**** Ulrich Bretscher's Black Powder Page ****
Shooting the Handgonne
and how it probably was done the medieval way
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Aurel Schaffner, an experienced gonne shooter, introduces you to the equipment of a 15th century handgonner and demonstrates, how the handgonne highly probably was loaded and fired. In this movie a copy of the so called "Tabor Handgonne" is used. The original of this gonne once played a role in the Husit wars in eastern Europe 1419-34.
Accessories of a handgonne?
From pictures and artifacts which came down to us, we are well informed how a musket was fired in 17th century. But we know little about the way a handgonne was shot in late 14th and early 15th century. Though there are many pictures showing handgonne wariers in action, no picture shows their equipment. How did they carry their powder, matches, bullets, wads and ramrods?
Images of handgonners have one fact in common with wild-west movies: The heroes are shooting endlessly without ever being forced to reload! Did they already carry a bandolier around their shoulder with wooden cartridges and a pouch filled with bullets? How did they carry the powder horn and the priming powder flask? At least we can take it from Fig. 3, they ignited the gonne by a hand-held slow-match. The painter, Diebold Schilling, was a contemporary, so he might certainly have known it.
Tactical employment of handgonnersHandgonners weren't tactically organized like archers and later the musketeers, who fought in organized units and fired their weapons synchronized on command. Far from this handgonners mostly were acting as individuals. I haven't ever seen a picture showing them as part of a military body on a battle field. Mostly you see them as defenders of a fortification or as individuals in a siege , such as in fig. 2.
Equipment of a handgonner
About the equipment of a handgonner I don't know anything, I have to admit this. That's because there is no picture handed down to us, showing such a shot with his equipment.
But how did a handgonner carry all this equipment with him? My good guess is a bag, slung over the shoulder like a hunter his possibles bag. You see this demonstrated with this movie where it works fairly well.
So far historians mocked the effect of handgonnes. Mostly these ignorants credited handgonnes with frightening the enemy by unexpected smoke and bang at best. They accuse ineffective, primitive black powder for this.
With these tests I certainly will contradict former historians. Even with primitive, homemade black powder they were capable of piercing any personal armor used in the middle-ages.