacing. Even though they used a gladius, the formation can not be too tight. Recruits will naturally tend to crowd together, especially when closing with the enemy. Which is fine for pikes or spears, but not for swords. The fact that they were abandoning the gladius, and switching to longer swords and spears, might imply that the level of training needed to maintain disciplined sword based tactics was falling. So they were reverting to tactics and weapons that didn't require that high-level of training and discipline. That's the argument anyway.

Dervag
2010-01-14, 07:31 PM
Do you want the name of my tenured professor, who was a fixture in the history department for something like 30 years? Or will just quoting from a book do?

A History of Byzantium
pg. 23-24...All right, fine, but from the sources on the period between the Severans and Diocletian I know, I wouldn't call it "The Anarchy" as a primary name for the era.


Right. To effectively fight in formation with swords requires a lot of training. Especially the spacing. Even though they used a gladius, the formation can not be too tight. Recruits will naturally tend to crowd together, especially when closing with the enemy. Which is fine for pikes or spears, but not for swords. The fact that they were abandoning the gladius, and switching to longer swords and spears, might imply that the level of training needed to maintain disciplined sword based tactics was falling. So they were reverting to tactics and weapons that didn't require that high-level of training and discipline. That's the argument anyway.I'm still a little dubious about whether that signifies anything, though; it just seems sort of... arbitrary. "X is a less disciplined weapon than Y, so switching from X to Y is a sign of decaying discipline."

Galloglaich
2010-01-14, 08:41 PM
Also, I would argue, the plantation culture of the Caribbean and the American South... and it created cultures that were just as stagnant and trapped in a cash-crop economy as anything in Latin America.

Of course, and from the same (Roman) cultural source.. it's the Latifundia all over again.

G.

fusilier
2010-01-15, 08:24 PM
I'm still a little dubious about whether that signifies anything, though; it just seems sort of... arbitrary. "X is a less disciplined weapon than Y, so switching from X to Y is a sign of decaying discipline."

I think the consensus is that to be proficient with a sword requires more training than with a weapon like a spear. To wield a sword in formation is considered to require even more training. And short swords, like a gladius, are better adapted to fighting in formation.

This is certainly open to debate. But, yeah, the basics of the argument are just as you described.

Raum
2010-01-15, 08:49 PM
I have heard that 'consensus' many times also...and this seems a good place to ask - Is there any historical evidence that swords were more difficult to become proficient with than spears? (For a similar level of proficiency.)

Crow
2010-01-15, 08:55 PM
I think the consensus is that to be proficient with a sword requires more training than with a weapon like a spear. To wield a sword in formation is considered to require even more training. And short swords, like a gladius, are better adapted to fighting in formation.

This is certainly open to debate. But, yeah, the basics of the argument are just as you described.

Maybe you are thinking along the lines of it being cheaper to equip troops with spears than with swords? "Lesser" troops could be equipped with spears at far less expense than with swords.

There is no evidence to support one weapon being more "professional" than another. I would say that with the empire's enemies more often employing large cavalry forces, the switch to the spear would make sense.

Also, the auxilia which traditional made up a huge portion of the roman war machine had been using the spear for decades. As the empire began to place more emphasis on the auxilia as opposed to the legions, it can be easy to perceive a "switch" from the gladius to the spear. In addition, the spatha was a common weapon for mounted auxilia, as opposed to the gladius. Again, with greater emphasis on the auxilia, one can see a perceived switch to the spatha.

Crow
2010-01-15, 10:36 PM
I was recently reading a book by Bernard Cornwell, Excalibur. Now let me start by stating that this book is fiction, and takes place in Arthurian Briton.

But in this book, the main character fights the champion of one of the saxon antagonists, and it describes the champion using a slender blade, which he uses predominantly for thrusting, though at one point he makes a slashing cut which the main character strikes directly with his own more robust sword as hard as possible, breaking the champion's sword.

Now as I understand it, rapiers didn't come into use until much later than what would be Arthurian times. Is there some other sword type which this description could fit, which a far-travelled saxon could have gotten ahold of in those times? Or is this just the author injecting some flavor of his own?

fusilier
2010-01-15, 11:48 PM
Maybe you are thinking along the lines of it being cheaper to equip troops with spears than with swords? "Lesser" troops could be equipped with spears at far less expense than with swords.

No, I wasn't really thinking along those lines, but it's a good point. If you're making money saving measures, training is one thing that's also going to suffer. So switching to weapons that can still be effective (maybe not as effective) with less training could make economical sense.


There is no evidence to support one weapon being more "professional" than another. I would say that with the empire's enemies more often employing large cavalry forces, the switch to the spear would make sense.

Also, the auxilia which traditional made up a huge portion of the roman war machine had been using the spear for decades. As the empire began to place more emphasis on the auxilia as opposed to the legions, it can be easy to perceive a "switch" from the gladius to the spear. In addition, the spatha was a common weapon for mounted auxilia, as opposed to the gladius. Again, with greater emphasis on the auxilia, one can see a perceived switch to the spatha.

Very good points. Although I thought that the Roman Legions had dealt with cavalry forces in Asia, prior to the changes? Also consider the implications of the Military Anarchy. The imperial governance was in ruins, and I find it difficult to believe that army training camps were immune to the disruption at that level. Fifty years could easily have wrecked the training traditions of the army. Honestly, though, I don't know, and Dervag certainly seems to disagree about the implications of the "Crisis of the Third century."

As for swords in the Arthurian age. When exactly is the book set? Arthur is sometimes attributed across different centuries, as far as I know. Anyway, I *think* that early Dark Age swords tended to be wider than later Medieval ones, but I'll wait to hear from the experts. :-)

Galloglaich
2010-01-16, 11:36 AM
Well, there are two major branches of the discussion here, one is Roman military discipline and efficacy, and the other specifically with kit and swords in particular. I don't know that much about Roman history per se, but I've read a bit of the military history and understand the weapons and armor pretty well from research I recently did for a book. So here is my $.02:

I think swords got longer in the Dark Ages principally because metalurgy had improved, and this, like the swords themselves, came from the Barbarian zones.

Those Gladius which have been excavated in Mainz, Fullham, Pompeii etc. were almost all made from wrought iron, not steel. With an iron blade, 24" is about as long of a sword as you can make, any longer than that and it will bend or break every time you hit something.

Here is a little timeline of Roman military history which reflects how I see their weapon development, for whatever that is worth.

300 BC Rome begins the conquest of Hispania, and some soldiers immediately adopt Celtiberian and Iberian weapons, including metal javelins which would become the famous pilum, and the Spanish sword.

147 BC The Romans begin to suffer a series of defeats by the Celtibierian city state of Numantia and the Lusitani guerilla leader Viritathus in Spain. After annihilating three Roman Armies, Viriathus is finally defeated by bribing his own captains to assassinate him, (after which they were put to death by the Romans in a double-cross). During this campaign Roman legions systematically adopt the Celtiberian "Gladius Hispaniensis" (Spanish Sword) as standard kit, as well as the Iberian Falcata, a curved weapon similar to a Gurkha knife, which significantly, was one of the earliest swords to be found that contained some steel.

100 BC, the Roman Empire received a frightening shock with the arrival of a powerful coalition of Celtic and Germanic tribes, which the Romans called the Cimbri and the Teutons. These barbarians were armed with very good quality 'spatha' type swords which were harder and more strongly made than anything the Romans had. The shock of the defeats they suffered during the invasions by these Barbarians led to the complete reorganization of the Roman military under General Marius, the so-called Marian reform.

From this period, the longer "barbarian" style swords began to be adopted by Roman Cavalry, which was also increasingly made up of Auxiliaries from Gaul and Numidia and Spain.

9 AD the Germanic coalition led by the Cherucsi during the Battle of Teutoburg forest crush three Roman Legions, a catastrophic Roman defeat at the hands of Barbarians wielding Spatha type swords and spears.

16 BC the Romans conquer Noricum, the Celto-Illyrian center for creating what the Romans called "Norric steel", actually a pattern welded iron-steel composite.... but functionally the same thing, allowing the creation of strong blades as long as 3 feet.

100 AD the Roman Legions have switched from the Gladius to the Spatha, and Germanic infantry units are being recruited.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viriathus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lusitanian_War
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cimbri
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teutones
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambrones
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marian_reforms
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noricum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noric_steel

From as early as the 1st Century BC the Roman armies had also suffered severe defeats at in the east and catastrophic debacles, caused by the inability of the Legions to cope with Eastern horse-archers and heavy cavalry (Saromatian and Parthian Caraphracts, who were equipped essentially like 13th Century European knights). These defeats included the annihilation of entire Legions and the death of Roman Consul (Crassus) on the battlefield.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Carrhae

This catastrophe was echoed 4 centuries later in Central Europe at the hands of Visigothic heavy cavalry, leading to the death of Emperor Valens.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Adrianople

Roman infantry alone was not capable of coping with heavy cavalry or horse archers, they had to adopt heavy cavalry and horse-archers of their own, which they did. This also meant adopting different weapons and armor and hiring foreign Axuliaries, which again... goes back to Republican times. The political and social turmoil in Rome at various points was another major factor, but from what I have read that seems to have waxed and waned, the army was reformed many times and competent Generals or militarily talented emperors (like Julian or Marcus Aurelius or Constantine) continued to arrive periodically.

This too was nothing new, effective Emperors were outnumbered by crazy or incompetent ones, which can be seen clearly enough in the first (Julio-Claudian) Dynasty. Julius Caesar was a brilliant general, killed early in his reign, Augustus was highly competent, replaced by Tiberius (competent but crazy) then Caligula (weak and completely crazy), then Claudius (weak) then Nero (crazy again) .... that's just how it goes when one guy has total control, there are periods of prosperity followed in short order by disaster and chaos. It was the same with Medieval monarchies. There were twenty "Charles the fat" "Charles the simple" or "Aethelred the unready" for every Alfred the Great or Charles Martel.

G

Galloglaich
2010-01-16, 02:46 PM
I guess the bottom line is, Roman history is complicated and it's somewhat tricky to make generalizations... you can see a lot of ways to look at this particular elephant...

G.

Matthew
2010-01-16, 08:04 PM
I guess the bottom line is, Roman history is complicated and it's somewhat tricky to make generalizations... you can see a lot of ways to look at this particular elephant...

Heh, heh; I have been thinking the same thing over the course of the last couple of pages of this thread. Anybody interested in the Roman military and not familiar, would be well advised to check out RomanArmyTalk (http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/), a really excellent community for this sort of discussion.

Crow
2010-01-16, 08:14 PM
I was recently reading a book by Bernard Cornwell, Excalibur. Now let me start by stating that this book is fiction, and takes place in Arthurian Briton.

But in this book, the main character fights the champion of one of the saxon antagonists, and it describes the champion using a slender blade, which he uses predominantly for thrusting, though at one point he makes a slashing cut which the main character strikes directly with his own more robust sword as hard as possible, breaking the champion's sword.

Now as I understand it, rapiers didn't come into use until much later than what would be Arthurian times. Is there some other sword type which this description could fit, which a far-travelled saxon could have gotten ahold of in those times? Or is this just the author injecting some flavor of his own?

Fro what I have been able to work out from the book, it is supposed to take place shortly before the year 500. Hopefully that helps get an answer to this question.

Matthew
2010-01-16, 08:16 PM
From what I have been able to work out from the book, it is supposed to take place shortly before the year 500. Hopefully that helps get an answer to this question.

There are rapier type swords extant from the iron age, I believe, though I would be hard pressed to find you an original reference. I think I read about them on the ARMA website in the article about cut versus thrust swords, or maybe "There is no best sword".

fusilier
2010-01-17, 03:41 AM
100 AD the Roman Legions have switched from the Gladius to the Spatha, and Germanic infantry units are being recruited.

Hmmm. The wikipedia entry on the Late Roman army says that the gladius wasn't phased out until the 3rd century . . .

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Roman_army


I guess the bottom line is, Roman history is complicated and it's somewhat tricky to make generalizations... you can see a lot of ways to look at this particular elephant...
Indubitably! :-) It really depends upon how you look at it. How you explain the debacles that the Roman army faced, etc.

Thanks Matthew for the link, it looks like there might be some good stuff there. Originally I was never that interested in Ancient/Classical history, until some friends convinced me to take a class with them. I enjoyed it so much that I took enough Ancient history classes that it ended up as my concentration for a minor in History. Anyway, this conversation has been good and rekindled my interest in the time period again.

One more thing. A fellow reenactor just asked about whether or not there are Roman reenactment groups circa 50AD (I'm certain there are). A couple of his friends are interested. Ideally in New Mexico. Thanks in advance for any help.

Galloglaich
2010-01-17, 10:38 AM
Heh, heh; I have been thinking the same thing over the course of the last couple of pages of this thread. Anybody interested in the Roman military and not familiar, would be well advised to check out RomanArmyTalk (http://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/), a really excellent community for this sort of discussion.

Agreed that is where I learned most of what little I know about it, that is a very well informed group of people on that forum. Definitely the top resource online, I wish there were forums that good on Medieval or Renaissance history.

Also a few good books like Hans Delbrucks classical warfare, John Warys Warfare in the Classical World, Jacob Burckhardts book on Classical civilization (can't remember the title off the top of my head and too hung over to look it up), and various Osprey books of course.

And anyone who is interested in Roman history should definitely pick up Julius Caesars conquest of gaul or gallic wars (different editions use different titles) it's an easy read and very entertaining... and you'll gain a lot of insight into the times. Also Tacitus Germania and Agricola, and Seutonious 12 Caesars for a really scandalous look at early Imperial history.

G>

Galloglaich
2010-01-17, 10:56 AM
There are rapier type swords extant from the iron age, I believe, though I would be hard pressed to find you an original reference. I think I read about them on the ARMA website in the article about cut versus thrust swords, or maybe "There is no best sword".

There were "rapier-like" swords in the Bronze age, not so much in the Iron Age, though some of the earlier Iron Age "Spatha" types could certainly thrust as well as cut.

These Bronze 'rapiers' were made with the blade bolted on to the handle, . Most of them were not very long, though a few were. But the point was they were too fragile to cut with, which is why they started calling them 'rapiers'. Not much is known about how they would have been used though.

Here is an article on them:

http://www.templeresearch.eclipse.co.uk/bronze/rapier.htm

here is one of the really long ones, from some pictures of bronze age swords found in Ireland, upper left

http://publish.ucc.ie/doi/worsaae/figures/Image02.jpg

Here are a couple more with the grips, from Bulgaria

http://www.kroraina.com/thracia/hb/thracian_swords0.jpg

During the transition from Bronze Age to Iron Age weapons got a lot shorter, in fact it was almost all daggers for a while until short swords slowly began to appear. The longer Spatha type wasn't widespread until the Third Century BC, and they didn't begin to get much longer than that until the 12th Century AD... all due to the level of the metalurgy and the level of sword making technology. As soon as they figured out how to make them longer, they did. Reach is useful in a fight. By the 16th Century at the pinnacle of steel-making technology, you began to get the true rapiers and giant two handed swords six feet long.

As for the particular anecdote, swords break, but one sword cutting through another has the ring of silly. Most King Arthur stuff falls under that category.

G.

Crow
2010-01-17, 01:33 PM
As for the particular anecdote, swords break, but one sword cutting through another has the ring of silly. Most King Arthur stuff falls under that category.

G.

To the author's credit, he said that it broke the other sword. Not that he cut through it. I'm sure he got himself a hefty little chip in his edge from that one. =)

Dervag
2010-01-18, 07:31 PM
Maybe the other guy made his sword too long, so it broke easily...:smallamused:

Galloglaich
2010-01-19, 01:03 AM
or maybe it still had a rock stuck to it....