Ranged Weapons
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August 27, 2011, 5:12 pm

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The Sigurdian Bowgun


"The Sigurdian style Bowgun is the most popular recent take on the common Arbalest. While it has been commonplace in the Sigurdian kingdoms and in Caern for over half a century, it has only recently found use on the continent - but it looks like it's here to stay."

-Daaren Hurst, Imperial Master at Arms

The Sigurdian style Bowgun's construction is not complex in any way, nor is it hard to use. It was inspired by the invention of a breach loaded archenbusse, and the rifle-esque design of the stock reflects that imitation. Though slightly more expensive to produce (it requires two bows instead of one) it offers a substantial boost in puncturing power, accuracy and range over contemporary bowguns or arbalests.

The design came about during the reign of King Caelehad II, a Caernian king, who had a love for the arbalest. He notoriously squeezed as many men onto a single castle wall as he could, to put as many bolts in a volley as humanly possible. His personal love for the weapon, was overshadowed by the overarching issue with the way warfare in Caern was being conducted - with Equiux mounted light cavalry that would perform lightning quick bombings at the base of the castle walls. Regular arbalests just didn't have the kick necessary to travel fast enough to either penetrate an oncoming cavalryman's carapace armor. By the time the Cavalry started suffering casualties, the bombs had been set, and the cavalry had began their retreat. He commissioned a team of Coggite engineers to make something with the kick of the much feared "Caernian Tallbow" that wouldn't require years of training to operate. The Bowgun was the result of nearly three years hard work - but it paid off.

The bowgun could easily pierce the armor of oncoming cavalrymen at staggering distances. The result; less Cavalrymen made it to the wall with explosives.  Those who did, quickly found that the bowgun had all the pep required to chase down fleeing cavalry, and punch through their armor and flesh. It was a roaring success and Caelehad required that all his castle armories be stocked to the brim with nothing but Bowguns. A slightly unrealistic request, considering the demand for this new item was understandably high.

Like a normal arbalest, it features just four main parts. The Bows, the strings, the stock and the reciever. 

Unlike normal arbalests, it features two shortbows mounted vertically as opposed to horizontally. This allows for more men to stand shoulder to shoulder across a castle wall, with more bowguns, firing more bolts into the ranks. The increased bow size allows for greater length and accuracy and better armor penetration. They are calibrated meticulously, so that when the slide releases, both strings are catapulting forward at the same exact rate, so that the bolt flies straight.

The bolts are notably shorter than conventional arbalest bullets and come in two varieties, which are used situationally. One is a shorter, metal version of a standard bolt, complete with fletching, and used much traditionally. The other, known as "Skippers" are also short, but lack fletching. They are made entirely of lightweight wood, both ends being fashioned into points, weighted down by metal tips coated with bees wax. The bolt tumbles in midair, like a spinning pin. This is not accidental - the tumbling bolts emit a buffetting, thrumming sound as they come down in volleys. Psychologically, this is a damaging tactic, used mostly for scattering formations. Making them more deadly is the tendency for the bolts to either skip off shields (as opposed to lodging themselves in it) and hit other targets, either grazing or planting themselves in something appropriately fleshy. Alternatively, the bolt shatters, sending the dangerous metal ends into ears, eyes, throats or noses.

The bows are mounted on either side of the stock, where both strings attach to a slide plate on the reciever. The strings are, in effect drawn at the same time by a crank winch, which is attached to the slide plate and "hammer" which are used to launch the bolt. To draw, the bow is placed to the ground and a foot is inserted through a loop to hold is steady while the user cranks the strings back. When the slide is drawn fully back, it locks into place and a bolt can be inserted into the channel that guides it down the shaft.

Like regular arbalests, there is a trigger attached to the reciever mechanism, which releases the lock on the slide, which will send the bolt flying. Sometimes this trigger is a simply mounted on the bottom of the stock, though the more luxurious models come complete with a carved out handle, a trigger guard and a front mounted stabilizer grip for steadier aim and better accuracy. The kickback is minimal, though slightly more punishing than that of a regular arbalest, not nearly as violent as an Archenbusse.

Compared to traditional arbalests, the Sigurdian Bowgun can penetrate nearly double the armor thanks to the assistance of two bows working in tandem, which offer a boost in kinetic power that approaches two-fold. Punching through standard carapace armor proves to be a fairly simple task for Bowgunner on a wall, at under 75 yards. Most come with an iron sight that illustrates the arc of the bolt, which is slightly less pronounced than that of a typical arbalest. At 80 yards, the bolt begins to drop, which is impressive, considering most contemporary single-shot Arbalests of the highest quality can only put a bolt 55 to 60 yards before dropping, and suffering an even more severe loss of stopping power. There is an exponential loss of power after this arc, and the effective "killing distance" is a maximum of 90 yards for foes wearing light armor. Still better than the contemporary arbalest's 65 yard kill range.

The one issue with Sigurdian style Bowguns is finding someone with the know-how to make one. It's a jealously guarded secret among Caernian and Sigurdian weaponsmiths, who usually don't consider themselves part of the Society of Makers, and thus are under no obligation to share crafting designs. While the demand for these exotic weapons is high on the continent, the manpower required to fill the orders, just doesn't yet exist.

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Comments ( 15 )
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Voted PoisonAlchemist
August 22, 2011, 20:40

A great siege weapon, it is wonderfully described with a hint of the politics surrounding it. That leaves only one question, how did it come into being? I am also unclear how the two bowstrings function on one projectile. 

August 22, 2011, 23:33
If you could imagine a bow placed vertically on either side of a block, and then imagine a steel dowel that rests and slides up and down the top of the block, pushing back the bowstring. That's the best explanation I can offer. I'm not good with physics, so I don't know if two bows would ACTUALLY amplify the power or distance projected, but it's also for aesthetic purposes - I just more or less figured it would look cool. =]
Thanks for the comment.
August 23, 2011, 1:49
Update: Added a bit of historical background.
Voted Scrasamax
August 23, 2011, 12:39

Backstory is good, but the mechanics are dubious. If I am reading this right, the bowstrings fire the bolt down a rifled barrel, but I see this as adding more drag to the projectile, lessening its range and penetration value. The standard crossbow and its all steel arbalest brother seldom lacked for penetration power, and their accuracy was indeed less than that of the longbow, but it was a work in progress. The area where the crossbow fell short, was that it had a slow rate of fire. The bowstring and its potential energy had to be drawn back by hand. The arbalest traditionally had a hand crank to draw the string back since a typical soldier didnt have the upper body strength to do it by hand. A conventional crossbow could be secured with a foot loop and the string drawn back by hand. Two bowstrings doubles this, meaning a big mechanical device to draw both back at one time, or drawing the two seperately.

Rather than being revolutionary, I can see the Sigurdian Bowgun being an anomaly in weapon design, intimidating and powerful at short range, but complicated and difficult to make.

August 23, 2011, 13:22
From a simple physics standpoint, I see the issue. Maybe not the most well thought out solution. Perhaps I should ditch the interior rifled barrel and just opt for the traditional on-the-top channel for the bolt to slide? Maybe even shorten the bows a bit to make it a bit less unwieldy?

And if you can imagine that both bowstrings fire simultaneously, and the bolt is in effect moved by basically a horizontal bar, attached to the middle of the both bowstrings, that's the effect I was going for. That horizontal bar is gripped on either side and drawn back, where it locks into position, much like a regular crossbow, except that the bar simply draws back two strings at once. The winch is implemented on the higher-tension bows, to make the reload a bit less taxing. The crossbow would indeed need a foot-loop, which I should probably add.
August 23, 2011, 14:38

You could go with a spring mechanism, with a winch to draw back a hideously strong metal coil... or you could make it a Gauss crossbow, propelling the bolt along the barrel with whatever technobabble strieks your fancy.

Also, I don't think fletching per se has to impart a spin on the arrow, it ensures that the arrow does not tumble.

As it is, the technological solution does not make too much sense.

On a different note - you can really go way out there: what if the bolts are magnetic - and coincidentally, the magic used to enhance the armors of the cavalry improves all the properties of the metal, including attracting magnets, disproportionately so?

August 23, 2011, 16:53
Well, while "high tech" weaponry does exist in this fantasy setting, these weapons are far more common, so naturally they would be lower tech, so as enthralling as a "guass crossbow" sounds (and that does sound RADICAL) it wouldn't fit your somewhat run-of-the-mill type weapon.

I think I'm just going to make it more crossbowish and remove the barrel and just make the bolt glide down a hollowed channel in the stock.

Not sure what you mean by "Technological Solution"

And magical weaponry, like high tech weaponry exists, but those sorts of things are handcrafted and made to order, as it were. Again, just not appropriate for more common items in this particular setting.
August 24, 2011, 2:38
Ok, so no magic then.
The two bows are still more of an image thing, though. Because: you are aware that bows do come with various amounts of pull? The weak ones can be bent with little force, and likewise exert as little force on the arrow. The strong bows exert over 200 pounds of pull.

Only, exceedingly strong pull becomes difficult with crossbows as they require more and more elaborate mechanisms to cock them. Hence, perhaps you could come up with a clever and inventive solution for winding up hideously strong crossbows?
August 24, 2011, 3:50
my sister actually happens to be a tournament archer. I'm fairly well versed in the poundage of bows. A longbow is somewhere near a 300 pound bow, or more in some cases. Perhaps I should also toss the long bows, and just make them two 150 or 175 bows. Probably more functional as well.
August 24, 2011, 23:48
Genuine question: Would two strings with a pull of 150 lbs each combine to make a combined 300 lb pull, or would the force transferred from the strings remain 150 lbs? I saw and episode of Mythbusters where it was debated two cars hitting each other at 30 mph each was equivalent to one car hit a stationary object at 60 mph. The answer was no, the cars only carried 30 mph of kinetic energy each.
August 25, 2011, 2:53
Actually, yes they would combine their strength in this case. When a car hits a wall at 30 mph, the wall hits paradoxically back with the same force. Hence, it's as if two cars collided. (damn you, Newton!)

In the case of the bows, it's very much like trying to bend two sticks at once - they're more difficult to bend than one stick. By their powers combined, the bow-handgun is the bow-handgun.
What I am worried about is the homogenous transduction of force from two bows to one arrow. And also the consideration: why the hell would I use two bows when I can simply use a stronger one?
The problem is not one bow being too weak, rather it's in bending such a strong bow.
Voted MysticMoon
August 24, 2011, 20:57

The physics may be suspect, but I like the coolness factor. A creative twist to an old weapon.

August 25, 2011, 12:01
I thought it was a pretty cool idea myself. I'm finding my grasp on simple physics to be fairly dubious as well, but I thought it was an interesting take on an old trick.

And Echo, to answer your question, why use two inferior bows when you could just use one superior bow: 2+2 = 4, 4+0 = 4, 3+1 = 4. You can stack the numbers however you want, but you get the same result. I just found the mental image aesthetically pleasing and bad-ass.

I do have a friend who is a physics major and coincidentally a hunter who uses compound bows pretty regularly. I'll see if I can't get a more solid answer from him whether or not the tensions of two bows are multiplied by an even two, or if the multiplier is something more on the order of 1.5 or 1.75.
August 27, 2011, 17:00
Update: I simplified the weapon a bit, hopefully putting some of the physics debate out of the way. I also detailed how and why the weapon is better than contemporary arbalests by giving comparisons of effective killing distances. Hope this helps.
Voted valadaar
May 21, 2013, 12:12
I think the use of two bows instead of 1 better bow could result from not having bow material suitable - for whatever reason - strong enough to handle the necessary stress.

Also, being able to crank each bow individually would be very helpful in allowing a higher than normal power level, though I'm not sure the mechanical complexity would be worth it.

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