A 15th century Korean handgonne volley fire technique

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,630
United States
#1
I came a cross this in The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History by Tonio Andrade (https://books.google.com/books?id=1jRJCgAAQBAJ) on pages 164 and 181. I found the Annals passage too (http://sillok.history.go.kr/id/kda_12911015_001).

It's a volley fire squad technique developed in 1447.

Basically there were to be squads of five men, four of whom held the guns, and another who loaded all of them. In order to make this easier, each squad had to use a single type of gun.

I thought this was interesting.

Are there other examples of firearms volley fire from this early? What are they like?
 
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Mar 2018
78
Earth
#2
The Chinese had firearm volley fire technique even earlier than this, developed by Ming general Mu Ying (沐英) during his conquest of Yunnan in the late 14th century. It's likely that the Koreans learnt this technique from the Chinese.
 
Jul 2016
8,471
USA
#3
That sounds like a pretty bad technique. I can only imagine the technique works with a squad of five and with five firearms, with one shooter, the other four acting as loaders, with a constant hand off of loaded weapons to the one shooter, who hands off his expended gun, grabs a loaded, fires, hands that off for another loaded gun, repeat as necessary.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,630
United States
#4
The Chinese had firearm volley fire technique even earlier than this, developed by Ming general Mu Ying (沐英) during his conquest of Yunnan in the late 14th century. It's likely that the Koreans learnt this technique from the Chinese.
Volley fire is a pretty simple and intuitive concept, it's not like different techniques can't be thought up independently in different places. What was the technique they used? How did it compare to the Korean one?

And yes, according to Wiki the earliest possible reference to firearms volley fire is the instance you mention.

That sounds like a pretty bad technique. I can only imagine the technique works with a squad of five and with five firearms, with one shooter, the other four acting as loaders, with a constant hand off of loaded weapons to the one shooter, who hands off his expended gun, grabs a loaded, fires, hands that off for another loaded gun, repeat as necessary.
How would it be a bad technique? I mean it might not be the best conceivable technique for volley fire, but I'm curious as to what major problems you see in it.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2016
8,471
USA
#5
How would it be a bad technique? I mean it might not be the best conceivable technique for volley fire, but I'm curious as to what major problems you see in it.
Let's say it only takes 30 seconds to reload (though I'm going to guess it took far longer than that in the 15th century). You have four guns, four shooters, one loader. If all four fire at once its going to take some minutes for the one guy to reload them all. If all four fire individually and then hand their gun off to get reloaded and then they stand around and do nothing. If they had five guns it might work, because the four shooters could keep up a near constant firing of four guns, spacing out shots a bit in time for how long it takes to reload one of them, and still pull it off. But not with four, then one of them is standing around twirling his fingers.
 
Mar 2018
78
Earth
#6
Volley fire is a pretty simple and intuitive concept, it's not like different techniques can't be thought up independently in different places. What was the technique they used? How did it compare to the Korean one?

And yes, according to Wiki the earliest possible reference to firearms volley fire is the instance you mention.
This is the original Ming record:

乃下令军中,置火铳神机箭三行,列阵中。俟象进,则前行,铳箭俱发;不退,则次行继之;又不退,则三行继之。
I'm not that well-versed in classical Chinese, but from my understanding, Mu Ying deployed his handgonnes and Shenjijian/Shinkijeon rocket arrows into three lines. If enemy war elephants advance, then the first line would shoot; if the war elephants still don't back up, then the second line would shoot; and if they keep on coming, then the third line would shoot.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,630
United States
#7
Let's say it only takes 30 seconds to reload (though I'm going to guess it took far longer than that in the 15th century). You have four guns, four shooters, one loader. If all four fire at once its going to take some minutes for the one guy to reload them all. If all four fire individually and then hand their gun off to get reloaded and then they stand around and do nothing. If they had five guns it might work, because the four shooters could keep up a near constant firing of four guns, spacing out shots a bit in time for how long it takes to reload one of them, and still pull it off. But not with four, then one of them is standing around twirling his fingers.
Yeah those are some valid points I was wondering about as well. The original passage only mentions a loader and four firers, it does not go into more depth. One of the parts in that book says they did take turns.

This is the original Ming record:



I'm not that well-versed in classical Chinese, but from my understanding, Mu Ying deployed his handgonnes and Shenjijian/Shinkijeon rocket arrows into three lines. If enemy war elephants advance, then the first line would shoot; if the war elephants still don't back up, then the second line would shoot; and if they keep on coming, then the third line would shoot.
That sounds like a very different technique to me, so probably thought up independently.
 
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Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,630
United States
#8
Here is the original Classical Chinese and my translation (I don't know how good it is, maybe someone can correct me if I'm mistaken):

每五人作伍, 一伍之內, 須令一人知之, 四人放射, 一人應機藏藥可也。

Each squad has five men, and inside one squad there must be one commander/instructor(?) and four shooters. One man should load/carry(?) the gunpowder.

It later says you can have a squad of ten men, and the squad can be complemented by archers or swordsmen.
 
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Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,630
United States
#9
Yeah that interpretation seems very impractical and pointless. Looking at the passage again, it could be saying that in a five man unit, four fire the guns while one has the powder and loads them. In this case there are presumably more guns than soldiers. Essentially for each gunner there are multiple guns that which the loader is constantly loading and switching out. This sounds similar to the early breech-loading guns where there are multiple chambers to a given gun, giving a faster rate of fire.

Depending on the number of guns, they may not be able to sustain their maximum rate of fire for very long as it seems like the gunners would fire the guns faster than the loader could load them.

Although perhaps this wasn't volley fire, the soldiers were firing at will, in which case the rate of fire may have been slower, I don't know.
 

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