By the start of the fifteenth century hand guns had been around for a while, but this was still a period of experimentation and discovery for powder weapons. Perhaps most soldiers saw them as pretty irrelevant as they were quite inaccurate and did not have good range, while they were more complicated to make and use than a bow and a lot slower to use in battle. There was some prestige to owning a bigger gun, and initially the use of guns of any size would cause panic in an enemy not familiar with them, but those times had already long gone, and while not the battle-winning weapon that they would later become, armies of any European nation, including Poland, would have had some guns in their ranks by this period.
This set uses the word 'artillery', but considering how that word came to be used in later centuries it seems somewhat inappropriate for what is quite a small weapon, as can be seen from our photo and the box artwork. In fact powder weapons came in an enormous variety of shapes and sizes at this time, and there was not the sharp distinction between hand guns and 'artillery' as we would understand it today. The model in this set certainly justifies the term 'field' because it is easily small enough to be portable and therefore used as required on a battlefield, but it is really a palisade gun (known as a tarasnice) for use on fortifications, so something between a hand gun and a true artillery piece. The barrel is about 18mm in length, and a wooden stock is attached to the back of it. It rests on a very narrow wooden stand which we would have thought would be in danger of falling over after each shot. There is no means of adjusting the elevation short of moving the ground beneath the stand, which is an error as such devices were always part of these weapons, so this has not been especially well done. A prime example of this gun exists today in the Hussite Museum, so there is absolutely no excuse for inaccuracy!
Such a small weapon would perhaps only need a crew of two or three to operate and carry it, so the four figures included here seem perfectly adequate for the task. There is a man holding a ball, another using a rammer, a third holding a match and a fourth with something in his hands which we assume is a horn or other receptacle holding powder. All these figures make perfect sense and apart from the rammer, who is a little flat, all the poses are well done and useful.
The precision of the parts that go to make up the gun leaves something to be desired, but it is a simple little model so hardly a challenge for anyone. Gluing (and some cutting) are essential however as this is no snap-together kit. The figures are nicely produced in the sense that they have no flash or any sort of mark where the moulds meet, but the sculpting is nothing special. The clothes are so simple that they present few problems, but the faces are not that good and these are not appealing figures. The costume is that of ordinary medieval peasants, and apart from a single helmet there is no armour. This is perhaps a surprise as the short range of such weapons meant sometimes the crews had to be fairly close to the enemy, but we did not feel this particularly marred them.
Guns of this size went by many names in the late medieval period, and could be used on the battlefield, from battlements or even on board ship. This small piece and its crew is never going to win anyone a war, but it is a legitimate step in the development of firearms in Europe, and has not been done before, so is a useful if somewhat flawed and unimpressive product.