De-lurking to ask several rambling questions- I have a character who hunts magical animals from horseback, some about the size of grizzlies or buffalo. The technology is roughly that of the late 1700ís. He hunts for food with a flintlock rifle, but gunpowder doesnít work against the magical beasties for various plot reasons.
What weapon could work for him in this context? Bow & arrow, spear, both, or something else? Would it depend on his ircumstances? I think he would need something with a longer reach than a sword, though maybe he would use one at closer range. If he uses something spear-ish would he throw it or jab with it (probably a more technical term for this) or both?
In the limited amount of information Iíve discovered, a spear for use from horseback is called a lance, does that word bring to mind knights and jousting?
Iíve been able to discover lots of info on swords, but unfortunately Iíve found less on spears or non-modern bows, so any information or resources would be appreciated. Many past discussions here have already been helpful. Thanks!
Well, for some reason, a slingshot comes to mind. You can certainly drop small game at a short distance with one.
Certainly a bow-and-arrow would do for larger stuff.
(Like most things we discuss, there are people around here who know more than I do about this. I just rewrote a story to take out some guys fighting with spears---I know nothing about it---and switched to knives---which I know only a little more about.)
don't forget the atlatl (am I spelling that right?) it's s device used by early hunters to propel a spear farther than it can go thrown alone. Check early Native American hunting implements. Also, IMHO, if they are magical, the substance the head is made of, or the weapon itself, should also be magical, blessed or unearthly, natch. Slingshot, or one of those stone flinging leathers, again, with magical, blessed, or unearthly stones.
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Okay, so you want weapons that can be used on horseback that will kill an animal the size of a grizzly or buffalo. May I ask why gunpowder firearms don't work on them? Technically, the gunpowder propels the bullet and the bullet itself is what kills, so that seems odd. If it's 'gunpowder residue' or something, then why not have him use an air rifle? The technology was been around since 15th century and it can be powerful enough to kill a large animal. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_rifle
On to 'primitive' horseback weapons: a bow and arrow would work to kill them, though I'm guessing it might take more than one arrow to get a quick-kill if both the rider and the beast are moving--unless he has great aim. The bow would likely be a composite bow which is easier to use from horseback.
If you're going for a one-shot deal from a distance, a crossbow might be used. It's powerful, but slow to reload--especially on horseback. Or perhaps it could be used as the initial weapon, and then use another weapon after that.
Yes, lances can be used from horseback. You hold on to the lance as you charge and the impact impales the creature (if you hit him), but it's rather a one-chance thing and requires you to get close to the target.
Javelins--which are shorter than spears--can be used from horseback. They are thrown from a short distance away and (if I understand correctly) can be used as a lance if up-close combat is forced upon the rider. The rider can carry several of them. If they are barbed, I believe they stick in the animal and interfere with it's movements even if it's not a kill-shot.
You might consider blow-darts with poison on the tips of the darts. It might not be an quick-kill--especially with a large animal--but it sure is safer than getting within range of it's claws or whatever. As InarticulateBabbler pointed out, using traps might be smart.
If the rider is forced into really close quarters with the creature, having something like a battle ax, war hammer, mace, or even a sword as back-up might be smart.
I don't think that a slingshot would work well on large game especially since he's on horseback. As I understand it, you'd have to hit a very narrow target with a stone on large game in order to stun or kill them and that would be difficult from horseback. (Also remember, you don't want to hit your horse in the head while you're swinging it!) The spear-thrower that debhoag mention (different cultures use different names for it)uses leverage to increase the distance and power of the throw, but I think it would be rather awkward to try and use from horseback. It might work with the javelins, though.
To really advise you on which would be best suited, I'd need to know how he fights the animal--from afar or up close--and how the animal fights back.
[This message has been edited by DebbieKW (edited May 28, 2007).]
A boar spear would be a good choice and it could be used from horseback or braced on the ground when afoot.
I'd go with crossbow over longbow or composite bow, especially if the character primarilly uses black powder weapons. The crossbow needs far less specialized skill than the a standard bow.
I have the same question regarding why black powder weapons aren't effective? If it is the lead ball, you can always use an alternate ammunition. Especially is dealing with a magical creature, perhaps only special ammunition is effective and is cost prohibitive. Of course if the mundane materials of the bolt head or spear head will kill them, then ammunition of the same mundane material should be effective.
Bullets are traditionally a soft metal like led. If you use something harder, then it shatters in the chamber, and could cause the rifle to explode.
My uncle was attacked by a brown bear a few years ago. He shot it 7 times in the head with a 9 mm. That didnít kill it. It drove it off, but it wasnít killed. An arrow might penetrate the hide but it may not have enough penetration to kill it.
There was a 1000 lb boar killed a few days ago that was shot several times in the snout, and that didnít kill it. At least not right away.
If your magic beasties have to be killed with iron or some other metal, your MC doesn't have to give up his rifle. He can just use steel-cored ammunition. As long as the bottom of the bullet up to a little forward of the meplat (the widest part) is made of soft lead that will engage the grooves and lands of the rifle barrel, the core of the bullet can be made of just about anything else that's hard. If he's got a big-bore rifle and your world's technology includes plastic, he can use saboted rounds, which are bullets of a smaller diameter than the rifle barrel, surrounded by a plastic shell that engages the rifling and then falls off after the round leaves the barrel, with steel sabots.
But if, for whatever reason, a rifle is out of the question, just about any weapon you use on a bear or buffalo sized animal is going to take some time to work its magic. Even an elephant gun caliber like a 45/70 or a .500 Nitro Express will often fail to drop a bear at the first shot.
An arrow, crossbow bolt, or spear will do the trick, but the hunter faces substantial danger. Shot placement is absolutely critical with any weapon, firearm included. But for bows and spears, additional amounts of timing and skill are required, as the hunter has to wait for the bear to rear upright or to step forward with the near front leg--otherwise the front shoulder blade will prevent penetration to the heart/lungs (bullets from adequate bear rifles will punch right through the shoulder blade, making the shot a little easier). A bear can have a surprising amount of fight left in him, even if hit in the heart. I've heard of bears continuing to struggle for 2 or 3 minutes after a vital hit, and for nearly an half an hour if not hit in the heart or aorta.
In pre-firearm days, bear hunting was often done much like boar-hunting--from horseback and with a large pack of hounds. The hounds put the bear at bay and use their weight to limit his mobility and fatigue him. When the bruin has slowed down from exhaustion from running and mauling the hounds, the hunter can come in for the final thrust with less danger to himself.
I agree with Huntgod. A crossbow is going to transfer the most energy to the target, and is also going to be the easiest weapon for a rifleman (which your MC appears to be) to pick up and use with some proficiency.
[This message has been edited by J (edited May 29, 2007).]
There are a lot of weapons one can use if magic is involved. If one has a magical based or asssisted explosive, your character could change ammo or throw a bomb. Bombs are easy to make. You have an amount of whatever explosive you are using such as black powder or magic dust, a fuse of some sort and a casing. Hollowing out a small log and filling it with black powder and sealing the end with some form of lid is an easy method. To use, one lights the fuse, and toss it so it lands ahead of the intended target based on how fast it is moving. Get away, possibly leading the target over the bomb. When it goes off, the flying wood would do damage, possibly killing. Applying darts or other sharp objects into the surface might help in the killing.
Keep in mind that in the 1700s, the muskets did not have rifling or was quite rare. Practical rifling methods came into being in the 1800s. Remember that George Washington was hit in battle by bullets in battle and did not draw blood. The rifles of that time were not all that powerful.
When Napolion went on his conquests, Air powered guns were coming into use. They were more powerful than the muskets of the time and were faster reloading. He declared that anybody who was caught with one of those air guns would be tortured to death. That is why we have gun powder guns rather than air rifles. Your character could use such a weapon if you think the technology is close.
Something else is that one can stick a light arrow into a rifle and fire it. It is hard on the gun but would be another method if bullets won't work. I think you would do everything the same except add the arrow instead of a bullet. I don't know the effects of the blast on the feathers so it could be less accurate a method of firing.
One can also use a blow gun, though european did not use that technology.
One could use poison arrows or arrows with an explosive bag wrapped around the front. With this, one needs only to stick it into the target to get some effect, but the arrow is not going to fly as well and would take more care and skill to place it right.
Just rambling on screen if anything sticks, let us know and we can expand on them.
I've seen the arrow-in-the-rifle thing done, but only with junk shotguns. The downsides are: 1) it takes forever to load, because you have to chamber the case and charge and then separately load the arrow through the muzzle, then jam the base of the arrow into the case mouth (without setting off the powder charge or blunting the arrowhead); 2) accuracy is horrible; 3) reliable range is even shorter than a compound bow; <30 yards 4) it mauls the rifling and the integrity of the muzzle crown, permanently crippling the rifles accuracy (much less of an issue--but still an issue to some degree--if the weapon is a smooth-bore musket or shotgun); and 5) it's pretty dangerous--if you load the arrow too tight, or if the arrow shaft splinters and obstructs the barrel, the weapon could explode, leaving the shooter with face, arms, and chest full of metal fragments.
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Thanks heaps to everyone. Iíve gotten some exceedingly great ideas to mull over. Excuse the length & rambling nature of this post.
J mentioned exactly his primary method of hunting-on horseback, using hounds to harry the quarry and help with killing it. (still used around here to hunt bear/boar.)
As to why his rifle wonít work, well, thatís because I need it not too . I can see several options:
I could change things, have it work, and give him a pair of horse pistols/carbine. Heíll be thrilled, but Iíll have to re-structure several scenes and re-work a sub-plot, which wouldnít be insurmountable, but still. Even if he could shoot them, I think he needs another weapon, as mentioned by several people, I donít think a flintlock has enough stopping power with one shot, and he wouldnít have time to re-load. (or would he? how hard is it to re-load a blackpowder pistol horseback?)
As several mentioned, his rifle could theoretically work, but the ball would need to be made of special material-iron or adamantium or whatever. Silver is soft enough, but cost prohibitive. Probably iron, it features in the story as having suitable anti-magic properties. So, iron balls are possible, but prove to be impractical. He makes his own lead bullets (I think most riflemen did) but I donít think he could make the iron ones (too high melting point?) so heíd need a smith to forge them. And as Alye pointed out, he'd tear up the barrel of his rifle trying to use them. (What would an iron ball do to a barrel?) So then he could try Jís idea of jacketing them, but I imagine getting an even coating of lead with his level of technology would be difficult. (Would it? How hard is this process?) I think an uneven coating would cause inaccuracy. So he tries, canít get it to work, tears up his rifle, and nearly gets himself killed in the process. If one shot killed, he might keep at it, but since it doesnít, he looks for an alternate weapon. I like this idea best, I like him trying to muddle through and fail, it would mesh well with my story and yet still have verisimilitude. Problems?
Several other reasons are workable (no projectile weapons at all work, technology aversively affected/negated by magic, etc.), but I still like the above idea.
As to the weapons suggested, several factors appear to be involved: Rate of fire, ease of use/learning time required, effective range, stopping power, and accuracy. Accuracy is a particular concern for him as he doesnít want to hit a hound by mistake.
Cross bows: easy learning curve, but slow to reload-possibilities Composite bow: would provide multiple fire, but longer learning curve? Continual practice required? My knowledge of archery is restricted to one afternoon in 4-H camp a looong time ago, as I recall I never even hit the target. Javelin: multiple fire, how hard are these to use? Just pick it up & throw it? Technique? Whatís the range? I like these a lot, if theyíre not difficult for him to use. As DebbieKW said he could use them in multiple ways-as a lance if he gets charged, etc. Arrows & javelins could be made of the desired materials-iron heads and anti-magic wood shaft (rowan?) They could also be poisoned, as several people suggested. I like that idea very much. Grooved/hollow heads for poison? Barbed? Traps: I like, but they are indiscriminate. However, plot possibilities arise. (If he catches the neighborís cow by mistakeÖ.) Bombs/grenades: Would work, maybe combine with trap. Heíll also have a sword/ax/tomahawk for close quarters, as DebbieKW mentioned. By the way, air rifles are cool.
As for what he hunts, I waver between animals that are too clichť and animals that are too smeep-ish. Ideas?
It looks like you're really thinking this through thoroughly. I'm sure that whatever solution you decide on will do well. If you go through the try-and-fail thing, the most likely problem your MC would encounter trying to make steel-cored bullets would be getting the core centered in the jacket (assuming he doesn't have the resources to acquire a special bullet-casting mold designed for making cored ammo) and making sure that all the cored bullets were near the same weight. The rifling irons out minor inconsistencies in the bullet's center of gravity, but major differences from shot to shot in the weight or center-of-gravity characteristics of bullets result in wide shot patterns (in other words, inaccurate performance, even if the weapon is inherently accurate).
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It might be cool to use a magic lasso against magic beasts . . . Sort of like a Wonder Woman's lasso, but instead of making a person tell the truth, this lasso renders magic powerless. Thus, once a creature is caught in the noose cowboy-style, it can be drained of its power and killed by regular means.
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(sorry i was getting shelled last post) as to finsh my thought inchanted weapons and or poisoned food traps. those work against hippies as well. rommel fenrir wolf ii
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There is a learning curve with every weapon. One can figure that either the person learned the use of their weapons from an early age, or they went through some form of "boot camp" type basic training to learn to use the weapons. You simply decide what weapon to use and they know how to use it.
With a cross bow bolt, one could use a poisonous tip, or a tip that breaks magic, or a tip that has a magic effect.
Early pistols did take time to load, but because they were smaller, the movements were shorter, therefore faster to load. They also would have less impact.
Rifling was not really done in the 1700s The machining to make them inside the barrel was too expensive to be practical for combat. It was only during the mid to later 1800s that technology made it practical.
They used round balls. The wadding held the gunpowder in place. The ball was jammed in, sometimes with wadding around it. Remember, the breach lock was not used at this time. As to the rifles, are you using flint locks or match lock rifles? different periods, different technologies.
The steps to load a rifle was different before the American revolutionary war and after. The Americans simplified the process for loading, aiming, and firing. The sequence of "Ready, Aim, Fire", was invented by the Americans. Before that, the armies simply fired in the general direction of their enemy as they had unlimited amounts of ammo and men.
For your story, I would go with him carrying a spear or lance of some kind, or possibly a sword. He would ride up into range and fire. When the injured beast came after him, he would stand away and jab it with his weapon. I don't see him carrying a cross bow, or bow, with a rifle unless he knows it is going to fail. A spear or even a bayonette on the end of his rifle, could be a likely weapon. Likely, after he fired, he would ride hard a distance away and reload while the beast was trying to get away, or come after him. Once he reloaded, he could fire again, and hope to kill it this time.
Keep in mind that the English had a tactic. When the enemy fired at them, they would charge. They could cross the distance between the two lines faster than the other side could re-load. Their battle lines were not all THAT far apart, so that can be a measure of how long it takes to reload.
To follow up on rstegman's post, if you are using a muzzleloading weapon--an excellent infantryman in the British army could shoot four shots in a minute while under fire. He could have any number of distractions, but he had to be standing still. (That was one of the several advantages of fighting in a rigid line--it was a disciplinary aid to keep the soldiers still they reloaded, both preventing gradual involuntary retreat and increasing reload speed).
An excellent rifleman in a light infantry skirmish unit (the "greenjackets") could fire two rounds per minute. The slower loading times were due to the rifle's use of an oiled leather patch and to the comparative difficulty in ramming a tight-fighting object down a rifled, as opposed to smooth, bore.
In the Civil War, however, the sides used muzzle-loading rifles with minie balls--which were conical in shape, like modern bullets. Two things about the minie ball are important to your story: 1) the minie ball had, as part of its normal construction, a piece of iron in the base; 2) because minie balls were designed to use without a patch and were smaller than the rifle bore (they were designed so that the initial gunpowder explosion would "mushroom" the base out so that it formed a seal against the rifling) they could be loaded at a much faster rate than even smoothbore muskets--5 or more rounds per minute. The advent of the minie ball represented a huge advance in rifle technology. Rifles firing minie balls were the first truly accurate firearms--that is, the first gunpowder weapon system in which the shooter, and not the weapon, was generally the source of error in aiming.
[This message has been edited by J (edited June 02, 2007).]
I don't really have anything to add since we don't know what your character is hunting. If you need more information of possible weapons choices, could you tell us if these magical beasts are preditors or prey? Will they run from him or charge at him when attacked? Do they have thick fur, a layer of blubber, feathers, scales, or armored plates (like insects)? All these factors would make a difference in what works and what would be the best hunting strategy.
Iím getting some great info/ideas-thanks all! Something RMatthewWare said in the wormhole thread helped, ďIf you want to use dragons, USE THEM.Ē I worry about clichť.
DebbieKW-any information/resources would be helpful. My MC hunts detrimental animals-ex: something killing livestock. Sometimes itís smaller nuisance types, the equivalent of a chicken-killing fox, but other times itís big stuff, which I'm dealing with. If a herbivore destroyed a particularly desirable crop, then he would hunt it, otherwise he leaves them alone because he doesnít eat the mythological beasties. (People view magic with misgivings, if not downright loathing.)
So heís hunting: predators, often with thick fur, that would be inclined to charge at him.
I would love information about the other types, too. How would his strategy change? Would he need his hounds trained differently for different types of animals? What would scales/feathers/blubber/armored plates change? What about the intelligence of what heís hunting? As J noted I tend to think about (OK, obsess over) everything, but more information adds possibilities. Thanks heaps!
just keep in mind that no real hunter is going to hunt in a manner that is overly dangerous to him. that's for thrill-seekers, not hunters.
from horseback, any ranged weapon would have to have a short range backup, if only for protection. if i were using a crossbow, i would use it to go for a kill, but expecting it not to, i would immediately dismount and use the boar-spear. i would use the hounds while mounted only to find and jump up the game, then signal them to stay clear until after i fired. finally, i would use the hounds to harry the beast while to tried for a kill with the boar spear.
KJSanders, I apologize for taking so long to get back to you on this. First, I'm not a hunter, and I know next to nothing about hunting with dogs. However, I suspect that there is some correlation between weapons used against plate armor and plated animals, against scaled animals and scale mail, etc. That's the information I'm going to be giving you.
First, as mikemunsil said, remember that a hunter isn't going to close in with the prey if there's any way that he can kill him from afar. I'd suggest learning more about traps. What about poisoning a livestock carcass and leaving it out for the target beast to consume? What about those iron jaw traps for immobilizing the prey? Pit traps? That sort of thing. Maybe research what (USA) western ranchers did 'back in the old days' to kill predators that bothered their stock.
For your hero's emergency up-close combat weapon, I'd suggest using a war hammer. It's fairly straight forward to use (i.e. not a lot of practice required as compared to a sword). When a war hammer was used on a helmeted head, the blunt side could stun/concuss through the helmet and the pick side could puncture the helmet and kill. It seems a handy sort of weapon against all types of 'armor.'
A crossbow used for the first shot with boar spears or javelins after that sounds like a good combo for the main weapons. The crossbow bolt should penetrate most animal 'armors' and penetrate fairly deeply. I believe the trick is hitting something vital and surviving until the beast finally dies. Assuming a penetrating hit, a back-barbed spear/javelin will stick in the beast and get in his way. Every move will cause further damage as the spear slowly tears out. BTW, the crossbow can be shot from a fair distance away while spears/javelins require somewhat closer range to be effective.
For plated armor/animals, the plates will deflect the blow. Either the blow needs to land head-on (so it will penetrate) or needs to be aimed at the less protected soft spots (usually the belly and under the arms/legs were they join to the body).
Scales also deflect, but there is a much greater chance that the deflected blow will slide up under the overlapping scales and penetrate (though it won't penetrate as deeply as a head-on blow). They also tend to be thinner (on animals) than plates, so are easier to punch through.
A thick layer of blubber, thick fur, or feathers will slow down the weapon. If the force isn't enough, then the weapon won't penetrate or won't penetrate enough to do major damage. Still, a crossbow bolt ought to penetrate just fine. Same for a well-thrown spear. I expect, however, that these animals are probably more agile and therefore harder to hit.