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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > How does a full plate armour react to a arrow from a longbow Reply to topic
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Tue 24 Feb, 2004 7:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Allan,

your little experiment chimed right in with the idea that armour works. In the article cited above, I the authors managed to make a 6mm hole in the plate. My guess it that they shot directly at the plate (as you did too I guess), but in the article there was no explicit menton (that I could find) of how the plate was shaped; was it a flat plate, or was it in the form of an arming breast plate or helmet? They also give the force of the delivered arrow (75J), which will be interesting to know how it compares to the force form your arrow. I also do not know how the hardness of their 1.9mm wrought iron compares to the 16gauge steel you used. I am not saying that they are different, I am saying that I do not know if they are different.

All this is to explain the differences of the two observations.

If my understanding of how war was waged is semi-correct, then I would expect most of the arrows to be shot in the sky, hitting the opponents on the way down (i.e. the arrows will move in an arch). The most important aspect will be that the arrows will hit the targets at an angle. I believe that will make them less efficient in penetrating an armour plate. Judging from your and Blackburn e.al. 's results, it will be impossible for an arrow to penetrate the plate armour, but I believe that has already been spoken about. Then again the sheer volume of arrows shot per minute, and the fact that there were many unarmoured folks, and that there were gaps in the armour guarantee that many (horses included) will be hit /incapacitated by arrows.

Crossbow bolts were much more successfull in penetrating wrought armour plate (see the cited article). That being said, I do not think that the authors meant that at any given time, any crossbow can take down any armoured combatant. Armour from Milanese makers was virtually "crossbow-bolt proof". But that was high end merchandise, available to very few people.

This post is meant as a summary of what was previously said on this thread. I doubt that I can have an original thought anyhow Wink

Here is a link to a discussion/assay by Erik Schmidt about the protective qualities of mail. I found it interesting. I hope others will too.
http://forums.swordforum.com/showthread.php?s...adid=27476

Cheers,

Alexi
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Tim Merritt




Location: San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 27 Feb, 2004 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The bow I mentioned above was a low weight Bickerstaffe.
Check this out, pics at the bottom:
http://www.bickerstaffebows.co.uk/european_tour.htm

Tim
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Jeanry Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 27 Feb, 2004 10:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tim Merritt wrote:
The bow I mentioned above was a low weight Bickerstaffe.
Check this out, pics at the bottom:
http://www.bickerstaffebows.co.uk/european_tour.htm


Interesting. Did you have any information on the "breastplate" used ? Type of steel or iron, thickness in milimeters or fractions of an inch?

JR

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Emiliano Zapata
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Tim Merritt




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PostPosted: Mon 01 Mar, 2004 12:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

No, I wasn't involved in this one. The Bikerstaffe people are pretty accesible--I'll bet they could answer.
Tim
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Dieter A. Bachmann





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PostPosted: Tue 02 Mar, 2004 5:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

here is an interesting test of crossbow vs. chain mail (in german, but the pictures speak for themselves)

http://www.historiavivens1300.at/biblio/beschuss/beschuss.htm

the mail shirt had welded rings rather than riveted ones, so I guess the results don't really have any
scientific value. Still, out of 5 bolts fired, 2 bounced, and the remaining 3 all had penetration depths
of less than an inch (i.e. would probably have caused relatively harmless flesh wounds)

DAB
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Stoyan Popov




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 2:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Quote:
The same is true for mail armour. Saying that arrows could penetrate mail quite easily is very misleading. You have to be specific as to what type of mail you are dealing with. There were many different varieties throughout history. The bodkin arrowhead has been around since the Roman period. Mail remained the main form of body armour for more than a millenium despite this. As I am sure you are also aware mail was usually not worn without some form of textile garment either behind, over or both depending on the area and time period.


I was referring to rivetted, an rivetted mixed with whole (punched out circles of steel) mail, not butted mail wich gets damaged even by sword cuts. I have never tried to shoot an arrow at mail and see the effect. I am referring to published observations, which I could have misinterpreted. My understanding was that the arrow-head does not split/break the links, but the thin, long (18degree) point penetrates deeply between the links, deep enough to get through the massive padding underneath.

As I said, this is my interpretation of what somebody else (actually several scholars) published in a journal. As such I tend to add more weight to the validity of their statements, but still not accept them as irrefutable.

I do not have enough knowledge, to make the statement that bodkin arrows are ALWAYS effective against ANY mail armour. Even if that were true, I never intended to make such statement, and I apologize if anyone understood it as such.

Sorry for any confusion,

Alexi

I stick to the Alexi's oppinion! Most of the thin arrow heads which I've seen are about 4 cm long (although there are many arrow heads which are shorter) they have a square section and theoretically did very good work in penetrating the chain mail and hurting its bearer! Don't forget that the question is about the war and surviving. And if one weapon is not effective enough in battle, it won't be used anymore!
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Risto Rautiainen




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 3:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Don't forget that the question is about the war and surviving. And if one weapon is not effective enough in battle, it won't be used anymore!


You should be careful when making that kind of assumptions. If you can't take a tank down with your M16, you still won't discard it as being useless.

Every test I have heard of are either flawed or don't give us enough details about the testing conditions. There are so many variables that should be considered: the angle of impact, materials used, range, power of longbow, weight of projectile, how the target has been supported, undergarments... Even the fact that charging cavalry has some speed to the opposite direction of the arrow, would have some significance.

The above mentioned "tests" lack some info. Ie. there was no mention that how powerful the crossbow used was.

I guess the best would be to make a test with a flat plate, because you can change the angle of impact easily and it would be easy to extrapolate the results from there. With mail it's a bit different story because the weave acts a bit differently if you use a small patch instead of a whole mail shirt. It would be interesting to have some of those crash test dummies for these tests. Could see the actual blunt trauma that an arrow would cause when using maille.

A scientific approach is quite hard to make anyways. First to test from a certain distance with different types of heads, different weights of arrows and bows, different angles, different thicknesses of plate and then the same rumba from another distance. Phew... time, arrow and braincell consuming =)
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 5:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that the overall conlusion is that individual arrow or bolt hits are unlikely to kill an armored man, but it could, with luck, wound him.
Since there where generally a lot more bowmen than knigits on a battlefield, one of them had to get lucky once in a while.
Americans in Vietnam fired 10000 smallarm rounds for each kill, and so on.

The difference is that of KIA vs Casualites. It is a LOT easier to wound a fully armoured man that to kill him, and for purposes of winning the battle, it counts as much the same. A man that is struck by five arrows might not be dead, but he won't partisipate in the charge, and if he does, he will be easy to take down due to his wounds.


Salutations
Elling
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Erik D. Schmid




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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 6:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stoyan,

You said: I stick to the Alexi's oppinion! Most of the thin arrow heads which I've seen are about 4 cm long (although there are many arrow heads which are shorter) they have a square section and theoretically did very good work in penetrating the chain mail and hurting its bearer!

The idea that they theorectically did a good job is not relevant. Did they or didn't they? Can you cite specific examples of them accomplashing this feat?

Then: Don't forget that the question is about the war and surviving. And if one weapon is not effective enough in battle, it won't be used anymore!

Just because a weapon can't penetrate armour does not mean it is ineffective. Most of the soldiers at any one time were not armoured, which would have made them easy pray to the hail of arrows.

This list was compiled by Bob Charron. I took the liberty of reposting it here in the hopes that it owuld help to dispell some of the common misunderstandings of mail's effectiveness.

Galbert of Bruges on the seige of Bruges (1127-1128)[attack on the gate of the town, protected by archers and infantry]:
"By the special grace of God no one died in this multitude which was entering." and "I could not begin to describe the crowd of those who were hit and wounded." and "...as to those wearing an armor, they were exempted from wounds but not from bruises.."
Odo of Douil concerning the ill-fated second crusade (mid-12th century):
"During this engagement the King lost his small but renowned royal guard; keeping a stout heart, however, he nimbly and bravely scaled a rock by making use of some tree roots which God had provided for his safety. The enemy climbed after, in order to capture him, and the more distant rabble shot arrows at him. But by the will of God his armor protected him from the arrows, and to keep from be captured he defended the crag with his bloody sword.."
From Joinville (mid 13th century), referring to the day following his being wounded in five places and his horse in fifteen by Saracen darts:
"I got up, threw a quilted tunic over my back, clapped a steel cap on my head, and shouted out to our sergeants: 'by Saint Nicholas, they shall not stay here!'. My knights gathered round me, all wounded as they were, and we drove the Saracen sergeants away from our own machines and back toward a great body of mounted Turks who had stationed themselves quite close to the ones we had taken from them. I sent to the king for help, for neither I nor my knights could put on our hauberks because of the wounds we had received."
It seems the padded jackets were enough protection in this emergency, and that they could have fared even better against the enemy had they been able to wear their hauberks.
From an English chronicle of the Battle of Poitiers (1356):
"Our bowmen of the vanguard stood safely in the marsh, lest the horsemen should attack them, yet even so those did prevail there somewhat. For the horsemen, as has been said, had the special purpose of overrunning the archers, and of protecting their army from the arrows. Standing near their own men they faced the archers with their chests so solidly protected with plate and mail and leather shields, that the arrows were either fended off directly or broken in pieces by the hard objects or were diverted upwards.."
This is the evidence I'm talking about.
No one in an armor is dying from arrows going through it. And this is just a small sample of what's available from the chronicles.

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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 8:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well let me voice my opinion again, since it seem to have stirred things on this thread once again.

This is just a summary and I have not bothered to include supporting data. Anyway, what I am saying should not be so controversial.

1. Mail gave superb protection against swords and broad-head arrows . PERIOD. Of course that does not include the impact trauma.

2. Bodkin arrows were introduced in as a better way to deal with mail. This does NOT mean that bodkin arrows are always effective, but just that are MORE effective than the broad-headed arrows, i.e. bodkin arrows increase the chance of harming a mail bearing enemy. Its very pointy and long tip could penetrate and split a weak or missing link and cause some pain to the bearer. Again, you do not have to kill them to get them out of the battle.

Erik,

as a professional mail-maker and researcher your opinion is probably the most informed. The passages that you included in your previous post, however, fell short from making the point that BODKIN arrows are useless against mail. They do make the point that mail is very effective against some kind of arrows, but I do not think that is what we are debating. This could easily be fixed by mentioning the usage, or lack of usage, of bodkin arrows during the battles cited.

I have the inclination to take battle descriptions by medieval contemporaries, with a gain of salt, especially if out of context. This is largely due to the fact that many of the scribes were just that: scribes whose only job was to portray their most often victorious lord in the best light ever. He and his armies will be drawn as brave and fearless and chivalrous in the face of danger and clouds of arrows, etc. You get the picture. Modern historians have to work very hard do dispel many such myths and disclose the reality of things, which most of the times was not beautiful at all. One of my recent endeavor with such "authentic" descriptions was of a knight which when fell from his horse, he took out his sword , which NO OTHER MAN could lift and bravely fended against foes driving them back . And then we wonder how come people think that swords are 50lb.

All that being said I do not doubt that Bob Charron has thoroughly researched the sources that he took these excerpts from. I will be relieved to know that a warrior(s) did the description and not poets.

And Stoyane, just because I am Bulgarian too, does not mean that you should take my words at face value Wink

Sincerely,
Alexi
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 8:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The bodkin head arrow by itself did not spur experimentation with adding more ridgid materials ( iron,steel , leather small
plates of bone ect ) over maille to improve its defensive qualities . The employment of the arrow in its thousands
by masses of archers did . The basic idea behind volley firing is " if you put enough stuff in the air your bound to hit something" . Archers tended to through out a mixed volley of both barbed head arrows ( very effective against horses)
and bodkin head arrows . When you have hundereds of folks shooting thousands of arrows the odds go way up
that your going to get hit and not just once . Arrows also decelerate when shot in a straight line ( thus the "mortar lob"
method of high arch shooting used for massed archery firing . the arrow peters out at its apogy and starts to go downward
thus picking up speed and therefore impact force when it hits so the arrow effectivly hits with the same force at the back end of its flight ) so they need to be fired at reletively close ranges to damage armour at all if fired in a straight line .
With the increased use of massed archery tactics infantry became increasingly more important on the battlefield
and as the focus shifted you saw the rapid increase in both us of and types avaliable of pole arms which also spurred
experiments with more ridgid materials for armour . Theres a couple of good videos that have parts showing longbow use . One has been mentioned in another thread about seige weapons and is from a series called"Secrets of Lost Civilizations" . They do some testing from a castle wall with a long bowman ( Simon something or other I can never
remember his name ) to see how far out the engins would have to be for the grews to be safe use a breast plate as a
target , and there the episode from the Arms in Action series called "Maille and Plate Armour " in which they test
both barbed and bodkin head arrows against a maille shirt over an arming coat on a dummy ( shown in slomo
which is really cool ) and then shoot a crossbow at it .

Crossbows were much more effective in a flat arch but were also used in the high arching "mortar lob " style .
They were much more common on the continent and had a much higher chance of just punching thier way through
armour (plate or mail ) but could never deliver the rate of fire of the bow which minimized thier effectivness somewhat .
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Wed 03 Mar, 2004 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Allan,

I agree with virtually everything you said.

I am only going to ask one question in a slightly different way. Why was bodkin arrow introduced and widely used? I do not mean that as an argument against everything that has been said before about mail properties. One account from P. Blackburn et. al. Neurosurgery 2000 volume 47, #6, pages 1261-1286, argues that bodkin arrows were more effective against mail than broad-headed arrows, and that this is the reason behind the popularity of the bodkin arrows. They also show that under given conditions (75J, probably shot at 90degreees, probably a flat plate used ) bodkin arrows could even pepnetrate (6mm hole) munition grade plate armor (1.9mm thick). They did not argue that bodkin arrows are affective against plate armor, but were rather trying to demonstrate the penetrative capabilities of the arrows. They made no statement as to HOW effective they were against mail bearing enemies, or what type of injuries they caused (blunt trauma, non-fatal flesh wound, fatal wound, etc).

They also described the effectiveness of the crossbow which you summarized quite nicely, so no follow up questions there.

That is their view, and I want to know if there are different (research and experimentally supported) opinions out there.

Cheers,

Alexi
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Risto Rautiainen




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PostPosted: Thu 04 Mar, 2004 10:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Okay, I asked the bickerstaff people about the test and here are the specs:

"The bodkins were made from mild steel. Medieval bodkins were made from
wrought iron that was beaten into shape, removing much of the slag, and then
case hardened. The difference in hardness would not be significant.

The breastplate was also mild steel, 1.6mm thick, this compares with typical
fighting armour but not tounament armour which was thicker. The highest
quality armour was worked from wrought iron and was worked through heat
treatment and hammering into a form of steel that was very hard, but with
increased hardness the material becomes more brittle. The result is that an
arrow would glance off if it hit at an angle but would punch a hole through
if reasonably square on. Mild steel would have been a better material in
many ways as it is both tough and reasonably hard. Mild steel tears rather
than fractures on impact making it harder for an arrow to penetrate easily.

The bow is indeed 150# draw weight."

I believe the stats are okay, but IIRC ie. the bodkins weren't case hardened in the middle ages. Also I actually don't know how thick would a period breast plate have been. Also I think the best breastplates would have been of high-carbon steel, not wrought iron.
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Erik D. Schmid




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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2004 6:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here is a thread that has some very good information on it. Rather than reposting all of it on this board I thought it more prudent to just post the link instead.

Mail Call: Archery Claim

http://www.erikds.com
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David McElrea




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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2004 7:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Erik D. Schmid wrote:
Quote:
Here is a thread that has some very good information on it. Rather than reposting all of it on this board I thought it more prudent to just post the link instead.

Mail Call: Archery Claim


Hi Erik,

That link doesn't seem to work for me-- anyone else having trouble?

David
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Allan Senefelder
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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2004 7:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I can't get it to come up either .
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2004 7:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I cannot open it either
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Erik D. Schmid




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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2004 8:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The damn thing does not work for me either. The website seems to be experienceing some technical diffculties at the moment.
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Jeff Johnson





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PostPosted: Fri 05 Mar, 2004 9:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

AA seems to be down this morning.

Looking through some art, I'm seeing these arrow pentrations:

http://www.bnf.fr/enluminures/images/jpeg/i3_0036.jpg

Fellow takes one dead center in the chest - perhaps his jack or arming doublet gapped there?

http://www.bnf.fr/enluminures/images/jpeg/i3_0022.jpg

Butt shot penetrating mail shorts and unarmored leg.

http://www.bnf.fr/enluminures/images/jpeg/i3_0028.jpg

Horses, a shoulder (armor gap), hip (armor gap), center of a backplate (thinner plates in back)
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