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Old 02-08-2007, 03:33 PM
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A longbow could shoot how far???

I was recently doing some reading on medieval warfare and was again astounded by the ranges they said longbows were effective to. The source I was reading said up to 400 yards -- holy crap!

Having a passing familiarity with modern bowhunting using compound bows, I struck by the differences. Most hunters I know practice shots at 30-40 yards, and if you read hunting magazines on the subject they suggest pushing yourself by practicing at 60-70 yards to reap the benefits of becoming accustomed to longer range shots.

Now I'll grant that in medieval warfare were probably talking about a group of archers firing at a high angle, and the killing coming from scores of arrows falling into a group of targets, and in hunting we are talking about having enough control and penetration to accurated place a single arrow into an animals vital deep enough to kill / mortally wound it. But still, 400 yards is a long, long way for an arrow to travel -- isn't it? Could a modern compound bow even launch an arrow that far? Are the historians full of mud? Is a compound bow more of a specialization than a general improvement on the weapon?

-rainy
Old 02-08-2007, 03:42 PM
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According to Wikipedia, English longbows had 200 lb. draws, which are about 4 times the average pull for a bow. That would transmit a hell of a lot of force to an arrow!


Given that there are present day people who can draw such bows, it isn't impossible. English longbowmen (mostly Welsh, actually) trained extensively with the weapon. At Agincourt, an estimate is that the English moved to within 400 yards of the French lines and opened fire with the longbow. We know what happened there, and at Crecy, and at Poitiers.
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Old 02-08-2007, 03:44 PM
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400 yards is overstating it by a factor of 2, according to this site.
Old 02-08-2007, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by silenus
400 yards is overstating it by a factor of 2, according to this site.
That is the coolest thing I've read all week. Time to dig out my battered copy of European Arms and Armor
Old 02-08-2007, 04:01 PM
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A 200 pound draw!?!

I would assume also, that being a longbow, it would transmit this greater force for a longer distance (the distance that the string is in contact with the arrow), and since energy is force times distance, this really would put quite a bit more speed onto the arrow!

I'm just surprised that any person could use a bow with a 200 pound pull.
Old 02-08-2007, 04:12 PM
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And of course an archer who was taken prisoner would typically have the middle finger of his right hand cut off. Thus it became both threat and taunt for an archer to display his middle finger, while shouting at the enemy: "See? We can pluck yew. PLUCK YEW!"


Or so the legend goes.
Old 02-08-2007, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers
And of course an archer who was taken prisoner would typically have the middle finger of his right hand cut off. Thus it became both threat and taunt for an archer to display his middle finger, while shouting at the enemy: "See? We can pluck yew. PLUCK YEW!"


Or so the legend goes.
Snopes on the matter
Old 02-08-2007, 04:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CurtC
A 200 pound draw!?!

I would assume also, that being a longbow, it would transmit this greater force for a longer distance (the distance that the string is in contact with the arrow), and since energy is force times distance, this really would put quite a bit more speed onto the arrow!

I'm just surprised that any person could use a bow with a 200 pound pull.
I can pull 200 pounds on a rowing machine with two hands. It's not too much of a stretch to immagine someone who actually trained to do so being able to use their back muscles to do this. Not the average guy, but one that trained, sure.
Old 02-08-2007, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rainy
Having a passing familiarity with modern bowhunting using compound bows, I struck by the differences. Most hunters I know practice shots at 30-40 yards, and if you read hunting magazines on the subject they suggest pushing yourself by practicing at 60-70 yards to reap the benefits of becoming accustomed to longer range shots.
-rainy
One major difference here is that us modern compound bow shooters (and traditional archery hunters) are looking to put ONE arrow into THAT deer (or other game), rather than a flock of archers, putting LOTS of arrows into THOSE soldiers.

With precision comes decreased range. With massed fire, the individual accuracy isn't important, as it's the "area effect" that's being sought.

I'd bet my relatively simple, and slow compound bow could put an arrow to a maximum range of 150 yds or so, and others can certainly shoot further, but accuracy vs a single target would stink.
Old 02-08-2007, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by butler1850
One major difference here is that us modern compound bow shooters (and traditional archery hunters) are looking to put ONE arrow into THAT deer (or other game), rather than a flock of archers, putting LOTS of arrows into THOSE soldiers.

With precision comes decreased range. With massed fire, the individual accuracy isn't important, as it's the "area effect" that's being sought.

I'd bet my relatively simple, and slow compound bow could put an arrow to a maximum range of 150 yds or so, and others can certainly shoot further, but accuracy vs a single target would stink.
I was hoping somebody might chime in with some field experimentation on the matter.
Old 02-08-2007, 04:37 PM
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Competition Clout Archery is done at a range of 180 yards, using modern sporting archery equipment - the range is attained by shooting at a high angle and dropping the arrows into (or near to) a target on the ground - quite similar to the shooting technique that would have been used longbowmen for massed fire.

I don't see why a fair bit mo.re range than that couldn't be achieved with a traditional longbow with a high draw weight
Old 02-08-2007, 04:44 PM
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Hmmmm…anecdote time.

I have an older (about 40 years) re-curve bow.

Heh. Found it. It’s a piece of art. Beautiful thing.

I never hunted with it, but shot it a lot as a kid. I would not be at all surprised that it could fire an arrow a couple of hundred yards. 400 yards? If there was no wind against it, and you had good flights on the arrow and the proper elevation….. I’d take the bet.
Old 02-08-2007, 04:47 PM
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My wife and I dabble in the SCA and Ren fairs in New England, I got into making Medieval Long Bows a few years ago, even posted my results here on the boards somewhere. I never had any of the bows I made tested by a specialist, but I can tell you the drag on my bows was much more than 75 pounds on most compound bows highest setting. I never really went for distance but I'll say of the bows I made they were extremely powerful. I sold a couple of them, and kept two of the best ones for myself. Tey have some very good detail on the shaft and they have a little bit of sentimental value. I have no doubt an arrow shot from one could travel 400 yards, but that would be a far, far stretch....
Old 02-08-2007, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enipla
Hmmmm…anecdote time.

I have an older (about 40 years) re-curve bow.

Heh. Found it. It’s a piece of art. Beautiful thing.

I never hunted with it, but shot it a lot as a kid. I would not be at all surprised that it could fire an arrow a couple of hundred yards. 400 yards? If there was no wind against it, and you had good flights on the arrow and the proper elevation….. I’d take the bet.
Gorgeous bow!
Old 02-08-2007, 05:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rainy
I was hoping somebody might chime in with some field experimentation on the matter.
Tempting. I have a bow that might be similar (though its been 20 years since I've shot it, that may be dangerous in itself) to medevial bows. Though it is only 45# pull.

I have property pretty much in the middle of nowhere that is 1320 feet long on each side (440 yards). It's about an hour away, but usually very windy.

Just checked. Still have some good arrows.

Damn you rainy, my Wife is gonna think I'm nuts. Maybe. Maybe I will give it a try on Saturday.
Old 02-08-2007, 05:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
According to Wikipedia, English longbows had 200 lb. draws.
But silenus's link states that an examination of the five surviving examples suggests that Wiki is wrong here.

Quote:
All five weapons are remarkably similar and may be said to be typical longbows. They are approximately six feet tall, made of the sap and centrewood of the yew tree, are rough looking, and stiff weapons pulling between 65 and 90 pounds. Given this draw weight, a maximum effective range of approximately 200 yards with a heavy war missile is not unreasonable
Old 02-08-2007, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Phlosphr
Gorgeous bow!
Thanks Phlosphr. This thread made me get it out and look at it again. I'm kinda afraid to even string it. I won't do it with out eye protection heavy gloves, and have my Wife home.
Old 02-08-2007, 05:21 PM
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heavy war missile is not unreasonable This is where my test would fall apart, I would be shooting lightweight fiberglass blunt tiped target arrows. Though I have seen them go through a 1/2 of plywood at about 20 yards with this bow.
Old 02-08-2007, 05:31 PM
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Some archers were shooting with their feet! I don't have a cite for this, it was one of those "recreating ancient battles" shows on television. A unit of archers, with even longer bows, would lie on their backs, and they'd raise the bow up on both feet. They'd draw the bowstring with both hands, and long arrows, and launch at a high angle, all in unison. A rain of arrows would fall on soldiers who thought they were too far back to be killed by an arrow.

It might even be historically sound. It's a good story, and I'm not making it up.
Old 02-08-2007, 06:26 PM
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Archery records page:
http://usarchery.org/usarchery/html/Records.html

"unlimited english longbow" is 323.66m (353 yards)
"unlimited footbow" is 1854.4m (2028 yards) (!)


Brian
Old 02-08-2007, 08:22 PM
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Not sure where the information about 400 yards comes from. There are several people who appear to be expert on the abilities of the longbow who talk about it being accurate and able to kill a person at 300 yds. One of the people who discusses this himself has shot longbows in competition, so I imagine he's not completely unaware of the ability.

It would be interesting to know from that records page what the difference between the "English" and "American" longbows is in modern times. If the current "American" longbow is equivalent to the old English longbow, the record listed is over 400 meters.
Old 02-08-2007, 09:01 PM
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Back in 1991 Scientific American had an article called Early Bow Design and Construction. There was a drawing of one on the cover (looks like a recurve to me) and it included the caption
Quote:
Early composite bow could throw an arrow nearly half a mile. Its technology was surprisingly advanced.
Old 02-09-2007, 08:56 AM
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Originally Posted by enipla
Damn you rainy, my Wife is gonna think I'm nuts.
Calling into question a person's sanity -- particularily my own -- is a sort of speciality of mine.

Old 02-09-2007, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by N9IWP
Archery records page:
http://usarchery.org/usarchery/html/Records.html

"unlimited english longbow" is 323.66m (353 yards)
"unlimited footbow" is 1854.4m (2028 yards) (!)


Brian
That foot bow number is absolutely staggering.
Old 02-09-2007, 09:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Xema:
But silenus's link states that an examination of the five surviving examples suggests that Wiki is wrong here.
Quote:
Quote:
All five weapons are remarkably similar and may be said to be typical longbows. They are approximately six feet tall, made of the sap and centrewood of the yew tree, are rough looking, and stiff weapons pulling between 65 and 90 pounds. Given this draw weight, a maximum effective range of approximately 200 yards with a heavy war missile is not unreasonable
We've moved on from the total surviving sample of five bows and one arrow quoted in the 1980 paper by Kaiser.

Since the Mary Rose was brought to the surface in 1982 they have recovered 137 complete longbows and 3500 arrows Both the bows and the arrows came in a variety of sizes but the average length of the bows was about 6ft 6in and the the arrows 30in. The Mary Rose site does not give an estimate of draw weights but this site says they ranged from 88 to 176 lb.

Quote:
Originally posted by CurtC:
I'm just surprised that any person could use a bow with a 200 pound pull.
Cetainly a 180lb pull is feasible - it is actually done regularly by modern bowmen using recreated war bows. This site gives a range of 330-350 yards but it is not clear whether this would have been an effective range in warfare.
Old 02-09-2007, 09:28 AM
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Don't forget that these longbowmen pulling a yew bow with 200lb draw weight were trained from childhood and practised regularly - by royal decree if necessary. Longbowman skeletons show visible deformities as a result. That's one reason why gunpowder weapons got a foothold even though they were slower to fire and worse in accuracy - you could train anyone to use a musket in a very short time, whereas if you wanted a supply of longbowmen to draw on you had to plan it around a man's entire life, and then you had some very dangerous peasants wandering about the place if they started to be unhappy with the social order.
Old 02-09-2007, 10:05 AM
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One more issue to throw in here for the non-archers, at least more technical data.

Draw weight does increase arrow speed, with more speed meaning more distance... BUT, it does so SLOWLY. For every 5 lbs of weight you add to a bow you get an increase of about 1ft/s. (about, very aproximate, will depend on arrow weight as well)

Which brings us to arrow weight. My modern bow shoots arrows that are fairly light. The increase when using lighter arrows is much greater. For every 5 grains of weight you save, you pick up 1ft/s. 1 grain = 0.00228 ounces.

I changed from aluminum arrows (better than wood, but now very un-durable technology) to a carbon arrow (tough, strong, light), and picked up 20ft/s by losing 100gr of weight.

You lose "impact punch" when you move to a lighter arrow, but gain distance and flatness of trajectory.

In modern hunting, the 30-40 yd range, we are attempting to hit a "dime" we want to be RIGHT ON, shooting exactly at a point on the deer, but will accept some variance. In competetion archery, they routinely shoot at 80 yds, but at very large targets. As the target moves further, the target gets bigger.

While I'd certainly believe that modern archers, even with "homebows" (home-made traditional equipment) can reach out to 300+ yards, they can't hit man sized targets reliably. As I said above, that doesn't matter when you have 1000 of your friends throwing arrows to the same arena, but does not mean they are "accurate" at 300+yds. The mission is different, it's not the same comparison right from the start.

If I had a large enough safe area, I'd love to try this out. Alas, I'm not sure I can pull this off in the area I live in. Hopefully the posters above will report back their results. Please let us know your "group size"!
Old 02-09-2007, 10:19 AM
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Just for comparison purposes, Ted Nugent can hit a squirrel in the liver from 150 yards.
Old 02-09-2007, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Wee Bairn
Just for comparison purposes, Ted Nugent can hit a squirrel in the liver from 150 yards.
I like Ted. He has spunk. But he needs to be taken with a grain of salt with some of his hunting exploits/brags. Not that he doesn't put the meat on the table, and he does it well, but I doubt he's talking archery there. Now, with a .223 and a nice rifle, no problem.

Now, Chuck Norris on the other hand...

Last edited by butler1850; 02-09-2007 at 10:45 AM.
Old 02-09-2007, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by butler1850
I like Ted. He has spunk. But he needs to be taken with a grain of salt with some of his hunting exploits/brags. Not that he doesn't put the meat on the table, and he does it well, but I doubt he's talking archery there. Now, with a .223 and a nice rifle, no problem.

Now, Chuck Norris on the other hand...
Or Legolas...
Old 02-09-2007, 10:52 AM
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I like Ted too, but the only time I saw his show they were hunting okapi or dromedaries or something, and they go to absurd lenths to trick these dumb animals- cover themselves in scent of horny female okapi, lay okapi food around then hid a tree and shoot the dumb thing from about 50 feet away- not impressive at all actually.
Old 02-09-2007, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Malacandra
...and then you had some very dangerous peasants wandering about the place if they started to be unhappy with the social order.
AND they have their weapons at home. Muskets, arquebusses, matchlocks, etc would get locked up between wars.
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
Or Legolas...
While skateboarding!
Old 02-09-2007, 07:00 PM
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and then you had some very dangerous peasants wandering about the place if they started to be unhappy with the social order.
I believe it was Asimov who pointed out that this was the real key to England's successful use of the longbow: Pretty much everyone knew the technology behind the bows themselves well enough, as well as the kind of training regimen needed. But only England trusted her commoners enough to give them that kind of power, so only England reaped the benefits.

And let me just chime in with the awe at the over-a-mile footbow range, there... I'd hate to have to face off against those with medieval technology! You'd never be sure you were safe.
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Old 02-09-2007, 08:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Chronos
And let me just chime in with the awe at the over-a-mile footbow range, there... I'd hate to have to face off against those with medieval technology! You'd never be sure you were safe.
Of course, they'd have a hell of a time HITTING an enemy camp unless they had a good vantage point or some kind of spotter setup (maybe a dude with semaphore flags on a hilltop?)

That said, the difference between 200 yards and 400 yards and a mile is purely academic if you're standing ankle-deep in frothy mud with only a spear and maybe some chain mail to protect you. Knights with plate mail and shields had it a bit better, I understand, but at closer ranges, even they could get taken out by that generation's equivalent to a HEAT round, the bodkin arrowhead.

And I have it on good authority that if you're holding a shield, and an arrow hits that shield, you'll have some nice bruising to show for your efforts at the very least.
Old 02-10-2007, 12:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Raguleader
And I have it on good authority that if you're holding a shield, and an arrow hits that shield, you'll have some nice bruising to show for your efforts at the very least.
I've just got to know what your good authority is...I smell a story.
Old 02-10-2007, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by rainy
I've just got to know what your good authority is...I smell a story.
Well, the guy from Conquest on the History Channel. Comon, he's a freaking Technomage!

In any case, it seems like if you have an arrow that can penetrate plate mail (at short ranges), it'd probably hurt like the devil to be holding a shield that catches such a thing.
Old 02-10-2007, 10:51 PM
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Didn't longbow men get paid more than a foot soldier?
Old 02-10-2007, 11:13 PM
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As an interesting aside, most northerly climes never developed or used the recurved horn-and-glue recurved bow, although quite effective. Darn things kept falling apart every times there was a soggy day or a morning frost. It's an amusing thought, bu the Mongols were defeated as much by rain as anything else.
Old 02-11-2007, 01:02 AM
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I'm failry certain that longbow men were payed more than regular footmen, not to be confused with man at arms (essentially knights on foot).

The longbow wasn't very effective against plate armor, however. Even mail, depending on it's quality and manufacture could be expected to provide decent protection against the weapon. Of course, they were still a good harrassing unit capable of inflicting serious casualties on lightly armored troops (which would have made up the majority of men in an army of the period anyway).
Old 02-11-2007, 01:08 AM
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Didn't longbow men get paid more than a foot soldier?
Considering that longbowmen were trained from birth in the use of a highly demanding weapon, while most foot soldiers were just whatever schmucks you could grab off the local farm and shove a pitchfork in their hands, I'd say that it's probably not unreasonable to suppose that the bowmen might be better paid. Why do you ask?
Old 02-11-2007, 01:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Why do you ask?
Just wanted to know. I think I read it someplace too.

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Old 02-11-2007, 01:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Kinthalis
I'm failry certain that longbow men were payed more than regular footmen, not to be confused with man at arms (essentially knights on foot).

The longbow wasn't very effective against plate armor, however. Even mail, depending on it's quality and manufacture could be expected to provide decent protection against the weapon. Of course, they were still a good harrassing unit capable of inflicting serious casualties on lightly armored troops (which would have made up the majority of men in an army of the period anyway).
Indeed, even if it doesn't kill you, it's just damned ANNOYING to be pelted by arrows while you try to get close enough to fight them, constantly having to heft that sheild up above your head and hoping that a lucky shot doesn't get you in the eye.

Meanwhile, that freaking jerk that you want to bludgeon in the head with a mace (in the manner which gentlemen were MEANT to fight in) is just sitting on his horse laughing at you at the top of that muddy hill so he can fight you while he's all rested. Bastard.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Why do you ask?
Well, a man wants to consider his choices before he chooses a career path in the armed forces. I knew a guy who made the mistake of enlisting in the Cavalry before he found out what it entailed. Spent six years following a knight around with a wheelbarrow, he did. *nods sagely*
Old 02-11-2007, 02:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos
Considering that longbowmen were trained from birth in the use of a highly demanding weapon, while most foot soldiers were just whatever schmucks you could grab off the local farm and shove a pitchfork in their hands, I'd say that it's probably not unreasonable to suppose that the bowmen might be better paid. Why do you ask?
By law in the middle ages all males in the countryside(not sure about the towns ) were required to practice archery on Sundays(though the lads often prefered to play football when they could get away with it)
So usually it WAS the shmucks off of the local farm .

Proffesional archers in year round military service, as opposed to the conscripted were also highly trained in forms of unarmed combat and the use of short swords and daggers.

I saw a massed(well a hundred anyway) longbow demonstration at the Weald and Downland museum and one man in particular was pointed out as having the typical build for the archer of the day.
His shoulders were massive but instead of being square were very rounded, somewhat similar to the arc of a wagon wheel.

Against mounted knights the arrows were most effective at bringing down horses
with the archers and Men at arms running forward to those closest and stabbing the prone knights through their eyeslits, or flexibility gaps in the plate armour,under the armpits, skirts etc. with misericords or similar.
Old 02-11-2007, 04:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
I believe it was Asimov who pointed out that this was the real key to England's successful use of the longbow: Pretty much everyone knew the technology behind the bows themselves well enough, as well as the kind of training regimen needed. But only England trusted her commoners enough to give them that kind of power, so only England reaped the benefits.
Within reason, of course. Wikipedia says that it was a serious offence to be found in possession of bodkin arrowheads in time of peace. They had no use other than to pierce noblemen's armour, and if your country's not at war, whom were you planning to use them on, churl?
Old 02-11-2007, 04:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Chronos
And let me just chime in with the awe at the over-a-mile footbow range, there... I'd hate to have to face off against those with medieval technology! You'd never be sure you were safe.
The Jet Li movie Hero had scenes of an attacking army using footbows. Basically had a couple hundred soldiers fire at the castle or building, and it was akin to an artillery barrage. I imagine it would be horrific to be on the receiving end
Old 02-11-2007, 07:50 AM
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It's not surprising that a footbow should be so powerful, of course. It's the difference between arm-curls and dead-lifts, with the added bonus of not having to support your own weight.
Old 02-11-2007, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by Raguleader
Well, the guy from Conquest on the History Channel. Comon, he's a freaking Technomage!

In any case, it seems like if you have an arrow that can penetrate plate mail (at short ranges), it'd probably hurt like the devil to be holding a shield that catches such a thing.
Wouldn't that seem to imply there was some sort of knock back associated with the arrow striking? I would have thought that the mass of a shield versus the mass of an arrow (even at flight speed) would have pretty much cancelled out any knockback. And any force was concentrated into the tip of the arrow -- isn't that kind of the whole purpose.

Of course I've never caught an arrow on a shield, but still...

-rainy
Old 02-11-2007, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by rainy
Wouldn't that seem to imply there was some sort of knock back associated with the arrow striking? I would have thought that the mass of a shield versus the mass of an arrow (even at flight speed) would have pretty much cancelled out any knockback. And any force was concentrated into the tip of the arrow -- isn't that kind of the whole purpose.

Of course I've never caught an arrow on a shield, but still...

-rainy
Sounds like a job for the Mythbusters!
Old 02-11-2007, 03:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malacandra
Don't forget that these longbowmen pulling a yew bow with 200lb draw weight were trained from childhood and practised regularly - by royal decree if necessary. Longbowman skeletons show visible deformities as a result.
Out of curiosity, what kind of deformities did they have?

Regards,
Shodan
Old 02-11-2007, 03:45 PM
Member
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: GA
Posts: 1,100
Quote:
Originally Posted by Raguleader
Sounds like a job for the Mythbusters!
I don't know, they really overlooked some basic stuff in the "Robin Hood spliting an arrow in twain" episode.

I still think they've got the coolest job on the face of the planet, though.

-rainy
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