Decided to see if the 火縄銃 could penetrate the armor of a Japanese foot soldier, 足軽 asigaru. And what about a buke, 武家。
So, with my 3 monme火縄銃, .457 inch 144 grain lead ball, and 40 grains of Triple 7 black powder substitute, decided to see what kind of penetrating power that I have. Distance to the target was 10 meters.
Used 2 pieces of metal as a target. One was .042”, 20 gauge, galvanized steel, 1.04 mm. The other was .022”, 26 gauge, galvanized steel, 0.58 mm.
There was no problem penetrating either thickness of metal. The one failure was due to my using a much lower powder load by mistake.
Finally, decided to see how a melon would react when hit by shooting a hinawajyuu. Only had one melon. The melon was shot 3 times, and I took three pictures. Used Photoshop to combine the 3 pictures into 1 picture.
As you can see, the melon did not survive being shot.
I would be curious anyone could tell me the thickness of Japanese armor, as maybe I should try to shoot a thicker piece of steel.
David, Similar results to what the Royal Armouries obtained with a replica of a matchlock from the time of Henry VIII. Might I suggest you do reduce the powder charge to try and replicate the fact that early powder was nothing like as good as modern. It would be interesting also to try at different ranges - say 50m to simulate the approximation of Nagashino. Take up Dave's offer, it is almost unheard of to get a chance to shoot at the real thing. Ian B
At Nagashino where Nobunaga's forces are rumored to have had plenty of powder in their stores, it would not surprise me if the troops were ordered to increase their black powder charge in order to gain range.
Dave T., Thank you for your kind offer for some plates to shoot. Did you mean .2 inches for plate thickness, as I have some 3/16 inch steel plate that I can use as a target also. I sent you my address via a private message on this forum. I trust that you received it.
There are so many variables with powder loads, so I found that using 40 grains (not grams) gave me a sound that I thought was appropriate. Also, I don't want load too big of a charge as it might damage the barrel. I will definitely try the same everything as before at at 50 and 100 yards as 100 yards is the maximum length of the range where I shoot. The above shots were free standing, but will use a bench rest at the greater distance. I will also try to measure the velocity of the ball, but results might be inconsistent.
David, Piers, more powder dose not mean more power. With black powder there will be an optimum load, any more and it will just be throwen out of the muzzel. The best for acuracy is a load just enough to get the ball to the target. For max penatration, place a strip of paper on the ground in front of your fireing position. Gradualy increase your loads by bulk NOT by wight. Do this untill you see black speckels on the paper, this is unburnt powder. Back off your load and you have the maximum charge for your gun. Useing a bench rest with a smoothbore will not make that mutch diference. A ninteenth century musket at 100 yards has a deviation of nine foot in any direction, so you would need a ten foot target at that range. PSJ
Yes, that makes sense, Paul. If you face a massed enemy, however, then firing in that direction you may well hit someone or something. It is said that you cause even more confusion to the enemy by wounding rather than by killing, as the wounded soldier may be carried off the field by three or four mates and leave a hole in the wall.
Piers, That is a modern concept. In the days of massed ranks you just closed the ranks when a gap apeard. The wounded had to fend for themselves. That said the hit rate was low. In the Napolionic wars where the numbers and duration of the action are known the hit rate for british troops was 2.5 per cent. The French about 2 per cent. This when some of the firefights were at a range of 25 meters! PSJ
Went to the gun range today, about 25 miles from my house. Shot the 火縄銃 about 25 times. Results / observations:
1) I seemed to have solved my ignition problem by drilling the pan hole to make it larger. Of the 25 shots, only had one misfire, and that was due to my not knocking off enough ash from the match.
2) Set the target at 50 yards. Shot at the target 12 times and missed the target completely 12 times. Tried free standing, and a bench rest but was unable to hit the target, or even determine whether I was high / low – left right. Won’t be able to shoot anything at 50 yards and expect to hit it.
3) Brought the target back to 25 yards and had no trouble hitting the target from a free standing position. There were, of course, some that totally missed the paper, but I attribute this to unsteadiness on my part holding the火縄銃. Very happy with the results of 6 shots on the paper. I would think I could hit an enemy at 25 yards with no problem.
4) As to powder load, I didn’t try any variation and just left it at 40 grains of FFFG. There was an expert at the range who told me that he believed that I was above the maximum necessary for maximum ball velocity due to the amount of ‘fire / flame / sound / light’ that was coming out of the barrel when the gun was fired. I am also worried about too much pressure on such an old barrel. One of the tables that I found shows the pressure at 40 grains of FFFG to be 9900 PSI for .32 caliber, and at 60 grains the pressure rises to 13,000 PSI.
5) Have a chronometer to measure the ball velocity. Measured the velocity just fine on a type 14 Nambu pistol, but for some reason, it was unable to give me any results at all after many unsuccessful tries. So have given up on trying to measure the ball velocity.
Went to the rifle range last week with my friend Preston. I made a paper target, 6’3” wide and 8’ tall, as I was unable to hit the paper / luan target at 50 yards. We set the large target at 50 yards. I also used a bench rest to hold the hinawajyuu.
Here the picture that I took of the target and Preston:
Preston is indicating that his shot was the one closest to the bulls eye. For reference, Preston is about 6’3’tall. All the shots were within 2 feet of the bulls eye, which I think is very good at 50 yards.
When we both have some time, we are going back to the range and set the target at 100 yards, which is maximum for the rifle range that we use.
Also, my Japanese friend says that the correct word for armor is よろい 鎧 yoroi, not かっちゅう 甲胄 kattyuu. Would appreciate a clarification, as the few dictionaries that I tried also say the meaning is armor.
Received a very nice present in the mail today from David Thatcher. 10 pieces of yoroi. Three pieces are all metal, two have a metal rib on the back, and the remaining 5 have no metal content.
The plan is to take these pieces to the range and see if my hinawajyuu with my 144 grain, .457”diameter lead ball can penetrate the yoroi. Given the size, I may have a problem at 25 yards hitting these pieces, so will probably have to set the target at 12.5 yards.
I measured the thickness of the metal pieces around .050”, so given my previous experience with .042”sheet metal, I would expect the hinawajyuu to easily penetrate the metal pieces.
David, could you please give some more detail about what I am shooting as I know almost nothing about yoroi.
This would indeed make a very good article. If you wish David I will send it in to the Arms and Armour Journal of the Royal Armouries if you send me all the details in due course. About 20 years ago we did a similar thing with a replica of a gun from the armoury of Henry VIII (mentioned above). We also included a very powerful longbow and an even more impressive crossbow, all shot against 2mm mild steel plates. I should say here that a metallurgical analysis of Japanese armour plates we did showed the majority of samples were pure ferrite (iron) with only one sample from a really horrible shikoro which suprised us all by having a steel face on the iron. Anyway, in the test at 30m The longbow failed to make any real impression on the mild steel plate, even at close range. Usually the arrows either skated off or broke just behind the head (which if I remember was BM type 16 which again we found from examples dug up on the battlefield at Towton had a steeled point and edge brazed on.). The crossbow did a lot better, the point just piercing a plate at 30m but not penetrating and certainly doing no harm to the wearer of armour that thick. The gun however easily penetrated 3 plates. From this we deduced that on Henry's ship Mary Rose, equipped with such weapons, the bows were used to attack sailors and the guns to pop at men-at-arms. Ian B
If I could add something to the test with my humble experience, I would love to do it.
In Sakikabara Kozan's book he analyzed how the plates for armor were made in the 16th century.
He said that through a complex process of hammering, folding, heating and forging the katchuushi were able to obtain a plate of .08", with a layer of steel outside ( with a range of carbon content between the 0,05-0,4) and inside a layer of iron.
This structure helped against arrows, edged weapons, but also firearms. This was the best protection available and we could say that it was effective since some armors were already tested in the past (tameshi gusoku)
Nowdays, most of the armors we see and analyzed ( I Think Mr.Bottomley could confirm this, I might be wrong here) is Edo jindai, when war wasn't an issue anymore. So this might explain why we don't see steel and high level of thicknesses in armor.
I feel pretty confident to say that the armors used for war were quite different from the armors used for parade, and that a lot of knowledge on the plain, simple but effective battle armors was lost under the emphasis of decorations and artworks. But this is my umble opinion
However, in addition to my previous post, I think this test might be a pretty accurate picture of what Ashigaru were forced to face on the battlefields, since their armor most of the time was not the best quality around
Important to bear in mind that 3-Monme is undersize for an anti-personnel battlefield weapon. Sawada Taira suggests that guns for ashigaru foot soldiers would be a minimum of 3.5 Monme. There is a general feeling in Japan that 5 Monme is pretty close to ideal, all things considered, and 6 Monme just about perfect. Yonezawa, however, liked to carry 10 Monme guns at least. Not sure if this is available in English but Mr Sugawa did some experiments at the range in the US with sets of Dou armour, although he too used a small-caliber long gun. www.日本の武器兵器.jp/archives/82
His were 50-100 meters. Basically the front hole would vary in size and the further back he wnet the back hole in the dou would become a dent. His last paragraph basically says that armor in the Edo period was worthless against guns, but not all battles before involved guns.
Ian – will definitely write an article about my experience. May not been as soon as I would like as I am very busy this time of year.
Dave – thickness was measured at the very edge of the piece that were made of metal.
Piers – The 3 monme that I have seems to have a good punch to it. I don’t believe that there will be any problem piercing the armour., but will find out next week, if we have a good weather day, as the range is outside.
The target is prepared and ready to shoot. The backing is 1/8” luan, but is actually 2.7 mm luan. I covered the luan with a layer of white paper just to hide the numerous holes in the luan. All the pieces were attached with small ½” brass nails, 2 to 5 nails for each piece. If you look carefully you can see the brass nail heads in the picture. I also added some string to the lower right two pieces to hold them in place. The original cord was no longer attaching the pieces together.
Hopefully will have a good weather day, as the range is outside. I should have some pictures and videos to post by next week sometime.
I also uploaded another video of my friend Preston having no luck whatsoever in firing the hinawajyuu. Last year a friend of mine visited the Kawagoe spring festival, 川越 春まつり and gave me the headband that Preston is wearing. Looking at the video, I noticed that the kanji characters are backward. This will be corrected the next time we shoot the teppou. Per the suggestion, we used the hinawatoosinoana 火縄通しの穴, matchcord hole. Does a very good job of keeping the match cord away from the shooters hand when firing.
As I said, I know very little about armour in general. So, I looked for translations for dou. Maybe slightly off topic, but I found out that a dou translates into English as cuirass. As a long time Gilbert & Sullivan fan, I immediately recognized the word ‘cuirass’. Even in musical theatre, it was recognized that the cuirass offered no protection. There is also a reference in Yoemen of the Guard to shooting an arquebus, but more of that in a later post.
The song is from Gilbert & Sullivan’s, Princess Ida, first performed in 1884. This Helmet I Suppose, Verse Two, sung by Arac, one of 3 sons of King Gama.
Arac: This tight-fitting cuirass Is but a useless mass, It’s made of steel, And weighs a deal, A man is but an ass Who fights in a cuirass, So off, so off goes that cuirass.
1932 recording by Darrell Fancourt of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company
Had a chance to get to the range and try shooting the oyoroi. The results were as expected, the armour had no chance against my 3 monme hinawajyuu teppou. The biggest problem was hitting anything at 25 yards. There were multiple shots that hit the target, but did not hit the oyoroi. We were finally able to hit one of the metal plates and 2 of the other plates. I also have a neighbor who hunts with bow and arrow and he kindly offered to try to shoot the oyoroi with his bow and arrow. He used a 120 grain triangle tipped. arrow at 20 yards. Again, it took many shots before he was able to hit the metal oyoroi and the non metal one. Results were the same, the armour offered no protection to even an arrow. Granted he was using a compound bow, and I don’t know the relative speed difference between his bow and a long bow.
We shot a few videos, but nothing worth sharing as they just show us loading or shooting the hinawajyuu teppou.
I also have a 32 caliber percussion cap muzzle loader from around 1870. I shoot a .310” 45 grain ball, using 30 grains of powder. A lot smaller than the .457” ball that I use with the hinawajyuu teppou, but I think would pierce the armour with no problem. I would also like to try 2 or 3 layers of the .042” steel plate and see if that would stop the .457” ball. I do have 1/8”, ¼” and ½” steel plate, but I don’t think the teppou will even penetrate 1/8”steel, but that remains to be seen.
If I have the time, and the weather is not too cold, I will give it a try next time I am at the range.