Balancing Blunderbuss Of The West: The Trabuco Story

Trabuco is a weapon from the Middle Ages that was created to siege. Similar to its cousin the catapult, the Trabuco crushes walls and structures or firing projectiles over them. Through numerous centuries, it is seen as one of the most iconic Medieval weapons, along with the mace and the harpoon. In Brazil, it is also a common colloquialism that refers to high-caliber revolvers or shotguns. The key to a Trabuco’s power is to transform the potential energy into kinetic energy.

The earliest written mention of a Trabuco comes from a 12th-century Islamic scholar by the name of Mardi Al-Tarsusi. In this journal entry, Al-Tarsusi described the Trabucos as “machines created by faithless demons”. According to the time period and place, the “faithless demons” are likely referring to the European Christian crusaders. This also suggests that by the time of Saladin, Muslims were already familiar with the counterweight, but they are not believed to have invented it.


Trabucos did not appear in Chinese historical records until 1268 according to, the same year that the Mongols premeditated and executed an attack on Fancheng and Xiangyang. The Chinese call it “huihui,” which means Muslim, taken from the religion that permeates the weapon’s origin. Long before that, it reached the Middle East through the Byzantine Empire and the Persians. Even further before the Middle East, the Vikings had knowledge of the Trabuco. There is evidence of this in St.Germain’s monk Abbo’s reports on the 873 Paris attack, where Vikings were seen utilizing the war machines.

With the emergence of gunpowder, the Trabuco fell in popularity as the best choice for heavy artillery long-range combat. Trabucos are used today as a form of hobby or craft. A well-known example would be pumpkin tossing contests. They are also used in educational contexts for the explanation of basic principles of mechanics and physics. Teachers prefer using miniature Trabucos, as opposed to the full-scale weapon, for the purpose of convenience, portability, and safety.

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