The Trabuco Is A Slingshot An Steroids

Developed in China over two thousand years ago, the Trabuco was definitely around during the biblical era. But while David was slinging stones at Goliath on a handheld slingshot, the Chinese were hurling objects over fortified walls with the same technology, only bigger.

Slingshots have a simple premise. Anyone who has ever launched rubber bands from their fingers has put the practice into use – simply pull back on one end of sling and the rate of launch will be equivalent to the counterweight, or pressure, that is applied behind it. The more tension the greater the launch. Bows and arrows use the same physical principles. But what makes a Trabuco ever so much more powerful is its size.

The Chinese built their Trabuco on a massive scale. Historic Chinese documents have described Trabuco that required 250 people to operate. Their combined strength bore down on the launching mechanism, providing the power required to hurl the loaded ammunition. Other individuals fed ammunition, usually stones that could weight up to 140 pounds, into the sling which, powered by human muscle, launched the rocks up to 80 meters away. The logistics on required for such a feat rendered it impractical in many ways. However that didn’t stop the technology from being adopted by other cultures who built it up in their own ways.

Modern-day engineers describe the Trabuco as a leverage based weapon. To construct a contemporary Trabuco you will need to build a triangular frame. Directly above the frame’s base, but below the middle section of your triangle, you will install your sling. Where the triangle peaks you will install a cross arm. This cross arm will hold the counterweight. Counterweights must be 100 to 133 times the weight of the projectile you intend to send flying. An extension from the cross arm reaches down to the base where the cross arm is locked in place. Once released, the cross arm swings downward, dropping the counterweight and your projectile is launched on Knowing that a counterweight must be 100 to 133 times greater in weight than the projectile should provide some idea of the massive size of ancient Trabuco.

The weapon’s triangular shape made it possible to mount wheels at its base and maneuver it into place. But once in place ammunition had to be carried to it. It wasn’t the most transportable weaponry, especially in muddy conditions. This could be one of the reasons why the Trabuco did so well in the dry Middle East. Middle Easterners perfected the traction Trabuco, which utilized the same technology as the one built by the Chinese but added weights in the place of hundreds of people. By adding weight to the counter arm firing was more consistent and required far less manpower. This hybrid Trabuco was in use in the early 1300s and was capable of launching 400-pound stones.

The Crusaders discovered the Trabuco when they reached the Middle East. Impressed, they brought their new weapon back to Europe where further tweaks strengthened its range and allowed for increased variety in ammunition at Medieval Europeans launched rocks, carcasses, and other objects into fortified positions. The objects would cause destruction or act as a warning message to individuals under siege.

The European version of the Trabuco, called the blunderbuss, combined elements from both the Chinese warriors and from the Middle Easterners. Their version on held a consistent weight but also employed human muscle. The result was heavier projectiles launched at a greater range.

From handheld slingshot to massive war machines relying on physics and muscle, the Trabuco was the mass weapon of choice, until gunpowder displaced it.