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Old 5th January 2013, 06:33 PM   #41
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If you are looking at an army of the late 17th early 18th century to take on Khan's horde, perhaps Marlborough's, which I also think would win hands down. Not just due to technology, but also discipline and tactics.
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Old 6th January 2013, 03:00 AM   #42
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That too. Arguably the most major advantage that the Mongolian army had weren't the horse archers that everyone gets a boner about, but the tactics, command structure, and a combined arms structure that was integral down to squad size. It wasn't just the horse archers, but the coherent tactics using those and shock charges and artillery (of the catapult kind) that the Europeans really had no answer to.

By the 17'th century, though, Europeans were using combined arms tactics of their own. And I think this time they would have been far ahead of the Khan's horde.
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Old 6th January 2013, 03:43 AM   #43
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Also, I'd like to talk a little about muskets and range.

What everyone knows is that muskets had about 100 yards effective range, and thus it sounds like the Mongolian horse archers could have rained arrows upon them with impunity. Actually, it's not quite so.

Muskets actually have higher muzzle velocity than a bow (about 1000 fps in the Brown Bess, for example, though specialized anti-armor muskets could go higher than that, vs 300-450 fps for an arrow from even a modern compound bow), and a dense lead bullet loses speed less quickly in flight than an arrow. The fletching causes incredible drag in an arrow.

Muskets actually had far higher range than a bow. What they didn't have was accuracy. Against a line of infantry, beyond a certain range, it was just too probable that your bullet would hit the ground in front of them or go above them.

That has some interesting implications, though:

1. That effective range depends on the size of your target. If a guy is on a horse and is basically twice as big a target, then the range at which you still have enough probability to hit something also doubles.

This is basically why everyone starts using dragoons in the 17'th century. Being a smaller target is FAR more of an advantage than anything you could do on a horse.

2. The inaccuracy is more of a problem when trying to aim at a specific person. If you have a horde of 50,000 guys charging at you, well, if you shot 50 ft too long, who cares?

3. You could actually start using muskets at higher distances if you were willing to waste ammo. And it did occasionally happen historically.

Various nations actually conducted experiments with the efficiency of smoothbore muskets in the 18'th and 19'th centuries. Sure, that's later, but it is the same weapon.

In the Hanoverian experiments in 1790 (which, granted, are a bit on the upper side for accuracy), the number of shots that hit at 100 yards was about 75% against infantry and 83% for cavalry, but at 300 yards, they still scored 33% hits against infantry, and 37.5% hits against cavalry. Another experiment from 1811 shows you could still get about 13% hits at a whole 400 yards range.

The mongolian bow is sometimes credited with being able to shoot up to 500 yards range, but at this point the lightweight mongolian arrow would be pretty much in free fall at low speed when it fell, so you didn't need much more than helmets to defeat it. Also it would be a high arc shot, with not much more accuracy than if you did the same thing with a musket.

So the muskets could still inflict significant casualties at any ranges where horse archers could do any effective shooting.

And, of course, then were the cannons, which severely out-ranged any artillery the Mongolians ever used, but that's another story for another message.
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Old 6th January 2013, 12:14 PM   #44
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Not to mention that every bow armed nation switched to fire arms as fast as they could when the chance came.
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Old 6th January 2013, 02:17 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Hans View Post
Not to mention that every bow armed nation switched to fire arms as fast as they could when the chance came.
I read that the change over was due mainly to training efficiencies. i.e. Napoleonic "boot-camp" for a line infantryman was about a month (generalization of course) and a little longer for light infantry. Training a horse archer (or longbowman) from scratch would take vastly longer.

In the Napoleonic era some Englishman actually suggested going back to the longbow to beat the French (as it outperformed the musket, especially in rate of fire). It was deemed impractical due to the difference in training times (1 month versus 2 years IIRC).
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Old 6th January 2013, 02:24 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post

In the Hanoverian experiments in 1790 (which, granted, are a bit on the upper side for accuracy), the number of shots that hit at 100 yards was about 75% against infantry and 83% for cavalry, but at 300 yards, they still scored 33% hits against infantry, and 37.5% hits against cavalry. Another experiment from 1811 shows you could still get about 13% hits at a whole 400 yards range.
That's pretty accurate - they weren't using rifles were they? The (smoothbore) tests I know of from that era were getting 40 - 50% hits per volley at 100 yards on an "infantry target" i.e. a solid target 2-yards high and 'very' wide (I forget how wide, but effectively an infantry battalion size). At 200 yards, hits were only a few percent.

Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post

And, of course, then were the cannons, which severely out-ranged any artillery the Mongolians ever used, but that's another story for another message.
Yeah, as long as the Europeans had cannons for long-range and musket/bayonet/pike for closer work then I don't see the horde winning...
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Old 6th January 2013, 05:47 PM   #47
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How much does the accuracy of individual guns really matter, though? I mean, if you're firing in blocks of men, accuracy can be 5% as long as it doesn't hit the ground and it'll still be devastating.

Not that I'm questioning your data--it's just that it seems to me that we're evaluating something under conditions they were never used in.
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Old 6th January 2013, 05:53 PM   #48
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Well, I did say they were on the high side of accuracy, which is why I included the 1811 test too.

But yeah, the way they did it was have a target 6 ft tall to represent the infantry, or IIRC 8.5 ft tall to represent cavalry, and something like 50 yards wide, so it's like a whole formation. I can't remember offhand how many shots did the Hannoverians use, but the 1811 test was with 1000 shots, and then they counted the hits.

I'm pretty sure the tests I mentioned were with smoothbores. Though I have no idea exactly which models were used, and how big or low the tolerances were. It can be that Hannover had lower tolerances or something.

One difference though -- and one reason why such tests were made -- is whether you should aim or just point the gun in the general direction and shoot, because, hey, it's not going to be accurate anyway. The 1811 test showed that actually non-aimed shots have only half the accuracy of aimed shots, even if the gun is wildly inaccurate anyway. At any rate, the 13% figure at 400 yards was for aimed shots. Non-aimed, pretty much you can halve that.

Another factor, of course, is that such tests are inherently in ideal conditions. Lab conditions, so to speak. There is no stress on the soldiers or anything. In an actual battle, it's probably safe to assume less accuracy, though I can't tell by exactly how much.
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Old 7th January 2013, 02:24 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by Giz View Post
I read that the change over was due mainly to training efficiencies. i.e. Napoleonic "boot-camp" for a line infantryman was about a month (generalization of course) and a little longer for light infantry. Training a horse archer (or longbowman) from scratch would take vastly longer.

In the Napoleonic era some Englishman actually suggested going back to the longbow to beat the French (as it outperformed the musket, especially in rate of fire). It was deemed impractical due to the difference in training times (1 month versus 2 years IIRC).
Yep that was one of the reasons, besides it was easier to provide ammo vs arrows, effectiveness vs Armoury....and you cannot see it coming
plus greater lethality
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Old 7th January 2013, 03:33 AM   #50
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
How much does the accuracy of individual guns really matter, though? I mean, if you're firing in blocks of men, accuracy can be 5% as long as it doesn't hit the ground and it'll still be devastating.

Not that I'm questioning your data--it's just that it seems to me that we're evaluating something under conditions they were never used in.
I think that 5% accuracy in this case means 5% of bullets would hit the formation and do damage. A salvo of 100 muskets would only hit 5 times, probably though not certainly 5 different men in a formation. Damaging, though not devastating.

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Old 7th January 2013, 12:36 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
I think that 5% accuracy in this case means 5% of bullets would hit the formation and do damage. A salvo of 100 muskets would only hit 5 times, probably though not certainly 5 different men in a formation. Damaging, though not devastating.

McHrozni
Then it doesn't make much sense to talk about differences in accuracy between shooting at foot soldiers vs. shooting at cavalry. Once you get either bunched together the difference is only a matter of height (speed is irrelevant to accuracy under ideal conditions), so unless the bullets shoot consistently high (a condition that can easily be accounted for--just play Halo 4's SWAT mutliplayer mode for five minutes to see that in action) there really won't be that much difference in accuracy. The fact that there's a mass of men in both cases should be a far more significant factor.

To be clear, I'm not going for a "Gotcha!" moment by any means--I'm sure there's something I'm not seeing here, I'm just not sure what, so I'm presenting my arguments for you to rip apart. I'm certainly no expert on muskets, and my knowledge of musket tactics is, while not non-existent, certainly limited.
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Old 8th January 2013, 08:28 AM   #52
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But just wait till the Khan/Alexander/Tamerlan of modern war/weapons pops up, kiss it goodbye folks.
Khaaaaaaaan!
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Old 8th January 2013, 01:12 PM   #53
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Interestingly, analysis of blackpowder battles provide some of the best evidence for the phenomena of non-firing in combat (that is, combatants being unable to shoot someone, and either firing over the enemy's head, or not firing at all).
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Old 9th January 2013, 05:45 PM   #54
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There is a lot of that, to be sure.

However, I think it's hard to really be sure how many actually didn't shoot, how much is accounted for by inaccuracy (I've actually seen maths indicating that the bullet could deviate as incredibly much as over 20 degrees,) how many are malfunctions (especially from the age of matchlocks, there were a LOT of problems), etc.

I mean, even in firing tests against big rectangular targets, accuracy varies a LOT. As Giz noticed, there are smoothbore tests where the accuracy of firing at those targets as 100 yards is as low as HALF of that in the Hannover test.

If it were on the battlefield, you could rightfully think, "hmm, maybe half didn't fire". But against a simple non-living rectangle it's hard to imagine any such psychological mechanisms activating.
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Old 9th January 2013, 05:55 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Then it doesn't make much sense to talk about differences in accuracy between shooting at foot soldiers vs. shooting at cavalry. Once you get either bunched together the difference is only a matter of height (speed is irrelevant to accuracy under ideal conditions), so unless the bullets shoot consistently high (a condition that can easily be accounted for--just play Halo 4's SWAT mutliplayer mode for five minutes to see that in action) there really won't be that much difference in accuracy. The fact that there's a mass of men in both cases should be a far more significant factor.

To be clear, I'm not going for a "Gotcha!" moment by any means--I'm sure there's something I'm not seeing here, I'm just not sure what, so I'm presenting my arguments for you to rip apart. I'm certainly no expert on muskets, and my knowledge of musket tactics is, while not non-existent, certainly limited.
What IMHO you seem to miss, or rather, not properly get a feel for, is the INCREDIBLE inaccuracy of smoothbores. As I was partially saying in the previous message, Clausewitz's observation about units engaging units twice their size... well, when you actually look at company sizes and distances, you get the bewildering result that some of the bullets must have flown as far as over 20 degrees off from where you were aiming.

Probably not most. In fact I would assume it must have been a gauss curve, with most coming closer to the centre than that. But still, you know, it's an incredible spread.

So it's not a matter of systematically shooting too high or too low, but that a lot of bullets would randomly fly too high or too low, and you had no idea what your next shot would do.

Imagine basically that you replaced every squad with one shotgun, and the pellets fly in a cone. Each pellet represents one smoothbore bullet. Well, when you shoot at a target at 100 yards, some of that cone will go above it and some will go below it. And using an 8.5 ft tall target instead of a 6 ft tall one will mean more of that circle (the section of that cone at that distance) falls on the target.
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Old 10th January 2013, 05:13 AM   #56
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Cavalry versus canon.

During the Battle of Waterloo, British Cavalry charged the French Grande Batterie. They caused the gun crews to flee or be killed and this put guns out of action.

Just as I was pushing one of our men back into the ranks I saw him fall at my feet from a sabre slash. I turned round instantly - to see English cavalry forcing their way into our midst and hacking us to pieces. Just as it is difficult, if not impossible, for the best cavalry to break into infantry who are formed into squares and who defend themselves with coolness and daring, so it is true that once the ranks have been penetrated, then resistance is useless and nothing remains for the cavalry to do but to slaughter at almost no risk to themselves. This what happened, in vain our poor fellows stood up and stretched out their arms; they could not reach far enough to bayonet these cavalrymen mounted on powerful horses, and the few shots fired in chaotic melee were just as fatal to our own men as to the English. And so we found ourselves defenseless against a relentless enemy who, in the intoxication of battle, sabred even our drummers and fifers without mercy.

Captain Duthilt (1815)

Charge of the Light Brigade. Against flanking and frontal fire British cavalry made it to well defended cannons and were able to scatter some of the gunners.

Polish Lancers charge at Battle of Somosierra. Another frontal attack against fortified artillery.
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Old 10th January 2013, 09:54 AM   #57
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The Mongol mounted archers are given a near mystical status but I wonder if they were just the guys who could put the most projectiles in the air.
The Mongol bowman could send an arrow several hundred yards but what is the percentage of hits?
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Old 10th January 2013, 03:46 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann
What IMHO you seem to miss, or rather, not properly get a feel for, is the INCREDIBLE inaccuracy of smoothbores. As I was partially saying in the previous message, Clausewitz's observation about units engaging units twice their size... well, when you actually look at company sizes and distances, you get the bewildering result that some of the bullets must have flown as far as over 20 degrees off from where you were aiming.
Let me think this through....Say you draw a cone 20 degrees in all directions with the apex just inside the barrel of the gun (where the bullets start to go in a random direction). The target zone isn't the center of the cone, but a band crossing the center (I'm assuming the cone will be centered on the center of mass, so increasing size increases above and below the cone roughly equally). You can go 20 degrees left or right and still hit someone either way; it's just a question of how many degrees up and down you can go before you start missing.

I know that a lot of bullets are going to go flying overhead, or hit the ground in front of the enemy. My question is, given that the enemy is in a mass, would there be any MORE bullets missingi with cavalry vs. foot soldiers? I mean, yeah, there would be more, but would it be a significant increase?

Quote:
how many are malfunctions
There is that. Misfires mean that you'd have holes in the overlapping shooting areas.
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Old 10th January 2013, 08:47 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
There is a lot of that, to be sure.

However, I think it's hard to really be sure how many actually didn't shoot, how much is accounted for by inaccuracy (I've actually seen maths indicating that the bullet could deviate as incredibly much as over 20 degrees,) how many are malfunctions (especially from the age of matchlocks, there were a LOT of problems), etc.

I mean, even in firing tests against big rectangular targets, accuracy varies a LOT. As Giz noticed, there are smoothbore tests where the accuracy of firing at those targets as 100 yards is as low as HALF of that in the Hannover test.

If it were on the battlefield, you could rightfully think, "hmm, maybe half didn't fire". But against a simple non-living rectangle it's hard to imagine any such psychological mechanisms activating.


The non-firing rates are based on recreations of actual battles. There are countless examples of entire battalions standing 50yds apart and exchanging fire for hours with each side taking minimal casualties. There's simply no way that's possible unless substantial numbers of men were deliberately not shooting the enemy.

Another compelling piece of evidence is multi-loaded muskets. Given the value of a loaded musket on a blackpowder battlefield, they should be a rare thing, and while accidental double-loading and so on was certainly relatively common, and a failure to fire could result in a second loading, the next firing will simply expel the double-loaded musket. Something like a Brown Bess will quite happily fire with quite a number of reloads, and they were quite reliable muskets.

After Gettysburg quite a comprehensive summary was made of the recovered muskets, and not only were an enormous number loaded, but many were loaded multiple times. And we're not talking twice or three times. One musket was loaded twenty seven times. The high number of reloads indicates soldiers were holding position in the line, going through the reload drill while exposed to fire, and then simply skipped the pulling of the trigger and loaded again. Over and over again. Possibly for hours.
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Old 10th January 2013, 11:46 PM   #60
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Here's a quote from Why the West Rules, For Now that I think is material to this thread:
Quote:
Around 1500, mounted archers from the steppes still regularly beat infantry from agricultural kingdoms. By 1600, they sometimes did so. But by 1700 it was almost unheard of.
Which, if true, suggests that the european army would win.
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Old 11th January 2013, 06:03 AM   #61
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Did anyone check the condition of those muskets, though? As I was saying, malfunctions were pretty common, and some modes of failure would make the musket simply unable to fire any more unless corrected. E.g., if the flint had broken.

After the first salvo or two, the soldier would be practically deafened anyway, and the thundering of muskets from left and right would make it impossible anyway to hear your own gun. The smoke would make it rather hard to tell if there's anything coming from your gun too.

Of course, there's the matter of recoil and eventually noticing that the rod doesn't go far in the barrel.

Still, I believe that a soldier who was under tremendous stress and anxiety, in fact, a soldier who's scared out of his mind, could simply go through the motions even though he does pull the trigger, but the gun can't fire any more.

Again, I'm not saying all of them. I'm sure there were a LOT who couldn't fire upon another human. But, as I was saying, I just have to wonder what the real percentages are, once you factor in all other modes of failure.
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Old 11th January 2013, 11:48 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
Let me think this through....Say you draw a cone 20 degrees in all directions with the apex just inside the barrel of the gun (where the bullets start to go in a random direction). The target zone isn't the center of the cone, but a band crossing the center (I'm assuming the cone will be centered on the center of mass, so increasing size increases above and below the cone roughly equally). You can go 20 degrees left or right and still hit someone either way; it's just a question of how many degrees up and down you can go before you start missing.
Pretty much. Assuming that the bore is cylindrical and not noticeably oval, I would assume that SOME of the bullets would also go as far as 20 degrees upwards or downwards. Probably few, but yeah, as you've said, that's going to be what limits what percentage are hits.

Or for some... less extreme estimates, in a modern shotgun the rule of thumb for the cone most pellets fly in is, last I've read, something like an inch deviation for every yard distance. At 100 yards, this would mean a pellet could hit up to 100 inches higher or lower than where you aim. That's up to 8.3 ft too high or too low.

Of course, most modern shotguns have a choke to tighten the pattern. Smoothbores from the period would be at best cylinder bore, i.e., more like equivalent to a sawn off shotgun for spread. And at worst they'd actually widen at the muzzle to speed up reloading, but that also increases the spread.

Anyway, that's not arguing against anything you've said, but just some other set of numbers to estimate with.

Originally Posted by Dinwar View Post
I know that a lot of bullets are going to go flying overhead, or hit the ground in front of the enemy. My question is, given that the enemy is in a mass, would there be any MORE bullets missingi with cavalry vs. foot soldiers? I mean, yeah, there would be more, but would it be a significant increase?
Well, actually on the contrary. Assuming there are no significant gaps in the cavalry formation, fewer bullets would miss against cavalry. It's a bigger target, so it's a taller horizontal band through that circle.

Or, well, that's how it worked with the targets used in such tests. As I mentioned before, they used targets that looked something like a 50 yard wide band, and 6 ft tall for infantry, 8.5 ft tall for cavalry. So, yeah, the intersection of that target and the cone would be a taller band. More percentage of the circle would fall inside that band for the taller cavalry target, hence more bullets would hit. Which obviously mean fewer would miss, since P(miss)=1-P(hit).

As I was saying, there is a good reason for why if you had a soldier and a horse in that age, a lot of nations discovered that it's better to have that soldier dismount and shoot a musket on foot.
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Old 11th January 2013, 12:03 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann
Anyway, that's not arguing against anything you've said, but just some other set of numbers to estimate with.
Thanks! Those are exactly the kinds of details I thought I might be missing.

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Well, actually on the contrary.
Um....Uh...Yeah....That's what I meant.....

Sorry, this was a stupid error while typing--the brain was saying one thing, the fingers said something else.

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As I was saying, there is a good reason for why if you had a soldier and a horse in that age, a lot of nations discovered that it's better to have that soldier dismount and shoot a musket on foot.
How did that work, exactly? Dismounting under fire seems a bit, well, stupid--at that point I'd rather do a cavalry charge in hopes of disrupting the enemy line. Dismounting is a lot of time standing still being shot at, and forming ranks that would be even marginally effective would be even more. Would they go to just outside musket range, dismount, form up, and attack?

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Still, I believe that a soldier who was under tremendous stress and anxiety, in fact, a soldier who's scared out of his mind, could simply go through the motions even though he does pull the trigger, but the gun can't fire any more.
What were the SOPs for when a rifle broke down during firing? I know that they did repairs before and after battles (replaced flints, that sort of thing), but what were they expected to do while in battle?

Honestly, I know more about the navy during musket warfare than the army, and the navy has never had a high view of army protocols. My information has come from biased sorces, which tend to view soldiers as unnecessarily mechanical in nature and unable to adapt to changing conditions.
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Old 12th January 2013, 05:12 AM   #64
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Ah, yes, I'm no stranger myself to writing the wrong word more often than I'd like.

As for dragoons, the whole idea about mounted infantry isn't to ride up to the enemy and dismount, but basically the horses are just transportation. You ride up to the battle and dismount before it even started. Or if you have to redeploy quickly on the battlefield, you redeploy well beyond the distance where they have a prayer to actually hit. Then form a line (or later a square) and work as infantry from there.
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Old 12th January 2013, 03:35 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Did anyone check the condition of those muskets, though? As I was saying, malfunctions were pretty common, and some modes of failure would make the musket simply unable to fire any more unless corrected. E.g., if the flint had broken.
These were functioning muskets. And the numbers make malfunction doubtful. When you consider that, in battle, a musket spends 95% of its time unloaded, and given the value of a loaded musket, it should be expected that a statistical distribution of recovered muskets (that is, muskets recovered from the dead) would produce mostly unloaded ones. It's remarkable that of the 27,574 usable muskets recovered from the battlefield, almost 90% were loaded. 12,000 were loaded more than once, and 6,000 were loaded between 3 and 10 times.


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
After the first salvo or two, the soldier would be practically deafened anyway, and the thundering of muskets from left and right would make it impossible anyway to hear your own gun. The smoke would make it rather hard to tell if there's anything coming from your gun too.

Of course, there's the matter of recoil and eventually noticing that the rod doesn't go far in the barrel.

Still, I believe that a soldier who was under tremendous stress and anxiety, in fact, a soldier who's scared out of his mind, could simply go through the motions even though he does pull the trigger, but the gun can't fire any more.

Again, I'm not saying all of them. I'm sure there were a LOT who couldn't fire upon another human. But, as I was saying, I just have to wonder what the real percentages are, once you factor in all other modes of failure.
These are usable muskets, and to a drilled infantryman it would be obvious if a musket was already loaded even once or twice. To have loaded a musket ten times, can only have happened deliberately.
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Old 12th January 2013, 05:54 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
The non-firing rates are based on recreations of actual battles. There are countless examples of entire battalions standing 50yds apart and exchanging fire for hours with each side taking minimal casualties
Really - please provide examples.

I think that generally there was slaughter when battalions stood to to toe in 17th - 19th C battles, unless one side or the other had some sort of cover or other advantage.

I have heard of the individual reluctance to shoot issue but I suspect that its much less likely in a directly threatened formed body than a single soldier in a fox hole (I heard the anecdote with respect to US soldiers in WW2).

That said - I would be genuinely interested if you can give me contrary evidence.
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Old 12th January 2013, 06:03 PM   #67
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Quote:
and the navy has never had a high view of army protocols
And the Army has never had a high view of navy protocols. )
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Old 12th January 2013, 10:59 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
Really - please provide examples.
The British Defense Force conducted a comprehensive study of 19th and 20th Century battles in the 1980s, in part to assess the validity of SLA Marshall's findings from WW2 with respect to other battles. They found the real-world lethality of units didn't match up with their theoretical lethality.


Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
I think that generally there was slaughter when battalions stood to to toe in 17th - 19th C battles, unless one side or the other had some sort of cover or other advantage.
The vast majority of blackpowder battlefield deaths are from artillery fire. Even at very close range, historic battles show relatively low hit rates; for example at Albuera, British infantry at 100yd range achieved hit rates of approximately 5%. Yet the same muskets, tested for accuracy, found hit rates of well over 50% at 160yds, and over 25% at 300yds. Napier recalled many occasions in the Peninsula War when 300 British troops would fire at short ranges, without achieving a single hit on the target.

At Marengo, two Battalions of French infantry engaged Austrian Grenadiers at point blank range for fifteen minutes before both forces withdrew, the French with only about 50% casualties, the Austrians less (a single Battalion, shooting at point blank range, should comfortably be able to kill 7,500 men or so in fifteen minutes).

There are even examples of units entirely exhausting their ammunition, leaving their enemy still intact.

While the theoretical lethality of a Civil War battalion was 500-1,000 men per minute, actual battlefield lethality was typically 1 or 2 men per minute. British infantry in the Peninsula War expended nearly 500 rounds of ammunition per hit, despite being amongst the most disciplined and well trained infantry in Europe at the time.

A Sergeant of the 51st Regiment of Foot at Waterloo recounted an attack by 100 Cuirassiers that was stopped at point blank range by a single volley. Yet when he went over to inspect the damage, there were only 12 horses and 8 cavalrymen killed - the rest had fled.


Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
I have heard of the individual reluctance to shoot issue but I suspect that its much less likely in a directly threatened formed body than a single soldier in a fox hole (I heard the anecdote with respect to US soldiers in WW2).
The evidence indicates otherwise. There's numerous accounts through history of officers being frustrated at their troops unwillingness to fire at the enemy (in fact the resistance to killing frustrated military commanders as far back as the Roman Empire). In WW2, for example, NCOs consistently found that troops would fire only if the NCO was directly in front of them ordering them to shoot. The moment the NCO moved along the line they would stop. This, incidentally, matches up with the findings from the Milgram experiment relating to compliance and the proximity of authority figures.

In a large formation a soldier is more likely to get away with not firing at the enemy because it's harder for anyone to notice if they're not doing their job properly. Statistically, any group will include some who are willing to kill, and they effectively conceal those who aren't, unless you start comparing and analysing theoretical lethality with battlefield lethality. Many officers were so frustrated with their troops firing over the enemy's head precisely because it was so easy to do without being noticed; a soldier had to elevate their weapon significantly before an NCO would notice they weren't aiming at the enemy.

Exposure to danger doesn't seem to factor into it. It had nothing to do with cowardice; indeed many soldiers engaged in much more dangerous activities during fire fights, such as carrying ammunition forward and retrieving the wounded. Anything to avoid having to kill another human.
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Old 13th January 2013, 02:34 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
These were functioning muskets. And the numbers make malfunction doubtful. When you consider that, in battle, a musket spends 95% of its time unloaded, and given the value of a loaded musket, it should be expected that a statistical distribution of recovered muskets (that is, muskets recovered from the dead) would produce mostly unloaded ones. It's remarkable that of the 27,574 usable muskets recovered from the battlefield, almost 90% were loaded. 12,000 were loaded more than once, and 6,000 were loaded between 3 and 10 times.
I find it a bit of a doubtful induction to expect 95% unloaded muskets, just because 95% of the time it's being loaded. That's like expecting that if people sleep about 30% of the time, then 30% of traffic accidents are produced by sleeping drivers.

I give that example especially because it's the same shifting it to different intervals. A musket was only unloaded 95% of the time when you were actually firing it. It is unloaded 0% of the time, when you're marching towards the enemy, except if you're doing a bayonet charge (which IIRC did happen at Gettysburg too.) Death by artillery fire happens overwhelmingly then. The majority of deaths, as you said yourself, happened via artillery fire.

In fact, 90% of the muskets being loaded is exactly what I'd expect to happen there, regardless of whether they were going to shoot or not.

Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
These are usable muskets, and to a drilled infantryman it would be obvious if a musket was already loaded even once or twice. To have loaded a musket ten times, can only have happened deliberately.
Yes, but only a fraction of the muskets were loaded ten times. According to your own numbers, only about 20% of the muskets were loaded between 3 and 10 times. The ones who actually were at the far far end of that spectrum would be a small fraction of even those 20%.
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Old 13th January 2013, 03:49 AM   #70
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I find it a bit of a doubtful induction to expect 95% unloaded muskets, just because 95% of the time it's being loaded. That's like expecting that if people sleep about 30% of the time, then 30% of traffic accidents are produced by sleeping drivers.

I give that example especially because it's the same shifting it to different intervals. A musket was only unloaded 95% of the time when you were actually firing it. It is unloaded 0% of the time, when you're marching towards the enemy, except if you're doing a bayonet charge (which IIRC did happen at Gettysburg too.) Death by artillery fire happens overwhelmingly then. The majority of deaths, as you said yourself, happened via artillery fire.
I'm not saying 95% of muskets shouldn't have been loaded. I'm saying it doesn't make sense for 90% to be loaded. Which it doesn't. I think your metaphor is ridiculously flawed (a driver should never be sleeping, whereas a soldier on a battlefield can be expected to spent most of their time with an empty musket). I also don't agree with your assessment of when most deaths occurred.


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
In fact, 90% of the muskets being loaded is exactly what I'd expect to happen there, regardless of whether they were going to shoot or not.
I disagree.



Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Yes, but only a fraction of the muskets were loaded ten times. According to your own numbers, only about 20% of the muskets were loaded between 3 and 10 times. The ones who actually were at the far far end of that spectrum would be a small fraction of even those 20%.
Only twenty percent? That's an enormous number of muskets to have been incorrectly loaded at least twice.
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Old 13th January 2013, 04:15 AM   #71
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Musket loading were drilled extensively as it is a pretty complicated thing to do in formation.
For economic reasons it was rarely done with live ammo.

Could it be that under stress soldiers fell back on routine and overlooked the lack of bang/recoil between reloadings?
Or perhaps hesitation in firing leaved you with a still loaded weapon when the RELOAD order comes?
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Old 13th January 2013, 06:12 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
The British Defense Force conducted a comprehensive study of 19th and 20th Century battles in the 1980s, in part to assess the validity of SLA Marshall's findings from WW2 with respect to other battles. They found the real-world lethality of units didn't match up with their theoretical lethality.
But why would anyone expect it to? There are any number of reasons for that beyond simply soldiers refusing to fire at the enemy (although I do not dispute that this would be a factor).

Quote:
The vast majority of blackpowder battlefield deaths are from artillery fire.
I can imagine this could be true though it would be interesting to see some actual figures. I did a quick Google but could not find an analysis immediately to hand. You mentioned 'deaths' though - what about casualties in general (i.e. a musket or sabre hit is more likely to wound rather than kill (versus cannon shot)?

Quote:
Even at very close range, historic battles show relatively low hit rates; for example at Albuera, British infantry at 100yd range achieved hit rates of approximately 5%. Yet the same muskets, tested for accuracy, found hit rates of well over 50% at 160yds, and over 25% at 300yds. Napier recalled many occasions in the Peninsula War when 300 British troops would fire at short ranges, without achieving a single hit on the target.
Yes but I would not attribute all of that inefficiency to reluctance to kill.

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At Marengo, two Battalions of French infantry engaged Austrian Grenadiers at point blank range for fifteen minutes before both forces withdrew, the French with only about 50% casualties
Relative to what they could theoretically have inflicted, the casualties might be deemed low but 50% is a pretty high figure from an absolute point of view. This is the kind of scenario I had in mind when I said 'toe to toe' and 'slaughter'.

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A Sergeant of the 51st Regiment of Foot at Waterloo recounted an attack by 100 Cuirassiers that was stopped at point blank range by a single volley. Yet when he went over to inspect the damage, there were only 12 horses and 8 cavalrymen killed - the rest had fled.
So, under the following circumstances:

- Under great duress of battle
- Having lost many casualties themselves
- With many weapons and men surely not performing optimally
- Being deployed in a formation that was optimised for repulsion of cavalry not for bringing the most firepower to bear
- Against a rapidly moving target
- Likely with not the best visibility

They inflicted by your figures 8% / 12% deaths on the French unit with a single volley. That does not sound too shabby to me and does not take into account wounded casualties, some of whom would have likely died later and others made inactive or ineffective as a result.

Quote:
The evidence indicates otherwise. There's numerous accounts through history of officers being frustrated at their troops unwillingness to fire at the enemy (in fact the resistance to killing frustrated military commanders as far back as the Roman Empire).
Fair enough - I am not disputing it as a factor.

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In a large formation a soldier is more likely to get away with not firing at the enemy because it's harder for anyone to notice if they're not doing their job properly.
Harder to notice is true but 'more' is not necessarily so. Remember in a previous paragraph you described the effect of NCOs being present. In a tight formation there would be NCOs every few yards (plus a scattering of commissioned officers of course).

Quote:
indeed many soldiers engaged in much more dangerous activities during fire fights, such as carrying ammunition forward and retrieving the wounded.
2 more reasons why units would not have been as lethal in practice as their on paper manpower and firepower might suggest.
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Old 13th January 2013, 06:54 AM   #73
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You should listen to Dan Carlins "Hard Core History" podcast his "Wrath of the Khans" series is (part 1,2,,3 and 4) amazing.
Great info about mongol tactics, each riding warrior literally had a stable of horses that he brought along with him, not just riding mounts but mares and colts, alot of the mongol diet was mares milk.
Kill the horses (few shells in the stable) and the mongols could not move.
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Old 13th January 2013, 11:26 AM   #74
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Originally Posted by gumboot View Post
Only twenty percent? That's an enormous number of muskets to have been incorrectly loaded at least twice.
Well, considering that you've basically argued that the difference between an expected roughly 50% and a calculated 8-12% or so is because of soldiers not firing, I'd expect more than 20% of the muskets to explain that kind of difference.

Additionally, well, what would you expect to do anyway? Getting the bullet out any other than shooting it way involved a kind of specialized corkscrew -- in fact, literally the corkscrew evolved from that tool -- and some time. You weren't going to get either while standing and shooting at each other.

Also, I think the paper cartridges didn't really help there. You had to open a new one even just to refill the pan after a mis-fire.

If I'm allowed a detour at this point, back when I was in the army, in an AA battalion to be precise, I kinda had my doubts that our guns would train fast enough on something appearing fast and low from behind some treetops, what with airplanes and helicopters getting better all the time. So I asked a lieutenant just that: would we expect to hit much? He said something like, "Even if you don't, you can still give the pilot a scare."

To return to the topic, well, I'm wondering how many officers from the 18'th-19'th century had the same idea as that lieutenant. If you have some soldiers whose guns just became useless... well, they can still fake it and hope to give the enemy more of a scare.
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Old 13th January 2013, 12:24 PM   #75
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Originally Posted by kedo1981 View Post
You should listen to Dan Carlins "Hard Core History" podcast his "Wrath of the Khans" series is (part 1,2,,3 and 4) amazing.
Great info about mongol tactics, each riding warrior literally had a stable of horses that he brought along with him, not just riding mounts but mares and colts, alot of the mongol diet was mares milk.
Kill the horses (few shells in the stable) and the mongols could not move.
Chain shot would work too. Wouldn't necessarily have to kill them, just take the legs out from enough of them that the screaming causes the rest to bolt.

Or, even better, shoot the guys guarding the stables and take the horses. This denies the Mongols the use of the horses, provides YOU with horses, and if nothing else can feed the troops (I know some object to eating horse, but I've never seen any problem with it--and if you're a soldier fresh meat probably isn't going to be turned down so long as it's not human).

Originally Posted by HansMustermann
Additionally, well, what would you expect to do anyway? Getting the bullet out any other than shooting it way involved a kind of specialized corkscrew -- in fact, literally the corkscrew evolved from that tool -- and some time. You weren't going to get either while standing and shooting at each other.
My dad once demonstrated how to load a black powder pistol to a cop friend of the family. Once it was loaded the cop asked "Okay, how do you UNload it?" Dad said "Like this", pointed it in the air (he loaded it with cardboard, not a bullet), and fired. Mom was MAD, and the only reason he didn't get fined was that when the cops showed up there was already one on-scene (and looking far more sheepish than my dad did).
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Old 13th January 2013, 02:20 PM   #76
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Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
But why would anyone expect it to?
What do you mean? The theoretical lethality rate was calculated precisely to come up with their expected lethality.


Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
There are any number of reasons for that beyond simply soldiers refusing to fire at the enemy (although I do not dispute that this would be a factor).
Such as? I can't think of anything that would explain such widespread, consistent discrepencies. And the researchers seemed to agree, as they concluded that Marshall's findings from WW2 could be supported by earlier historic battles.

Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
I can imagine this could be true though it would be interesting to see some actual figures. I did a quick Google but could not find an analysis immediately to hand. You mentioned 'deaths' though - what about casualties in general (i.e. a musket or sabre hit is more likely to wound rather than kill (versus cannon shot)?
I have seen figures on it in the past, but I can't find anything after a quick Google search either for deaths. For invalids; that is wounded who are hospitalised but expected to recover, it changes significantly, probably because artillery injury was much more likely to be fatal. Two different sets of figures for recouperating wounded gives:

(1715)
71.4% - firearms
15.8% - swords
10.0% - artillery
2.8% - bayonet

(1762)
69% - musket
14% - saber
13% - artillery
2% - bayonet

This is from a piece about the very low level of bayonet wounds (it was more of a psychological weapon, and very few bayonet charges actually made contact with the enemy) so they don't really make much of an effort to distinguish artillery and musket injuries, preferring to isolate bayonet wounds from other types.

Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
Yes but I would not attribute all of that inefficiency to reluctance to kill.
I can't think of anything else that would explains such significant discrepancies between how they should have performed and how they actually performed. What's notable is how remarkably consistent this pattern is; across different battlefields, different time periods, different nations, different units, and with different weapons.



Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
Relative to what they could theoretically have inflicted, the casualties might be deemed low but 50% is a pretty high figure from an absolute point of view. This is the kind of scenario I had in mind when I said 'toe to toe' and 'slaughter'.
Absolute points of view are meaningless. Even if only one soldier in each line was firing, if the units stood "exchanging fire" for long enough they'd reach 50% casualties. Fifteen minutes means at least 45 volleys, perhaps as many as 90. That's an enormous amount of firepower. There isn't anything that can explain two infantry battalions exchanging fire at close range with such low kill rates except deliberate failure to engage the enemy by the vast majority of troops. And we see it happen again, and again, and again, so it can't be an oddity, but a universal characteristic of people.




Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
So, under the following circumstances:

- Under great duress of battle
- Having lost many casualties themselves
- With many weapons and men surely not performing optimally
- Being deployed in a formation that was optimised for repulsion of cavalry not for bringing the most firepower to bear
- Against a rapidly moving target
- Likely with not the best visibility

They inflicted by your figures 8% / 12% deaths on the French unit with a single volley. That does not sound too shabby to me and does not take into account wounded casualties, some of whom would have likely died later and others made inactive or ineffective as a result.
According to the account, it was the unit's first engagement of the battle, visibility was exceptional, and the 8 dead were the only casualties. There were no wounded.

The unit had a strength of 602, which means in square the single volley would have been from ~150 weapons. That's a 14% hit rate at point blank range. That's not very good for battle hardened veterans (they fought in every major engagement of the Peninsula War)... Remember, the same musket, at 320 yards, has a 25% accuracy rate.

It should also be mentioned that this was a Light Infantry Battalion, which was considered an elite unit, with significantly superior shooters than regular line infantry. The only units expected to be more lethal would be Riflemen.



Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
Harder to notice is true but 'more' is not necessarily so. Remember in a previous paragraph you described the effect of NCOs being present. In a tight formation there would be NCOs every few yards (plus a scattering of commissioned officers of course).
I don't think the concentration would be as dense as you think, and in tight formation like that an NCO isn't able to move along the line, so they can only influence those in their immediate vicinity.

This contrasts with the more open gun lines of WWI and WWII battles where NCOs would move along the line freely.


Originally Posted by hodgy View Post
2 more reasons why units would not have been as lethal in practice as their on paper manpower and firepower might suggest.
The point is, they shouldn't be performing those duties. When your units is under fire, you should not be doing secondary tasks. You should be firing your weapon. Aside from the greater risk of being killed, if they survive they risk punishment, which in historic times could be severe.

It has to be asked, what could be strong enough to drive a soldier to put themselves at greater risk of injury to perform a task that they shouldn't be performing, and that could see them severely punished or even shot for breaking formation?

The same question has to be asked of soldiers who would willingly hold formation 50-80yds from the enemy, perfectly executing their loading drill, but each time failing to pull the trigger.

There are of course numerous little explanations that could explain isolated examples of this sort of behaviour in certain circumstances, but the only thing that I can think of that explains how widespread this seems to have been is a powerful psychological resistance to killing.
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Old 13th January 2013, 02:34 PM   #77
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Originally Posted by Toke View Post
Musket loading were drilled extensively as it is a pretty complicated thing to do in formation.
For economic reasons it was rarely done with live ammo.

Could it be that under stress soldiers fell back on routine and overlooked the lack of bang/recoil between reloadings?
Or perhaps hesitation in firing leaved you with a still loaded weapon when the RELOAD order comes?

I'm sure this happened in isolation, but not to the levels we're talking of. Bear in mind that tests found that a musket loaded up to eight or nine times would still quite happily expel all rounds when fired, without damaging the weapon.

The real issue though, is that lethality rates of units were just too low. When your line infantry are consistently performing in battle at a fraction of what their lethality should be (taking into account the specific circumstances of the engagement), something more profound is at work, particularly as it appears to be as common amongst the much better trained and disciplined British as amongst other armies.
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Old 13th January 2013, 05:04 PM   #78
Toke
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The comparison between firing at a unit sized target and an actual unit does not differentiate between stress* and reluctance to kill.
What bothers me is that the reluctance have been reported from some wars, but not from anything recent.

I would imagine that it the phenomenon were universal it would also appear nowadays, in wars were reporting and awareness of the "problem" were greater.

*Maybe the drilling that work so well without powder kind of fail when running on autopilot with powder. E.g. training priming the pan without actual powder makes for poor priming skills?
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