During Battle of Nagashino, Oda Nobunaga ordered his riflemen to make three lines and shoot in a certain order, that is the first line will shoot, followed by the second line. While the second line shoots, the first line will begin refilling their gun. By the time the third line finished shooting, the first line would be ready to shoot again.

This kind of formation enables his riflemen to shoot continuously. At that time, the way to fight riflemen was to let them shoot and then cut them down when they are refilling their gun. By having his riflemen shooting continuously, he successfully annihilated the Takeda cavalry.

Was Nobunaga the inventor of this formation? Or did he only made it famous after using it to great success? If so, then who was the inventor?

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    Rifles did not exist at this time... Sep 18, 2016 at 15:38
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    Oh, you know what I mean. It's that aquebus/arquebus/arquebusher...the thing that is darn hard to pronounce, predecessor to modern day rifles. Sep 18, 2016 at 15:47
  • @StuartAllan you're possibly being a bit picky there? Jun 26, 2019 at 8:17
  • Please edit the question to clarify that you meant firearms vice rifles.
    – MCW
    Jun 26, 2019 at 11:03

2 Answers 2


It's probably fair to say that Nobunaga was the founder of the three line formation in Japan. That is, it's quite possible that he discovered it independently of European commanders. That's more plausible than to believe that the information "traveled" from Europe to Japan or vice versa, (given the communications of the time).

By 1575, arquebuses had been used in Europe for nearly a century, and sophisticated tactics had been developed half a century or more earlier.

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    Citing specific references would help to improve the answer. I did a Google search to find out how first used volley fire by rank, and have been unable to pin down the inventor(s) of this tactic.
    – njuffa
    Sep 18, 2016 at 21:45
  • @njuffa: I tried that myself without success. My answer is based on "common sense," about the dissemination of information, and the fact that after the 1525 battle of Pavia, cavalry tried to avoid arequebusier formations until the innovation tactics of Gustav Adolfus of Sweden a century later.
    – Tom Au
    Sep 18, 2016 at 21:47
  • I see various statements suggesting that the origin of volley fire by rank can be found in the military reforms of Maurice of Orange (Nassau). For example, Wikipedia: "One major contribution was the introduction of volley fire, which enabled soldiers to compensate for the inaccuracy of their weapons by firing in a large group. It was first used in European combat at the battle of Nieuwpoort in 1600"
    – njuffa
    Sep 18, 2016 at 22:19
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    Note - volley fire is not quite the same thing as firing by rank (which is what Nobunaga implemented). And volley fire was used at Agincourt in 1415 to devastating effect.
    – user13123
    Sep 18, 2016 at 23:27
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    @njuffa firearm question notwithstanding, I also don't fully understand why agincourt archers needed to do volley fire since they could shot and reload faster than they could swap ranks. That link is less than informative. I see the point with early firearms and crossbows, but not long bows. Jun 26, 2019 at 8:22

History did show that Oda Nobunaga had contact with Europeans and even traded with them for prototype rifles. That being said, it was a possiblity he learnt somethings from the Europeans therefore he could have used what tactics the Europeans used on the battlefield and changed it as the situation required.

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    This would be improved if you included the source for "History did show...".
    – Steve Bird
    Jun 26, 2019 at 7:34
  • the book "christian century in japan" tells that Nobunaga often received and talked with European ship captains, and often in a drunken state. Even if somebody did not want to tell all secrets, one can easily imagine Nobunaga saying "so captain, while we fetch the next cup, tell me again about that old battle exploit of yours... that one where the arquebusiers where disposed in lines... ". Nobunaga certainly was shrewd enough to pull something like this. But we will never know for certain.
    – Luiz
    Jun 26, 2019 at 16:53

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