Ranged weapon

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A period illustration of the Battle of Crecy. English longbowmen figure prominently in the foreground at right where they drive away the French crossbowmen. Battle of crecy froissart.jpg
A period illustration of the Battle of Crécy. English longbowmen figure prominently in the foreground at right where they drive away the French crossbowmen.

A ranged weapon[ dubious ] is any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance, i.e. at distances greater than the physical reach of the user holding the weapon itself. The act of using such a weapon is also known as shooting. It is sometimes also called projectile weapon or missile weapon because it typically works by launching solid projectiles ("missiles"), though technically a fluid-projector (which throws out pressurized streams of liquid or even gas) and a directed-energy weapon (which does not involve any tangible projectile) are also ranged weapons. In contrast, a weapon intended to be used in hand-to-hand combat is called a melee weapon.


Ranged weapons give the attacker an advantage (especially when performing an ambush) because the target is often getting hit from beyond immediate visual range, therefore making it more difficult for the defenders to react and hitting back effectively. [1] It also puts distance between the attacker and the opponent, which is a safer combat option since the close physical contact during melee fights often puts the attacker within the immediate striking range of enemy counterattacks and thus at an equal risk of getting hurt or killed.

The line between ranged and melee weapons is not entirely definite; for instance, spears, axes, daggers, and knives can be used for both throwing and hand-to-hand combat, depending on purpose and situation, and a ranged weapon can also be used as a melee weapon in close encounters, such as the buttstock of a rifle used for butt-stroking, a rifle with a bayonet fixed to the front end used as an improvised spear, a handgun used for pistol-whipping, and even an arrow being used as a hand pick in desperate situations.

Early ranged weapons often included specifically designed hand-thrown weapons such as darts, javelins, slings, as well as elastic weapons such as slingshots, bows and crossbows; and more complex siege engines like stone throwers, catapults, ballistas and trebuchets. These ranged weapons were extremely effective in ancient and early medieval warfare, especially when used en masse, as they gave the wielder an opportunity to launch multiple rounds of attack before an enemy armed with melee weapons or shorter-ranged missile weapons could even get close enough to pose a threat. After the invention of gunpowder and the development of firearms, gun-type pneumatic ranged weapons became the dominant weapon of choice in armed conflicts, even in close combat. In modern warfare, ranged weaponry is also used both tactically and strategically in the form of long-range artilleries, rockets and guided missiles. The maximum effective range of a weapon is the greatest distance from which the weapon can be fired while still consistently inflicting casualties or damage. When a modern missile can be launched from beyond the effective range of counterattack, it is termed a standoff missile.

List of ranged weapons

Prehistoric, ancient, and medieval period

Reconstruction of a post-Marian pilum Pilum lg.jpg
Reconstruction of a post-Marian pilum

Early modern period

Late modern and contemporary period

155 mm M198 howitzer 155fire.jpg
155 mm M198 howitzer
Exocet missile in flight Exocet-mil.jpg
Exocet missile in flight

Most modern projectile weapons fall into the broader category of either direct fire or indirect fire, with the former often being regarded as guns and the latter as artillery. While some are small and light enough to be operated by individuals (i.e. small arms and grenade launchers), most require a team of individuals to service, maneuver and operate.

Future and conceptual weapon period

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Artillery</span> Long-ranged guns for land warfare

Artillery is a class of heavy military ranged weapons that launch munitions far beyond the range and power of infantry firearms. Early artillery development focused on the ability to breach defensive walls and fortifications during sieges, and led to heavy, fairly immobile siege engines. As technology improved, lighter, more mobile field artillery cannons developed for battlefield use. This development continues today; modern self-propelled artillery vehicles are highly mobile weapons of great versatility generally providing the largest share of an army's total firepower.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Catapult</span> Pre-gunpowder projectile-launching device

A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of gunpowder or other propellants – particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. A catapult uses the sudden release of stored potential energy to propel its payload. Most convert tension or torsion energy that was more slowly and manually built up within the device before release, via springs, bows, twisted rope, elastic, or any of numerous other materials and mechanisms.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Missile</span> Self-propelled guided weapon system

In military terminology, a missile is a guided airborne ranged weapon capable of self-propelled flight usually by a jet engine or rocket motor.It is used for precise targeting. Missiles are thus also called guided missiles or guided rockets. Missiles have five system components: targeting, guidance system, flight system, engine and warhead. Missiles come in types adapted for different purposes: surface-to-surface and air-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and anti-satellite weapons.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sling (weapon)</span> Ranged weapon, typically to propel small stones

A sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone, clay, or lead "sling-bullet". It is also known as the shepherd's sling or slingshot. Someone who specializes in using slings is called a slinger.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Weapon</span> Implement or device used to inflict damage, harm, or kill

A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used to deter, threaten, inflict physical damage, harm, or kill. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defense, warfare, or suicide. In broader context, weapons may be construed to include anything used to gain a tactical, strategic, material or mental advantage over an adversary or enemy target.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ballista</span> Ancient ranged weapon

The ballista, plural ballistae, sometimes called bolt thrower, was an ancient missile weapon that launched either bolts or stones at a distant target.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Trebuchet</span> Siege engine using long arm to throw projectiles

A trebuchet is a type of catapult that uses a long arm to throw a projectile. It was a common powerful siege engine until the advent of gunpowder. The design of a trebuchet allows it to launch projectiles of greater weights and further distances than that of a traditional catapult.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Projectile</span> Object propelled through the air

A projectile is an object that is propelled by the application of an external force and then moves freely under the influence of gravity and air resistance. Although any objects in motion through space are projectiles, they are commonly found in warfare and sports.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nuclear artillery</span> Type of tactical nuclear weaponry designed to be fired from ground level in a battlefield

Nuclear artillery is a subset of limited-yield tactical nuclear weapons, in particular those weapons that are launched from the ground at battlefield targets. Nuclear artillery is commonly associated with shells delivered by a cannon, but in a technical sense short-range artillery rockets or tactical ballistic missiles are also included.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ballistics</span> Science of the motion of projectiles

Ballistics is the field of mechanics concerned with the launching, flight behaviour and impact effects of projectiles, especially ranged weapon munitions such as bullets, unguided bombs, rockets or the like; the science or art of designing and accelerating projectiles so as to achieve a desired performance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rocket launcher</span> Portable device that propels unaimed rocket

A rocket launcher is a weapon that launches an unguided, rocket-propelled projectile.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shoulder-fired missile</span> Rocket-propelled explosive projectile

A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile, man-portable rocket launcher, or man-portable missile is a rocket-propelled explosive projectile small enough to be carried by a single person and fired while held on one's shoulder. The word "missile" in this context is used in its original broad sense of a heavy projectile, and encompasses all guided missiles and unguided rockets. In many instances, although not technically defining all shoulder-fired missiles, the name bazooka is regularly used as an informal name, although the actual Bazooka is a type of unguided rocket launcher in its own right.

Darts are airborne ranged weapons. They are designed to fly such that a sharp, often weighted point will strike first. They can be distinguished from javelins by the presence of fletching and a shaft that is shorter and/or more flexible. Darts can be propelled by hand or with the aid of a hand-held implement such as a blowgun. They can be distinguished from arrows because they are not used with a bow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wunderwaffe</span> Propaganda term for WWII German weapons programmes

Wunderwaffe is German word meaning "wonder-weapon" and was a term assigned during World War II by Nazi Germany's propaganda ministry to some revolutionary "superweapons". Most of these weapons however remained prototypes, which either never reached the combat theater, or if they did, were too late or in too insignificant numbers to have a military effect.

List of abbreviations, acronyms and initials related to military subjects such as modern armour, artillery, infantry, and weapons, along with their definitions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of weapons</span> Aspect of history

People have used weapons in warfare, hunting, self-defense, law enforcement, and criminal activity. Weapons also serve many other purposes in society including use in sports, collections for display, and historical displays and demonstrations. As technology has developed throughout history, weapons have changed with it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Direct fire</span> Weapons firing with line of sight on target

Direct fire or line-of-sight fire refers to firing of a ranged weapon whose projectile is launched directly at a target within the line-of-sight of the user. The firing weapon must have a sighting device and an unobstructed view to the target, which means no obstacles or friendly units can be between it and the target. A weapon engaged in direct fire conversely exposes itself to direct return fire from the target.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Man-portable anti-tank systems</span> Weapon system designed for infantry use against tanks

Man-portable anti-tank systems are traditionally portable shoulder-launched projectile systems firing heavy shell-type projectiles, typically designed to combat protected targets, such as armoured vehicles, field fortifications and at times even low-flying aircraft.


  1. McDonald, James. "Medieval Weapons". Medieval Weapons & Armour. Retrieved 22 May 2015.

Further reading