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Thread: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle

  1. #1 Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    I wonder sometimes, in areas of the world where serious oppression is going on, would it do any good to provide common villagers with muskets? They're not as powerful, and more importantly: they don't have the same range or rate of fire as a modern rifle, but could a sufficiently determined group of people with muskets defeat a modern group of soldiers?

    If we add improvised hand grenades, does that help?


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  3. #2  
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    Toy soldiers?


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  4. #3 Re: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I wonder sometimes, in areas of the world where serious oppression is going on, would it do any good to provide common villagers with muskets?
    Why?

    I suppose we could argue the merits of sling-shot vs. bb gun but it would be frivolous.
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  5. #4 Re: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    Why?

    I suppose we could argue the merits of sling-shot vs. bb gun but it would be frivolous.
    But the point is to try and help defend people without allowing them to turn around and kill us with what we give them
    You cannot compare this too toys when this is actually attempting to deal with a serious problem
    And yes it would work to an extent that it would save some towns, because even though they are weak, they still can shoot and kill, this would at least make an opposition to their safety think a little bit more before they would strike
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    I don't even know where you would get muskets. The weapons would have to be manufactured and undoubtedly be much more expensive than easily available Kalashnikovs, which people in dangerous regions already have in abundance. Instead of collecting local, plentiful ammunition, you would also have to constantly provide black powder and probably lead for molds.

    For the purpose of foreign internal defense (FID) or irregular warfare, training like fire support and special reconnaissance or the delivery of weapons tailored to counter specific threats like anti-helicopter/vehicular weapons are necessities. If you're worried about the people turning them against you, small arms aren't a big concern.

    Giving muskets to freedom fighters would only irritate their enemy enough to crush them. Even the most incompetent fighting force would walk right over musket wielding combatants. It can safely be said that these obsolescent weapons have no place in modern warfare.
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    You cannot say that small arms are not a concern, considering that they way the modern USA reacts to things makes it so that most likely it will come to small arms battle
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    I don't even know where you would get muskets. The weapons would have to be manufactured and undoubtedly be much more expensive than easily available Kalashnikovs, which people in dangerous regions already have in abundance. Instead of collecting local, plentiful ammunition, you would also have to constantly provide black powder and probably lead for molds.
    I was thinking that it would have the advantage of being possible for locals to build them themselves, maybe improvising them somehow.


    Giving muskets to freedom fighters would only irritate their enemy enough to crush them. Even the most incompetent fighting force would walk right over musket wielding combatants. It can safely be said that these obsolescent weapons have no place in modern warfare.
    This is what I was wondering. I guess it's basically not a contest then? It kind of makes me sad that the side that owns a modern factory (or is backed by someone who owns a modern factory) is always going to be the one that wins.

    Of course, I'm operating on the assumption that a musket is the best weapon anyone is going to be able to improvise. .... come to think of it.... that would have been a better question.
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    Its not a conflict in a prolonged battle, however a musket can still shoot and kill someone, so it is a viable weapon in a quick skirmish
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  10. #9  
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    True, but so is a knife or a bow and arrow. What I was hoping for was a weapon that could even the playing field a little more than that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I was thinking that it would have the advantage of being possible for locals to build them themselves, maybe improvising them somehow.
    Muskets and black powder cannot be improvised by villagers. Even so, they are no threat to those with modern weapons.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    It kind of makes me sad that the side that owns a modern factory (or is backed by someone who owns a modern factory) is always going to be the one that wins.
    I say again, people in violent regions generally have little difficulty acquiring modern firearms. You're trying to fix what isn't broke.
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  12. #11  
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I was thinking that it would have the advantage of being possible for locals to build them themselves, maybe improvising them somehow. .
    The Vietcong had no difficulty manufacturing semi-automatic weapons in a village economy. As far as a musket is concerned, Khukri has already pointed out that modern freedom fighters just wouldn't have the balls for it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    The Vietcong had no difficulty manufacturing semi-automatic weapons in a village economy.
    They did not manufacture weapons. They were imported, mostly from the Russian arms industry.
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  14. #13 Re: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I wonder sometimes, in areas of the world where serious oppression is going on, would it do any good to provide common villagers with muskets?
    For starters, who is doing the oppressing, and who are the "we" who should provide the muskets (or any other low-tech weapons)?

    The solution will largely depend on the source of the problem and the resources "we" have.

    You and I presumably have way too little money between us to deliver any meaningful supply of any weapons anywhere. I suppose that by "we" you mean the Western world, perhaps the USA in particular. They would be able to do that, but note that it is impossible to deliver anything to a large number of "common villagers" and keep it secret, so the local oppressive governement will have little trouble eliminating both your muskets and your musketeers. Unless there already is an organized secret resistance movement which you could help arm. But then you would be providing proper weapons to organized fighters, not muskets to ordinary villagers.

    Now if the oppression is not by a government but by some kind of mob or warlords that the local government does not support but cannot cope with, then perhaps arming the villagers would be a good idea. But I wouldn't go for muskets - rather, some regular weapons of such kind as are difficult to use for common crime. Say big rifles, or even heavy stationary machine guns that you cannot hide in your pocket and go around robbing or assasinating people.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    The Vietcong had no difficulty manufacturing semi-automatic weapons in a village economy.
    They did not manufacture weapons. They were imported, mostly from the Russian arms industry.
    You really want to say that? Hanoi (North Vietnam) is a large city. What were they doing there, why did the Americans bomb 75% of its population into the hills?
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    The Vietcong were a southern insurgency and did not produce small arms. Hanoi was defended by the North Vietnamese military. These are two very different fighting forces. In Hanoi, the US targeted a few military assets like SAM sites, but the primary goal was to knock out infrastructure such as railroads, warehouses, and power plants. This limited the distribution of arms, petroleum and other vital war materiel.
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  17. #16 Re: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    That makes some sense Kukhri but North/South "very different" come on, like Afghanistan pan-Islamists and Pakistan pan-Islamists are very different? As far as the insurgency's concerned these and many more are one country.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leszek Luchowski
    I wouldn't go for muskets - rather, some regular weapons of such kind as are difficult to use for common crime. Say big rifles, or even heavy stationary machine guns that you cannot hide in your pocket and go around robbing or assasinating people.
    I like that idea, because it won't promote anarchy and thugs. Civil society may live on. I suggest anti-vehicular weapons, because it's impossible to significantly (or profitably) oppress a people without vehicle support. If the oppressors have to get around on foot and rely on indigenous distribution networks ...lol pick your ammo at the post office, ride bicycle to the killing fields... they essentially are "the people". I'm wary of machine guns because those really itch for crowd control, mass murder, genocide, collateral damage. Better slow firing, armour piercing.
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    You may want to read about this weapon produced by the Polish resistance under Nazi German occupation.
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  19. #18  
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    I'd like to learn more about the Polish resistance. What sorts of sabotage did they engage in? Did they disable Nazi vehicles? How?
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  20. #19 Re: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    That makes some sense Kukhri but North/South "very different" come on, like Afghanistan pan-Islamists and Pakistan pan-Islamists are very different? As far as the insurgency's concerned these and many more are one country.
    But this is not the purpose of this discussion. I persist in saying that capable small arms are not produced in rural settings in any significant numbers, if at all. If small arms were produced in Hanoi, they would have been the product of factories. WWII resistance groups did rarely develop weapons independently, but these were created in secret workshops and much effort went into construction/design.

    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    I'd like to learn more about the Polish resistance. What sorts of sabotage did they engage in? Did they disable Nazi vehicles? How?
    "Mila 18" is a classic novel and great account of the Warsaw ghetto revolts against German occupation. In it, almost all small arms are smuggled or stolen German weapons. Vehicles were disabled with IED's. I don't recall whether or not military grade mines had been smuggled into the city.
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  21. #20  
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    At that time in history, railway was a very important means of transport, and yes they did a lot to disrupt the traffic of German military trains across Poland to the Russian front. The acts of sabotage ranged from simple unscrewing of rails from sleepers to blowing up tracks, bridges and station facilities.

    On the Wikipedia page on the Home Army you will find a detailed list of confirmed sabotage-diversionary actions (search the page for this phrase, then expand the table).
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  22. #21 Re: Muskets vs. a Modern Rifle 
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    But this is not the purpose of this discussion. I persist in saying that capable small arms are not produced in rural settings in any significant numbers, if at all. If small arms were produced in Hanoi, they would have been the product of factories. WWII resistance groups did rarely develop weapons independently, but these were created in secret workshops and much effort went into construction/design.
    I think the discussion naturally broadens to other insurgency weapons, since we've ruled out muskets, and Kojax did mention improvised hand grenades in his OP.

    I'm pretty wary of weapons that can be used to terrorize civilians, or mow down gatherings. So grenades and machine guns aren't helping where civil society verges on collapse. It really doesn't take many hand grenades tossed into mosques or markets to shut everything down. Then people rely on thugs and local militias for protection. Such measures typically breed more problems than they solve.

    Anti-vehicular weapons are ill-suited to terrorizing or coercing a population. Common criminals won't have much use of them. One can't commit a genocide with them. And their construction (improvisation?) happens to be within the means of "common villagers".

    Perhaps I over-rate weapons designed to destroy weapons, because I grossly devalue military hardware relative to human life. It's a pacifist value.
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  23. #22  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I was thinking that it would have the advantage of being possible for locals to build them themselves, maybe improvising them somehow.
    Muskets and black powder cannot be improvised by villagers. Even so, they are no threat to those with modern weapons.
    I think the possible advantage of Black Powder is that blacksmiths used to make them once upon a time. If you could teach a villager some basic blacksmithing, or maybe fully train them in the art so they can do other things with it beyond just muskets, then maybe they could make simple tools for their neighbors .....but like you say: muskets are useless anyway, so it probably wouldn't be worth it.

    People seem to think you can't use 1800's tech in the modern world, but really the laws of physics have not changed since then. It's still possible to do things the old ways, just not always practical.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    It kind of makes me sad that the side that owns a modern factory (or is backed by someone who owns a modern factory) is always going to be the one that wins.
    I say again, people in violent regions generally have little difficulty acquiring modern firearms. You're trying to fix what isn't broke.
    The groups I would want to arm are the ones that have nothing whatsoever to offer to a first world country, and therefore the ones least likely to receive any support from one.

    If you read between the lines in a lot of conflicts, it seems like the trend in a lot of places is toward arming resistance groups who are willing to scavenge their country for resources, and exploit their fellow citizens. Giving small arms to those people is an investment from the perspective of whoever they're going to sell their ill gotten gains to. In Afghanistan, anyone who wants to frustrate the USA has a motive.

    Some countries like Zimbabwe are very unlikely to allow you to arm their populace directly, but I don't think they'd be able to keep a bunch of pamphlets and fliers from making it in. I'd just love to see how brave Robert Mugabe feels about raping and terrorizing the people who don't vote for him, once they start shooting back.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kukhri
    Quote Originally Posted by Ophiolite
    The Vietcong had no difficulty manufacturing semi-automatic weapons in a village economy.
    They did not manufacture weapons. They were imported, mostly from the Russian arms industry.
    I did not state that they manufactured all their weapons. I stated that they had no difficulty manufacturing semi-automatic weapons. I provide this link in support of my statement.

    This newsreel item refers to a home made assault rifle.
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    The weapon featured in the Newsreel was not fully depicted, but it looked to be assembled from existing parts. It resembled a Russian Mosin Nagant, either the 91/30 or M44 model.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    I think the possible advantage of Black Powder is that blacksmiths used to make them once upon a time. If you could teach a villager some basic blacksmithing, or maybe fully train them in the art so they can do other things with it beyond just muskets, then maybe they could make simple tools for their neighbors
    Blacksmiths work in iron or steel. Gunpowder, whether for military purposes or fireworks was produced by highly skilled specialists, who in Europe were often called "firemakers".
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  26. #25  
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    This page features a couple of functional improvised guns made by prison inmates. Of course these are manufactured under extremely difficult conditions.

    I think we can leave old-time blacksmithing, since everybody on Earth now has access to salvage like steel pipe, wire, bolts, and tools like brazing torch, drill, etc.

    Gunpowder's no secret art. It's saltpetre with charcoal and sulfur; 5:1:1. Lots of little boys have blended those to shoot steelies out of pipes. The little boys I knew anyhow. Apparently the exact quality of charcoal makes a huge difference, but I'm sure it's well within the means of any refugee camp kitchen. Saltpetre is a very ordinary chemical used in poor countries, again the kitchen, or barn will stock it. Sulfur I don't know about.

    Kukhri I'll bet you know some means of improvising high explosives in 3rd world environment, but aren't in a position to say.
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  27. #26  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Saltpetre is a very ordinary chemical used in poor countries, again the kitchen, or barn will stock it. Sulfur I don't know about.
    You can actually get saltpeter from urine.

    http://www.wisegeek.com/can-you-real...from-urine.htm
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pong
    Kukhri I'll bet you know some means of improvising high explosives in 3rd world environment, but aren't in a position to say.
    Yup.

    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    You can actually get saltpeter from urine.
    This is actually one of the ways explosives are distilled in my comic about Mars colonists. It's a very slow and difficult process but it works. This technique was actually first discovered by an alchemist who tried to create gold from urine, presumably because they are similarly colored. He had the local military contingent supply him with lots of urine, then kept it in his basement for months at a time while experimenting. It eventually became clear it was combustive, though he never did get around to making gold.
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  29. #28  
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    Black powder muzzloader muskets are not cheap. They usually come in 50 caliber and are powerful. They are just not very accurate.
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    Come to think of it... I suddenly remember that I fired some muskets at scout camp one year. Their accuracy wasn't really bad. I imagine their range is pretty bad, but not their accuracy at near distances. The targets weren't a lot bigger or nearer than they were on the .22 range, but I usually managed to hit them. It probably helped that they let us fire from a standing position. I hate firing from prone position, which is what we had to do on the .22 range.

    It wasn't as easy as a shotgun, which they also had available. So I guess it's the worst of both worlds between .22 and shotguns. We also made our own lead balls, which is pretty easy because of lead's low melting point. You just need a little mold that can open and close, and a campfire to heat the lead up.

    I doubt the casting molds we used at camp would cost more than about 10 dollars to make if someone in the USA decided to start mass producing them in large quantities. I wonder how much it would cost to mass produce muskets? Maybe this could be a cheap way to arm villages that are being threatened with genocide? At the very least, it would slow the process down I think.
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    You are not the first to think of giving potential victims a limited firepower.

    At the end of WWI (=1918 AD), when Poland regained her independence and territorial integrity after the partitions (benefitting from the defeat of Germany, the disintegration of Austria-Hungary, and the domestic problems of Russia), we allowed the German troops to walk home with their rifles and three rounds per man. Not nearly enough to put up a fight in a regular battlefield, but enough to avoid being lynched by the population or attacked by marauders of any description.
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    Yeah. That's kind of what I'm hoping for, just a deterrent. If a group of genocidal marauders with modern rifles is sufficiently determined, they could still take a village and kill everyone inside, but it will cost them.

    Either they've got to level the whole place with artillery, or waste a lot of ammunition trying to pick the villagers off from a distance, or they're probably going to take some casualties. It's all up to the scale of engagement. It's like how the USA military has better tanks and aircraft than any of the insurgencies, but when we're trying to occupy them on the ground level, their small arms put them on an equal footing with us. If a bunch of corrupt soldiers in Zimbabwe wants to enter a village that is armed with muskets and start brutalizing everybody, I think they'd discover they had the same problem. In close quarters, a musket still kills. It's about as good as a shotgun, except it only has one shot. (Also, the un-encased lead makes for some wickedly brutal injuries. Not necessarily lethal, but definitely wicked. )

    And... this makes me wonder if maybe shotguns are a better option? Or maybe some kind of hybrid between a shotgun and black powder weapon, or just a multiple shot musket? I wonder how hard it is to manufacture black powder revolvers?
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    It's all up to the scale of engagement. It's like how the USA military has better tanks and aircraft than any of the insurgencies, but when we're trying to occupy them on the ground level, their small arms put them on an equal footing with us.
    More equal perhaps, but no where close to equal. Training, body armor, better weapons and synchronizated manuever still make it a vastly one-sided fight.

    Ultimately training, using the most efficient tactics in whatever weapons and systems you have, and support of the population count a lot more than the actual weapons in use.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Quote Originally Posted by kojax
    It's all up to the scale of engagement. It's like how the USA military has better tanks and aircraft than any of the insurgencies, but when we're trying to occupy them on the ground level, their small arms put them on an equal footing with us.
    More equal perhaps, but no where close to equal. Training, body armor, better weapons and synchronizated manuever still make it a vastly one-sided fight.

    Ultimately training, using the most efficient tactics in whatever weapons and systems you have, and support of the population count a lot more than the actual weapons in use.
    Good point. It's a matter of degree. On the open field, against our tanks and air support, they'd be at one degree of a disadvantage, and close in, they're at another degree of disadvantage, but we're still killing more of them than they are of us.

    In the case of a musket armed village being brutalized by some warlord's soldiers, I don't have the illusion that casualty rates would be equal on both sides, but the soldiers' likely casualties go from zero to some number greater than zero. That's enough to make them have to think twice about attacking, unless there's really something important to them in that village.
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