Home Forums Ancients Early Imperial Roman Legionary Slingers Reply To: Early Imperial Roman Legionary Slingers

Guy Farrish

This equivalence to ‘a .44 Magnum round’ – as it was reported in numerous headlines surprised me. The apparent source of this actually said it had ‘nearly’ as much stopping power – a different thing but still a bit odd.

The National Geographic report in 2017 on the finds at Burnswark near Edinburgh seems to be the origin of the quote and does indeed say German experiments show that….

It doesn’t source the experiment however, and while I am sure it happened I haven’t found the original (I haven’t looked that hard).

It does however sound a bit of a ‘gee whiz!’ bit of ‘science to me.

You can measure ‘stopping power’ in different ways and unless we know what the German experiment used and what it consisted of I’d treat these claims with a pinch of salt.

Google Josserand Energy Delivery Index (JEDI) and Hatcher’s Theory of Relative Stopping Power if you want to see some figures for handguns.

Plugging figures in for slings may be difficult depending on the availability of reliable data for actual, vice the imagined, sling performance but could be done.

Ancient Sling

The above is worth a look and is very pro sling – again claiming at least equal performance to handguns, but again I suspect a bit of bias in some of the assumptions and guesstimated input values.

With a .44 Magnum muzzle velocity of 1470 feet per second and a JEDI value of 147 I’d say you are going to be looking at some special circumstances for a slinger to beat it.

Given the likely length of the sling needed and the bullet weight to produce an equivalence (50 gram) I think it unlikely that legionaries dressed as the Warlord figures ever used slings in combat. You’d break the formation fairly dramatically and what was the point of all those mercenary and auxiliary slingers if legionaries were doing the job?

Vegetius was writing a portmateau’ how to’ for an Emperor and a cry to Make Rome Great Again. He was harking back to Republican legions of Velites Hastati and Triarii as the best, but he is all over the place with some of his organisation and tactics. I think it highly unlikely 1st century AD legionaries used slings much in combat, if ever.

But if you like the idea, nobody can prove they didn’t!

  • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by Guy Farrish.