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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Let's say that a practical individual small arm is an effective weapon that can be carried, loaded and fired by one man or woman and is effective against most targets it is likely to be fired at. By that definition the first practical individual small arm was the matchlock arquebus.

Gunpowder weapons started to become common around 1320, but they were not effective as individual weapons because of the poor powder quality and the resulting low muzzle velocity The man portable "hand cannons" weree heavy, hard to load and fire and were not very effective on the battle field.

Around 1425 corned powder was developed giving much improved performance and the arquebus was developed to take advatage of its properties. The arquebus typically had a 40 inch barrel and was approximately .60 caliber. The powder charge was ignited by a burning cord called "slowmatch." One man could carry, load and fire a matchlock aiming along the long barrel and squeezing its trigger.

The arquebus was in general use by 1470, but what could it do? Most detailed histories of firearms will tell you this much but there is no data on the arquebus' performance.

Recently I found some information on actual tests of real weapons from the 1400s. The performance they achieved was surprising. At least it surprised me. Using fine grained corned powder prepared from instructions in contemporary manuscripts four weapons tested achievd an average muzzle velocity of 1,490 feet persecond and would penetrate actual steel plate armor at 25 to 35 yards.

The social effects were enormous. A low born commoner could perforate a noble night with his cheap nasty gun and men could be trained to use the arquebu were vvery formidable on the battlefield. The first major battle won with firearms was fought in 1503. As the bitter defeated commander said 'There were no brave deeds of knightly valor done that day. The battle was won by cowardly commoners hiding in a trench with their firearms!" Even back then people with guns were dangerous to the elite. There were some strong attepts at gun control, but they didn't work and individual firearms have been used in combat ever since.


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Cheers to the "cowardly commoners hiding in a trench with their firearms!"

Good article :eatpointe
 

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I've seen reference to those same types of cowardly acts preformed by commoners armed w/English longbows.:)
 

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1490 fps!!! I wonder how well they could be aimed? .60 cal ball that'll make a big hole in you whether your a commoner or a noble.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
copycat said:
1490 fps!!! I wonder how well they could be aimed? .60 cal ball that'll make a big hole in you whether your a commoner or a noble.
Most contempoary authors say that one man firing at a single man coud hit him most of the time at "two score paces" approximately 40 yards.
 

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These were smooth bores, and tended to be best used in a volley fire. Rifling wasn't invented yet, and the rate of fire was very slow, A good longbow man could out do a "Cavileir, or a Musketeer" up into the late 18th century string weapons still were capable of being a viable battlefeild weapon.
 

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Rifling wasn't invented yet
Rifling was developed around the 16th century, or earlier. The rifling was originally intended as a place for powder residue to build up, so it wouldn't require as much cleaning. It didn't take long for some observant blacksmith to notice that rifles maintained better accuracy than their smoothbore counterparts. Shooting matches of the day also had seperate events for those whom sought to use firearms with a rifled barrel.
However, it was expensive, and it required a very tight fit between the ball and the barrel. Smoothbores always used an undersized bullet, so it could be rammed home quickly. Rifles were not practical as a military weapon until after the invention of conical shot, or mini balls, with a hollow base. The hollow base allowed the bullet to be slightly undersized, for ease of reloading, and upon firing, the expanding gases would fill the base of the bullet causing it to expand and engage the rifling.
 

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Half elf said:
These were smooth bores, and tended to be best used in a volley fire. Rifling wasn't invented yet, and the rate of fire was very slow, A good longbow man could out do a "Cavileir, or a Musketeer" up into the late 18th century string weapons still were capable of being a viable battlefeild weapon.
I have seen graphics of what were termed volley guns. A rack would hold many rifle barrels, and when touched off each barrel would fire. These would have very effective against massed, man targets, as early firearms wars were fought.

I still wouldn't low rate, a bow and arrow too much. In guerilla warfare, a bow and arrow could be an effective armament.

Good post Hard Ball. I enjoyed you bringing up a bit of history. Posts like this are always interesting.
 

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I have seen graphics of what were termed volley guns. A rack would hold many rifle barrels, and when touched off each barrel would fire. These would have very effective against massed, man targets, as early firearms wars were fought.
Leonardo DeVinci made those concepts. It's debateable as to whether any were used in combat. A similar device was used during the American Civil War, and I haven't seen any credible evidence that they were used earlier than that.
 

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84 C4 said:
Leonardo DeVinci made those concepts. It's debateable as to whether any were used in combat. A similar device was used during the American Civil War, and I haven't seen any credible evidence that they were used earlier than that.
I think those are the drawings that I saw.

I haven't heard, or read, about that concept being used either.
 

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Mabu think first truly practical firearm came later: British Brown Bess.

It became the standard weapon for building and enforcing the will of the British Empire.
 
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