Medieval Handgonnes

Anything with a vague historical bent

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Medieval Handgonnes

Post by Marcus Woodhouse »

Sean McLachlan. Osprey Publishing House 2010. Part of the new Weapons series.
Focusing roughly upon the years between 1325 and 1525 (which is great for me as the period I portray is slap bang in the middle and gets the bulk of the book's attention) this illustrative book looks at the development of the early black powder weapons.
As well as studying the evolution of the hand cannon, hackbutt and arquebus it discusses how improvements in saltpeter production and gunpowder manufacture in the later 1300's led to increasingly powerful and effective handgonnes. The manufacture of hand gun barrles and the firing mechanisims are also briefly looked at.
The author investigates how and where handgonnes were used on the battlefield and in seigecraft and the close relationship between the crossbowman and handgonner in western European warfare. He constantly challenges the myth that these were weapons more dangerous to the user then their opponent or that they were merely there to frighten the enemy (they were pretty much a standard feature of most armies by the start of the 15th century). He also examines modern experiments including those carried out by re-enactors in the use and deployment of the gonne.
Like any osprey book it is unlikely to contain anything new to someone who uses or has already an interest in medieval gunnery, but for someone like myself who is just an interested observer it is well worth a yander.

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Re: Medieval Handgonnes

Post by Langley »

Actually Marcus - some of the illustrations were completely new to Lady L and she has been a gunner all her re-enacting life! I bought it for her for Christmas as the group seems to be acquiring more hand gonnes as well as the cannon so perhaps she had not been looking for pics of smaller weapons before but we too thouroughly recfcomend it.

New Year's Resolution... Stop reading reviews by Marcus. It costs me a fortune on Amazon every time he spots a good book. Seriously - keep up the reviews. I value your reviews highly! Happy New Year.

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Re: Medieval Handgonnes

Post by randallmoffett »

I have not seen more than a few pages preview but I'd like to look at it. To me the main issue is that most writers either make guns 'the weapon' of the time vastly blowing its use or effect overboard or act like it was a toy that was useless besides being a really cool fire breathing mascot. I get tired of reading how modern replicas with modern powder with all sorts of modern accessories means the medieval counterpart did x,y or z.

I do wonder about how damaging guns were to themselves and their gunners. I know of two civic accounts in Southampton detailing how dangerous 2nd half of the 15th firearms could be as men had weapons and powder explode in their faces. One Town Gunner of Soton was paid to replace two pairs of clothing and given long term leave of sorts after he was caught on fire moving gun powder..... I only assume he was not doing so well if he was not going back to work. And the fact that so many of the finds of guns in context are ruptured is something that makes me think there still was a level of danger not seen with more traditional missile weapons.

I found Bert Hall's Renaissance Warfare to be the best book on the subject which is so in depth and detailed I sort of doubt it will be trumped in my lifetime (and I am more or less young, sort of). As to how effective the weapons are for their respective periods, Hall's work is unrivaled in putting it into a solid and easy to understand context. Now if you are easily lost and share no love for chemistry you may wish to avoid the technical sections on the powder itself and how it worked, though they are really useful to understanding weapons effect as well.

Just put it on interlibrary loan.


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