Trabuco… Ancient War Machine Or Pure Genius?

In ancient times, the waring side that could best outwit their foe was usually deemed the winner of any battle. Sometimes this meant you had to figure out a way to send flaming projectiles over towering walls. Better yet, lots of times you had to figure out how to break those walls down so your army had full access to enemy grounds thus increasing their chances of victory. One of the main tools used to accomplish such a difficult task was called a trabuco.

Developed in Eastern Asia, the trabuco could be considered a cousin to other weaponry such as the catapult or mangonel; however, the mechanics for the trabuco were slightly different than those of the other weapons. The trabuco turned gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy. This weapon was simple to put together and maintain thus making it a popular weapon for an army’s arsenal.


There were two primary types of trabucos used. These were called tensile and hybrid trabucos. The tensile variation was fully operated by people. It was said that this weapon could fire off four shots every minute, but this was a rather difficult task to pull off. Since this weapon was operated by people, there was some margin of human error and lack of coordinated timing. The soldiers using this weapon had to pull a set of strings with exactly the same force and at the same time before the weapon could be used effectively according to Because of this rather large drawback, use of this type of trabuco ceased around the eleventh century.

The other variation of this heavy artillery weapon, the hybrid, was upgraded by Arabs. They are the ones that implemented the counterweight which made the weapon able to fire at longer ranges and with more force. However, the Europeans took that upgrade one step further. They not only added the counterweight but also added human strength back into the equation according to This helped to increase the accuracy of the trabuco. This modification eventually paved the way to the counterweight blunderbuss which as time progressed made way for modern-day weaponry to come into existence.

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