How hard does it hit? A revised study of atlatl and dart ballistics

Author(s): Daryl Hrdlicka

Year: 2003


J. Whittaker: Three variables for comparison: how hard it hits (kinetic energy), how hard it is to stop (momentum) and how effectively it penetrates (sectional density). Calculations for spears, atlatl darts, arrows, bullets. Darts much less kinetic energy (KE = 1/2 Mass x Velocity squared) than bullets, but more than arrows, and plenty to take big game by archery standards. Momentum = Mass X Velocity so darts less than heavy spears or fast bullets, but more than .357 magnum or arrows. High momentum promotes penetration, especially of harder tissues. Sectional density (Weight/Diameter 2) also affects penetration – denser, smaller projectiles penetrate better, so darts very effective, relatively heavy and small. [Improved version of 2002. Good explanations of physics, but I still think a “slug-ft/sec” is a measurement used in slow garden races.]

Cite this Record

How hard does it hit? A revised study of atlatl and dart ballistics. Daryl Hrdlicka. The Atlatl. 16 (2): 15-18. 2003 ( tDAR id: 423121)

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Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): EXARC Experimental Archaeology Collection Manager

Record Identifiers

ExArc Id(s): 9911


Rights & Attribution: The information in this record was originally compiled by Dr. Roeland Paardekooper, EXARC Director.