[English Longbow] longbow question

kernowtom

New member
arrow lengths

Unfortunately most of my books are packed at the moment - so I am going on memory - but here are a few points

Hunting - (apart from wondering what they might have been hunting on the Mary Rose... fish?) - medieval armies living off the land seized farm produce including livestock - you can't hunt enough in a small area to support a high density of people. I daresay someone with a bow might have shot at a chance target - nice bit of venison:) - but it was not part of the routine - so arrows would not have been supplied for it.

Archers with their own arrows..... read Juliet Barkers "Agincourt"... most archers did not turn up with their own arrows.. there was a sophisticated manufacture and supply system producing thousands of bows and hundreds of thousands of arrows.. but it did not cater for individual variations.. like the modern army maybe - only two sizes.. too big or too small:) remember the artillery bow was not intended to be accurate - it was a volume weapon.. Ascham recommends practising for distance, not aiming at targets...

Professional archers did not make their own weapons for warfare. The medieval military system was just as clever and sophisticated as ours - just a different technology - and the idea of two "standard" arrow types to make it easy for the archers is obviously sensible. It seems clear that at Agincourt there were two arrow types available.. a lighter longer one for distance.. and a heavier one with the famous bodkin point to penetrate armour at closer ranges. The Mary Rose arrows seem to have had some equivalent types.

A final personal thought.. if there is such a thing as "instinctive shooting".. and if the medieval professional archers perfected it.. it was not about whether you used a sight or not.. it was about picking up a bow you had hardly used.. with an unknown draw weight.. with a string of natural and hence variable materials... and sheaves of arrows handed to you at random.. and shooting them all into the right area at a rate of up to 20 per minute.. despite not being able to see where they were going.. Anybody here reckon they could do that?.. even ignoring the medieval draw weights which had to be well over 100lb to get the distance with the arrows..
tom
 


kernowtom

New member
sorry gino!!

Sorry mate!! - reads like a bit of a lecture which wasn't what I intended - apologies for that - but I hope its still of interest - tom
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
Interesting thoughts there Tom.

I agree with most of what you're saying, but I do think that it's possible that an archer may well have carried a dozen or so of his own arrows with him, to be saved for that shot when he has to have the arrow fly straight, weather that be when foraging for food, and hunting on campaign, or when he wants to get "the bloke that looked at him funny!"

I do tend to think that the longer arrows were for the distance shooting, and the shorter ones for accuracy, but I have no proof of this. It just seems to me that if they were for different archers, or for foraging then they would have been kept separate. But of course it's all speculation.

As for the draw weights I don't think that they would have been too much about 100lbs. A couple of things lead me to this belief.
1 The arrow nock sizes on the Mary Rose arrows won't take a string thick enough to stand the force of a bow much more than 100lbs
2 At many of the battles the English army was suffering from dysentry and malnutrition. If they had bows of well over 100lbs I don't think that they could have drawn them in their weakened state.

As for the rate of shot you describe I reckon it would be about half that.
I can shoot 20 arrows a minute with my 50lb bow, but when using the 70 it's down to about a dozen. Add to that the fact that they had to carry all their arrows with them, the wagon train would be emptied pretty quickly if they were shooting 20 a minute. I think that a steady 6 to 10 arrows a minute would have been shot ensuring that they could keep it up all day

Daniel
 


alanesq

New member
As for the draw weights I don't think that they would have been too much about 100lbs.
Daniel
100lbs isn't as heavy as people think
I have only been shooting longbow for around 6 months and I can already shoot a 100lb bow without too much problem
I am reasonably big build but I have never done any kind of sport or work which would build my strength.
If I had been shooting heavy longbows since I was 7, I am sure I would be shooting 150lb bows as if they were nothing by now
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
True Alan,

But, looking at the size of the nocks on the Mary Rose arrows, they're just not big enough to take a string thick enough for a bow of 150lbs. The string would snap as soon as the first arrow was shot, resulting in a broken bow.

Daniel.
 


gino

New member
Sorry mate!! - reads like a bit of a lecture which wasn't what I intended - apologies for that - but I hope its still of interest - tom
thats ok mate, I didn't see it as a lecture! I'm not offended at all, I think i could have written that clearer :knockout:

All I meant was that you make some excellent points and made me re-think what I'd written.
 


pHz

The American
Fonz Awardee
Ironman
American Shoot
where does the rate of 20 arrows a minute come from ?

im not a longbow shooter but that seems quick if youre not going to tire fast

would it not make more sense that there were 2 banks of archers shooting 10 a minute alternately to get that same rate ?

slainte :scratchch: rob
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
where does the rate of 20 arrows a minute come from ?

im not a longbow shooter but that seems quick if youre not going to tire fast

would it not make more sense that there were 2 banks of archers shooting 10 a minute alternately to get that same rate ?

slainte :scratchch: rob
It's what the good guys are doing in speed shoot competitions. And you're right it is tiring, and I don't think sustainable.

Daniel
 


alanesq

New member
looking at the size of the nocks on the Mary Rose arrows, they're just not big enough to take a string thick enough for a bow of 150lbs. The string would snap as soon as the first arrow was shot, resulting in a broken bow.
Daniel.
I have no idea how thick a linen string would need to be for a 150lb bow, I will ask around to see if anyone on the warbow forum has used one ?

One thing I have noticed with the recent "John Holder Challenge" where we see how far we can shoot a heavy war arrow is that the distance people manage is very closely related to the power of their bow
i.e. Just see what distance they managed and you can accurately estimate the poundage of their bow

So it should be possible to estimate the power of medieval bows from the ranges they were getting and I understand they were getting much further than we are now ?
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
I have no idea how thick a linen string would need to be for a 150lb bow, I will ask around to see if anyone on the warbow forum has used one ?

One thing I have noticed with the recent "John Holder Challenge" where we see how far we can shoot a heavy war arrow is that the distance people manage is very closely related to the power of their bow
i.e. Just see what distance they managed and you can accurately estimate the poundage of their bow

So it should be possible to estimate the power of medieval bows from the ranges they were getting and I understand they were getting much further than we are now ?
I have spoken to Pip Bickerstaffe about this one, and he is of the same opinion as I am regarding the strings.
He also reckons that by increasing the draw length to 31" you will be able to get the long distances using 80 to 100lbs if your technique is good enough.
The technique affects the range achievable by an amazing amount. With the same bow, and arrows on the same day, two different archers, drawing the same length will get two completely different distances. This is something we found when doing some distance shooting comparing different bows and arrows.

Daniel
 


pHz

The American
Fonz Awardee
Ironman
American Shoot
what kind of distances are you talking ?

a member of our club is hitting 300 yards plus off a 110lb longbow

slainte :scratchch: rob
 


gino

New member
Personally I'm a bit dubious about this string limit theory but I can't make any definate conclusions until I've seen more evidence myself to be honest.
 


alanesq

New member
The technique affects the range achievable by an amazing amount. With the same bow, and arrows on the same day, two different archers, drawing the same length will get two completely different distances. This is something we found when doing some distance shooting comparing different bows and arrows.
Daniel
I have not managed to get much experience yet of distance shooting but the two times I did the John Holder Challenge my distance was within a few yards (around 160 yards with a 85lb bow) Simon Stanley shot 276yds with a 130lb bow and his technique should be as close to perfect as you can get

I am probably getting out of my depth now as I don't have much in the way of hard facts on distances etc.
It just struck me when seeing the results of the John Holder Challenge how much the distance and bow weight correlated
In fact this is probably what made me decide to get a 115lb bow made as I had assumed it was just for getting through armour that the bow weights were so high and I was happy with my 85lb bow, but this had shown me that distance was probably the main reason ?
 


pHz

The American
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Ironman
American Shoot
thats interesting alan - i dont have a longbow but was playing with my brothers today actually - its a 55lb bow and shooting 29 inch arrows off it (drawn to the tip) i was reaching 185 yards - he later borrowed some 33 inch arrows and pulling those almost fully he was hitting 190 yards and better

slainte :scratchch: rob
 


Kae

The American
American Shoot
thats interesting alan - i dont have a longbow but was playing with my brothers today actually - its a 55lb bow and shooting 29 inch arrows off it (drawn to the tip) i was reaching 185 yards - he later borrowed some 33 inch arrows and pulling those almost fully he was hitting 190 yards and better

slainte :scratchch: rob
They won't be medieval arrows though.
 


kernowtom

New member
war bows etc

- personal arrows
well.. soldiers have always liked to take a bit of non issue kit - so some "personal arrows" could possibly have been part of that, but as you say, thats not the explanation for the two distinct sizes... the reason for that is a matter of historical record.
- draw weights
I don't know the answer to this.. nobody does - but if you have read Hardy's books you might think that the evidence for the heavier weight bows is compelling (even though I'd be better off using a 150lb war bow as a javelin than trying to shoot it!) The point about nock sizes is interesting and I can't comment.. I will do some research.. I guess you have looked at the arrows in portsmouth.. you need a powerful bow to shoot a four ounce arrow the expected distances.. and as Alan says above - there are enough archers shooting these heavy bows to prove it is do-able. (By the way.. I am not sure how close the BLBS standard arrow is to a medieval war arrow)
- rate of fire
again the research suggests any pro archer was expected to make 10 shots a minute as a minimum.. the peak rate of 20 is referred to by Barker. I guess it wouldn't have been sustainable.. but since the archers generally carried no more than five to six dozen arrows they would have been out of ammo in a few minutes... there was a resupply system, with arrow sheaves carried on carts, but that would not have operated fast enough to be significant during an intense battle. Hence the accounts of archers using knives and mallets on their opponents at close range.. At Towton resupply operated by one side picking up the others sides arrows which were falling short and shooting them back - to devastating effect. On the other hand, at Ardres the English were defeated when they ran out of arrows too soon...
- personal
I am fascinated by the history of military technology, but take my inspiration for long bow from the victorian revival.. it was they who defined the modern sport. Nonetheless.. all power to those who seek to replicate a medieval model - just look after your bodies.. easy to detach some tendons!!
 


gino

New member
(By the way.. I am not sure how close the BLBS standard arrow is to a medieval war arrow)
The arrow used for the John Holder Challenge is the closest you'll find to a medieval arrow.

"the arrows were military weight war arrows weighing in at a massive 75 - 77grams, all this was being slowed down bo some very big brakes - 8.5" Fletchings, these arrows are 23grams heavier than the BLBS Standard Arrow which is set at 52 grams,"
 


pHz

The American
Fonz Awardee
Ironman
American Shoot
They won't be medieval arrows though.
true - hadnt considered that - they were 29" 5/16 shafts with 100 grain points and 4" fletchings

slainte :cheerful: rob
 


kernowtom

New member
big feathers!

The arrow used for the John Holder Challenge is the closest you'll find to a medieval arrow.

"the arrows were military weight war arrows weighing in at a massive 75 - 77grams, all this was being slowed down bo some very big brakes - 8.5" Fletchings, these arrows are 23grams heavier than the BLBS Standard Arrow which is set at 52 grams,"
I have seen weights of 100g + quoted for the heaviest medieval arrows, but 77grams is heading the right way. I am puzzled by the huge fletchings.. I think the Mary Rose arrows had 6" fletchings, so why 8.5" for this event?
 


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