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The Girandoni air rifle in American history

 
 
Builder
 
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 03:29 am
At a time when black powder and muskets were coming to the fore, I'm wondering why this impressive weapon did not take over the industry altogether. Take a look.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pqFyKh-rUI&feature=player_embedded

More info here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_gun

And here; http://www.beemans.net/Austrian%20airguns.htm
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 03:50 am
It did not come to the fore because military men are as conservative as cats. The Arabs knew of gun powder at least as early as the 11th century. Two English observers in what we call Spain saw it used in the late 13th century, and reported to their master, King Edward I. But it was not until the French decisively defeated Talbot, the English commander in France at the end of the Hundred Years War, in the early 15th century, that military men in England were willing to concede that black powder weapons might be useful. Even then, the longbow was still in use in England in the 16th century.

Breech-loading fire arms and cannon were available a century or more before their use became common. I supsect that military men thought things were just fine the way they were, and disdained any such innovation. In the Royal Navy, for example, a ship's captain was only allowed to fire the cannon for purposes of practice a number of time equivalent to one third of the ship's gun rating in the first six months of a commission. For a 74-gun line of battle ship, this meant the guns could be fired just 24 times in six months for purposes of practice--that's about one gun a week. Many captains would use captured gun powder or purchase powder from their own pocket if thye valued efficient gun crews, but most of them said that they intended to fight it out yardarm to yardarm anyway, when they couldn't miss--and then board in the smoke.

The French on several occasions won engagements or avoiding losing engagements because, unlike most Royal Navy commanders, they valued gunnery practice, and would fire to disable the masts and rigging of their enemies, which requires some skill. If they could disable their opponent, they had a chance of forcing their surrender, or boarding under favorable circumstances. If they couldn't do that, they had a good chance of getting away. The American naval officers of the early republic were adamant that gun crews be exercised (c.f. David Farragut's memoirs), and it paid off. When U.S.S. Constitution took H.M.S. Java, Commodore Bainbridge regretted that he could not close more with Java, but here (from the U.S. Navy's historical section) is his account of the action from 3:00 pm to 5:25 pm:

The Head of the enemies Bowsprit & Jib boom shot away by us
At 3.5 Shot away the enemies foremast by the board
At 3.15 Shot away The enemies Main Top mast just above the Cap
At 3.40 Shot away Gafft and Spunker boom
At 3.55 Shot his mizen mast nearly by the board
At 4.5 Having silenced the fire of the enemy completely and his colours in main Rigging being [down] Supposed he had Struck, Then hawl'd about the Courses to shoot ahead to repair our rigging, which was extremely cut, leaving the enemy a complete wreck, soon after discovered that The enemies flag was still flying hove too to repair Some of our damages.
At 4.20. The Enemies Main Mast went by the board.
At 4.50 [Wore] ship and stood for the Enemy
At 5.25 Got very close to the enemy in a very [effective] rakeing position, athwart his bows & was at the very instance of rakeing him, when he most prudently Struck his Flag.

Note that the accuracy of the American fire effectively destroyed Java's masts and rigging, at which point he had no choice but to surrender. Bainbridge constantly wore ship (turned away from the wind in order to turn his ship, rather than turning across the wind) which is very dangerous in this type of combat--and which shows a great deal of contempt for your enemy's gunnery. In the event, Java's gun crews were so poor, and she became so crippled, that Constitution suffered no significant damage by wearing ship. You'll see that at one point, Bainbridge even hove to to repair shot damage to his own rigging, fearing no ill consequences from Java's gunnery.

Nevertheless, the prohibition on the expenditure of powder to exercise the gun crews remained in place by Admiralty orders, and captains continued to say that the practice wasn't necessary because they intended to shoot it out yardarm to yardarm. To repeat myself, military men are as conservative as cats.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 04:22 am
@Setanta,
The long bow was a far superior weapon to the early muskets.

The only "drawback" was it was not the kind of weapon that can be learn in a matter of weeks to any useful degree unlike the muskets.

For one thing it took time to build up the muscles in the arms of bowmen to be able to handle a bow with a pull force of around 200 lbs!!!!!!!!!

Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 04:34 am
@BillRM,
There were no muskets in the 16th century.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 04:38 am
@Builder,
Air guns beside the fact that they were a great deal more costly when black power weapons and tend to break under the battlefield conditions were that the maximum speed they could fire a bullet at was roughly 840 fps.

Roughly the speed of a slow 45 bullet fired by a colt model 1911 handgun.
0 Replies
 
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 04:44 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
There were no muskets in the 16th century.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musket

16th-century troops armed with a heavy version of the arquebus called a musket were specialists supporting the arquebusiers and pikemen formations. By the start of the 18th century, a lighter version of the musket had edged out the arquebus, and the addition of the bayonet edged out the pike, and almost all infantry became musketeers. In the 18th century, improvements in ammunition and firing methods allowed rifling to be practical for military use, and the term "rifled gun" gave way to "rifle". In the 19th century, rifled muskets (which were technically rifles, but were referred to as muskets) became common which combined the advantages of rifles and muskets. About the time of the introduction of cartridge, breechloading, and multiple rounds of ammunition just a few years later, muskets fell out of fashion.

0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 04:50 am
@BillRM,
BillRM wrote:
The long bow was a far superior weapon to the early muskets.


While i don't agree with Wikipedia's rather loose definition of a musket, this is from your source:

The initial role of the musket was as a specialist armour piercing weapon; it therefore coexisted with the arquebus over the period c. 1550 – c. 1650.

So tell me how that made the long bow a superior weapon? Either your source is unquestionable, which i doubt, or you're playing chinese menus with the information it provides--selecting what supports your claim and ignoring anything that doesn't.
BillRM
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 05:13 am
@Setanta,
Quote:
So tell me how that made the long bow a superior weapon? Either your source is unquestionable, which i doubt, or you're playing chinese menus with the information it provides--selecting what supports your claim and ignoring anything that doesn't.


http://www.archers.org/default.asp?section=History&page=longbow

Such was the power of the Longbow, that contemporary accounts claim that at short range, an arrow fired from it could penetrate 4 inches of seasoned oak. The armored knight, considered at one time to be the leviathan of the battlefield, could now be felled at ranges up to 200 yards by a single arrow. One account recalls a knight being pinned to his horse by an arrow that passed through both armored thighs, with the horse and saddle between!

Modern tests have verified that this was indeed possible. A 700-800 grain arrow can pierce 9 cm of oak at close range, and 2.5 cm at 200 yards. No armor up to plate was proof against an arrow at less than 200 yards, and even plate could be penetrated at less than 100 yards.

Another aspect of the Longbow was the archers themselves. Archers began training at a very early age, traditionally at the age of seven. Training at long ranges was mandatory, complete with fines for violations. Local tournaments were held regularly, and the best archers were chosen for military duty. As these were all hand-picked troops from among the best archers in England, the archer units were an elite group of infantry. These were no base peasant levies; they were all hand-picked craftsmen who well knew their worth in battle.

The average English Military Archer could fire 12 to 15 arrows per minute and hit a man-sized target at a minimum of 200 yards. The maximum range was about 400 yards with flight arrows. An archer could not even consider himself skilled at his art if he could not shoot 10 arrows a minute! Note: From our own experiences at faire, we know that 10 aimed shots per minute at a man-sized target at half that range is quite a feat!

Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 05:29 am
@BillRM,
BillRM's source wrote:
Another aspect of the Longbow was the archers themselves. Archers began training at a very early age, traditionally at the age of seven. Training at long ranges was mandatory, complete with fines for violations. Local tournaments were held regularly, and the best archers were chosen for military duty. As these were all hand-picked troops from among the best archers in England, the archer units were an elite group of infantry. These were no base peasant levies; they were all hand-picked craftsmen who well knew their worth in battle.


So, in fact, it was not a superior weapon because it required a lifetime of trainng, and therefore it could not be used by levies, who could be trained in the use of firearms quickly. And, of course, as Europe progressed through and out of the Renaissance, larger and larger armies were involved, and specialist troops, such as archers, were less and less a factor in their wars. Large armies of levies, however, could be rapidly trained in the use of the pike and firearms.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 05:50 am
By the way, going to an enthusiast's site is hardly citing an unbiased source. As well as the problem of training archers, there is the problem of ammunition. Arrows for the long bow required highly skilled arrowsmmithg and fletchers. The bodkin arrowhead, the only one which could pierce armor, used an arrowhead made of steel (while the balls used in an arquebus were made of lead), and used far more metal than a handful of balls used by an arquebusier. In addition, in the rain, an archer's bow string quickly became unusable--the bow and the bow strings had to be protected from the rain. An arquebusier only had to keep the touch hole covered, and keep his powder dry. Taken all in all, the long bow very quickly became an inferior weapon in the large armies of the late Renaissance and the early modern age. At Agincourt, the English had about 7000 troops (maybe even fewer). The French had somewhat over 30,000 troops. At Breitenfeld in the Thirty Years War, Tilly's imperialist army was about as large as the French army at Agincourt, and Gustavus Adolphus' combined Swedish-Saxon army was about as large as the French and English armies combined at Agincourt.

Clearly, the advent of gun powder weapons doomed the long bow.
BillRM
 
  0  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 07:18 am
@Setanta,
You are a complete idiot as I had already posted on this thread that the one problem with the longbow is the length of training needed however if you had taken the trouble as had the English to do that training with a large body of men it is a far superior weapon then the early firearms.

Now the listing of the abilities of the longbow is in fair agreement all over the net and these people you are complaining about had taken the time to build and work with such weapons.

If you wish to know the abilities of a firearm type fool you would go to the people who know about that firearm type not to people who have never hear of it!!!!
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 07:30 am
@BillRM,
It's wonderfully hilarious and ironic to see you call someone else a complete idiot. It's even more hilarious to see you criticize anyone else's command of the English language. If you are so acutely aware of the short comings of the long bow as a result of the long training needed then why did you claim it was a superior weapon? How much good did the long bow do the English any in other posture than defense? At Castillon in 1453, Bureau's artillery and small arms fire devastated the English army when Talbot decided to attack. Their long bows didn't do them a hell of a lot of good then.

I see you miss completely the point about the prejudice of an enthusiast. Someone who spends large amounts of his life enthralled with the long bow is hardly going to be an objective witness to it's value vis à vis fire arms. But i long ago learned that you are incapable of seeing around your own prejudices. Just because someone is not a long bow enthusiast doesn't mean they've never heard of it (tell me again about a command of the English language--you just crack me up), nor would it disqualify him or her from an objective comparison of the two weapons systems.
0 Replies
 
dadpad
 
  2  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 07:57 am
and so, as the sun sinks slowly into the west, another interesting discussion devloves into sniping, nit picking and name calling.

ah well such is life
Builder
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:10 am
@dadpad,
Hehehehe. I just wanted to share a very intriguing video about an historically important weapon, dadpad.

Can't recall mentioning tall ships or longbows. *chuckles*
parados
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:16 am
@Builder,
I think they also missed the fact that the air rifle didn't use powder at all. It was an AIR rifle after all.

An interesting piece of history to say the least. I first saw it when someone posted that Lewis & Clark had carried one with them. The problem seemed to be no way to repair it if and when damaged.
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:16 am
Well, before Bill showed up to introduce the name-calling and the sniping, i was making the point that military men are conservative, and usually aren't interested in innovation. If you didn't see that i was making that point, that's hardly my fault.
dadpad
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:19 am
@Setanta,
MUUUUUUMMMMMMY
He hit me back first!
parados
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:28 am
@dadpad,
Yeah.. and the sun rises in the east instead of sinking in the west.

SO THERE.....
0 Replies
 
Builder
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:46 am
@parados,
parados wrote:
The problem seemed to be no way to repair it if and when damaged.


From the pictures and details in that third link in the OP, and considering that the gun was made by a watchmaker (among his other trades, listed) I'm wondering what could go wrong with such a finely tuned and well-engineered instrument.

In battle, the compressed air canisters were pre-charged, and carted behind the frontline troops, delivered by runners, which was not uncommon for all forms of frontline supply in those early days.

Today, the compressed air supply could easily be portable, by means of lithium ion battery packs, and mini-compressor units, either within the rifle stock, or on the soldier. What would be the benefit of that, you might ask?

Much quieter discharge, no muzzle flash, and zero smoke to give away the position of the shooter. Also, ammunition would be reduced to the size of the projectile, so much more ammo could be carried.

I'm thinking that munitions manufacturing is such a hugely protected industry today, with so few major players, that such a concept would be shelved, just like metal-storm.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 5 Apr, 2011 08:54 am
@Setanta,
Setanta wrote:

It did not come to the fore because military men are as conservative as cats.

My cats voted for Nader.
0 Replies
 
 

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