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Jonathan Harton





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PostPosted: Sat 29 Apr, 2006 11:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have often wondered about what the effects would have been if colonist in the American Revolution would have used the longbow. One problem that the English faced was that the supply of yew dwindled in the British Isle to the point that they were having to import it from the Continent, often at great expense, to supply their armies. In America, one of our most prominant resources is hickory. The Eastern Woodland Native Americans had been making bows out of this wood for centuries. The Cherokees made bows that many English colonist thought were interesting because they their construction closely resembled that of an English Longbow.

Back to the Revolution, The Continental Army was ALWAYS having issues with supplying its men with shot and powder, especially powder. I have often wondered what it would have been like if they had used the longbow. An enemy with no armour, longer range than the average musket, built of the most abundant resource in America (Ceder arrows and Turkey feathers come from America), higher rate of fire, the ability to angulate fire on packed enemy formations from the front ranks back (as opposed to just the front two ranks or so with direct musket fire), the list goes on.

I have since lost the quote, but Franklin at one time commented on how useful the longbow would be to the American armies.

Just the thoughts of a nerd,
Jonathan
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Apr, 2006 12:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
C.) the Archer had to "discover himself", or expose his body in order to shoot from a trench


Given the type of warfare Williams was writing about, I think this point is actually key. Late 16th century warfare was all about defending and assaulting fortifications. In such conditions, have to expose yourself to the other guy to get off a shot must have been a huge disadvantage.

Quote:
La Noue even stated that it would have been a miracle if anyone were killed by a lance in the French Wars of Religion were he wearing decent armour.


That's not quite what he wrote: "Whereupon I will say that although the squadrons of the spears do give a gallant charge, yet it can work no great effect, for at the outset it killeth none, yea it is a miracle if any be slain with the spear." That is, in any given charge it's a miracle if some is slain by the lance. He also wrote, "The first rank may with their spears do some hurt, especially to the horses." He didn't think lances were completely useless.

Quote:
And of course, although a lance could NOT reliably pierce armour, the pistols could.


Eh, La Noue suggested aiming for the face or the thigh. Sir Roger Williams said the lance hit very nearly as hard as the pistol. Maybe the lance was just easier to deflect or avoid. If a lancer aim his lance at your face, there's at least some chance for you to knock it aside (down to the strongest part of your breastplate, if nothing else) or move your head. A fired bullet gives you no such options.

As far as longbows and guns go, in addition to being better at piercing armor, arquebus and musket bullets inflicted ghastly wounds at close range. Worse wounds than modern assault rifle rounds cause, according to one test I read about.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Apr, 2006 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Harton wrote:
I have often wondered about what the effects would have been if colonist in the American Revolution would have used the longbow. One problem that the English faced was that the supply of yew dwindled in the British Isle to the point that they were having to import it from the Continent, often at great expense, to supply their armies. In America, one of our most prominant resources is hickory. The Eastern Woodland Native Americans had been making bows out of this wood for centuries. The Cherokees made bows that many English colonist thought were interesting because they their construction closely resembled that of an English Longbow.

Back to the Revolution, The Continental Army was ALWAYS having issues with supplying its men with shot and powder, especially powder. I have often wondered what it would have been like if they had used the longbow. An enemy with no armour, longer range than the average musket, built of the most abundant resource in America (Ceder arrows and Turkey feathers come from America), higher rate of fire, the ability to angulate fire on packed enemy formations from the front ranks back (as opposed to just the front two ranks or so with direct musket fire), the list goes on.

I have since lost the quote, but Franklin at one time commented on how useful the longbow would be to the American armies.

Just the thoughts of a nerd,
Jonathan


A with my early posts I tend to agree in theory if you can find / train archers equal or near so to 14th century English ones.

Although for mass fire at large formations at long range the skill level wouldn't have to be that great and the bows could be 50# to 80# in draw weight and still be as effective since no armour has to be defeated. For long range, for a bow, almost sniper accuracy, you would need the best possible archers.

Anything more I could say would be just repeating my early posts and some of other people's early posts about other factors such as tradition, logistics, training etc ..... But my gut feeling is that it would have worked at least for a while, with the counter being field artillery and accurate rifle fire just out of maximum bow range: Massed bowman in deep formation would be great targets for canons. But I wouldn't see this as an all or nothing situation and some units of archer might have been very useful.

A lot of mights and maybes ! But these anachronistic anti-symmetrical weapons / tactical questions I enjoy. I'm also a NERD. Razz Cool

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Gordon Frye




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PostPosted: Sun 30 Apr, 2006 10:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:

Quote:
La Noue even stated that it would have been a miracle if anyone were killed by a lance in the French Wars of Religion were he wearing decent armour.


That's not quite what he wrote: "Whereupon I will say that although the squadrons of the spears do give a gallant charge, yet it can work no great effect, for at the outset it killeth none, yea it is a miracle if any be slain with the spear." That is, in any given charge it's a miracle if some is slain by the lance. He also wrote, "The first rank may with their spears do some hurt, especially to the horses." He didn't think lances were completely useless.


Gee, I don't know, but it seems like a fairly reasonable paraphrase to me... Big Grin Anyway, both he and Williams had differing opinions on the usefulness of Pistols vs. Lances, and both were very experienced old soldiers who'd seen it all. Neither discounted the other's weapon of choice completely, but both were making a point and tended to weigh the argument in favor of their own favorite with better statistics.

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:


Eh, La Noue suggested aiming for the face or the thigh. Sir Roger Williams said the lance hit very nearly as hard as the pistol. Maybe the lance was just easier to deflect or avoid. If a lancer aim his lance at your face, there's at least some chance for you to knock it aside (down to the strongest part of your breastplate, if nothing else) or move your head. A fired bullet gives you no such options.


Well, yes, of course! Aim for the weakest part of the other fellow's armour. Lancers were supposed to aim for the face, too, in fact the eye-slots if possible. I would suspect that the lance IS somewhat easier to avoid, though having been hit by them, it's not all that easy from my experience (better to just take your knocks and focus your aim on the other guy). But both men were definite in their statements that the Lance was perfectly serviceable in the role of killing horses. According to Williams: "If the leaders commaund their troupes to spoyle horses, the Launces are more sure, for divers pistols faile to go off; if they do, they must be charged with discretion." But he also noted that "True it is, being pickt and chosen, the pistolers murther more... Without a doubt, the Pistoll discharged hard by, well charged and with judgement, murthers more than the Launce..." He then goes on to say that, for all that, most Pistoliers ran from most Lancers, in his experience. But then, he was dealing with Germans and Dutchmen against Spaniards, rather than Frenchmen vs. Frenchmen or Spaniards. Big Grin

Anyway, more gist for the mill of controversy.

Allons!

Gordon

"After God, we owe our victory to our Horses"
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 7:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The outstanding book The Great War Bow addresses all these questions and confirms that the medieval war bow was unsurpassed as a missile weapon until the 19th century. So why was it abandoned? Many of the posts here have explained the main reason--that expertise with a war bow requires years, if not a lifetime, of regular use. But there are reasons behind that reason--the enclosure movement, which turned English farmers into shepherds and reduced the average amount of physical labor/changed diets, the rise of the middle class, which turned country folk into city folk, etc. The less well-known reason is the depletion of British yew trees and subsequent reliance on imported yew for bows (a national security weakness as imports were subject to speculation and strategic European hoarding, etc.) The English didn't really want to give up the longbow--it simply became impractical, economically and culturally, to assemble an army of longbowmen.
-Sean

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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 8:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Flynt wrote:
The outstanding book The Great War Bow addresses all these questions and confirms that the medieval war bow was unsurpassed as a missile weapon until the 19th century.


I'm sorry Sean, but bollocks. Ten years ago I did range tests on replica 16th century longbows and English Civil War muskets and the muskets produced 100 times the kinetic energy of the arrow. My figures were confirmed by tests done a few years later by the Graz armouries on surviving original firearms. This is why the metallurgy of armour changed after the introduction of guns, around 1520 in Italy, 1560 in Germany and 1620 in backward England. Armour had been thin and hard to prevent low energy points and edges from biting and hence penetrating. It became thick and soft, to soak up energy. I forget who said it, but an author in the C17th said that to wear a complete armour of proof (i.e. able to stop musket balls) would kill a man through the weight. Typically breastplates were proof against musket shot, helmet skulls against pistols and everything else was thin and hard, making no pretence to be proof against shot.

Compare battles like Bicocca (1522) where whole ranks of French knights fronting the Swiss pike block were slaughtered by Spanish arquebusiers (only one French knight of several hundred survived) with Flodden (1513) where despite being shot at during their entire advance by the famed English archers the Scots knights similarly dismounted and fronting THEIR pike schiltron were said by the eyewitness Bishop Ruthven not to have suffered a single casualty because their armour was so effective. Armour beat archery, but was beaten by musketry.

Muskets are also dramatically more accurate than bows. I have seen a number of competitions where re-enactment musketeers who fired live rounds once a year were dramatically more accurate than archers who practiced weekly or more frequently. In one test, where we were comparing penetration power against old army surplus helmets we needed to adjust the range to ten yards before the experienced archers could equal the accuracy of the once-a-year musketeers at 100 yards (BTW the musket balls blew the helmets to pieces, the arrows skipped off, shattered and finally a very heavy poundage longbow managed to get an arrow to stick into a helmet, but not through it). Do the sums on the number of arrows shot vs casualties in any of the battles of the hundred years war and you'll see that any claim that bows were more accurate than muskets was completely unfounded. With the introduction of firearms the casualty rate of the average European battle increased from approximately 10% in 1500 to approximately 30% in 1700.

The idea that every army in Europe spent the equivalent of trillions of dollars re-equipping with firearms in order to reduce their military effectiveness is one of the more absurd military fantasies. Guns may not be pretty or romantic, but they are sure as hell more effective. That's why pretty much every culture exposed to guns threw away their bows and adopted guns.
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 8:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the book concerns fundamental measures of rate of fire, range and accuracy at distance. In any case, I'll stick with the scholars, or if not the scholars at least people who don't open a discussion with the term "bollocks." This is a civil forum, not a pub.
-Sean

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 11:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A bit tangent to this discussion, but I've read some accounts that Indian sometimes favored bows because they were smokeless and did not give away the position of the shooter in cover while skirmishing. Also noted that in some situations it could be used much like a mortar to drop lob arrows over fortification and harass defenders. Sorry I'm not providing sources on this, but it appears that there were still occasional specialty applications for bows, at least in the Americas, long after gunpowder was dominant in the field.
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Wolfgang Armbruster





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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 11:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have to agree with Stephen Hand. That's probably one of the most insightful posts written in this thread. Longbows (and bows in general) are relatively useless against armour. They often didn't even manage to penetrate mail and when plate appeared on the battlefield they were abandoned rather quickly. The effective killing range of a bow is also lower than harkebuses and muskets.
Maybe this was said before but smoke and explosions can cause some fear and confusion.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 2:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To take another angle; As used in the 16th-19th century, The musket/harquebus and the bow are in two different categories. The longbow is artillery fired from the back, muskets are used by frontline troops.

The purpose of 16-19th cent warfare was not as much inflicting maxiumum casualties, but breaking the enemy formation.

Long range missile fire might kill some of the troops, but because of the long range, there is little possibility to exploit this, before the lines are dressed.

Musket troops on the other hand, exchange fire at such close range that a effective volley could be immediately followed by a charge.
As such, the short range of the musket in it self becomes an asset, because it forces the troops to move into charge range. (I seem to remember someone saying that the comanders of the day saw the musket more like a extra long pike than a ranged weapon)

Individual marksmanship played a much less important role, both because it was more difficult to achieve, and because one man in a pike/musket block is pretty much like any other.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The use of artillery also hastened the demise of the longbow. Archers formed up close together, were stationary, and were outranged by artillery -- perfect cannon fodder.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 5:19 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The outstanding book The Great War Bow addresses all these questions and confirms that the medieval war bow was unsurpassed as a missile weapon until the 19th century.


That's what Hardy says, sure. I didn't get the feeling Strickland agrees, though.

Quote:
Ten years ago I did range tests on replica 16th century longbows and English Civil War muskets and the muskets produced 100 times the kinetic energy of the arrow.


Uh, to have 100 times the KE of an arrow from a 150 lb longbow, the musket shot would have to weigh in at around 14,000 J. That's about equal to a .50 Browning machine gun round. Either you were using a weaker longbow, lighter arrows or muskets are a lot more powerful than I thought.

Quote:
Muskets are also dramatically more accurate than bows.


I'm going to a need vastly more proof for this claim than you just supplied, Stephen. You'll have to show me a musketeer who can shoot like Howard Hill could, for example. That type of accuracy is common, by the way, in accounts of any culture devoted to the use of bows. The plenty of records of the amazing accuracy of Amerindian bows, for example. Also, does anyone have a solid source on the accuracy of 16th century firearms? Because, if remember correctly, Bert Hall cited tested that showed they were almost completely random at longer distances. His thesis was even that the later development of European warfare was because of the fundamental inaccuracy of firearms.

I think it's dangerous to go for either extreme point of view. Bows weren't useless. Both weapons had advantages, but the advantages of gun clearly did end up proving more important in European warfare. Remember, though, that a least few American soldiers thought bows were better weapons on horseback than guns were. Amerindians continued to use a mix of bows and guns for some time.

Quote:
They often didn't even manage to penetrate mail and when plate appeared on the battlefield they were abandoned rather quickly.


Not really. Regardless of whether it could pierce plate armor, the English longbow became most famous during the age of plate. It wasn't fully abandoned until the end of the 16th century.
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Alexander Hinman




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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 5:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:

Quote:
Muskets are also dramatically more accurate than bows.


I'm going to a need vastly more proof for this claim than you just supplied, Stephen. You'll have to show me a musketeer who can shoot like Howard Hill could, for example. That type of accuracy is common, by the way, in accounts of any culture devoted to the use of bows. The plenty of records of the amazing accuracy of Amerindian bows, for example. Also, does anyone have a solid source on the accuracy of 16th century firearms? Because, if remember correctly, Bert Hall cited tested that showed they were almost completely random at longer distances. His thesis was even that the later development of European warfare was because of the fundamental inaccuracy of firearms.


I'd like to echo Benjamin's position on this, at least. The test mentioned in the 'Destructive testing of two 17th cent breastplates' thread deals, however briefly, with the potential accuracy of firearms during the era.

I would also like to address, Steven, your claim that
Quote:
Do the sums on the number of arrows shot vs casualties in any of the battles of the hundred years war and you'll see that any claim that bows were more accurate than muskets was completely unfounded.


While you are correct in saying that there is a disproportionately large number of arrows:casualties, saying that this correlates to accuracy of the longbow I believe to be incorrect.

I say this because it requires the assumptions that a) the archer was, in fact, aiming at a particular person, rather than loosing as many arrows as he could on a parabolic tragectory, b) that despite the parabolic tragectory of a great number of the arrows, the human body is an equally viable target from, say, 70 degrees as from 0 degrees and c) that the archer was not hitting shields, always penetrated armour, and was not hitting corpses or the wounded.

These assumptions themselves are incorrect.
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PostPosted: Mon 01 May, 2006 7:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One other angle of looking at the problem.

During the age of muskets, most armies fought in opposing straight lines. The accuracy faults with a smooth bore musket ball has a 50% chance of ruining the shot, or 50% making the shot lethal (elevation is adequate 50% of the time, and velocity takes an opponent out of action if the ball hits anywhere horizontally along the opposing line or the next line just behind it.)

One article I read, while looking at internet based background for this post, stated that studies of smooth bore musket trajectories indicate that at ranges of 100 yards fewer than 1 in 400 balls found the actual mark they were aimed at. The interesting thing is that there is a 50% chance the elevation of the shot will still be good enough to seriously injure somebody in that opposing line (curvature is may be horizontal rather than vertical.) In a matter of couple of weeks, one could expect to train almost any able bodied solider to aim an average musket at an approximate elevation and fire it several times per minutes. The whole emphasis was merely to get lethal velocity munitions fired at approximately the right elevation, several times per minute. Results were statistically lethal in opposed straight line fighting.

Those who brought expert levels of marksmanship to American troops, also often brought their own (often rifled) weapon. Confederate ammunition collected at troop campgrounds (one major one hospital site is located about 3 miles from my home) indicates the full range of weapons (late 1600;s through late 1800's) used in colonial America (conic bullets, smooth balls, all calibers) were actually utilized by the troops in the late 1800's American Civil War. My impression of English yeomen (litterally "freemen") is that the better cases of marksmen during the pinacle of the longbow era also often furnished their own bows. There are some historical quotes in the "Bower's Bible" to the effect that a bowman was not considered a master if he did not know how to make his own bow. There is a pretty wide range of arrowhead weights typically found at medieval battle sites as well. This indicates to me, that not everyone was using a "munitions issue" bow plus arrow. All of this conjecture sort of plays in to the previous assertion that as the country folk converted to city folk, and the yew wood availability (as well as the art of how to work it) deminished, the longbow resource became less practical. Also note that the size of armies increased quite a bit between 1300's and 1900's. Even if the number of skilled bowmen (supposedly several thousand) stayed the same, they would have become insufficient to support the size of armies being fielded (200,000 plus) by the time of Napolenoic era wars.

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PostPosted: Tue 02 May, 2006 4:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Quote:
The outstanding book The Great War Bow addresses all these questions and confirms that the medieval war bow was unsurpassed as a missile weapon until the 19th century.


That's what Hardy says, sure. I didn't get the feeling Strickland agrees, though.


Agreed. Unlike Hardy, Strickland is a competent researcher. After surveying previous tests he concludes on p278 that there have been no satisfactory tests of longbows against armour and what is now needed, "are tests of the effects of heavy arrows shot from Mary Rose weight bows over a spectrum of ranges against accurate approximations of armour made from better quality steels, with examples reflecting the range of hardening and tempering processes used, as well as the deflective shapes of items of plate armour. Only then will the longbow's true potential and its ballistic limitations be fully understood."

Hardy is too biased to write a credible book. Every word he writes, every test he mentions is designed to push his personal agenda. Best off to ignore everything he wrote except for the raw data on the performance of his reconstructions. Pay more attention to ithe chapters written by Strickland.
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PostPosted: Tue 02 May, 2006 6:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bill Grandy wrote:
Even if your armor saved your life from the shot, the force was probably enough to knock you over


I doubt it. There was a video put out some time ago, called "Deadly Weapons." It had a longer subtitle which I do not remember. You aren't likely to find a copy anyways. One of the segments featured a man, Richard Davis I believe (owner of the Second Chance body armor company), shooting another wearing a kevlar vest and hard insert. The man in question wasn't using some ridiculous used an FN FAL. M80 ball has about 2400 footpounds of energy or 3250 joules. The round failed to knock the man over. I have a very grainy picture of the video that I could upload, if you are interested.
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PostPosted: Tue 02 May, 2006 7:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan - Yeah, I completely agree. Also, using the numbers from the bows Strickland and Hardy tested, and numbers from Alan Williams' armour tests, it's pretty clear longbows didn't pierce good plate armour, except maybe the thin parts at extremely close range. Even that seems quite unlikely to me.
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PostPosted: Tue 02 May, 2006 7:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The use of artillery also hastened the demise of the longbow. Archers formed up close together, were stationary, and were outranged by artillery -- perfect cannon fodder.


While this is perfectly true, the same description applies to every formed body of gunpowder-using infantry up to the 1850's; so the advent of artillery didn't cause much of a change in infantry formations. The formations stayed large and slow-moving up into the late 19th century.

As was discussed in the first round of this thread, a major cause of the passing of the longbow was its physical demands. A man had to be in good physical condition, and very well trained, to use a longbow effectively. An arquebus could be used by a sick man, a youth, an old man, with nearly the same effect as a proper soldier. Large armies could be rapidly raised, and replaced if they were slaughtered.
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PostPosted: Wed 03 May, 2006 3:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The way late renisance armies was organiced, the archers wouldn't be standing on their own like a separate unit; They would be lined up in front of, or in sleeves beside, a pike/helbard block.

Another issue with longbow accuracy at long range is the fact that the arrow would arive in a high balistic curve; fired at about 45 degrees, arch high until it looses velocity, and fall almost vertically to the ground.
This means that the only thing a arrow fired at such range might hit is the sport where it lands.

(A consequence of this is that 15th cent archers often wore broad brimed kettlehats, and plate leggs, with a gameson on the upper body... Because of the curve, arrows would hit you in the head, or in the legs.)

A high velocity projectile, on the other hand, has less deviation in elevation, and thus has a greater chance of hiting even if the range estimate is sligthly of.

A trained archer might HIT a stationary target at 200m, but if the target moves just one step forward, the arrow overshoots.

(It should also be notet that in the Day (TM), you where not really expected to rotinely hit the mark you where aiming at... They are genrally small objects, such as sticks. The point is geting close to them; the mark itself is more like the bullseye...)
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Alexander Hinman




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PostPosted: Wed 03 May, 2006 7:13 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
Dan - Yeah, I completely agree. Also, using the numbers from the bows Strickland and Hardy tested, and numbers from Alan Williams' armour tests, it's pretty clear longbows didn't pierce good plate armour, except maybe the thin parts at extremely close range. Even that seems quite unlikely to me.


Wasn't there still a risk of getting killed though?

I ask this specifically regarding getting shot in the face while your visor is up.

This happened to a young Henry V (still Prince Henry) but the arrow didn't penetrate quite far enough to kill him, and so was removed with a special pair of pliers and, of course, lots of honey (as an antiseptic).

I don't remember all of the details, because I saw this perhaps a year ago on a documentary about Medieval Medicine.
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