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Bill Tsafa




Location: Brooklyn, NY
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PostPosted: Tue 07 Oct, 2008 9:27 pm    Post subject: Weapons that made Britain.         Reply with quote

I watched an excellent history series called Weapons that Made Britain. The five parts covered sword, shield, longbow, lance and armor. You can find it on Bit Torrent.

Here are some of the things that left an impression on me:

They tested 3 different types of shields from the viking age. The light thin one could not even stop an arrow or thrown axe. They theorize it might have been a skirmishers shield. I personally think that they made it wrong and too thin. The shieldmaker had never tested it before. All he knew was the materials to use not the amount. I doubt that shield would even survive one sword blow from me. There is no battlefield use for such a light shield.

They covered a law that in one type of viking duel, duelists were required to have 3 shields each and go to a deserted island. The implication was that the shield were expected to break. This is not a battle situation but a duel governed by rules and custom. Perhaps the type of shield to be used was also dictated. I don't know. Something to think about.

Next they tested a similar shield covered in raw-hide. The hide looked thick. 10 to 14 oz leather covering a shield will add at least 3 lbs. Leather is heavy, I know because I use to fight in leather. I ditched it for the lighter gambeson I now use. I get more bruises but I move faster. The shield covered in raw-hide stopped the arrows and thrown hand-axes with no problem. It stopped the two-handed axe but was broken beyond use. Based on how they are bouncing the shield around in the video, I can make a good guess that this shield is the same weight as mine (8 lbs), give or take a pound.

Next they tested a lenticular shield (dome). Thick wood covered in thick leather. The guy was able to stand on it. A shield in that size covered in leather would easily pass 10 lbs. 15 is most likely. This shield stopped the two-handed axe cold. On a machine it took a force 4 times what the narrator could generate with a two-handed axe to break the shield. This was a very solid shield.

The narrator suspected that the armies of Alfred the Great used the heavy shields to hold the line and the lighter ones to launch skirmishes.

The episode on the lances was very cool. I learned some new stuff there. I did not know that in later period they had a round disk-like guard on the lance to keep it in place under the arm and brace the impact. They tested a lance charge against riveted mail. It went in one side and out the other.

The episode in armor was nothing new for the most part. They dressed a young guy, in good shape, in a full kit and tested to see how long he would last before running out of gas. He went about 2 minutes. I would have gone 10 minute I think given I am more use to it and will look to conserve energy where I can. In anycase it is not likely that any man in full armor can fight continuously for an hour or more. The narrator suspects that armies of footmen in plate would have had to rotate the lines in order to fight effectively.

The episode on the longbow was interesting for two reasons. I did not know that the longbows had a slight recurve. The showed it in both period images and the ones found on the Maryrose bows. They speculated that this idea was brought back from the Crusades. They mentioned that the longbowmen carried a falchion and buckler. This gave me an interesting idea. The use of large shield dropped because of the rise of longbow-men in England. The longbows were more useful in stopping horse charges rather then shieldmen in mail. Footmen can not carry both longbow and large shield and move effectively. Armies had to pick one or the other.

The conventional wisdom is that shields gave way to better armor, but longbows and lance charges arrived on the scene well before plate. Between 1,000 and 1300 its seems that lances were the most effective weapon against shields and mail. Longbows appear to be a popular counter in England and France. We start to see the use of a coat of plates that covered mostly the front torso. Only in the 1400's do we see the wider use of plate armor. So there is significant span in time between the use of shields and the rise of plate armor. I do not believe in the direct transition of shield to armor any more.

The episode on the sword was nothing new. Interesting that they tested a 9 th century viking and 15 century century arming sword and found them to impact with the same force in both cut and thrust. Then they tested a fachion and an two-handed warsword and found that both of these hit with the same force in cut and thrust.

What really excited me was images they displayed from the Maciejowski Bible showing the armored heads being targeted and mail being cut. I think the artist was probably exaggerating because they show the sword cutting steel helms, but non the less it shows period target areas for swords. The percussive impact to the head was apparently effective enough.

http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images...&b.gif

http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images...&d.gif

http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images...tm45va.gif

http://www.medievaltymes.com/courtyard/images...&d.gif

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Chris Kelson





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PostPosted: Tue 07 Oct, 2008 10:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Caught this a few months back when it was being re-shown. Brilliant series, of course theres always going to be a few quibbles in accuracy here and there, but the narrator was certainly and obviously someone who knew exactly what he was doing, and did it well in all his demonstrations such as mobility in full plate, or demonstrating throwing people to the ground with a pollaxe.
I cant speak for everyone, but I found it incredibly refreshing to see a decent documentary on tv with a perfectly chosen presenter, who managed to convey his enthusiasm and knowledge well.

Great stuff, most certainly worth watching.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Thu 09 Oct, 2008 11:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Weapons that made Britain.         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
The conventional wisdom is that shields gave way to better armor, but longbows and lance charges arrived on the scene well before plate. Between 1,000 and 1300 its seems that lances were the most effective weapon against shields and mail. Longbows appear to be a popular counter in England and France. We start to see the use of a coat of plates that covered mostly the front torso. Only in the 1400's do we see the wider use of plate armor. So there is significant span in time between the use of shields and the rise of plate armor. I do not believe in the direct transition of shield to armor any more.


Um...I'm afraid you got your chronology a bit mixed up. Shields were still used on the battlefield in the early 15th century--after the introduction of plate armor. So there isn't really a hundred-year gap between the obsolescence of shields and the appearance of full plate harnesses--the two happened roughly within the same time bracket, at least as far as my meager knowledge about them goes. Somebody who knows more than me would probably be able to elaborate this further.

(I'm also not too convinced about the idea that the longbow was an effective counter against shields, since if anything it'd be more likely that things were the other way around--even if the longbow's arrow had enough force to bust its way clear through the shield it would have lost so much momentum that the shield-bearer's armor would have been able to stop it dead.)


Quote:
What really excited me was images they displayed from the Maciejowski Bible showing the armored heads being targeted and mail being cut. I think the artist was probably exaggerating because they show the sword cutting steel helms, but non the less it shows period target areas for swords. The percussive impact to the head was apparently effective enough.


Yes, a sword slamming at full force into a helmet probably wouldn't cut through the helmet but would seriously concuss the head inside the helmet. I learned this the hard way when one of my friends accidentally forgot to pull a blow (with a steel blunt) against my helmeted head; I fell to the ground and several minutes passed before I could even tell which way was up. Fortunately I don't seem to have suffered any permanent injury from the blow.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 12:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree that shields were used up until the 15th century. The question is to what extent. We know that Alfred the Greats army was entirely a shield army. We know that the Normans did use shields but it seems that they start to depend more on impact warfare. We know the Crusaders use them but again the emphasis is on impact warfare not marching up in large shield blocks. You can not however use a horse to clime a castle war and take a castle. I imagine the shields would give the guys defending a castle wall a huge advantage over the guys coming over who would likely not have a shield. They would be excellent in forests and other confined areas where horses can not maneuver well. So yes agree they don't disappear, but I don't see evidence of Greek/Roman style shield-wall-armies clashing between 1100 and 1350 in open fields.
No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 6:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
We know that the Normans did use shields but it seems that they start to depend more on impact warfare.


Impact warfare?


Quote:
We know the Crusaders use them but again the emphasis is on impact warfare not marching up in large shield blocks.


Really? The Crusades was one hell of a complex military endeavor, and it did include some important examples of infantry marching and fighting together in a shieldwall. For example, the First Crusade saw many of its men-at-arms lose their horses to various causes during the long and arduous march through Anatolia, and so many of its participants fought on foot in the most important encounters of that Crusade (especially the battle of Dorylaion and the siege of Jerusalem). Spearmen with large shields also formed sizable parts of the European armies in the later Crusades, usually as a front rank to the crossbowmen who were so crucial to the Crusaders' ability to fight off Muslim horse archers. The best Crusading armies were coordinated combined-arms forces that relied on a combination of massed missile power (the crossbowmen), an infantry "mobile fortress" (the spearmen), and a multirole light/heavy cavalry outfit (the men-at-arms).


Quote:
You can not however use a horse to clime a castle war and take a castle.


No, but if you try to prosecute a medieval siege without cavalry you'd soon find your enemy cutting off your supply lines and harassing your troops with impunity.


Quote:
I imagine the shields would give the guys defending a castle wall a huge advantage over the guys coming over who would likely not have a shield.


Why not? I've climbed a ladder with a heater shield strapped to my arm, and it's a lot easier than doing the same with a buckler (which is still possible, too--and we actually see it in medieval illustrations!)


Quote:
They would be excellent in forests and other confined areas where horses can not maneuver well. So yes agree they don't disappear, but I don't see evidence of Greek/Roman style shield-wall-armies clashing between 1100 and 1350 in open fields.


Well, on one hand, shield-wall formations remained in use by European infantry forces at least until the pike became the dominant infantry shock weapon. At the Battle of Northallerton (1138, also known as the Battle of the Standard), the spear-armed shieldwall of the English militia (arguably, a continuation of the fyrd) made significant contributions to the English victory against invading Scots. Medieval Italian communes also used walls of pavises and spears to protect their crossbow formations from enemy attacks.

If we're talking about the elites for which the armor vs. shield equation was especially relevant, we see the English men-at-arms dismounting and forming an infantry shieldwall that repulsed a French cavalry charge at the Battle of Bremule (1119). Later on, of course, the increasing use of armor and the adoption of two-handed weapons (especially poleaxes) for fighting on foot meant the shields wouldn't have been used in the shieldwall manner from, say, the 1340s onwards, but then there would have been no need to do so since the men would have had enough armor to feel protected even without shields. And of course we shouldn't forget that the shield would also have been useful for fighting on horseback, at least until full harnesses of plate became common among the ranks of men-at-arms.

Others will be able to speak better about how important the shield was to (and how common it was among) early 15th-century men-at-arms--all I know is that (if I remember correctly) the use of shields by men-at-arms on the battlefield survived until around that time, as attested by some depictions in art.
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 8:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Impact warefare refers to using mounted horse charges as the primary battle field tactic. Specifically using stirrups and a highback saddle to transfer power from the horse to the lance. This is deferent from the Greek and Roman use of cavalry who used calvary to support infantry. Crusaders mostly used infantry to support calvary in open fields. I have come across accounts were both Byzantines and Muslims marvel at the effectives of Crusader heavy charges.

Is there any period art or literature showing men climbing a ladder with shields? I have not come across any showing either. I just don't think it is likely but I would love to see evidence to the contrary.

The Battle of the Standard is an excellent illustration of infantry changing from shield wall tactics to spear tactics to oppose heavy charges. They covered it in the lance episode of Weapons the Made Britain. The Scotts did not change their shield tactics because of armor used by the English. They used long spears to neutralize the horse advantage of the English, which is the the point I was making. Again I am not disputing that shields were used into the 15th century, but I am no longer convinced that their decreasing use was due to increasing armor. Afterall, even jousting knights in full plate used shields. Plate will only absorb so so much impact.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 8:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am more and more hesitant to follow the old idea that shields were discarded with increase in plate armour. Shrunk in size or perhaps secondary maybe but you find shields playing a part of men at arms defences even after Flodden. So I'd be cautious with the whole one thing comes along and poof the other is replaced idea. There are several accounts from the mid 14th and 15th that come to mind where shields saved a person or group of men at arms according to the author. Perhaps they kept them at their backs by the main strap or had their varlet hold them when not needed but clearly present. For the lesser soldiers even more a part of their defence.

As far as shield walls into the later 14th and early 15th accounts of spear and shield armed infantry is very common, especially in italy. Typically not the main aspect of their warfare but still a viable tactic nonetheless.

And the program.... I give it a 6 out of 10.... may be a 7. What do you think Harris?

Quite a few vague bits of information they used of questionable quality and some things they conclude just do not make sense from their gathered information.

RPM
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:


As far as shield walls into the later 14th and early 15th accounts of spear and shield armed infantry is very common, especially in italy. Typically not the main aspect of their warfare but still a viable tactic nonetheless.



This is extremely interesting to me. Can you give me some more details. Thanks.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 11:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Monstrelet states that the reason the front rank of french lords were able to defeat the arrows to the fact they had the best armour and strong shields. An English Bishop remarks that the Scots at Flodden had not only high quality harnesses but pavaises as well. Basically in almost any inventory of a knight or lord you find shields for sometime. John Fastoff's inventory from the 1450s has a fair number ofr him and his men at arms. The appear very often in Chronicles of the 14th and 15th used by knights, men at arms, etc. In Bertrand Du Guesclin's account he looses his shield fighting at one point. Just reading through the cronicles cover to cover you are bound to stumble upon odd stuff, shields and small pavaises included.

RPM
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Fri 10 Oct, 2008 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was involved in the longbow episode where I provided all the kit laid out to show what a longbowman would have. Whilst hanging out I watched teh filming and obserbed the longbow verses crossbow duel.

Two guys one with bow and one with crossbow shoot at a target for 1 minute the longbow guys gets 12 shots off the crossbow guy gets 5 off (or something like that). The longbow man was shooting a decent bow 90lb or so the crossbow guy was shooting a 150lb or so bow using a belt and claw. The longbow was approaching a war weight the belt and claw was generally outmoded for war use by the 14th C and bows were more likely to be 300-450 or so.

After the minute the longbowman was fresh as a daisy, the crossbowman was half dead from exertion of shooting so fast.

My conclusion, the longbow easily outshot the lighteweight crossbow and after a few minutes the longbowman would still be at it like hammer and tongs, the crossbowman would have slowed down further.

The Narrators conclusion? The longbow outshot the crossbow only by 2:1 and then went on to use this fact to create some argument for something.

I distinctly had the impression the thing was set to show a 'fact' that was part of another agenda.

A nice high energy reasonably accurate show, but not neccessarily highly reliable source material.

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2008 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I see they posted some highlights on You Tube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMuNXWFPewg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3997HZuWjk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcpHB-flwJQ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g-0-RK3cjk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-gfclxfnpo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo72dL7uDuc

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-h0e0NSwYNg

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Darren Tully




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 7:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo Todeschini wrote:
My conclusion, the longbow easily outshot the lighteweight crossbow and after a few minutes the longbowman would still be at it like hammer and tongs, the crossbowman would have slowed down further.

The Narrators conclusion? The longbow outshot the crossbow only by 2:1 and then went on to use this fact to create some argument for something.

I distinctly had the impression the thing was set to show a 'fact' that was part of another agenda.


Well the crossbow and the longbow had two dfferent roles if we are to describe them in modern terms the long bow is a heavy cal machine gun while the crossbow is more like a the M82A1 heavy sniper rifle given that today cross bows are used in hunting and can drop big game with a single shot

I havent seen that particular episode of the series so I may be making points already covered but, longbows but the crossbow men used sniper like tactitcs picking their targets with their weapons superior acuracy and using the more powerful kinetic energy of their weapons to punch through thick armour. Also where archers often amassed in groups and fired rapid vollies crossbow men tended to be spread out hiding behind a paviseand emerging to shoot. often acompanied by another soldier who would help suport it and be ready should an enemy sneak up on the their flank

It should also be noted that crossbow men normaly didnt draw the bowstring with his hands they used a hook on their belt and used the a standing up motion to get the bow primed
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Chris Arrington





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 9:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Two other minor points in favor of the crossbow:

1.) It was much easier to train a crossbowman. Learning to use a heavy war class Longbow is a life long endeavor.
2.) The crossbow was a superior weapon in siege warfare.

While the longbow is indeed a formidable weapon, the majority of the western world didn't stick with the crossbow out of stupidity.

Note: Not to imply the English were stupid to use the longbow. Quite the opposite. They used it and used it very well. But there tends to be a tsunami of opinion on BBS's (not here as most tend to be much better informed) that the longbow was a "world beater" and that armies that didn't use them were quite literally "stupid".
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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 9:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I basically agree with the previous two posts in that crossbows were certainly good weapons and widely and wisely used, but the point was missed and perhaps that is the point I was making..........

In the episode the crossbow was 'proved' to have (and I think I remember the wording fairly well) a "similar rate of loosing as the longbow", but it failed to note the crossbow shown was well under weight for a war bow and so faster to load and that even so the crossbowman was half dead after his work whilst the longbowman was OK to keep going.

It was simply neither a comparable test nor an accurately calculated result even on the results acheived.

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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 12:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe it is true right up until the 1850's that the longbows was a more accurate weapons, but It takes a lot of discipline and training to aim under maximum tension. The more important issue to armies was that it was easier and faster to train raw recruits to use crossbows and later muskets. Just consider that with early rifles you had to close you eyes when firing so you would not burn them out. You did not aim them, you pointed them. This illustrates that they were willing to sacrifice performance just to get more numbers on the field.

This attitude of getting more numbers on the field was the dominating attitude as we shift from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. We can see this as expensive knights are replaced with greater numbers of lightly armed pikemen who work for wages and are more easily replaceable.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Clyde Scott





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Vassilis Tsafatinos wrote:
I believe it is true right up until the 1850's that the longbows was a more accurate weapons, but It takes a lot of discipline and training to aim under maximum tension. The more important issue to armies was that it was easier and faster to train .


Are you saying that the arbalest was less accurate than the longbow? I'm really just curious. I grew up in a rural community shooting flat bows (some self-bows and some traditional style reflex-deflex bows), and while they were not English style or war bows, I have noticed that a lot of people don't consider the quality of the arrows in these arguments. The spine of the arrows can make a massive difference in how accurate the weapon is. There is a lot of drift with wood arrows, especially over longer distances. Howard Hill used to aim left of his target up to a certain distance, and then he would switch his aim somewhat to the right. It's not nearly so bad with aluminum or carbon arrows. I would think that over long distances, an arbalest with cranequin or windlass would be more accurate than a longbow, if only because the draw weight would be that much more higher. Arrows, at least in my experience, and I never shot anything over 67 lbs of draw, seem to lose speed pretty quickly.

Also, I am curious as to what method of aiming medieval archers used, gap, instinctive (I doubt this), sting walking, split/vision, whatever. I prefered split-vision-modified gap when I would hunt, but I have broken a couple of self-bows over time using that method (the stress of holding the bow at fulldraw eventually put stress on the limbs). How disposable were the English style bows?
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Bill Tsafa




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 2:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You are correct Clyde. The quality of the arrow matters more then the bow. The stiffness of the arrow must be matched to the draw weight of the bow. Too stiff and it goes into the ground. Too soft and it goes into your own arm. If you look at a slow motion video of an arrow in flight you will see that it snakes through the air while spinning at the same time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNI9BG87qcI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuHW8InB5tk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mn34MQ-Akrs

Edit: I just reread your post an realize that you meant drift due to wind. Both arrow and modern bullets drift due to to wind. The modern snipper or hunter must account for cross-winds too.

It was not until the 1860's that expanding full jackets were used on bullets. That means that when you fire the bullet it expands and forms a seal with the inside of the barrel. It bits into the riffling ridges which cause it to rotate. Prior to this musket balls traveled freely down the barrel of the musket when fired. That alone allowed for some variation in exit trajectory. That plus shooting with closed eyes means poor accuracy.

Regarding disposable longbows, I know in one of the main battle of the 100 Year War, when the English ran out of arrows, they cut their bow strings and dropped their bows as they retreated to serve as obstacles to the French. I am pressed for time now, ortherwise I would look the battle up for you. I am sure they shot with both eyes open for range perception but I have no historical proof.

No athlete/youth can fight tenaciously who has never received any blows: he must see his blood flow and hear his teeth crack... then he will be ready for battle.
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Darren Tully




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 3:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo Todeschini wrote:
I basically agree with the previous two posts in that crossbows were certainly good weapons and widely and wisely used, but the point was missed and perhaps that is the point I was making...........

Sorry Leo I actually agreed with you I was just trying to build on your point that you can't really compare the two
I shoulld have made that clearer sorry about that
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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 10:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The spine of the arrow is extremely important for bows up to about 100lb draw-weight. Beyond that (and certainly beyond 120lb) "stiff enough is good enough". For heavier bows it is far more important that the arrow is strong enough to withstand being loosed, without exploding in the bow. That's why the English arrows had a cowhorn sliver inserted in the nock.

For heavy military arrows matching weight, point of balance and fletchings are more important to accuracy than spine.

The key to accuracy has more to do with motor memory and stability than how you aim. Typically, an English warbow is shot instinctively. One of the main reasons the English warbow is considered inaccurate is because many don't know how to achieve stability when drawing such a heavy bow. They tend to resort to snap-shooting (or merely plucking!) because the weight is just too much for them.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Oct, 2008 10:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that either could be just as accurate between a bow and crossbow. Crossbow companies formed in most large towns in Germans during the 15th, ideally for practice for war but also to show their competing cities and towns who was best. They'd get together and shoot at targets in a 'friendly' games over several games.

What we are missing is that as Glennan pointed out aim was greatly derived from practice. Crossbow or bow, the more a group practiced the better the aim would more than likely be. In England the commissions of array were to 'try, test and array' , men. The idea to select the best of the county, hundred, wapentake, etc.

You'd have those who did the minimum on both sides, though with both weapons accuracy need no be a huge issue if dealing with an enemy army of 1000s which would present a nice target several hundreds of feet across and quite deep. Even the below average gents likely had enough accuracy for that which may be why distance was the minimum standards used with longbows in England.

The gun, especially early on, is different due to technical issues with it, which generally is taken as less accurate. Clearly some men were fair to good with aim though but in the end the fact from several dozens of yards you could blow a hole in most armour was a great advantage. Only with new innovations do some of these short comings get corrected.

RPM
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