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Historical Validation of the Superiority of the Firearm for Self-defense
by Michael Z. Williamson

Often, an anti-defense activist will argue that rather than defending oneself with a firearm, one should use teargas, martial arts, or some other method.  These methods simply are not effective.  The chemical sprays and "non-lethal" weapons pack neither the power, the fear factor, or the usefulness against multiple opponents that a pistol does. Martial arts have their own flaw.

Let us consider an historical parallel.  At the battles of Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt and others, Welsh longbowmen under English control slaughtered heavily armed French knights backed up with crossbowmen. The power of a bow come from its draw weight times its draw length.  A crossbow may have 150-200 lbs of draw weight, but only a 12" draw. Longbows recovered from the wreck of the Mary Rose averaged 120 lbs (minimum 90 lbs, maximum an incredible 170 lbs), and had a draw length of at least 30".  I say at least because there is evidence that longbowmen overdrew the chisel-like bodkin points used to pierce armor over their hands to the 32-33" mark.

The longbow in skilled hands could fire 12 AIMED rounds per minute, almost silently, for ranges up to 400 yards, with accurate direct fire at human-sized targets up to 100 yards, and could be used for indirect fire over barricades.

The French and all other Europeans stuck to the mechanically-operated crossbow, usually wielded by hired mercenaries.  It was cheaper, since archers took years to train, had to be fed decent food with adequate protein, and--important at the time--treated as professionals rather than gutter scum, lest they pack their kit and go home.  They were hard to replace.

The early matchlocks replaced the crossbow, displaced the longbow, and were in standard use by the English Civil War ca 1650.  It fired a whopping twice a minute by the book, perhaps three times by an expert in combat until it fouled after 4-5 rounds, and was individually accurate to about 25 yards.  Volley fire made it useful to ranges of about 200 yards.  The typical combat load was 12 rounds, at which time either the musketeers retreated behind the pikes, clubbed their muskets (the bayonet not having been invented yet) or drew swords or any other weapons they'd personally acquired.  It had no indirect-fire utility.

Clearly, the longbow was a superior arm.  This state of affairs continued (with slight improvements in rate of fire) until near the end of the US Civil War when breechloaders were made practical.  If we were to take 1000 troops each with Enfield muskets and longbows and put them behind wooden palisades at 200 yards, the longbowmen would exterminate the musketeers in short order, firing three to four times as fast, dropping their armor-piercing points over the palisade and skewering the hapless fusiliers at the rate of scores per second.  (I have used all these weapons at historical re-enactments.  Anyone who would charge bowmen behind cavalry traps and pitfalls is simply seeking an early death.)

So why did the firearm displace the bow so quickly?  To be sure, the noise and smoke made it more intimidating than a crossbow, but it was even less effective at short ranges. Back to our example for the answer:  the 1000 dead fusiliers can be replaced by new recruits in a matter of a couple of weeks.  The 20 or so bowmen taken down must come from a finite pool that has worked with the weapon daily for several years to build the shoulder strength and accuracy necessary.  Simple logistics.

Coming back to the modern day:  to train our potential victim in the martial arts will require a psychological willingness to close and attack, full mobility and range of motion, several years of thrice weekly, quite expensive practice, and will STILL not put a 120 lb woman on par with the superior strength of a 250 lb brawler.

The basics of firearm safety and utility can be taught in a day.  Unless one plans to engage in serious competition, a practice weekly or monthly with $10 worth of ammo is adequate to maintain proficiency.  One can even dispense with much of that by practice operation with snap-caps and dry fire.

The pistol is the most effective, cheapest (in terms of cost over span of usefulness), easiest means of self-defense yet created.  It is simply unbelievable that any rational person would oppose its use.

Copyright (c) 2000 by Michael Z. Williamson.  Permission granted to quote for non-profit purposes provided due credit is given.

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