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Subject: Medieval crossbow VS longbow: which had a greater range? rss

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Andrew Kluck
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I'm looking for reliable information about the range of weapons from the Middle Ages, specifically longbows and crossbows used in western Europe.

I've looked and can only find wildly varying/contradictory guesses.

Have you a cite?
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Robert Stuart
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I'm interested, also -- and would be interested, as well, in the ranges of the Mongol bow and the Japanese bow.
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Scott Hill
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I realize these are not all concerning middle ages, however there is some Turkish information in the wiki sources you might at least use.

here is some reading for you:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bow_and_arrow

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stock_%28firearms%29

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1304710/Robin-Hood-s...

http://www.second-opinions.co.uk/flight.html

The furthest distance shot with any bow is 2,047 yards (1,871.84m) . This was shot by the late Harry Drake in 1988 using a crossbow. The furthest with a hand-held — and pulled — bow is 1,336 yds 1' 3" (1,222.01m) , shot by Don Brown with an unlimited conventional Flight bow in 1987.

Distances achieved in Britain include:

Conventional Flight Bow (unlimited): Alan Webster — 916 yards
Compound Flight Bow (60 lbs): Barry Groves - 914 yards. That distance has since been beaten
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Dom Rougier
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There is a tremendous variety of answers partly because there is a tremendous variety of weapon capabilities over the period, but they are at least vaguely similar in range, if not in rate of fire and training required.

Henry VIII decreed that practice ranges for the longbow (i.e. accurate shooting) should be no less than 220 yards, which will give you the minimum, and of course Englishmen were required to carry out their longbow training by law.
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Luke Morris
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This doesn't help the discussion at all but, for me, the longbow is still the most beautiful and exquisite weapon there's ever been to this day.
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Michael Ziegler
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Historically it was the LONGBOW that REPLACED the MEDIEVAL CROSSBOW. It was a matter of range and penetration effectiveness. English history depended on this and remember "Henry V" where this is implied.
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Robert (Bob) Miller Sr
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Check this site out. Talking about Viking Longbow.

http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manufacturing/text/...

It states, based on history stuff:

"Bows were made from the wood of a yew, ash, or elm. Typically, they were 1.6 to 2m (60 to 80 in) long. Arrow heads were made in a variety of shapes and sizes. Arrow shafts typically were 70 to 80cm (28-32in) long.

The estimated draw weight of one 10th century bow is 90lbs (40kgf), and the effective range of this weapon was about 200m (650ft).

However, medieval Icelandic law gives a different estimate. The distance of the flight of an arrow, ördrag (bowshot) was a unit of measure commonly used in Icelandic law. For example, Grágás, the medieval Icelandic law book, requires that the court empowered to confiscate an outlaw's property be held within a bowshot of the outlaw's home (K 62). A later addition to Grágás defines the bowshot to be two hundred faðmar (about 480m)."

So the range base on these statements is: 200m (650ft) to 480m (1,560ft). The average would be about: 340m or 1,105ft.

According to this site about medieval crossbows:

http://web.mit.edu/21h.416/www/militarytechnology/crossbow.h...

"Range: By the 15th century, with a steel crossbow, the range was about 380 yards, sometimes up to 500(2). Earlier crossbows were thought to have a point blank range of 70 yards but were more often angled up 45 degrees to give them a range of 350 yards. Highest effective was 150 yards, but still able to kill at 300(5)."

Hope this helps.

Bob......................
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James Cameron
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Trelane wrote:
Historically it was the LONGBOW that REPLACED the MEDIEVAL CROSSBOW. It was a matter of range and penetration effectiveness. English history depended on this and remember "Henry V" where this is implied.

Wha? T'was the other way around. The crossbow, though inferior, became the dominant bow weapon since anyone could shoot one. Need to raise a militia from that crowd of peasants? Crossbow time.

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K G
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A study of specific battles might give more useful information.

For instance, Crecy: http://www.llantrisant.net/crecy.htm
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john f stup
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i'm not sure about this, but i think the rate of fire for the long bow by a skilled bowman was greater than a cross bowman.
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nhojput wrote:
i'm not sure about this, but i think the rate of fire for the long bow by a skilled bowman was greater than a cross bowman.
You are very much correct.
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Robert Stuart
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It seems to me that two ranges are needed in order to assess the effectiveness of these bows: a 'sniper' range -- the range at which a single skilled bowman could strike -- and a 'volley' range -- the range at which a body of bowmen could inflict significant enough damage on an enemy formation to make it worthwhile to fire a volley.

As for the icelandic 'bowshot', that seems to me to simply be the maximum range of a bow, and unrelated to either a sniper range or a volley range (ie, one would never seriously fire at an enemy at that range. A single shot could not achieve the necessary accuracy, and a volley would be far too weak to inflict significant enough damage on an enemy force to make the volley worthwhile).

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Gordon Watson
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English/Welsh longbows of the 12th-14th Centuries, were larger/longer than the Viking ones mentioned above. They required greater draw strength and were considerably more powerful in terms of range and armour penetration.

effective range of the Welsh/English longbow is disputed, but was superior to crossbows and the early black-powder weapons - it's weakness was in the amount of training required to pull and effectively fire the bow. Long-bowmen had to be trained from an early age (it actually led to skeletal changes) whereas any Tom Dick or Harry could fire a cross-bow or arquebus.
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David Winter
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Trelane wrote:
Historically it was the LONGBOW that REPLACED the MEDIEVAL CROSSBOW. It was a matter of range and penetration effectiveness. English history depended on this and remember "Henry V" where this is implied.


The crossbow was a later invention than the bow,
and while longbows were faster and more accurate, they are useless without archers who had spent considerable time developing callouses, and the arm strength necessary to pull and hold the bow.


The key advantage of crossbows is they are a much more point and shoot weapon, and don't require as much training and conditioning to use, so crossbowmen could be raised and pushed into service much quicker than archers.
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Cool resource: http://books.google.com/books?id=H2RMNY2oxqIC&printsec=front...
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Judd Vance
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HamsterOfFury wrote:
This doesn't help the discussion at all but, for me, the longbow is still the most beautiful and exquisite weapon there's ever been to this day.


"not as clumsy or random as a crossbow. An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age." -- Obi Wan Kenobi of Locksley
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Judd Vance
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dedindahed wrote:
Trelane wrote:
Historically it was the LONGBOW that REPLACED the MEDIEVAL CROSSBOW. It was a matter of range and penetration effectiveness. English history depended on this and remember "Henry V" where this is implied.


The crossbow was a later invention than the bow,
and while longbows were faster and more accurate, they are useless without archers who had spent considerable time developing callouses, and the arm strength necessary to pull and hold the bow.


The key advantage of crossbows is they are a much more point and shoot weapon, and don't require as much training and conditioning to use, so crossbowmen could be raised and pushed into service much quicker than archers.


Yeah, yeah, yeah ... any Bo, Luke, or Rambo could fire a long bow.

Need a militia made up of good ol' boys (never meaning no harm?), the long bow is for you.
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Scott M.
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Andrew Kluck
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Domfluff wrote:
There is a tremendous variety of answers partly because there is a tremendous variety of weapon capabilities over the period, but they are at least vaguely similar in range, if not in rate of fire and training required.

For this discussion I'd like to ignore any other factor save range.
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Andrew Kluck
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Hohenstadt wrote:

Hope this helps.

Bob......................

Thank you.
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Enrico Viglino
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Sitnam wrote:
Domfluff wrote:
There is a tremendous variety of answers partly because there is a tremendous variety of weapon capabilities over the period, but they are at least vaguely similar in range, if not in rate of fire and training required.

For this discussion I'd like to ignore any other factor save range.


Please define 'crossbow' then.

The heaviest crossbows (ignoring ballistae) were arbalest,
and would mount on a supporting tool (such as a fork). They were
not able to be cranked without external tools, and had incredibly
low rates of fire. They had longer 'straight range' than a longbow
(due to much greater pull-rate).
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Nigel Twine
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cherryfunk wrote:
Trelane wrote:
Historically it was the LONGBOW that REPLACED the MEDIEVAL CROSSBOW. It was a matter of range and penetration effectiveness. English history depended on this and remember "Henry V" where this is implied.

Wha? T'was the other way around. The crossbow, though inferior, became the dominant bow weapon since anyone could shoot one. Need to raise a militia from that crowd of peasants? Crossbow time.



In medieval England every male over the age of 12 had to spend a minimum of two hours (after church on Sundays) practicing the longbow. This was a rigorously enforced LAW. There is also some anecdotal evidence that this was a treasured - and competitive - activity for the men with betting between village champions.

Hence that "crowd of peasants" could drop a hail of arrows at 200, 300, 400 or 500 feet at the drop of a gauntlet
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David Boeren
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The range is closely related to the draw strength. Longbows are always drawn by hand, and therefore limited to the strength of the men who were using them. Crossbows allowed a wider range of ways to draw them, trading off strength vs. speed.

So, you need to figure out what sort of crossbow you're interested in and whether that constitutes a fair and meaningful comparison or not.
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Nigel Twine
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The Mary Rose longbows topped out at a draw weight of 180lbs, though I understand the Warbow could go above 200lbs.
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Sitnam wrote:
Domfluff wrote:
There is a tremendous variety of answers partly because there is a tremendous variety of weapon capabilities over the period, but they are at least vaguely similar in range, if not in rate of fire and training required.

For this discussion I'd like to ignore any other factor save range.


Andrew, without more detail as to what you are looking for, I don't think you'll be able to find anything particularly relevant from us.
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