want to learn more about bows

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want to learn more about bows

Postby melchaios » 14 Jan 2016 08:44

I know some things about swords from Matt's videos, however I've recently been researching other matters like shields and archery. And in terms of archery/crossbows it's been quite a different beast to learn (and quite a challenge), with different sites and blogs giving their biased opinion in the matter, but regardless, I've managed to get some insight into the matter, problem is....... I don't know if I'm right. Hence I wanted to ask some general questions on the matter:
1. Short self-bows: I know they're the prototype of bows since they're the easiest to make, and the oldest model available to humanity. Been trying to figure out what poundage they were back when they were still used for warfare, with no avail. How powerful were they?
2. How to improve bows potency: In this regard every blog and online opinion likes to idolize his bow of preference, wether english longbow, mongolian, flatbow, manchurian, japanese yumi, etc, etc. But I've come to these conclusions, so please, tell me if I got it right. There are 3 ways to increase the potency, %of efficacy, and general poundage of a bow (taking a short self bow as the minimum common denominator):
- You make it bigger: Like the english longbow, which was still pretty much a self bow but longer, though a case could be made for yew being a more complex material than the average wood (because of the sapwood and all that).
- You improve the materials: Like mongolians and other central asian composite bows. Putting something more than wood into the structure improves potency, hence why some composite asian bows had simmilar potency to the larger self longbow, at the expense of making it harder to produce (up to a year to make a single bow)
- You improve the design: Making it recurve and/or reflex. It stores more energy and improves %efficiency. It puts considerable stress into the limbs, hence it usually comes with a composite structure to resist the stress.
3. Why did Europeans and the English didn't favor composite bows? I get composites take way longer to produce and are sensitive to humidity, however, Europeans still made composite crossbows, which would have the same inconviniences as a composite bow. So why did they never went that route? was it just a matter of convinience, as in "we can get a ton of bows by just making them self-bows, why bother composite", or is there something I'm overlooking?
4. General poundage of other historical bows: Been searching for info on some historical models, however I just find poundages that are not really fit for war. Specifically Indian steel bows, and Japanese Yumi. All info I've seen states that they reach poundages of 30-80 pounds, which seems too low for a war-bow.
5. Is there a particular height at which a bow is denominated as "long", I know English longbows were as tall as the user, however that seems to inespecific, is there a magical cut-off number?
6. At what weight does a crossbow become a "heavy" crossbow?. The most sensitive conclusion I've seen is that when a cross bow string can be pulled with bare hands or levers, it's a light crossbow; but when it needs a cranequin or a windlass, it's a heavy one. I also read that that happens around 400-800pounds, however no specific info. Same question, is there a specific cut-off number?
7. Last but not least, what was the ideal arrow for penetrating plate?. I was sure bodkins were the answer, with the longer ones being ideal for mail, and the shorter square section ones for plate. However I read somewhere else and even on one of Matt's videos that type 16 arrows were the ones to penetrate plate. Looked for pictures of type16 arrowheads, and for the life of me I can't tell the difference between those and broad points (which as far as I know, broadpoints are meant for unarmored or lightly armoured opponents). Can someone tell me the specific features of type 16's? and if type 16's are for plate, bodkins for mail, what are broadpoints meant to do in battle?

Thanks in advance, I know it's a long post, sorry for that. Cheers.
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Re: want to learn more about bows

Postby Cosmoline » 14 Jan 2016 18:56

1. Native bows I have seen are pretty light compared with war bows, but still got the job done pretty well. If the animal wasn't killed outright it could be tracked by the blood. We know they had a really sophisticated array of flint arrowheads in many different cultures. So many were made that even recently you could go into fields in the western US and just see them scattered around the ground. I remember a field like that near my ggfather's cabin in Eastern Oregon. We just picked them up, though these days that's frowned upon! There were wee tiny ones for small game and fish, and nasty artery-openers for big game. With a proper array of razor-sharp arrowheads (and that stuff is sharper than any steel), you prob. don't need more than a fifty pound pull. But then again there's nothing in N. America that qualifies as "thick skinned" big game. So it would be interesting to see what the tribes in southern Africa did for animals that do have hide thick enough to stop an arrow.

7. I don't think it's settled whether longbows were truly intended to punch through plate, but to do so would require both very high power levels and the best quality steel for the arrowhead. For all the focus on the English longbow, I don't think we really know how it operated in battle. For awhile the long range "arrow storm" concept was popular, but more recently as I understand it the idea is these were direct fire weapons for considerably closer range (based on the weight of the shafts used). I think there were crossbows that could actually get their bolts through plates, but those weights are beyond the ability of humans to utilize in a longbow.
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