Author Topic: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise  (Read 1826 times)

Dave Knight

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Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« on: June 11, 2020, 10:59:03 AM »
A friend recently sent me a copy of an article by Terry Wise dating back to 1975 on 1st St Albans.  Included was this table

Weapon     Accurate Range  Effective Range  Long Range    Rate of fire
Longbow     80yds                200 yds             300 yds         5 a minuite aimed, 12 unaimed
Crossbow    60 yds               200yds             300 - 350 yds  1 a minute
Arbalest      60yds                200 yds            350 - 400 yds  1 every 2 minutes
Handgun     100yds              200 yds             400 yds          8 shots an hour
Canon         150 yds             200 yds            350 - 500 yds  4 shots an hour

Any comments?  The handgun numbers seem a lot longer than I would have expected

Erpingham

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2020, 11:45:55 AM »
It depends a bit on what the terms mean.  Effective in what way?  A longbow arrow could kill an unarmoured man at 300yds but would struggle against good plate at 30yds.  If we say, as a rule of thumb, that it causes noticeable difficulties against averagely armoured forces, then the longbow figure looks pretty good to me.  If we say accurate, as a rule of thumb, means you have at least a 50/50 chance of hitting an individual body you aimed at, then 100yds? 
Crossbow I'd bring both the effective and long range down.  The Teutonic Knights reckoned effective crossbow range was 80 yds (but what did they deem effective?) and it seems that longbows seem to have had a longer effective range than crossbows at Crecy.  Maybe 120-150 e, 250 l?  Shooting rate is wrong for the crossbow - 3 or 4 would be more like it.  Villani comments longbows could outshoot crossbows three shots to one. 
Arbalest rate is probably too low too.  Modern experiments have shown you can load and shoot a windlass crossbow in about 45 seconds, so 1 a minute is probably closer.
Handgun is way out.  You wouldn't go far wrong halving those range figures.
Artillery is tricky.  If you are talking "modern" breechloaders on field carriages, they could shoot much quicker over short periods if equipped with multiple gun chambers by pre-loading them.
I'm sure we discussed a lot of this stuff in other topics on archery and handguns, including discussions of handgun shooting rates based on 16th century examples.  I think our overall conclusion (except for one prominent dissenter) was wargames rules tend to overstate battlefield ranges and anything above what we are calling effective range was pretty much of nuissance value.  That nuissance value was tactically a useful thing in itself, of course, needs to be acknowledged.
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2020, 09:43:00 AM »
Having refreshed my memory, the best exchange to read of us exploring medieval weapon ranges and effects is

http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=3058.0

I raise it, despite the fact I made an embarrassing basic arithmetic error which needed to be corrected by Duncan and Patrick.  Made me blush all over again  :-[

This one also adds a bit more, mainly about crossbows and handguns

http://soa.org.uk/sm/index.php?topic=3873.msg50123#msg50123



  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2020, 02:19:40 PM »
Interesting . . . and I would echo Anthony's comments and thoughts.

The article goes back 40-plus years. Certainly there has been more study, more recent data and arguments, has there not?

As Anthony covered the definitions of accurate and effective well enough, I thought I would raise a point about rate of fire. Do we factor this in to our table top to-dos? Surely, this is abstracted.

Related to the listed ranges, what about movement rates? The advance of an enemy infantry formation would move into different range bands and so experience the effects of each range accordingly, right? Or, due to given movement rate, would they skip a range band and find themselves removed from long and now in the accurate band and so, perhaps suffer more as a result.

Reminded too, of the effect of missile fire, where targeted troops tend to bunch and or assume a posture of head down, walking into the wind.

Topical, I think, even if Bosworth was wisely postponed until 2021.

Cheers,
Chris



  • Chris Hahn

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2020, 03:39:14 PM »
I think I generally favour an abstracted approach but you do have to build the abstraction on something.  Range, effect, rate of shooting could all be mathematically formulated to create a factor, for example.  Or you could go for known effect - or your interpretation of known effect, which is maybe more appropriate for our period.

As to the range issue, I think the simplest approach is to say that the attacker receives shooting at best effect for the shooter.  So if a unit passes from long range, through effective to short in a single charge, the target shoots at best factor.  How effective the shooting will be is going to be modified by tactical factors or random factors or both, so worrying about the intermediate ranges and the fact that the moving unit will spend less time taking hits than if it had been static seems an unnecessary complication.
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2020, 08:01:49 PM »
Re: handguns; most people seem to rely upon the tests carried out by Payne - Gallway using replicas of late 14thc guns with really short barrels hence the short ranges recorded.
You can load and fire a replica 15thc handgun as quickly as an 18/19thc musket. It's the discipline involved in firing ordered volleys that slows the potential rate of fire down, that and the amount of powder, shot and matchcord carried by the gunner.
I seem to remember that Monluc in his memoirs tells of an incident where his arquebusiers are happily potting the enemy at around 400 yards but typically I can't find my copy to check!
« Last Edit: June 13, 2020, 08:03:38 PM by barry carter »
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Erpingham

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #6 on: June 14, 2020, 09:02:19 AM »
There are quite a few more modern tests than Payne-Gallway.  Sean McLachlan's Osprey Medieval Handgonnes has a good section on them.  The general view is they were quite effective at short range but their effect dropped off rapidly at range.  Hitting anything smaller than the side of a barn at 400 yards would have been very difficult and the ballistic characteristics of the ammunition would have rendered the shot pretty harmless.  I think from our earlier discussions, under target shooting conditions, it was possible to hit a human sized target with a degree of consistency at 100-120 yds.  John Smythe, in his usually sharp manner, reckoned the optimum arquebus range was "4 to 5 pike lengths".

As to rate of shooting, I think it was the arquebus advocate Rich who reckoned sustained fire could be done at one shot every 90 seconds.  Smythe, who was not a fan, was actually more generous - he thought an arquebus only shot 5 times slower than a longbow.
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #7 on: June 14, 2020, 09:04:01 AM »
Re: handguns; most people seem to rely upon the tests carried out by Payne - Gallway using replicas of late 14thc guns with really short barrels hence the short ranges recorded.
You can load and fire a replica 15thc handgun as quickly as an 18/19thc musket. It's the discipline involved in firing ordered volleys that slows the potential rate of fire down, that and the amount of powder, shot and matchcord carried by the gunner.
I seem to remember that Monluc in his memoirs tells of an incident where his arquebusiers are happily potting the enemy at around 400 yards but typically I can't find my copy to check!

I question your assertion that a 15th century handgun could achieve the same rate of fire as a 19th century musket that benefits from using cartridges and either flintlocks or percussion caps.  Both of these significantly increased the rate of fire until, by the Napoleonic era, an individual could loose off around 5 shots per minute.  According to Hughes in Firepower, firing such weapons in volleys reduced the rate of fire to about 2-3 volleys per minute.  However, if one considers that volley firing only became widespread around the second half of the 17th century, it could probably be discounted in any discussion of handguns.

A further consideration when discussing either rate of fire or accuracy of firearms is the fouling caused by gunpowder.  Accuracy can only be improved by using a close-fitting bullet, but a high rate of fire requires a loose fit that can be easily rammed.  Historically, rate of fire always took precedence.  The windage in a Brown Bess was one-twentieth of an inch (1.3 mm).
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2020, 10:23:53 AM »
NickHarbud:
I completely agree with your points. I was pointing out that in my experience most people that I have discussed the question of medieval handguns with still quote Payne-Gallway (the easy option?) and having had the opportunity to shoot replica handguns and muskets that has given me an insight into how they function. I have also had the opportunity to use(with some trepidation!) home made gunpowder. None of those opportunities were under scientific conditions so I would not use the results as any form of hard evidence however, as I say, it did give food for thought.
When you look at much later evidence for ammunition expenditure in field engagements it is always surprising that the number of rounds fired is often far less than you would guess. Blame Holywood for all those scenes of cowboys blazing away and GIs expending magazines worth of rounds with one pull of the trigger.
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Erpingham

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2020, 12:21:05 PM »
Some more information on arquebus effectiveness and ranges in this interesting blog entry  Again interesting on the gap between the theoretical and the battlefield use, but this time with Spanish examples.



  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2020, 12:40:29 PM »
That's an informative link Anthony thank you.  Its conclusions are in line with the Irish experience of firearms in the Nine Years War.
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2020, 12:48:16 PM »
Some more information on arquebus effectiveness and ranges in this interesting blog entry  Again interesting on the gap between the theoretical and the battlefield use, but this time with Spanish examples.

fascinating article
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2020, 01:15:29 PM »
Some more information on arquebus effectiveness and ranges in this interesting blog entry  Again interesting on the gap between the theoretical and the battlefield use, but this time with Spanish examples.
Interesting piece yes. 8)

Somewhat relatedly, I might have previously passed on a remark by a friend who's in the home guard: Accuracy falls by a factor of 100 between the shooting range and the exercise ground, and by a further factor of 100 between the exercise ground and the battlefield.

We should BTW no doubt assume something similar applies to longbows - typical battlefield performance was presumably much worse than you might think from the shooting range. The difference may be smaller than for the arquebus (fewer fiddly steps and no fouling), but it's hard to see why it'd be smaller than for modern firearms designed for ease-of-use.

(ObNitpick: "Harquebus" is of course not Old English. I can't find it's date of first attestation in a hurry,  but it's definitely late Middle English or early Modern English.)
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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2020, 03:03:37 PM »
Quote
(ObNitpick: "Harquebus" is of course not Old English. I can't find it's date of first attestation in a hurry,  but it's definitely late Middle English or early Modern English.)

OED has 1532 for arquebus but hacbussh from 1484.
  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Missile weapon ranges in WoR Terry Wise
« Reply #14 on: June 16, 2020, 10:40:46 AM »
Another quick canter through the evidence.  Going back to Terry Wise, as someone has said it is of its time.  1975 was a year before Robert Hardy's Longbow was published for example, which pretty much started the trend for scientific testing of medieval weapons (with the understanding that less formal tests had been done before by people like Payne-Gallwey and Pope).

The three range bands are interesting, as a glance at Terry Wise's Ancient Rules show they operated on on a three ranges system and perhaps belong to his lost medieval variant of those rules.  He certainly played WOTR games, as I saw a couple of his demos in the 80s.

For comparison, here are a couple of ranges from the ancients rules (short/medium/long in yds)

Bow 75/150/250
Sling 100/200/300 (better than longbow)
gastrophetes 150/250/400 (better than crossbow or arbalest)

Whether there should be three ranges is debateable.  We have the Loades theory that longbows rarely engaged at ranges over 100 yds, for example.  Now, I think we have plenty of evidence this is wrong, and harassment shooting (aka gadding) was practiced at longer ranges.  This also fits with the Teutonic knights tactics with crossbows - harassment shooting up to 200 paces/yds, serious impact shooting at 80.  From our 16th century sources, we can discern a similar pattern with firearms.  So, I'd almost be tempted to split things into two range bands; annoying and dangerous.

There is a question of quality too.  People who practiced were clearly better than those who didn't. 

On ammunition supply, I think the only ones recorded as having issues are longbowmen, simply from the rates of fire and the bulk of the ammunition limiting how much you could carry.


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