Archive for the ‘Projectile’ Category

Atlatls and Spear Chuckers and Bows, Oh My…

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

As requested, (CapnPervy, this one’s for you… 🙂 ) today I’m going to talk a little about a very old and not so well known projectile weapon called the Atlatl. Yes, A-T-L-A-T-L. No, it’s not a slang name for a happenin’ town in the stated of Georgia, in the good ‘ol  U. S. of A. Nor is it a giant, four legged, imperial armored transport from Star Wars. Nope. It’s actually a really cool weapon that just happens to have a funny name:

An Atlatl

An Atlatl

This here weapon is called an “at-lattle”. Or something like that. Yes, I know that’s not how to write phoenetic pronunciation… Eh? Look gimme a break here, I’m a Balrog, not an English teacher. Just for that smart alecky comment, I’ve decided to drown you in technical atlatl minutae. Yes… What?

Ok, yes, you’re right, that’s a baldfaced lie, I was gonna drown you in atlatl trivia regardless. What can I say. I tend to get long winded when I am talking about things that i find interesting, so I need every excuse I can get to justify my rambling. Just humor me, OK? It’ll be fun. Really. Go grab a cup of coffee, tea, whatever your slow poison of choice is, and get comfortable…  Mua ha ha ha ha ha ha… *wheeze*… heh…. Here we go…

More Atlatl Information

More Atlatl Information

An atlatl is essentially just a stick, usually around 2′ in length, with a peg, or pin at the rear end, sometimes set in a pocket, designed to hold and cast darts that can be anywhere from 4′ to 6′ in length. Some modern atlatls are also made with dart rests, integrated finger slots, unique grip designs and so on, like the ones below, however these are all contemporary designs that did not exist in traditional atlatl.

Atlatls with a dart rests

Atlatls with a dart rests

A custom atlatl with dart rest - showing unique grip style

A custom atlatl with dart rest - showing unique grip style

The atlatl is sometimes called a spear chucker, however I don’t think this is technically accurate, since, as far as I can tell, Atlatls do not actually cast spears. Almost every atlatl projectile I have seen are technically darts, or over sized arrows. And while it may seem like an inconsequential detail, there’s actually one very important difference  between a dart and a spear. Yes. Seriously. And if you just hold your horses for one second I’ll tell you what the difference is. Yes. Thank you. Let’s continue.

Preparing to throw an atlatl.

Preparing to throw an atlatl.

What really sets a spear apart from an arrow or dart is that a spear has no tail fletching or fins. All arrows and darts have fins/vanes/fletching to aid in aerial stabilization. Spears do not. This is why an atlatl is technically not a spear chucker. In fact, spears have more in common with crossbow bolts than either arrows or darts, as bolts are also generally stiffer than arrows. But I digress, as usual.

An Atlatl Dart

An Atlatl Dart

Many traditional atlatl darts also had a very unique point feature. unlike arrow tips that were usually permanently tied in place, atlatl tips were removable. The employed an interesting double socket design, with the hard atlatl tip attached to a secondary wood atlatl tip dowel, (sometimes called a foreshaft) using a tongue and groove design. The tip assembly was then mated to the atlatl dart by hollowing out the front of the dart, wrapping it with cord, and press fitting the foreshaft and tip assembly in place like a plug. Rather ingenious.

Atlatl Dart Tip Design - Double Slot

Atlatl Dart Tip Design - Double Slot

Atlatl Tip Design - Fully Assembled

Atlatl Tip Design - Fully Assembled

Alternate Atlatl Tip Designs

Alternate Atlatl Tip Designs

An atlatl can be used to cast a dart much farther than it could be thrown by hand. Some have finger straps, slots or voids in/on the grip to aid in retention, and many others have stone weights attached, about which there is a lot of debate. More on that later.

Parts of an atlatl

Parts of an atlatl

The atlatl works by extending the effective range of motion of your arm, from the wrist joint outwards. This allows you to use a much larger throwing arc than you would have been able to using your arm and hand alone, and you are able to impart much more energy to the projectile as a result. FORE!!

Using an Atlatl

Using an Atlatl

As I mentioned earlier, the atlatl and dart has a lot in common with the bow and arrow. However the similarities do not end with the fletching of the dart. An interesting property of properly constructed atlatl darts, are that they are designed to flex, and can be tuned, much like an arrow, for specific amounts of spine (flex) during launch, so that they straighten just before the socket leaves the peg, thus transferring all of that stored energy to driving the point towards the target

Atlatl Dart Flex

Atlatl Dart Flex

I also mentioned before that many traditional atlatl designs have weights attached to them. The purpose of these weights is a point of great contention. Many historians claim they are purely cosmetic, or religious/ritualistic in nature. However there are also those who argue that they are there to aid in the tuning of the atlatl.

Atlatl Weights

Atlatl Weights

The idea being that traditional weighted atlatls are designed to flex a little during launch, much like a bow, and that the weights are there to help fine tune the amount of flex and when return occurs. theoretically this would mean that one could tune both the Atlatl and the dart to flex, and release their energy at exactly the same time, in order to maximize the amount of stored energy that gets transferred to the dart, propelling it downrange.

Atlatl Flex

Atlatl Flex

I am personally inclined to believe that these weights do serve to help fine tune the atlatl for better throws, and this has been verified by actual atlatl record holders, however exactly what they are doing has not been definitively proven. However there is a lot of good information about them from veteran atlatl expert William Robert Perkins (aka “Atlatl Bob”), who was able to show scientifically, that these weights did in fact affect the balance, noise levels, and flexion characteristics of the atlatl.

Atlatl with stealth weight

Atlatl with stealth (aka Banner Stone) weight

Atlatl stealth weight noise levels comparison

Atlatl stealth weight noise levels comparison

Science applied towards the analysis and improvement of medieval weaponry. My kind of weapons expert. 🙂

Some Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - Richard Lyons

Some Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - Richard Lyons

The atlatl is just an absolutely fascinating weapon. So elegant and simple, and yet, as we’ve seen, there are so many complex facets to it’s operation. Amazing really. Quite an interesting read if you’re a weapons nerd like me. Otherwise you are probably nodding off about now. Which is OK because I’m pretty much done with the atlatl waterboarding session.

More Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - The Takoch's

More Beautiful Contemporary Atlatls - The Takoch's

I’ve included some links below for those of you who have not yet drowned in my deluge of atlatl info. Sorry, there are no life rafts or flotation devices aboard this vessel. You will just have to swim for it.

Cheerio!

Atlatls n More
List of atlatl manufacturers – [Flight Toys]
Atlatl Design – [World Atlatl Association]
Atlatl weight and function – [BPS Engineering]
Tools of the Stone Age – Atlatls – [Dons Maps]
Walnut and Rosewood Atlatls – [Ray’s Atlatls and Darts]

Pauls Problematic Projectile.

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

Today, while doing a little pic gathering for a future post on shuriken, I ran across a sweet triple razor thrower I thought you all might like to see. And no, regardless of any similarity the description may have to any number of commercial disposable razors, it is, in fact, a hira-shuriken style thrower, designed by Paul Ehlers:

Paul Ehlers - Triple Razor Throwing Star

Paul Ehlers - Triple Razor Throwing Star

Now I have to admit, this is a nice looking thrower. A good 5.25″ of heavy gauge swirling steel blades. The three blades are adorned with a set of three equally wicked looking scallopped edges/points on the inside of each razor arm, accompanied by a neat cross drilled pattern. And at the end of each arm a large sweeping razor edge, looking for all the world like thier sole purpose in life is to sever the jugulars of whichever unfortunate happend to be in thier path.

If ever there was such a thing as an evil hira-shuriken, this would be it. For many reasons. Which I will, of course, expound upon shortly. No, you may not go to the bathroom. Hold it. This will only take a minute. Sissy.

Anyway, in case it isn’t obvious, this weapon is designed to kill you. Yes. Say what? No, not the person it is being thrown at, but the person who threw it. Yeah. Really. I mean look at it. Reeeaaally look at it. Do you think those absolutely sinister edges on the inside of the shuriken are intended for the target? No, I didn’t think so. And have you noticed how conveniently shaped everything is so that it would guide your fingers right to said inside edges/points should you not be paying attention even slightly? Yeah… You see that now don’t you?

And did you know there is a reason why shuriken use points instead of blades? No, it’s not really for safety, though that is a good byproduct of the design. It’s because the smaller the impact surface area, the better the penetration. A point just sticks better than a blade. So why, exactly would someone use a blade on a shuriken? Yes, I see a few neurons firing and the light bulb clicking in some of your skulls out there… Yes… That’s it. It’s so they can cut the thrower! (Yes, that means you dufus.)

So yes, this blade is wicked. Evil. Sinister. Diabolical even, in a beautiful, sexy and lethally attractive kind of way… Errrmmm… *cough* Where was I? Ah. Homicidal tendencies. Yes. As I was saying, sure, get it, if it suits your fancy, but just don’t think for a second it has your best interests in mind. And whatever you do, do not bequeath anything to it in your will. Just put it up on a wall. A plaque. A pedestal, whatever, and worship it from afar. Trust me, you will live a lot longer that way.

Paul Ehlers Triple Razor Thrower – [True Swords]

The Sexiest Xbows on Earth…

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

So today I have a special treat for you. And you may want to grab a cuppa and relax, cause I’ma be a ranting fool in this post… 😀

A while back, Mozza, one of my buds from Exotic Automatic, put me onto this site with the sweetest crossbows I have ever seen. (Muchas Gracias Mozz Man!!) I’m talking sexy. Dead sexy. Totally and uncompromising evil, but just so freakin’ sexy you can’t help yourself. Uh huh. You know the ones I’m talking about.

The kinds of crossbows you want to pick black bedspreads and matching, jet black curtains with. The ones you want to bear your evil children. The kinds you will NEVAR take home to your parents… 🙂 ‘Cause they are freaks and you know your folks won’t approve… But you can’t help it. You love them anyway.

I’m sure you are all familiar with the type. The dark, sinister ones you know are probably gonna be bad for you, but you can’t help it ’cause they take you places “normal” weapons can never take you… The ones that will steal your very soul… >:D

LOL I’m sure you all think I’m exaggerating.

OK. I might be. I’m a sucker for a beautifully crafted weaponry. But I’m betting you’ll agree with me about these little pretties once you get to know them. Here, let me introduce you to a couple of my favorites. From awesome designers at Talisman Custom Crossbows:

The Beast

The Beast

[Click Image to view larger size]

This beast, my friends, is a beauty. It’s a rather ornate crossbow with an intricately designed rifle stock. Very highly detailed. Perhaps a little too intricate for my tastes. Especially that rifle stock. But it just so happens they’ve got people like me covered:

The Beast - Pistol Grip

The Beast - Pistol Grip

[Click Image to view larger size]

BAM! Now that’s what I’m talking about. Pistol grips FTW!! And another glamor shot, sans grip:

The Beast - Sans Grip

The Beast - Sans Grip

[Click Image to view larger size]

And now let me introduce you to the more lithe but equally lethal Devils Claw Crossbow:

The Claw

The Devils Claw

[Click Image to view larger size]

Again, definitely not Mr. Magoos Claw… This one I find interesting because it almost seems… alive. Like a Velociraptor in mid-stride… Here’s another shot that kind of reinforces that “hunting killer” perception:

The Claw - The predator about to strike...

The Devils Claw - The predator about to strike...

[Click Image to view larger size]

And as if that wasn’t enough, the “Devils Claw”, also has what i’m gonna call the “Stinging Tail” pose:

The Claw - Stinger at the ready...

The Devils Claw - Stinger at the ready...

[Click Image to view larger size]

A little more forward curve, and I’d be thinking Stingray, or scorpion… Except this is better. Neither the stingray or scorpion actually has a projectile stinger… 😉

Now, these, my friends, are crossbows. Not your run-of-the-mill, muscle-bound crossbows with the X-hundred pound pull, trying to impress us with brute force.  Oh no.  Not these. These baby’s are so elegant, So lithe, so graceful and seductive, that just cocking one of them on a medieval battlefield may very well have caused all of your opponents to keel over, en mass, from multiple nerdgasms…

OK, so maybe that was a little exaggeration. But the thing is, I am really impressed by these crossbows. Not so much because of their aesthetics, even though they are quite exceptional in their own right. I am really more a fan of form over function, and definitely more biased towards simplicity of design than intricacy.

On any other weapon, I would consider this level of ornate design to be a bit over the top. However, the most remarkable thing about these weapons is that they are not just about the art. They are mechanically… Brilliant.  Can’t think of a better word. And that is what has me utterly and thoroughly impressed.

Not only are these crossbows works of art, but the designers have managed to integrate that artistry into the operating mechanism of these crossbows. These are not just basic mechanisms with “artsy stuff” thrown on top. The mechanics IS the art, and vice versa. This is what really blows me away about these xbows.

Here, let me give you a few examples. Look at the cocking mechanism on the Beast:

The Beast - Cocking Claws

The Beast - Cocking Claws

[Click Image to view larger size]

The Beast- Windlass Gear/Cocking/Trigger Mech.

The Beast- Windlass Gear/Cocking/Trigger Mech.

[Click Image to view larger size]

Dual, recessed chain, windlass/cranequin driven, cocking claws?!? Heck, freakin’ Yes! This is the kind of mechanical design I love with a passion!! If I were a swearing man, I’d be hurling excited expletives like beads at Mardi Gras…

Even the more mundane parts of the crossbow look like they were (probably quite gleefully) given functional artistic flair:

The Beast - Stacked Limb Bow Prod assy

The Beast - Stacked Limb Bow Prod assy

[Click Image to view larger size]

The Beast - Bowstring mount

The Beast - Bowstring mount

[Click Image to view larger size]

I mean look at that. Yes, it’s a dragon head, but its a functional dragon head. And yes, my love of dragons my be biasing my interpretation of what this is supposed to be. I’ll admit it. But I don’t care. Just suck it up. :P.

Anywhoo the mechanics of the Devils Claw are no exception. Take a look at it’s cocking mechanism.

The Claw - Cocking/Trigger assy

The Claw - Cocking/Trigger assy

I mean seriously. Never has the mechanical advantage of lever style crossbow cocking mechanism looked this good. Trust me. And that’s the whole point. Talisman appears to have taken the fundamental mechanics of the crossbow, and molded it into art. Amazing art at that.

Now I’ll grant you that, since I see all kinds of junk designs day after day, I’m probably easy to impress. But in this case, It’s a fair bet my enthusiasm is not misplaced. I could be wrong.

But I doubt it…

The Beast – [Talisman Custom Crossbows]

The Devils Claw – [Talisman Custom Crossbows]

Da Killah Crossbow…

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

One of my friends and automatic knife fanatic Sinza, has an interesting thread going on in his forum “Exotic Automatic”. It’s centered on the unique question of how one might create a retractable, wrist mounted, automatically operated bow.

Now there’s quite a lot of back and forth going on about the topic, (you can visit the forums here to check it out, or throw in any ideas you might have) but I thought it interesting because I happened to also run into this little puppy in my archives:

Conver Guard Crossbow

Conver Guards Crossbow

[view full size]

While not anywhere as cool or exotic as an automatic wrist mounted bow, I thought this would be a a cool weapon to post about. Crossbows are fairly simple weapons. In essence what you have is a short bow, attached to a long stock that had a trigger attached to a pin that was used to either directly hold the string, or push the string out of a slot in the rear of the stock into which the it would be pulled in order to “cock” it.

Then a crossbow arrow or (which is actually called a “bolt”) would be placed in a specially designed groove in the long rifle like stock just ahead of the string. The crossbow was aimed, the trigger was pulled, and the bolt was fired. Simple as 1, 2, 3. However as an advancement in weapon technology, it was a huge step forward.

What is interesting about this weapon was that, in comparison to it’s predecessor, the longbow, it could be made to fire much heavier projectiles, it was easier to aim, and thus easier to learn, and you did not have to “hold” the entire time you were aiming, making it possible to fire much more lethal projectiles, using prods that could develop quite prodigious quantities of force.

Medieval long bow were generally designed to develop anywhere from 50 to 200 pounds of force at their desired maximum draw. Heavy siege Cross bows could have prods generating in excess of 1500 lbs! Now seriously, what would one fire at with a 1500lb crossbow? Elephants?? … Oh… Nevermind… Anyway, siege crossbows with draw weights like this would not exactly be a breeze to use…

Now To be fair, I should also point out that crossbows required a more compact prod design, since the bow  sat sideways, and soldiers poking the soldier next to them in the eye during loading was frowned upon by the military brass. As a result, they had shorter bows, and obviously had a much shorter draw length, and therefore needed to have a greater draw weight in order to fire any given projectile at the same speed as a comparable Longbow.

However the fact that one did not had to actually hold it, and could draw it using equipment that gave the user a mechanical advantage, spawned crossbows of massive draws such as the 800lb monster draw, that could fire equally massive bolts. And with the lighter crossbows, all this could be done by a hastily trained infantryman who might never have picked up a longbow in their lives. Talk about a strategic advantage!

Anyway, I suppose I’m blathering on about stuff already know, so before some General Weisenheimer tells me I’m telling you all something you already know, I’ll just point you to the pic above, and say ogle away…

Conver Guard Crossbow – [Realm Collections]

Retractable Crossbow discussion – [Exotic Automatic]

A Gunlike Crossbow…

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Here is an interesting crossbow design:

Gun Crossbow

Gun Crossbow
[view full size]

[view XL Size]

Now as crossbows go, this is quite the looker. Melding design cues from the medieval hand held firearm with that of the venerable crossbow we get: The medieval gun crossbow. Sporting what looks like a medieval flint lock hand gun grip attached to a small cross bow. It’s just all kinds of style right there. The medieval warriors answer to the modern hand gun. 🙂

Anyway, one of the things I really like about this weapon is it’s simplicity. You can practically count the number of moving parts on this weapon with one hand. And yet it’s simplicity does not diminish it’s effectiveness one whit. Even though, compared to a full size cross bow, this would have been very weak. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. It could have been quite lethal at close range.

Yet another interesting thing about this weapon is that it is sporting a rather neat little feature that I don’t often see in medieval crossbows. Fore and aft adjustable sights!! If you look closely at the pic you’ll notice two posts with aiming apertures pinned to the right side of the crossbow. To be honest, I’m not positive about their adjustability, but the fact that they are pinned to the side, as opposed to being fixed to the latch plate, may suggest they were adjustable. Yep, this little beaut’s got all kinds of bells and whistles… Ok, so maybe one or two. But back then that was a lot.

And it would have been easy to conceal. At least compared to a full sized crossbow. There was even a little ring in the butt stock so you could hang it from your belt. Talk about shooting from the hip! And the beauty of it was, back then, no concealed carry license would have been required. Ah, the good old days… Gun control was all about “Robin Hood”ing your crossbow bolts… 😉

Gun Crossbow – [Realm Collections]

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