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 is any weapon that can engage targets beyond hand-to-hand distance, i.e. at distances greater than the physical reach of the weapon itself. It is sometimes also called projectile weapon or missile weapon because it typically works by launching projectiles, though technically a directed-energy weapon (which doesn't involve projectiles) is also a ranged weapon. In contrast, a weapon intended to be used in hand-to-hand combat is called a melee weapon.

A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with intent to inflict damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting, crime, law enforcement, self-defense, and warfare. 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.

A projectile is any object thrown into space by the exertion of a force. Although any object in motion through space may be called a projectile, the term more commonly refers to a ranged weapon. Mathematical equations of motion are used to analyze projectile trajectory. An object projected at an angle to the horizontal has both the vertical and horizontal components of velocity. The vertical component of the velocity on the y-axis given as Vy=USin(teta) while the horizontal component of the velocity Vx=UCos(teta). There are various terms used in projectiles at specific angle teta 1. Time to reach maximum height. It is symbolized as (t), which is the time taken for the projectile to reach the maximum height from the plane of projection. Mathematically, it is give as t=USin(teta)/g Where g=acceleration due to gravity(app 10m/s²) U= initial velocity (m/s) teta= angle made by the projectile with the horizontal axis.

A directed-energy weapon (DEW) is a ranged weapon that damages its target with highly focused energy, including laser, microwaves and particle beams. Potential applications of this technology include weapons that target personnel, missiles, vehicles, and optical devices.


Ranged weapons give the attacker an advantage in combat, since the target is often getting hit from beyond immediate visual range, and therefore has less time to react and more difficulty defending 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 combat often puts the attacker within the immediate striking range of enemy counterattack, 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, knives and daggers can be used for both throwing and stabbing, depending on purpose and situation; and a ranged weapon can also be used as a melee weapon in close encounters, such as a rifle being used for melee with its buttstock and a fixed bayonet, handguns can be used as an improvised hammer and even an arrow can be used for stabbing in desperate situations.

A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.

Axe tool or weapon

An axe is an implement that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood, to harvest timber, as a weapon, and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol. The axe has many forms and specialised uses but generally consists of an axe head with a handle, or helve.

Dagger Fighting weapon with a sharp point

A dagger is a knife with a very sharp point and usually two sharp edges, typically designed or capable of being used as a thrusting or stabbing weapon. Daggers have been used throughout human history for close combat confrontations, and many cultures have used adorned daggers in ritual and ceremonial contexts. The distinctive shape and historic usage of the dagger have made it iconic and symbolic. A dagger in the modern sense is a weapon designed for close-proximity combat or self-defense; due to its use in historic weapon assemblages, it has associations with assassination and murders. Double-edged knives, however, play different sorts of roles in different social contexts. In some cultures, they are neither a weapon nor a tool, but a potent symbol of manhood; in others they are ritual objects used in body modifications such as circumcision.

Early ranged weapons often included specifically designed hand-thrown weapons such as javelins, slings and darts, as well as more complex elastic weapons such as slingshots and bows; and siege engines like stone throwers, catapults, ballistas and trebuchets. These ranged weapons were extremely effective in combat, especially when used en masse, as they gave the wielder 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.

Sling (weapon) ranged weapon

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. Someone who specialises in using slings is called a slinger.

Dart (missile) missile weapon

Darts are missile weapons, designed to fly such that a sharp, often weighted point will strike first. They can be distinguished from javelins by fletching and a shaft that is shorter and/or more flexible, and from arrows by the fact that they are not of the right length to use with a normal bow.

Slingshot Handheld hand-powered projectile weapon

A slingshot or catapult (UK), ging, shanghai or kettie is normally a small hand-powered projectile weapon. The classic form consists of a Y-shaped frame held in the off hand, with two natural-rubber strips attached to the uprights. The other ends of the strips lead back to a pocket that holds the projectile. The dominant hand grasps the pocket and draws it back to the desired extent to provide power for the projectile—up to a full span of the arm with sufficiently long bands.

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. Maximum effective range of a weapon is the greatest distance from which the weapon can be fired while still consistently inflicting casualties or damage.

Gunpowder explosive most commonly used as propellant in firearms

Gunpowder, also known as black powder to distinguish it from modern smokeless powder, is the earliest known chemical explosive. It consists of a mixture of sulfur (S), charcoal (C), and potassium nitrate (saltpeter, KNO3). The sulfur and charcoal act as fuels while the saltpeter is an oxidizer. Because of its incendiary properties and the amount of heat and gas volume that it generates, gunpowder has been widely used as a propellant in firearms, artillery, rockets, and fireworks, and as a blasting powder in quarrying, mining, and road building.

Firearm Man portable weapon that launches a projectile at high velocity using the confined burning of a propellant

A firearm is a portable gun that inflicts damage on targets by launching one or more projectiles driven by rapidly expanding high-pressure gas produced chemically by exothermic combustion (deflagration) of propellant within an ammunition cartridge. If gas pressurization is achieved through mechanical gas compression rather than through chemical propellant combustion, then the gun is technically an air gun, not a firearm.

Close combat violent physical confrontation between two or more opponents at short range

Close combat means a violent physical confrontation between two or more opponents at short range.

List of ranged weapons

Pre-modern projectile weapons

Trebuchet at Chateau des Baux, France Trebuchet.jpg
Trebuchet at Château des Baux, France
Reconstruction of a post-Marian pilum Pilum lg.jpg
Reconstruction of a post-Marian pilum
Bolas weapon

A bolas is a type of throwing weapon made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, used to capture animals by entangling their legs. Bolas were most famously used by the gauchos, but have been found in excavations of Pre-Columbian settlements, especially in Patagonia, where indigenous peoples used them to catch 200-pound guanaco and ñandú (birds). The Mapuche and the Inca army used them in battle. Researchers have also found bolas in North America at the Calico Early Man Site.

Boomerang thrown weapon

A boomerang is a thrown tool, typically constructed as a flat airfoil, that is designed to spin about an axis perpendicular to the direction of its flight. A returning boomerang is designed to return to the thrower. It is well known as a weapon used by Indigenous Australians for hunting.

Chakram Circular throwing weapon

The chakram is a throwing weapon from the Indian subcontinent. It is circular with a sharpened outer edge and a diameter of 12–30 centimetres (4.7–11.8 in). It is also known as chalikar meaning "circle", and was sometimes referred to in English writings as a "war-quoit". The Chakram is primarily a throwing weapon but can also be used hand-to-hand. A smaller variant called chakri was worn on the wrist. A related weapon is the chakri dang, a bamboo staff with a chakri attached at one end.

Modern projectile weapons

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 artilleries. While some are small and light enough to be operated by individuals (i.e. small arms and grenade launchers), most require a team to aim, move or fire.

Directed energy weapons

See also

Related Research Articles

Catapult ballistic device

A catapult is a ballistic device used to launch a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines. In use since ancient times, the catapult has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during warfare. In modern times the term can apply to devices ranging from a simple hand-held implement to a mechanism for launching aircraft from a ship.

Ballista ancient missile weapon

The ballista, plural ballistae, sometimes called bolt thrower, was an ancient missile weapon that launched a large projectile at a distant target.

Trebuchet type of siege engine which uses a swinging arm to throw a missile at the enemy

A trebuchet is a type of catapult that uses a swinging arm to throw a projectile. It was a common powerful siege engine until the advent of gunpowder.

Mangonel type of catapult or siege engine used in the medieval period

The mangonel, also called the traction trebuchet, was a type of trebuchet or siege engine used in China starting from the Warring States period, and later across Eurasia in the 6th century AD. Unlike the earlier torsion engines and later counterweight trebuchet, the mangonel operated on manpower pulling cords attached to a lever and sling to launch projectiles. Although the mangonel required more men to function, it was also less complex and faster to reload than the torsion powered ballista and onager which it replaced in early Medieval Europe.

Ballistics Science of the motion of projectiles

Ballistics is the field of mechanics that concerns with the launching, flight behavior 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.

Siege engine device that is designed to break or circumvent city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare

A siege engine is a device that is designed to break or circumvent heavy castle doors, thick city walls and other fortifications in siege warfare. Some are immobile, constructed in place to attack enemy fortifications from a distance, while others have wheels to enable advancing up to the enemy fortification. There are many distinct types, such as siege towers to allow attacking soldiers to scale walls and attack the defenders, battering rams to break walls or gates, to catapults used to attack from a distance and fire a projectile; some complex siege engines were combinations of these types.

High-explosive anti-tank warhead type of shaped charge explosive that uses the Munroe effect to penetrate thick tank armor

A high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead is a type of shaped charge explosive that uses the Munroe effect to penetrate thick tank armor. The warhead functions by having the explosive charge collapse a metal liner inside the warhead into a high-velocity superplastic jet. This superplastic jet is capable of penetrating armor steel to a depth of seven or more times the diameter of the charge but is usually used to immobilize or destroy tanks. Due to the way they work, they do not have to be fired as fast as an armor piercing shell, allowing less recoil. Contrary to a widespread misconception, the jet does not melt its way through armor, as its effect is purely kinetic in nature. The HEAT warhead has become less effective against tanks and other armored vehicles due to the use of composite armor, explosive-reactive armor, and active protection systems which destroy the HEAT warhead before it hits the tank. Even though HEAT rounds are less effective against the heavy armor found on 2010s main battle tanks, HEAT warheads remain a threat against less-armored parts of a main battle tank and against lighter armored vehicles or unarmored vehicles and helicopters.

Shoulder-fired missile missile meant to be fired while resting on a persons shoulder

A shoulder-fired missile, shoulder-launched missile or man-portable missile is an explosive-carrying, self-propelled projectile fired at a target, while being 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 which encompasses all guided missiles and unguided rockets. In many instances, although not technically defining all shoulder-fired missiles, the name bazooka is used as an informal name regularly, although the actual Bazooka is a type of shoulder-fired unguided rocket launcher in its own right.

Onager (weapon) Roman siege engine

The onager was an imperial-era Roman torsion powered siege engine; in other words, a small catapult. The onager was first mentioned in 353 AD by Ammianus Marcellinus, who described onagers as the same as a scorpion.

Roman siege engines were, for the most part, adapted from Hellenistic siege technology. Relatively small efforts were made to develop the technology; however, the Romans brought an unrelentingly aggressive style to siege warfare that brought them repeated success. Up to the first century BC, the Romans utilized siege weapons only as required and relied for the most part on ladders, towers and rams to assault a fortified town. Ballistae were also employed, but held no permanent place within a legion's roster, until later in the republic, and were used sparingly. Julius Caesar took great interest in the integration of advanced siege engines, organizing their use for optimal battlefield efficiency.

A lithobolos refers to any mechanical artillery weapon used and/or referred to as a stone thrower in ancient warfare. Typically this referred to engines that propel at stone along a flat track with two rigid bow arms powered by torsion, in particular all sizes of palintonon.

Torsion siege engine

A torsion siege engine is a type of artillery that utilizes torsion to launch projectiles. They were initially developed by the ancient Greeks, specifically Philip II of Macedon and Alexander the Great, and used through the Middle Ages until the development of gunpowder artillery in the 14th century rendered them obsolete.

The Floating Arm Trebuchet is a counterweight siege weapon which is a modern variation of the medieval trebuchet. Their defining feature is free movement of an axle on the throwing arm, and a linear drop channel for the counterweight. The design and construction of such machines is a popular project assignment in post-secondary engineering classes.


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

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