Wednesday, 12 August 2009

What the eye can see at different distances

I have just been re-reading A PRIMER FOR HORSE, FIELD & MOUNTAIN ARTILLERY by Captain T. H. Lloyd, RA. It was published in 1878, and was intended:
'to facilitate the Instruction of N.C. Officers and Gunners of Horse, Field and Mountain Batteries in accordance with the Instructions contained in regimental Orders, Horse Guards, War Office, 1st August, 1876.'
The author stated in the Preface that:
'I have tried to use the simplest language, such, in fact, that it can be understood by a man of the least education.'
Of particular interest was the section that deals with ranges and elevations, where it states the following:
'To good eyesight in clear weather men and horses appear as follows:
At 2000 yards, single men and horses like dots.
At 1880 yards, detached files of cavalry, clear.
At 1300 yards, detached files of infantry, clear.
At 1200 yards, bodies of cavalry and infantry distinct.
At 1000 yards, single men like a narrow oval.
At 850 yards, heads and movements of limbs of detached men clear.
At 500 yards, heads of men in the ranks, as round balls.
At 300 yards, figure of a man distinct.
At 80 yards, eyes like dots on the face.'
The primer also contains diagrams that show how gun limbers, artillery ammunition wagons, the axletree boxes on guns, and artillery mules should be loaded. Of particular interest was the fact that each Field, Horse and Mountain gun – regardless of calibre – carried four case shot and appropriate cartridges in its axletree boxes. One assumes that this was for self-defence of the gun and crew in the event of an ambush at close range.


  1. Perhaps the most important aspect of these instructions is to consider how it affects how we paint our figures.

    Sadly far, far too much of the detail that most of us spend time on really isn't visible at wargaming distances . . . and these "instructions" only go to emphasize that.

    Thanks for this post, Bob.

    -- Jeff

  2. Jeff,

    Funnily enough, that fact has crossed my mind as well.

    All the best,


  3. Hallo Bob,
    thanks a lot for posting this information. I'm ccurrently umpiring an online Kriegsspiel, so this comes in at the right time! I do have a question, though:

    If cavalry can be distinguished from infantry at 1200 yards, what does it mean if " At 1880 yards, detached files of cavalry, clear" and the same for infantry at 1300 yards? If I can identify a detached file of cavalry at 1880 yards, then I do know it is cavalry, right?

    cheers from Berlin

  4. zieten,

    As far as my reading of the information goes, you should be able to identify them as cavalry at 1880 yards.

    All the best,


    PS. Good luck with your Kriegsspiel!

  5. Thanks Bob,
    it is the first time that I run a Kriegsspiel. I'll be receiving the last batch of orders this evening, so your answer is right on time!

    All the best,


  6. zieten,

    Glad to have been of help!

    All the best,



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