All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.



Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!

3/23/2015

Of Crossbows

I like some of the stories that the Daily Mail runs.  Not the celebrity tabloid stuff.  That's simply dull.  I enjoy stories like this one about a 2,200 Year Old Crossbow.  I think history and archaeology are interesting topics.  I don't need sensational headlines to get my attention. 
The Terracotta Army crossbow that could shoot twice as far as a modern-day rifle: Archaeologists unearth 2,200-year-old weapon at historic Chinese site  
 FWIW the Terracotta Army is a large collection of statues made out of clay.  As far as I can see in the article the crossbow looks to be made out of clay as well.  Maybe it wasn't and the coloration is a result of being buried.  I guess we don't know, but that might have been a detail to investigate.

Second point:
The crossbow, which was found intact this week, could have shot an arrow up to 2,600 feet - about the length of nine football pitches, the People's Daily Online reported.
Historical texts indicate that its firing range could have been up to 2,600 feet, according to Huashang Newspaper, which is double the range of an assault rifle, which is about 1,300 feet. 
I'm a bit of a firearms hobbyist.   I don't normally think of shooting distances expressed in feet.  I think in terms of yards.  So 3 feet to a yard, lets to the math:

2,600 feet for the crossbow is 867 yards.  Pretty darn respectable.

1,300 feet for a modern assault rifle? That works out to 433 yards.

This is going to come down to a question of which rifle we are talking about.  An open sighted AK style rifle or a open sight AR platform chambered in a 22 cal round do have an effective range of about 400 yards.  That isn't the whole story of course.  I've shot AR's past 600 yards and of course 30 call, 338 cal and 50 cal rifles shoot to 1,000 yards and beyond.  Heck modern rifles are capable of hits on man sized targets out to 1 mile and beyond.

You can't expect Brits writing for other Brits to know too much about firearms.  Guns are after all scary and its amazing that they were able to keep a stiff upper lip long enough to type the story in the first place.  So we'll give them a pass on this because, its about as close as you'd expect them to get anyway.  If you look at it from a narrow point of view the author isn't too far off.

We still don't know what the crossbow was made out of.  If it was clay, like the rest of the Terracotta Army statues, it wasn't actually a weapon, it was pottery.  Pottery doesn't shoot anything at all.  It just sets there.

7 comments:

  1. WaterBoy3:50 PM

    Translated from the original Chinese story linked to in the article:

    "According to experts, the powerful crossbow range of 800 meters, is the Russian AK47 rifle twice times the effective range of 400 meters."

    Pretty darn close to your own analysis. And it looks like the bow was made of bronze, though it is still mostly buried in the dirt. Without an intact bow, though, one wonders how accurate their assessment of its range actually is.

    Still cool, though.

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  2. The AK is an underpowered round compared to what we have today. In 1947 the Russians were still on rationing from WWII. Maximizing raw material for production of weapons and components, was combined with the need for a sturdy reliable high capacity weapon. They achieved their goals. The rifle is a good one for normal combat ranges inside of 150 yards.

    Now, I'm not saying that a crossbow can't shoot a bolt 800 yards. I think it can. At least it seems in the realm of possibility. The bow length was 5ft. I'm curious how accurate it would be at that distance. Time of flight would be long. Atmospheric interference (wind, humidity, etc) would drag the bolt down. The shooter would have to have some method of 1. range estimation and 2. aiming that would allow him to accurately predict and create the proper trajectory to hit his target at that range.

    I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm saying preforming mental trigonometry on an ancient battle field had to take some doing.

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  3. Susan9:02 AM

    My husband and I were lucky enough to see these statues when the Chinese sent a portion of them on a world tour. They set some up at the Portland Art Museum, and let me tell you, the detail is fantastic and amazingly realistic. Supposedly this army was made by the same Emperor who also fashioned and constructed the Great Wall too.

    The literature said that that the thinking was that these statues were individually molded based a a real soldier of the Emperor from that time period. This way, the Emperor could take his army with him into the afterlife. So he had literally everything that an army would need from terracotta horses for the chariots, to weapons of all types..

    Terracotta crossbows and other weapons were also modeled on what they actually had at in use at the time. If you ever get the chance to see this exhibit, it is WELL worth the time to examine it. Because as one of two firearms experts that I am aware of, I can tell you that you would love it.

    Did you ever watch the third Mummy movie? It was set in China after WWII, and the climax was a recreation of the Emperor of this time period who resurrected his terracotta army of soldiers. They used the crossbows in the movie and it is quite the sight, all those arrows raining down on the opposing army.

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  4. It sounds like a fantastic cultural display.

    You reminded me of a point about military strategy. The modern rifle is an individual weapon meant to be used by individual combatants aimed other individuals. Ancient bows/crossbows were employed against masses of troops. The purpose was to fire a lot of blots and hit the group doing whatever damage they could to whoever was unlucky enough to get hit by them.

    Still calculating trajectory and range estimation and then having the group fire to point of aim would have been an interesting problem.

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  5. I've hit man sized targets at 844 yards with my AR 15 with open sights. It's certainly possible to do so with other centerfire rifles as well.

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    Replies
    1. That's because you're using a fast twist barrel, not a 1:12. A 55 grain bullet out of a 1:12 starts destabilizing around 600 yards. A 1:8 or 1:9 in barrel will keep a 77 grain bullet stabilized out to around 1,100 yards. That makes it possible to get into the 20/20 club with a AR.

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  6. If you have several thousand of those crossbows going at one time, or even in a sequence, I imagine that it would be an absolutely terrifying sight to see, let alone try to survive.

    You can't fire your own weapon if you are trying to dodge sharp and lethal items raining down on you from the heavens. Would you really have to worry about the problem of aiming, if you are just trying to rain down a little "hell on earth" against an opposing army?

    Seems to me, that the bigger problem here would be to figure out how to defend, while being able to fire your own weaponry under such an attack.

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