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John A. Brown





Joined: 19 Feb 2015

Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed 12 Apr, 2017 10:31 am    Post subject: How much war arrows can a shield stop before breaking apart?         Reply with quote

My archery bow came by mail today. It is the model in the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001RMWRHE/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

With that said I decided to do a little experiment I shot arrows at my medieval buckler. Because the arrows were blunted and the maximum draw weight of the bow is 12 pounds (not to mention the bow was meant for kids starting archery, I expected my buckler to merely bounce them off without a scratch.........

They did bounce off..... but there was dents on the shield and parts chipped off onto the ground after the arrow hit it. Mind you is just tiny wood fragments and the dents did not do serious damage to the buckler. But the arrows had been strong enough to at least show some obvious craters on the buckler you can see from as 6 feet away.

So it makes me curious. Movies, video games, etc often show shields as being invincible or really durable enough to last hundreds of fired arrows in multiple battles without getting any chippings, dents, scratches, etc. Tot he point you rarely see shields being repaired ina blacksmith and even in cases where arrows hit strong enough to stick in a shield, it doesn't play a role in accumulative damage to break the shield in the following melee combat.

Since real bows-even those for civilian use such as hunting bows and sports archery- were at least 30 lb range draw weight with hunting bows being above the 50lb range and many war bows being close to 100 lb range outside of regions with light clothing as armour (Arabian armies, American Indians, etc), I am curious how long a shield would last before they were rendered useless?

Since the strongest bows such as the English longbow, Samurai Yumi, and Mongol composite bow had draw weights so strong that not only can they pierce plate armour in close range but they are known to knock down the toughest knights with the finest plate armour after a barrage or too, can war bows potentially knock a shield off someone's arms or send enough force to push the shield arm apart and create an opening for melee troops to strike?
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Matthew Amt




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

Posts: 1,302

PostPosted: Wed 12 Apr, 2017 12:00 pm    Post subject: Re: How much war arrows can a shield stop before breaking ap         Reply with quote

Okay, it's good that the movies and video games are making you curious, but you'd REALLY be better off if you did not even mentally connect them with "history". Read some history books, arms and armor books, *decent* military history websites (granted, hard to tell the good from the bad for the average beginner!).

For this question, though, the answer is "IT DEPENDS." It depends mainly on the arrows and the shield, also on the bow, the range, the angle of the strikes, etc. Julius Caesar was shown a shield belonging to one of his centurions that had over a hundred arrow holes in it. The text does not tell us if the centurion survived, in fact it doesn't really say if the shield was still *usable*, but it doesn't say "heap of junk" or "trashed pieces of shield" so I imagine it could still block something. Roman shields were plywood covered with hide or fabric, so they could soak up an awful lot of abuse. A rawhide shield (as described in Homer, for instance) could theoretically absorb as many arrows as would fit, since one hole has no effect on the rest of the structure.

John A. Brown wrote:
Since the strongest bows such as the English longbow, Samurai Yumi, and Mongol composite bow had draw weights so strong that not only can they pierce plate armour in close range but they are known to knock down the toughest knights with the finest plate armour after a barrage or too, can war bows potentially knock a shield off someone's arms or send enough force to push the shield arm apart and create an opening for melee troops to strike?


Where do you get ideas like this?? Arrows are usually not anti-tank rockets.

Matthew
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Philip Dyer





Joined: 25 Jul 2013

Posts: 494

PostPosted: Wed 12 Apr, 2017 12:17 pm    Post subject: Re: How much war arrows can a shield stop before breaking ap         Reply with quote

John A. Brown wrote:
My archery bow came by mail today. It is the model in the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001RMWRHE/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

With that said I decided to do a little experiment I shot arrows at my medieval buckler. Because the arrows were blunted and the maximum draw weight of the bow is 12 pounds (not to mention the bow was meant for kids starting archery, I expected my buckler to merely bounce them off without a scratch.........

They did bounce off..... but there was dents on the shield and parts chipped off onto the ground after the arrow hit it. Mind you is just tiny wood fragments and the dents did not do serious damage to the buckler. But the arrows had been strong enough to at least show some obvious craters on the buckler you can see from as 6 feet away.

So it makes me curious. Movies, video games, etc often show shields as being invincible or really durable enough to last hundreds of fired arrows in multiple battles without getting any chippings, dents, scratches, etc. Tot he point you rarely see shields being repaired ina blacksmith and even in cases where arrows hit strong enough to stick in a shield, it doesn't play a role in accumulative damage to break the shield in the following melee combat.

Since real bows-even those for civilian use such as hunting bows and sports archery- were at least 30 lb range draw weight with hunting bows being above the 50lb range and many war bows being close to 100 lb range outside of regions with light clothing as armour (Arabian armies, American Indians, etc), I am curious how long a shield would last before they were rendered useless?

Since the strongest bows such as the English longbow, Samurai Yumi, and Mongol composite bow had draw weights so strong that not only can they pierce plate armour in close range but they are known to knock down the toughest knights with the finest plate armour after a barrage or too, can war bows potentially knock a shield off someone's arms or send enough force to push the shield arm apart and create an opening for melee troops to strike?

You need two basic mindsets when setting up topics diving into arms and armor discussions. First, hollywood is and realisn, historical and otherwise, rarely mix and that before the industrial revolution , standardization of almost everything was not the normal. Thus we movies are bad sources to cite in serious discussions and we can only either come to conclusions on the performance of specific items or averages conclusions for how general thing performed.
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Dan D'Silva





Joined: 28 Apr 2007

Posts: 123

PostPosted: Wed 12 Apr, 2017 4:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt's right, there are simply too many variables to give even a general answer. A shield can mean anything from a single slab of wood, a single row of planks glued edge-to-edge, two or more layers of planks pegged or glued together -- any of these with or without the reinforcement of all manner of animal hide, fabric or metal -- wicker, that classic Central Asian not-really-wicker made by weaving sticks through hide, a single thick piece of hide, a single sheet of metal, multiple metal pieces... and that's just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

But for a fun anecdote, at Marathon 2015, Chris Verwijmeren shot arrow after arrow from a 100-something-pound bow into an Argive-style shield that had been brought for that purpose. I believe it was modern plywood, covered in glued fabric (so, a bit like some Roman scuta). Many arrows jutted through the back and some flew all the way through and down the range, but I don't think the shield ever broke per se. A person wielding it would definitely have been Swiss cheese though.
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Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011

Posts: 76

PostPosted: Thu 13 Apr, 2017 7:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Differing shield construction leads to different levels of endurance.
There was some good tests in Weapons That Made Britain: The Shield.
You can see how it's a three way trade off of size, weight and durability.
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