Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

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Jim Smith
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Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Jim Smith » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:13 pm

This thread arose from a couple of comments made on the arrow baskets discussion - I felt it justified its own topic.

My personal interest in this comes from realising that I've had a longbow for some years, but have never really learned to shoot it properly. (Sorry if this raises any hackles but whatever re-enactment archers do on the re-enactment field is not archery). So, during the off season I joined an archery club and tried to put that right. (Emphasis on tried...)

Anyway, a couple of comments overheard at a recent event made me wonder if, as re-enactors, we aren't guilty of talking up the longbow a little too much. The precise comment that jarred with me was that 'all longbows were typically around 130-150lb in draw-weight.' A quick read through tthe books I've got (Hugh Soar's Secrets of the English Warbow for example made me wonder if that was true.

Problem is, there are few if any surviving medieval longbows in the UK and at least one of them (the Spencer bow) cannot be confirmed as medieval. This is what we have to work on:

1. 'The Flodden Bow' The first of the five surviving bows, by tradition, dates from the Battle of Flodden (1513).
About the turn of the twentieth century, Colonel Fergusson of Huntly Burn presented it to Mr. Peter Muir of the Royal Scottish Archers. Fergusson claimed the artifact from the rafters of a house near Flodden Field where it had been for generations.

The Flodden Bow is a self yew weapon, 'probably of English yew", approximately six feet long, and "rather roughly made". The estimated strength of the weapon is between 80 and 90 pounds.21 Burnet's decription can be deceiving. The rough appearance of the weapon does not imply it was poorly made. (from Robert Kaiser The Medieval English Longbow

2. 'The Hedgeley Moor bow' Now hanging in the Great Hall at Alnwick Castle. This has been in the possession of the Castle since the sixteenth century. The wood is thought to be yew and the draw weight is around 50lb. (Henry Gordon and Alf Webb, "The Hedgeley Moor Bow at Alnwick Castle", Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries 15 (1972), pp. 8-9.)

3. 'The Spencer Bow'
Dating to the 14th or 15th century, the bow is 79” long with a draw weight of 100 lbs. It is made of English yew wood and had horn nocks on the ends to hold the string. (Hardy, p. 54)

Three examples aren't much to go on, but then you have to work with what you've got.

Then dating from 1545, a century or so after the glory days of the English archer we have the 130 or so surviving bows from the Mary Rose. Some of these bows have draw weights well in excess of 150lb, but (as Hugh Soar confirms in Secrets of the English Warbow, the majority of those found ranged between 90 and 130lb.

Yes, modern longbow archers like Mark Stretton have proven that bows in the 150-190lb range can be routinely shot - but that doesn't prove that they were the norm for the 1540's, let alone for the Wars of the Roses period.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:19 pm

First, although I am a proponent and student of the medieval English (long)bow, there is an awful lot of BS surrounding it. Unfortunately, it is becoming one of those mythical 'super weapons' rather like the Japanese sword. And this does it no favours.

Second, I think we have to separate the military-issue/'livery' bow from the superset of 'all medieval bows'.

If we take the MR bows then, without evidence to the contrary, we have to assume these were standard-issue military bows. One could argue that they were of higher quality than other bows (since this was Henry's flagship) but there is nothing to suggest they were somehow more powerful than any other bows 'of the first sort'. As Jim has written, these bow come from a time after the glory days of the bow which could suggest either:
- They were made to the tried and trusted 'standard' pattern.
- They were made less powerful than bows of the earlier age, since archers were not as strong.

I suspect the former argument is more likely - there were probably far fewer strong archers in 1545 but those archers were just as capable as their forebears.

However, for general use I suspect lighter bows were more common. 100lb is not a heavy bow, and just about any (reasonably fit) man can be taught to shoot a 100lb bow within a few months. For a nation raised on archery, and used to physical labour, such bows would present no problems. A 100lb bow is perfectly adequate for practice and for hunting (remember, a hunting arrow is heavy and still needs to flight straight and fast to kill its target)

As to the capabilities of the archers to shoot the heavy bows: You have to imagine England is populated with physically strong, proud and boastful young men with archery as their leisure-time activity. I don't doubt the ability to draw heavy bows was every bit the testosterone-driven p!ssing contest people think it (still) is today. I suspect many (if not most) young men would be capable of drawing the military spec bow if required.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hinny Annie » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:35 pm

EnglishArcher wrote:If we take the MR bows then, without evidence to the contrary, we have to assume these were standard-issue military bows. One could argue that they were of higher quality than other bows (since this was Henry's flagship) but there is nothing to suggest they were somehow more powerful than any other bows 'of the first sort'. As Jim has written, these bow come from a time after the glory days of the bow which could suggest either:
- They were made to the tried and trusted 'standard' pattern.
- They were made less powerful than bows of the earlier age, since archers were not as strong.


But these are 16th century bows and without a primary source you cannot assume anything


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:06 pm

Hinny Annie wrote:But these are 16th century bows and without a primary source you cannot assume anything


We can assume anything; but prove nothing.

All we can do is speculate, so any theory is equally as applicable as any other. Some speculations fit better with what we know about medieval technology, sociology, economics, politics, etc.

But, it doesn't prove anything.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hinny Annie » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:41 pm

None of its evidence though is it


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:58 am

Hinny Annie wrote:None of its evidence though is it


So what's your view on medieval bow weights, Annie? As a bow maker and seller you must have an opinion on this topic.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hinny Annie » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:59 am

EnglishArcher wrote:
Hinny Annie wrote:None of its evidence though is it


So what's your view on medieval bow weights, Annie? As a bow maker and seller you must have an opinion on this topic.


My view is that they had longbows of all kinds of draw weights not just heavys, the bows Jim quoted are a primary source of evidence, the Mary Rose bows are not a primary source for medieval bows, its a bit like wearing tudor style shoes at the battle of bosworth, Henry Tudor was there so they will be alright. You yourself have superb soft kit from the HYW, so presumably your weapons will be just as well researched.

The fact that I am a bowyer is a different issue, primarily I make and sell re-enactment bows for use in battles, this discussion is about medieval longbow draw weights.

I am really interested in your evidence though, its discussions like this that keep people interested in archery, which can only be a good thing


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hobbitstomper » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:16 am

Surely the focus on draw weights is not the important thing. I doubt bows were categorised by draw weights in the 15th century.

We should know how far they could shoot and what the arrows are like. Why not just make a bow that will reliably shoot a reproduction arrow that far. (Made to an authentic pattern, with the minimum draw effort, minimum cost and maximum reliability). If you really want to you could measure the draw weight once you have finished. Having a bow that matches the supposed draw weight of a 15th century bow is not as good as one that can really do the job that the original was meant to do.

An interesting exercise might be to start off with a super-heavy draw weight bow and find out how the draw weight, range and velocity change as you shave it down to be less powerful. If it is possible to do this to a bow then it could be an interesting weekend of shooting and woodworking.



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Brian la Zouche » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:37 am

i think a problem comes from the fact that most people assume the draw weights of the MR finds are typical of all medieval period bows, yet how would we know this was the case ?

on a flag ship ( although i seem to recall hearing at the time the MR sunk it wasnt actually the flag ship,) i would assume they would want the best sailors/ archers etc if so are they typical of the standard on lesser ships ? if not then maybe the typical draw weights would not be the same

diets also would i assume play a part in peoples health, was a typical archers diet better / worse or the same for Henry the VIII's men as it was for henry the V's ?

was the training as strictly adhered to, and as wide spread durring Henry the VIII, as it was a couple of hundred years before ?

nock points of 1/8th'' also dictate the width of the string, depending on what was used for strings would determine the breaking strain, do we assume the same quality of material was available 200 years before the MR sinking ?

bones have been fond that sugest heavy and prolonged use in archery malformed the bones, is this also typical ??

as yet the truth is we dont really know, all we can do is assume

but sometimes the ''bigging up'' of the medieval longbow i find to hard to swallow at times...when listening to some talks/demonstrations what comes over is more a sense of trying to impress, than the basics

there is so much we dont know for certain, but so long as we tell the public this, and any thoughts are just our own opinions

will we ever know for sure ?, i doubt it !!! i just dont see the need to quote MR finds in detail when talking about earlier periods

and thank the gods the 2 fingers archers salute is no longer quoted ;-)

these are just my thoughts and opinions, ........dont make them right



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:38 pm

Some really excellent and pertinent points, Brian.

i think a problem comes from the fact that most people assume the draw weights of the MR finds are typical of all medieval period bows, yet how would we know this was the case ?


I think it would be very wrong to assume the MR bows are typical of all medieval period bows.
If I was pushed to speculate I would expect military bows up to the mid-14th Century to be relatively light (say 100lb or so). As the English adopted the bow in large numbers, and with the development of more sophisticated defences (plate) I would expect to see a 'rapid' rise in bow weights; probably peaking in the early 15th Century (the 'Golden Age' of English military archery). From then I wouldn't really expect much development of the bow.
If you were to compare bows from the beginning and end of the HYW you would see very different weapons - both bow and arrow.

By the 16th Century I think the bow was a 'standard' pattern (that is, the development had stagnated - in fact, you could argue it didn't need to change, it was as good as it needed to be). I don't see any reason (militarily or commercially) for the bow to change design. That is, the bow remained static; the number of good archers got less. This is why I believe the MR bows are indicative of late medieval military bows (but not earlier)

on a flag ship ( although i seem to recall hearing at the time the MR sunk it wasnt actually the flag ship,) i would assume they would want the best sailors/ archers etc if so are they typical of the standard on lesser ships ? if not then maybe the typical draw weights would not be the same

This is often quoted; and could be the case. By analogy though, we do know the (flag)ship was crewed by many foreign sailors and George Carew, the ship's captain doesn't think highly of them. In fact, mis-communication between the ship's captain, master and crew is often cited as one of the contributory factors in the MR's sinking. So the ship didn't always get the best.
One could argue that the same held true for the ship's secondary weapons; the bows. It may just have been stocked with standard-issue, livery bows; typical of any other ship. Personally, I suspect they were bows 'of the first sort' - that is, high-quality bows made from imported Yew. Certainly, the extant bows are of superb quality (which we couldn't replicate today - wood of that quality just doesn't exist any more!). Making a bow to a standard pattern, but out of better wood will usually lead to a higher draw-weight, or better performing bow.

nock points of 1/8th'' also dictate the width of the string, depending on what was used for strings would determine the breaking strain, do we assume the same quality of material was available 200 years before the MR sinking ?

This is another very good point. We don't have any extant bow strings. We have records stating that hemp was used; and (as you say) we know how thick the strings were. However, nobody (to my knowledge) has managed to build a hemp string 1/8" wide that can take 180lb draw. Some have suggested that this means the bows couldn't have been the weights specified (but, there they are, in the museum!); or (more likely, in my view) there's something we have to (re)learn about medieval bow strings and how they worked.
The English Warbow Society has an on-going research project on this topic.

but sometimes the ''bigging up'' of the medieval longbow i find to hard to swallow at times...when listening to some talks/demonstrations what comes over is more a sense of trying to impress, than the basics

Amen to that. It's not a 'super weapon'. It's not the most powerful bow in the world, ever. It couldn't shoot through any armour. It couldn't knock an armoured man off a horse at 1/2 mile. All the fanboy nonsense makes me cringe. Don't get me wrong, though: it was an extremely potent weapon. It always amazes me, though, how many reenactors talk with such authority about the bow when most of them have never even seen one shot properly, let alone done it themselves.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:01 pm

I have taken part in displays at events with this fella who always manages to loose off about 24 arrows in a minute compared to my meagre 10 (if I am lucky) much to the applause and general commendment of the commentry team.
Then they get to me and I'm made out to be incompetent as its then quoted that a good household arhcer could loose 12 arrows a minute (though I have never found out where this information comes from.)
At some point I will point out that my 10 year son could loose off 24 arrows using this ejeets 15lb bow which he only draws to the chest rather then the rather excellent one I own that is several times that in poundage and drawn to the ear.
That and the fact I can't be bothered to loose off too many arrows when I'm the one who has to collect them.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:02 pm

Hobbitstomper wrote:Surely the focus on draw weights is not the important thing. I doubt bows were categorised by draw weights in the 15th century.

We should know how far they could shoot and what the arrows are like. Why not just make a bow that will reliably shoot a reproduction arrow that far. (Made to an authentic pattern, with the minimum draw effort, minimum cost and maximum reliability). If you really want to you could measure the draw weight once you have finished. Having a bow that matches the supposed draw weight of a 15th century bow is not as good as one that can really do the job that the original was meant to do.

An interesting exercise might be to start off with a super-heavy draw weight bow and find out how the draw weight, range and velocity change as you shave it down to be less powerful. If it is possible to do this to a bow then it could be an interesting weekend of shooting and woodworking.

I've been preaching the 'bow weight fallacy' for years. The heavy bow community is (slowly) getting it; although there's always the newbie 'must shoot a massive bow as soon as possible' idiocy.
(Unfortunately, the outside world tends to fixate on the draw-weight issue too, and sees all heavy bow archers as knuckle-dragging, neanderthal ego-maniacs. Which is only half-true, of course!)

For many years I've been describing the bow as a system: the bow, the arrow, the arrowhead and the archer. All these components must be in accord to get the best out of the weapon. If any of these parts is lacking the overall performance will suffer. For example, if the arrow is too heavy for the bow; or the arrowhead is wrong for the intended target; or if the archer is not strong enough to master the bow; or any other combination you care to come up with.

One of the classic mis-balances is the archer who is not capable of mastering the bow. Being able to get to full draw is not 'mastering' the bow (any more than being able to change gear in a car makes you a racing driver!) If the archer is not master of the bow, they will never get the best out of it. Many archers make the mistake of thinking it is the bow at fault, and they must get a heavier bow. This generally makes the situation worse, not better.

As you've said, a bow's draw weight is a very poor indicator of its performance. My standard measure nowadays is the distance a bow can cast a standard-specification arrow (say, a EWBS Standard or Livery arrow). THAT tells me about the bow's performance. The draw-weight is just a number.

Interestingly, many of the best distances I've ever seen recorded come from 'lighter' weight bows (around 110 - 140lb). I think this is because of these two factors: a better performing bow; and a good balance between bow, arrow and archer.

The problem with modifying bows and recording their performance is that, because bows are natural products, they have (for want of a better word) 'character'. A bow may have very good performance at a particular draw-weight but, by lightning the bow, it loses some of its 'punch', making it perform less well than another bow of the same weight. I've seen a few 'excellent' bows become 'mediocre' bows just by having a few pounds shaved off them; but I've also seen bows improve their cast by being lightened.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:06 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:I have taken part in displays at events with this fella who always manages to loose off about 24 arrows in a minute compared to my meagre 10 (if I am lucky) much to the applause and general commendment of the commentry team.
Then they get to me and I'm made out to be incompetent as its then quoted that a good household arhcer could loose 12 arrows a minute (though I have never found out where this information comes from.)
At some point I will point out that my 10 year son could loose off 24 arrows using this ejeets 15lb bow which he only draws to the chest rather then the rather excellent one I own that is several times that in poundage and drawn to the ear.
That and the fact I can't be bothered to loose off too many arrows when I'm the one who has to collect them.

The only thing this party trick does is teach you to nock arrows elegantly and efficiently (which is something that many archers never manage to achieve! It's like watching a gorilla tie shoelaces. It's almost painful to watch)

Beyond that, it means almost nothing.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Bittersweet » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:16 am

I absolutely agree with the idea of bow, string, arrow and archer being in harmony to get the best result.
I have a lovely ash bow made by Jon (so, of course it's the best bow in the world, it's mine) and i think it's weight is still around 50lb...plenty for little old me :D but you know I have good days and bad when I'm shooting. Sometimes I get everything right and it all flows together giving good target practice, grouping, distance, etc and it all feels so right...other days, it doesn't matter how hard I try, I can't get it together.
It is never the fault of the bow, string, arrow or anything else...it's all just in my head :roll:


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Tom H » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:50 am

One of the things that strikes me as odd about the supposed "12 arrows a minute" quote is that I don't think medieval people measured things in minutes did they? Not sure, but interested. In his "The Hanged Man" Robert Bartlett gave a great exploration of how people measured the passing of time, e.g. the length it took to say a Pater Noster, the length of time it took to walk a certain distance. If minutes are a later unit of measurement or concept, then surely that would make the 12 arrows a minute quote an error.

Sorry for going a bit off topic...



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Brian la Zouche » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:41 am

off topic... i have seen a display where the so called ''master bowman'' loosed off about 20 a minute, a 1/4 missed the boss completely, a 1/4 hit and fell out, the other half just hung in and drooped, even less impressive was that was at about 30 foot distance.. dont do the hobby or archery any favours that sort of display

on topic, ...it would seem to me as EA said that draw weights increased as armour developed ( or Vs Vs ) ( not actual quote )

we know the estimated draw weights of actual finds, but... the ''one off''' finds would leave the debate open as to is one find typical of the period it came from. ( i'm not including the the MR finds in this)

someone said to me if they unearthed a bow at Agincourt with a pink ribbon on it, would all re-enactors of that period all have pink ribbons on their bows ?

great topic jim and great views



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby John Waller » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:46 am

Rerverse engineering can suggest a range of draw weights that would be indicative of what was used. If, say, ordinances required archers to achieve a mark of 220 yards then what weight of bow can acheive that distance with a military arrow? I know my 50lb bow could not get anywhere near that even with a light target arrow. Practical experimentation can give us pretty good clues. Certainly variables such as technique, quality of the bow etc etc will influence but a range of weights can be pinned down. Personally I see no reason to doubt the MR bows as being typical of late medieval period bows but the longbow was in use for hundreds of years and doubtless changes will have been made to the weapon system to counter inprovements to the defenses against it.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Jim Smith » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:06 pm

Brian la Zouche wrote:off topic... i have seen a display where the so called ''master bowman'' loosed off about 20 a minute, a 1/4 missed the boss completely, a 1/4 hit and fell out, the other half just hung in and drooped, even less impressive was that was at about 30 foot distance.. dont do the hobby or archery any favours that sort of display

on topic, ...it would seem to me as EA said that draw weights increased as armour developed ( or Vs Vs ) ( not actual quote )

we know the estimated draw weights of actual finds, but... the ''one off''' finds would leave the debate open as to is one find typical of the period it came from. ( i'm not including the the MR finds in this)

someone said to me if they unearthed a bow at Agincourt with a pink ribbon on it, would all re-enactors of that period all have pink ribbons on their bows ?

great topic jim and great views


Thanks for that Brian. I've seen similar 'archery' displays on more than one occasion and I quite agree with your assessment. I certainly don't pretend to be a good archer - I know I'm not. That said, I'm determined to get better. Therein lies the problem. Archery simply isn't easy and it requires dedicated practice of the sort that most people today are either unable or unwilling to put in. Eastern martial arts like karate have experienced something similar. ('What do you mean, I can't be a black-belt wearing bad-assed mutha in six months?')

Another aside - I think you may well be right about the Mary Rose not being the flagship in 1545. a quick search throws up strong indications that 'the Great Harry was in command of the English ships in the Solent that day. In addition, the Mary Rose wasn't the state of the art brand new ship she is sometimes dressed up as having been. Apparently, she had been retrofitted quite extensively to meet the new carvel rather than clinker built designs.

Anyhow, back on topic I want to thank all contributors to this thread - good quality thought out debate. If any of you are at Wrest Park next weekend, feel free to drop by and say hello. If you're staying for the weekend we could continue the debate over a few beers.

So, personally I feel I'm left with the following picture:

Not all English archers were supermen - longbows could be found on a spectrum ranging from 50/60lb to the 180lb monsters pulled only by the fittest and most experienced archers. Agreeing on a 'typical' draw-weight is going to be a lot more difficult and (as others have said on this thread), getting hung up too much on draw-weights is probably not a good idea. If pressed, I'd probably go with an 'average' of 90-130lb.

Any more observations out there


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Adam R » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:06 pm

Jim Smith wrote:Any more observations out there


Avoid conclusions on scant evidence - if pushed I'd recommend summing up why we don't know... :D

Except:
John Waller wrote:Rerverse engineering can suggest a range of draw weights that would be indicative of what was used. If, say, ordinances required archers to achieve a mark of 220 yards then what weight of bow can acheive that distance with a military arrow?


If we know that the arrow needed to fly a certain distance a bit of experimenting should show up a result - surely John's namesake has done such a thing?

John Waller wrote:Personally I see no reason to doubt the MR bows as being typical of late medieval period bows but the longbow was in use for hundreds of years and doubtless changes will have been made to the weapon system to counter improvements to the defences against it.


There's a question to answer there about the differences of use of MR period warfare and the target differences. For example, if plate defence was now so common to mean the longbow needed exceptional draw weight compared to its earlier counterpart, and consequently stronger men to use it, maybe that is why its use ended? Because not enough men could reach the strength/training required to make them effective enough in the large numbers required, where you could with guns. Certainly I have read that the bow was felt to be the superior weapon in terms of reliability and battlefield effectiveness (although i can't remember where). Alternatively if the targets were similar to the late C15, then it would be reasonable to suppose that they were similar to their earlier counterparts (although not necessarily typical, they may have been exceptional bows for 'elite' archers...?).


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:49 pm

Measuring velocity is easy. I can bring a chronograph to an event if I am there. Most people know the draw weights of ther bows and measuring distance is easy to.

So all we need is some arrows (or arrow specs because making them only takes a couple of hours).

A graph of maximum range against velocity would be a nice result from a few hours experimentation.



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby cloudy-cola-corp » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:05 pm

if you do get to test draw weights and ranges ect and calculations can I say that because arrows arc heavy war heads actually don't lose or possibly (with a good wind dry weather ect) gain energy at not the longest ranger but around 3/4 of its maximum range because of how the elastic energy from the bow is imparted into the arrow and is is still in play (although obviously less) as the arrow tips downwards where gravity kicks in. because I've seen a few tests where they shoot at a fairly flat trajectory and measure the velocity as it leaves the bow then work out how much it looses in flight but i don't think it accurately represents the force an arrow has. which is more noticeable in a heavy arrow than a light one as it is more affected by air resistance and gravity. think about it in a sense of a car and a lorry fill them both with 1ltr of fuel on a flat and run them till their dry and let them roll to a stop the car is faster uses the fuel slower but they probably and probably travels further than the lorry then put them at the bottom of a hill and put a brick wall at the bottom of the other side the car gets up fast runs out of fuel and speeds up on its way down hits the wall cracks the wall and stops the big heavy lorry takes slower to get up the hill but then on its way down picks up speed slightly slower than the car but when it hits the wall it carry's on through it because of its momentum so all you need is enough fuel to get it to the top of it hill, so if you then think of the laws of energy conservation at maximum velocity and momentum it must have the same energy as the elastic energy of the bow when it leaves so if your bow can pierce armour at 10yrds on the flat it can be expected to piece armour at it's most effective range which is approx 60 degrees from flat (not 45 as it needs to be sure of achieving maximum velocity)
also consider the possibility of more experienced archers having slightly heavier bows to deal with horses possibly or very expensively armoured nobles where the extra force is needed along with the skill of accuracy, similar to the marksman a modern army unit has not a specialist sniper but someone who happens to be a very good shot so is given a slightly different weapon accordingly.
but any way I've shot bows since I was 7 putting 10 years of doing it into my idea OF WHICH THIS IS ONLY (not a researched historical theory) and should be treated as such
I'm not big and I could shoot 50lbs draw weight easily for an extended period of time (which must also be considered when we talk about this it doesn't matter if you can pull 180lbs if you can only do it once a minuet) when I was training for two 1.5 hour sessions a week so i think that 90-130lbs is easily within the realms of possibility for someone who trained often and from a young age.
and again using common sense short bodkins seem the most practical arrow to take on campaign they take us least space are most effective if against plate armour and use the least metal of all the arrow heads although they do make the smallest amount of damage to tissue so you could fight on if wounded by one but if 2000 fly at you then i don't think it makes a difference and also horse sized broad heads seem a waste of time heavy big and horses had armour to just fill them full of the same arrows as the riders get
anyway that's all from me i've highlighted the most important bits if you can't read my sentences (sorry my construction of sentences is often pretty poor)
im not trying to agree or disagree with any draw weights mentioned just thinking about what people could realistically do :/
just noticed the comment above this and would like it say that this was not written aggressively towards the above comment this is just my views and i do not mean to cause any unintended aggression so if your upset sorry please don't be



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hobbitstomper » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:34 pm

Cloudy,

You must be shooting mystykal keltic arrows as they seem to be breaking several laws of thermodynamics.

Normal arrows will always have more energy flat shot at 10 yards than at maximum range unless they are being fired(!) downhill. They follow a ballistic path, just like a bullet but slower and with more drag. Once the arrow has left the bow, the only thing it does a bit weird is the flights make it spin (and not at the zillions of rpm some people claim) and it flexes a bit until it straightens out. Neither of these things will change what it does when it hits a target.

Maximum range will be at less than 45 degrees. Shooting higher than this just means the arrow will be going slower when it hits the target. It might have a greater vertical velocity but the horizontal velocity will be lower. Impact energy is a combination of both and shooting high gives you less.



alfred the bowyer
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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby alfred the bowyer » Sat Apr 14, 2012 4:49 pm

this is all really interesting stuff, I'm just reflecting on how the tactical issues may have influenced development of the weapon, if a mass loose of arrows at a target in the field "by appointment" really was the strategy of the day then would there have been any need to have numerous archers trained to draw extremely heavy weights? if the target is close enough....
Just a thought



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Brian la Zouche » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:04 pm

it might me my 'modern' mind thought, but i'd prefer to use my long range weapons at effect at a distance where the enemy could not use theirs,

i admit i do not know as to how the inpact force increases and falls off durring flight but in my mind i would think being hit at any range with a 150lb would have more effect than being it by a 60lb ( im sure there are plenty of sheldon coopers out there who can quote the pysics on this ) also my train of thought, as an archer , i'd not want to engage the enemy any closer than i had too,... and if i did i'd want to strike as hard as i could, but like i mentioned, i do not know if that was the medieval archers mind set also,
60/70 lb dw etc may well have an effect ( depending on the enemies troops type ) but if so surely a hight dw would have increased effect

maybe more knowledgable people could tell me if im right or wrong on this



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby alfred the bowyer » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:50 am

I think you've absolutely put your finger on it there!

I'm wondering about the psychology of the battlefield, and one of the question which came to mind reading the thread was " what is a long distance in these circumstances", and that led me to consider whether we were seeing medieval warfare through modern perceptions of distance, for example as our ability to travel long distances at speed has increased then has our notion of a long distance increased proportionally?

So trying to look at it from another perspective for a foot soldier might a close distance be a spear and a half when confronted by spearmen, looking at how fast spearmen can advance on foot might it be 50 yards for an archer, but then consider how these distances might change confronted with horsemen?

Clearly the role of the long range weapon it to weaken, deter and impede an attack leaving the foot soldier to engage in the ensuing face to face fighting and reverting to a face to face role in support, the question which really exercises my mind is, given that it takes a long time and great deal of hard work to prepare an archer to use a high dw bow, are we right to assume that the levy would mainly consist of such highly trained people? We are talking about a time when people's main effort every day was directed at obtaining enough to eat, is it reasonable to accept that every able bodied male was expected to put hours a day into training as well? Or might it be more realistic to have a smaller corps armed with the high DW with many others in suport with more modest weapons?

Thinking on, that's really the way it happens in modern warfare, not every soldier uses a field gun.

I'm beginning to find the medieval mindset intriguing



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:46 pm

I agree that the more I have studied the middle ages the more of a "foreign place in which they do things differently" it has become.
I have not trained everyday (or even every Sunday) in harness. My re-enactment harness is heavier and more cumbersome then any of the actual armour I have been lucky enough to look at closely. Yet I know that I can, and have covered, 30 yards in a matter of seconds. I would certainly fancy my odds with the "master bowman" Brian describes.
I have also wondered if clout style shooting would have been a more suitable practice then the bulls eye. When I have done archery at events I have never aimed at individuals "sniper stylee" but done my best to lob arrows into a mass of bodies. I figure that I don't need to be accurate when there are "thousands" of arrows in the air (there must be because I've heard the commentry team say there are) as at least some of them will hit home.
But again is this my modern mind at work, I suspect it is.
I also view medieval archery as being more like football.
Every Englishman talked a good job about it, they had a play at it with their mates after the pub, but only a few ever became really good at it. But then if you had every fan at an average ground kick at goal while there would be some howlers enough would know the basics and do the job.


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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby cloudy-cola-corp » Sun Apr 15, 2012 6:53 pm

i agree that would not gain maximum range but i was trying to maximise the impact force at effective range because i would rather have killed my opponent at 200yrds than irritated him at 250
I'm sure there was a call for people who could take the whiskers off a woodlouse at 100 paces and i think realistically to be an archer you must have had to be able to hit a man sized target at about 100yrs because if you can't and they get close to you what's the point of having the bow? but if you can do that then you can shoot arrows by volume clout style as well.
weight wise im sure the bowyers would have had a standard military bow pattern and would just churn out (obviously still a master full piece of work) a military bow that where all fairly similar to pull when they tried them. rather than weighed specifically to say 130lbs which is why we get the fluctuation in draw weights
if you want to test it out get some chaps from the longbow societys put a accurate copied suit of armour out at a range we know they would shoot at (200 metres roughly) then shoot it full of arrows with different weights of bow rule out the draw weights that just bounce off 9 times out of 10 then see which weights are most effective at armour pierceing with say 48 arrows ruleing out the ones where the archer takes a daft amount of time to shoot them because its too heavy then look at the bows we do have from the time and say well these are the ones we've found from the period and our results show that these work these don't and these do but no one can use them for long enough then knock off the top and bottom percentiles see how it compares to the MR bows and then we can say we don't know for sure but through extensive testing we have found this to be the most likely range of draw weights.



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby gregory23b » Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:54 pm

Setting aside the romantic stuff so often pegged to the olde archer.


I find there are more contradictions than hard and fast arguments:

the following are musings:

Wasn't archery well in decline by the 15th century? So where does the pool of archers waiting to do their bit come from by the middle of the 16th century?

Secondly, the middle of the sixteenth was still the middle ages, there was no magical change in technology, production methods remained largely the same as the previous century, recession and famine loome large. Why differentiate between the 15th and the 16thc simply by notional break points, so why would the production of a bow be different?



EA

"- They were made less powerful than bows of the earlier age, since archers were not as strong."

yet you said that it doesn't take that long to get an archer to learn to shoot a hundred lb bow. I don't buy that, but I know you were speculating.

Do the statutes mention draw weights or do they mention distance, the key question is what was required to be achieved, what was needed to get there?

I can't recal Toxophilus mentioning draw weights, later I know, but Askam goes into great detail about footed arrows and timber types etc, seems a major detail to be missing.


I feel the draw weight question is a red herring, it is based on a hard data driven culture where we have to quantify everything.

Given the heydey of archery was in the 13th/14th centuries where most opponents did no wear armour, how do we link a declining number of archers to an increase in archery (in later eras) and why do we say/believe that bows became stronger because of armour and armour became stronger because of bows? The two do not make sense. The supposed increase in draw of the bow is purely based on the assumption that the function of the archer was to take out the armoured foes, this is also confusing as in the case of the WOTR the ideal ratio of archers (lightly armoured) to mid to heavy armoured was about 4:1 or 3:1. Why would the bows be stronger if the majority of the opponents were lightly armoured? Again very odd assumptions/beliefs.

Surely the function of artillery, for that is what it is, is to suppress and reduce the opponent's effectiveness, you do not have to kill a man to prevent him fighting, a ninety pound bow shooting an arrow at the required distance would easily maim an opponent if it hit an unprotected spot, most of the opposition were not that well armoured.

EA

"I think this is because of these two factors: a better performing bow; and a good balance between bow, arrow and archer."

which is the crux of the issue, tied in with a requirement to send an arrow a given distance.


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alfred the bowyer
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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby alfred the bowyer » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:13 pm

Hm yes, the notion "horses for courses " comes to mind



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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Hobbitstomper » Sun Apr 15, 2012 10:33 pm

I thnk that better and cheaper metal probably drove better armour more than bows. No evidence for this though.

Didn't the rest of the world prefer crossbows anyway? Greater range and no need for constant practice.




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