World of Weapons

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Season 1 episodes (10)

1 Ranged Weapons
The pilum, which played a vital role in the rise of the Roman Empire. The longbow, which made England a medieval superpower. The Minié ball, which revolutionized 19th century firearm capabilities. Three ranged weapons that transformed combat over the course of thousands of years. What was the secret to their lethal success? Through unique experiments with weapons experts, we reveal how they worked and how, over the centuries, ranged weapons evolved in accuracy and in the distances they can travel.
2 Attack From Above
For thousands of years, humans have rained fire from the skies upon their enemies. Aerial attacks have been key to waging successful military campaigns, but which ones over the history of warfare have been the most effective? Through spectacular experiments, weapons experts detail how army commanders launched air strikes against their enemies long before airplanes were invented, how incendiary arrows stay ablaze while soaring through the air, and how rockets were invented. See how the aerial bomb has become the standard—and most devastating—form of attack from above.
3 Close Combat
Hand-to-hand combat is warfare at its most visceral. Since ancient times, soldiers on the battlefield have relied on specialized weapons to survive this most immediate form of fighting. Military experts explore some of history's most effective weapons, from the Gladius, the short sword Roman legionaries relied on for centuries, to the war hammer, the medieval era's most efficient yet little-known weapon, to the bayonet, a firearm still being used today thanks to its ability to inflict both physical and psychological damage.
4 Weapons for All
Some weapons have changed the course of wars through their accuracy, their speed, or their power. Others have made their mark simply because of their ease-of-use, allowing ordinary people to take the fight to empires and nations, and sometimes even win. Join an international team of experts as they look at three key weapons—the pike, the crossbow, and the AK-47 rifle—used by civilians, rebels, and terrorists against seemingly invincible foes.
5 Faster Than the Enemy
Since humans began fighting one another, quickness and mobility have been key factors in determining victory or defeat. Experts take a hands-on look at three weapons that were built for speed. Discover the history of the two-wheeled chariot, a weapons system developed by the Hyksos before the Egyptians and Romans perfected it. Examine and test how a simple range weapon—the sling—rocked its enemy at speeds of 116. And see how small handguns like the revolver changed warfare forever.
6 The Power of Destruction
New weapons with devastating force shaped the wars of the 20th century. Weapons experts test the Maxim machine gun, explain its impact on modern warfare, and explore the psychological effects experienced by soldiers who faced them in battle. See how grenades were used to counteract trench warfare in World War I, and how the horrible injuries they caused led to one of the world’s most important medications. And examine a war machine that is considered a symbol of power: the tank.
7 War at Sea
Because battles at sea can determine the outcomes of war, the weapons and tactics used on ships is critically important. Naval historians and weapons experts examine and test three weapons that helped countries dominate the seas for centuries, from Greek fire, invented by the Byzantines to protect Constantinople for over 750 years, to the cannon, which made Britain an undisputed superpower of the sea for centuries, to the torpedo, a devastating missile of the 20th century.
8 The Ambush
Ambushing the enemy with weapons that stay undetected until their very strike can be an insidious, but efficient, military strategy. A team of weapons experts takes a look at three such inventions: the ancient Romans' caltrop, iron spikes spread across battlefields to bring horses and soldiers to their knees; the Dreyse needle gun, which changed the tactics of future armies; and the landmine, an age-old weapon lethally improved by modern technology.
9 Deadly Inventions
As technology evolved over the centuries, inventors and engineers upgraded weapons and influenced the course of global history. Join military and weapons experts as they examine three deadly inventions that heightened bloodshed in battle: the scorpio, an ancient missile launcher used by the Romans; the longsword, intrinsically tied to the medieval world of knights; and the Henry rifle, which influenced warfare thanks to its revolutionary reloading design.
10 Civilians on the Battlefield
Explore inventions that were used to recklessly attack civilian populations. Discover the trebuchet, a siege weapon that dominated medieval battlefields. Follow the evolution of biological and chemical weapons, from the hellebore roots of ancient Greece to anthrax following the 9/11 terror attacks. And examine the most lethal means of mass destruction, nuclear bombs, as experts speculate on the future impact of cyber warfare.

About this show

For as long as humankind has existed, there have been weapons, designed to kill and to protect. Over many millennia, they have taken on leading roles in major battles, helping to build empires and destroy civilizations. This is a look at some of the most important and innovative weapons, from slings and arrows to nuclear bombs to biological warfare. Through unique experiments run by weapons specialists, explore how and why these weapons work and the role each one has played in shaping the world we know today.

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