Ancient weapon choices: why swords?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by phx1138, May 10, 2019.

  1. wtw Well-Known Member

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    Historically crossbows where the everyman's weapon, anyone could use them and kill a knight with them. I will always favor crossbows in fact over bows because to get real good with even modern bows takes far longer than one expects.
     
  2. wtw Well-Known Member

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    Well during the war horses died at a rate of I think 3 to one soldier killed. The US civil war was such a haphazard affair that hell both sides had dozens of different calibers for rifles alone, never mind things like canons.
     
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  3. dandan_noodles Well-Known Member

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    No they weren't. Crossbows were complicated mechanism, only really affordable for burghers etc. with property and means. Many crossbowmen would have had a servant accompanying them on campaign, and were paid more than common footmen.
     
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  4. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    For campaign, sure. But during a seige i imagine any tools defenders had on hand got a fair bit of use
     
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  5. elkarlo Well-Known Member

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    Even a weighted axe isn't going to perform like a sword. It's going to be shorter or weighted so that it's harder to parry.
    I haven't fought with one tbh. So I can't say from first hand experience.
     
  6. elkarlo Well-Known Member

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    Plus crossbows, if you crank them ir have the one where you squat it back to reload it, you can have some unreasonable pull rates. Which would mean it could piece armor.
    At Malta when running out if powder, they got out the old crossbows. IIRC those bolts would go straight through men.
     
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  7. Lenwe Well-Known Member

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    Well I do fight with a sword and a axe, and a spear but figthing with a spear trying to not kill your oponnet is fucking difficult, the long of the axe depends completely on the user, but they aren´t that much short than a similiar weight sword, 60-80 cm for an axe 70-90 cm for a sword, and parry with one is the same than with a sword. where the he axe is slower than the sword is on the attack, in the defense and parry they are the same. ,
     
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  8. elkarlo Well-Known Member

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    That makes sense. I feel that the sword has the lowest attack as in armor penetration, but it's versatility and speed make up for that. Otherwise why spend the extra money in swords? Besides prestige that is.

    I like reenacting and all, but I don't think it's always realistic. As not worrying about dying changes how you fight. Not to mention you wither use padded weapons or hold back with real ones. It's interesting but I wonder how close we are to understating how battles were really fought
     
  9. Lenwe Well-Known Member

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    that is true, but is the closest we can come to an undesrtanding on how is to fight with a sword and axe, because the fencing is even more retired than the real deal, plus Our group don´t use padded spears, sword or axes, just blunted one, that is if we sharp one they are 100% functional. that is the reason the spear is so dangerous to use is more difficult to control and with a bad hit you could kill some one.
    So bassically what I saying is easier to kill someone with an spear, if you don´t know how to use one, than with a sword or axe
     
  10. Gannt the chartist Well-Known Member

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    To go back to the original post there are a number of other issues.

    Its not necessarily cheaper to have an axe or mace. Depends on how easy it is to get and work wood and how well the carpenter and blacksmith get on. Once you have reasonably common iron working the labour cost will dominate rather than the metal cost.

    A sword can be used defensively more easily than an axe or mace and swords have points so you can cut and thrust not just cut.

    A sword is a convenient display of wealth and power that can comfortably be worn perambulating around town, and used as a slicing, clubbing weapon or simply adding heft to the backhander if you don't get out of the way peasant, all the cool kids have swords.
     
  11. Lenwe Well-Known Member

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    For most of the history it was cheaper an axe than a sword, as you, in the worst case scenario could do an axe with worse quality iron, bog iron, wrought iron, pig iron, heck even cooper with only the edge of temperedd iron or steel like this axe head found in iceland The copper head has an iron cutting bit, now heavily eroded.

    [​IMG]
    for a sword you need that all the piece was done in a higher quality iron or tempered iron, unless you use the folding technique and a diferential heat tretment, like the japanese, wich is tehcnically dificult and drive up the cost

    Only in a "civil" context, is easier to use a sword, where is used in self defense and probalby against light armoured opponets, in a battlefield context most of the sword advantages are a moot point, so most of the time a sword is more useful, most people spend very little time in battle

    In this I completly agree with you

    Edit: some mistakes
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019
  12. bernardz Kicked Donor

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    There were very expensive and complex pieces of equipment and often a crossbowman had a loader, he is not a servant necessarily as such.


    The need to squat depends on what sort of a crossbow you have, but yes if you want to go through armor you are going to need to swat or have you a loader, which makes each crossbowman a two-man team.



    As well as that often ancient armies marched out, manned by farmers armed with little more than their tools, axes are something a farmer is more likely to have then swords.
     
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  13. wtw Well-Known Member

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    I meant that anyone could have used it. I get that they were expensive and fragile so obviously not everyone could have one. But the training to do so took what two weeks? Bow and arrows years?
     
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  14. piratedude Pirate Lord of the Great Lakes

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    Thats less to do with skill and with developing the muscles to use a heavy poundage bow. A problem that crossbows had to overcome with mechanical assistance because effective ones are more than a person can draw back
     
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  15. bernardz Kicked Donor

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    I can speak from personal experience about crossbows that the first I time, I used it I hurt my back pretty bad from misuse. It was about a month before I tried again and in a few hours, I had mastered my crossbow and shooting 5 to 6 bolts a minute quite accurately while running and ducking as a soldier would.

    This was totally with no tutoring!
     
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  16. wtw Well-Known Member

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    A modern crossbow I assume, because I hit a bull's eye on my first try with a modern compound bow. Also it was my one and only time I ever shot a bow and well you hit out of the park as the saying goes....
     
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  17. sloreck Grunt Bear

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    Modern crossbows are different in many important ways from those of the Middle Ages. Old style crossbows had to be recocked by cranking with a built in device, attaching a crank device to cock (then load bolt), or they had a stirrup on the end so you could use a foot there and both hands to pull it back. No matter what crossbows had a much lower rate of fire than the longbow, although training for the former was way less. The pull on a crossbow you use for hunting now is much less than the pull on one deigned to penetrate armor, and the bolt for bringing down a deer is much lighter than one designed to bring down an armored knight. Also modern materials make crossbows much lighter and easier to use.

    It is important to note that pole arms, pikes, etc were designed primarily for infantry to use against cavalry - pike formations could and would engage other infantry but they were most useful against cavalry as pikemen who stand firm should win against a cavalry charge, break formation and you die. Many polearms were specific for pulling horsemen (armored or other) off their horse.
     
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  18. bernardz Kicked Donor

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    Actually, there are about eight different methods the medieval crossbows used for cocking, all with their pluses and minuses. Some of the lighter crossbows would be comparable to bows in rates of fire.

    You may also want to check on the Chinese repeating crossbow for fire rates.

    It certainly though is a trade-off with a crossbow on power and rate of fire.
     
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  19. Zen9 Well-Known Member

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    The varieties of Halberd were very popular with armies. For the metal equal to a small sword or axe you got a instrument combining the functions of axe, spear and hook on a long pole.
    Depictions of European and Oriental armies show formations bristling with them, often outnumbering all other weapons.

    The Welsh taught the English the value of the Longbow and then the English did what we used to do well....apply the solution in industrial quantities supported by soundly administered logistics and training.
    The results, to paraphrase a Spaniard were horror.
    Which takes me to the brutal modern point.
    Training and logistics were our secret sauce and gave us victory after victory.
    Now we are loosing this core of the Alfredian state.
    So now we will loose.
    And loosing will cost us everything.

    So in context, it's not the sword that wins or looses. Not the quality of the weapon or it's manufacture.
    It's the quality of the training and logistics, and greatest of all is logistics. For logistics is king, logistics is God.
     
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  20. MatthewB Well-Known Member

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    Indeed. Point almost always defeats the edge.
     
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