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"Flintlock Muskets are better than English Longbows" Topic

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Tango0124 Dec 2021 10:21 p.m. PST

No way….!

YouTube link


Cardinal Hawkwood25 Dec 2021 12:44 a.m. PST

is this a topic?

The Last Conformist25 Dec 2021 6:27 a.m. PST

Better for what? Rate of fire? Armour penetration? Impressing girls?

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Dec 2021 10:26 a.m. PST

Well, the main reason muskets replaced bows was that you could train a competent musketeer in a day where it took years of training and practice to make a good archer.

Simon the Squirrel25 Dec 2021 11:54 a.m. PST

Muskets make more racket and smoke and the range is little further than the average trained soldier could piss.

sidley25 Dec 2021 1:28 p.m. PST

Plus armour stops longbows but not muskets

Major Bloodnok25 Dec 2021 1:35 p.m. PST

Yes but as mentioned above any idiot (i'm living proof), could be trained very quickly with a musket as opposed to having to start training at age twelve. At 30yds a smooth-bore musket will hit the target a lot more often than a pissing man, and no one gets wet when he misses.

Tango0125 Dec 2021 3:14 p.m. PST



Bill N25 Dec 2021 5:52 p.m. PST

What Scott said.

Personal logo Artilleryman Supporting Member of TMP26 Dec 2021 3:38 a.m. PST

I am with Scott. It is the training factor that swung things to the musket.

Simon the Squirrel26 Dec 2021 9:55 a.m. PST

Training is overrated – we really should call it practice in building up muscle strength, not something required with a musket. This article raises some interesting points:


Tango0126 Dec 2021 3:18 p.m. PST



Andy ONeill27 Dec 2021 3:07 p.m. PST

Our family used to do archery with longbow.
I used a 100 pound pull longbow and I had poor upper body strength.
I can also bore at length on some aspects of medieval warfare.
And i'm not so sure about some of those points in that last link.

I think it's easier to resupply powder and lead than arrows.
If you take any eejit and train him with musket and bow they will very quickly be kind of effective with the musket.
It will take a bit longer to be effective at practical musket range with bow.
You can re use arrows though. So your bow training is cheaper and you can afford more than one practice session a year.
Although your ideal arrow length does vary, you can get away with a fair bit of variation. Remember that for agincourt hundreds of thousands of arrows were made in advance. They weren't made for specific archers. You could check the accounts which detail who made how many arrows. In fact you can still see many of the lists of participants. Literaloy the rolls of honour are rolled parchments each in canvas bags.
At agincourt there were the super duper trained archers. These were a minority. There were also the not so great archers.
They probably used lower pull bows. You can be pretty effective with a 70 or 80 pound pull bow. But maybe 50 percent of napoleonic infabtrymen were ex farm workers who were probably fairly fit and strong. Maybe 100 pound pull strong.

I think effective musket range was so low that bow fire would still be pretty flat at that range.
But you'd still have some sort of a chance of hitting enemy in line at ranges muskets would have zero chance.
Arched archery would be much more effective at deeper formations like column or cavalry.

I think once you have a 26 inch long stick with a barbed head stuck in you then you'd be wanting a lie down.
Some heroic types might think about pushing it all the way through and snapping the head off. Maybe carry on fighting.
I don't think you really need to blow huge holes in most people to discourage them from fighting.

Tango0127 Dec 2021 3:30 p.m. PST

Quite interesting… thanks!.


42flanker27 Dec 2021 8:52 p.m. PST

"I think it's easier to resupply powder and lead than arrows."

I was wondering about this. Casting bullets and making up cartridges could be done in the field. Making powder was a specialist process that had to be done in stable conditions away from the theatre of active operations. Storage and secure transport was also an important factor, both to ensure efficacy of the propellant and to avoid accidental ignition.

Manufacture of arrows was also a specialist craft, involving several stages which, unlike preparing firearm ammunition, were less suited to completion in the field (were there any facilities for arrow manufacture accompanying a medieval host?) Storage of arrows was important to prevent deterioration though not as crucial as preservation of powder.

Manufacture or purchase of powder was essentially a state process. Manufacture of bow staves and arrows could be carried out at a more local level, though the preparation of stocks for a campaign required central organisation. (Manufacture of muskets was also a craft process during this period).

In terms of expense and weight of carriage in the field, which 'weapon system' gave you more twang or bang for your buck I couldn't say. Essentially, how many wagons of the requisite material did it take to put one enemy soldier out of action, in terms of arrows shot or musket balls fired and powder expended. I suppose somebody has done the calculations in both cases.

In terms of expense, one also have to factor in the relative cost of putting a bowman and a musketeer in the field in terms of pay. Keeping him fed would be about the same but more sophisticated,centralised organisation of supply became available to commanders- should they choose to avail themselves of it.

In all these questions, in terms of handheld firearms the advantages changed between 1500 and 1800 as conditions evolved at a technological and organisational level. Equally, over that same period the option to deploy bow-armed infantry declined in real terms as access to the requisite skills diminished.

One thing is certain, the use of both systems was equally compromised by wet weather on the day of battle.

However, in theoretical terms, it seems to me that key to the comparison is in fact the invention of the SOCKET BAYONETt.

Essentially, (setting to one side questions of range, rate of fire and penetration power) once the infantryman was equipped with a weapon that was both shot and pike, did he not always have the advantage over the archer?

Speculus28 Dec 2021 5:25 a.m. PST

42flanker has a great point about the socket bayonet, however the switch to firearms over bows happened quite a while before that development. There have been a lot of factors brought up in this thread, but the final reason for the change still seems intangible (at least to me).

We DO have a factual comparison between firearms and the light horse bows (I know, they aren't 100 pound pull longbows) used by the Bashkirs. Even though Marbot was lightly wounded by one, he called them ". The least dangerous troops in the world".

Our ancestors were every bit as intelligent as people today, so there had to have been compelling reasons. The psychological impact of the smoke and noise of a volley during the early days of firearms must have been significant to troops unaccustomed to it.

It would have been nice if someone had documented the reasoning for the change.

Andy ONeill28 Dec 2021 6:39 a.m. PST

I wonder if anyone really did a direct comparison of longbow ( or any bow ) vs musket for their infantry.

Morale is very important. At least ten times more of an effect than casualties. Maybe it is as simple as the very loud bang of many muskets firing makes greater morale impact.

Most suggest it's more the threat of the bayonet than the stabby ness of the thing that usually caused an enemy to break and run.
Mind you. As speculus mentioned.
Muskets came first. Bayonets were later.

Maybe those spartans had it all wrong with their silent slow approach.

I forgot one possible plus of archery btw. Indirect area fire. Some of the indian tales about custers last stand say they fired arrows from gulleys where the cavalry couldn't shoot them. I think archery was also sometimes used for area denial in 100yw.

Stoppage28 Dec 2021 5:37 p.m. PST

A major advantage of firearms is that you can manufacture them and store them along with the shot, powder, match/flints in an armoury or castle over a long period of years. Even if you get them out of store years after manufacture – they've already been paid for long ago.

At time of use – herd your conscripts from the land into your castle – issue musket and shot from stores – offer up some training – and et voila – soldiery is ready for battle.

If your cannon fodder gets consumed then recruit some more and get more guns from another castle, or abroad, rinse and repeat.

Further against long-bows – No banning of football, no mandatory archery on the village green, no careful husbandry of yew trees, no careful preparation and storage of cat-gut, etc, etc.

For cross-bows – similar to firearms handling, interesting that mercenaries sported these rather than long-bows or self-bows.

Erzherzog Johann28 Dec 2021 6:16 p.m. PST

I'm not sure Simon why you would say archery training is overrated. My niece is the NZ national under 18 recurve champion and she devotes huge amounts of time to training.

Training in archery is not just about building muscle strength, it's also about perfecting technique muscle memory.

42flanker29 Dec 2021 12:41 a.m. PST

"herd your conscripts from the land into your castle issue musket and shot from stores offer up some training and et voila- soldiery is ready for battle"

A little optimistic, no?

Stoppage29 Dec 2021 4:03 p.m. PST


Isn't that how it worked?

Also – I forgot that infantry always lags cavalry:

Horse – especially leaders – always got the best firearms first – rifled wheel-lock pistols with paper-cartridge ammunition, snaphaunce/dog-lock carbines, etc.

42flanker30 Dec 2021 3:50 p.m. PST

"Isn't that how it worked?"

You did make it sound like "just add water."

offer up some training

It took months if not longer to form and train an effective infantry unit. Firearms and associated munitions were not produced at parish or county level. For that reason, they were instrumental in the centralising of state government and the creation of standing armies.

Tango0130 Dec 2021 3:51 p.m. PST

From memory … I remember reading about a comparison between the rate of effectiveness in hitting the opponent between one weapon and another … those who fall under the shot of arrows seem to be in much more danger than those who do so under fire muskets … maybe the arrow is much more accurate?


42flanker31 Dec 2021 12:50 a.m. PST

If you got hit in the arm or leg with an arrow it wasn't going to take them off or require amputation of the smashed limb.

Extraction might be awkward and of course infection was always a risk but roughly speaking those problems were more or less equal whether in 1415 and 1815.

Bill N31 Dec 2021 5:25 a.m. PST

The best explanation for why the flintlock musket dominated the 18th century while the longbow had long since fallen by the wayside goes back to "history is messy".

It starts with the reasons why the longbow failed to supplant the crossbow in the late Middle Ages. Then there is the era when the longbow lacked the ability to penetrate top quality armor. By the time armor stops being a factor, longbows were no longer in mass use in England. The infrastructure needed to build and support a large corps of longbows would have needed to be rebuilt, while the infrastructure for muskets was aleady in place. Plus a longbow isn't that useful in a melee, especially against a man on a horse.

My two cents.

Major Bloodnok31 Dec 2021 6:06 a.m. PST

If you want to raise archers you have recruit men already trained as archers, if you want musketeers you recruit/conscript peasants and hand them muskets and train them. Which can create larger armies?

42flanker01 Jan 2022 12:58 a.m. PST

Plus a longbow isn't that useful in a melee, especially against a man on a horse.

Then again, neither was a crossbow or arquebus. hence the need for pikemen until the turn of the 18th.

Archers did carry supplementary weapons, though, and in that context they didn't do so badly at Agincourt, for example, after the French men at arms had been dismounted and/or incapacitated.

Come In Nighthawk03 Jan 2022 4:21 p.m. PST

At the slight risk of an arrow or a ball in my back. grin

Seems like most of the discussion of training above is about how much experience an individual had to have to be effective with the weapon?? I.E., the individual man (or sometimes woman) with an individual weapon. Don't forget that into that mix it is then necessary to inject a fair amount of training that is needed to put "mobs" of those individuals together, impart in and amongst them a sense of "cohesion" to keep them together, both when just "ambling along" on the march, but especially under the duress of a battle, and then also move what used to be mobs, but now are labeled "units," effectually around on a battlefield?

Maybe that should be remembered in addition, in discussing the "cost" of training a musketeer vs. a bowman? That is, in addition to the many other excellent points raised above? grin

Andy ONeill04 Jan 2022 8:28 a.m. PST

You have to train soldiers to march and whatnot. I would think that's much the same whatever weapon they carry.

Shooting in multiple ranks would require more of an open order for bows. I'm not sure what effect that would really have though. Perhaps open order units would have lower morale. Modern soldiers have to be taught not to bunch and huddle together.
Maybe the longbow would have been more suitable for light skirmishers rather than an entire army.
You can fire 20 arrows a minute for a short period of time with a longbow.
Takes a few seconds set up since you put the arrows in the ground. Makes it quicker to nock them that way.
Could an open order bow armed skirmish unit approach a musket line unit and engage at longer distance. Whittle them down and then withdraw? Replenish. Repeat.

And there's a theory that the soil bacteria would likely then make even flesh wounds deadly.

I thought of more disadvantages of muskets.
Isn't it something like 25% of muskets misfired and were effectively unusable for an entire engagement?
There's also the complicated process of loading a musket under stress. Making the first shot much more effective since things went wrong for more and more of your men as they tried to reload.
And smoke. Obscuring your targets, choking your men.

Tango0104 Jan 2022 12:06 p.m. PST

Good points!….


42flanker04 Jan 2022 4:08 p.m. PST

I'm not sure the powder smoke was necessarily as bad as that. Wellington's comment on a painting of Waterloo was, "Very good. Not too much smoke."

Bill N04 Jan 2022 8:39 p.m. PST

I don't doubt much of what you said Andy. However the force of longbowmen who fought at Crecy and Agincourt didn't appear overnight. They were the result of 150 years of development. Even if we assume that what was lost during the Tudor years could be rebuilt in a generation, would you as the commander of the British army be willing to suspend significant military involvement for a generation while you revived the use of the longbow? Plus there would be the problem of your troops being armed with bows while your allies and auxiliaries were armed with muskets.

Tom D105 Jan 2022 8:59 a.m. PST

The Duchy of Grand Fenwick defeated the United States using longbows.

Korvessa15 Jan 2022 3:34 p.m. PST

I don't call ever reading it anywhere, but I can't help but think fatigue would be a problem with longbows before too long.

42flanker16 Jan 2022 12:39 a.m. PST

As with swords, axes and spears.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Jan 2022 3:11 a.m. PST

I somehow doubt that fatigue with the bow would become a problem before running out of arrows already is one.

An archer can loose a sheaf upon his enemies in 2-3 minutes, if he speeds up the process, and how many of these would be in supply?

Considering that question, how many arrows DID an archer have in the typical battle? Or in any battle?

Major Bloodnok16 Jan 2022 4:32 a.m. PST

Could you have the same size armies as were at Leipzig if they were all armed with longbows? How long would it have taken a Marie-Louise to become a decent archer?

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP17 Jan 2022 12:50 p.m. PST

Lets just say that if bows had been around longer in continental Europe, then armour would have stayed, too, reducing their efficiency against massed infantry.

I think bows were more dropped due to logistics then to a lack of effiency. You could produce a gun far cheaper then a bow, and with a far greater variety of materials. I assume that powder and shot are also cheaper to mass produce then arrows. Remember that arquebus also replaced the crossbow pretty early, despite the same training time and considerably higher accuracy of the crossbow.

steve dubgworth20 Jan 2022 7:39 a.m. PST

i would go with the training and logistical reasons for the growth of the musket at the expense of the longbow. long hours of training is needed to effectively train a longbowman and by the 16th century it was not a popular professsion. this is proven by the strong enforcement of compulsory bow training on sundays and the banning of the playing of football (soccer) when they should be at bow practice. this reduced the pool of skilled longbowmen so a quicker to learn cheaper version was needed. I also suspect manufacturing cost may have been a factor. skill is needed to make a bow and the arrows and fletchers were dying out perhaps because of lack of demand.

dibble20 Jan 2022 10:56 a.m. PST

(1)That bloke mentions the fatigue factor for the archer. Absolute 'billhooks' At Agincourt, the English Army was suffering badly with dysentery and had hard-marched in the pouring rain. The archers (like their 18th century soldiers) were not constantly pouring arrows (or musket balls) into the enemy. There were lulls where the enemy would either reform for another attack or attack in waves. When melee occurred, the Falchion, one handed Straight Sword and Bollock knife would be deployed and even the mauls that were used to drive the stakes into the ground.

(2) The arrows were never meant to pierce a mounted Knight's plate armour. What it was meant to do was disrupt, hit a less armoured spot (even a deflecting arrow off the armour could be deflected into the body via gaps in said armour) and hit the horse, which had no such protection until the renaissance.

(3)At Agincourt, there was the use of mounted knights in the first attack, but these were devastated by the Archers. So too where the French crossbowmen. The general melee occurred after the main French knights attacked on foot, who were able to more or less fend off any arrows loosed off at them and reach the English lines. But by the time they had reached the English, many were too exhausted after advancing in the churned-up, muddy morass and 'battle debris' for about 300 yards, to put up much of a fight.

(4)An Archer didn't need to be uniformed, the Arrows that he carried (48) and his bow would weigh less than the musket and 60 rounds of cartridge. He built static and portable defences against mounted knights by the use of digging pot-holes or using sharpened stakes driven into the ground in front of them, angled towards the enemy. And sheathes of 48 arrows would be supplied throughout the battle. Oh! the Archer would put arrows into the ground in front of him and to his right (or left) side for easy access.

(5)Pit a fully trained, fit Imperial Guard of 8,000 Infantry against 8,000 fully trained, dysentery wracked, English archers and the Guard would be slaughtered.

But then, reality of the evolution of the even more protected armoured knight and his fully armoured charger. The ability to be able to train a skinny snotty-nosed peasant within several months into an automated killing machine, made for a more flexible and numerous, ranged killer, which did for the English Archer (though not the English sailors, who had no such problem with armoured enemy sailors until that is, the ship's cannons became more numerous and the real destroyer of the enemy)

In a word or two, 'that Youtube' diatribe is rubbish.

PS. I recommend Juliet Barker's AGINCOURT and Richard Wadge's ARROWSTORM for the best books on the subject.

Personal logo 4th Cuirassier Supporting Member of TMP20 Jan 2022 5:49 p.m. PST

Surely the longbow fell out of use because it couldn't penetrate armour, whereas a bullet reliably would. An arrow hitting plate armour bounces off and this destroys the arrow. A cuirass thick enough to stop a bullet would be too heavy to wear.

At Carrhae the Parthian horse archers inflicted 5,000 casualties on the Romans on the first day, but only about 10% were killed outright. The vast majority of the losses were men who fell behind the main body because they were injured, and were then killed. These were highly skilled archers shooting recurved bows from just outside pilum-chucking range, despite which they could rarely defeat Roman mild steel armour.

With that said, the Honourable Artillery Company, a volunteer unit, had a company of longbowmen in 1806. To depict them you'd need figures in red coats and Tarleton hats but carrying bows and quivers. I don't think anyone makes them.

42flanker21 Jan 2022 12:44 a.m. PST

I've sometimes wondered what effect any earth or mud adhering to arrow tips extracted from the ground might have had on the flight of the arrow. Would archers need to wipe each arrow before knocking it?

Robert le Diable21 Jan 2022 5:58 p.m. PST

One consideration not yet addressed is the role of a nascent, European Military-Industrial Complex in the development and universal adoption of ever more complex weapons systems…

Anyway, the Garde had 12pdr guns.

Tango0122 Jan 2022 9:38 p.m. PST

The defeat of armour



dibble23 Jan 2022 12:04 p.m. PST


what effect any earth or mud adhering to arrow tips

Try it! No, a smear of mud perhaps. it wouldn't 'clump'

dibble23 Jan 2022 12:22 p.m. PST

I notice that they push Ann Curry's book in that link of Armand's. It isn't all that good really. But the article did more or less back up what I posted above…:)

Oh! What isn't known for certain is what type of arrow-head was used in battle at this time.

imrael29 Jan 2022 2:11 a.m. PST

Seems to me size of army plays a part. Napoleonic armies were huge compared to longbow-era ones, and making enough warbows gets to be a constraint – for longbows the right wood, and for composites the manufacturing process.

So to raise a force with 200,000 infantry, you either equip them all with longbows (see above) or have a specialist cadre (bit of a logistics nightmare and hard to prove its worth).

It is tempting to think in terms of a couple of thousand trained and equipped archers turning up at Waterloo (for example). If for Allied side they'd doubtless make a mess of lightly armoured cavalry labouring up a muddy slope, but making that happen would be implausibly difficult.

Andy ONeill29 Jan 2022 8:02 a.m. PST

I've tried the arrow in ground thing. A long time ago, when i was an enthusiastic youth. Experimenting to see the effect.
I didn't end up firing clods of earth attached to my arrows.

42flanker29 Jan 2022 4:49 p.m. PST

The earth question might depend on the local soil. Some loam with a heavy clay element ain't half sticky, but I bow to your respective empirical evidence.

MacColla26 Feb 2022 10:30 a.m. PST

Is this the same as an AK47 is better than a flintlock musket?
True, but what's the point?

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