Why were armrests not superior to longbows?
Why didn't archery make a comeback when armor phased out in the 18th century?
Yes, a trained archer can probably shoot an unarmored target more effectively than a trained 18th century musketeer. The problem is the word trained .
Note that in the 18th century, most nations did not have a standing army. Men were called up, passed their time, and left. That means you either need to use skills they already have (in WWII, these would be things like driving and maintaining a car) or you need to train them quickly to be able to disperse them next year.
It takes a long time to train and equip an effective archer. Unfortunately I don't have a quote on how long it will take, but to get an idea of it there was the decree of King Edward III in 1363, "That every man in the same country, if he is capable, should make use of the vacation his bow and arrow games ... and so you learn and practice archery "so that the king has a population of trained archers to fall back on when needed.
Archery is a skill that deteriorates both mentally and physically when not practiced. Archery requires a great deal of strength to draw and steady the bow to aim, on the order of 100 pounds of pull. It is physically demanding just to do it once, let alone 60 times in the course of a fight.
Archery requires not only aiming at the target, but also calculating the height and wind drift of the arc. In contrast, a ball flies relatively straight on the routes where battles were fought in the 18th century, 100 to 200 meters.
Good bows were expensive and time consuming, four years, not to mention the arrows, and each had their own unique properties that required a bow to match an archer. Muskets were relatively cheap in the 18th century and could be made to such a standard that they were considered a general issue. There was no need for a musketeer to practice a particular musket.
In contrast, it is relatively easy to teach someone to load a musket, aim (somehow), and fire. The key to their effectiveness is standardization. There is no force requirement; anyone can load and fire a musket effectively. With the advent of paper cartridges, the amount of powder used, and therefore the properties of the shot, became the standard. Since musket balls fly relatively flat compared to arrows, you can point in the general direction of the mass of attacking troops and fire. The order was not "target", but "level".
Volley fire is the main innovation that has made muskets so devastating. Three rows of muskets, the front tier kneeling and firing at once in the general direction of an attacking mass of troops, could demoralize and dispel a charge. When the enemy did not break, musketeers acted as a pikeman wall with their bayonets.
Another innovation of rank volley fire, one rank advancing and firing while the other two reload, meant that a sustained volley of fire could be sustained even with slowly reloading muskets. The film Zulu has an excellent illustration of this tactic.
What about crossbows? They share many of the same advantages of early muskets over archers. They are easier to train than archers, inexpensive to manufacture, not unique per weapon, and do not require as much strength. Compared to early firearms, they were accurate, quick to reload, and had the same or better range.
You asked about muskets from the 18th century, such as the Brown Bess used by the British Army. At this point, muskets were superior to crossbows. Even with special reloading devices, "a skilled arbalestier could lose two bolts per minute," while a skilled musketeer could double his firepower four times. Muskets have the added benefit of being long and the bayonet doubling as a polearm, so muskets can defend one another hand in hand, not crossbows. Crossbows have the same problems aiming as an arrow. A bolt flies at about 40 m / s while a musket ball goes 400 m / s. The flatter trajectory of a musket makes aiming much easier: point and shoot.
A heavy crossbow with properties like range and stopping power similar to an 18th century musket is as heavy and bulky as a musket. Crossbow bolts are much bulkier and more fragile than powder and bullet. After all, a musketeer with a bayonet has an effective polearm that makes him useful in hand-to-hand combat, while a crossbowman would have to carry a second, large, heavy primary weapon to be effective as a group.
In terms of range, crossbows and longbows had an advantage of 200 to 300 meters versus 100 to 200 meters for the Brown Bess. Once that void is closed, muskets take full advantage of the weight of fire. The range advantage of arches is further reduced by the obscuring smoke from black powder (just because Your Army bows used doesn't mean this is the enemy).
The last nail in the coffin for bolts and arrows stops the force. While a musket ball, a bolt and an arrow have about the same weight (about 30 grams), a musket ball flies at ten times the speed. Kinetic energy is that square the speed that gives a musket ball 100 times the energy of an arrow or bolt. An arrow hits with a force of approximately 50 ft-lbs while a musket ball hits with a force of 1000 ft-lbs. This ensures that every hit with a musket ball knocks a soldier out of combat and increases the musket's effective firepower.
But what about the repeating crossbow aka Chu-ko-nu? Yes, it could fire 10 screws per minute. However, the range and accuracy were extremely poor. The repeating crossbow is necessarily a lighter weapon than a regular crossbow that fires lighter bolts. They had an effective range of only 80 meters (compared to over 200 for a musket). The thrown screws were lighter, which means less accuracy. Because of this, it was used in mass formations like muskets, but this couldn't make up for its excruciatingly short range and lack of stopping power.
Large-scale battles are primarily about breaking the opponent's morale. Before the 20th century, the main means of getting people to plunge into harm in a controllable way was to organize them in large groups, drill them into second nature, and in close formation for mutual defense, concentration of firepower and force to move forward mutual support. The question is, how quickly can you effectively throw ammunition into the tight formations of the enemy to kill or wound as many men as possible as quickly as possible to break their morale and run. Beyond special roles such as snipers, considerations such as long-range fire and stealth do not apply, nor do the talent of the individual soldier.
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