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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Practice Arrow Vs Roman Legion Scutum Reply to topic
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Chris M. G.




Location: Massachusetts
Joined: 23 Jul 2012

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject: Practice Arrow Vs Roman Legion Scutum         Reply with quote

Okay, I'm sure this topic has been brought up at some point in some form, but let me explain. At my church we are doing a segment with the youth on the armor of God so we bought a replica of the roman soldier's armor including a shield. I'd like to demonstrate how a shield was used to protect against arrows. The only thing I know of the shield is that it's "Shield Material: 440 Stainless Steel "

My question is would a practice arrow with a blunted tip, fired by a long bow, pierce the shield? And at what distance would it be best to fire the arrow from?

If it's safe I'd like to have someone hold it, but if not I'll simple lean it against a tree. I know enough about shields to know that their two main purposes are to deflect arrows as well as to slow them should they penetrate it. I really want to do this demonstartion, but obviously I want it to be safe.
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Matthew P. Adams




Location: Cape Cod, MA
Joined: 08 Dec 2008
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 2:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmmm. I don't think anyone would recommend that the shield be held no matter how strong the shield or weak the bow.

As far as would the arrow penetrate, that depends on how many lbs of draw force the bow has, how far it's drawn back, how thick the stainless steel is, what sort of heat treatment it has undergone, and how curved or flat is its shape.

Also, unless you are using a bow with the same draw weight as bows of the time period, with period tipped arrows, on a faithfully replicated shield, (I don't think the Romans had access to 440 stainless) then the experiment is only demonstrating whether or not a modern bow with a target tip will penetrate this piece of stainless steel that happens to be in the shape of a shield. That really doesn't have anything to do with Roman arms and armor.

I love the idea of a demonstration, and getting kids involved with history, but testing period correct weapons against period correct protection is, to put it mildly, difficult.

I would put your shield out on a range, and shoot at it there, where it's safe. But when you do, it won't really have any bearing on authentic weaponry. As for distance, I believe the tactic was to volley as many arrows up at about 45 degrees so they would rain down on the target area. Silly to shoot directly at a shield, right? So the range again depends on the strength of your bow and weight of your arrow.

I truly hope you will not be shooting at any one, that would be a very bad idea.

"We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training" Archilochus, Greek Soldier, Poet, c. 650 BC
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
Joined: 17 Sep 2003

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 5:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, yes, Roman shields were made of WOOD, generally 3 layers of thin strips glued together at right angles to make a piece of plywood. Over that was a covering of fabric and/or leather/rawhide and/or felt and/or gesso and paint. So while I suspect your stainless shield will stop most practice arrows, don't imply to the audience that it's a realistic test! Just keep EVERYONE back behind the archer, and make sure there is only empty ground beyond the target and on both sides. No houses, roads, parked cars, puppy farms, etc. NEVER shoot an arrow at ANYTHING being held or worn by a person, unless it's *made* to be shot safely at people! (SCA arrows, Dagorhir/Darkon, etc.)

Oh: http://www.larp.com/legioxx/scutum.html

See the rest of the site as well! There's even a brief page on Romans in the Holy Land. Have fun!

Matthew
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R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

Posts: 111

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 6:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

please remember that this is not an accurate test because it is both a steel sheild and very likely an underpowered bow of a differant design than any the romans would have faced also you would be using an arrow that isnt meant to be used for war so while it could be safe to have someone behind it as its shot i have to say DONT DO IT even if it was accurate i would still say dont do it war arrows where meant to penatrate sheilds or armor so it wouldnt be safe no matter how accurate the test is so please take the advice of the others take it to a range and shoot it there and keep everyone behind the archer like the Matthew's sugested also please be prepared that if whatever type of sheild you use if it is stopped by the sheild if it dosent penatrate at all it will bounce off and fly back at the archer so if you do use the steel sheild be awere that if it bounces off someone might get hurt so have the kids stand far enough back that they wont get hurt

i think your idea though is a great way to get kids interested in history what ever you decide on i hope it works out well
good luck
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Chris M. G.




Location: Massachusetts
Joined: 23 Jul 2012

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 7:21 pm    Post subject: Much Appreciation         Reply with quote

I'd like to thank you both for your information and suggestions. I know the shield isn't time period correct since it's not the wooden shield they would have had but I was on a budget and the steel one was actually cheaper. But I'd like to tell you I appreciate your input and it has actually helped me greatly be giving me a better idea od the reaction of the arrow after it's release. Thanks alot.
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Godehardt et al. tested a replica Scythian bow against a decent Roman scutum.

E. Godehardt, J. Jaworski, P. Pieper, and H. M. Schellberg ‘The Reconstruction of Scythian Bows’, in The Cutting Edge: Studies in Ancient and Medieval Combat (Tempus: Stroud, 2007). 112-133.
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Jean Thibodeau




Location: Montreal,Quebec,Canada
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PostPosted: Mon 23 Jul, 2012 11:28 pm    Post subject: Re: Much Appreciation         Reply with quote

Chris M. G. wrote:
I'd like to thank you both for your information and suggestions. I know the shield isn't time period correct since it's not the wooden shield they would have had but I was on a budget and the steel one was actually cheaper. But I'd like to tell you I appreciate your input and it has actually helped me greatly be giving me a better idea od the reaction of the arrow after it's release. Thanks alot.


Chris, I think you got the point ( Pun intended ) that it's not safe to shoot an arrow at anyone even if behind a shield but here are a few things I imagine could happen.

A) The bow is a strong one and the steel thin and not that great in quality: The arrow pierces the shield and the arrow protrudes from the back of the shield by a foot or so and inches into the person holding the shield.

B) the arrow bounces off the shield and up into the face or down into the foot of the person holding the shield.

C) The arrow is stopped by the shield but the arrow shatters sending sharp wood splinters into the person holding the shield in the face or in an eye.

D) Arrow bounces off the shield and hits someone too close or to the side of the shield.

E) Nervous not too skilled archer misses the shield completely and hits the person behind the shield who exposed some part of his body since even a big shield doesn't cover everything at the same time.

F) Everything goes well, nobody is hurt this time, but someone in your audience get the wrong idea from the bad example of unsafe target practices and does their own improvised test(s) and kills someone.

I sort of gave you the worst case scenarios to make a point, and maybe send a chill down your spine. Wink Big Grin Cool

Otherwise this can be a fun, but not conclusive test, if done anticipating everything that could go wrong and setting up the test in a safe way.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 12:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

G. Someone in the audience gets hit by something. This is potentially the worst outcome since you are liable.
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,436

PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and rectangular scuta of the roman legionaries were also normally curved slightly a curved surface will maybe cause an arrow to behave very differently compared to, say, a flat viking shield

By the way Chris, when matthew mentioned the roman scuta being made of layers of wood, unless im mistaken, essentially this means they were made using a 'primative' form of plywood.

unless im mistaken plywood is fairly cheap, although infantry shields for the legionaries were curved, shields for the auxillia wernt nor were hexagonal cavalry shields curved


IF you feel like you want to make an alternative shield on the cheap, plywood with some c canvas, or other cloth glued to the front, and painted will probably do the trick, id imagine for the sort of stuff your planning, legionaire scutawere curved but i think cavalry and auxillary infantry shields were flat.

then again the legioxx website would probably explain all this far better than i ever could. so i strongly reccomend, if you havent already to check it out

also the painting of the shield itselfitself could easily be a small project for the youth group to be involved in and could be a way of getting them more involved iwith the whole thing

But thats just my personal opinion

what does the shield look like by the way? is it a rectangular legionaries shield or is it some other shape. ive never heard of a steel roman army shield being sold online before, aluminium occasionally but not stainless steel..
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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 8:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do quite a bit of archery and have seen arrows do some odd things.
One of the oddest things, and relevant to this discussion, is arrows hitting the targets metal crossbeam, the one that is compressing the foam backing, and bouncing back. Worst case was the arrow nearly bounced back almost twenty yards in the air. Had I been a bit quicker I could have caught it. This only seems to be a problem with bows 35# or less. Arrows from heavier bows just shatter or break when they hit the steel and stay down range were there supposed to.

But with a curved metal sheild, or one at an angle, the most likely senario is the arrow deflecting off to the side.

One last thing. Practice this before doing a live demonstration. Make sure you know what the arrows are going to do and which direction there going after contatct before hand. And probibly do it more than once and hitting more than one spot, know what happens when you hit it dead on or off to one side. But during the demonstration hitting a choosen side so that you know which direction its going to defect will be a smart move.
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Eric Allen




Location: Texas
Joined: 04 Feb 2006

Posts: 207

PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 10:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There is one more thing to consider that I think has been glossed over so far:

This isn't for a demonstration of historical uses or capabilities of the arms and armor. This arrow-vs-shield demonstration is being used as a metaphor in a church program.

I'd say stack the deck. Use the lightest poundage bow you can lay your hands on, maybe even one that classifies more as a children's toy than a bow. If you don't want the arrow to penetrate, try to balance things in favor of it not penetrating. You might even just forgo the bow entirely and just chuck the arrows at the shield by hand. If you can manage it, don't even use metal tips on the arrows, but see if you can get rubber ones. You ultimately want the arrows to hit as lightly as possible.

This isn't some sort of historical demonstration, it's theater. Use that to your advantage.


Last edited by Eric Allen on Tue 24 Jul, 2012 7:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Josh Wilson




Location: WV
Joined: 01 Nov 2010
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Jul, 2012 11:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Shoot a blunt rabbit point at it? Those are generally made of rubber, and wont penetrate, but I imagine it will bounce pretty well off it, so I'd really keep bystanders back.
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Nat Lamb




Location: Melbourne, Australia
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 12:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And when all is said and done, apply the 150% rule. However far you think an object could possibly stray/deflect/bounce/ricochet, take that distance/angle and add 50%.
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Chris M. G.




Location: Massachusetts
Joined: 23 Jul 2012

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 10:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, This is going to be rather short because I typed a whole lot and then the site kinda checked me out and I had to sign in and lost it. So in short. I am going to use everyones suggestions and input to maximize the ability and impact of the demonstartion. I will be sure to take all precautions put forth to me into practice. I will definately be doing a practice run first as well as using the 150% rule. To give a bit more information, I was going to use a 30 lb pull long bow and my friend David, he's been doing archery for 16-20 years now, will be shooting. I wouldn't want an in experienced person shooting.

Also, the shield is a rectangular legionaries shield. I bought it from a company known as Brother's Smith, it was described as 440 stainless steel and the product matches that.

I will be planing for the worst and hoping for the best in this demonstration. I will als obe sure to look up and read the reference that some people provided. Also I will be keeping the youth at a safe distance. If any other suggestions or warnings appear please feel free to post them and I'll keep an eye out for them. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

30 lb bow isn't much. ummmmmmmmm . . . . . . . . still apply my first rule of shooting. point only at things intend to kill.

no, i would not even attempt to allow someone to hold the shield. i would beat them senseless for even thinking it.

stick it up on a post, lean it up against something, your friend may shoot for 50 years, but there is always a chance of a mistake.

all spectators should be behind the shooter at all times, and i'm meaning like 30 feet. the shooter himself probably should be at 30 yards.

i've been shooting a recurve for a few years, and while learning i've sent arrows all over the place just from deflection. a 30 lb bow may not penetrate much at 30 yards, but that arrow is still considered lethal for twice that. especially for something that is made to deflect blows.

chances are the arrow will bounce off the shield, defect and fly off somewhere, or just shatter on impact depending on what type your using.
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Chris M. G.




Location: Massachusetts
Joined: 23 Jul 2012

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 12:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel Wallace wrote:
30 lb bow isn't much. ummmmmmmmm . . . . . . . . still apply my first rule of shooting. point only at things intend to kill.

no, i would not even attempt to allow someone to hold the shield. i would beat them senseless for even thinking it.

stick it up on a post, lean it up against something, your friend may shoot for 50 years, but there is always a chance of a mistake.


I wasn't stating my friends years except that someone wrote about an inexperienced archer shooting and I was simply assuring him that no such thing was taking place. My last post was kind of a blanket post I did quickly to let eveyrone know that I was indeed reading and taking in all of the information. I must admit though that I do enjoy that fact that I now have more opinions and insight from people who have actually shot a bow than just my friend David. It gives a much clearer view of the dangers and precautions that are associated with this demonstration.
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Jojo Zerach





Joined: 26 Dec 2009

Posts: 288

PostPosted: Wed 25 Jul, 2012 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Make sure to play it safe, I'd hate for anyone to get hurt. Mounting the armour/shield on something is a good idea.
Even with light poundage bows (10-30 pounds) I've seen arrows do all sorts of crazy things. Once I fired a lightweight fiber arrow with no arrowhead from a 30 pound bow at a fence about 30 yards away, and it passed completely through the fence.
(Normally the fence would always stop arrows with arrowheads fired from that bow at closer range)
They also have the ability to violently ricochet off things at weird angles you'd never expect.
If you want someone to be holding the shield, you could switch to to a toy bow with suction cup arrows, that way there's no risk involved.
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 580

PostPosted: Sat 28 Jul, 2012 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:

If you want someone to be holding the shield, you could switch to to a toy bow with suction cup arrows, that way there's no risk involved.


Laughing Out Loud i remember being yelled at when i pointed one of those at my sister when i was a kid.

Chris, just asking questions is a responsible attitude - i usually jump to an extreme when it come to a fire arm or any kind of ballistic weapon. it's too risky to take a chance at being hurt.

and like Jojo stated, now-a-days you can buy carbon fiber arrows that look harmless in comparison to their counterparts, you think how can his light little thing hurt anything? well their stronger than steel, literally. i've heard of people bunching them off of concrete walls and smashing though plywood. compound bows are getting more and more powerful in comparison to traditional, some of them are throwing arrows at 350 feet per second at 50 lb - you think a hand gun or 22 cal long rifle is only a few hundred feet per second faster.

its just good to understand the dangers of what you may be working with. so all i can say is be safe with your demonstration.
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