Elegant weapons from a more civilized time (Bows, arrows, muskets, and more...)

Coming from the digression on the European football super league I had with @Scribbs


For your perusal, he is had some interesting tests with his “Lockdown longbow”, look in his channel for them. Shocking what he does to a knightly shield.

Note: He is using a modified crossbow that can use longbow medieval arrows at the same speed as a 160 pound longbow they used in a previous video against a breastplate here.



Interesting stuff - are there any good books about this sort of thing?

Is there any aspect you’re particularly drawn to (no pun intended)?


I made a garden trebuchet a few years ago. Didn’t use it for much and eventually scrapped it, but I find myself tempted to make another…


Depends on what you are interested in, is it archery, armour…?

Maybe something about the history of archery, and how they were replaced by other weapons

Mike Loades books are normally very well documented. I haven’t read his latest one, but his Swords and Swordmen from around 10 years ago is outstanding. I can disagree with him in some of his views, but he would be a good starting point, due to availability.


That’s an interesting subject, and I haven’t encountered a text that focuses on that solely.
A non-academic recommendation is Azincourt (released under the title Agincourt in the US I believe) by Bernard Cornwell. Historic fiction, so read it with a pinch of salt, but I think it does a good job of showing (an interpretation) of life as an archer, and provides some of the cultural and society practices required to have a body of men trained in that style of warfare.

(Also The White Company by Conan Doyle, and Cornwell’s Grail Quest series).

At a slight tangent to your question, I quite like The Face of Battle by John Keegan. It is a comparison between the type of warfare and the soldier’s experience of battle from three eras - Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme.

The difference in the scale of warfare both geographically in terms of the battlefield size and the numbers employed tells an interesting story in itself. Maybe 5k archers fought at Agincourt, 50k British and allied infantry at Waterloo, and 3 million British at the Somme. Although a peasant by class, the archer was a highly trained soldier, much more so than those recruited in later periods. That training required time away from basic labouring and work. I haven’t seen any study on it, but the the fact that laws existed to force the English to practice the longbow showed that there was likely a degree of torn duties with reinforcement needed. It must have been hard to keep that cadre intact, particularly in times of peace, and with a growth in middle classes and slow dissolution of the feudal system, it can be easy to imagine the skills declining.

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No idea if it’s good or well-regarded, but “The Crooked Stick - A history of the Longbow” by Hugh Soar was a great read.

I’m not sure I’d call shooting people with pointy bits of metal and wood any more civilised than a bullet tbh…

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In a strict technical sense it’s less reliant on having cities.

But I think that – not wanting to get into contentious politics – there’s an instinctual element to consider. To damage someone with a melee weapon most people need to work themselves up to it, going against the realisation that they’re going to hurt a person. To damage someone with a bow or crossbow there’s a bit more distance, but there’s still some element of getting oneself in the right mood. To damage someone with a pistol that’s already loaded, because there’s no significant muscular effort needed, all that’s needed is to point and make a fist. This short-circuits the process of escalation and “fronting” that one can observe in other primates (or in fighty bars) which most of the time will pre-empt a fight by letting someone back down, and goes directly to the injury.


That is a really interesting take. When you put it like that, it emphasizes how much we tend to put more and more distance between the act of killing someone, and the feeling of killing. I would guess it goes even further nowadays with drones attacks being made on a another continent.


On the other hand, to the surprise of some, drone operators seem to get just as much combat stress as in-place pilots. “I am personally at risk” doesn’t seem to be a big factor.


That is a very interesting subject in itself. All the way until right after WWII, it was common that only 1% or less soldiers shot to kill, or even tried to hit their enemies. On occasion, self protection or self preservation in close combat situations may have increased the odds, but it is not a natural human disposition.

It wasn’t till the Korean war that armies started to work on that with soldiers. And it has its consequences.

What back in the day was known as shell shock, and these days we deal with as PTSD is way more prevalent on ex-combatants. That’s why the drone pilots do not surprise me.


There’s a nice part in the book Rifles by Mark Urban that touches a little on the mentality of the sharpshooters, one choosing a shoot a hare in the midst of a battle rather than the French because it was a more challenging target.

(Another excellent book by the way, highly recommended if you have an interest in Napoleonic Wars, the Peninsula War or the lives of soldiers in general, although sadly no longer in press I think)


I don’t know where that figure comes from but if, say, I am in one of the front-line battalions at the Battle of Talavera (for argument’s sake) and I fire my musket at the oncoming French, are you saying that 99 out of 100 men were trying to miss?

Even if they were trying to hit, AIUI only 1 in 100 shots would actually intersect the frontage of an enemy regiment at typical engagement range.

Yes, but it’s complicated!

Short version: It could be true, between 85%-99% deliberately trying to miss. It also includes Cover Fire where you’re not aiming at anyone specific.

BIG post on it here, saying the data is very flawed but not necessarily totally wrong.

(I’d seen the 1% quoted before too, this post suggests it’s 15%+, but the principle is real. Significant numbers of frontline soldiers don’t want to kill strangers)


(Modified from a posting in a similar thread on the SJ Games forums)

I got interested enough to buy and read SLA Marshal’s Men Against Fire, which is where this whole line of argument started. It’s a horrible book to base any planning on because it is so muddled . It presents itself as being based on extensive research with clear results, yet it does not describe those results with any clarity. It has patches of what seem like good sense, sometimes on the same page as utter nonsense. I suspect that many of the people who were supposed to have read it gave up after a couple of chapters, and just acted on generalisations of that.

In those first few chapters, Marshall describes one scenario clearly. I think this is the only time he does so. It’s worth summarising:

A green infantry company is making an unsupported frontal attack on an opponent who is well dug in and concealed. The company advances some distance, then comes under effective fire. The men go to ground, as they must. And then nobody takes charge. Nobody starts calling orders or asking questions; the troops are not given orders, reminders or any encouragement. About 25% use their weapons.

Actually, that seems a fairly good performance under the circumstances, by the men, but a terrible one by the NCOs and officers. I seem to be working across a cultural familiarity gap here, because Marshall explicitly says it is not the job of squad leaders to get their men organised.

Since they should be near their men, and know them well, it seems to me (and it’s traditional British doctrine) that the NCOs, who have some experience, have the primary job under these circumstances of getting the men organised, encouraging the ones who are new to this and scared, and telling the ones who haven’t figured it out where to shoot. With that done, the squad leader needs to shout to his platoon commander, with word of losses and what’s being done.

But Marshall reckons the squad NCO should not be doing any of this, but should be concentrating on using his personal weapon. If that’s the case, why has he been given his leadership position?

Marshall stresses the job of the company commander in getting all of these things to happen, while also worrying about his flanks and rear communications. He’s not a superman. He can’t control all of his men individually. He needs to use the chain of command. Yet Marshall seems to ignore this.

There is a reason why Marshal’s thinking might have been very attractive to US Army leadership around the end of WWII. The Army had been massively expanded, and had a horrible shortage of NCOs. If every enlisted man in the pre-WWI army had been made an NCO, they’d still have been way short of their requirements. So they created lots of instant sergeants and corporals, from men who had no more combat experience than the privates they were leading. Yet the US Army leadership insisted that their freshly-raised troops would be superior to German units with lots of experience. They learned better in North Africa, but needed a reason why their units did badly in their first exposure to combat. Marshal provided that.


Yes but that is a completely different question - not whether they are trying to hit but whether they were actually effectual