Thinking about the possibilities a centaur has over traditional cavalry, I was considering the fact they can be cavalry without a rider. Therefore, their backs would be free to mount something else. I immediately considered weapons.

The idea is fairly simple. You strap guns to your back or flanks, then pull the trigger when you're close to a thick formation of enemies, ready to be shotgunned. This would take place in an 18th century style theater of war, so you have shotguns and you have thick formations of troops to charge.

The question is whether this would be practical. Can you strap guns to a horse, with the intention of shooting them? Or rather, can you do that with a centaur?

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    $\begingroup$ This reminds me of War Pigs, which were the response to war elephants. The pigs were coated in pitch and then set on fire. It turns out that running screaming flaming pigs intimidate elephants rather effectively. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds like a great way to shoot your allies, or yourself by accident. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ Pistol armed cavalry used a manoeuvre called the caracole to deliver fire to enemy formations, but this was a tactic for the 16th century. By the 18th century, charging a formed body of troops was suicide for the cavalry, since the amount of fire the infantry could deliver far outweighed the amount of fire cavalry could. Dragoons dismounting and using firearms was perhaps the most common way for cavalry to use guns in that period. $\endgroup$
    – Thucydides
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ Depending on how those shotguns are strapped to the back of the centaur, I think it's highly likely that they will just shoot themselves; the pellets from a shotgun does not just go forward in a narrow cone, but can go quite far to the side as well. $\endgroup$
    – Clearer
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ Have you ever fired a shotgun? Had anyone fire a shotgun near your head? It's loud and disorienting and about the last thing you'd want to do before entering hand to hand combat. The fact that the Centaurs would be triggering the guns themselves isn't much mitigation - they'd still be setting off a disorienting explosion near their heads right before entering hand-to-hand combat... in the best case scenario, of course. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 15:11

12 Answers 12


Johnny walked the two pairs of shotguns over to Stormhoof and Cloudwing. “So, you strap these on so they are on either side. Then when you get to their line, pull these strings and they’ll shoot. Good?”

Stormhoof made no move. He looked at the guns. “Why do you not strap these guns on to the humans?” He gestured with his chin to the infantrymen standing at some distance, watching.

“Well…” Johnny thought for a moment. “Because we are carrying guns in our hands.”

Stormhoof looked at him impassively. “I too have hands.” He displayed them. They were large. “I too can carry a gun.”

“You are stronger than we are,” countered Johnny. “You can carry one in your hands and two on your back.”

“I see that you are carrying four guns now,” observed Cloudwing. “Certainly you could carry one in your hands and two on your back as well.”

“The thing is,” said Johnny, “we humans aren’t used to carrying things like that on our back. But you centaurs…” Johnny looked at the faces of the two centaurs and realized his mistake. Too late.

“Yes, our large empty backs,” said Stormhoof through gritted teeth. “Wasted space. Perhaps in addition to these guns, we could each carry a barrel of fish for you, or pull a plow.” The centaurs wheeled and galloped off.

Johnny set down the gun rigs and looked them over. Maybe strapping them to humans was a reasonable idea? He looked over to where the infantrymen had gathered to watch his interaction with the centaurs. As if reading his mind, their sergeant smiled and slowly shook his head.

Summarizing: it is possible to strap guns to centaur backs. It is possible to strap guns to humans too but it is not done. The centaurs would know this and would be reluctant to participate in some gun-strapping endeavor that humans do not do. They would suspect that the endeavor had been proposed because the humans see them as glorified horses. They would decline and likely take offense.

credit where due: Stormhoof and Cloudwing are centaurs I lifted from Brandon Mull's The Shadow Plague

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    $\begingroup$ This is certainly a well-written piece, and might very well provide some storytelling insights and ideas, but I'm not sure how it provides any answer to the question of whether it would be possible to strap shotguns to the back of a centaur. Could you clarify? $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ This is clearly showing the futility of giving centaurs back-mounted shotguns. They would be just as silly as shoulder mounted UZI's for a human. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ (@MichaelKjörling) I believe the summary makes the difference. However, Will, what if said soldier suggesting strapping the guns to the centaur's back in reverse, to protect from behind or fire at enemy troops you have passed? "This is something you can do we cannot and it protects your unique value to our cause. Please consider it." After all, there's no practical way to strap a shotgun across a human's shoulders to fire to the rear (and the noise in our ears...). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 23:31
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH "...also, firing backwards would make you go faster!!" $\endgroup$
    – xDaizu
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is story-specific and doesn't answer the question. OP asked whether this would be practical as a weapon of war, not about human-centaur psychological relations. $\endgroup$
    – Catgut
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 15:43

You could, but you'd be missing one of the big benefits of a centaur: the human half.

Instead of strapping the shotguns to be fired at random, why not holster a number of shotguns (the centaur could certainly carry a whole bunch), and the centaur's human part can grab them and fire them in any direction as the need arises?

That would give you the speed of the horse, combined with the dexterity and intelligence of the human.

  • $\begingroup$ There's a couple of interesting points here, which I will address. First, you can still give a shotgun to the better half, for a total of three. However, that means you can't hold a lance (or at least not easily). You could have a bandolier of pistols or shotguns, and try to start fast drawing them and firing as you charge. This would not be easy. Most cavalry units only had two pistols, for this reason, as it requires you to either discard valuable pistols, or spend time holstering them and drawing new ones, and then you have to draw your sword, etc.. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Johnny To which I say... SUICIDE COMPY REGRETS NOTHING. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ If you have a loaded shotgun, why would you be reaching for a sword or a lance? Shotgun, especially with slugs, hits harder at a greater range. Assuming muzzle loaders, just put 20 preloaded 3 barrel shotguns on board, and that's one fierce weapon of war. Discard the empties... if you win the battle, you can pick them up later. If you lose the battle, it won't matter. $\endgroup$
    – tj1000
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @tj1000 Twenty shotguns would be too unwieldy to carry even if not too heavy, and holstering them and drawing new ones would be a contortionist's trick for a centaur. Some might be able to do it, but I wouldn't consider it orthodox. Early double and tri-barreled shotguns had a bad habit of firing both barrels at the same time, when you didn't intend them to. The reason more people didn't drop weapons was that normally survival rates for contact with the enemy were actually pretty good. But if you lose your weapons then you're defenceless and mightn't be able to be rearmed. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ @tj1000 If you lose the battle, then your enemy gets to use your shotguns in the next battle. $\endgroup$
    – brendan
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 15:10

It would be possible to strap shotguns to a centaur but it would be very ineffective to fire them without being able to aim them properly.

Traditional Approach

The shotguns are placed on the sides of the centaur, evenly and pointing forward. When charging into the enemy, the centaur fires the shotguns for maximum effect. While this seems nice, its rather ineffective. The centaur must firstly be in range and facing the enemy to have a chance of hitting them. This means they are in the range of enemy fire and being much larger, have a much greater risk of being hit. You could probably shoot several shotguns at once, including the centaur holding one, but the centaur would fall quickly, and all the guns would be lost.

Side Facing

Instead of forward facing shotguns, the shotguns are placed on the centaurs back and face sideways. Instead of charging into the enemy, they would make flanking runs and shoot sideways as they run past the enemy. This puts them at the edge of the enemies range, with them firing blindly into the enemy mass and hoping to get a hit. This would be safer than forward charging as you are on the edge of the enemy range. It would be fairly difficult to hit a moving target, but you could only utilize a small number of centaurs, as it would just become a shooting match once you increase the numbers (the First centaur runs by and stray shots will be fired and most likely hit centaurs behind them).

Carrying Multiple Guns

The other approach mentioned by tj1000 is to have the centaurs hold several shotguns. This means the centaur would aim a gun, shoot, holster it and draw a new gun. You would have much better accuracy, and it would be better than just having a single gun. Rather than a shotgun, I would imagine this would be more effective with muskets or longer ranged rifles, allowing the centaur to move and shoot several times before retreating and reloading. This doesn't work if you are charging into the enemy. In that case, you will want to shot, drop the gun, draw new guns and repeat. This is because you will likely die, so better get out maximum value rather than save the guns.

With a Rider

A centaur doubles up as a horse and this allows you to have mounted cavalry with an additional pair of hands. This can be combined with the Traditional Approach, with guns placed on the side of the centaur (might be uncomfortable for the rider, I don't actually ride horses around), or the "Carrying Multiple Guns". In the multiple guns case, the rider could help the centaur reload and holster the gun improving the rate of fire. I believe this often happened in earlier gun fights, with one person reloading the gun and a second better trained person firing them(can't confirm, I just read stories about this).

Carry a Cannon

A horse is pretty strong and so is a centaur. Instead of a shotgun or musket, you could place a small cannon on its back which it could fire. There would need to be a way to aim the cannon so the centaur doesn't just blast itself when it pulls the trigger. They could be mounted evenly on the side or a larger one on the back.


You don't always need your centaurs to form the front lines. They could also carry important supplies for soldiers, while doubling up as a guard for the supplies.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't agree with all the points made, but this is an excellent answer. Traditional Approach: Yes, only useful in a charge (mostly true of shotguns, anyway). Side Facing: Not sure about this. A harness using hard segments could put the recoil on the shoulders, ribs, and flank of the horse, but this will reduce its tolerance for recoil. A bit more awkward to manoeuvre and avoid friendly fire, as well. Can't be used until amongst the enemy, instead of at first contact of a charge (the most important point). Still, cool idea, and fair points. A broad-side of shotguns during a ride-by! $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:45
  • $\begingroup$ There are a couple of other comments I made about riders and carrying multiple guns, on tj1000 and Will's answers. Certainly, these are still options, even if you have guns on your back. Except for the rider... if you had to choose between this and a rider, the rider is probably better. The rider's con is that he can't bear as much recoil as you can, so smaller guns. Having a satchel of several rifles is another possibility, but that'd be for sniping/skirmishing specifically. Cannon: That's basically the idea of the large shotguns. Very small cannons (as larger ones have too much kick). $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ One thing that it doesn't seem anyone has covered is the potential for them to use a caisson and pull artillery. It would require specific design consideration for the centaur to unlimber and limber-up the weapons quickly, but centaurs are smarter than horses and have an opportunity to position fairly decently before unlimbering $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 17:27
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    $\begingroup$ @mirhagk I had considered a full sized cannon which would be mounted on the centaur, but an initial search on the weights would make it far to heavy. As for caisson (? Not sure what it is, but I'm assuming supply related) that would fall under supplies and a dragged cannon would take the combined effort of multiple centaurs and also limit their mobility, which I think makes it better for the standard infantry to use. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Rich the question mentioned 18th C not 19th which limits your options severely... Otherwise I think side mounted machine guns would be a great idea. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 22:56

Here's my shot at an answer, and further analysis. I hope others answer to, so I can see if my perspective is correct.

You have a few problems to consider, here.

1. Aim

Your aim will be grossly limited. You could try to put a swivel gun on your back, theoretically, and a very flexible centaur might be able to manipulate it. But is such aim even necessary?

Largely, no. Your intention is to charge into a thick line of men, shooting shotguns. As long as the guns are aiming in their general direction, you should surely hit something.

2. Safety

You don't want to kill yourself with a shotgun, inadvertently. So, you need to make sure the shotgun is mounted properly, so that when it goes off, none of the buckshot will hit you.

You might do this with specially long barrels, and by packing filler-material between the shotgun barrel and your body. This will cause the shotgun to point several degrees away from you. This will also prevent a hot metal barrel touching your skin. You might also want to angle the shotgun down, both so it will hit the enemies in the guts, and so it isn't pointing near your arms.

You also need to make sure the guns hang loose-enough towards the butt that you can turn and articulate your horse-body, without the guns restricting your movement. You might need the butt to go across your back, or the shotgun to be towards the front of you (and be short).

3. Trigger

You can probably trigger it with something as simple as a fuse or string. Either a matchlock, or a flintlock. You'd need to make sure that during your charge into the enemy, the powder didn't bounce out of the flash-pan.

Once you've fired the shotguns, you may want to loose them. This might be possible by cutting or unbuckling a strap, designed for a quick-release.

4. Set-up

It'd take some setup to arrange this. If you have ready-made harnesses with shotguns, and a trained person to fasten the harness onto you, it might be done in a few minutes.

It's had to estimate whether you could have these put on at the last second, before you charge into battle. You might need to wear them for hours, just in case a sudden charge is needed. More than likely.


It seems weird, but it doesn't seem impossible in terms of engineering.

Is it practical? ...Could be. It might not be, due to minutiae, such as being unable to activate the shotguns at the right time. Or even worse, you accidentally set them off and hurt someone. A safety system for the shotguns may be necessary.

If it does work, that's going to be a nice touch. Hitting the enemy with shot-gun blasts as you pour into them. You could even consider the possibilities of using this to try and break into a British Square.

In the end, I'd call it plausible. Worthy of plausible fiction, which explores these difficulties and oddities.

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    $\begingroup$ Barrel heat is unlikely to be an issue when firing single shots. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MattBowyer You have a point there. The muzzle-flash and burning powder residue is more of a hazard. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:16

You're thinking too small.

This is an idea that might work, but you shoudlnt' be thinking shotguns on a charge. You should be thinking Zamburak - fielding what we would think of as crew-served weaponry. A single centaur can carry a crew-served weapon and the ammo to support it by himself, and travel relatively quickly over even rough terrain. You exploit that extra carrying capacity to turn them into highly mobile light artillery. Various techniques can then be worked out for faster dismount/remount cycles. If they're flexible enough about the waist, they might even be able to fire the thing while it's still on their back, but that's probably pushing things a bit too much.

To clarify, the centaur starts out similar to a standard man on horseback, and then gets the notable advantage of 100-150 lbs or so of extra carrying capacity, because they're not having to carry a rider as well. Actual gains depend on how much weight overhead the human half adds. Depending on the centaur in question, they might also have more raw arm strength to work with. That lends itself to pretty large weapons - large enough that the knockback is going to be significant. You won't want to deal with that on the charge, which means that you won't want anything as short-range as a shotgun (or blunderbus). As artillery, though, they're excellent.

  • $\begingroup$ Great example, and a great answer. I agree. So, another way to put this would be how to operate your own zamburak, if you're a centaur. Note that I'm not talking about little shotguns, for the centaurs... but huge ones, the largest the centaur can stand, with the hope of cutting down a dozen men or more. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Johnny added clarification. The point is that these aren't shotguns, and they shouldn't be used as such. They're small cannon, or other artillery. Admittedly, those cannon could be loaded with grapeshot, but it wouldn't be for engagements at exceptionally close range. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Without going full artillery they still have a much higher carrying capacity than a normal human. A normally heavily equipped human would be a light load for a centaur. Armor was mostly out of use by the 18th century, but one of the reasons was that it wasn't worth the weight. With better carrying capacity it's potentially feasible (Napoleon still deployed heavy cavalry, and centaur heavy cavalry would be even more effective) $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ darnit. I just had the image of a Centaur riding in with a full on Minigun, but the 18th century condition messed that up. Imagine, the Centaur has the body mass and carrying capacity to carry and control something that can fire 3000 rounds per minute and the rounds to feed it. You could even build a gimbal mount like Vasquez used in "Aliens" $\endgroup$
    – Paul TIKI
    Commented Mar 2, 2020 at 19:46

Thinking about the possibilities a centaur has over traditional cavalry, I was considering the fact they can be cavalry without a rider. Therefore, their backs would be free to mount something else. I immediately considered weapons.

Back-mounted weapons would be poorly aimed and difficult to serve.

It would be much better to engineer some weapon that could be wielded by the centaur's hands, and kept supplied from the back; humans cannot go much farther than bandoleers and backpacks, but a centaur? Depending on their upper-body strength, they might make impressive grenadiers ("At that time grenadiers were chosen from the strongest and largest soldiers").

Another, albeit in my opinion less promising, possibility could be light auto-cannons or mortars. Fit them with pantographs on trunnions and base, and a centaur could be exactly like an infantryman with a gun - except the gun is way larger (and complex. And difficult to manage). The centaur would have to train on how to position himself to best handle the recoil.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, some kind of larger gun is a good idea. It would be more in the LMG category rather than proper artillery, simply because mortars and cannons have massive amounts of recoil to them. Mounted grenadiers were a thing, but I feel that's another topic. Similarly, the centaur can have whatever weapon in his hands that he likes, this was a question about weapons on the back. I agree with your ideas about some heavier back mounted weapon, which may be aimed by some mechanism. In this case. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ Grenadiers sounds like the best 18th-century role. Grenadiers have a rich history and made their way into being elite status troops, so it would be fun to see centaurs carving out their own part in that. $\endgroup$
    – Danikov
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:16


As a rule, guns are expensive and important (and ammunition relatively cheap).

If you put a gun on an animal then you will get a single, un-aimed shot from it during a battle which would be a very poor return on your investment. Much better to have the cavalry charge and leave the guns with the infantry, who can aim and re-load them. Or mix the two and have dragoons ride the Centaurs, so that they can be dropped off and operate the guns whilst the Centaurs attack.


As pointed out by others, why not just arm the human half of the Centaur?

  • $\begingroup$ This makes most sense. Let the human part weild the weapon, and carry a belt-feed to a lot of ammunition in panniers on either side of the horse part. Assuming human-level capabilities both hands are required to run one gun, or at hollywood/rambo levels of performance, each arm could run one gun. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 1:09
  • $\begingroup$ This seems to be avoiding the question. Certainly, the infantry can have guns. The centaur himself can wield a gun as well. @Criggie Belt-fed shotguns would be a bit advanced for the 18th century. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ If you're not having racial warfare then a centaur dragoon (human rider) would be pretty effective. One of the benefits of a dragoon too was the minimal training required. Anyone could ride a horse, then jump off and shoot a gun. This would mean even if armies weren't mixed-race any one-off battles with both humans and centaurs could use the dragoon concept very effectively. $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Johnny I wasn't really avoiding the question; just looking at it from a cost/benefit point of view. If an infantryman costs the same as strapping guns to three centaurs, then you'll be much better off spending the cash on the infantryman. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ Armies that emphasize cheap troops have regularly fallen to smaller more professional armies that invest in their troops. A few shotguns is not going to be prohibitively expensive in either case, the cost of hiring a centaur is likely more. As is the cost of an infantryman. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 3:22

If you look at the evolution of warfare, certain features tend to crop up repeatedly, such as the importance of logistics or mobility and manoeuvre.

Using Centaurs as shock-troops might seem effective, but it seems like a waste compared to what they're capable of. Their size might make them ill-suited to the task as defenders would be able to generate a much larger volume of fire in return. Cavalry (centaur or not) are large units that can't pack in nearly as well as people.

Instead, their horse half grants them increased mobility compared to your standard issue human, which makes them excellent skirmishers. They're capable of carrying large amounts of supplies and crossing large distances which also lends them towards reconnaissance. Neither of these roles really lend themselves to heavy weapons.

However, if you want to make the most of their abilities in a heavy battle, you might consider arming them with a Gatling gun. A pair of centaurs could carry ammo on one and the gun, mounted on a swivel, on the other. Like this, they could perform shoot-and-scoot type manoeuvres, placing very heavy fire onto flanks and being able to reposition without any time needed to setup or tear down the weapon. A Gatling gun also doesn't have the recoil issues that you would have with heavier artillery like cannons.

  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. I was also considering Gatling guns, but in this example those would be anachronistic (they're 19th century). As you say, a proper cannon would have too much recoil, so I figured a kind of heavy shotgun would be more accurate. Perhaps I should've said tiny cannon in the question, instead. I see your points about their ability as scouts and in other roles, but largely I feel they don't excel beyond traditional cavalry at this. Their main difference is being an autonomous horse, or a second pair of hands for a rider. These guns were an idea for an aid to a charge when one occurs. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ Gatling guns first came into existence in 1861 in time for the Civil War so it's not entirely anachronistic depending on your timing. A small swivel cannon could also be viable, much like the ones fired from the decks of ships, but that suffers from the reloading fuss of older guns and you lose a lot of the benefits. Sadly, guns are a great equaliser and being a Centaur doesn't provide much benefit to using a gun over a human, so their benefits relative to mounted Cavalry or weapon teams aren't large except maybe in numbers relative to weight. $\endgroup$
    – Danikov
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Most settings do have some tech developed a bit earlier to make things interesting, or because it's just good scifi. However, I feel there are sure to be shotguns developed prior to Gatling guns, so the question is whether centaurs would mount large guns zamburak style for use in a charge. But yes, the advantage was never intended to be a decisive one, only one peoples' attempt to get a small edge in unit fighting, using every little advantage they have. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ If you're dead-set on shotguns, maybe a good semi-anachronistic option is belt-fed weapons with the belts feeding from the Centaur's back. Even modern armies are considering ways to phase out magazines and clips, but the problem always is carrying capacity- something centaurs don't worry about. Their involvement might make belt-fed tech more feasible and prioritised earlier. Edit: seems someone else thought of this too, but it could be early belt-fed tech, e.g. a lever-action is needed to advance the belt. $\endgroup$
    – Danikov
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Johnny Horses are already autonomous, it's just a question of how intelligent they are. You could fairly easily train a horse to lead a charge on command, and you could even rig shotguns to go off a certain time with a timed fuse. A centaur would be able to fire based on distance, but that's really not much of an improvement over the riderless horse. It's the unified intelligence between rider and mount that gives centaurs an edge. Turning a horse is much slower and less accurate than what a centaur could achieve. $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 19:24

The benefit of cavalry isn't in head on attacks. A head-on charge of cavalry is generally suicide against a well trained and prepared infantry unit. Horses (and centaurs) are huge targets and it doesn't take much effort to hit it with a musket. Charging is generally only done against inexperienced troops that are likely to break formation out of fear.

The infantry already prepare to fire at a normally farther than normal range. The cavalry needs to be close enough to be likely to hit (but being large this is farther than normal) but even more importantly needs to be far enough away that a dead horse's momentum doesn't carry it into the formation. A dead horse creates a hole in the formation pretty quickly and could be exploited by cavalry.

The centaur are very unlikely to make it close enough to get any effective shots off with a shotgun.

The real benefit of cavalry is their mobility. They can close with and kill unorganized infantry groups with a lot of speed. Giving them something that decreases their mobility (both because of weight and flexibility of whatever saddle you are using for the shotguns) will reduce their effectiveness at what they are good at.

Centaurs real advantage over normal mounted troops is that they are one mind. A relatively inexperienced centaur would be able to fight with coordination that no trained warhorse and rider would be able to accomplish. They would also have much better balance (because they are used to the weight of the human half) and so would have even more flexibility than regular cavalry units. They would also likely be faster since they weigh less than horse+rider.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, you'd generally charge unprepared infantry, not charge into the front of prepared infantry. Could you address how the shotgun mounts might work in the case of charging infantry? $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Johnny That's true, but in that case you'd want accuracy over mass damage, as the infantry is not likely to be clumped close together unless in formation. Also it doesn't take that long for a trained battalion to form a formation so you want to make sure you don't miss the chance. Slowing the cavalry down with heavy back mounted guns is going to reduce your opportunity and also increase the risk to the cavalry as they aren't able to get away $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 17:07
  • $\begingroup$ I.... don't think the guns are so heavy as to slow the horse. Considering you are missing a couple of hundred pounds of rider and his equipment. A small gap in a square is enough to destroy an infantry unit... you don't need them to be scattered to the winds in order to use cavalry against infantry. Them being in a tight line is suitable for overwhelming them, or even a column, in fact. They were serious, when they said infantry out of square were dead meat for cavalry. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 12, 2018 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Johnny It's not just the shotguns, it's the mount/frame to hold it and everything else. Plus the coord that the centaur has to hold onto instead of having a free hand. And there's no way a centaur could get anywhere close enough to an infantry square to fire off any useful shotgun shots. Keep in mind if you pack as tightly as possible there's at least 5 times as many usable guns on the human side as the attacking cavalry. $\endgroup$
    – mirhagk
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 17:50
  • $\begingroup$ The comments are not meant for long explanations... Yes, cavalry did get close to infantry, no a saddle doesn't weigh enough to hinder a horse, neither would a string. This long train of convoluted reasoning is not helpful to anyone. At most, you get about four guns per horse, if you have an orderly line of musketeers, barring defensive features like ditches and hills that can allow you to get more. In the case of charging a disorganized line, you get significantly less loaded muskets and men ready to fire accurately. If you wish to discuss this more, please start a chatroom. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 18:37

It's certainly a plausible idea, but I doubt it would be as effective as using them akin to mongol archers.

As shock troops, your centaurs have the advantage of being effective in close combat and leveraging their superior strength and bulk in the melee. the disadvantage is that you're then exposing valuable mobility based troops to higher risk.

As skirmishing archers or musketmen, you have all of the advantages that mongol archers had, with less drawback with regards to size, weight and strength. One idea could be that they have multiple smaller guns to fire without reloading, before retreating out of range to reload. You could even have them inventing cartridge based weaponary and belt fed munitions faster as a result. A centaur with a belt fed weapon and a sack of ammunition would devastate the flanks and rear of a melee to great effect.

  • $\begingroup$ Didn't see this answer. I see your point about a Mongol strategy, that can be quite effective. However, part of the Mongol advantage was superior bow technology, and lack of ballistae and ranged weapons among their enemies. In the 18th century, unless the centaurs learn to use rifles, they're not likely to suitably out-range the enemy, and would probably take losses. But... yeah, centaur riflemen sounds cool, so thanks for pointing this out. The Mongols also charged the enemy, of course, and also had lots of absurd weapons they brought along, so this would still fit such a centaur force. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 18:41

Have a look here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horse-drawn_vehicle#War_vehicles - but I guess the Centaurs would still prefer that normal horses pull these mobile weapon platforms, with humans operating the guns (smaller targets for enemy fire).

Centaurs might be more useful as messengers in battle.

A gun carriage would be an option for Centaurs fighting without horse/human support. They could pull their artillery pieces and machine gun carriages (and possibly also very heavy sniper guns) to tactical advantageous positions, unbuckle and then operate them from these positions.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Indeed, as you point out this is largely a support role. In the case of pulling a gun carriage into range, it's probably just as good to use normal horses. Though some kind of mini gun-carriage or the like might be made use of by centaurs. For example, centaurs might carry a small scythe-chariot, which isn't manned but has the purpose of simply making a charge more messy. Of course, such an absurdly scary idea could be combined with the shotguns. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 18:46

Centaurs due to the nature of their movements i'd say the best weapons they could use/have are : spears(trust based weapon) and shield for the front part and in the back a rider with a bow.

Centaurs don't need guiding like traditional horses, where to run and when to stop and the rider would be free to atack long range or close if a threat comes to near the pair.

In the 18th century these things were still a thing in some parts...

As of more modern style ... armor/kewlar ,spear and shield ,gunman in the rear Guns need reloading a pointy stick won't run out of ammo so the idea is to delegate the rider with defense and the centaur worries about the offense.

Edited: As per autonomous weaponry the complexity and weight would be 2 much remember it's on his back not pulled by it , as sturdy as a horse may look it has a limit of total carry weight.

  • $\begingroup$ While this is a fair point as an alternate strategy, and I agree with it, I feel it doesn't answer the question related to the possibility of mounting weaponry. $\endgroup$
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 14:58
  • $\begingroup$ Fair point @Johnny, edited as to why my answer was with this particular scope in minde. $\endgroup$
    – Kaotis
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 15:32

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