We see on the arched strut a pair of holes on either side of the arch. It has been suggested they were put there to allow a string to stretch across the arch. A simple bead on this string could have acted as a front sight. This was heartening news as it meant I was on right track trying to extract as much shooting accuracy out of the Orsova reconstruction as possible. In later centuries when the smoothbore cannon was in widespread use, artillery men would often just sight over their barrel without the aid of sights or plumb bob, pointing it at the target instinctively. Many researchers have supposed that the ancients used a similar instinctive technique for sighting their ballistas. Generally a lack of sights would seem to indicate a weapon not much prized for any kind of fluid, tactical accuracy. (Seige engines designed to batter down walls were another matter.  The trebuchet is quite accurate in its ability to hit to the same point.  But it was hardly designed to quickly acquire a new target.  Accurate shooting was a matter of shoot, observe the strike, and adjust.  The cycle was repeated until good hits were made.  No sights were needed.)  The two holes on the Orsova artifact gives us some evidence that perhaps this ballista was prized for its quick accuracy. Given their unique and perfect placement for this purpose, there doesn’t seem to be any logical explantion for these holes other than some type of front sight. Which, of course, begs the question, did they also have a backsight? The Romans were intimately familiar with surveying instruments, which no doubt required some form of sophisticated sighting. Surely they must have tried the simple peep sight?. The suggestion that these ancient crew served weapons had sights, further enhances the argument that they were used in the sniper role. Considering that the Romans were facing tribes of warriors often held together by the force of a single chieftan, the tactical utility of knocking out the opposing leadership with a well aimed shot seems strong motivation for them to use sights.

6 MOA at 100 yards seems like a reasonable goal for this project. Good sights will be vital to achieve that kind of accuracy.  I have some concerns that the very acute string angle of an inswinger at full draw, may somehow introduce instability into the bolt.  On the other hand, none of this would be any fun if it was all cut and dried. We’ll see.

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