Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

Tag: firearms

Why Muskets Supplanted Bows

July 4, 2022

…[The Native American] self bow and the seventeenth-century musket had comparable effective ranges (50 yards optimum, 100 to 150 yards at the outside)….

…For Amerindians, because the bow or the musket had to serve in both war and the hunt, something in the technology had to satisfy the needs of both pursuits…. A musket ball was less likely than an arrow to be deflected by vegetation, and it also had a greater kinetic impact on the target. A deer hit with an arrow receives a very deep wound…, which, though eventually lethal, might require the hunter to pursue the bleeding deer for some distance. In contrast, a musket penetrates flesh, shatters bone, and creates a larger wound cavity. It “smacks,” whereas an arrow “slices….” A military musketball at 50 yards hits a target with 706 foot pounds of kinetic energy. An arrow from a typical modern bow hits at 50 yards with 50 to 80 foot pounds of energy. This is more than enough to penetrate flesh and tissue and produce a killing wound, but it is much less likely to drop an animal in its tracks.

The musket has similar advantages against humans. Much of a human target is limbs, especially when walls or trees are used to cover the trunk of the body. An arrow wound to the leg or arm is rarely lethal, although it can be debilitating. But a musketball strike to the arm or leg may shatter the bone and is more likely to carry debris into the wound, lead to infection, sepsis, and death.… In the immediate term, a man with a shattered leg or arm, flung to the ground by the weight of a musket shot, also makes a better target for being taken prisoner…. Unable to flee, he becomes vulnerable and may hold up his fellows trying to carry him away from the field…. More obviously, bullets cannot be dodged, whereas arrows in flight over any distance (especially on an arcing trajectory) can be seen and dodged. Modern film footage of the Dani people’s arrow and javelin battles in New Guinea shows this process clearly, and numerous European witnesses commented on the Amerindians’ ability to dodge arrows.

Empires and Indigenes, pp. 56-58

Emphases mine.

Players of fantasy RPGs should note the quoted effective range for bows. Many games have much longer distances, but those are derived from battlefields where archers are loosing volleys at large enemy formations. Gamers should further note the easy of dodging an arrow at anything beyond short range.

Being Willing

January 12, 2022
J.B. Books:
It isn’t always being fast or even accurate that counts. It’s being willing. I found out early that most men, regardless of cause or need, aren’t willing. They blink an eye or draw a breath before they pull the trigger. I won’t.

— “The Shootist” (1976)

Advantages of Swords Over Pistols in Dueling

May 2, 2008

The sword had been quite sufficient for its gory tasks, but over the course of the eighteenth century [C.E.] the dueling pistol began to replace it, a switch that romantics like [Sir Richard] Burton lamented as “an ugly exchange of dull lead for polished steel.” During the transition, people sometimes used both at once. In 1690, in Ireland, the high sheriff of Country Down had an argument with a neighbor over dinner, and they fought with sword and pistol: One was run through with a sword and the other was shot. Both died. Sometimes, if the pistols misfired, the combatants threw them away and whipped out their reliable swords.

Slashing and killing a man with a sword offered visceral pleasures not found in guns. It was a physical experience. You held the sword in your hand and felt the flesh of your enemy give way under its point…. Your arm quivered to the crunch of bone and cartilage, and knew the spongy resistance of lung or bowel. His blood, probably mixed with yours, splashed your shoes. His face was close; you could see his eyes.

Another advantage of sword over pistol was that the damage done was directly related to the gravity of the occasion. In a casual matter, you could swoop in with the upward-cutting manchette blow that disabled his sword arm, ending the encounter and leaving him with nothing but a bruised elbow. Swords did what they were told to do. You could defend yourself with a sword and parry a thrust; the only way to parry a gun is to shoot the man who’s shooting it. A sword was always a sword, but pistols often misbehaved or misfired. The skillful swordsman could inflict as much or as little damage as he wanted, but pistol duels were fraught with accident and surprise. You could kill an old friend who’d laughed at the wrong moment, instead of merely flicking a drop of blood from his arm and then taking him out for a drink. Or you could hit the wrong target, which never happened with swords: In one duel in France, both parties fired simultaneously and simultaneously killed each other’s seconds.

When you’d killed a man with your personal sword and not by some proxy impersonal bullet, your soul had killed his. When the victor claimed the sword of the fallen as his right and broke it over his knee, killing him in effigy, generations quivered. When [Robert E.] Lee handed his sword to [Ulysses S.] Grant at Appomattox, strong men wept. Some say Grant wept.

With guns, the satisfaction was remote. You stood well separated by the agreed-on paces. Shoot your man and he crumples and falls, his weapon drops from his hand, but as far as your own hand knows he might have been struck by lightning. You didn’t press the bullet into his chest; it flew there by itself, mechanically. You were distanced from the action, like the pilot of a high-altitude bomber.

Gentlemen’s Blood, pp. 72-75

Emphasis mine.

Redefinition of Courage

May 2, 2008
The gun was ravaging the soul of the warrior. To many among them, virtually the whole purpose of battle was to demonstrate courage. Custom dictated that an international corps of heralds hung like scavengers about the battlefield, ascertaining brave deeds to be recorded by chroniclers. Bullets were making the whole process ridiculous; the standards of courage were becoming the standards of idiocy. Insistence on close-in fighting, elaborate rituals of identification, and pairing off were not just inappropriate on a battlefield full of guns; they helped reveal the impotence of the ruling classes.
The bullet-riddled environment of the sixteenth century [C.E.] demanded a basic redefinition of what constituted courage. This would take time; but an incident near Brussels in 1582, during the Dutch rebellion, foreshadowed the direction it took. It was an early-spring afternoon and Alexandro Farnese, the Duke of Parma, Philip II of Spain’s most famous general, decided to dine with his staff outdoors, near the trench works. No sooner had they sat down when a cannonball took off the head of a young Walloon officer, and a skull fragment also struck out the eye of another gentleman. The table was cleared only to have a second ball kill two more of the guests. Their blood and brains strewn over the previously festive board, the remaining diners lost all appetite and got up to leave. Yet Parma calmly insisted his guests resume their places, ordering his servants to take away the bodies and bring a clean tablecloth.
A traditional hero might have charged the cannon…not Parma. His response was passive disdain. If flesh and bone were unequal to flying lead and iron, the spirit was. Parma’s defiant hospitality was a prototype. One day men of courage would be inclined to stand fast and take it. Other than ferocious aggressiveness, not flinching became the sine qua non of the warrior class.

Robert L. O’Connell, Soul of the Sword, p. 124

Early Firearm Tactics: Pike and Arquebus

June 20, 1998

The arquebusiers, belonging to the same unit as the pikemen, did not operate completely independently…. In the absence of obstructed terrain, the square of pikemen provided the only place of safety where the light infantry might take refuge from the enemy’s heavy cavalry. They could take a position on the flank of or behind the square, or, should the cavalry attack in flank or rear, many could find safety in the front ranks where the wall of pikes would protect them. In turn, the arquebusiers’ fire could support the pikemen’s defense, and the masses of the enemy’s heavy infantry or the horses and men of the attacking heavy cavalry would provide fine targets for arquebus balls. The Spaniards gradually increased the proportion of arquebusiers to pikemen until, by the end of the 16th century [C.E.], their regiments approached equal numbers of light and heavy infantry.

Archer Jones, The Art of War in the Western World, p. 191