The Commodore's Tactics Part IV:
Bow Guns and Other Silliness

Now that we've discussed all the useful guns you can have on your ship, it's time to finish out this series with the least useful gun you can possibly have on your ship: the bow gun. Now I'm sure that some would disagree, but, well, consider the source... Anyways, rather than just trash it, let's get down to some useful discussion.

The bow gun is typically the gun you put on your ship because you really have nothing better to do, or in the case of a cruiser type ship, you really don't want to have all stern guns. It's not really worthwhile as an offensive weapon, because first of all, it's about a 2 point gun. That is, if we'd said a stern gun was worth 10, and a sidemount worth 20/35 per shot, then a bow gun is worth 2 because you'll most likely miss four times out of five, and even if you connect, all the hits will be aboves. Therefore, offensively speaking, it's the most worthless gun you can put on your ship.

However, the fun doesn't end there. As an added bonus, a bow gun is also the most dangerous gun you can put on your ship. That is, in order to use your bow gun, you must point your bow at the enemy. And by pointing your bow at the enemy, you directly put yourself in danger of being destroyed by triple stern guns or stern sidemounts. Or of ramming the enemy and taking a severe penalty. So, both offensively and defensively, the bow gun is about the worst weapon you could possibly put on your boat.

That said, if you're so unfortunate as to have a bow gun, how do you use it? Well, there are two basic tactics you can use with a bow gun, and both require essentially the same setup. The preferred bow gun setup is one with a relatively flat trajectory (as flat as possible) and close to the waterline, with a range of about 6-8 feet. Or even more if you're really silly. The idea is that if you have to expose your bow to get a shot, you'd really rather be doing it at a range outside that of your enemy's stern guns. Well outside. You also want the mount to be as low as possible so that you can have the most effective range and a flatter trajectory.

So, with this bow gun, there are two tactics I have found to be effective.

  1. Random Sniping: This is the simplest and probably most effective bow gun tactic. What you do is simply cruise around the outside of the battle, and look for large tasty targets that are completely distracted. (For example, a tasty Bismark that's busy trying to pound on someone else, or escape from a North Carolina...) You simply take aim at the distracted ship, fire a few rounds, and then run away before anybody notices.

    Example: Foster is probably the best bow gun captain the hobby has ever seen. And his Sverige is a nasty little boat. I have found that often when Foster is on the other team, and I'm getting lined up on some hapless victim, there's that pesky little boat picking away at me with his bow gun. However, since I'm busy trying to sidemount some other battleship, there's really not much I can do because if I disengage to try to swat the pest, the battleship is likely to get some free shots on me, and I won't get Foster anyways. This is really probably the best example of how it's supposed to be done.

  2. Cutting the corner: This tactic works best against ships that are on five, or otherwise harmless and afraid. You simply chase them until they run out of lake, and have to turn, or you follow another ship that is otherwise obliged to turn. Then, you turn inside them and shoot them with your bow gun as they turn. You take your shots, and again make your escape before your enemy figures out what's going on.

    Example: At a certain battle in Fredericksburg, Steve Milholland showed up with his French CL. Also present at this battle was Jarrett Dorough with his Sheffield. Steve's ship turned inside of Jarrett's, and since the lake was rather small, Steve had a grand weekend just chasing Jarrett around and then turning inside of him whenever he turned for some cheap bow gun shots. It worked great, especially as with the pesky and speedy Frog CL, none of us battleship captains felt like wasting our time on him.

Anyways, that's about it for proper bow gun use. There are some minor variants, but they're all basically the same concepts. So much for bow guns. I also mentioned other silliness... What silliness, you say? Well, in my many years, I have seen many other, ahem, unusual gun setups, and I'd like to take a few moments here to mention some other people's mistakes so that (hopefully) you don't have to repeat them...

  1. The triple bow gun: What a waste! ('Nuff said...)
  2. The extreme down angle bow gun: This is the famous Gerald gun, which he used on his Abukuma and other ships. Basically, it's a bow gun with 15 degree side angle and lots of down angle. The idea is that you bump your bow up against the other ship, and just fire. Well, guess what - that's a very easy way to get a ram penalty. It's also a very easy way to collect some very nasty stern gun and sidemount damage. Gerald's CL sank twice at the 1992 Nats, and was quite unsuccessful in local Texas battling too.
  3. The extreme down angle bow sidemount: Some people have the idea that if they put enough down angle on their bow sidemount, they can beat a stern sidemount. Well, maybe if the captain with the stern sidemount is harmless. This was made popular in 1989 by Jeff Lide. Jeff was effective with it because he had about 70-80 degrees down angle and this allowed him to push a ship around with his Kirishima, all the while shooting them below the waterline. Since very few of the Allies back then had effective stern sidemounts, he got away with it. In 1990, a few more ships picked up this unusual arrangement, including my favorite - Karl Shafer's Roma. Karl's sidemount had about 80 degrees down angle, and was mounted in B turret. I found that with my cruiser (cruiser, mind you...) I could ignore that gun, and simply sail up alongside him, flare out and stern gun him. He would be shooting either my deck, or blowing holes in the water. Because... You see, his gun had only about 1/2" effective range. Nobody can aim that good unless the geometry of their ship (like Jeff's) helps them. The same thing applies today, except that all the while you're shooting their deck/superstructure, the guy with the stern sidemount is gutting you. That, and we have the 20 degree sidemount angle rule to cut down on that nonsense.
  4. X turret stern guns: This is one of my favorite useless weapons. Some battlers like to mount their stern guns in X turret because they believe that otherwise their wakes will interfere with their shots. However the result is that they get a stern gun that is totaly ineffective within, oh, three or four feet. Which is (of course) when you need them the most.
  5. Extreme Backward facing bow sidemounts: This is one a local battler introduced me to. He took his A turret sidemount and cranked it around so that it was sort of like a stern sidemount. Problem is, it's not. First off, you just can't get a gun on the bow of your ship to hit anywhere near the stern of the ship like a good stern sidemount/stern gun would. Then, due to the geometry, you have to depend on the enemy putting his ship in that certain special spot in order to hit him. That never works. When I chased this battler, I simply made sure to hug close to his hull so that that gun couldn't hit me...
  6. Funny angled guns: In this category, I lump just about all the other weird arrangements, like 15 degree angled stern guns, or 30 degree angled sidemounts. Things like these don't work well, because they throw off the natural aim of the ship. Stern guns need to point straight back, because otherwise they're too hard to aim (who can really judge 15 degrees when their ship is 40 feet away), and because just a little roll can drastically effect the gun's range/trajectory. Likewise, sidemounts with very shallow angles, especially bow sidemounts can be bad because of the same aiming problem, and the additional difficulty in that if you're pursuing someone, all they have to do is put on a shallow turn and you'll be just shooting parallel to their hull and not hitting them.

Meanwhile, it's late and I'm running short of silly topics. Suffice to say, there are plenty of ways to ruin a good gun setup. Do yourself a favor and stick to what works, and you'll be a much happier (and more effective) battler. Use a bow gun if you must, but if you do - remember its uses and be very careful. If I build another cruiser, it will probably have one, but only for fun. If I want to be effective, I'll carry two stern guns. And if you want to be effective, you'll do likewise... And whatever you do, don't do anything silly!

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