Arrows

Arrows were expensive. The most expensive part of the arrow was not the arrowhead, but the shaft. Arrow shafts were not turned-down from larger pieces of wood, but were derived from coppice.

The coppice trees here are overgrown and have not been managed in some time.

Coppicing is a woodland management practice that goes back until at least the Iron Age. Young trees are cut down to the stump, and the fresh growth trained and managed until they reached the correct diameter for their intended purpose. Coppice was used for, notably, wattle and stave construction, production of charcoal and of course arrow shafts.

It could take 5–7 years for a coppice to produce serviceable arrow dowels, and more could not be easily procured.

Arrowheads, conversely, may have been one of the earliest products to be mass-produced. Forensic analysis of arrowheads recovered from Agincourt in France suggested they had been made in two halves using a form and then soldered together. The level of simplicity needed to do this, as opposed to a fully forged arrowhead, is such that it could be accomplished by blacksmiths using portable forges in the army’s baggage train.

The arrowheads were attached to the shafts using pitch. This, you may think, is a terrible idea – pitch isn’t going to hold the arrowhead on very securely. You are quite right, nor was it intended to. The use of pitch meant that the arrow could be retrieved from where it struck (the ground, a body) by simply pulling sharply. The head would break away but the shaft (the expensive part) wouldn’t bend or break.

These recovered shafts could then be fitted with cheap new heads and fired again. Sometime the goose feathers (fletching/flights) needed to be replaced as well, and trained archers knew how to do that.

 

They were Crap – But they worked.

Designed by Georgi Shpagin in the USSR c.1941 and manufactured in large quantities well into the 1960′s. 7,62x25mm Tokarev 71-round drum magazine or 35-round stick magazine, blowback select fire with selector switch located in front of the trigger. With 6 million guns rolling out during WW2, the PPSh-41 smg was one of the work horses of the Soviet Union infantry.

It’s easy to criticize these weapons, but they were able to put ordnance on target (ok, spray and pray – but sometimes prayers are answered).

 

Female Participation

Cuirassiers and lancers of the line, chasseurs a pied of the imperial guard. Note the emphasis put on the waistline in these uniforms. Vivandière or cantinières were women given special permits to act within the French army as kitchen workers but also wine and liquor sellers attached to a specific regiment, of which they would share the uniform.

This practice died out progressively as their numbers were reduced (pregnancy took a heavy toll), and their uniforms replaced by civilian clothes with an armband. It was completely phased out in 1905, when the cantinières were replaced by male equivalents recruited from old veterans.

In the space of the 35 years between the introduction of the new system and its disbanding in 1940, the general appreciation of the cantinière by the troops changed from selfless, motherly or sisterly to cowardly and selfish. I feel like, facts aside, that says a lot about French psyche.

 

Cuirassiers of Napoleon III’s Imperial Guard

The steel blue, madder red and white colors of the cuirassiers remained relatively unchanged from Napoleon the Great to the Great War. Their steel cuirass was impervious to handgun fire, cuts or thrusts from melee weapons of the day. The use of a war horse went far beyond mere transportation. Their ability to use their weight, hooves and teeth against an enemy can’t be emphasized enough.

 

Russian Air Force Mil Mi-24

According to Russian sources, 74 helicopters were lost in Afghanistan, including 27 shot down by Stinger and two by Redeye. In many cases, however, the helicopters, thanks to their armor and the durability of construction, withstood significant damage and were able to return to base.

 

From the Peaky Blinders

 

22 COMMENTS

  1. My father-in-law decided to build a longbow to indigenous standards.
    Sinew, Ash, flint, but he was stuck on the shafts.
    Then he realized they were growing on his property.
    Made a stone shaver/sizer.
    I don’t believe he ever took a buck with one, though.
    He learned a lot about the cross continent trade of copper from Michigan to the Southwest, flint from Ohio…

    • There is a lot to be learned when it comes to a return to “primitive weapons”. I have dallied on the subject as have a few people who read this blog. I’ve given some thought to starting that whole process again here where I live now. I’m not a great flint napper anymore, but muscle memory and reading the stone are things that will return. First project will be a flint axe/tomahawk.

  2. I would have bet ten dollars the Rooskies made more than 6 million of those contraptions. Considering you seldom see a pic of Soviet soldiers in WWII without one, that number just seems low. As butt-ugly as they are, I’d like to have one – quantity has a quality all its own.

    • The Chinese made them too. Maybe 10 million for all I know. They worked. But you need a lot of ammo if you’re to enjoy them.

  3. If the world were the sort of place where it would be possible w/o giant amounts of cash, I would love to have a PPSh. They just seem fun.

    Of course, if I’m just wishing for shit, I’d rather have a Lanchester.

    I don’t understand why sentiment turned against the young French auxiliary ladies?
    -Kle.

      • I’ve fired them (familiarization fire). We used to go to the range with third world weapons, which included the M-3’s since the US exported a lot of them. It was a 4 hour shooting evolution with unlimited ammunition. We looked forward to it.

  4. I guess I’m a little bit a snob because it’s the MP 28II for me. I don’t think the Shpagin was crap. A little rough/ crude maybe but brutally effective. I’m with WWWest and think way more than 6 million were produced.my Uncle once told me that my Opa carried one on their northern route retreat from the eastern front. He said he preferred it.

  5. PPSh-41 smg. If my life depends on it, I don’t care what it looks like. I do care it performs the intended role.

    I went through Basic with a heavily used M-1, a collection of parts with maybe the stock and receiver being original. Qualification day I missed two target, one 350 yards in heavy rain.

  6. Ed, what caliber can you find in “quantity” pickens are pretty slim in eastern Washington and norther Idaho ;-(

    • I can still get 9mm and .223/5.56 locally in Arizona and have sources in California that still stock quantities. Prices have gone up, though.

  7. I have some competition arrows my grand father made I think in the late thirties. Since he died when I was five I never had the opportunity to learn any wood working from him so I don’t know if they were made from spliced dowels or turned but the were made of two different density woods with a long dovetail splice. Talk about expensive shafts!

    • It’s fun to make period pieces, but a compound bow with graphite arrows and plastic flights instead of goose feathers have their own appeal. It doesn’t mean that a yew bow isn’t a great idea, but hemp cords get stretchy when wet, etc. The ‘ancient’ bone glue works, but there are modern adhesives that work better. It doesn’t replace the pure craftsmanship of the people who had those bows to live, though.

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