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Danny Grigg





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jun, 2005 2:45 am    Post subject: Scottish Crossbow known as a Latch         Reply with quote

Can anyone provide information and pictures of the Scottish crossbow called a Latch?

Doing a search online has provided little information and The Book of the Crossbow by Ralph Payne-Gallway hasn't shed any light on the subject either.

From what little information I have found the latch was a Scottish (Border Reiver) light hand spanned crossbow that was used from horseback.

Did the latch have a stirrup? If it was spanned via hand from horseback then there wouldn't be a need for a stirrup.

Was a device such as a belt and claw used to span it or was it 100% via hand only?

What was it made of? Was the lathe (bow) made of steel? Was the tiller / stock made of wood purely or was it composite in nature?

What were the dimensions of the Latch?

What was the range of a bolt from the Latch?

Where did the name "Latch" come from? Was this the actual Scottish / gaelic name for it or is this the English name?

Are there any books available that discuss the Latch in detail and provide pictures or illustrations?

Lastly if anyone has any pictures or illustrations of the Latch please post.

Thanks
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Matthew Kelty





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jun, 2005 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just a thought, in order to best research the term, it would be helpful to know where you've found it referenced.

Matthew
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jun, 2005 9:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

IIRC, The Border Reivers (Osprey) includes an illustration showing a latch. That's the only image I'm aware of, though. You should look around at the following site, especially in the photos and weapons sections. Maybe you'll spot a latch. If not, I bet these folks could steer you in the right direction. I'd be surprised if they've gone to all the obvious trouble to authentically portray Reivers but somehow overlooked reconstruction of the latch.

http://www.theborderers.info/thereivers.html

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Danny Grigg





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jun, 2005 5:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

All of the following links mention the Latch in one way or another as a crossbow.

http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/border_reivers7.htm
http://www.nwlink.com/~scotlass/border.htm
http://www.outpostwargameservices.co.uk/border_gallery.html
http://www.crossbows.co.nz/
http://www.thearcher.com/resourceCentre/itemDetails.cfm?itemId=9
http://victorian.fortunecity.com/manet/394/page23i.htm
http://www.indictionary.com/define/Latch
http://www.english-dictionary.us/meaning/Latch.asp
http://www.sfko.com/aria/mechanics/combat.html
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Matthew Kelty





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Jun, 2005 9:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Unfortunately, very few of those sites mention where the term originated (most are just carbon copies of each other's sites), so you're kind of a$$-out when it comes to finding the region and era of contemporary crossbows to make a reasonable comparison. The following is a hypothesis/hunch, and may or may not be valid, I'm just curious about where the term met the form... Happy

The couple things that *did* stand out is that several of them attribute the term to an "English" colloquialism, even though it is described as being in the Scot's hands. I also did some Etymology digging, and found "latch" to be related to "locket" in Old French:

locket
1354, "iron cross-bar of a window," from O.Fr. loquet "latch," dim. of loc "lock, latch"

The combination of French/Scottish relations as well as the Norman/French roots figures large in Middle English, and it may simply have started life either as a French/English comment upon a steel bowed crossbow, or a botched translation/communication by an English/Scot observer of the components of a Frenchman's crossbow.
Given the crushing defeat handed to the French by the English at Crecy by the Longbow in this era of the term, my hunch is with an English slight upon the "inferior" crossbow.

To me, they defintely appear to be more closely related to the Old French roots (the other origin and meaning of "latch" is Proto German/Old English, and means "to sieze"), and so I would consider a Crecy-era style crossbow to be what your ultimately after. Since they're attributed to mounted reivers, and since they are described on a few of those sites as being "light" crossbows, my assumption would be probably a foot loop and hand pulled steel bow of maybe 80 pounds.

Just my theory.... Happy

Matthew
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George Doby




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Jun, 2005 12:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

at the local renfaires(scarby&TRF)there is vender that sells wasters and wooden crossbows. they have several sizes available all hand drawn. the smaller ones would fit the definition of a latch. they use hickory for the bows. i got them to add a third leaf to mine. they also have some w/ bois d'arc/osage orange but since i am deployed overseas right now havn't been able to get them to replace the hickory w/ osage. it is probably not as stout as the originals but they are the only ones that have smaller sizes. mine will pierce a garbage can from 20 yds. on one side with a bolt. workmanship is very good. can't remember their company name-sorry
don't sweat the petty things, just pet the sweaty things
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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Jun, 2005 1:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I checked the Osprey illustration. The latch shown is a very small crossbow, with a prod of perhaps 10-12"(?). The tiller is very thin, straight and tapering--maybe the diameter of a pistol grip of the period? In the illustration, it disappears behind clothing, so it's difficult to judge the overall length. The visible part appears to be around 14" long, plus an iron stirrup. As you say, the stirrup wouldn't be of much use when the piece is used on horseback, as shown in this particular illus.

IIRC, the prod shown is wood, but I wouldn't swear to that since I don't have the book in front of me. The tiller appears to be wood.

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Brendan Stanwell





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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hello sorry to ressurect a seemingly long dead thread but i may have some help on this subject.

This is possibly the only Latchet i have seen on the web. It creator is agreat guy more than helkpful on questions about his creations.

http://www.todsstuff.co.uk/crossbows.php

The button on the top releases the catch, he is currently refining the tricker mechanism to make it freere in operation.

Brendan
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 8:06 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hmm...the latch doesn't sound very different from the horsemen's crossbows depicted in one of the images in this thread:

http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t...=dolnstein

so I think you might be able to find some information by Googling up the German crossbows plus a little extrapolation and some educated guesses.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 25 Nov, 2007 9:40 pm    Post subject: latchet bows and mechanisms         Reply with quote

This is an old thread........I had the luck to handle and original latchet bow about 2 years back that a collector had brought over to show me I took one look as did a customer of mine I was with and that was that. You will find reasonable pictures on my crossbows page and on the gallery page where the mechanism is shown quite well. These pictures were not up when this thread was originally posted.

The button on top replaces the lever usually found in conventional trigger mechanisms, but otherwise the set up is the same, this is exactly how the original was set up. It treads a very fine line between too hard to push and hair trigger and I suspect that a little wear will make it need an adjustment, but like I said, just like the original.

I have since made a button push trigger mech on a 17th C stonebow and this has superficially similar looking trigger set up except it has an extra sear in the train and this makes the release far better, this set up was taken from Payne Gallwey for the stonebow.

It was a lovely little comission to make and I was very pleased with the outcome. It drew in the order of 250llb, shot proper tapered bolts with hand forged heads about 8" long, the prod was 14" tip to tip with a linen string. The trigger mechanism was built into the cocking lever so you released the lever, ran the trigger block forward, it picked up the string, pushed the lever down where it locked into place, seat the bolt and you were ready to go.

A shot every 10 seconds was easy (although not tried on horseback) and with small bolts and 250llb power was not an issue - I never tried an ultimate range but I would guess at 140yds. It may have been small, but without doubt a fomidible weapon. I will try and post some pictures but I usually fail at this point.

Tod



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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 10:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo;

Very interesting design and at 250 pounds of draw it's not " puny " but it does look smaller than another crossbow shown next to it: It does seem like the point was to have a fairly compact weapon of adequate power.

It does seem based on the goat's foot lever principle but integrated into a single cocking/crossbow mechanism of some complexity i.e. Not a cheap crossbow I would imagine and needing a lot of skill to make.

Were some of these made in heavier draws for war crossbows ? I would think it would have been a great idea to arm a troop of crossbowmen with these unless the cost per unit was extremely high ? Well a very rich high noblemen could have afforded them for a small personal guard or elite force.

I'm assuming that these are fairly late period crossbows and would have been mostly hunting weapons as crossbows were generally being replaced by archebuses early in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.

So, apart from hunting, would these be used as home defence weapons or coach " crossbows " in the sense of later blunderbusses or having a poleaxe next to the door for use against unwelcomed " guest " ?

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Sean Flynt
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 11:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If these were, in fact, favored by Borders horsemen, I can guess several reasons that might be.
The Borderers wore minimal armour, so the pistols favored by the better-armoured cavalry of the period might not have been as necessary.
The average latch may have been cheaper to produce compared to the average pistol. Even the wonderful example shown here is mechanically simpler than a wheellock mechanism. Interestingly, the latch mechanism shown here seems to be at least as complex as a snaphaunce, but avoids the difficulties of barrel-making. Still, I can see that somebody would pay more for a quality latch than they would for a mediocre pistol.
The latch would have a much higher rate of fire compared to a pistol.
The latch might be loaded at full gallop by a horseman as experienced as the Borderers were known to be. I can't even imagine trying to load a pistol in those circumstances.
I would guess that its lethality at common ranges of engagement would compare favorably to a pistol.
In theory, one could make field expedient projectiles when proper ammunition was not available, whereas one needs at least powder for a pistol. On the other hand, quality latch ammunition would be much more labor and time intensive than equivalent pistol ammunition.

Paging Riever In Residence Gordon Frye....

What say, you Gordon?

-Sean

"Everywhere I have searched for peace and nowhere found it, except in a corner with a book"- Thomas a Kempis (d. 1471)
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 6:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This has to be a quick post I am afraid.

I have never come across this mechanism for war bows as such, maybe some did and I could easily see it being able to draw 4-500 with a upscaled version. I am a little sketchy as to the date but yes they seem to be about when wheel locks were. The short stock and top trigger mean to me that this was a close quarter weapon rather than an aimed one as such, but at 10 yds or so I wouldn't stand up thats for sure.

It was wrench to sell it though cos it was fun.

Tod

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 26 Nov, 2007 6:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo Todeschini wrote:
This has to be a quick post I am afraid.

I have never come across this mechanism for war bows as such, maybe some did and I could easily see it being able to draw 4-500 with a upscaled version. I am a little sketchy as to the date but yes they seem to be about when wheel locks were. The short stock and top trigger mean to me that this was a close quarter weapon rather than an aimed one as such, but at 10 yds or so I wouldn't stand up thats for sure.

It was wrench to sell it though cos it was fun.

Tod



For a war bow it is probably too late in period but I can imagine that if the design had been in existence in the 13th or 14th centuries it could have been very useful in a full power version: Higher rate of " fire " than the more clumsy goat's foot and pulley systems were putting on and taking off the drawing mechanism is relatively slow.

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