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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 3:55 am    Post subject: New warbow testing publication         Reply with quote

The latest Arms and Armour Journal from the Royal Armouries has an article regarding some testing of warbows against plate.
"A report of the findings of the Defence Academy warbow trials Part 1 Summer 2005." By Paul Bourke and David Whetham. pp.53-82.

It also has some criticisms from Kelly DeVries along with rebuttals from the authors.

I like some of it and dislike the rest. It seems to me (and to DeVries) that these guys had preconceived ideas and set about designing a test to validate them. DeVries reckons that the bow they used was too heavy but, after reading Strickland and Hardy's book, I can't agree with him. IMO the bow they tested was typical of the time (around 150 lbs). I think that the arrows they tested were reasonable reconstructions too although I would have liked to have seen more aspen shafts and less ash. By the time of Henry V, aspen was by far the most common wood used for arrows, not ash. I also have a problem with the extremely short range they used (10 m). Hopefully the next part of these tests will involve more realistic battlefield distances.

The arrowheads are flawed however. Although they use accurate reconstructions of the typologies, the hardness is far greater than that found in any bodkins to date. The authors state "it is unknown how hard average period arrowheads were or whether they would have been routinely surface/case hardened..." IMO they say this to try and avoid the fact that none of the bodkins so far analysed were anywhere near the hardness of the arrowheads used in this test. The hardest arrowheads so far analysed are broadheads (e.g. type 16), not bodkins. The one bodkin analysis they cite (their own unpublished work) indicate a hardness between 105-158 Hv which was well below the hardness of the arrowheads they used. Their first arrowhead (type 7) had a hardness of 190-200 Hv with the tip being 300 Hv. Their second arrowhead had a hardness of 230-250 Hv. The third 480-500 Hv. No surprises which one performed the best against the plate target.

Regarding the target, the authors correctly state that the Victorian wrought iron used in the past for these sorts of tests is inferior to what was available for contemporary plate armour. They reckoned that charcoal-rolled iron would be a closer match to what medieval armourers had available and I agree with them. They decide to shoot a flat sheet of this material, rather than a worked breastplate because they reasonably argue that it would produce more consistent results. This makes sense when testing the angle of impact but ignores the fact that armour was fluted and creased in key areas to reduce the likelihood of penetration. The thicknesses chosen by the authors seem reasonable. They test three plates: 1.15mm, 2mm and 3mm. However they ignore the fact that the thinnest sections of plate armour are often overlapped by another plate so that an arrow would have two thicknesses of this material to punch through. They also completely ignore the fact that plate armour was not worn against the skin. I would suggest that an arming doublet worn under armour would greatly reduce injury to the wearer.

The results. All three arrows easily penetrated the 1.15mm plate. The 2mm plate is penetrated by arrowhead 2 (9mm) and 3 (16mm). The 3mm plate defeats all the arrows. Angle of impact is 90 degrees. They note that adding wax to the arrowhead made no difference in penetration. They have some strange results against the 1.15mm plate when at high angles. 40 and 60 degrees seems to have increased penetration. Penetration is predictably reduced against the 2mm, and 3mm plate when the angle of incidence is less than 90 degrees.

Conclusion. Dispite this test being heavily biased against the armour, the plate seems to have performed well. Even without an arming garment behind the plate, none of the arrows would have killed a soldier wearing 2mm of plate (the deepest penetration was only 16mm). If the padding is added, I think that there would be no injury at all. If the 1.15mm plates were overlapped as would have been the case in a suit of plate then these too are likely to have prevented injury. The only injury that might have occurred would be the rare arrow that managed to hit a thin piece of plate that was not covered by another plate. These arrow strikes might hit an arm or a leg but certainly would not kill the wearer as is implied by some longbow enthusiasts. The authors then try to weasel out of these results by claiming that non-fatal arrowstrikes were likely to prove fatal anyway because of the unsanitary conditions, dispite plenty of evidence to suggest that soldiers regularly survived arrow wounds - even in the face. They also concoct a ridiculous theory that even though the armour resisted the arrow, the blunt trauma from the impact is likely to kill the victim anyway.

This test could have been very good. By itself it is only moderately useful. Hopefully Part 2 will build upon this data.


Last edited by Dan Howard on Mon 30 Apr, 2007 5:01 am; edited 2 times in total
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 4:07 am    Post subject: Dr Starley's letter         Reply with quote

Regarding arrowhead hardness here is a letter from Dr Starley of the Royal Armouries. Crossposted from Armour Archive (emphasis mine).
http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB2/viewto...p;start=35

"As a metallurgist this is a question which interests me greatly. Some
early studies were done by Peter Pratt and Peter Jones, involving a
current member of RA staff but before he joined us. Some of these
experiments are recorded in an appendix to Robert Hardy's book. However I have
been concerned that the published version of these experiments used
heat-treated steel bodkin points, for which we have no evidence. By
contrast it would appear that other types of arrowheads: the compact tanged
and barbed (London Museums Type 16), did indeed have steel edges/points
welded to them and these were quenched and tempered. The metallurgical
work is in progress but some of the information is due to be published
by Ashgate in a collection of papers from the International Medieval
congress, Kalamazoo (The volume will be titled de re Metallica).
Unfortunately I haven't seen any results on the testing of such weapons.
Hope this helps,

David Starley PhD
Science Officer

Royal Armouries Museum
Conservation Department"
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 4:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To me, with my admitedly limited knowledge, it seems as though the most unrealistic part of this test is the range. 10m is basically point blank, and not a range at which an archer would fire a bow at a charging knight, whether on horse or on foot. A running man in good shape can cover ten meters in less than 2 seconds.

In tests I have conducted against mail, a bow that penetrated very high quality mail at 20ft failed to do so at 50-60ft. Arrows lose steam very quickly, and so it can be argued that even if the rest of the test was perfect, the range makes its applicability to medieval warfare questionable at best.

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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 5:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think it's pretty reasonable to suggest that high-end late medeival plate would protect the wearer against arrow-strike. The armourers of their day knew their stuff far more than we do (remember, they saw the first-hand results of real battle-damage). Anyone spending the best part of $2million (in today's money) would expect nothing but the best.

Some points:

The war bow and arrow have different ballistics to a modern recreational bow. The heavy bow was designed to launch a long, heavy arrow. Both parts are matched to each other. Attempting to shoot a war arrow off (even a heavy-weight) target bow will give a less-effective result. Similarly, a war bow will not be as effective draw weight-for-weight with a light arrow.
Heavy arrows launched from a war bow do not lose as much energy as a modern bow. Tests (See The Great Warbow by Hardy, Strickland) show that a war arrow loses only 15 - 30% of it's velocity at 240yards. Energy calculations then show that the arrow has lethal energies out to about 180 yards.

Don't dismiss blunt force trauma. Even with padding (and an arming doublet is quilted, not stuffed, making it pretty dense) a significant amount of energy is still transmitted to the wearer. I doubt this would be fatal with a body or limb strike (although it may break limb bones) but a head shot could well be debilitating, if not fatal. Imagine being hit on the head (in a helmet) with a lump hammer. It's going to stop you - at least for a while. Any re-enactor will tell you that a head strike can stun you, which is why so few re-enactment societies allow them.

The bow makes an excellent tactical weapon. It allows you to engage your enemy at range, before he can apply his battle tactics on you.

An old chestnut: Very few on the field would be wearing such high-quality armour. Estimates I have seen suggest maybe 5%. That still leaves a lot of people who are vulnerable to arrow strike.

An arrow doesn't have to kill to be effective. This is a common mistake. Dead men are dead men - you can't do anything about them. But a wounded man, screaming and thrashing is hard to ignore. Human nature says his immediate colleagues are going to try and help him. That means two or more fighters out of the picture (for a while at least) for one arrow. This knowledge is used even today. Modern military bullets are designed to maim, not kill.

Horses make much bigger targets than men. An un-horsed man-at-arms being trampled by others is still not able to fight. And horses weren't protected in full plate.

Never underestimate the English archer himself. The English archer was well-armed, tough, disciplined and aggresive. One cannot ignore the psychological and cultural aspects of the fighting man. When the bow was no longer effective in a battle, the archers would join in hand-to-hand fighting, essentially adding to the numbers of men-at-arms. The English army has never relied on technology to win its battles; it relies on the qualities of its soldiers


This 'debate' has been hovering on the fringes of one of those childish "who would win between..." arguments for many years now. At last somebody is doing some (more accurate) research. I agree with Dan: some bits could be better (I happen to agree that more a more realistic test would be to back the plate with representative padding). However, testing costs money and much of the financing of these tests comes out of people's own pockets. It's striking how many 'armchair experts' will sit and criticise but when asked to actually do something about it will shuffle, cough and change the subject rapidly. Especially when cold, hard cash is involved.

Remember, only a bigot sees things as black and white.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 6:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't disagree with anything you have said Glennan. My comments were only focused on the test itself. Not on the effectiveness of the longbow in battle. My views about the points you raised are well known. Regarding the bow and arrows: they were correctly matched. Mark Stretton was the archer. Regarding blunt trauma: I have no problem with it causing distress to the victim - bruises; even a cracked rib. My problem is with this statement: "...even a non-penetrating impact in the right place might be sufficient to cause death by blunt trauma due to internal injuries." p.70.
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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,

Certainly, the energies involved are potentially fatal; that has been demonstrated. The Defence Academy tests have shown that plate certainly has the capability to stop arrows. The question then becomes: how well does the armour/padding/etc protect the wearer from BFT?

I'd like to see more experientation in the area of BFT, particularly head impacts (I suspect BFT is more dangerous than penetration in this case). Unfortunately, that requires things like instrumented mannequins and the like (expensive).

It's pretty unlikely we'll find someone brave/stupid enough to stand in front of an archer and be shot at and report how much it hurt!
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 7:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glennan Carnie wrote:
Dan,

Certainly, the energies involved are potentially fatal; that has been demonstrated. The Defence Academy tests have shown that plate certainly has the capability to stop arrows. The question then becomes: how well does the armour/padding/etc protect the wearer from BFT?

I'd like to see more experientation in the area of BFT, particularly head impacts (I suspect BFT is more dangerous than penetration in this case). Unfortunately, that requires things like instrumented mannequins and the like (expensive).

It's pretty unlikely we'll find someone brave/stupid enough to stand in front of an archer and be shot at and report how much it hurt!


Having been hit with repeatedly with five pound blunt steel swords, I agree BFT is an unwelcome nuisance and distraction in a fight. The idea that 85 gms of wood and iron that hasn't penetrated plate, mail and padded garment can be lethal is unreasonable. The sword or pollaxe can produce huge force by comparison. Even then only a head or neck shot is debilitating. The discussions concerning thoracic trauma through 14th-15thC armour, as recently seen on the English Warbow forum, are ill informed. Experimental combat in reproduction harness, no where near the quality of medieval harness, refutes this. The problem of armour penetration isn't solved by shooting at plates, even on moving lines. (like Hugh Soar's tests in "Secrets" etc.)

I think that excellent researchers like Anne Curry and Matthew Strickland rightly skirt the issue of arrow penetration. With all the other issues relevant to the usefulness of military archery, whether particular arrows cast from particular bows might penetrate some incomplete combination of reproduction armour.... its really pretty irrelevant.

I look forward to reading the latest issue of the RA Journal. Its another step forward but clearly not a definitive study. Thanks for reviewing it Dan.

Kel
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 7:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glennan Carnie wrote:

The war bow and arrow have different ballistics to a modern recreational bow. The heavy bow was designed to launch a long, heavy arrow. Both parts are matched to each other. Attempting to shoot a war arrow off (even a heavy-weight) target bow will give a less-effective result. Similarly, a war bow will not be as effective draw weight-for-weight with a light arrow.
Heavy arrows launched from a war bow do not lose as much energy as a modern bow. Tests (See The Great Warbow by Hardy, Strickland) show that a war arrow loses only 15 - 30% of it's velocity at 240yards. Energy calculations then show that the arrow has lethal energies out to about 180 yards.


Considering that the initial velocity is not all that high to begin with, certainly no where near the velocity of modern sport bow with a matched arrow (which is about 300fps), and that a heavy arrow would bleed velocity slower than a light one, I don't find that surprising.

However, I have seen test results that state that the loss of velocity occurs in the first 60 yards or less, and then the arrow flies at a fairly consisted velocity from then on. I cannot recall exactly where I read that, so unfortunately I am not able to reference it. Perhaps someone else can corroberate this.

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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 7:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan,

Thanks for the heads up. I had not heard this had come out yet.

Have caution with DeVries as well. He clearly has a very set opinion as well (catapults are not atom bombs, etc) on what should have been the outcome. He is a nice person and very helpful but can stretch sources pretty far in some cases in my opinion.

RPM
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 8:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

For those interested.

http://www.royalarmouries.org/extsite/view.jsp?sectionId=1166

They are not the only one looking at the efects of blunt force trauma in relation to arrows and armour so I am sure more info will come out on it in the future.

RPM
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Matt Doernhoefer




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This may have been beat to death already but isn't the direct penetrating power of an arrow a moot point? In mass-formation combat, your archers (I would hope), shouldn't be in a direct line against heavy cav. Wouldn't it be more often true that your archers would be back on a hill, firing arced clouds of arrows to disrupt enemy foot troops?
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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 8:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Having been hit with repeatedly with five pound blunt steel swords, I agree BFT is an unwelcome nuisance and distraction in a fight.


I doubt anyone was actually trying to kill you, though. The blow would be pulled to a large extent. If being shot in the head by an arrow was merely a nuisance more re-enactors would volunteer to be shot by a war bow. To date, no-one I have asked has said yes.

And even then I wouldn't because I don't want to be proved right.

Quote:
Considering that the initial velocity is not all that high to begin with, certainly no where near the velocity of modern sport bow with a matched arrow (which is about 300fps), and that a heavy arrow would bleed velocity slower than a light one, I don't find that surprising.


I did some quick sums.

Assume:
Modern sport arrow 300 grains (19.4g) at 300 ft/s (91.8 m/s)
English war arrow: 1157 grains (75g) at 190 ft/s (58 m/s)

Kinetic energy ( = 1/2mv^2) as a measure of the energy transferred to the target on impact
Sport arrow: 81.27 J
War arrow: 126 J

Momentum ( = mv) as a measure of the transfer of momentum to the target on impact
Sport arrow: 1.78 Ns
War arrow: 4.35 Ns

Of course, these are based on launch velocities (I don't have access to landing velocities for the sport arrow) I also had to guess a bit about sport arrow weights (although it is based on Easton's arrow charts) The figures for the war arrow are taken from The Great Warbow.

It's clear that, despite the speed difference, the war arrow carries considerably more energy on release (55% more) and almost 2 1/2 times the momentum compared to the sport arrow.
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Kel Rekuta




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glennan Carnie wrote:
Quote:
Having been hit with repeatedly with five pound blunt steel swords, I agree BFT is an unwelcome nuisance and distraction in a fight.


I doubt anyone was actually trying to kill you, though. The blow would be pulled to a large extent. If being shot in the head by an arrow was merely a nuisance more re-enactors would volunteer to be shot by a war bow. To date, no-one I have asked has said yes.

And even then I wouldn't because I don't want to be proved right.

No my friends aren't trying to kill me. They are doing their level best to knock me down though. We aren't re-enactors. We don't need to "pull blows" as a rule. Difficult to judge though. Submission fighting certainly isn't a life or death struggle; round house swings aren't frequent as they are dangerous to both parties for different reasons. It is very, very different fighting than you will see in UK re-enactment in any case.

However, you are quite correct in that none of us willing stands target for bowmen like Mark Stretton or Simon Stanley with true warbows. Plate only covers some 80% of the best armoured man in transitional kit. Its not about being hit hard, its about where you might be struck. Even 100lb bows might penetrate the lowest 20% with some ease should enough arrows be shot. No thanks. Eek!


Quote:
Considering that the initial velocity is not all that high to begin with, certainly no where near the velocity of modern sport bow with a matched arrow (which is about 300fps), and that a heavy arrow would bleed velocity slower than a light one, I don't find that surprising.


I did some quick sums.

Assume:
Modern sport arrow 300 grains (19.4g) at 300 ft/s (91.8 m/s)
English war arrow: 1157 grains (75g) at 190 ft/s (58 m/s)

Kinetic energy ( = 1/2mv^2) as a measure of the energy transferred to the target on impact
Sport arrow: 81.27 J
War arrow: 126 J

Momentum ( = mv) as a measure of the transfer of momentum to the target on impact
Sport arrow: 1.78 Ns
War arrow: 4.35 Ns

Of course, these are based on launch velocities (I don't have access to landing velocities for the sport arrow) I also had to guess a bit about sport arrow weights (although it is based on Easton's arrow charts) The figures for the war arrow are taken from The Great Warbow.

It's clear that, despite the speed difference, the war arrow carries considerably more energy on release (55% more) and almost 2 1/2 times the momentum compared to the sport arrow.


This is a good discussion. How would one calculate the velocity of weapon blows? Clock them with a radar gun like arrows or balls? (We've got one of those.) Would there be a more suitable means?
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 11:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt Doernhoefer wrote:
This may have been beat to death already but isn't the direct penetrating power of an arrow a moot point? In mass-formation combat, your archers (I would hope), shouldn't be in a direct line against heavy cav. Wouldn't it be more often true that your archers would be back on a hill, firing arced clouds of arrows to disrupt enemy foot troops?


Not only are they shooting in arcs, but the curvature built into the thinner plates almost guarantees you won't get a 90-degree hit anyway, so the test is even further skewed.

But as for shooting at cavalry, Matt, cavalry are a *primary* target: Horses are almost the only dangerous thing on the battlefield an arrow can kill since they weren't armored as comprehensively as a man at arms, and even if they didn't kill them the arrows could drive them mad, rendering them useless and causing them to throw and possibly injure their riders. That's why the French learned to fight on foot after Crecy.

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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 11:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Didn't stop them getting shafted at Agincourt, though Big Grin
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Michael Edelson




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 11:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glennan Carnie wrote:
Quote:
Having been hit with repeatedly with five pound blunt steel swords, I agree BFT is an unwelcome nuisance and distraction in a fight.


I doubt anyone was actually trying to kill you, though. The blow would be pulled to a large extent. If being shot in the head by an arrow was merely a nuisance more re-enactors would volunteer to be shot by a war bow. To date, no-one I have asked has said yes.

And even then I wouldn't because I don't want to be proved right.

Quote:
Considering that the initial velocity is not all that high to begin with, certainly no where near the velocity of modern sport bow with a matched arrow (which is about 300fps), and that a heavy arrow would bleed velocity slower than a light one, I don't find that surprising.


I did some quick sums.

Assume:
Modern sport arrow 300 grains (19.4g) at 300 ft/s (91.8 m/s)
English war arrow: 1157 grains (75g) at 190 ft/s (58 m/s)

Kinetic energy ( = 1/2mv^2) as a measure of the energy transferred to the target on impact
Sport arrow: 81.27 J
War arrow: 126 J

Momentum ( = mv) as a measure of the transfer of momentum to the target on impact
Sport arrow: 1.78 Ns
War arrow: 4.35 Ns

Of course, these are based on launch velocities (I don't have access to landing velocities for the sport arrow) I also had to guess a bit about sport arrow weights (although it is based on Easton's arrow charts) The figures for the war arrow are taken from The Great Warbow.

It's clear that, despite the speed difference, the war arrow carries considerably more energy on release (55% more) and almost 2 1/2 times the momentum compared to the sport arrow.



I've been looking for figures like these for a long time! Thank you.

However...some corrections in sport arrow weights:

A 70lb bow, which is the kind you need to get 300fps, would fire a heavier arrow. I'm sure on the exact weights, but my arrows are optimized for 50lbs and just the arrow shaft (with fletching) is 400 grains.

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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 12:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hugh Knight wrote:


But as for shooting at cavalry, Matt, cavalry are a *primary* target: Horses are almost the only dangerous thing on the battlefield an arrow can kill since they weren't armored as comprehensively as a man at arms, and even if they didn't kill them the arrows could drive them mad, rendering them useless and causing them to throw and possibly injure their riders. That's why the French learned to fight on foot after Crecy.


Still, the english archers celebrated their greatest triumphs against the scots, who fought almost exclusively as infantry
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Glennan Carnie




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 12:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Recalculated for 450 grain arrow:

KE: 123J
Momentum: 2.68 Ns

So now we're in pretty much the same energy range, but the momentum is still way down (only 60%)

Of course, this is all moot. They didn't have bows capable of shooting (NOT firing - you fire a gun; you SHOOT a bow) an arrow at 300 ft/s
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Hugh Knight




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 12:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikael Ranelius wrote:
Hugh Knight wrote:


But as for shooting at cavalry, Matt, cavalry are a *primary* target: Horses are almost the only dangerous thing on the battlefield an arrow can kill since they weren't armored as comprehensively as a man at arms, and even if they didn't kill them the arrows could drive them mad, rendering them useless and causing them to throw and possibly injure their riders. That's why the French learned to fight on foot after Crecy.


Still, the english archers celebrated their greatest triumphs against the scots, who fought almost exclusively as infantry


Perhaps, but then the Scots were notoriously poor when it comes to armor. A man at arms is one in full armor.

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Matt Doernhoefer




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PostPosted: Mon 30 Apr, 2007 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Still, wouldn't the arrow problem have been solved by even just a slight bit of barding? I understand that a lot of barding was lost during the early renaissance periods when gunpowder weaponry became more prominent (Very little period armor could stop a bullet). A small amount of light iron could seriously protect a horse from long range arrow fire. From what I've researched, they weren't kidding when they said that a fully armored and barded knight was the main battle tank of the medieval ages. Also, I would suspect that the horses were trained specifically with war in mind. In order to "Bomb proof" my sister's horse (jumper), we lit firecrackers near by to get her used to the idea. I think a lot of people overlook the training the horses get too.
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