Rocketman on August 11, 2009, 09:13:18 pm
Two things.  One if all I had was a bow and someone was approaching me with a sword and shield, the smart thing to do would be to aim at their legs that weren't covered by the shield.  That way their mobility is severely limited and I can keep backing up enough to be out of the range of their weapons.  Put a dozen arrows in their legs and they either bleed to death or die when they can no longer move their legs and body.
Bowmen on horses were a Persian specialty, as I recall.  It's difficult to get good aim from any moving platform with any distance weapon, unless it's powerful enough that a near miss is equivalent to a hit, like with a  The more precise the weapon, say an arrow, the more difficult the shot.  It's hard enough to get good aim from a distance weapon when standing still...

Probably the best horseback archers of all time were the Mongols.  They had laminated bows of tremendous draw strength.   I read about them in a science fiction series out years ago called "Cross Time Engineer" that I found somewhat enjoyable even though it was clear that the author had european socialist tendancies.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2009, 09:15:44 pm by Rocketman »

SDGrant on August 12, 2009, 12:03:08 am
Two things.  One if all I had was a bow and someone was approaching me with a sword and shield, the smart thing to do would be to aim at their legs that weren't covered by the shield.

The main reason you don't aim at legs with bow & arrow is that big things are easier to hit than little things.  Legs are spindly compared to torsos.  Not that they're impossible to hit, but you want to up your odds in the brief time you have while someone's closing the distance between you.  If you have the time, the best strategy is what I suggested in my prior message: shoot into the air to hit them from above, and when they raise their shields to defend against that, shoot them through the chest or gut.

Of course, if someone with a sword is coming toward you, he doesn't have distance weapons, and you don't want to engage directly, your optimal choice is to run.

If you've got a machine gun and a clear shot at your opponent's ankles, sure, spray those suckers and that bad boy will drop in one hell of a lot of pain.

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Probably the best horseback archers of all time were the Mongols.  They had laminated bows of tremendous draw strength.   I read about them in a science fiction series out years ago called "Cross Time Engineer" that I found somewhat enjoyable even though it was clear that the author had european socialist tendancies.

The Mongols were almost undoubtedly the best, though many North American Indian tribes, notably the Sioux and Apache, became extremely good horseback archers in a surprisingly short period of development.  If they hadn't been up against pistols, rifles, shotguns and gatling guns the story of the West might have had a considerably different ending.

- Grant

J Thomas on August 12, 2009, 12:07:07 am
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The problem of shields is that one hefty enough to be a good defense against arrows - given their velocity and form, arrows have been known to puncture shields, and if you raise a shield against arrows raining down on you from above, that makes your chest a pretty good target for arrows shot at eye level; the best use of a shield against arrows is to duck and cover, but that effectively immobilizes you for the duration, so even with a shield arrows get kind of problematic - is difficult to move quickly in close-in combat.

Well, but their bows weren't all that good. When they had a lot of bowmen they could have arrows raining down from above and maybe straight in both -- but if the target is in range for a straight shot then an up-and-down arrow comes pretty much straight down and can't be aimed. That's for armies with lots of archers and a giant surplus of arrows.

Again, I claim that for that time and place archers were usually not the deciding factor. You get armies formed up, ready to attack, and the archer on each side cause some casualties on the other side. Then they get close enough to fight and the archers mostly take a break -- they don't aim well enough to pick out the individual enemy soldiers who're fighting their own guys hand-to-hand. What was usually decisive for big battles was something happening to make one side think they'd lost. They throw down anything heavy and try to run away. Then the winning army chases them and hits them from behind, and the cavalry trots out and heads them off, and herds them into little clots that will surrender and be taken slave, and it's a victory.

Usually the archers didn't make that much difference. They caused some casualties for both sides. But very occasionally they were the deciding factor.

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Bowmen on horses were a Persian specialty, as I recall.  It's difficult to get good aim from any moving platform with any distance weapon....

Yes. But bowmen who could move to where they were needed turned into an important innovation, later. If they can shoot from a horse that's standing still, good. If they can dismount and shoot and later mount up and move, that's good enough. Then they don't need as much protection because often they can get out of the way. They can concentrate fire on short notice.

That was repeated in the US civil war. A man with a horse and two revolvers could quickly get into position, dismount, and then deliver 12 shots in the time a rifleman could shoot once. Sometimes a platoon of those guys were worth more than an infantry regiment that wasn't quite in the right spot. Those guys could plug holes while they lasted.

J Thomas on August 12, 2009, 12:27:39 am
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Two things.  One if all I had was a bow and someone was approaching me with a sword and shield, the smart thing to do would be to aim at their legs that weren't covered by the shield.

That does make sense. If you can hit him in the eye, even better. But one shot in an unarmored ankle would probably be enough that he couldn't chase you.

On the other hand, my main priority would be to not get caught. As long as you have someplace to run, he can't hurt you if he can't catch you. So you shoot at him and he runs at you, and you run and then shoot again and he runs at you, and if you take too much time on your shots he's going to catch up and then you're in trouble. But if you shoot too quickly you're more likely to miss. Better to run at an easy pace while he tires himself out, and shoot at him when he's panting enough he can't catch you.

On the other hand, if you have a home and/or a family, he can go after those and then it's up to you to stop him. You can't run, you have to hurt him before he reaches her....

In theory, it sort of seems like archers should have won. The whole medieval age should have gone differently, quiet sneaky archers could easily beat armored knights in the woods, and on the roads, and turned the walled fortresses into prisons for the authoritarians. But it just didn't happen. Robin Hood survived only in the welsh swamps. Maybe the woods just didn't provide enough food for nearly enough archers to live on. Maybe archery took too much training.

Rocketman on August 12, 2009, 01:13:57 pm
SD I'm going to have to disagree with you.  Many years ago when I went to college down in southern Indiana I took my bow down there to practice with.  I practiced enough to be pretty damn good by the time I left.  The archery building was just an old corrigated metal barn with several dozen bales of hay for a backstop.  I could hit about 9 times out of ten a six inch diameter balloon from 35 feet away and half the time when a balloon was swinging on the end of a rope at that distance.  Now just imagine someone who didn't practice just 3 times a week like I did but continously as if their life depended on it (which it would).  There was a television show recently on called "deadliest warrior"  One guy who was an expert was putting his arrows into eye sockets from about 50 feet.  Compared to that legs are a mighty big target.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2009, 01:17:06 pm by Rocketman »

SDGrant on August 12, 2009, 03:50:31 pm
SD I'm going to have to disagree with you.  Many years ago when I went to college down in southern Indiana I took my bow down there to practice with.  I practiced enough to be pretty damn good by the time I left.  The archery building was just an old corrigated metal barn with several dozen bales of hay for a backstop.  I could hit about 9 times out of ten a six inch diameter balloon from 35 feet away and half the time when a balloon was swinging on the end of a rope at that distance.  Now just imagine someone who didn't practice just 3 times a week like I did but continously as if their life depended on it (which it would).  There was a television show recently on called "deadliest warrior"  One guy who was an expert was putting his arrows into eye sockets from about 50 feet.  Compared to that legs are a mighty big target.

No matter how much practice you've had, the more a target moves the greater the likelihood of a miss - if they're anticipating arrow attack.  If someone's moving in a steady, predictable way - say, an armored man trudging down a dirt road, or a balloon swinging on the end of a rope - the odds of getting a hit rise considerably.  If moving unexpectedly from cover to cover, sure, a highly trained, experienced archer still stands a pretty good chance of hitting a target, but ambush is still your best way to steer the odds strongly in your favor.  I'm assuming the guy who put his arrows in eye sockets at 50 ft (which isn't especially far off, if the target's running in your direction; that's ten or fewer steps away at full run, and guys with knives have been known to murder guys with pistols from that distance by closing the gap before they can get the range... or did you mean 50 yards?) wasn't putting them in the eye sockets of erratically moving targets.

Still, a very experienced - dare we say, virtually mythical - archer attacking, from a height, a closed room tightly packed with men who have not much room to move and panicking in the face of ambush has a pretty good shot at murdering a decent number of them.  Say... 300?  (I'm surprised no one has mentioned that in the Odyssey the number of suitors is considerably less, but I wanted to balance out the number of Helen's suitors with the number of Penelope's, since the two events are sort of the bookends of Odysseus' story...)

- Grant

illern on August 13, 2009, 07:50:40 am
SD I'm going to have to disagree with you.  Many years ago when I went to college down in southern Indiana I took my bow down there to practice with.  I practiced enough to be pretty damn good by the time I left.  The archery building was just an old corrigated metal barn with several dozen bales of hay for a backstop.  I could hit about 9 times out of ten a six inch diameter balloon from 35 feet away and half the time when a balloon was swinging on the end of a rope at that distance.  Now just imagine someone who didn't practice just 3 times a week like I did but continously as if their life depended on it (which it would).  There was a television show recently on called "deadliest warrior"  One guy who was an expert was putting his arrows into eye sockets from about 50 feet.  Compared to that legs are a mighty big target.

Still 50 feet ain't that much when your opponent are charging you. The roman warriors usally already had thrown their pila at that distance and was running against the enemy. How many of them will each archer get while they are runing 50 feet? Two? Then the rest will be over you like something very bad. Army formations were usally in hoplit formations eight people deep and the romans had numbers like that too. 50 feet ain't far to run even if you have a heavy shield if you are in good condition.

Of course, the next time it might be hard to convince your hoplite or legionaries to attack the archers a second time since they lost a lot of people. Therefore you get som archers for your self and maybe you bring a pila to throw on the enemy. Also it propably is hard to convince the archers to stand still and shoot at the charging hoplites or legionaries since they too lost a lot of people when the hoplites/legionaries reached them. Maybe they demand that other close combat warriors take the close combat fight.

Warfare isn't totally comparable to one on one situations or shooting a bow without getting disturbed by arrows from the enemy, charging warriors and so on.

Rocketman on August 13, 2009, 09:06:35 pm
SD:
     This is a lot like the argument that I hear from time to time about using a .22lr pistol or rifle for self defence purposes.  It is absolutely true that bullet (or arrow) placement is absolutely critical but it is also true that with practice an average person can develop enough skill to turn a minor caliber weapon into something lethal.  I remember reading about a South African farm woman who's husband was in town getting supplies when four terrorists armed with AK-47 showed up at the farm.  All she could grab was her .22lr pistol which she practiced all the time with, killing snakes and such.  By the time her husband got back all four terrorists were dead.  She moved from farm building to farm building and shot each one in the head.
     The argument that your making is true.  I just don't think that your giving enough credit to a skilled archers ability to stay out of  sword range and deliver arrow shots to the swordsman legs, weakening him until he's handicapped and easy prey to the archer.
Illern:  You make a good point about the swordsman rushing the archer, but it was my belief that we were speaking about a single archer and single swordsman that was not involved in a hidden ambush either way.  Obviously if the swordsman and archer each rounded a building corner, saw each other at a distance of say 3 feet, it's game over for the archer.

J Thomas on August 13, 2009, 10:20:13 pm
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Now just imagine someone who didn't practice just 3 times a week like I did but continously as if their life depended on it (which it would).  There was a television show recently on called "deadliest warrior"  One guy who was an expert was putting his arrows into eye sockets from about 50 feet.


I think your argument makes sense. The reasons I think it might not be completely true are that first the bows of the time were not very good, and second there wouldn't be all that many archers who got that much practice.

If it's a big war, the majority of the soldiers will be farmers who're fighting because they have to, who hope to get home in time for sowing or harvesting or whatever. They are not full-time archers or full-time swordsmen. They might prefer to use a weapon that's like a flail or a pitchfork etc, something they've spent a lot of time doing. Without highly efficient agriculture you can't afford to keep a lot of full-time archers. Your best archers will be people who do it full-time for their regular work, killing vermin or game or something, and you won't have a whole lot of them either.

But if their job is to harass an army before the close-in fighting, then it doesn't matter so much. They generally get the range, and then they shoot as fast as they can without aiming a whole lot. If they did aim they'd run the risk of aiming at the same target.... So they start shooting at their maximum range, and they keep shooting until the armies are close enough there's too  much chance they'll hit their friends.They don't have to be very good.  There have to be enough of them.

If it's a personal thing, then as illern points out 50 feet is not very far, you get one or maybe two shots. If you're good enough to get three superb aimed shots in that time, you're definitely good enough to win.  You do better if you have somebody to fend the other guy off. But while they're fighting it's risky for you to get your shot in, you might hit your friend instead.  And if your enemy brought a friend then maybe your friend can hold them both off, or maybe one of them gets around him and goes after you, and maybe he has a bow too....

It doesn't look like archery provides a definite win. It's one more tool in the toolbox.

In the two examples in this story, the archer defending Helios's cows and Odysseus himself, both times the archer got to threaten guys who were having a party, rather than guys who were expecting to face a big fight. That had to make a difference. Also, both times the archer was very very good. And Odysseus, with a bow that nobody else could string, presumably had a far more powerful bow than usual and he himself was strong enough to use it.

SDGrant on August 14, 2009, 02:38:56 am
This is a lot like the argument that I hear from time to time about using a .22lr pistol or rifle for self defence purposes.  It is absolutely true that bullet (or arrow) placement is absolutely critical but it is also true that with practice an average person can develop enough skill to turn a minor caliber weapon into something lethal.

With a .22?  If they've had practice and luck.  My father taught me that if I someone was ever charging me and all I had was a .22 handgun (a rifle will get pretty useless as a self-defense weapon if they get very close) I should aim for the chest and empty every bit of ammo I've got into them because unless you're lucky enough to hit an artery or vital organ a standard .22 bullet generally doesn't do stopping damage.  Matter of fact, I know of a case when I was living in NYC where a guy was shot in the head with a .22 handgun from close range, and the bullet struck his skull and traveled along the edge of the skull, leaving a crease in the skin of his scalp along the way, and exited out the other side of his head, but all he got out of it was a ridge in his scalp and a bad headache.  Then again, most bullets, unless they're hollowpoints or frangibles, are going to have greater effect the farther from the target they're shot, because the farther they have to go, within reason, the more air pressure will flatten them out and the more damage they'll do on entry.  At very short distances, the entry wound will barely be bigger than the starting size of the bullet, so you're back to hoping for arteries or vital organs, so you definitely don't want a .22 shell then.  That's why knives are usually deadlier than bullets at very close range (presuming your target isn't just going to stand there and let you choose your shot), because the resultant wounds are generally bigger and more serious.

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I remember reading about a South African farm woman who's husband was in town getting supplies when four terrorists armed with AK-47 showed up at the farm.  All she could grab was her .22lr pistol which she practiced all the time with, killing snakes and such.  By the time her husband got back all four terrorists were dead.  She moved from farm building to farm building and shot each one in the head.

Well, she was either a very good shot, very lucky or those guys were just flaming idiots with next to no training.  They sound like the villain's henchmen in Hollywood action films who go with M-16s blazing against a guy armed only with a pen knife and manage not to hit him...

Wait, they still have terrorists in South Africa?

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The argument that your making is true.  I just don't think that your giving enough credit to a skilled archers ability to stay out of  sword range and deliver arrow shots to the swordsman legs, weakening him until he's handicapped and easy prey to the archer.  You make a good point about the swordsman rushing the archer, but it was my belief that we were speaking about a single archer and single swordsman that was not involved in a hidden ambush either way.  Obviously if the swordsman and archer each rounded a building corner, saw each other at a distance of say 3 feet, it's game over for the archer.

Even if they're facing off at 50 feet, say, the archer really depends at that point on the swordsman making himself a willing target.  The archer has one shot, and then the question is whether he can draw an arrow, nock the bow, draw the bowstring and let fly before the swordsman hacks him into beefsteak tartar.  If the swordsman has any training in defense against an archer, the archer's best bet is still to forget the duel and get the hell out of there.  An archer could certainly keep out of sword range if he wanted to, and presumably could run faster than the swordsman, but he'd still have to slow down and turn to shoot an arrow, which would narrow the gap a little every time he did it, and your scenario assumes the swordsman isn't taking any defensive measures of his own besides holding up his shield.  Odds are pretty good you're not the first guy to have thought of that ankle thing...

- Grant

Rocketman on August 14, 2009, 11:22:20 am
Well, she was either a very good shot, very lucky or those guys were just flaming idiots with next to no training.  They sound like the villain's henchmen in Hollywood action films who go with M-16s blazing against a guy armed only with a pen knife and manage not to hit him...
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All three SD, all three.  Like I said before she practiced on snakes (they move around a lot), she had more than her share of luck that day and three the training that comes with being a communist terrorist in Africa usually is pathetic at best.  They're usually only trained to fire the AK, field strip and clean it, and lay antipersonnal and vehicle mines.  What they don't have in training though is usually more than made up in savagery.


J Thomas on August 15, 2009, 03:21:14 am
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My father taught me that if I someone was ever charging me and all I had was a .22 handgun (a rifle will get pretty useless as a self-defense weapon if they get very close) I should aim for the chest and empty every bit of ammo I've got into them because unless you're lucky enough to hit an artery or vital organ a standard .22 bullet generally doesn't do stopping damage.

The advice I got was stick it in their stomach, aim upward, and shoot every bullet you have. Then if you get the chance you might as well hit them in the face with it.

I've never had the need to try that, so I can't vouch for it myself.

Rocketman on August 15, 2009, 10:07:12 am
A .22lr is plenty lethal with the right bullet placement.  During the second world war, Korean war and Vietman an awful lot of enemy sentries would be taken out by silencer equipped Colt Woodsmans shot by properly trained American troops.  Even today, Chinese and American spies use the .22lr to kill their targets (also known as "wet work").  I imagine that if gun silencers had not been invented then we might be using small hand held crossbows.  Again, bullet placement is critical.

SDGrant on August 15, 2009, 01:19:26 pm
A .22lr is plenty lethal with the right bullet placement.  During the second world war, Korean war and Vietman an awful lot of enemy sentries would be taken out by silencer equipped Colt Woodsmans shot by properly trained American troops.  Even today, Chinese and American spies use the .22lr to kill their targets (also known as "wet work").  I imagine that if gun silencers had not been invented then we might be using small hand held crossbows.  Again, bullet placement is critical.

A pencil is lethal with the right placement.  The placement is the hard part.  Especially with silencers, which affect the course of the bullet and throw off distance aim.

And, yes, .22s are used as murder weapons, but .9mm or .10mm are generally preferred these days for a good combo of concealable 'get the job done' power, and if anyone's planning to kill themselves, I wouldn't recommend a .22 since without knowing exactly what you're doing as the odds of a semi-vegetative state rather than death are pretty good.

- Grant

Rocketman on August 15, 2009, 06:31:51 pm
A pencil is lethal with the right placement.  The placement is the hard part.  Especially with silencers, which affect the course of the bullet and throw off distance aim.
And, yes, .22s are used as murder weapons, but .9mm or .10mm are generally preferred these days for a good combo of concealable 'get the job done' power, and if anyone's planning to kill themselves, I wouldn't recommend a .22 since without knowing exactly what you're doing as the odds of a semi-vegetative state rather than death are pretty good.
- Grant
A properly constructed silencer doesn't throw off the bullet as much as you seem to think  S.D.  Remember we're not talking about hundreds of yards, we're talking about feet.  9mm pistols (but not 10mm to my knowledge) are used to eliminate sentries and such but since the bullet is leaving the barrel at supersonic speed it becomes much more difficult to properly silence it.  The H&K subgun has a variant in 10mm but I doubt if it's ever been commerically equipped with a silencer because it also is a supersonic round.  There are 9mm rounds that are subsonic and are used largely for  "wet work".