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slings in Alexander's army. (Read 7455 times)
Thearos
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #15 - Mar 2nd, 2009 at 5:50pm
 
It got mixed reviews; some pretty enthusiastic.

One of Rihll's arguments is that hand slings cannot develop the necessary velocity to penetrate the human body-- and hence that mentions of lead bullets being extracted from flesh (Celsus, etc) must describe projectiles launched by small catapults: the weights are compatible, and the size would fit small engines (such as those known from Ephyra, a site in NW Greece, where the washers from the catapult spring housings have been found).

I know this is a favorite topic on this forum-- velocity of sling projectiles. It's clear that Thom Richardson's results are not good (not experienced slinger, and he has trying hard to shoot through the speed gun's window). Did anyone ever try slinging lead at one of those ballistic jelly blocks ? Or even at a pig carcass ?


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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #16 - Mar 2nd, 2009 at 10:41pm
 
Thearos wrote on Mar 2nd, 2009 at 5:50pm:
It got mixed reviews; some pretty enthusiastic.

One of Rihll's arguments is that hand slings cannot develop the necessary velocity to penetrate the human body-- and hence that mentions of lead bullets being extracted from flesh (Celsus, etc) must describe projectiles launched by small catapults: the weights are compatible, and the size would fit small engines (such as those known from Ephyra, a site in NW Greece, where the washers from the catapult spring housings have been found).

I know this is a favorite topic on this forum-- velocity of sling projectiles. It's clear that Thom Richardson's results are not good (not experienced slinger, and he has trying hard to shoot through the speed gun's window). Did anyone ever try slinging lead at one of those ballistic jelly blocks ? Or even at a pig carcass ?

I can't recall anyone reporting results against pig carcases - I suppose that's quite an investment for amateurs such as us around here.

The figures to be found in the academic literature with regard to sling velocity seem to be in such error as to be laughable. Unfortunately they appear to have become accepted as fact. Fundamentally they are in total conflict with reported distances, which require substantially higher launch velocities. There are considerable complexities in the ballistics of slings and sling bullets, but none which can reconcile initial velocities of 30-40m/s with distances of 200m or more, certainly not when lead bullets are involved.

The velocity figures of around 30 to 35m/s deserve to be firmly and repeatedly stamped upon until those using such figures take notice! I think it extremely unfortunate that Korfmann's oft quoted article in Scientific American contained a similarly ridiculous figure, which may have been a piece of mistaken 'correction' by the editors.

Clearly the sling requires considerable skill, but quite a number on this forum reach velocities of the order of 50m/s and higher. It seems to me not unlikely that even half decent slingers of antiquity exceeded these values considerably, although perhaps their greatest superiority was in terms of accuracy.

As far as the penetration matter, it may well be that this was not the norm, but I think it is fairly well agreed among experienced members of this forum that such ellipsoidal bullets can be thrown consistently point first. Perhaps this is the nub of Xenophon's mention of the Rhodian's special skill? The spin imparted from the sling would stabilize their flight to some extent.

Although I havn't read the arguments on the matter of catapult ammunition, how were the bullets stabilized when presumably they were not given spin around their longitudinal axis? Did they have some additional parts now lost?
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Thearos
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #17 - Mar 3rd, 2009 at 8:18pm
 
All kinds of problems-- as Rihll points out (in an unpublished paper, which I've seen, and perhaps in her book, which I haven't), it's not even clear how much the lead bullets weighed originally-- corrosion has probably shaved off some grams (For instance, the British Museum bullets, which are actually on their website, are often no longer legible, after long exposure to air, it seems).

But I wouldn't mind seeing a very good slinger (one of the modern Balearic guys ??), with a good length sling, shooting past a speed gun with lead; also shooting at a block of ballistic jelly

Anyway: when Rihll writes about "catapult", she doesn't mean the one-armer, but the two-armed engine (ballista,  scorpio), which was the original catapult. It's now clear that, at least by Roman period, there were small engines which could be shouldered and fired like rifles. The lead bullets would have been used in these crossbow like weapons, somehow sitting in the groove that served to channel the projectile outwards when pushed forward by the slider (actionned by the two stiff arms).


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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #18 - Mar 3rd, 2009 at 10:45pm
 
Thearos,

You've convinced me I need to go have a look at this book of Rihil's. I had no idea such devices were around at such times. I agree with the concern about eroded glandes,

You probably know that one of the recent, maybe current, Balearic champions is a member here. He does not post very often, but I think he watches the forum. You may also have found some of the discussion here over the years on penetration. I don't know if he has ever slung lead, I hope he'll tell us.

If you search on 'penetration' back to the beginning of the forum quite a lot turns up.

Some idiot (!) stood down range of some pretty good slingers and described the experience here:
     http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1191158963/3#3

There was someone hurling bullets through car windscreens, and another through metal plate, the latter:
     http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1143234246/0#0

I don't remember anyone actually performing the ballistic gelatin test, although I think it was discussed. Mythbusters
are yet to take up the matter. There is also the matter of whether such a test would be definitive with such an item as a sling projectile. Given it's low velocity compared with firearms, the underlying structure to the imitation flesh might have a significant effect.

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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #19 - Mar 3rd, 2009 at 11:59pm
 
Thearos wrote on Mar 3rd, 2009 at 8:18pm:
But I wouldn't mind seeing a very good slinger (one of the modern Balearic guys ??), with a good length sling, shooting past a speed gun with lead; also shooting at a block of ballistic jelly



Bear in mind that the release velocity of the lead projectile will not be any higher than that of a similar mass stone. The only advantage of lead is that it retains its velocity better due to its much higher density.
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Thearos
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #20 - Mar 5th, 2009 at 9:32am
 
Is it also that the lead bullet, because of its particular shape (pointed at both ends, i.e. "boat-tailed") is more aerodynamic, and will retain its initial velocity ?

Whatever the original weight of the bullets, it's quite clear (I think) that they were sunstantially lighter than slingstones. A museum quality sling bullet from 200 years ago might weigh 30-40 grams; perhaps originally 45 g ? I have a feeling that a good size slinging stone might weigh 100 + gr. (This from looking at photos of the Maiden Castle slingstones, and from slinging pebbles myself). The choice of the sling bullet is then to impart high initial velocity, and derive its lethality from that, rather than the projectile's mass ?

I know this has been rehearsed a thousand times before in this forum; apologies. It also seems to me that the point of relatively light sling bullets is that y ou can pack more of them-- 100 bullets ,surely enough for a field engagment or a day's shooting during a siege, will only weigh 4.5 kg (as opposed to 100 "ballistic pebbles")

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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #21 - Mar 5th, 2009 at 3:13pm
 
I recently made a few glandes in the range of 120-150 grams. They are small compared to the stones of same mass I normally use, and they virtually dissapear as soon as they leave the pouch. The ancients used smaller 40 gram, I think, to stay as far as possible from the enemy. A 40 gram glande will reach amazing distances and is nearly invisible during flight.

I've made ballistic gel, there's nothing complicated about it. It's simply flavor-less gelatine on less water than you normally would use. Easy.
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #22 - Mar 5th, 2009 at 4:57pm
 
there have been used lead sling shots of not more than 27 gr. Perhaps the use of small glandes was a question of price, too. In many ancient armies the soldiers had to finance their weapons on their own. The lighter the shot the more shots you may afford. It was somewhere discussed on this site how many projectils an ancient soldier carried into the battle. I don't remember theresult of the discussion. In 18th century armies it was common to give each soldier about 60 cartridges.

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Thearos
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #23 - Mar 5th, 2009 at 6:39pm
 
Of course, earlier I meant 2000 years ago, not 200.

Not clear who provided the lead bullets for slingers (Rihll in fact has something on this)-- but if the names on the sling bullets are those of commanders, then at least in some cases, the ammo. was  provided by army logistics (for instance, at Olynthos, captured by Philip II i 348, the sling bullets bear the name of the Olynthians, or of Philip or his commanders-- Potalos, etc). Bullets in the name of Tissaphernes, or saying "the king's", or "Corinthians", etc, probably point the same way.

In any case, lead was pretty cheap-- a by-product of production of silver for coinage (on which see, actually, a very good article by the same Tracey Rihll, in Mattingly and Salmon, Economies beyond Agriculture in the classical world)
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #24 - Mar 12th, 2009 at 5:48pm
 
Yes, the commanders names on sling bullets give a hint that the logistic was somehow centralized. But only a part of all sling bullets had these names or any other kind of written text. The mentioning of 18 century soldiers was just for getting an idea of the dimension of provision with amunition. There is no account from antiquity about this question, at least I do not know any.

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Thearos
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Re: slings in Alexander's army.
Reply #25 - Mar 14th, 2009 at 6:49pm
 
The same problem emerges e.g with archers or peltasts-- let's say mercenaries. Very likely they supply their bow or shield, etc. But in campaign (siege, or fighting in the field), ammo. will have to be supplied by their army commander.

60, or 80 "balls" for black powder warfare is a familiar figure-- but what's the context exactly ? How long is this ration meant to last ?

A corps of 500 slingers (not at all unlikely, much larger numbers known, I think), each with 60 bullets in their pouch, will need 30,000 bullets; at 45 gr. per bullet, 1.35 tons of lead. How long does that supply last ? A single battle  ? A battle and a half ? A week's siege works ?




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