Questions tagged [weapons]

Questions on historical weapons, their use and significance.

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67 votes
5 answers
59k views

Did World War II-era bombs actually whistle?

In WWII-era films and newsreels, aerial bombs are often shown making a whistling sound as they fall; starting high pitched, then decreasing as the bomb approaches the Earth (example here, starting at ...
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66 votes
7 answers
26k views

What damage did anti-tank rifles hope to inflict on tanks in WW2?

Initially I was surprised to learn that such a thing as an anti-tank rifle even exists. It seems a ludicrous idea to try to shoot a tank with a rifle. But let's suppose that the bullet really hits a ...
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55 votes
7 answers
17k views

Why did the Roman military start to favour swords over the spear phalanx?

Up until the rise of the Roman Republic, the Greek phalanx was considered the dominant form of military tactics. Evolution had simply favoured longer and longer spears: by the time of Alexander, ...
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53 votes
5 answers
23k views

Did it take 3 minutes to reload a musket when the second amendment to the US constitution was ratified?

The NPR News podcast and video Beto O'Rourke Wants To Ban, Confiscate Some Guns. Texas Voters Want Details (about 6.5 minutes long) contains the following assertion by Congressman O'Rourke: In under ...
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52 votes
14 answers
34k views

When were swords last used in European warfare?

Specifically, I'm interested in the last documented occurrence of swords (of any sort) being used as a primary weapon by infantrymen or cavalrymen in Western warfare. That is, when did any European or ...
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49 votes
11 answers
18k views

Did the Soviets excel in one area of weaponry during World War II?

The Germans had some of the best machine guns and tanks during World War II. Likewise, the Americans had a big advantage with the M1 Garand (which Patton famously called "The greatest battle implement ...
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49 votes
2 answers
10k views

Why couldn't soldiers sight their own weapons without officers' orders?

The 4th bullet here contends Gen. Joubert viewed the aftermath of the battle and noted that the British rifles were sighted at 400-600 yards when the battle raged at about 50-100 yards, as the ...
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44 votes
6 answers
6k views

Were there U.S. weapon restrictions during 19th century?

Prior to the 20th century, I'm curious as to how the 2nd amendment was understood: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and ...
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32 votes
14 answers
13k views

Were slings used for throwing hand grenades? If not, why?

It seems using a sling is far more effective than throwing things with your bare hands. As far as I know, slingers were widespread in the Ancient era, as well as in the Middle ages: However, in XIX-...
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31 votes
4 answers
52k views

In the Medieval period, how long would an average swordsmith need to forge an average sword?

Based on this question over in RPG, I'm trying to figure out how long it took to forge a sword in the Medieval/Renaissance smith to make swords. I am recalling a figure of about 9-12 months per sword,...
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31 votes
1 answer
5k views

What were sandbags used for in medieval duels?

I was hesitant whether to ask this question in history or Shakespeare stack exchange, but I eventually decided it is more of a historical question. In the play "King Henry The Sixth" there is a ...
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28 votes
2 answers
6k views

Did Age of Sail fighting vessels have any anti-spall technology?

In the paper The injuries of four centuries of naval warfare, the author describes how flying wood splinters caused by cannon balls striking a ship's hull were a major cause of injury to ship's crews. ...
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26 votes
6 answers
13k views

How did archers judge distance before range finders?

Before electronics, was there a method for judging distance in archery? What methods were used historically? How were combat archers trained to judge distances?
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25 votes
8 answers
8k views

Why were troops with bayonets often effective against enemy cavalry even though the bayonet was a "secondary" weapon?

The bayonet was introduced in the late 17th century as a knife (later a short sword) attached to a musket, to enable the musketeer to protect himself when reloading their single-shot weapons. As such, ...
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25 votes
6 answers
3k views

What was the first battle in history fought by vast-majority-% "distance-shooting" non-mechanized force?

Historically, armies usually had a balance between warriors with projectile weapons (bows/guns) and close combat edged weapons (sword/pike/axe etc...). This was necessary because ranged weapons of ...
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25 votes
13 answers
87k views

How far could an English war bow shoot?

The range of the medieval weapon is not accurately known, with estimates from 165 to 228 m (180 to 249 yds) So says Wikipedia. I did read, however, in a semi-fictional, semi-historical work of ...
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24 votes
3 answers
9k views

What were the EMP effects, if any, of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) is generated from any atomic bomb, as far as I know. An EMP could destroy the electronics of many devices, including lighting, electric motors, radios, phones, etc. So why ...
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23 votes
6 answers
5k views

Who was the last European king to actively engage in combat?

Specifically, I would like to know who the most recent European monarch (or monarchs, if they lived roughly at the same time) is that actively engaged in combat whilst reigning: that is, used a sword, ...
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  • 5,052
23 votes
5 answers
22k views

Is it true that US tracer rounds were red and VC green during Vietnam war?

Quote from American Marine diary about tracers during vietnam: 0200 hours - Heavier fire coming in. Never had seen green tracers used against us. In a way, kind of pretty to look at, red ...
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22 votes
2 answers
2k views

Has a battering ram been used to breach a gate?

I am looking for a specific example of a battering ram used to breach the gate of a castle or fortification in Europe. I can find lots of indirect references to the use of battering rams on gates (...
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21 votes
5 answers
4k views

What was the tactical benefit of using flamethrowers as weapons?

I often hear stories of flamethrower troops storming the beaches of Iwo Jima and burning bunkers full of troops. But isn't it more risky to carry a tank of flammable liquid with limited fuel and ...
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21 votes
3 answers
5k views

Why did it take so long for the Germans to develop the first tank model in World War I?

World War I still featured a lot of trench warfare due do a lack of mobility that placed an advantage upon the defender. When the British managed to invent the first tank, that seemed like an ...
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  • 1,127
21 votes
8 answers
54k views

How do Tamahagane, Damascus, and Toledo Steel compare?

Has a comparison been made of the qualities of Samurai (Tamahagane), Damascus and Toledo steel (rather than the swords)? I've seen claims for each being better than the others. If it's on topic, I'm ...
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21 votes
4 answers
4k views

Why did Chinese use high tin bronze for swords?

Also unique for Chinese bronzes is the consistent use of high tin bronze (17–21% tin) which is very hard and breaks if stressed too far, whereas other cultures preferred lower tin bronze (usually 10%),...
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  • 17.1k
21 votes
1 answer
1k views

Did Archery evolve independently on separate continents?

Is there evidence that early civilizations across the world discovered archery independently from one another (like Native Americans, Europeans and Africans)? Or can the technology be traced back to a ...
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  • 383
21 votes
1 answer
2k views

What was the first successful mass tank battle of WW1?

What was the first big scale (over 50 tanks used) battle with the use of tanks in WW1? Please note that the typical examples don't constitute good answer: Battle of Flers-Courcelette (Somme) was ...
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20 votes
9 answers
5k views

At the end of WWII, were Nazis working on any other super weapon besides V-2?

At the end of WWII, were Nazis working on anything else besides the V-2? If so, what was it, how close was it to completion, and could it have potentially turn the events around for them?
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  • 628
20 votes
7 answers
13k views

How come all the major WW1 rifles were bolt action?

The main disadvantage of bolt action is that one has to remove the right hand from the trigger which leads to slower rate of fire. Neither lever nor pump have this problem. Rate of fire was viewed as ...
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20 votes
4 answers
6k views

When would one carry a sword on a shoulder with grip upwards?

Usually, swords are depicted as being kept in scabbard on the back or by the hip - like this or this. It got me curious when I saw videos of swords carried on a shoulder and held by the blade - with ...
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20 votes
1 answer
9k views

How was armour rusting in the rain handled throughout history?

Various sources (ex) state as one of the biggest advantages of non-metal armours, that they did not rust in the rain. However, a knight would have a squire to clean and oil his armour every evening. ...
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20 votes
1 answer
3k views

What percentage of the population in the "Old West" actually carried handguns?

I'm hoping cenus information and historical gun manufacturing records make this an answerable question. What percentage of the population in the Old West actually carried handguns? Was it a minority ...
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18 votes
5 answers
2k views

What was "Greek fire"?

What was Greek fire? I read in my history book that it was a flamethrower. But in certain fantasy movies it's been portrayed as something similar to dynamite. What was it dynamite or what? Did it ...
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18 votes
3 answers
6k views

Did the Germans use the V1 and V2 missile system on the Eastern Front in World War 2?

Did the Germans use the V1 and V2 missile system on the Eastern Front in World War 2? We have heard the legendary use of these missile systems on the Western Front, which in my opinion were counter-...
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18 votes
4 answers
59k views

Number of bullets used in WW2

I have wondered if there are any estimates on the number of bullets used in World War 2. I have thought about the question but cannot even get a plausible attack strategy.
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18 votes
3 answers
2k views

Was there any separation between hunting bow technology and weapon bows?

Was there a clear trend throughout early history (say, before 1300 for Europe) to have (or ot have) separate technologies/materials for bows and arrows for hunting purposes, and same-period same-...
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  • 17.1k
18 votes
1 answer
471 views

Language used on a dagger hilt, supposedly of Persian provenance, ca. 1700-1750

Could anyone guess what language is used in the sign made on this dagger hilt, supposedly of Persian provenance, and dated approx. 1700-1750? A fellow translator asked if I knew, and naturally I ...
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17 votes
4 answers
2k views

Why didn't the steppe bow spread further?

So, this question was triggered by my reading Stephen Turnbull's book on the Gempei War, when he says that he thinks that the yumi, or Japanese longbow, had an effective range of 10 meters against ...
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  • 179
17 votes
2 answers
6k views

How were dagger axes used in battle?

During the Chinese warring states, weapons knowns as dagger axes were used and there is a wide body of evidence that those were common at one time -- so so I believe. Is there any record of fighting ...
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17 votes
3 answers
2k views

Was the act of servicemen exchanging their weapons for enemy weapons common during WWII?

I have often heard that soldiers (particularly Allied soldiers) would swap their weapons for enemy weapons during World War II. Allies would take German weapons, like the MP40, that were seen as a ...
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17 votes
1 answer
2k views

Mass distribution of the Macedonian Sarissa pike

As a physics student, I am currently writing an independent assignment about applications of continuum mechanics (the study of waves, deformation, and stress in objects), in this assignment, I have ...
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  • 467
16 votes
4 answers
6k views

Did a capital ship ever hit anything with a torpedo?

It seems WWI and inter-war ship designers went a bit torpedo mad, both in their fear of them and in their use, finally coming to their senses in the harsh realities of WWII. I've seen many examples ...
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16 votes
4 answers
5k views

Did any armies systemically favor axes/hammers over swords?

In fantasy literature there are plenty of examples of cultures (such as the Dwarves of Lord of the Rings) who favor axes or hammers above swords in combat. Did any historical army follow that pattern?...
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  • 7,508
16 votes
1 answer
2k views

Did Aboriginal Australians know slings?

Did Aboriginal Australians know slings? Search on scholar.google did not find anything and Google only showed this photo of 1940, so they could get this idea from Europeans. If they knew slings that ...
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  • 331
16 votes
7 answers
14k views

How tight were shield walls in Saxon England?

After watching the BBC show The Last Kingdom, depicting conflicts between Saxons and Danes in the 800s AD, I was surprised by the multi-layered shield walls depicted. For example: or even: I had ...
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  • 1,094
15 votes
6 answers
8k views

Mystery of the many-loaded muzzles

I recall, way back in high school, someone came to describe the American Civil War, show local artifacts, that sort of thing. I remember them mentioning that muzzle-loaded weapons had been found with ...
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  • 253
15 votes
6 answers
43k views

What is the longest effective range artillery weapon ever built?

What is the longest effective range artillery weapon ever built, regardless of wether it was actually used in combat?
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15 votes
2 answers
3k views

In Viking combat, how much damage was done using the shield?

A while back I was watching some show on cable that was centered on recreating ancient combat (sorry, don't recall which of the many clones it was). One thing they stressed was that Vikings did NOT ...
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  • 17.1k
15 votes
2 answers
19k views

When did steel first appear? [closed]

When in history do we first have record of steel being used as a material? I am also interested in both its initial purpose and when it was first used in weapon making.
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15 votes
1 answer
6k views

What is known about how many Ulfberht swords exist?

For those who don't know, the Ulfberht sword was a Viking weapon of the finest quality, made with exquisite skill from the best materials available. They were produced between 800 and 1000 CE in ...
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  • 4,123
14 votes
5 answers
1k views

Are modern handguns a major reason for democratization?

I had a history teacher who argued that a major reason for the fall of the feudal system, was that the knights lost their military superiority because of development in weapon technology (longbow, ...
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