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"How far away would archers and crossbows fire?" Topic


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Personal logo Weasel Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2016 12:05 p.m. PST

Obviously subject to interpretation, gross generalizations and so forth, but is there a decent rule of thumb for the range that archers or crossbowmen would use their weapons?

I have this sneaking feeling that it may often have been much lower than what is often assumed, but I'm curious what you people think.

Please keep it friendly.

MajorB01 Mar 2016 1:33 p.m. PST

For archers, re-enactors usually say effective range is a furlong – 220yds

bruntonboy01 Mar 2016 3:39 p.m. PST

Doubt they would be able to fire at all. Shooting range, no real idea but 100 metres or so may be a fair guess.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP01 Mar 2016 3:56 p.m. PST

Crecy, the Genoese crossbows shot first and their bolts fell short. Later this was blamed on their crossbow strings being soaked by a sudden downpour. But that didn't seem to affect the English archers, who then poured in rapid shot that outranged the crossbows. So whatever the other conditions might have been (wet strings, sun in their eyes), the crossbows did not shoot as far as the longbows.

I believe that longbows outrange crossbows as a general rule. Much heavier crossbows, say in excess of 300 lbs of draw weight, could shoot as far as a longbow. While those 1000 lb plus monsters shot much further than all but the most powerful longbows, pulling in excess of 150 lbs. We are talking about long range shooting over four hundred yards, but this is hardly applicable to field battles; and I doubt that windlass spanned crossbows used in sieges were shooting any further away than the siege lines, i.e. within a hundred yards….

Mako11 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member01 Mar 2016 4:06 p.m. PST

I agree with GWA.

200+ yds. sounds about right to me.

GurKhan01 Mar 2016 4:24 p.m. PST

Probably varies a lot depending on strength of bows and tactical systems. For example, Japan, 10th century:

Each side had about five or six hundred men, and they set up their shields in lines about a hundred and twenty yards apart … both sides began shooting arrows at the arranged signal … After that each side moved their shields closer, but just as they were about to shoot at each other at close range, word was passed from Yoshifumi's side to that of Mitsuru, ‘There is no fun in today's battle if each of us makes his war-band engage with arrows. You and I alone should try to test each other's skill…'.

from Konjaku Monogatari XXV.III.

uglyfatbloke Supporting Member of TMP02 Mar 2016 5:12 a.m. PST

Yup; an effective range of maybe 150 yards is probably about right.

MajorB02 Mar 2016 7:59 a.m. PST

Yup; an effective range of maybe 150 yards is probably about right.

Seems that you are in disagreement with GWA, Mako11 and me. But then I suppose it depends on what type of bow you are talking about?

wminsing Inactive Member02 Mar 2016 8:20 a.m. PST

Yea this is tough to generalize over the whole period; lots of performance difference between crossbow, longbow, compound bow, etc. Also wooden bows are *heavily* impacted by climate conditions; you can find reports of a force shooting with amazing effectiveness in one battle and that same force shooting with virtually no effect at a later battle, even though the situation appears the same.

-Will

Wardlaw Inactive Member02 Mar 2016 9:03 a.m. PST

The heavier draw-weights (100lb plus) will carry 300 yards or more (I'm part of a group of warbow archers, though not an archer myself). Effective range (i.e. hitting an individual man-size target) is around the 100 yard mark.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP02 Mar 2016 9:20 a.m. PST

Reenacting, modeling, medieval archery is problematic because of assumptions going in. Longbow fanboys will usually expect themselves to pull a minimum of 100 lbs. Then if they tire quickly, and cannot hold to aim because of the strain, they assume that medieval longbowmen also pulled and released immediately at full draw. The gyrations that you see on YouTube to get the bow to full draw are quite comical as well; almost a dance starting with the bow held high overhead, and then bringing it down using the back and chest muscles. The instant full draw is achieved the string is released with a forward rocking motion onto one foot. Ranges are impressive. Accuracy and rpm are not. And forget about doing this for more than a handful of minutes before becoming completely tuckered.

One original source from the mid 16th century (the apogee of the longbow), Roger Ascham, flat out states that archers could draw and hold, thus threatening death to a much larger body of opponents, who would stay out of range because of the visual threat of drawn bows. Obviously, modern modelers of the war bow, for the most part, do not pull bows suitable to their level of strength and training experience. Their bows are too strong for warfare application. As always, only an upper portion of c. ten percent of archers can use the 100 lbs plus war bow as Ascham described. The rest (the bulk of medieval yeomen) pulled 70 to 80 lbs. This would hold for all archer peoples.

Mako11 Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member02 Mar 2016 9:58 a.m. PST

Yea, untrained teenage kids with 30 pound draw weights can probably shoot 100 yds., or more.

My little 10 – 20 lb. one could easily do 50+ yds., back in the day.

Remember, they were shooting in massed volleys, and not at individual targets.

MajorB02 Mar 2016 10:09 a.m. PST

GWA has some strange ideas about what was and was not possible for a medieval archer. I can only assume he has somehow gained first hand knowledge.

There is an ENORMOUS amount of discussion on this topic here:
TMP link

MajorB02 Mar 2016 10:20 a.m. PST

Simon Stanley, one of the few modern exponents of the longbow, does not "dance about" as GWA suggests. He's accurate at 200 yds as well.
YouTube link

Keifer11302 Mar 2016 10:42 p.m. PST

Something to also think about….at long ranges, armor could deflect or absorb the arrow, causing little or no damage. Longbows could only pierce armor at about 60-100 feet. Meaning that if the enemy was in full charge on a horse, you'd only get 1 shot off before they were on you.

MajorB03 Mar 2016 3:10 a.m. PST

Meaning that if the enemy was in full charge on a horse, you'd only get 1 shot off before they were on you.

But a horse is very vulnerable to archery fire. Take down a horse and it will take out the rider and have a significant disruptive effect on those nearby.

Which is why MAA in the WOTR fought on foot rather than on horseback.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP03 Mar 2016 8:45 a.m. PST

Simon Stanley: is a one in ten guy. He's pulling a draw weight "his own body weight"; which is, what, 180 lbs? Less, more? It doesn't matter That bow is not the war bow of the masses. And even he strains to draw and hold it. Roger Ascham would say that he needs to downgrade probably 80 lbs in wartime. Then he can hold it at full draw "all day" (slight exaggeration). And more importantly, shoot even when not in the peak of condition, such as when sick with dysentery and when hungry.

Btw, that flat "metal" plate against blocks of "body material" behind, has already been debunked. It doesn't represent how a cuirass would work. No cuirass was up against flesh, but rather had a thick layer of padding behind. And no cuirass presented a flat surface to the shooter, but rather as much glancing surface as possible. (Hardy's and Stanley's one shot only pierced inside the very edge as well. Why did the video only show that single mere shmere hit over and over again? Could it be that Stanley missed the other shots and that was the only one he made? The range was only c. ten yards away. If he were shooting the right weight bow he'd have been able to draw, hold, aim and put arrows repeatedly into the CENTER of that plate.)

English yeomen did both individual and volley shooting. When the target was close the front ranks aimed and shot. When the target was far off (outside pointblank range) the archers resorted to volley shooting….

MajorB03 Mar 2016 11:14 a.m. PST

Simon Stanley: is a one in ten guy. He's pulling a draw weight "his own body weight"; which is, what, 180 lbs? Less, more? It doesn't matter

So you claim. But I still don't think you can prove it. Stanley has been shooting from the age of 6 and in all other respects he's just an average guy. In fact he's probably more "medieval" than most (all?) of us. So if he can do it why shouldn't others be able to?

Then he can hold it at full draw "all day" (slight exaggeration).

Why would anyone want to do that?

Btw, that flat "metal" plate against blocks of "body material" behind, has already been debunked. It doesn't represent how a cuirass would work.

I was using the Stanley video to dispute your "dance" idea. You are right about the steel plate not representing a cuirass very well, but that is not the point at issue here.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP03 Mar 2016 2:01 p.m. PST

Is Stanley "deformed"? Just curious. I don't expect you to know the answer.

The point is, archers do in fact fall into broad categories, even starting at the age of six. Not all of them, not even a majority of them, become shooters of very heavy war bows. The body is not created equal. It doesn't develop just because of practice. The genetic base has to be there to develop. If this were not so then all men and women practicing shooting would wind up equally endowed with developed archer ability. But clearly women on the whole shoot weaker bows than men do.

Most archers, even practiced ones, do not shoot bows anywhere near 100 lbs. The "dancers" are wannabee war bow shooters. And most of the videos on YouTube showing off are "dancers". Even Stanley is unsteady shooting that heavy a bow. If he were to downsize to say 100 lbs, instead of "pulling his own weight", he would not only be shooting with extreme ease, but also standing absolutely upright, holding and aiming and increasing his marksmanship greatly; his stamina would also be incredible with a 100 lb bow. He would be able to pull it in a weakened condition. If Stanley were having a bad day, there is no way that he could pull that bow "his own weight" that he was showing off with. And that's the point: a war bow shooter has to be able to shoot for a long time even when his strength is compromised by campaign conditions, e.g. before Agincourt, as the original sources tell us.

Holding at full draw is important both for aiming and threatening. Ascham said so. I've shared that quote before. In context, "Tox" and "Phi" have been discussing archery, and "Tox" arrives at the point where he is describing the faults of unpractised archers:

"…moreover he shall shoot very few shafts, and those full unhandsomely, some shot half drawn, some too high, and some too low; nor he cannot drive a shot at a time, nor stop a shot at a need, but out must it, and very oft to evil proof."

Phi: And that is best, I trow, in war, to let it go, and not to stop it.

Tox: No, not so, but some time to hold a shaft at the head; which, if they be but few archers, doth more good with the fear of it, than it should do if it were shot with the stroke of it.

I'd like to see how long any of these wannabee war bow shooters can hold the string back at full draw….

uglyfatbloke Supporting Member of TMP03 Mar 2016 2:49 p.m. PST

Sorry – should have been more clear…150 yards or so for most people against armoured targets seems reasonable to me from such narrative evidence as is available, but there were certainly men who could deliver a serious blow at greater ranges.

MajorB04 Mar 2016 4:51 a.m. PST

Is Stanley "deformed"? Just curious. I don't expect you to know the answer.

He doesn't look deformed to me.

The point is, archers do in fact fall into broad categories, even starting at the age of six. Not all of them, not even a majority of them, become shooters of very heavy war bows.

So how do you know where Stanley fits on that spectrum? He's not a particularly big guy. In fact I would consider him a little slight in build. That would imply he is not particularly strong.

Most archers, even practiced ones, do not shoot bows anywhere near 100 lbs.

Again, how do you know? have you somehow been able to travel back in time to the medieval period to find out?

The "dancers" are wannabee war bow shooters. And most of the videos on YouTube showing off are "dancers".

Agreed that they are probably pulling bows too heavy for them, hence the "dancing" but how many of them started shooting at the age of 6? I suspect very few if any.

Even Stanley is unsteady shooting that heavy a bow. If he were to downsize to say 100 lbs, instead of "pulling his own weight", he would not only be shooting with extreme ease,

I'd be quite happy with a war bow draw weight of 120lbs. That would be 2/3rds of the 180lbs he is pulling in the video and I'm sure he could do 120lbs with ease.

Holding at full draw is important both for aiming and threatening.

Hmm .. compare this for a momemt with shooting a modern rifle. When does a riflemen need to hold his aim? IMHO the only time he really needs to do that is if he is operating in a sniper role where he might be tracking a target before shooting. In normal battlefield usage, soldiers do not hold their aim for any length of time, often not at all.

I think the same would hold true for archers in the medieval period. Sure you are going to have a few guys who can hold the draw for a period as the equivalent of a modern sniper but the majority will simply draw and loose almost in one smooth action.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP04 Mar 2016 8:29 a.m. PST

So how do you know where Stanley fits on that spectrum? He's not a particularly big guy. In fact I would consider him a little slight in build. That would imply he is not particularly strong.

Because he's pulling a bow that strong with that good of form. He's not "dancing" under the strain and release. He would really be impressive if he were pulling "only" a hundred pounds.

Roger Ascham clearly states that size has nothing to do with being a strong shooter. A large man, physically strong naturally, can and will be outshot by a much slighter built man, because the strong/big man's muscles are all fighting against each other to pull a powerful bow.

The separation of archers into draw weight categories has everything to do with the final or total package of musculature density, alignment, bone structure and finally practice overlaid on the body.

Most archers, even practiced ones, do not shoot bows anywhere near 100 lbs.
Again, how do you know? have you somehow been able to travel back in time to the medieval period to find out?

My own experience told me something about bow draw weights. I started up in earnest when c. 22 years of age. My bow was listed at 45 lbs. My 1.5" longer than the listed 28" draw length made it closer to 60 lbs. The training went on almost daily for months, for well over a year in fact. By the "end" of it, I was a decent shot at pointblank range and could drop my arrows beyond that within a ten foot area. But, I never got to the point where I said, "Hey, this bow is feeling puny. I need to get a stronger one."

Why not? I concluded that my body was barely up to the strain of that draw weight, and would feel totally comfortable drawing and holding half that weight, which I proved several times, demonstrating to learners on their target bows.

So when my late friend asserted that "war bow" was actually c. half the draw weight of "practice" or "show bow", I readily believed. Subsequent observation has reinforced that assertion into a "fact" for me. You can provide anecdotal evidence and better evidence to refute this, if you are interested.

Archers cannot force their bodies into greater development than "nature" decrees. Trying will only result in premature collapse, preceded by warning injuries. Those guys showing off on the various YouTube videos are in this latter category. And motivated by their peers to keep trying. And they assert together that medieval war bow shooters couldn't possibly be any better at it than they are, because they too train from youth upwards. But most of them cannot shoot a 100 lb bow for more than a very few minutes, and release a handful of arrows per minute. They are the bulk archers, not the top ten percenters that the king's recruiters went out and advertised for. They got as many as they could gather up in the time allowed, then shipped over to France for another go with the rest, the eighty to ninety percent, pulling 70 to 80 lbs: which was exactly what they expected to get, because past experience warned them that what they were looking/hoping for just wasn't enough to field the size of army that they needed. They had to make do with what "nature" provided. There was't any way to get more out of the general population of shooters.

By Ascham's day, shooters were down to ten in a thousand, so the pool of ten percenters had become fadingly small.

Today, we won't see one but rarely.

Observing archers with my own eyes, and online, tells me that "one in ten" holds true today, as always. It is of course a matter of comparative development.

Agreed that they are probably pulling bows too heavy for them, hence the "dancing" but how many of them started shooting at the age of 6? I suspect very few if any.

What would be really cool is to keep a tally of top ten percenters and when they started shooting.

I suspect that starting in childhood has very little if anything to do with it. Nature decrees from the womb. If nurture is added to nature, then a great archer is in the making. Failure of either nature or nurture will prevent a great archer from appearing.

I'd be quite happy with a war bow draw weight of 120lbs. That would be 2/3rds of the 180lbs he is pulling in the video and I'm sure he could do 120lbs with ease.

So would I! And so would "the king". That's the whole point of drawing powerful and downgrading to useable for wartime. What you adapted to in practice becomes facile in wartime under less, not more, demanding conditions.

In normal battlefield usage, soldiers do not hold their aim for any length of time, often not at all.

True. But that is gaining control of an area through the use of suppressive fire. Masses of longbow could do the same thing, making the enemy advance through it to their hurt.

Ascham wasn't asserting that holding and threatening was the usual use of the bow, but a useful tactic by a smaller body to hold off a larger body. But the point is that it isn't an option for the "dancers", or even for Stanley with his "show off" bow. Only if he were using a 100 lb bow, then he could hold it at full draw as Ascham described.

I think that the modeling of "volley shot" requires holding until the call to "loose!" is given. I have visualized this as a three part process. The arrow is knocked and held ready. The archer sees the bows go up in front of him. He goes up as swiftly as he can and copies those in front, angle and trajectory, and holds the arrow back until "loose!" from the front ripples back to where he is standing. The volley as viewed from outside the unit, would appear to release rapidly, front to rear, in a "ripple"….

MajorB04 Mar 2016 8:53 a.m. PST

Because he's pulling a bow that strong with that good of form. He's not "dancing" under the strain and release. He would really be impressive if he were pulling "only" a hundred pounds.

But how do you know that would not have been "mormal" for a medieval archer? BTW, I'm pleased that you agree he shows good form – that was the original point of my linking to the video.

The separation of archers into draw weight categories has everything to do with the final or total package of musculature density, alignment, bone structure and finally practice overlaid on the body.

Quite probably. But how can you possibly know what the distribution of draw weights might have been amongst a typical body of medieval archers? Again, I'm wondering about that time machine of yours …

My own experience told me something about bow draw weights. I started up in earnest when c. 22 years of age.

Precisely. Not at the age of 6. You cannot possibly draw any comparison between yourself, Stanley or the average medieval archer.

So when my late friend asserted that "war bow" was actually c. half the draw weight of "practice" or "show bow", I readily believed. Subsequent observation has reinforced that assertion into a "fact" for me.

You believed his assertion. No amount of additional observation can possibly turn that assertion into "fact". You can never convert an assertion into a "fact". A fact is demonstrated by real objective evidence. I have yet to see you offer any objective evidence in support of any of your assertions.

By Ascham's day, shooters were down to ten in a thousand, so the pool of ten percenters had become fadingly small.

Again, how can you possibly know that. You continue to make totally unsupported assertions and present them as "facts".

Observing archers with my own eyes, and online, tells me that "one in ten" holds true today, as always. It is of course a matter of comparative development.

That is anecdotal evidence at best and skeweed statistically by small sample size, lack of knowledge of starting age and training profile and so on and on …

What would be really cool is to keep a tally of top ten percenters and when they started shooting.

I suspect that starting in childhood has very little if anything to do with it.

yes it would be very interesting to create a record of the training profile of war bow shooters.

I suspect that starting in childhood has everything to do with it.

Nature decrees from the womb.

And how do you know that? Another unsubstantiated assertion.

I think that the modeling of "volley shot" requires holding until the call to "loose!" is given.

And how long would that hold be? A few seconds at most. Any longer and the enemy has changed the range requiring the aim to be adjusted.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP04 Mar 2016 12:22 p.m. PST

But how can you possibly know what the distribution of draw weights might have been amongst a typical body of medieval archers? Again, I'm wondering about that time machine of yours …

"Rocky Russo's Time Machine", actually. I've shared his views before on this topic, many times. I can only repeat part of what he concluded. His conclusions, not mine.

The "war bow was the same everywhere", was his conclusion. At the time, back in the 70s, he concluded from his physics models, that the war bow of any archer peoples was c. 70 – 80 lbs. Actually, he allowed the "80 lbs" later; and at first he simply told me, "70 lbs". It was simpler that way.

The "top ten percenters" were from an original English source. I have "Toxophilus" because I was trying to track down that conclusion of Rocky's, and he had told me that his recollection is that it came from Ascham. If Ascham ever said it, it isn't in "Toxophilus".

TMP link
We've been all over this recently, you and I. The "one in ten" is supported by Williams, "your" source. You said "accuracy" and I maintain draw weight. So does Ascham, but actually both are required to have any wartime utility.

And how long would that hold be? A few seconds at most.

Sure. A few seconds, six times a minute. Let's have those "dancers" (even Stanley with his "show bow") try that on for size. I bet that they will be totally tuckered before five minutes of continuous "few seconds at most" holding to volley….

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP04 Mar 2016 12:41 p.m. PST

Amusingly, your three YouTube links further up the page include Stanley, whom I disparaged as a "dancer", but I missed the bit about "pulling his own weight" last time. I'm sure he'd be just as static as the third shooter is, the one who impressed me as being able to do that all day….

GeoffQRF Inactive Member04 Mar 2016 1:14 p.m. PST

You can't compare today's archers, or today's bows, with the longbow.

I shoot 40# off the fingers with a modern recurve, but longbow members will happily shoot 70-80#, and warbles of the period were notably heavier – we have the Mary Rose longbows to prove that.

By law, the minimum distance that a man was allowed to shoot (every Sunday, after church, and supervised by the clergy) was 220 yards. Every make over the age of seven was required to own, by law, a bow and two arrows. They were well practised.

No it was not aimed fire. They didn't need to anchor. They had a smooth draw to the side of the face and released on the move. It was volley fire, with a straight through release, 12 arrows a minute (up to 4 in the air at a time) saturated an area at 200 yards with 30"+ heavy wooden shafts, pointed with a short bodkin point. When the distance got below 50 yards they turned into quite effective men at arms

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP04 Mar 2016 6:27 p.m. PST

"warbles", hehe, that's a very funny finger flub, there, Geoff.

Why would modern reproductions of the longbow, and those who shoot it, be incomparable to medieval shooters and their weapons?

I don't know about any of that "minimum distance" stuff. I do know that shooting at the mark ("prick") was part of training. We even have pictorial evidence of it. The accuracy of longbowmen was even legendary in their own time. So "not aimed fire" is only for long range shooting.

Inside 50 yards was the most deadly range of all. I disagree that they stowed the bow and got ready to melee as soon as the enemy reached 50 yards. That's what stakes were for, and pots, etc. Anything to slow the enemy down and allow even one more very close, aimed shot. I'm sure that shooting and then taking up a melee weapon of choice was a smooth, swift practiced maneuver.

There are no battles where English archers kept an attack by MAAs on foot from closing with them. Melee always finished the battle. (The Scots are another matter; but few of them had full armor.)

I do not accept your rate of shot for masses of longbow in deep formations. Volley shooting was necessarily slower than individual shooting. And therefore the "need to anchor" is implicit. Just because modern longbow shooters don't anchor doesn't mean that medieval archers did not. We have Roger Ascham describing the use of the anchor to threaten. So clearly it was done when the need for it presented. And volley shooting would be another use of holding the shot to release en masse.

MajorB05 Mar 2016 5:49 a.m. PST

And how long would that hold be? A few seconds at most.

Sure. A few seconds, six times a minute. Let's have those "dancers" (even Stanley with his "show bow") try that on for size. I bet that they will be totally tuckered before five minutes of continuous "few seconds at most" holding to volley….

But that's not what I'm suggesting. Forget the "dancers". We're agreed that they are pulling overweight bows and showing off. I'm suggesting a whole company of "Stanleys" pulling 120lb bows (i.e. 2/3rds of the draw weight he used in the video) and indeed being able to continue to do that over a period of time as you suggest.

Only snag is, we don't have a company of "Stanleys" to prove it …

MajorB05 Mar 2016 5:53 a.m. PST

"Rocky Russo's Time Machine", actually. I've shared his views before on this topic, many times. I can only repeat part of what he concluded. His conclusions, not mine.

The "war bow was the same everywhere", was his conclusion. At the time, back in the 70s, he concluded from his physics models, that the war bow of any archer peoples was c. 70 – 80 lbs. Actually, he allowed the "80 lbs" later; and at first he simply told me, "70 lbs". It was simpler that way.

Yeah, right. Look I know Rocky Russo was a great friend of yours and I was very sad to hear of his passing, but I still do not agree with his analysis. As I understand it, all he did was build a "model" that "proved" what you say above. There is one snag with models. They cannot prove anything.

And of course, his conclusion in the 70s was drawn before the Mary Rose bows came to light.

GeoffQRF Inactive Member05 Mar 2016 8:13 a.m. PST

Inside 50 yards a cantering horse will be on you in about 5-7 seconds. You're not going to be fiddling around aiming.

The minimum distance set by law wasn't there for fun. It was so 5000 longbow (Agincourt) knew what angle to loose at to drop 60,000 arrows a minute into any massed formation long before they got into fighting range.

"The arrows were between 27-36in. long. A trained archer could shoot 12 arrows a minute, but some sources say that the most skilled archers could fire twice this number. The arrow could wound at 250 yards, kill at 100 yards and penetrate armor at 60 yards.

At the battle of Agincourt in 1415, 1,000 arrows were fired every second. After the battle, observers wrote that the white feathers from the flights were so thick on the ground, it looked like snow."

Sound more like massed fire than aims shots to me…

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP05 Mar 2016 10:27 a.m. PST

Only snag is, we don't have a company of "Stanleys" to prove it …

And of course, [Rocky Russo's] conclusion in the 70s was drawn before the Mary Rose bows came to light.


We don't need a whole company to prove the truth behind the assertion that war bow shooters are, for the most part, trying to equate their "show off" shooting with too-heavy draw weights, to medieval battle archery. We only need to compare "Stanleys" to "wannabes". The truth will be self-evident.

Now, to the assertion that 70-80 lb draw weights were the "war bow" of the medieval yeoman and every other archery possessing peoples: Back there in the threads, before his inevitable demise and removal from our presence, Rocky Russo allowed that his physics conclusions of the 70s, that our missile hit tables were created from, might have gotten the weight wrong. Yes, all the arguing to uphold the 70-80 lb conclusion might have been "off" by a whole grade of draw weight. But he concluded that it really doesn't matter: the relative categories remain consistent, even if the draw weights assigned to those categories are bumped up because of further research. He was willing to concede to the Mary Rose evidence, but did not, as yet, see a compelling set of evidence to do so.

So that is where it remains. Williams' "500 out of 5000" archers doing "strong shoots" is evidence that the bow table for that category is Bow 4 and not Bow 3. I've already explained that if we bump all of Henry V's archers to Bow 4 (and the top ten percenters to Bow 5?!) that the French don't even reach the English line for melee. A dregs is all that arrives, the rest are shot down. So "Bow 3" is the correct hit table for "bulk" war bow. But it is possible that the draw weight is 100 lbs and not 70 lbs.

The categories by draw weight remain the same. Stanley is in the top ten percent; shooting a bow well in excess of 100 lbs in practice and competition, but dropping to c. 100 lbs in wartime. Stamina and full control is paramount.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP05 Mar 2016 10:42 a.m. PST

Inside 50 yards a cantering horse will be on you in about 5-7 seconds. You're not going to be fiddling around aiming.

The stakes take care of that. Verneuil showed the truth of what you point out here: the Milanese armored horses got into and through the archers before they even planted their stakes.

But I was referring to enstaked archers, or at least archers shooting into dismounted MAAs.

Sound more like massed fire than aims shots to me…

We are on the same page about indirect/volley shooting. It's just the amount of shot that we differ on.

In our game, the missile hit tables are based on so-many rounds per half minute turn. Archers in volley shoot three rounds in a half minute turn. The effect is about right. We've played out Agincourt as one of our main test battles, and it returns plausible results from archery effects. If the bow used by the English is "Bow 4" it is too powerful. "Bow 3" works, in the numbers range employed (5K to 7K). So "24 arrows per minute" (???) is right out for massed shot. Individuals could possibly attain to this, but I would doubt the efficacy. Aimed shooting "for a wager" would produce deadly shot into weak points of a full plate harness within 50 yards. It would almost be child's play for top archers. The front ranks would be packed with each company's top marksmen and veterans.

In our game, we model direct shooting inside pointblank range at double volley shot, i.e. c. 12 rpm. The back rankers who cannot see are assumed to be either shooting high to produce dropping shot, or they are passing arrows forward, or they are waiting for what comes next. We don't know. And probably all three commonly occurred. Inside pointblank range, the front two to three ranks, all doing "shoot at will" shooting produced as much volume as an entire unit in depth using volley shooting; with the added benefit of direct aiming at twice the rpm of volley shooting….

MajorB05 Mar 2016 10:47 a.m. PST

We don't need a whole company to prove the truth behind the assertion that war bow shooters are, for the most part, trying to equate their "show off" shooting with too-heavy draw weights, to medieval battle archery. We only need to compare "Stanleys" to "wannabes". The truth will be self-evident.

That wasn't the point I was making.

Rocky Russo allowed that his physics conclusions of the 70s, that our missile hit tables were created from, might have gotten the weight wrong. Yes, all the arguing to uphold the 70-80 lb conclusion might have been "off" by a whole grade of draw weight. But he concluded that it really doesn't matter: the relative categories remain consistent, even if the draw weights assigned to those categories are bumped up because of further research.

But it's still only a model. You can't prove anything with a model.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP05 Mar 2016 10:50 a.m. PST

Of course. But this is a "modeling" website and hobby. The Dupey Group did modeling for the Gov't. Models are useful to test. There is no proof. The battle of Agincourt was over 500 years ago. Until we mass steel plate armor against mass bow shot, we will not be capable of "proving" anything….

What was the point you were making again?…

MajorB05 Mar 2016 10:51 a.m. PST

What was the point you were making again?…

This is what I said:"I'm suggesting a whole company of "Stanleys" pulling 120lb bows (i.e. 2/3rds of the draw weight he used in the video) and indeed being able to continue to do that over a period of time as you suggest."

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP05 Mar 2016 10:53 a.m. PST

Yes. I got that. But you seem(ed) to suggest that we need a whole company of "Stanleys" to show that. I was saying that's not necessary….

MajorB05 Mar 2016 10:54 a.m. PST

Of course. But this is a "modeling" website and hobby.

At last! So you finally agree that RR's work is just a model and that it cannot prove anything. Excellent, we progress.

So let's forget all that nonsense about the difference between "Bow 3" and "Bow 4" and concentrate on what we actually know from the historical records and archaeology?

MajorB05 Mar 2016 10:57 a.m. PST

Yes. I got that. But you seem(ed) to suggest that we need a whole company of "Stanleys" to show that. I was saying that's not necessary….

Apparently, you didn't get it. We need a body of archers trained to use 120lb bows (e.g. like Stanley) to experimentally prove that they could deliver the type of sustained volley fire you describe. We also need a good number of them so that the fall of shot can be analysed from such volley fire.

GeoffQRF Inactive Member05 Mar 2016 12:41 p.m. PST

I think they could shoot accurately at short range, but that the normal range of initial engagement was somewhere around 200-250 yards, which ties in with the minimum legal range and also forms of archery such as clout, which still requires archers to drop arrows into a 26' circle at a distance of 180 yards.

'Splitting the wand' was a practice that would have occurred at shorter distances. It may have been a mark of accuracy and/or prowess and would have required a second or two to aim (although instinctive shooting was more the norm compared to the type of target aiming we see these days) but I would question aiming at anything smaller than a man sized target when you take into account a moving target, any counter fire and the relatively imminent risk of being overrun.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2016 8:19 a.m. PST

@MajorB: the weight of bow doesn't matter. You could test what you describe just as easily with 35 lb bows as 100+ lb bows. A body of archers pulling the same draw weight, shooting in volley with bows that they can easily draw and hold: that's it. If the entire group were beefcakes dudes that would be more impressive to watch. But a company of target bow shooters could do the same thing at a shorter maximum range….

@GeoffQRF: if you can "split a wand" at fifty yards, you can hit any part of a man-sized target coming straight at you; or moving across your front at a steady, predictable pace. That would describe an assault by MAAs on foot. The "shot for a wager" description of how the yeomen shot at Agincourt is very instructive about the kind of aimed shooting that happened. Also, the descriptions of the long range volley shooting is just as instructive. So both kinds of shooting happened. The range to target determined whether volley, en masse, shooting was used; anything inside pointblank range (between 50 and almost 100 yards, depending on the power of the bow) would dispense with volley shooting and resort to aimed ("for a wager") shooting….

MajorB06 Mar 2016 9:07 a.m. PST

@MajorB: the weight of bow doesn't matter. You could test what you describe just as easily with 35 lb bows as 100+ lb bows. A body of archers pulling the same draw weight, shooting in volley with bows that they can easily draw and hold: that's it. If the entire group were beefcakes dudes that would be more impressive to watch. But a company of target bow shooters could do the same thing at a shorter maximum range….

No, no, no, you still don't get my point. It's about the whole lot being able to draw and hold that draw and then loose on command, and go on doing it as you originally suggested.

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP06 Mar 2016 11:02 a.m. PST

And I insist that it doesn't matter what draw weight we test this with. The key is holding until "loose" is commanded; a few seconds at most, as you suggested.

Any group of archers holding will work to test the theory of how volley shooting was done. It won't prove that that is how medievals did it, only show one way that it would work.

There are probably other ways to get deep formations to do effective volley shooting. But "Russo's model" works for me.

Sooner or later, somebody is going to get a sizeable company together to try this out. How much training, practice, is required to get a company of individuals who are all good at hitting the "clout" at c. 200 yards, to do that eight or more ranks deep in close order?…

MajorB06 Mar 2016 11:12 a.m. PST

In your own words:

I think that the modeling of "volley shot" requires holding until the call to "loose!" is given. I have visualized this as a three part process. The arrow is knocked and held ready. The archer sees the bows go up in front of him. He goes up as swiftly as he can and copies those in front, angle and trajectory, and holds the arrow back until "loose!" from the front ripples back to where he is standing.

The point you made being that Stanley couldn't do that when pulling 180lbs. I'm inclined to agree with you which is why I said, OK, let's try him at 120lbs, only "a whole company of him" to see how long they could actually keep up such a sustained volley fire. It's not about being able to shoot volleys, it's about doing so again and again under command. I believe it's called "experimental archaeology".

It won't prove that that is how medievals did it, only show one way that it would work.

Agreed. I was looking for a way to test your bypothesis.

MajorB06 Mar 2016 2:21 p.m. PST

bypothesis

Hypothesis. Doh!!

GeoffQRF Inactive Member07 Mar 2016 12:56 a.m. PST

Still not sure that is right. Accounts of Agincourt indicate that they were held up on the stakes, and archers used the opportunity to shoot them [as if] for a wager.

This implies a few things.

First, this was an unusual scenario worthy of mention, and not a standard event.

Second, they had sufficient time to be able to take aimed shots, clearly exacerbated by a combination of the stakes and the condition of the ground (we know it has rained heavily the night before and that mud played a decisive factor in slowing the French advance). We also know that the archers were sometimes moved to the sides of the battle, taking advantage of the French MAA being caught in the centre.

Third, accurate target shooting was undertaken 'for a wager' – "I bet you can't hit that tree"; It's an old archery method known as roving. However this wasn't Legolas and Gimli keeping score of how many bodies, but an indication that the French advance was so significantly slowed that they could take their time and pick off individuals. You undertake shooting for a wager when you have time, not just because they are close.

So I would say this was an unusual state of affairs, and not a standard method of attack or defence. Yes they could shoot at close range and a warbow would be quite deadly at that range, but 12 arrows a minute is only one every 5 seconds. Even at a leisurely mph that indicates a movement of 30yards a second. How many arrows can you get away in 2-3 seconds?

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2016 9:45 a.m. PST

Me? One, if I don't flub it! :)

I agree that Agincourt is a special set of combined circumstances. The time allowed to shoot was unusually prolonged by the mud. And the stakes kept the horses off. But mostly it was the mud. Only a few horses arrived at the stakes. The MAAs on foot never even tried to enter the stakes. This lack of focus on the archers allowed them to shoot with impunity. This must have played final havoc with the French combat capability.

@MajorB: Yes, this sustained volley shooting can be tested. It would simply be a matter of taking the bow a group of archers practice with, that tires them out when shot swiftly and over several minutes: then downgrading to c. 2/3rds or even half that draw weight.

Finding enough "ten percenters" (or, "Stanleys") would in this day and age be impractical if not impossible, to form up a company-sized group; i.e. 50 to 100 or them. That's why I suggest that a group of boys shooting 50 lb bows, who are able to hunt with 70 lb bows, would be a good compromise in order to see if sustained volley shooting at six rounds per minute, in deep formation, would work….

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2016 10:01 a.m. PST

Let's play with this idea for a minute more. Say that I/we started advertising among the reenactor crowd, and the bow hunters. How we could go about getting the word out is the problematic part. But let's say that I/we did this successfully and arranged for "them" to come to a specified place for most of a week.

The first thing to determine is that they are all pulling within c. five pounds of the same draw weight. This would be clearly stated beforehand: I guess that it would be 50 to 60 lbs. Now, out on the chosen field we would set up, at 150 to 200 yards, the "clout" of 20 foot squares. Each archer must be able to individually raise, hold and "loose!" on command, not at will. And all of the arrows must drop into that "clout". If individuals cannot hit the clout every time, they are not ready to be wartime archers.

(I edit to add: it is possible that there are not enough archers trained in long range shooting to even carry this test any further; it would require all of our available time simply to get to the point where some of them can accurately drop all of their arrows into the "clout". This would prove the assertion that weekly practice over a lifetime was required to hone the skill in enough shooters to form entire armies of them.)

Once we have our group tested individually, hitting the clout every time, we move to unit or company shot. We arrange the best shooters into the forward two ranks. And we stack everyone else up six or more ranks behind; the deeper the better for test purposes vis-a-vis accuracy in depth.

Now we have the front rankers raise and hold. The ranks to the rear mimic what they see in front. The company "commander" calls "Loose!" and the entire company releases. The next arrow is fitted to the string and the process is repeated. We clearly see what occurs out there at the "clout". Are the shots laying down an acceptable amount of hits?

Next is the tricky part. A moving or closing target. This could be achieved by laying "clouts" in a column of decreasing ranges. The leading shooters would target the next closest range where a twenty foot area is laid out. The only clue the rear ranks have is that they know the target is getting closer: the "enemy" is attacking. How quickly the range is changing they do not know; but the front ranks can see and aim accordingly. Is their visual establishing of the changing/decreasing angle and trajectory going to be picked up by those behind who cannot clearly see the target?

Finally, modeling pointblank shooting: the front two to three ranks will shoot directly into targets placed before them at anywhere from 60 to within 20 yards away. Obviously the ranks behind will not be able to shoot directly. They will model both options: pass arrows forward to the front ranks, and also shooting high overhead to drop arrows vertically upon the targets set at 20 to 60 yards.

It would be a total hoot to create this set of tests. The trick would be getting enough competent, matched archers together long enough to carry it through….

Personal logo Great War Ace Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2016 10:22 a.m. PST

The next, inevitable test, would be to take as many volunteering madmen as we can find, to don full plate armor, and go out there into the target area and let the arrows hit them. Now we could do this one of two ways: use rubber blunts or simple target points; neither would present a life threatening hazard as long as the "targets" kept their visors down! :D This would model the effects of received volley shot. It would be a degraded effect. But it would allow some indication of what the real, full power thing would be like if it were ramped up. The receivers of this effect could relay the experience and imagine what more powerful bows, with bodkin points, might be like compared to the amount of impact that they have already experienced.

Just a thought to delight the imagination….

GeoffQRF Inactive Member07 Mar 2016 11:34 a.m. PST

The trick would be…

The long range part kinda happens every year…

link

MajorB07 Mar 2016 11:48 a.m. PST

@MajorB: Yes, this sustained volley shooting can be tested. It would simply be a matter of taking the bow a group of archers practice with, that tires them out when shot swiftly and over several minutes: then downgrading to c. 2/3rds or even half that draw weight.

No, not good enough. Wouldn't prove anything. It would have to be done with a group who are CAPABLE of pulling 180lbs (as in Stanley) but in the experiment pull 120lbs. As I've repeatedly said.

In any of the scenarios you describe you are changing too many parameters for any test to be meaningful.

For example, just because (say) a bunch of kids pulling 50lbs could do it, doesn't mean that a bunch of Stanleys pulling 120lbs could do it.

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