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Use of skirmisher weapons
#1
Hi All  Smile,

I'm currently working on a book on battle formations of the Ancient world with emphasis on Persia, Greece, Macedonia and Rome.

Right now I'm looking at skirmisher formations following the manuals of Arrian, Aelian and Asklepiodotus. A couple of questions for the proficient on this forum:

1. How much depth does a javelinman need to cast a javelin without a run up? 6 feet? 9 feet? More?
2. How far can a javelin be thrown with a strap and without a strap? I looked at an experiment in the US where a couple of high school javelin throwers managed about 35 yards without a strap and about 65 yards with one. Does that sound about right?
3. How much depth does one need to use a sling?
4. What is the effective range of a sling? Vegetius makes it 200 yards. Is he on the money?
5. Can one use a sling in depth, i.e. slinging over the heads of slingers in front? If so how many ranks could use a sling this way without danger to the men in front?

Many thanks in advance!

Justin
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#2
In regards to the range of the Sling, Larry Bray managed to hurl a 52gram ovoid rock 437 meters in the 1980's, but he later mentioned that it was quite possible that with a clay or lead projectile he could have extended that range further. With biconical/almond-shaped projectiles from clay or lead it is possible to impart a rifle-esque spin on the projectile by twisting the wrist on a throw which would likely increase the range, and the better aerodynamic characteristics of uniformly manufactured ammunition would likely have an impact on long-distance throws.

Xenophon mentions that the Rhodian slingers in his army could reach to ranges of ~400 meters, whilst the range of the Persian slingers was said to be about half that due to the usage of egg-to-fist sized stones that are probably heavier than 100 grams. Sling range can be reduced by using heavier stones and by inexperienced users, as novice slingers would probably have average throws of roughly ~30-40 m/s whilst professional slingers would likely have average throws of ~50-70 m/s, with variances based on the size of the projectile and on the length of the sling.

In regards to effective range, I would guess that this would be variable and depends on various factors. Against well-armoured and well equipped soldiers the effective range might have been ~40-50 meters, similar to the effective range of warbows, crossbows and javelins throughout history et cetera. Against lighter-equipped troops who might only have a helmet and shield et cetera, the effective range could well have been 200 yards (182 meters)

I would highly recommend visiting Slinging.org for more information, as there are users on that site who have far more experience and information than me.
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#3
(05-31-2018, 01:13 PM)TheJackinati275 Wrote: In regards to the range of the Sling, Larry Bray managed to hurl a 52gram ovoid rock 437 meters in the 1980's, but he later mentioned that it was quite possible that with a clay or lead projectile he could have extended that range further. With biconical/almond-shaped projectiles from clay or lead it is possible to impart a rifle-esque spin on the projectile by twisting the wrist on a throw which would likely increase the range, and the better aerodynamic characteristics of uniformly manufactured ammunition would likely have an impact on long-distance throws.

Xenophon mentions that the Rhodian slingers in his army could reach to ranges of ~400 meters, whilst the range of the Persian slingers was said to be about half that due to the usage of egg-to-fist sized stones that are probably heavier than 100 grams. Sling range can be reduced by using heavier stones and by inexperienced users, as novice slingers would probably have average throws of roughly ~30-40 m/s whilst professional slingers would likely have average throws of ~50-70 m/s, with variances based on the size of the projectile and on the length of the sling.

In regards to effective range, I would guess that this would be variable and depends on various factors. Against well-armoured and well equipped soldiers the effective range might have been ~40-50 meters, similar to the effective range of warbows, crossbows and javelins throughout history et cetera. Against lighter-equipped troops who might only have a helmet and shield et cetera, the effective range could well have been 200 yards (182 meters)

I would highly recommend visiting Slinging.org for more information, as there are users on that site who have far more experience and information than me.

Ta for this. I've visited Slinging.org and had a look around. Still waiting for my registration application to be approved.

I've established that massed slinging fire was quite possible (done by the Assyrians who stacked the slingers behind the archers). The only problem with massed sling fire - as with massed archer fire - is that the slingers/archers, shooting high over their buddies' heads, were limited to maximum range only. At max range a variation in elevation doesn't translate to a very large variation in range, but at lower ranges it does. So a slinger/archer, shooting blind, could keep to his max range with reasonable accuracy, but needed to sight his target if shooting at shorter ranges. This is what enabled Alexander to charge the Kardakes at Issus before they were ready to shoot, getting past their max range beaten ground so that only their two front rank archers could continue to target the Companions which wasn't enough to stop them.

This means that a skirmisher line would have to rotate shooters in the front rank to keep up fire against an advancing enemy once they were past the maximum range window. Hence there was no need for deep skirmisher lines - just deep enough for the first couple of ranks to shoot, move to the back, reload, and be ready to shoot once they reached the front of their file again.
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