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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Fri 07 Feb, 2014 11:49 pm    Post subject: Longbow Hand Protection (Shooting Off Mail?)         Reply with quote

Just tried a search on this and didn't come up with anything, so here goes:

I have recently started up a new hobby of archery. As you might guess from my association with this website, I am not shooting an uber compound bow with peep sight, laser pointer, underslung grenade launcher and bayonet, but rather a simple longbow.

One of the problems I have been having (besides not having anybody around here that shoots a longbow and can give me advice) is that the feathers or flights tear up the rest. Since the rest is in this case my hand, I have a scar now and have torn up a light winter glove. Now I do know there are a number of factors involved here: My pansy modern hands, the rough job the guy who assembled my arrows did gluing the flights on, my technique, etc. My plan to fix my personal problem is to go get a dedicated shooting glove, though anyone who has any advice feel free to say something here.

Back to the historical point of interest here though: I thought about this and decided to do some looking through Manuscripts and Miniatures. As you might expect, there isn't much evidence our ancestors needed a glove to protect their poor widdle paws. Instead, most pictures depict bare handed shooting.

However, of interest to me was the number of people shooting off mailed hands. I'm trying to envision doing this and wondering if it would throw off your accuracy. I'm thinking that in a hurried or stressful situation (like, I dunno, a battle), you could easily end up resting the arrow on different links, not even contacting the bow itself, and adjusting your aim a bit by mistake. On the other hand, it's not like you'd be shooting your best under such a situation, and trading some accuracy for hand protection isn't necessarily a bad idea, so then I second guess myself. Maybe the difference would be so minor as to not matter to anyone accustom to doing it that way...

So, does anyone have any experience shooting off a mailed hand? If so, does it affect your aim to an appreciable extent?










FYI for anyone wanting to give advice: I'm shooting a 45 pound hickory longbow. (Yes, I know I am over-bowed for a beginner.) I'm improving but still working on getting my form down and not slapping my forearm every few shots, as well as the small matter of getting a tight grouping. I don't think I will need any forearm protection when I've practiced enough, but am stuck on the hand cutting issue. I've been doing some looking online and think I am managing to get my shoulders and back involved close to properly. The only soreness I've noticed muscle-wise has been in the string pulling forearm once after a couple hours of shooting, but other than that and the afore-mentioned issues of slapping my left forearm with the string and cutting my hand, I have been relatively pain free.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Feb, 2014 12:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you nock the arrow a little high on the string rather than at 90 degrees then this will help massively with the hand cutting; maybe an 3/4inch above the natural nock.

Also whip the start of the flights down with a little polyester sewing thread and some wood glue.

The problem is that the quills have been left sharp and at the regular angle they are just ploughing a furrow.

I believe that shooting gloves started to come in during the 1500's and before this nothing I know of.

Tod

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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

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PostPosted: Sat 08 Feb, 2014 5:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm no expert, having just got into warbows myself, but I do make them and shoot them. As Tod said, the most important thing here is your nocking point - I just thought I'd add a bit more info if that's ok? Tod covered it all though, really.

Did your longbow come with a string? If it did, it should have been served properly, and if the string was made for the bow there should be a nocking point anywhere from 1/8" to 1.5" above the center point.

You might have a nocking point like a little brass clip, or just a piece of tied thread. If you do, there's a chance you're nocking the wrong side of the point. I prefer having two small pieces of silk tied to the serving to place the nock between. No variables, that way!

Without wanting to get too complicated, nocking points not only affect the release of the arrow but also the accuracy and flight. A nocking point too high or too low will make the arrow "porpoise" in the air (flapping up and down as it flies) which of course is less than ideal. This is different to an incorrect spine for the bow, which causes the arrow to fly either left or right depending on the arrow spine and bow weight. It's pretty crucial to have both nocking point and spine perfectly matched if you want to be reasonably accurate. The best way to set up the nocking point is tie a piece of dental floss dead center and shoot with the arrow below it, and of course this will be horrendous (both in pain and accuracy...) and keep gradually moving the dental floss upwards by 1/8" until you suddenly hit the sweet spot where you can't feel the arrow, and it's good and straight in flight. Then place an arrow at the nocking point you've discovered, and tie a piece of thread above and below the nock and wipe some superglue around the threads to keep them in place.

As above, wrapping the feathers is a pretty good method - trim any hard quill with a knife or burn it with a hot piece of metal to squash it as close to the shaft as possible, then wrap fairly tightly with something - silk if you want to be historically accurate - and coat the wrappings in varnish, Danish oil or glue. This will stop the hard edges of the quill ripping through your knuckles, but to be honest with a properly set up nocking point you shouldn't feel the arrow pass your hand at all. Even using chunky military arrows half an inch thick with roughly-prepared feathers should slip over your hand without a problem if set up correctly!

Hope some of that helps?
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Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011

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PostPosted: Sat 08 Feb, 2014 12:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I usually wrap the quills a good half inch in either silk or fake sinew. With the proper knocking point, I use a light cotton glove and haven't had any issue in years. Still, a light leather glove is never a bad idea.

Also, I would go ahead and invest in an arm guard. I only ever whack my arm once in a blue moon, but gods it hurts.

Think of this equipment as protective gear for sparring. Ideally you'll never really need it, but life's hardly ideal so have some.

As for the chain gloves, can't say I've done it, but I can't see it changing that much, particularly if you're fletchings are wrapped. In theory, the arrow should just glide right over the links. But maybe it would depend on how the links are laying too. Finally, I don't think that the change in elevation would matter. I usually line the arrow to the proper point on the bow, and adjust my grip accordingly.

Happy shooting!
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Guy Bayes




Location: United States
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Feb, 2014 1:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

you might want to pick up Masters of the Barebow volume 3 from 3riversarchery, very good intro to shooting stickbows

for me the chance of hitting your arm has a lot to do with the brace height of the bow, anything under 5 inches and i pretty much hit myself

also the cant of the bow might help you save your hands, most longbow shooters i have seen cant to keep the arrow on the bow not their fingers
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
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PostPosted: Sat 08 Feb, 2014 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you find that the string is occasionally whacking your arm (as in, not every single time but at random shots) it's probably not the brace height. Although make sure you're well into 5" of brace height. 6" is where I set all mine.

It's possibly just your arm being too straight. I think it's quite a common thing that beginners stick their left arm out and lock the elbow, then try and pull the string back with the right, when in actuality you should be pushing the bow (even on light bows like yours, just 'cos it's good practice if you want to move up the draw weights) away from you with the left while drawing with the right, making sure your elbow is coming nice and high and rotating, rather than just straight back. The left arm, at full draw and steady, should be bent, with the elbow pointing outwards, away from the arrow.

Thinking about the mail - while you definitely shouldn't need any hand protection if the bow is set up properly - if you are wearing gloves of some sort, a well set-up nocking point should result in the arrow clearing anything.

As for the canting idea - not sure that's necessarily gonna work. You'd have to cant the bow completely horizontal to result in the arrow not resting against the hand because gravity will always make it sit on the lowest possible point. Canting affects the arrow spine more than anything else, and is a way to tweak shots without perfectly matched arrows. It's also a bit more comfortable, and natural than standing straight up like Victorian style target archers.

All this being said however, I think Tod nailed it at the start - the problem is almost certainly gonna be bad fletching, and the quills nipping your hand. Trim/burn them flat and whip, and you'll probably be fine!
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Sun 09 Feb, 2014 1:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you are interested in more detail of how to get more accuracy in your shoot (the kit and equipment, not hitting the target that's practice and tuition) then books by Matthew Strickland 'Warbow' and Robery Hardy 'Longbow' are pretty much required reading.

I seriously doubt anyone would shoot from a mailed hand, the mail would strip the fletchings and also give you friction burns. For a grip or rest on traditional medieval bows read the above books as there is debate as to whether they had them. Slapping your arm/wrist is simply a problem cause by how you stand, hold and draw the bow. It will be reduced by practice and tuition but getting bracers will help. As Tod says, I'm not aware of depictions or mentions of any shooting gloves per se in the up to the start of the 16th cent.

Happy shooting, I'm just off to shoot mine. I'm in the Welsh Marches so its still a handy skill to have!

Griff
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Lin Robinson




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Feb, 2014 4:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Go to Three Rivers Archery (already mentioned) and buy, if you do not already have them, a finger tab or glove and a bracer for your forearm. Also buy a bow glove, which fits over your left hand and protects the web, thumb and forefinger area if you are right handed. I think they sell these for lefties too. I shot bows years ago and have given up due to arthritis in my shoulders but until I got the bow glove my hand stayed torn up. These are not necessarily authentic, if you are going for authenticity, but they do make you feel better while shooting. You may, as was suggested, also be keeping your arm too straight while holding the bow. The string slapping your wrist and forearm not only causes pain, it affects the flight of the arrow. A nock on the string will help you mount the arrow but keep in mind that you must place the nock on the string where it will be when you fully draw your bow. Again, these may not be authentic but they sure do help.

Good luck and enjoy your shooting.

Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Sun 09 Feb, 2014 10:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you all for the helpful replies. Where Google and a certain "traditional" archery forum failed me, you have come through. Wink

Concerning the whipping, I am certainly going to try that. I had determined that the rough quill part was a major portion of the problem, but wasn't sure what to do about it. I made an abortive attempt to file it down, but gave up too quickly in favor of slapping a glove on and shooting some more, thinking the glove would "solve" the problem. (These are modern carbon arrows by the way, with modern fletching. I figured it was best to leave it to those familiar with the trade than to try and fake it myself. Perhaps that was unwise.)

As for the nocking point, the handmade string did not have any, but not really knowing any better I had one of the guys at the range I shoot at put a couple of nocking points (thread) on it after someone pointed out I was string walking. These are at 90 degrees though, not raised as you suggest. Perhaps I shall try shooting above the top nock and see what happens...

My brace height is almost exactly 5 and 1/2". Since I don't want to figure out how to make or come by a new string just yet, I guess I'll not worry about that until trying out your other suggestions.

About bracers and leather tabs, I originally shot a few sessions without either, but have since bought a cheap bracer and cut a tab out of some old leather.

Since I usually don't put the bracer on until after slapping myself a half dozen times and the tab is rather thin, leading to wear on my fingers regardless, I imagine at some point if I stay in practice, learning to reduce the forearm slaps and toughening my string fingers, I won't bother with either. My worse pain has been when I managed to get the string to drive right into the bones on my wrist. I did that several times in a row and did not enjoy it. Wink



Back to the mailed hand aspect:

Mark Griffin wrote:
Quote:
I seriously doubt anyone would shoot from a mailed hand, the mail would strip the fletchings and also give you friction burns.


Well, the images I'm seeing are depicting this practice in the middle of battle, so I doubt damage that doesn't immediately effect accuracy would concern the archers when shooting arrows that they probably won't see again after they get stuck in somebody's warhorse. I also don't see how you're going to get a friction burn through mail and the accompanying leather glove, though maybe you are referring to such happening to the arrow?

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Mon 10 Feb, 2014 12:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Your carbon arrows are almost certainly too light for your bow and the bow will be steadily taking damage.

Carbon arrows are great for modern bows, but wooden bows like a lazy shot in comparison and this needs more weight.

I would strongly suggest getting a set of 11/32 shafts with 100 or 125 grain heads or similar.

Tod

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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

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PostPosted: Mon 10 Feb, 2014 1:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Brace height is easy to fix - you just twist the string a few times making it shorter. You'll find that just 6 complete twists will be enough to make a big difference. See if it helps at all, and if not go back to the way it was and work on your form a bit.

You definitely don't want to be string walking with a wooden longbow. It's the fastest way to pull it out of tiller or damage it badly. They're built on a tiller to ensure both limbs bend perfectly even from the point where the bow is held and arrow is nocked. If you start wandering your nocking point up and down the string you're putting uneven stresses on one limb which is bad news! It's ok on modern fibreglass contraptions. As you said though, that's now not an issue with a couple of nocking points, so just make sure you get them in the right place. I reckon shooting from above the current top one will be enough to make a marked improvement both in accuracy and discomfort!

I would recommend taking the time to learn how to make simple Flemish twist bowstrings. It's incredibly easy after a few goes, and I can guarantee you'll need them at some point! Get some Dacron B50 or FastFlight and watch some YouTube vids, and you'll have it in no time.

Best of luck getting it sorted!
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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Mon 10 Feb, 2014 2:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

And here I was thinking I had a better handle on this than my feeble attempts at German longsword...

Just weighed one of the arrowheads I have, which comes out to about 93 grains. I'm guessing the carbon is probably what? Half the weight of a wooden one? Eh... Moot point I guess. That's $50-$60 I wasted.


Ok, new questions then:

As much as I'd like to order some arrows from the first website with something cheap or run out to Walmart, grab some wooden dowels*, a bag of feathers and get arrowheads from somewhere, I must reluctantly put on the brakes. Does anyone have a good source for moderately inexpensive arrows fitting the bill for my bow? What would you recommend for learning to make my own? Any good books or websites for the reading?



Flemish twist bowstrings? I shall look that up. The guys at the range tell me my present bowstring is just great, but then, they're the same ones who made my arrows... (And I can't believe the twisting of the string didn't occur to me. I've probably been doing it just by accident, since I've been wrapping the string around the bow when I take it off.)







*I'm guessing someone is about to tell me something like "NO! Don't buy dowels from Walmart! They have knots all through them and you're going to end up with arrow splinters in your arm!"

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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Will S




Location: Bournemouth, UK
Joined: 25 Nov 2013

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PostPosted: Mon 10 Feb, 2014 2:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

(Excuse the waffle - long answer alert!)

I've made some very serviceable arrows from hardware shop dowels! If you take a bit of time and sift through what they have you should be good. The one problem you will run into is spine. Unless you're willing to sit on the floor of the shop with a mini spine tester, or you have enough experience to know how a certain spine feels when you give it a bend, you'll end up coming home with 12 completely different arrows. However the wood quality itself is fine.

In basic terms - "spine" is the amount an arrow shaft can bend. They have to bend to get around the handle of the bow. The higher poundage the bow, the stiffer the arrow needs to be. Too stiff, and they go out of the bow without bending, so they hit left of where you aim. If they're too weak, they bend and whip around the bow and come out heading to the right. You need the happy medium, if that makes sense?

Generally speaking, your best bet is to buy some pre-spined, pre-finished arrow shafts (11/32 size) at the right spine for your bow (if it's 45#, you want a spine somewhere around 35# or just ask any archery supplier what they recommend), along with the various components such as pre-cut fletchings, taper fit points (125 grain), taper fit nocks and put them together yourself. Yes, it will cost a bit, but it won't cost as much as a full set of ready made arrows, plus you get the massive satisfaction of having done them yourself which is unbeatable. If you buy enough stuff to make 12, you'll be able to make a load of mistakes and still end up with a good set of arrows, maybe 6, which fly well from your bow, that have your personal touch and the experience to make a later set even better.

Pretty much every shop will sell arrow shafts for the same price. As long as it's a decent, well known shop (I'm not sure what you have in the US) they'll end up all being the same price, as will points, fletchings and nocks.

There are countless YouTube videos on making your own arrows, and they should be enough to work from to start with. Don't be put off by the amount of work it takes - take it one step at a time, set a goal such as "I'm gonna make one arrow, then look at it and see what I need to improve for the next one" You'll feel amazing once you've made one that you like, and it will become addictive.

In essence, you take one arrow shaft, sharpen the end to fit the point and glue it in using a decent 2 part epoxy.

You then sharpen the other end and glue a plastic nock to it (don't attempt self nocks yet - they do look better and are far more "historically accurate" but it's a lot of effort and may put you off!)

You now only need to fletch the arrow - three feathers glued using superglue as straight as possible 120 degrees apart as close to the nock as you can get them while leaving comfortable space for your fingers.

You can buy fletching jigs to make this very easy, or have a look through Google to see how to make your own (I made one based on a Richard Head jig and it's worked for every single arrow I've made, from tiny competition target arrows right up to full size half inch military arrows with 7.5" fletchings)

That's all there is to it! Finished with some varnish or Tru-Oil / Danish Oil and you're done. It'll go wrong of course, but the fletchings can easily be removed with a sharp knife blade and you can just sand the shaft and try again until you're happy.

The trouble with archery is, unless the equipment is relatively well made and well matched to your bow, you won't be able to work on your form, technique and consistency as the arrows will be doing all sorts of weird things and there will be too many variables.

Sorry for the long winded answer. It's actually a lot easier than it sounds once you get going. Often it's more daunting sitting and reading a tonne of stuff (like this insanely complex reply...!) than just getting on with it and learning as you go.

As for the string - twist it up until you get a nice 6" brace to start with (or just a brace height that minimises wrist slap) and from then on just unbrace the bow and let the string slide down the bow limb until it stops. Wrapping the excess around the bow won't change the string length as long as both ends are attached to the bow.
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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

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PostPosted: Mon 10 Feb, 2014 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Colt Reeves wrote:
Just weighed one of the arrowheads I have, which comes out to about 93 grains. I'm guessing the carbon is probably what? Half the weight of a wooden one? Eh... Moot point I guess. That's $50-$60 I wasted.


What type of carbon arrows? Are they the Tradions carbon arrows with the faux wood covering? Even if they are not they still might work, The typical issue with carbon arrows is that they are too stiff and if that is the case a heaver point (125 gr or more) might help. Not as familiar with carbon since I just shoot wood arrows but I do know that alot of trad archers shoot carbon because they are so nice and straight.

Colt Reeves wrote:

Ok, As much as I'd like to order some arrows from the first website with something cheap or run out to Walmart, grab some wooden dowels*, a bag of feathers and get arrowheads from somewhere, I must reluctantly put on the brakes. Does anyone have a good source for moderately inexpensive arrows fitting the bill for my bow? What would you recommend for learning to make my own? Any good books or websites for the reading


The big issue with the Walmart dowels is that they won't have the spine weight (or spine strength) to handle anything over a realy light bow.

I get most of my wood arrow making stuff from 3 Rivers archery (and occsionally Lancaster archery depending on the price). 3 rivers is nice because they specilaize in Tradional archery and therefore have everything you'll need and often times nice little video explaining how it works. So I guess were this rambling is going is: Yes learning how to make your own arrows is worth it in the long run. The up front will be highter with the tools, unless you know somebody, but being able to repair arrows and buy components in bulk really helps. Making arrows isn't difficult but it helps if you can have some one show you some of the little tips and tricks along the way (like boiling the points before installing them, its the easiest way to clean off the machine oil)

I'll ask around about were to buy the first set of arrows from and get back to you on that.

Other than that, If you have any other questions about arrow making or would like some tips on what to buy jsut drop me a PM and I can set you up. I have made far to many arrows in my life (I keep breaking them WTF?! , need to stop missing as much Big Grin )
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Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
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PostPosted: Mon 10 Feb, 2014 3:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hate to say this, but good arrows are a good investment if you want to continue archery. You can improve your stance and draw and release and all the other small but valuable shooting intricacies, but if your arrows are mis-spined crooked POS's than you are not going to be all that good.

Three Rivers is a good source for arrows. Not great but most of my complaints are nitpicks. If you want to save money, making your own is a bit more cost effective, but time consuming.

3R is also good at figuring out what you need, so hitting them up for just info isn't a bad idea either.
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Mark Griffin




Location: The Welsh Marches, in the hills above Newtown, Powys.
Joined: 28 Dec 2006

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Feb, 2014 9:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
and also give you friction burns.


I have ABSOLUTELY no idea why I wrote that or what I meant.

But shooting arrows over a mailed hand would pretty well defeat the object of having fletchings anyway, it would affect the aim to an uncontrolable amount.

Can you show me an image of a medieval archer using mail on his hand? The one picture i can see of an armoured hand albeit after a cursory glance about, is of a plate gauntlet on a depiction of Crecy and I can only assume the artists is not understanding his subject, I don't know any archer who would advocate shooting with a steel gauntlet on.
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T. Kew




Location: Cambridge, UK
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Feb, 2014 1:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you move your hand a touch further down the bow to compensate for the extra thickness, I don't see any inherent reason you can't shoot in either mail or plate gloves. I seem to recall I've tried shooting in plate demi-gauntlets before, and it worked perfectly well - takes some practice to change your grip point and learn what it does to your point of aim, but it's not inherently any worse. And if I was expecting to throw my bow aside and take up a bill or other large melee weapon, it seems like a sensible enough plan.
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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

Posts: 466

PostPosted: Fri 14 Feb, 2014 3:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A quick search in Manuscripts and Miniatures with the tags "Archery" and "Archer" will get you pictures of guys shooting off gauntlets of unknown construction, as well as what looks like mail. Here's a nice small one that doesn't require any "Where's Waldo": http://manuscriptminiatures.com/4143/7375/

Of course, like you say, we could consider such pictures to be the result of ignorant artists of the time period. There are also a number of pictures depicting guys shooting bows in full armor with no gauntlets. Could be personal preference, could be the artists, could be ALIENS!


Anywho, thanks again for all the helpful replies about my personal problems. I am circling 3 Rivers now and considering taking a bite, so to speak.

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
-Cold Iron, Rudyard Kipling
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