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"Muskets v Bows" Topic

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Alik99 Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2017 2:52 p.m. PST

I doubt this happened often (Ottomans?) if at all. But I'd be interested in your thoughts on the following…

During the first quarter of the 1700s, a regiment of musket armed soldiers is facing a regiment of bow armed soldiers. The regiments are similar in numbers and frontage. Both are equally well trained and with good morale.

What is the likely effectiveness of each when firing at various ranges as they close on each other?

Should they come together, I assume a steady line of bayonets would outreach the bowmen's swords. If the lines eventually intermingled, do bayonets/muskets used as clubs or the swords have the advantage?

Perhaps this never happened, but undoubtably it will when my "imaginations" Kleinstaadten Campaign gets going!


14Bore05 Dec 2017 3:19 p.m. PST

From a musketeer viewpoint within 100 yds a volley is deadly, maybe out to 200 ydrs to keep them back, and I want to try it badly but think 300 yds is top range, really can't imagine a musket ball hitting out that far before it hits the earth. But I have no idea the range of a arrow.

21eRegt05 Dec 2017 3:51 p.m. PST

Flight arrows from an English longbowman might reach 400 yards, so if the musketeers are advancing in the open in close order, I wouldn't want to be them. In melee we can compare Scottish Highlanders with targ and sword vs. bayonets.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2017 5:21 p.m. PST

Depends on how well trained the bowmen are – it does take an awfully long time to properly train a bowman

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Dec 2017 10:19 p.m. PST

Can't be very well trained if they let musketeers get to hand to hand range.

Also, archers are trained to aim, musketeers of the time just to "present" i.e. point the thing in a general direction. So it's a 100 ball shotgun versus a 100 guided-arrow unit.

If we're talking smooth bore muskets, no captain worth his salt would waste powder firing beynd 200 yards, maybe even 150. Not in my army anyway.

Personal logo sillypoint Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2017 10:26 p.m. PST

With no primary source to cite- bayonets came long after muskets, muskets came after arquebus- arquebus probably prevelent when bows were 😁
Using my D&D Kung fu modifiers. Bow as a melee weapon +1, a long club that used to fire a projectile using gunpowder +5 in close combat.
After combat – bow as a missile weapon…vs…..😁
I would defer to more learned opinions.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 2:18 a.m. PST

Bows were such an effective weapon that they were phased out wherever possible long before this date – history gives the proof. That surely answers the question without looking at the details of why.

Why is a different question and that answer is probably more complex.

Dynaman878906 Dec 2017 4:26 a.m. PST

Why is easy, effective Bowmen are expensive, effective troops armed with guns are comparatively cheap and could be trained quickly.

Stoppage06 Dec 2017 4:52 a.m. PST

Add driving rain.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 4:58 a.m. PST

Firearms weren't used because they were more effective than bows.
But it took 6 weeks to train instead of 5-15 years.
It was cheaper, you could carry more ammo. And in the early days also have a big fare factor.

Having 5000 longbowmen doesn't help when the other guy got 20 000 people with arkebusers.
Just look at Japan, early in the Sengoku Jidai, you had armies of some thousands, by the end you had armies of 80 000++, the vast majority having arkebuses.

Later in the period(so 1700s since that was the original period asked about) Musketeers would carry 40,50,60 or even more cartridges EACH, try having 60 arrows in your quiver, even given wagons with extra arrows, the archers would run out far faster then musketeers.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 6:42 a.m. PST

Sorry Gunfreak – all that just emphasises how much more EFFECTIVE firearms are.

If you can field a more useful army using firearms and do it quicker and cheaper than an opponent BECAUSE he is using bows then that pretty well defines effectiveness.

Looking at the bow as an individual weapon and a bow armed force as a suitably effective fighting army are different things.

Look at the period when the two were directly in opposition – Tudor England. How many battles did England win with archery ? How useful were the English bowmen that Elizabeth sent to the continent ?

I'd be happy to concede that a man armed with a bow could be superior to one armed with a musket, in some circumstances, but not that the bow was a better weapons system than the musket.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 7:29 a.m. PST

Bow armed Cossacks/Tartars ("les cupides") were held in contempt, a joke, ineffective, by the French in 1812.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 8:20 a.m. PST

Sorry Gunfreak all that just emphasises how much more EFFECTIVE firearms are.

I was talking weapon vs weapon on small tactical level. Not strategic.

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 8:46 a.m. PST

Regiments are hardly 'strategic' sized forces.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Well at the start end of the medieval period lots of those advantages I listed do not apply. Early arkebusers don't have 40 or even 20 rounds.
So that advantage is not relevant to the early adoption of firearms.
The early adoption was based almost entirety on speed of production and ease of training.

Which are strategic.

Alik99 Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2017 11:05 p.m. PST

Thanks for everyone's comments.

It seems as though the bowmen should not be too enthusiastic to advance towards the muskets, and shoot at long range while not getting too many casualties in return. Of course, this depends on their orders and what is going on around them.

So they need much longer training to be effective. If there's some sort of points system, they would have to be more expensive to recruit, and the commander would be more reluctant to "waste" them.

As regards the amount of arrows they would have compared to musket balls: having a cap on the number of moves during which they could fire might cover that point. If they fired, say, 3 arrows a minute, a long battle would be a problem. I hadn't thought of wagon or horse loads of arrows (nor indeed musket ammunition if required) nearby to resupply.

When it comes to melee, I was too focused on the date and mid/east European campaign area I had in mind. Of course, I should have read up on the many "colonial" type battles where similar situations occurred. Living in Scotland, I should specially have remembered the highlanders' targe and broadsword charges!

I'll take all your opinions into consideration when writing the rules. As I veer more to the "game" side of wargaming than the "reconstruction" type, I want to be reasonably historically accurate, but still have a bit of leeway!

History does show a Commander would prefer muskets in his army rather than bows, but I have a couple of regiments of 25mm Minifigs Ottoman archers I like the look of, and want to use them…

Thanks again.

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