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Gerald Fa.

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PostPosted: Sat 28 Jun, 2014 10:56 pm    Post subject: Power stroke on Medieval Crossbows & Steel vs Composit p         Reply with quote

Can anyone give me powerstrokes on Medieval Crossbows? I was wondering what are the power strokes of a Medieval Crossbow? I been told from a crossbow maker that they are 6 to 9'' power-stroke, and than I heard in anther forum (not this one) that some one keeps saying that only replicas have 8 to 9 while the originals had 4 to 6. Is this so? I remember I been told other wise from a Crossbow maker as well as in a museum.

So can nay one tell me what it is? Now from what I understand that most European Crossbows have a draw weight of 1000lbs, is this so?

Which is better Steel prods or Composite prods?

I would like to know more about the crossbow as I am thinking of buying one some time soon. I have some thoughts about Medieval crossbows but I will share them later.

Thank you!

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Shahril Dzulkifli

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PostPosted: Sun 29 Jun, 2014 7:40 am    Post subject: Powerstroke on Medieval Crossbows & Steel vs Composite p         Reply with quote

I also have no idea what powerstrokes on medieval crossbows are.
Can anybody tell us?
Prods - Composite is better, I guess.

“You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength”

- Marcus Aurelius
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 29 Jun, 2014 3:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This question has been dealt with to some extent in the 'heavy arbalest testing' thread, but seeing as it runs to 11 pages or so it is well buried.

If you look at 15thC European bows they fall into either war or hunting bows for the most part. As a rule of thumb, war bows had a span of around 72cm/27" and a power stroke of around 15-17cm/6 to 6.5" and hunting bows had a span of around 60cm/24" and a power stroke of around 12-14cm/4.5 to 5". it is quite easy to see this on steel bows because the brace height is around 1.25cm/1/2" and so you mark a line between the bow tips, and measure to the centre of the nut and take off 1.25cm or 1/2" and you will have the power stroke.

These dimensions seem relatively standardised. There are of course exceptions, standard looking bows that stray out of this range and complete oddities.

For my mind the most notable of these is a bow made for the Emperor Maximillian which is a standard hunting bow size of around 60cm/24" wide but has a PS of just over 15cm/6".

Steel bows will span to larger distances that our medieval counterparts used them at, but I assume for safety they kept the draw short as of course they could not know exactly how the bows would perform. I also assume that Maximillians bow must have been tested again and again and again to ensure its safety at this distance.

All projectiles benefit from a longer PS and so bows that run a longer PS will deliver more energy pound for pound than ones that run a shorter PS. From a modern point of view makers tend to use longer strokes and so companies that make kit bows run their bows at 8"or 9" or similar. Hits a great punch pound for pound, but medieval bows used much shorter power strokes.

I don't know enough about composite bows to comment in depth, however they were very common on hunting bows until the 17th or 18thC whereas steel was the norm by mid 15thC for war bows. I assume that composite were more efficient and so were used for expensive hunting bows because like any other item of 'performance sporting goods' even marginal improvements are sought. However they must be looked after and restrung post use. Steel bows need no looking after and can be left permanently strung and so they make a much more practical 'campaign' weapon. I am sure there are other aspects to all of this, but in a nutshell I think that composite bows delivered more energy for draw weight and that steel bows were more suited to war. No idea as to relative costs though.

Looking at the dimension of the steel bows on originals, I would say that 700-1200 or more would be relatively common.

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Benjamin H. Abbott

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PostPosted: Sun 29 Jun, 2014 3:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've read the argument that relatively few in Europe had the skill to produce composite prods, while steel prods could be made at the various metallurgical centers practicing heat treatment. By this line of reasoning, steel replaced composite significantly because of price and availability. On the other, I'm not convinced that steel replaced composite for war in any comprehensive sense. Many crossbows in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century artwork look to have composite prods. Few texts distinguish between types of crossbow in any detail. In the early sixteenth century - the twilight of military crossbow use - Blaise de Monluc ordered his crossbowers to use their crossbows in their left hands as makeshift shields. As far as I know he wrote nothing about prod material, but the described technique would be awkward with a steel crossbow because of its weight (unless it were a relatively weak bow). Sir John Smythe wrote that one couldn't effectively performed the same with heavier guns.
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