Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Crossbows vs Bows Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next 
Author Message
Matt Lentzner




Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Joined: 22 Jul 2008
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2013 10:27 pm    Post subject: Crossbows vs Bows         Reply with quote

I read the whole crossbow thread with keen interest. I will admit that I had never understood why crossbows were favored over bows. I still kind of don't to be honest. I had assumed that crossbows were more powerful, but that really isn't the case. Equivalent is more like it with the exception of large siege versions. Same effectiveness for a lower rate of fire doesn't seem like a good trade-off.

It makes more sense to me in a siege, but in open battle? Plus you have a team of usually three (pavise bearer, loader, shooter) compared to a single bowman. So more expensive in terms of manpower/logistics as well.

Can you guys look this over and tell me if it's right?

Crossbow Pros (compared to a bow):
Easier to master
Not as fatiguing to use
More accurate
Can be held at the ready
Can be used in cramped areas/low ceilings
Can be used from cover

Crossbow Cons
Slower rate of fire
Expensive

A couple of questions:
1. Has anyone looked at "terminal ballistics" (what happens after the missile hit the target) in terms of arrows vs quarrels? I would expect that a quarrel would be more efficient for the same weight and impact speed because it would be more rigid than an arrow. Anybody know?
2. How did the range of crossbows compare to arrows? In this case I would expect a quarrel to be less efficient since it would present a larger cross-section for the same mass. Also I understand that the fletching was parchment instead of feathers so this would be less aerodynamic(?)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
R. Kolick





Joined: 04 Feb 2012

Posts: 127

PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2013 11:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

im only passingly familiar with crossbows and i am an English longbow shooter so im a little biased. but here is my stab at an answer. to put it simply the reason why the crossbow was more favored was the same reason the musket replaced the bow before the repeating firearm made the gun better than the bow, its easier and cheaper to train someone to use it.

the power comparison of a crossbow to a warbow is it takes a 300lbs crossbow to match a 110lbs warbow this due to weight of the arrow or bolt and the draw length of the much is MUCH longer than the crossbows
though crossbows are easier to use that does not make them more accurate. in fact i would personally argue that they are less so. the amount of time the bolt is on the string changes its accuracy the longer the arrow or bolt stays on the string the more accurate it is. and there is the men shooting these weapons to consider. if you toke a brand new recruit and gave him a crossbow and a warbow he would be far more accurate with the crossbow intact he probably couldn't even pull the warbow to full draw but you never had untrained warbow archers in the field in England their where extensive laws pertaining to the training of every man between a certain age (i think it was 15-50 i need to check not totally sure off the top of my head) they were required by law to train every week (again need to check how often per week) just to maintain the strength to draw their bows so this would lead to some (the hunters, yeomen, games keepers, poachers and woodsmen) to become deadly accurate and the rest to be at least passively accurate at the closer ranges.where as with the crossbow you could give any peasant or conscript a crossbow and he will be half decent and can be thrown into the fray without much training that said the better crossbowmen would be mercenaries and even they wouldn't be that uniformly or well trained (this is again to my knowledge i am relatively uninformed on mercenary crossbowmen training so this is based on what little info i have read) with its use because unlike the English they would train on an individual basis that is saying that if the wanted to have a crossbow they did and here not subjected to any required training. and this is why the crossbow was favored. because you could create an army of reasonable competent and accurate crossbow men in a few weeks where it takes ten years or more to make a good archer that can fire a warbow with any accuracy

now to answer question 1 in terms of the ballistics i know nothing but the force would depend on the speed of the bolt vs the arrow and their respective weights so the stiffer bolt may have more energy per pound it might be lighter or slower moving than an arrow.
Q2: the total range of the heavy siege crossbows was farther than a warbow however the feathers are more aerodynamic than the parchment or leather vains used on crossbows because they where easier to store that combined with the fact that the crossbow wasn't meant to fire as flat a trajectory as possible again 110lbs warbow= 300lbs crossbow but where the archer would fire at 45 degrees to get the most range the crossbowman would try to aim down the stock of the crossbow limiting his effective range
View user's profile Send private message
Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 429

PostPosted: Fri 24 May, 2013 11:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

one of the main advantages of the crossbow was it's ability to penetrate later period armor with relative ease.

a 110-150 lb longbow would have trouble penetrating high quality plate armor in the late 15th century, whereas a 900-1200lb draw crossbow would have little trouble.

http://www.todsstuff.co.uk/crossbows/windlass-crossbows.htm
they are still manageable in size and their rate of fire is not terrible, just not the 20 arrows a minute that a longbowman could pull off (before running out of arrows 1 minute later like at agincourt)
View user's profile Send private message
Matthew P. Adams




Location: Cape Cod, MA
Joined: 08 Dec 2008
Likes: 8 pages

Posts: 456

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 4:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Did crossbow men volley large amounts of bolts to come raining down on the enemy like longbow men? Or were crossbows fired in a more horizontal direction?
"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
View user's profile Send private message
Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 2,098

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 5:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt,

Take a look at the Springalds and Great Crossbows book from Jean Leibel. It is done through the RA publishing in English. I think it is something like 25 bucks, worth it if you really want to get this. Includes initial Joules of energy and terminal. Also covers distance. For warbow info hit the great warbow.

The issue is not all crossbows are stronger than warbows, some are likely stronger and others equaled out the them. The benefit is the crossbow could increase in power while the bow could not. You get to a point that it is hard not to have major issues drawing heavy warbows.

R.,

Depends on the skill of the archer. I know there are many examples of shooting contests in the later medieval and modern period with the crossbow so these gents could be marksmen easy enough. I'd expect easier aim is the stand at ready position. Gives you time. My experience with a longbow is you have less time to aim, more of a instinct than sight.... if that makes sense. With a crossbow I suspect you can have both.


Matt A.,

Yep. We have both text and art showing this. Great warbow has a few points on this. I have seen accounts that indicate they could be used in many ways like this.

RPM
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Crossbows did not necessarily require less strength than bows. As late as the fourteenth century, crossbows varied according to the might of the wielder. The windlass and cranequin changed this. Strength-spanned crossbows presumably hit somewhat harder than bows, though numbers on these remain fuzzy. Heavy mechanically spanned crossbows delivered more kinetic energy than almost any self bow. While a 150lb English warbow might manage 146 J with a very heavy arrow, there's limited evidence for such arrows. The majority of the analyzed Mary Rose arrows are poplar and rather light; they wouldn't do much if any more than 100 J. The heavier birch Mary Rose arrows increase that to 120 J. A 1000lb field crosswbow, on the other hand, should achieve 160-180 J with a bolt of moderate weight based on the performance of the Payne-Gallwey crossbow. For all but the most exceptional self-bow archer, a heavy crossbow would shoot with more power, range, and accuracy. The crossbow also shoots more safely from cover. The bow only wins out in rate of shooting, which admittedly matters a great deal. Note that neither weapon could penetrate good plate armor except perhaps the thin piecies over the limbs.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 429

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 12:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:

The issue is not all crossbows are stronger than warbows, some are likely stronger and others equaled out the them. The benefit is the crossbow could increase in power while the bow could not. You get to a point that it is hard not to have major issues drawing heavy warbows.


My point exactly; but a professional crossbowman wouldn't be carrying a sub 300lb draw weight wood prod crossbow into battle, while his high poundage crossbow would not be that much larger or more cumbersome, just with a lower rate of fire due to needing a cranequin or windlass.

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
The bow only wins out in rate of shooting, which admittedly matters a great deal

Rate of fire is not necessarily important within the context of ranged weapons; namely due to ammunition conservation. Like I said before, the 150,000 arrows brought on the agincourt campaign were expended by henry's 10,000 archers in less than a minute if they fired at the sustained rate of 15-20 arrows per minute. It sounds impressive, until you think about the other 3 battalions of 10,000 that were not turned into pincushions, at least not at such a sustained rate. Especially considering that even in the early 15th century the bodkin arrow was already reaching the end of it's armor killing days. a well made early white harness made of 18 gauge iron (or case hardened steel) would have little problem with arrows, which could not be said for bolts. luckily for the english, most of the armor present at the battle has been thought to have been "out of style" amongst the lower ranking knights and men at arms; lots more mail and wisby defenses than churlburg style harnesses
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The same could be and was said of bolts, at least by the middle of the fifteenth century. By the middle of the next, Fourquevaux considered crossbows and bows equivalent and grouped them together. He wrote that quality harness defended against both arrows and bolts.
Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 429

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 4:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
The same could be and was said of bolts, at least by the middle of the fifteenth century. By the middle of the next, Fourquevaux considered crossbows and bows equivalent and grouped them together. He wrote that quality harness defended against both arrows and bolts.


I doubt that this is really a black and white issue; obviously armor wouldn't have been designed and built the way it was unless it could stop the weapons of the day, in the same way a weapon of the day wouldn't be used if it was useless against period defenses. A iron or crudely case hardened munitions harness on a 15th century infantryman would probably have trouble stopping a 1200lb crossbows bolt, while a finely made, tempered steel high Gothic harness would probably have shrugged off all ranged weapons thrown at it (probably not hand gonnes, either their "bolts" or iron shot but definitely arrows and quarrels)
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




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

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,335

PostPosted: Sat 25 May, 2013 5:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Which is exactly that Benjamin said.

"Quality harness" does not refer to munitions plate.
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,501

PostPosted: Sun 26 May, 2013 5:20 pm    Post subject: Re: Crossbows vs Bows         Reply with quote

Matt Lentzner wrote:

Crossbow Pros (compared to a bow):
[...]
Can be held at the ready


This makes crossbows good for hunting.

Matt Lentzner wrote:

Can be used in cramped areas/low ceilings
Can be used from cover


This makes crossbows good for sieges.

Matt Lentzner wrote:

A couple of questions:
1. Has anyone looked at "terminal ballistics" (what happens after the missile hit the target) in terms of arrows vs quarrels? I would expect that a quarrel would be more efficient for the same weight and impact speed because it would be more rigid than an arrow. Anybody know?


I'd expect a crossbow to be less efficient, since the head is usually fatter. Where the crossbow can win against armour is that you can deliver more energy (with the right crossbow). This can overcome the lower efficiency. Same thing is seen with guns - a gun might need 5 times to energy to get through iron plate compared to a bow, but when you have 10 times as much energy available, you win.

Matt Lentzner wrote:

2. How did the range of crossbows compare to arrows? In this case I would expect a quarrel to be less efficient since it would present a larger cross-section for the same mass. Also I understand that the fletching was parchment instead of feathers so this would be less aerodynamic(?)


Chinese experience was that crossbows could outrange bows.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
X Zhang





Joined: 07 Aug 2011

Posts: 40

PostPosted: Sun 26 May, 2013 6:23 pm    Post subject: Re: Crossbows vs Bows         Reply with quote

Matt Lentzner wrote:

Chinese experience was that crossbows could outrange bows.


er....Chinese experience was that large crossbow are better at dealing with light cavalry and infantry. During the Five Dynasities and Ten States(large amounts of infantry) or Northern Song Dynasty(Khitans bow cavalry), the the ratio was pikemen20%, bowarcher20%, crossbowmen60%(armored and part-time close fight ). But during Southern Song Dynasty(Nuchen heavy cavalry), the proportion of crossbowmen sharply declined. In the face of cavalry charges, rate is a very important problem
View user's profile Send private message
Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
Joined: 14 Jan 2010

Posts: 268

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 2:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What about the part of training...

You can teach someone to use a 300 lb draw crossbow in about an hour. Crossbows are relatively easy to use for point blank shooting. There are finer points but the basics are really easy as long as your either stron enough to pull the string or use the spanning device.

You need to train someone to use a bow and that takes time... to use a war bow such as a longbow takes years to train your muscles to draw that kind of weight and be able to effectively reach out to targets with plunging fire for use on a battlefield. Were not talking about a 50lb bow that is good for hunting... Were talking a 100-150lb draw bow used for war that can achieve results against armor and crunchies at longer ranges.

As to armor, they made stuff that could be hit by both arrows, bolts and later bullets no problem... Armorers even bragged about it to their customers with proof marks.

Against those guys wearing their Ferari suits you need polearms and daggers.

Bows and crossbows are good for dealing with the massed infantry since they were not wearing high tech armor.
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 490

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 9:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Treichel wrote:
What about the part of training...

You can teach someone to use a 300 lb draw crossbow in about an hour. Crossbows are relatively easy to use for point blank shooting. There are finer points but the basics are really easy as long as your either stron enough to pull the string or use the spanning device.

You need to train someone to use a bow and that takes time... to use a war bow such as a longbow takes years to train your muscles to draw that kind of weight and be able to effectively reach out to targets with plunging fire for use on a battlefield. Were not talking about a 50lb bow that is good for hunting... Were talking a 100-150lb draw bow used for war that can achieve results against armor and crunchies at longer ranges.

One often reads this, and David Bachrach has published evidence that Edward I handed many of his infantry a crossbow and bolts and to use with their other kit when fighting the Scots. But many crossbowmen came from urban guilds with a similar archery tradition to the English. Late medieval crossbows were expensive weapons used by expensive specialists. So in practice, I don't think that leaders in England and its neighbours were impressed with the idea that soldiers could learn to use a crossbow quickly.

The draw weights of 15th through 17th century Eurasian bows are high by historical standards. Be careful of assuming that every "war bow" in every place and time had a draw weight similar to the Mary Rose bows.
View user's profile Send private message
Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 2,098

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 11:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean,

You bet. Edward II also has tons of crossbows in his inventories and demands of counties and towns during his reign. He also demanded crossbowmen on occasions from various sources, London providing some 500 or so. That said after EdII the crossbowmen largely disappear. I'd say both he and Ed II demanded more bows than crossbows.

'The draw weights of 15th through 17th century Eurasian bows are high by historical standards. Be careful of assuming that every "war bow" in every place and time had a draw weight similar to the Mary Rose bows.'

I am not sure about this statement. We have nearly 0 evidence for other bows so either way apart from the Mary Rose bows we have no idea on draw weight so why speculate otherwise until one does have evidence? Seeing how other regions have comparable bow draw weights why assume European bows were lower? To me All we can state is that the MR bows were what was likely used. Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary this seems the only stance one could take and be based on evidence.

RPM
View user's profile Send private message
Matt Lentzner




Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Joined: 22 Jul 2008
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 1:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Great discussion so far. Thanks everyone.

Thought of another couple crossbow advantages

- Can be used from horseback - eastern composite horse bows can be or course, but not a longbow. Also there's that picture from Talhoffer (? can't find my book at the moment) of a man holding his crossbow in the crook of his arm and shooting backwards at pursuers. Maybe more of a stunt, but it suggests the crossbow is much handier than a bow as well.

- Can be used at point blank ranges. My understanding is that an arrow from a bow has to travel several yards before it stabilizes since it is cast by the string in an offset manner because the bow stave is in the way. Modern bows have a cutout to avoid this issue. Another advantage when fighting in urban environments.

And another disadvantage

- In addition to expense, would require technical skill and discipline to maintain. The fact that a peasant could learn to fire one in a few hours is moot if a month later none of them are in working condition because those recruits can't maintain and repair their expensive and complex crossbows. Also, in a field battle, effective long range plunging volley fire would take a lot of drilling no matter whether you're using a bow or crossbow. A peasant levy would be useless for this fight.

Well, I might be wrong about all that so let me know if I am.

Matt
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Michael Curl




Location: Northern California, US
Joined: 06 Jan 2008

Posts: 486

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 2:06 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have shot bows without a cutout, and they have no minimum range.

Also the idea that arbalests and other high power crossbows were for peasant levies is clearly ridiculous, as has been shown by the above posts. (Expense, difficult maintenance, only used by experts, etc).

Also the crossbow can be used from horseback, but I doubt that they could be used from the gallop for any thing other than close range firing. This is because the bolt would move every time the horse's hoofs hit the ground, compared to a bow in which the bow can be drawn and loosed in between beats.

E Pluribus Unum
View user's profile Send private message AIM Address
Robert MacPherson
Industry Professional



Location: Jeffersonville USA
Joined: 27 Feb 2008

Posts: 141

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gentlemen,

May I make a plea for the word "fire" to be restricted to gunpowder weapons?

We have all been taught not to use the word "fire" to refer to modern guns, and somehow we have come to apply it to archery instead..... A moment's thought will reveal that to be ridiculous.

Our ancestors "shot" bows and crossbows. I think we should make an effort to do the same.


Mac

Robert MacPherson
http://www.lightlink.com/armory/
http://billyandcharlie.com/
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Matt Lentzner




Location: Silicon Valley, CA
Joined: 22 Jul 2008
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 2 books

Posts: 30

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 2:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

How embarrassing. I know this - just a bad habit.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Robert MacPherson
Industry Professional



Location: Jeffersonville USA
Joined: 27 Feb 2008

Posts: 141

PostPosted: Mon 27 May, 2013 2:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt,

I'm not trying to pick on anyone. It's a hard habit to break, and there's little incentive to do so Worried .

Mac

Robert MacPherson
http://www.lightlink.com/armory/
http://billyandcharlie.com/
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Crossbows vs Bows
Page 1 of 3 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum