No, not another gun control thread.
In the “How Did Europe Come to Dominate the World” thread in the GQ forum, Pickman’s Model wrote:
I seriously differ.
The conquistadores would not, let remember, have been armed with Uzi and Armalites, but smoothbore, single-shot arquebuses and pistols. The range and accuracy of such weapons, particularly at the beginning of the 16th century, was low.
In point of fact, cavalry did try to maintain a role as the main battle arm, practicing the caracole and using the pistol as their weapon. This effort failed miserably. By the middle of 17th century, infantry armed with musket and pike had quite convincingly seized this role, leaving the cavalry to put down their pistols, take up swords again, and be relegated to scouting, screening, pursuit, and occasionally applying the coup de grace to break up a demoralized or poorly handled regiment of infantry.
Both the composite bow and longbow are better weapons than the arquebus (I concede that neither was invented in the Western Hemisphere). The difficulty lies, not in weapon, but in the archer; proficiency with the bow requires years to a lifetime to acquire, whilst a peasant can be taken from behind his plow, given an arquebus, and learn to handle it with as much ability as it permits (not much, I admit) in a couple of weeks.
It should be noted that a horse is a much larger target than a man, and the archers are much more like to strike their targets than the arquebusiers theirs.
If the psychological impact of gunpowder could be overcome (and it is important; Machiavelli thought it the principal reason to arm some light troops with arquebuses), a force of archers of foot would likely give an equal force of mounted pistoleers or arquebusiers a very rough handling indeed.
“Kings die, and leave their crowns to their sons. Shmuel HaKatan took all the treasures in the world, and went away.”